Betrayal, Anger, Frustration, Ulcer…

Ok, not an ulcer, but this post has been stewing for a few days and I think it’s finally ready to be served.  But first, one of my favorite quotes from The Art of War (one of my Top 10 books), with my own addendum…

Keep your friends close,
and your enemies closer.

~Sun-tzu (Approximately 400 B.C.E.)

And keep your business associates as far the eff away as you can.
~PR Cog  (November 24, 2009)

Last week, great PR practitioner, David Spinks reminded us on his blog that he’s here (on social media sites, etc.) for business and not to be our friends.  For him it seems, if friendship develops, that’s great, but it’s not his primary purpose.

The only thing that’s really preventing me from getting completely up in arms is his response to the blog post’s first comment: “You’re absolutely right that we have to remember that everyone is not here for that purpose that you may be.”

Earlier in the response however he asks, “There are people in the social media space that are here just to make friends? Who? lol There may be some people who act like they’re here just to make friends, but I doubt that’s the real case.”

In case you’re wondering — I’m raising my hand David. (So is my proper self (who never talks business on Twitter), my Rabbi (who much to my chagrin is on Twitter), my Liberal Arts department head (with tenure) from college (who pretty much only talks about music by the Beatles and G. Dead on Twitter), etc.)

Need proof of my own intent?  How would a person with no traceable identity get or drive business without revealing themselves?  (And yes, until a few weeks ago there were under 10 people (PRBC-ers included) who knew my first name, and I believe 4 who knew my full name.)

Need more proof? In the half dozen or so events I’ve had the honor of pulling (or assisting in pulling) together between Masquertweet and PRBC never has a single dollar stayed in my pocket, an organization that I’m formally affiliated with benefited fiscally, or any business come my way.

Nota Bene: In case anyone is still confused, the name on Facebook is not my real name.  Properly read it should be PeteR COGnoscenti i.e. PR Cog (Cognoscenti does actually mean something – .  The name is a joke but FB requires a real looking name and so I grew one…).  I still introduce myself as Peter in-person since it makes more sense for those not in-the-know.

My single greatest SM joy (and I think I’ve posted this elsewhere) is introducing people, who don’t know each other, but I believe should.  That’s certainly not business (unless you’re actually a matchmaker).  But from what I’ve seen, and the thanks I’ve received, has been highly successful.

In part, I doubt the veracity of your post.  Not that you’re being dishonest, but rather that you’re really here for equal(ish) parts work and play, but that doesn’t make for great copy and given the option it’s always better to take the high (“professional”) road. You seemed to be having a good time (socially) at the meetup a few weeks back (which is the point, of course so it’s not a negative) and I didn’t see much work going on and yet the entire event was strung together based on social media.  Entirely possible I missed the work component but I likely would’ve heard about something that out of the ordinary (all kinds of tidbits make their way around – it’s a bit spooky really).

In part, I’m highly offended.  You want to do business — grand.  Then your bio (and anyone else who’s here just with work intentions) should only show business information and leave anything personal out.  For me, I’m rarely more annoyed than when a casual conversation turns into a business pitch.  I’d also be highly disappointed to discover I may have subjected guests at a social event to a sales pitch of some variety.  As indicated above, I don’t think this happened at our event, but for those with a single minded purpose it doesn’t seem like it would be a great leap.

Do I shun those on social media sites that are here for business primarily or solely — of course not.   But at least say so when we first interact, not some 6 months later (you started following me on June 29th — I don’t have the reverse date though).  For me intent is a big part of any motivation — a pure, honest intent can go far to correct mistakes.  Bad intent on the other hand … well, as they say, GIGO.

One point of clarification – do I believe there is gray between pure biz and pure play — of course.  It’s a large gray area IMHO that most of us fall into.  There is a vast difference between learning from our peers and colleagues in the course of conversation and coming to this playground with the specific intent to build your (or your company’s) brand or business.  Heck, I gain insight into our biz in social settings (even from non-PR-folks) all the time — I wouldn’t presume to call that business.

I came here to talk and play.  You came here for professional reasons.  I’m certain those I ‘speak’ with regularly know my intent when I engage with them.

Special thanks to Alex Tan for playing Devil’s Advocate (Factoid: an actual job in the Roman Catholic Church) with me over the last week.

A response (an @, not a ‘d’)

A day and a half ago I’m sitting at my work PC, working on some client nonsense or such when I received a direct message which read, “OMFG we are being so rude according to shankman – we @ reply each other WAY too much.” [This was during Tuesday’s HARO call with @skydiver and@chrisbrogan — BTW, if you’re not following them, follow them – what’s wrong w/ you? They give great info and are certainly worth the follow].
Anyone who follows me knows this is at least partially true — I tweet (and @ reply) a lot. Tons — I’ve been on twitter for about a year and as of this writing have 14K tweets. My last thousand tweets averaged out to nearly 150 tweets per day (not bragging, just making sure everyone saw the unit of time). I tweet about everything – client/journalist pet peeves; what I’m listening to; reading; blogs I’m commenting on; and yes even occasionally what I’m eating.

Of course my initial response was, “You and I got called out specifically on a HARO call?” I was a bit impressed. Of course this wasn’t the case. Before commenting I waited to get the mp3 and listened…it wasn’t as inflammatory as I had originally thought, the full conversation (which followed a discussion of follower loyalty vs. number of followers) was this (Peter speaking in this quote):

[some sentence fragments removed for readability]

“…they [someone commenting on twitter I believe] disagree, it’s about answering, talking and answering your followers and having conversations on twitter. And Chris you might argue with me on this. I don’t believe that you should respond to every single person who responds to you in the public using an @ reply. I tend to direct message anyone who sends me an @ reply unless it’s something of value to the bigger audience. In my opinion, if you send me a question and I reply to you and it’s a personal question or it’s not of interest to everyone I’m being rude to 50,000 of my followers who might not care so I’m very very big on the dm not so big on the @ reply in a public forum. There are other people who disagree with that, there are companies who will @ reply every single person with the most trivial facts, if that works for them great – I just don’t believe once you hit a critical mass on twitter that that’s worth it…Chris what do you think about that?” [Chris’s Skype connection conked out. When he returned he agreed with Peter and the conversation tangented to a quick discussion of multiple accounts.]

I’m one of those who disagree.

First, a few notes:

a) I appreciate that Peter notes it might work for some people,
b) I’m not Peter and don’t have anywhere (and likely never will have anywhere) near his following.
c) I certainly don’t know what the critical mass is, but it’s presumably somewhere between my 1,800 followers and his 49,000.

Here’s what I do know:
a) off ALL of my off topic, sometimes nonsensical, double entendre laden tweets never have I been told I’m tweeting too much. Have I been unfollowed — sure. Do I know why — of course not.
b) some of the best conversations I’ve had with people would not have happened if I wasn’t tweeting nearly everything publicly.

More re: b) — when you do follow a decent number of people, individual tweets become blurred. If you only tweet once about a subject it’s very likely to get caught in the larger stream of those watching and very potentially never seen. If you’re having a good, interactive conversation you’ve got a better chance of being heard and others joining the conversation.

IMHO this leads back to the greatest question of the twitter-age — Why are you using twitter? I, personally use it as my own water cooler not soap box. A place to have conversations with others on the topics of the day and our lives.

When asked about twitter by Luddites I compare it to a cocktail party — you walk in, may know a few people there and can join or initiate any conversation without it being rude or intrusive. At the same time you can pull someone to the side and have a private conversation with them. But if we begin conversations and immediately pull the person we’re speaking with aside and talk only to them about it we’re losing the possibility that someone else in the group may have something of value to contribute to the conversation.

Simply put, IMHO (and compared to these two giants in the industry it is my own humble opinion) — until you ask, or allow for the possibility, there is no way to know what will and what won’t interest any number of your followers and to block that from happening by moving to directs immediately isn’t what twitter’s about (for me at least).

Of course asking everyone about their interests, keeping a record of it, and then somehow involving them in certain conversations is impractical if not impossible (remember, no multi-directs) on twitter. That leaves allowing for it to happen naturally — i.e responding publicly, the way the question was asked and see who pipes up. You never know what hidden gems you’ve got in your following until you let them know what you’re talking about and who else may be able to participate.

Proof of this came to me a few weeks back at Masquertweet, and I fully expect it to happen again at #MNH

I had a few, personally great moments at the event. The first of course being able to help 12for12K raise money for their July charity Eye Care for Kids.

The other joy, mostly unnoticed by others thanks to my mask, was seeing people I had been talking to for months and had introduced to each other online finally meet each other in person, and have real conversations about work, play and everything in between — without me doing any sort of weird twitter-matchmaker handholding. Some of them even making individual plans to get together and continue their conversations following the event. These were connections that may not have happened but for my introduction and I have no doubt that I was able to make those introductions because I chat up everyone publicly and allow the possibility that my followers will find each other interesting separate and apart from me.

This even took place NOT at an event — by leaving the door open for the possibility of a natural friendship to develop between two agencies I knew individually and had introduced to each other a new, hopefully life-long bond, has been forged. A connection (among many others) which fills me with joy each time I see any of them @, RT or #FF the other.

I’m not a big believer in #Followfriday, but each time I’m included in a #FF grouping and every other name I see is one I know, and I recognize introductions I’ve made, I glow a little bit. If these two (or more) random people have connected and like each other enough to now pay attention to each other (and become friends), and I was in some small way a part of that process it’s makes my Friday and my twitter life just that bit better.
Just my own $0.02.

#Masquertweet behaviour

Apparently I’ve become the poster child of anonymous tweeters (at least in our own little circle). Over the last few days I’ve heard a few concerns from the other anonymous tweeters about maintaining their security and keeping their (lack of) identity at the event.

I thought this went without saying….but just in case…..

Any kind of misconduct, harassing behavior or motions to un-mask (literally or figuratively) someone at #Masquertweet simply will not be tolerated. I’m all about a good joke and having a fun time (and if you’re not then why in the world would you be following my feed), but we all know the stakes in this little game we call life and should all know where the lines are drawn.

If anyone is unclear on this – lemme know. I’m happy to discuss it – you know where to find me.

How Twitter will die…

(Thank goodness I don’t need subheads – not sure I can be that optimistic twice in a row…. 😉 )

No, I don’t mean the company, I mean how it will die for each of us individually.

As a number of you know I’m an old-school hacker (in this sense). Everything from spending hours tinkering with the order of loading up TSRs in my autoexec.bat and config.sys files to get the most from my 2MB of RAM to coding HTML in DOS ‘Edit‘ before there were any worthwhile HTML editor applications. Back in the day this kind of thing went hand-in-hand with message and file boards to trade secrets, tricks and hacks.

And so, for many of us it all really begins with the BBS. Like so many to-be hackers of the time I was hooked from that first time I heard my 2400 bps modem connect to a BBS (a WWIV system I’ll note). It only took days until I began saving up for a 14.4k bps ….

This was still back in those precious days when BBSes, Rock music and staring at a computer screen were all the cause of angsty and withdrawn teenagers in the mass media. Anyone who participated back then surely recalls their parents asking

  • “What do you talk to ‘those people‘ about?”
  • “Why would you send messages to someone you don’t know?”
  • “It must only be perverts and criminals – you will stop now or [Insert threat].”

Yes, it’s the same questions we get now from the luddites – why would someone I don’t know care about what I’m doing or what I thought of a particular movie?

And it’s the same reason – we’re social creatures and for some of us this is a preferred way to connect, for better or worse … but that’s a post for a different day.

Since then, so for nearly 20 years, I’ve pretty much done it all:

  • ran (or as they would’ve called it then – SysOp-ed) my own BBSes, Co-SysOped others; even posting against myself to build interest in the system (Hmmm, maybe I should talk to someone about this MPD 😉 )
  • played in aol chat rooms
  • admined IRC and other live (actual live – no APIs and no fail whales) chat systems
  • organized and promoted listservs/mailing-lists
  • and the list goes on….

I’ve avoided playing with online communities (or as we’re now calling them – social networks) for the last few years since I’ve seen how it works and with the assistance of my crystal ball know how it’ll end and had little reason to rejoin the fun…

(Disclaimer – this applies to the ‘everyday’ users, not writers/journalists/bloggers or Sm. Businesses who use the service to ply their wares. It’s for those of us who discuss booze, dinner plans, work, yoga classes, what our kids are up to, etc. The “real conversations” on the service – where you can figure out a user’s top “friends,” recommendations, potential FollowFridays simply by looking at their last 40 tweets or their stats. Take a look at my most frequent @’s – I couldn’t even begin to dispute the conclusions that can be drawn from it in terms of who I speak to, or have spoken to, on a regular basis historically).

And so, one day, it’ll happen a few years down the line – you’ll come back from a business trip, long vacation, or sick leave and simply not have the time or energy to login to twitter and your life will continue with no (or minimal) negative effect.

Out of a distorted sense of obligation you’ll eventually login, but won’t participate like you did before – conversation threads will be lost, the tweeple you only chatted with occasionally will be lost in the static, and your ‘regulars’ will even be logging in less or their conversations will become diluted as more people join. Then you’ll go for weeks without logging in….

Notices of DMs will skim by in your email (assuming you’re even signed up for the notices) unless it’s from someone you’ve taken the care to trade actual emails with and even then you’ll find yourself replying to them in email. A relationship growth to be sure, but not twitter based which is the topic of this post. Eventually you’ll simply not bother to login except when bored on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon with a good drink to see what’s going on and even that will stop at some point…

Fast-forward a bit more and…

One day, 5-10 years in the future. Any loosely knit circles of friends you’ve developed have spread to the four winds and something will spark a memory – A new coworker with a less common spelling of Erik/Arik, mention of a Cog being broken on a gear or someone using the word twitter to actually refer to what birds do and you’ll recall a tweet, incident (perhaps a public tweet meant to be a Direct), or maybe even this paragraph.

A smile will pass over your face and for a moment you’ll pause. You’ll wonder what happened to all those people you ‘knew’ and spent hours, days even, talking to…and the-then real life will catch up and time will move forward once more.

You’ll make vain attempts to reach out to a few of them, but alas cell phone numbers and email addresses change, people become impossible to find, and even if you do find them after half a decade what do you have to chit-chat about that was so special back then in ’09? The feeling won’t be anything easy to express – just a feeling of a deep (now hollow) friendship, memories of fun, and a sense of loss.

For anyone who was using technology to connect 5-10 years ago – AOL chat rooms, message boards, forums, etc. – Do you still go to the same haunts? Do you have any connections from those prior platforms that moved on with you to twitter and facebook (excluding maybe pre-existing real life connections)?
If yes, then you’re certainly a better man than me.
Conclusion – I don’t have a real one….
It’s up to each of us to make of this what we want. If it’s deep relationships, continuing friendships, lasting connections – then make it real. Meet your people, email with them, let them in and buck this trend. If this is just a game, a time-killer, or something to do during calls – then continue on, but one day you will know you’ve lost something.
(And yes, before the comments begin I do see the irony in this coming from me — the one who doesn’t even post his real name).

The case for anonymity

As anyone bothering to read this post knows I had the sheer and absolute pleasure of hanging with @rachelakay earlier this week.

For those of you who are curious – she’s an a complete delight!  I could go into all the ways she’s great but I don’t think I have enough room.  In brief – personally she’s great – interesting, fun & funny and truly a joy to hang with.  Professionally – she certainly knows her stuff, doesn’t pull punches and has real opinions.  If you’re not following her yet – go now…I’ll wait…
No really…go…
Once the hours of Guinness and wine faded I pretty much had to again consider my position.  Not that I really could easily change it, but if we ‘don’t learn from history’ and all that good stuff.  Also, I was left with a different post-meet mood than from #1.  I admit, could’ve been the Guinness.
While I’m still constantly mystified at how I ended up here (I do know how it happened chronologically, just looking at the end point it makes little sense (I will cover this in a later post)) it really struck me that without this persona I would have missed out on the opportunity to meet with those of you I have, those of you I intend to, work with the half-dozen or so who have stepped up to help out with Masquertweet, or party with a hundred or so of my favorite people I’ve never met.
And so, while in the grand scheme it makes things more difficult overall since everything’s a bit cloak & dagger in anything I do it is well worth it to have this opportunity.
Tangent alert: And in case anyone missed it – I’m now on FB.  Since I have virtually none of your email addies I’ll need you to start –
And in case anyone’s curious…yes I do have an ‘exit strategy’ that should keep PRCog alive & active, but allow a bit of collar loosening in the coming months….That’ll have to wait for another post tho…