Evolutionary Blogging: Stories that make the connections

I am extremely honored to take part in this month’s Joyful Jubilant Learning event at Talking Story. Rosa, what a community of passionate folks live and correspond here!

Let me tell you a little about my learning experience. I grew up in Pawtucket, RI. Pawtucket is the name the native Indian’s translated as “place of falling waters”. The Blackstone River ran through the city, down into Narragansett Bay, which in turn emptied into the Atlantic. Walking over the Division Street Bridge headed to the Boy’s Club for swim lessons or ‘free’ swim after our paper route duties, the gang would pick up stones to drop over the railing. The stones would fall a long ways down into the polluted water and break up the suds. The game we played was to create a big space and see how long it would last. Alas, it usually did not last long. The river is cleaner now. No suds cover the surface. You can do some fishing and boating in the river.

After high school, I selected to go to Assumption instead Providence College. Assumption provided enough financial aid that I could live on campus, where as I would have to commute into Providence. It was a choice I have never regretted. Once in Worcester, I learned that the Blackstone River actually began there. Yes, the same Blackstone that I dropped stones in. It made sense then that I had gone to my source, to the head waters of my river to learn how to explore this world.

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Pawtucket had been instrumental in the industrialization of America. Samuel Slater opened the Slater Mill in 1793 having come over from England with the blueprints of weaving machines memorized. The English, very protective of their market, refused to allow any blueprints to leave the mainland. Leaving the blueprints physically behind, Samuel came over with them in his head. Obtaining some funding from the Brown family, he was able to build the machines to operate the mill. Slater Mill was the first of many in the textile industry that grew throughout New England. Joseph Jenks, Jr. crafted much of the ironwork used in the mill. Joseph had come over from England to join his father who had established an ironworks in Saugus, MA. Joseph, Jr. ventured further south to Pawtucket where the falling waters would power his mill. He is credited with founding Pawtucket.

Currently living in Franklin about one mile from the downtown MBTA station, I occasionally walk to the commuter train. I enjoy the exercise on the good weather days and save both the gas and the $2 parking fee. On the bridge over the tracks there is a water trough. Meant for the horse and buggy days, it still stands and serves as a planter these days. The plaque on the trough indicates it was crafted by one Joseph Jenks Jr. of Pawtucket, RI. Yes, the same one.

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The New England mills used cheap labor, whatever was available. My mother was of French ancestry. She was born in Lowell, MA and moved to Pawtucket, when her father, a cabinet maker by trade found better work there. My father was of Irish ancestry. His father took the trolley to work in the Providence post office. Times were tough in the late 20’s and certainly throughout the 30’s, through the Great Depression. World War II created an opportunity for both males (with a paying job in the services) and females (working in the mills on the home front). Post-war optimism was present but work was still challenging as the economy shifted back from war production to peace time. Tensions were tight between races in the laboring classes. The Irish and French were fighting to keep mill work.

When my father met my mother, it caused a ‘scandal’ in her family. How dare she stoop so low to go with and think of marrying an Irishman? When they eventually married, my mother’s father did not go to the wedding. He went to Mass daily at the French parish, St Ceclia’s in Pawtucket because they said mass there in French, and just as importantly, because God spoke French. He did not have anything to do with his daughter until I came along a couple of years later. Now I have told the story several times. But it was this most recent telling that struck me differently. This time the realization came that this single event maybe the root of my nature as a connector. I make connections between things, between people.

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I started blogging two years ago. My first posts were book reviews that I had written and originally put up on Amazon.com. It was an easy thing to write book reviews. I was a heavy reader, always have been, and liked talking about books. Starting the blog made sense to collect the writing I had previously done and put it into one place. Then I started following links. One link lead to another, to another. Some were better than others. Some were absolutely gems to find. Along the way a blogger and I were exchanging emails about sites we had found and liked. He had the idea to join together and create the Hitchhikers Guide to the Blogosphere (HHTGB). This made sense. I had been reading that to build an audience, one needed to stay on topic, to almost exclusively own a topic. Steve’s 2 Cents wasn’t that kind of place but Hitchhikers could be.

In April of 2005, I was looking into design and found the d2 blog. Posted it to HHTGB. Martin at d2 found the posting and subscribed to HHTGB. I continued on my way and found the CPH127 blog. (Side story: the blog name results from where the blog is based; Copenhagen; the three letter airlines code for the airport, CPH; and the number of destinations you can go to from there, 127). Martin also found out about CPH127 when I wrote about it and wrote directly to CPH127 in Copenhagen. They started a relationship. So let’s see that was Franklin, to Cape Town, to Copenhagen, linking Cape Town and Copenhagen. All of this happened in less than one month. Today, one would wonder why it took so long?

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Preparing for the September Ho’ohana I read on Rosa’s page that someone by the name of Chris Brogan was starting a PodCamp about podcasting and video blogging in Boston, of all places. I had recently been developing a new daily routine around Information Week’s The News Show (currently on hiatus), Rocketboom, and the Show with Ze Frank. This was a good, sometimes irreverent, but almost always funny way to begin the day. It took all of 12-15 minutes to view the three shows. So to find this event, an unconference (what was an unconference?) happening in Boston was too good to be true. I registered and volunteered to help at the registration desk. While I could not do a session on podcasting, newbie that I was; I could use my process, business flow and customer service skills to help make the front desk a good entry point.

I went and was thoroughly pleased, entertained, educated, challenged but not exhausted by the whole thing. I came away pumped. I had my Adam Weiss podcasting starter kit. I needed to do a podcast. What better way to show what I learned from the conference than to review the conference via a podcast. Script drafted, I sat to record. It was rough starting. I needed someone to talk to. There was no one there (physically). Once I imagined someone there, it flowed (I think anyway, you tell me). I seemed to not need the notes any longer. The pumping was working to its fullness. You can hear the recap here. You can also hear this as my second podcast here.

I think this is what learning is about. I really have not changed my topic/subject matter from last year.

  • Openness, being open to the possibilities.
  • Recognition, making your choice consciously.
  • Connections, putting two and two together, or re-phrased as the Power of We, one and one together make more than three.

I am still on the journey to become me.

Peter Pan is still my hero (I don’t want to grow up).

I am glad we are in this together.

Together Everyone Achieves More (go Ho‘ohana TEAM)!

Steve Sherlock writes on a suite of personal blogs centered around Steve’s 2 Cents. He writes on his running, on his passion for good customer experience, on his finds in the blogosphere, and his newest venture in lifelong learning on his belief that commencement begins everyday. In addition, he writes for Team Synergy and 100 Bloggers. He does this blogging in his spare time as his two daughters are now in college (the full time job is surely needed to pay the bills) and his wonderfully supportive wife teaches kindergarten. He starts with his 2 cents. You can ante up a comment or an email, and he’ll take it from there.


  1. says

    Bravo Steve! I love the connections you have made between blogging and learning. Today’s technology does give us some many opportunities to explore, learn and grow. It is inspiring to read how you have embraced these opportunities with no fear and with a repect to the past. Mahalo for sharing your personal story of learning in current technology. I am off to listen to a podcast!

  2. says

    Aloha Steve,
    It has been a joy for me to know you through your evolutionary blogging— a good adjective for it indeed, for I think many of us are somewhat amazed at how it has shaped our habits in connecting with other people. If we think we haven’t changed, we just need to go back and read the very first About Page we’d written” I think mine is episode 4 and that I probably need to update it again”
    This part of your story gave me “chicken skin” as we say, for it is what our Hawaiian kÅ«puna (elders) are always hoping will happen for the next generation: “Now I have told the story several times. But it was this most recent telling that struck me differently. This time the realization came that this single event maybe the root of my nature as a connector.”
    Traditional Hawaiian practice is that you announce your ancestry when meeting someone, because your ancestry has shaped you, and it gives context to the person you are meeting, to help them receive you in the best possible way, and with the highest degree of respect. They answer with their own announcement. This was also a way ancient Hawaiian society civilized itself, for in that announcement, the speaker would eventually come to realize the true honor of the family, and now that everyone else heard it too, the speaker would have to behave in a way that was befitting of the family honor.
    Awe inspiring, internal aloha spirit connecting, self-power when you think about it. To realize, to LEARN, who you are in the connection of generations because you speak of being part of your geneology with such reverence and respect.
    Great way to start my week with these thoughts Steve, mahalo nui.

  3. says

    Toni, thank you for your comment. Blogging and learning do go together, I can’t see one without the other. There was a statistic announced at the opening of the PodCamp that the combined audience of the registered was over 1 million. Now, as a statistian, it somewhat overstates the real audience but the point is there was a broad reach with the registrants of the conference. Think of all the conversation possibilities! Think of all the learning possibilities! And then apply the six degrees of separation. Wow!
    It would be interesting to see what a similar analysis would show for the Ho’ohana Community. We have quite an impressive line up here.

  4. says

    Aloha Rosa, thank you for the fullness of your comment. As a teacher, you recall that it is said when you teach you learn it twice. I think this was one of those moments.
    I think our modern society would benefit to return to some of the ancient rituals. The rites of passage don’t seem as special today as they used to be. While the naming ceremony is fairly common amongst most cultures, the meaning of it has drifted over time. I think it is more for show today than for the step of importance that is used to be.
    It is all goodness to start the week like this, learning and sharing across the miles. Mahalo nui!

  5. says

    Connections are a primary reason for interest here in our Ho’ohana community. I think that I have journied along a similar path to your evolution of blogging. I can almost smell the fall leaves in your depict of New England…specially since I am down here in FLA without hope of seeing or smelling an autumn turned leaf this year.

  6. says

    Thanks for stopping by Dave. Connections are indeed the key to having a community. I heard that Jeff Jarvis said that while there had been a battle over content versus distribution, the battle was wrong; conversation is really the kingdom, trust is king.
    Here the Ho’ohana community has such diversity and yet so many things in common it is truly a wonderful thing.
    If you would like a leaf or two of color, I could send them to you. The trees are turning now. I think the peak will be early this year. Let me know.
    New England does have distinct seasons and for me, that variety is the spice for life!

  7. says

    Telling stories is a great way to engage people and entertain them.
    Everyone has time for a moving, humourous, or informative story.
    Story telling business success has been a key factor for everyone from from Starbucks to Hollywood, Martha Stewart to Patagonia.
    What’s your story?