September 13, 2012 Duncan Alney

Social Curation Will Not Cure Your C.P.A.

I was sitting in Austin a few weeks ago waiting to go have drinks on Dirty Sixth Street. I’d been thinking about C.P.A. and was reading a post from 2006 on the Three Minds blog. I was inspired by their illustration and drew an updated version. What do you think?

Social curation will not cure your C.P.A.

If you’re asking what’s C.P.A. or think I’m talking about accountants, don’t feel bad. That’s not what I’m talking about. C.P.A. also stands for continuous partial attention. I first heard my friend Stewart Quealy mention it a few months ago “Dude, I can’t reach anyone in NYC in the summer – they’re either vacationing or have too much C.P.A.

Linda Stone, a leader in the digital revolution (headed up the social computing group at Microsoft in the early 90’s) and digital bon vivant coined the term in 1998.

Continuous partial attention describes how many of us use our attention today. It is different from multi-tasking. The two are differentiated by the impulse that motivates them. When we multi-task, we are motivated by a desire to be more productive and more efficient. We’re often doing things that are automatic, that require very little cognitive processing. We give the same priority to much of what we do when we multi-task — we file and copy papers, talk on the phone, eat lunch — we get as many things done at one time as we possibly can in order to make more time for ourselves and in order to be more efficient and more productive. To pay continuous partial attention is to pay partial attention — CONTINUOUSLY. It is motivated by a desire to be a LIVE node on the network. Another way of saying this is that we want to connect and be connected. We want to effectively scan for opportunity and optimize for the best opportunities, activities, and contacts, in any given moment. To be busy, to be connected, is to be alive, to be recognized, and to matter. We pay continuous partial attention in an effort NOT TO MISS ANYTHING. It is an always-on, anywhere, anytime, any place behavior that involves an artificial sense of constant crisis. We are always in high alert when we pay continuous partial attention. This artificial sense of constant crisis is more typical of continuous partial attention than it is of multi-tasking.

Yeah, I know. This describes you. Me too. Social curation might help your continuous partial attention tendencies.

Social Curation can make for a consumable “social” experience. Find some curators to guide your social experience. Hopefully they’re passionate about this role and are real authorities on the matters that interest you. Pick two or three people. Hopefully different in their outlook. Perhaps two or three trusted publications. That’s all I think you can realistically consume. I don’t read the silly automated dailies and best of lists. If it’s link bait – I might check it out – but I’ve made a note to never take that person seriously again. The social web is like a tidal wave. Who has time to vet it all? That’s what your social curators will hopefully do for you. Select. Organize. and Present to to you.

But let’s get real. Social Curation will not cure your C.P.A.

Here’s a couple of ideas that might help a little more.

Block Time for Important Things. My team started suggesting I shut my laptop. I followed by setting my phone aside. I don’t need to be constantly ready for emergencies. Honestly there aren’t that many. Give your important meetings your best shot. More importantly give your friends and your family the best quality time possible. Yeah, easy to say, I know. I struggle with this one too. My friend Aaron Douglas and I block time for adventures and real conversation. My wife and I take walks with no technology. I’m thinking about doing no laptops and no cell phone meetings at our company – at least some of the time.

No one needs to be on all the time. There is no need to be on all the time. No need to communicate or connect incessantly.

Breathe. Experience Life. Life is about so much more that digital connections. Experiencing weather (and I mean being in it – not watching it). Watching films with other people in a cinema. Talking to people in the flesh so you can feel their reactions.

Remember: you can’t do it all (and do it well). You can’t.

So why not do one thing well? (And find some social curators too.)

Duncan Alney

Duncan Alney

CEO at Firebelly
Fun Fact: Duncan co-authored the book "Facebook Marketing Secrets." He founded Firebelly in 2001.
Duncan Alney
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About the Author

Duncan Alney Fun Fact: Duncan co-authored the book "Facebook Marketing Secrets." He founded Firebelly in 2001.

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