Changing Communities inside the Media Gap - Google DocsFrom page 16 of this awesome presentation by Paul Jones.

The idea of Throwing Sheep has been tickling my brain for the last few weeks now. Everywhere I turn around, I notice that the lack of accounting for throwing sheep is exactly the point at which something goes from being an interaction to being a transaction. Interactions are warm, they are human, they connect us and are often repeated and deepened over time. Transactions are cold and distant and keep us at arms length and are often one-offs. And there is no doubt in my mind that in order for something to be an interaction, there needs to be Sheep Throwing.

Take these scenarios for instance:

  • An e-commerce site that is maximized to push customers through to a shopping cart and transaction, versus an e-commerce site that includes the ability to post photos, comments, ratings, share items, bookmark for later, post to facebook or twitter, and other fun and potentially frivolous things before someone gets to that shopping cart. The latter is, well, basically Amazon.com, the most successful online shopping mall in North America. The former? Most everyone else that wishes they had Amazon's momentum.
  • A salesperson who takes you to dinner and wants to talk about their offerings and how they can do business with you from beginning to end, versus a salesperson that engages in light, personal conversation, finding the things you have in common, sharing a laugh, connecting and saving the business talk for when you suggest it. I've dealt with both and, well, I have longer term relationships with the latter. The Sheep Throwers.
  • A networking event where you bring your business cards and are told to circulate and find as many people as possible to talk with and exchange business cards, versus an event like SXSW Interactive, where I've gone for years and forged the strongest connections to people with whom I've shared a karaoke mic on an RV or a plate of Texas BBQ. SXSW is more about Throwing Sheep than any other conference I've been to...except maybe for TED, where, believe me, the Sheep that are thrown are a little heavier, but make a pretty significant impact on the recipients (i.e. you get really deep with people really fast).

Throwing Sheep isn't just for websites...it's the core of building relationships. Unless we are obliterated drunk in Vegas, we don't generally marry a person until we get to know them for a while. We don't just go into business with the first person that hands us a business card in the first 5 minutes of meeting them. We need to feel comfortable and listened to and connected to a person before we start doing the serious stuff.

In everything we do, no matter how serious the outcome, there needs to be onramps. Those baby steps and lightweight interactions that help a person familiarize and connect with their situation. Twitter, as joked about in the above illustration, is probably 90% about Throwing Sheep. "What are you doing?" is a pretty light question. It usually starts with, "Well, I'm trying this thing out" then moves along to food, heading to the gym/store, meeting up with friends...then gets deeper as people respond and as you follow other people's deepening tweets. But day to day to fill the spots between us being utterly profound, we are still Throwing Sheep to keep connected.

Paul Jones, who created the presentation that includes this amazing slide, said this to me on Twitter:

@missrogue Just spoke at UNC Law School explaining how casual communications keep loose ties alive & allow deeper convos to begin Go mundane!

Go mundane, indeed. There is nothing in this world that I can imagine will survive for long without at least some thought put into how Throwing Sheep fits into the picture. It's a key component to raising Whuffie.

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