Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Selling Twitter to my Mom


I jumped on twitter a few months ago. I told you about it at the time, but you noticed it before I even brought it up. You saw it because of the increased number of status updates and weird characters that were showing up in the "Michael is..." box at the top of my facebook profile. I thought I'd write a few thoughts out to help you for if and/or when you decide to try twitter out.

Selling the benefits...
Staying connected with the grand kids was the top benefit we talked about. You liked the idea of having your 4 kids and 8 grand kids sending out status updates from their cellphones so you could have a feed of what was going on while you were in San Francisco and the rest of us were spread out across the country.

I should correct a couple of things about this "benefit." When your grand kids get old enough to use their phones and tweet their status out, twitter could be long gone. That seems incredible, seeing that your grand kids are just a few of years away from all having their own phone. Things change so fast in digital media these days, you might prefer to wait to see how they are communicating and adopt that tool, instead of adopting a platform that they may not be interested in.

That being said, you should jump into twitter just to explore and keep your digital communication muscles nimble. If there is one thing that distances you from most in your generation, it is that you are willing to try and learn new things all the time. Your abandoned myspace page is proof that you are exercised in trying these experiments. Keeping up with you grandkids and great-grandkids will be easy for you.

Introducing the tool

Twitter is not a logical progression from facebook. When you set up your profile it will be an easy process. Using the tool for the first time will be a little awkward. I went back into my settings and preferences a dozen times in the first couple of weeks of using twitter until I got the service working for me just the way I wanted. You will find yourself using it differently than I use it, and it takes active use to really figure out those preferences.

Following on twitter is not like friending on Facebook.
Some people will follow you because they want you to follow them back. You don't have to, and it's not expected. You should think of twitter as two two services. Ask yourself two different questions, and feel free to leave them independent of each other.
1. Twitter lets others follow you. If it freaks you out that strangers will be following your status updates that are meant for only family, you have the freedom to block others from seeing your updates. It's not rude. There might be a pressure in facebook to accept everybody's friend requests, it is not necessarily that way for twitter.
2. Twitter lets you follow others. Follow those you are interested in. Don't feel the pressure to follow people just because they are following you. This is not like facebook where a friendship is accepted and then both of you can see each others full profile. If you don't want you cell phone cluttered with text messages from people you don't care to follow, you don't have to. You might want to follow a celebrity or two, but once you are following more than about 20 people or so it gets you into a different frame of reference to interact with all those messages.

Status Updates are not your email inbox.
You don't have to read them all. Nobody does. Feel free to skim or even ignore the ones that come across your feed. If, after a few weeks, you seem to be not as interested in following a particular tweeter, unfollowing is something you can do. Twitter etiquette allows you to be in charge of both your followers and your following.

Twitter from your phone.
Text messaging is not difficult to pick up. Most kids learn to type blind on a phone keypad within a couple of months. It is odd, that the most advanced communication device is something we have chosen to type on, but it is actually much more convenient than I expected.

Twitter from your laptop.
There are lots of free apps you can download so you can manage twitter from your computer desktop. Most avid users of twitter have three or four ways that they access the twitter network. You will choose your favorites over time. I would recommend you look into TweetDeck for you desktop, tweetie for a smart phone, and you will do straight text messages to the phone number 40404 when using your traditional cell phone.

While I have written this in a personal and affirming way. If you are just wanting a straight up tutorial on what twitter is and how to use it. You can check a couple videos out here and here.

Hope this helps you as you consider diving in. Thanks for letting me use you as an object of this write up. I hope it will be a help for others as well as you. Don't feel any extra pressure to open a twitter profile just because you are the object of a blog post.

Love you,

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I'm a Jerk, No It's My Personality, My Personality is a Jerk?

From the time I first started sharing my reflections here, on the use of emerging technology, I have been aware of my potential in becoming what I despise. As I start recognizing behavior in myself that I have already characterized as "bad," I can either stop that behavior or I can analyze it to the point of justifying it.

I don't want to do either. It's possible for me to treat myself in an experimental way that I can make impartial judgments and observations about how I'm handling it. Morgan Spurlock did it effectively in Supersize Me. A.J. Jacobs has done it several times, most notably in The Year of Living Biblically.

However, watching and reading these works will give you a glimpse into the personal lives of these folks and make you realize that these guys drove their wives crazy. They can't help but drag their friends and family with them into the experiments. They must.
They are incorporating these experiments into their entire life.

So...I think I am starting to frustrate my wife, and I think it's because I am doing a poor job of showing her what's really going on with what has been defined (by this blog) as "experiments and observations." I will try to explain the difference between my personality and what seems like jerky behavior. Maybe we can lure Jennifer out of the lurk to leave a comment. Maybe it will be a comment that doesn't feel like a punch in the throat.

Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting the Social Technographics Ladder. Don't check out because of the name! You can find yourself

This handy reference was put together by the smart people over at Forrester Research. It was heavily referenced in Josh Bernoff's and Charlene Li's Groundswell. I highly recommend reading both the book and the blog if you are excited about this kind of thing.

Take a look at this ladder. This is an interesting analysis of the kinds of people who are online. It seems these classifications are largely tied to how a person's personality and temperament is wired and the resulting behavior that emerges when you put that individual on the interwebs. Perhaps a case can be made for someone moving up the ladder based on their experience with the web, but I believe a person remains stuck on a rung that is informed by who they are in "the real world."

I have realized myself as a Creator. It is largely tied to the kind of behavior I exhibit in offline arenas. My online behavior has been a progress up the ladder. I moved from being and Inactive to being a Spectator and then a Joiner. I have never been an online Collector or Critic and have landed myself squarely as a Creator. You can take this quiz as a help to identify your own spot on the ladder.

I have embraced this label. My personality typically doesn't embrace labels, but my online behavior has born out that I am securely on this rung of ladder.

Move this conversation into the realm of social web and the emerging technology I am experimenting with...
I send a twitter update while I am out with my wife.
A friend chimes in to scold me.
My wife is sly in her agreement with scolding friend.
I feel like I deserve a punch in the throat.

But hold on a second.

Am I rudely texting while while ignoring an active conversation in front of me? No. Jennifer is elbowing me in the ribs for creating and sharing while we were at This American Life.
Am I answering email because I can't stop working? No.
Or am I simply continuing to be a Creator as applied to the social media space?
Am I justifying bad behavior? Or am I embracing who I am in this larger, digital conversation?

If Jennifer remains who she is, she will be a Spectator and not post a comment.
Perhaps will can draw a few Spectators and Joiners out to comment on these thoughts. Perhaps some of them will be thankful to finally identify themselves as something and realize they don't need to feel like they need to be a Critic or a Creator to be an appropriate online participant.

I think this is why so many blogs fail. Too many Critics trying to exhibit Creator behavior?
This is why twitter has exploded. It is an easy tool for Joiners to act like they are Creators.

So who are you on the ladder?
Do you buy into this?
Am I just making excuses for being a jerk?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Campaign to Ban "Online Gifts"

This study has been stuck in my craw for weeks now. Not only does this write up not point to or give us access to the data, but the analysis seems to generalize all activity that happens online to fall under the general category of "Online Fundraising." The term seems to be used interchangeably with "Online Gifts" throughout the piece. No other communication channel has this misunderstanding. I think it is a problem.
I heard it first through Allison Fine and her blog, but I don't think it's original with her. It seems the the idea of the internet was original sold to development officers as a walk up ATM. Insert "Donate Button" here. We are still trying to live that down.
As we try to live it down, I suggest a move toward a small terminology change. There is a difference between Online Gifts, Online Giving and Online Fundraising. Please tell me what you think. Can we make movement towards this fundamental understanding?