Podiums & Ball pits

It’s March. It’s conference season. It’s time for the annual identity crisis within SAChat. This seems to happen every year to the community and I suppose that’s normal as it continues to grow, adapt, and meet the needs of folks who are made aware of it.

To give you some background, I’ve been aware of the #SAchat since February of ’09. As I write that, I can’t believe it has been three years. Much like the #SAchat has grown, adapted, and met the needs of a variety of folks I to have grown, adapted, and learned over the past three years. The majority of this growth has come from the interactions, connections, and friendships that were born from participating AND engaging in the community.

Which brings me to the the dichotomy within the community that led me to choose the title for this blog, “Podiums and Ball pits.” Let me explain.

First off, as you dig into this post realize I am not discrediting one or the other, both the podium and the ballpit serve their purpose and meet needs. Repeat after me, “One is not better than the other.” Got it? Good. Let’s move on.

The Podium

 How do I define the podium? Your tweet would be categorized in one of these buckets:

– Look what I just accomplished!
– I just read a great article/quote, here it is.
– New opportunity – click here.
– Seeking new ideas for XYZ project.

The podium is necessary, the podium is more or less how the community started. Everyone is a teacher. Someone would share something and conversations would start up. The podium makes you the moderator of the discussion. Keep in mind that the podium did not always mean an audience is included. A tweet at 7 a.m. EST may not get the response of a tweet that is sent at 11 a.m. EST or 6 p.m. CST. The podium is there to provide you a platform to help get your voice heard, recognize, and hopefully acknowledged BUT there are no guarantees. The podium is basically akin to this:



The Ball pit

How do I define the ball pit? Your tweet would be categorized into one these buckets:

– I have a question and hope that a specific group/person responds.
– I have a question and hope that anyone responds.
– I responded to something, what do you think?
– Seeking new ideas for XYZ project.

The ball pit is also necessary, the ballpit is more or less how the community started. Everyone was in the ballpit of higher education, looking for someone to play with. Someone would invite someone to join in the fun of the ballpit and playful discussion would occur. The ball pit makes you the cause of discussion and also the curator of it. You started the ball pit, now you have to invite others to play or leave the door open for them to do so. Like the podium however, no playmates are guaranteed or included. Whether you invite people once, or numerous times – some people won’t have time to play in the ball pit at the time you are in it. The ballpit is there to provide you with a safe space to process ideas, meet new people, and have a spirited discussion. The ball pit is basically akin to this:



Now whether you use #SAchat as a ball pit or a podium is up to you. I dabble in both. What is important to remember is that the #SAchat is like any other community. There will be small groups of friends that form. There will be those who keep to themselves but lurk and learn. There will be members who broadcast information. There will be members who seek information. There will be members who ignite discussion. There will be members who feel left out. There will be those who are put on pedestals. There will be those who really just want to feel like they belong.

In the end, I believe that everyone wants to play in the ball pit and everyone wants their time at the podium. What I’m here to share is that, you can do either or both as much as you like but don’t have the expectation that you’ll always have company in doing so. You have to be ok with that reality.

Now, stand up to the podium and share your thoughts about this then join me in the ballpit. I’ll be waiting.

5 thoughts on “Podiums & Ball pits

  1. Interesting post. I guess my thoughts would be that Astin wrote a tonne about meaning and mattering and I think, the reason people get cranky is because they feel ignored, not included, or not recognized. Not getting traction with something is an incredibly frustrating and I would imagine that while it is easy to say “it is what it is” we still as a community need to recognize that everyone has needs and frankly being blatantly ignored sucks. The sheer amount of favouritism I see in a day is jaw dropping especially considering that it only takes seconds to reach out and reply to someone you don’t know. Universities and colleges are about building relationships whether educational or professional or personal and every message I receive I reply to. It’s the human and kind thing to do.

    • Tim,

      Thanks for joining me in the ball pit. I’m curious about the favoritism that you mention. Is that within the SAchat community or is that in general when it comes to any community or forum?

      I will challenge the notion that “universities and colleges are about building relationships”, I’d say that higher education is about building education and the relationships are a by-product/result of that.

      I also think it is hard to acknowledge, reply, and affirm every single person who tweets something using any hashtag. Quite frankly, if that was (or is) the assumption or expectation of those using any hashtag – then count me as unkind. I’ll respond if I have something to say of value and if my experience can help that person. Otherwise, I’m not sure what the expectation is.

      The key tagline that defined SAchat for many months (and perhaps still) is that “lurking is learning.” Many folks I imagine are in the 90% of lurking while there is 10% who will occasionally be active and that 1% who will be highly active. The notion that the 1% are suddenly “elite”…well that’s a conversation for a different time.

      But back to my original question…is it favoritism in the SAchat feed or in general?


    • So are you saying that in order to meet your expectations of how we interact on #sachat that I need to respond to every inquiry that is posted? I don’t think I can do that… I don’t have meaningful info to contribute every time something is posted…not to mention the fact that there are some days I am not even reviewing the feed. Can you tell me more about what you expect from this community?

  2. I’m always looking for ways to explain Twitter and particularly #SAchat to colleagues and you’ve supplied some great metaphors to explain it. I’m relatively new to the Twitterverse and #SAchat and have found everyone to be amazingly helpful, respectful and welcoming. It has indeed served as both a podium and a ballpit. I look forward to its evolution as others discover its potential for learning and teaching. Love the videos and BTW, Charlie Todd, the Improv Everywhere founder is speaking at bigideasedu. Thanks Joe for always inviting everyone to the ballpit and sparking great dialogue.

    • Tony,

      Thanks for reading and commenting! Glad to have you in the ball pit. I hope you use the podium often, unconventional-leadership.com is a wealth of information driven by you and Patrick.

      Keep the good stuff coming!


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