Social Media: The great communicator?

Rambling a bit on this one…not enough coffee…

In a recent WSJ article from our own Julia Angwin she notes that digital small talk really doesn’t replace a 1-on-1 interaction for finding out what’s going on with old friends (BTW – in this case ‘our own’ refers to the twitter community).

Julia’s (terriffic piece) is spot on regarding known friends – friends who we may hesitate to open a vein to because they were that much a part of the building of our own self-image through high school, college and our early careers that we have to keep that persona up with them. That is unless of course we’ve made a 180 in our lives and don’t give a darn anymore.
The segment that goes unaddressed in Julia’s piece are those who would not have met without Twitter and other social networks (Nota Bene: I don’t include FB and LI in this segment. For my proper personae I only use those for people I actually know or have worked with. Twitter on the other hand is an orgy. I do know a number of others who will connect with anyone on either – that’s simply not my style.)
Referencing my last post and making a bit of an exception to it (I promise I’m not bipolar but rather just see many shades of gray) – there are those I’ve met initially on twitter, followed by a long ‘acquaintance curve’ that once I actually do meet them in person or have a phone call with them, may actually be more aware of where they are now in their lives than a ‘long lost’ friend may be even with the assistance of status updates given my lack of prejudice from having known them for years.
For anyone tracking it, I’ve had the unadulterated pleasure of meeting a handful of you. With each coffee/drink meeting we were able to talk immediately, comfortably, completely passing over the awkward small talk of old acquaintances or the false notion of complete familiarity FB updates may bring. Each conversation would likely have gone on for many more hours (and some in fact did go on for hours).
The topic of twitter as the great icebreaker actually came up in May (sorry I can’t find the entire thread).
Of course the proof is in the pudding – it’ll be interesting to see how this all pans out next week at Masquertweet and we all get to play with a hundred-ish of our favorite people we’ve never met.
(PS — Julia, you are, of course, invited Masquertweet. I’m sure there’s more than one of us that would love to talk SM with you).

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).

Masquertweet Update

Yes – Plans for #Masquertweet are proceeding. Everything is shaping up quite nicely and we expect to have a venue announcement in the next few days.

But, even more exciting, I’m pleased (ok, thrilled really) to announce that all proceeds from Masquertweet will go to 12for12K (or more specifcally their selected July charity).

So, how do I look in blue?

What’s 12for12K you ask – well if you’ve been under a twitter rock (twock?) for the last few months…go here for the best possible explanation.

Over the last few weeks I’ve had the sheer joy of tweeting, talking and even meeting with some of the lovely 12for12K people – @rachelakay, @ginalaguardia, @arikhanson and of course the 12for12K ringleader @dannybrown (there’s too many to name here, but it’s a start). This should go without saying, but just in case – follow them ….I’ll wait.

Anyway, while working on plans for #Masquertweet @prdude, @aerocles and I realized that in addition to having piles of fun at the event there was room to do some good. Knowing the fine 12for12K people we reached out and things progressed from there.

So know, in addition to having a blast, you can do some good for the world at this July’s first-ever Masquertweet.

For full details on the event – http://Masquertweet.com, RSVP at http://tinyurl.com/rsvp09. Some details are still up in the air, but we’re always looking for additional sponsors, tie-ins, giveaways or other fundraising ideas. If you or your clients may be interested in playing in the sandbox with us, please do not hesitate to be in touch – prcog1 [at] gmail.com

More details to be posted here as they become available, so keep an eye out and RSVP (even as a maybe) and we’ll be in touch.

~PRCog

A very emotional post (Part 1)

So this is a very difficult post for me.

It’s an issue I’ve considered long and hard over the last couple of weeks. Some of the deliberations you all shared last Saturday as I wandered around lower Manhattan awaiting a sign from Sunnyvale, CA.
Sunnyvale?
Yes – I’ve finally decided on the newest iPhone over the Pre.
First let’s go back one step. I Love Palm.
More precisely, I loved Handspring a company created by the original Palm founders that made cheaper PalmOS handhelds. They were innovative in the boring PDA market from Day 1. Multi-colored handhelds, the Springboard slot, the Edge (one of the sexiest PDA’s I’ve ever seen), and finally the Treo line.
Yes – the Treo – up until last week the only real surviving remnant of a product Palm had was actually developed by an acquired company. (Yes, I’m ignoring the Tungsten line intentionally – the PDA w/o phone market is quickly evaporating as prices come down).
As far as I’m concerned Palm was Handspring post acquisition.
And when I say I love Palm I mean, I love Palm. As in we’ve always been a Palm household – multiple Handsprings, multiple Treos. I even have some Palm stock in my portfolio.
(next part is all about my Apple love….this post got to be entirely too long first time around so breaking it up here….)

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 – http://www.facebook.com/people/Peter-Cognoscenti/1818394291.
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…

Dear Twitter….your new @ settings suck

Ok, I don’t usually post this quickly on anything but this one sucks particularly badly.

No, I didn’t find this out on my own. I first saw it on @whitneyhess‘s blog.

So here’s the beef – there’s been a change to what shows up in your timeline – long story short (if I’m reading this right) – when someone you follow replies to someone you don’t follow you won’t see the update of the person you do follow.

Oddly enough I was working on a blog post on the train this evening reflecting that I get and find more good twitter people NOT through #followfriday but just by seeing who else my people are talking to and what they’re talking about. Side note – the iphone/itouch keyboard is really quite wretched on a bouncy train.

Well this change basically takes twitter from a great cocktail party (my favorite analogy) where you can easily join any conversation and make new friends to a cliquey high school cafeteria where if you don’t know the right people (or combination of people) you simply won’t find a place to sit and wonder wtf you’re doing there.

There’s simply so many ways this sucks that it’s difficult to even list them all. Here’s to hoping this changes before I wake up tomorrow morning.

Update: WTF’s a #Masquertweet

Hey All –

So, as an update to the original post some new info on #Masquertweet!
A final date has been set – July 16th!
We’ve also had some problems with the last RSVP page so we’ve put up a new page at Socializr – http://tinyurl.com/rsvp09 (Yes, the post-slash is intentional).
A clarification on costumes – There is NO requirement to be in full costume.  We do realize a large number of you will be coming from work (or job hunting). A few of us will certainly be in full costume, so if you’re so inclined, don’t feel awkward about showing up in over the top gear.
However, to stay true to theme, we will expect at least a de minimis mask appearance.

The case against anonymity

or 
‘Another kind of tweetgret’
[Disclaimer: Tongue not in cheek for this post]
As a few of you already know, late last week I met with one of my ‘follower/friends’ (and no, I’m not naming names unless they give the the nod).
Anyway, for those of you who know why I keep my anonymity (and that I’m pretty strict about it) you can imagine this is/was a bit unnerving.  Of the thousand or so of you out there, up until a few days ago, there were exactly zero that had ever (knowingly) seen or met me.  
The mini-meet went great (IMHO).  We talked about twitter (and its weirdness), our significant others, how we ended up in our professions, non-work related projects, etc. 
An interesting side note — this person, notwithstanding evidence (i.e. the meeting itself) that I might actually share it with them, respected (wc?) my anonymity enough that they didn’t ask me who I really was and as far as I could tell the thought didn’t even cross their minds (that might not be the case though as I’m not psychic).  Then again, they just might not care (entirely possible as well).
Overall this was the type of person I would enjoy getting to know better – trustworthy (I believe), smart, funny, kind, etc. – and likely would if we were in the same office or met under different circumstances.
And there’s the wrench – of the hundreds of you I’ve had conversations with, odds are there’s a significant number that I would enjoy real-life business or personal relationships with (in the platonic sense – seriously people – happily married w/ Coglings, remember?).
Of course, without my anonymity there’s little chance I would’ve ever met a fraction of you, or if I had, there’s little chance the relationship would be the same.
This mask I voluntarily put on every day, gives me the freedom to spew hellfire about my clients and co-workers, make inappropriate comments, and do what I do (not sure there’s a suitable word for it).  At the same time it keeps me in the shadows (at least while at this place of employment) when it comes to really interacting and taking anything to the next level. Quite literally this persona (with the exception of #Masquertweet) is 99% talk…140 character talk…but talk nonetheless.
It’ll be interesting/challenging to see how this progresses….

5 of 25 real things

Yes, this was inspired by the stupid FB trend.  
I thought would be more interesting here since, quite literally, 0 (zero) of you know me IRL (in real life) and sometimes 140 just isn’t enough.  
Presented in the occasional 5 bullet segments (that way when I’ve been ignoring the blog for some time I can throw another five up here to buy myself some time…:)
  1. I’ve never been west of Las Vegas, and before that (since it was for business and all I saw was the inside of the convention center and the place we rented (so it doesn’t really count…)) Colorado.
  2. I haven’t owned a car for nearly 9 years.  The only time I miss it is when I rent one.
  3. Notwithstanding my flirtering I am very happily married w/ little coglings.  (Sorry twitter-ettes).
  4. Politically I’m 90% bleeding heart liberal.
  5. I’m a Google Ho – if I can use Google for a service I do: mail (for my real accounts), docs, applications, maps, video, phone …(except subway maps…just doesn’t work well).