Friday, December 23, 2011

What does your profile pic say about you?

There's that old adage about only having one chance to make a first impression.  First impressions are as critical in social networking as they are face-to- face, and they often start with the humble profile picture. But let's not get too judgemental about the profiles of others - or ourselves. There is a whole push in 'professional profile picture chatter' about professionally taken pictures, with blank backgrounds, sensible office attire and looking directly at the camera that might just be ... oh I dunno ... so LAST century!

Image by Posterize
Some business practice advice has a tendency to take what we used to do offline and make the rules fit online.  In an offline world where the public and private worlds didn't collide ubiquitously, like they do now with social networking, this may have been the case.  Maybe a picture of your lawyer in a suit or gown gave them credence and status - but with the connections of today, we want to understand a little about the whole person we are contracting.  A background of something other than a wall of books gives a hint to their personality too - and personality matters this century.

There is one school of thought that you are your brand, and therefore all your profile pictures should be the same. I think this is more a matter of personal choice (and maybe even about time paucity and care factor!).  They also argue that you shouldn't be changing your profile picture more than annually.  My personal opinion is that we need to lay off the rules a little.  Is not this small choice, one which helps us to form impressions about others? 

Then there is the argument about using avatars.  I overheard a conversation the other day that "avatars are for people who are hiding the real them".  I kind of see it differently, many of the avatars are almost comic in their presentation and features of who someone is are relayed in the drawing. No image comes without a story and an impression.  And that is the only lesson we need to take away. That and the fact we have no control over them and their permanency once we upload them.

So what does your profile picture say about you? Take time out to consider the first impression you are making, be a little less judgemental or rule driven about others and perhaps just consider a few broad guidelines to help you out with your choice. After all it can be as hard as choosing the right bag to go with your new shoes!

Things to consider:
  1. Keep it simple. Learn a little about positioning and good photographs - or use a professional photographer to take some shots. A clear head shot works on most size screens and is worth considering - even if it is an avatar.  First impressions are often all about the eyes.  (However consider point four below!)
  2. Make sure it is you. Don't use someone else's picture or stock photos. Identity theft is impolite in any circle- and you might just accidentally put up the picture of the local fraudster!
  3. Does it represent you authentically? Make sure it represents you - or the you that you want represented. Check backgrounds, words on T- shirts, facial expressions and make sure they say what YOU want them to say in the setting you are using them. 
  4. Creative types need to look creative! Profile something about yourself. If you are a tattoo artist make sure your own tattoos show, if you are a fake tan salon owner a little bare (and tanned!) skin is probably the go.  Be careful about 'rules' set by people who work in suits in an office all day and aren't in creative industries setting boring rules about profile pictures for different industries.
  5.  Remember the permanency of uploaded pictures. Your past self will be there to greet your future self in years to come. Make the experience a pleasant one!






Wednesday, December 21, 2011

'Go ahead Make My Day': Top Five

Image from:  Photostock
It's the season of good cheer and what better way to spread some than to communicate really well online with your networks?  Here is a Top Five list of ways to Make the Day of someone in your network.
  1. Don't send them an email. That's right. Exercise another option - phone, pop by their office or send a hand written note/card/memo.  Some offices are now banning inter office emails and encouraging other forms of communication like instant messaging - of course we should never forget the value of face-to-face conversations as well.
  2. Give a recommendation on LinkedIn If you are using LinkedIn for professional networking, then chose a colleague to write a positive recommendation for. They can still choose whether they want to make it public or not - but you will have given a gift that will let them know you are thinking of them and appreciate their service.
  3. Don't overload your social networking over the holiday period. Sparse and short postings means people can be connecting face-to-face with loved ones rather than spending time on line.
  4. Write a relevant and catchy subject line on emails, posts etc.  This helps others to prioritise their work before going on a holiday break.  It shows respect for their time - and a catchy heading might even put a smile on their face.
  5. Remember to put an out-of-office notice on your online accounts and email. While many people take a few days off over this time of year, it's useful to know when they will be back, who to talk to in the meantime and perhaps a relevant season's greeting.  Make it a friendly message as opposed to the stock standard "Betty is out of the office until Monday".  Try a little cheer! Here's some more hints from the good people at  FCI Technology Blog and a couple of links to fun messages too (that you might want to use but probably shouldn't!).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Social Networking 'Mile-High'

Image: by Phiseksit
The best part of travel is often the serendipity. Then again the worst part of travel can be the serendipity too. Are you a "weirdo magnet" when you fly?  One of those people who always ends up with "that" person sitting next to them on the plane?

Well hope may be in sight for you. Talking Travel Net TNooz reported that KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is releasing a new "meet and seat" service in 2012.  One where you can choose who you sit next to when you travel. Using Facebook or Linkedin (Not Twitter though apparently), passengers can make a choice of who they will spend their flying time with.  This means your flying networking is no longer a blind draw - but rather your own fault if you choose poorly.

For serious networkers and social networkers this may be effective, especially for long flights where fellow passengers are part of the entertainment. How would you choose who you would sit with though?  It also raises the sticky social issue of rejecting an invitation to sit with a certain someone you wish to avoid.  How do you achieve that and not cause offence? A whole new set of social netiquettes are raised with this application of social networking.  Are we ready for our whole lives to be interjected with our online networking?  Do you sometimes just want to leave your networking to chance?

What I really want to know is if some frequent fliers out there will put "Reading and not talking to the person I sit with when travelling" as an interest in their profiles so I can have the quiet flight I like to have?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Personifying the Internet

I’m learning to enjoy the company of annoying people I have to relate to, by imagining them as an animation or a bad sit-com and replaying it in my mind while I count to ten. It’s working – somewhat.  At the very least I get ten seconds of day dreaming time where I'm oblivious to crazy comments or irate tirades about how the world owes them a living. 

Image by: Renjth Krishnan
My favourite, or least favourite annoyance, depending on how you look at it, are those that personify the Internet. You know the ones, they usually blame everything and everyone around them for their poor decisions or inability to get motivated when things turn sour on them.  And then they talk about the Internet as if it is a thinking, feeling being. You might see some of them socially, hear them on talk-back or read about them on various screens, newspapers and books. They say things like: “I hate the Internet and how whatever you say gets screwed around”, or “I hate Facebook and how everyone knows what you are doing all the time”, or (as a headline) “Twitter causes poor grammar as students can’t write more than 140 characters in assignments”.

What they mean, though seem to have little capacity for such insight, is they are frustrated by human nature.  If you don't write everything you do on Facebook, then no one will know what you are up to!  It's as easy as that really. I am often misunderstood in face-to-face conversations, spied on by nosey neighbours , or taken totally out of context in a newspaper article. I am also misunderstood in online articles, cyberstalked using Google, and taken out of context on Twitter.  But not by the Internet - rather by people using the Internet.  This is not rocket science good people.  We humans are actually pretty poor at communicating our thoughts, needs and opinions clearly. We are also pretty poor at reading other’s thoughts, needs or opinions – or needs for security and privacy. This paucity of skills is apparent face-to-face or when mediated by telecommunications like the telephone or Internet. Spend ten seconds examining your own personal history of mistakes - or the history of the world for that matter.

A recent publication:  The Offensive Internet: Speech, Privacy and Reputation edited by Levmore and Nussbaum, is an example of blaming the technology for human action. While they suggest and call for solutions to poor online behaviours, there is still an element of blaming the technology – when all that is happening is that poor behaviour is coming out from the underground. We know it’s happening, we don’t like it and some, it seems, would prefer to go back to ‘the good old days’ (whenever these were!).  The reality is that crime, bullying and espionage all existed before we placed the prefix ‘cyber’ in front of them.  Web sites and applications are creations of human minds, and not the invention of some yet-to-be-created robot's imagination.

Why do they blame the Internet? In my books (and many a scholar much smarter than me) the Internet is a revolutionary communications invention which is literally changing the world as we tweet, chat, ‘like’ or ‘share’. It is providing a medium for information exchange and interpersonal communication in ways unimaginable when they invented precursors like the telegraph or the telephone.  Mediated communications have been a part of our existence since cave dwellers drew cave paintings and sent smoke signals to one another, and kids took cans and a piece of string and tried to talk across the park.  What people choose to do with the technology that mediates our communication is the fault of human action and dark desire – let’s get this straight and find some new headlines or something else to blame for our woes.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Does Twitter build relationships between people?

From: Free Digital Photos ... You can follow me here or on Twitter @PJ_Weatherill
I started a Twitter account back in 2006. I can't even remember my original user name - a sign that I really didn't think Twitter would be around, and that it didn't seem worth adopting. Well let's just say I am no futurist and I got that one wrong.  At the time I enjoyed lengthy blogging rather than the then-new micro blogging.  Great people have been wrong before so I am in good company - I mean it was Bill Gates who infamously said "640K ought to be enough for anybody". So let's move on from my lack of foresight.

I didn't ignore Twitter. I observed it, like the good social scientist that I am.

As a teaching academic I got interested in the style of Twitter. Being able to say something in 140 characters is a great way for undergraduates to build their writing skills, especially those struggling with brevity.  When they came to me complaining that 2000 words wasn't enough for an essay, I advised:  "Write your main argument as a Tweet, 140 characters or less, go from there". I  noticed that it worked for them.

At CreateWorld 2011, the AUC creator's conference, I witnessed the interaction between people via Twitter and how powerful it was in the right hands. Don't get me wrong, I had witnessed it at other conferences too, but somehow this group of technophiles had it worked out. They integrated face-to-face networking with Tweet-networking and conencted people both in and out of the room. After chatting to a couple of heavy Tweeters about how they use Twitter I thought it was time to adopt it again.  After all my PhD is about computer-mediated communication and relationship building. An excuse for some more netnography .

And so now I am watching from the inside. In the words of Edison, "The value of an idea lies in using it".  A sentiment expressed by entrepreneur and technology anthropologist Jeff Pulver in a promo on Twittamentary,where he muses that it's not so much about the invention or introduction of Twitter but the adoption of it globally where the power lies, calling it "the enzyme of change".  And we are living this change here and now.

Twittamentary is a documentary project by Singaporean filmmaker Tan Siok Siok, to examine how Twitter has impacted on the lives of those who use it. It has been screened 17 times on three continents (alas not Australia yet) and brings out stories of connection as well as its uses for networking, politics and advertising.  It's strength is obviously in the action research style it was developed, and the ongoing reactions of Tweeters as they see their experience explored and explained. How Twitter mediates the creation and maintenance of meaningful relationships is still being examined bySiok Siok and others - but it is achieving an interpersonal end. As this new Tweeter (and possibly the other 300 million) can attest.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Punchy Emails

A few days ago I blogged about Netiquette, and the Intel Corp guidelines I found from 1995.  Reading through some of the original ideas of how to construct an email was fun reading - and it came up with some basic reminders that might be worth reconnecting with if you use email to build relationships with others.  They included some courtesies that help to add punch and make sure that your email gets read. Also some timely reminders about how long an email should be.

From: Free Digital Photos
Now while these early guidelines on size were largely laid out due to the cost of sending and receiving emails in the 1980s and 1990s, they also work to reduce 'email stress' at work and keep readers  interested in what you have to say. So while your ISP or a free service like  Gmail are happy to send emails up to 25 MB, it might be worth considering some other guidelines you will find from researching email etiquette sites.

While the Intel Corp Netiquette guidelines suggest that an email of more than 100 lines (of 65 characters!), an easier rule of thumb is no more than can be read without having to scroll down. Hmmm friends and colleagues of mine will know I rarely stick to this.  But what are the implications of this?

Well unless you write a really punchy email, and can keep a reader's attention, you risk your email being scan read and not digested fully by the reader. So I might just add this rule of thumb to my New Year's resolutions for 2012. Of course this doesn't stop you from attaching a file where you might wax more lyrically if the reader is interested. A few dot points on the main email as a teaser should do the trick and get them to open the document.  Naming the file for the document something intriguing (and relevant) will help too.  In some circles it is considered disrespectful to send attachments called doc1 doc2 pdf1 and pdf2 - a few seconds labelling them will increase the chances they get read.

Another often forgotten tool is the subject line.  A relevant and punchy subject line will put your email up the list - and be appreciated by the reader. Subject lines have been part of emails since their early inception in the 1960s - for a reason.  It helps readers to prioritise and store emails.  It also encourages the sender to write a more succinct email on one subject only - which according to the Intel Corp guidelines was the original intent of effective emailing.

So in the theme of brevity that's all for this little subject today - and I will leave you with one more golden titbit from Intel 1995:
"Be conservative in what you send and liberal in what you receive"


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Splitting your public and private self in a very public cyberspace

You are your digital image these days.  One quick egogoogle will reveal how healthy your image is. Knowing that comments you have made on blogs, will sit alongside your tweets and Facebook pics from last year's Christmas party will change the way you spend time on line.  The permanence of this image is worth keeping in mind when you are changing fields or even just applying for jobs.

From: Free Digital Photos
Of course this is why so many people will have more than one account on social networking or blogging sites. They keep them separate - in a vague attempt to keep their private and public lives separate.  Who knows if this is really possible these days - I mean if someone really wants to find out about you, it isn't that hard to crack pseudonyms, avatars and multiple addresses. It might be worth it though if you have a private life that might affect your job prospects and you are applying for new jobs. Employers DO check your online identity along with your referees. In a recent article in Mail Online by Rob Waugh, he claims that some employers are asking for access to passwords to check Facebook accounts if a candidate is successful for the job!  (How someone can provide this to a potential employer without breaching terms and conditions at Facebook Inc I don't know .... perhaps the real story here is that these employers are asking candidates to breach T&C's and should be told so).

Google plus goes someway to work around this with their Circles concept, but of course the easiest way to deal with this is to remember the permanency of everything you do online and just be aware of how it will contribute to your online identity - because of course any smart person will know how to make this work for them!

Monday, December 12, 2011

It goes both ways ...

From: Free Digital Photos
I don't know anyone who thinks virtual networking can or will replace face-to-face networking in their life.  Many, me included, think it might enhance or expand the networking experience, but certainly not become a substitute.

Yesterday Kevin Purdy at Fast Company wrote a useful piece reminding us of how both face-to-face and virtual networking, when experienced side-by-side can be a really powerful experience: 'Why in-person socialising is a mandatory to do item'. Expanding on Ray Oldenburg's notion of the Third Place, the place that isn't work or home, but a space you carve out for yourself to grow and create with others, Purdy describes his own experience in the guise of a techno-driven 'knitting circle'.  A space where like minded people share ideas and knowledge to create new experiences, knowledge and connections.

I think the lesson here is to have a virtual third place - but make sure you have face-to-face one as well.  And fill it with smart, creative, technophiles.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Is there still a netiquette?



From: Free Digital Photos
Remember all that chatter about netiquette?  It is the short form for Internet etiquette. You know, rules for digital communication.   In most Internet communities you usually find out what the netiquette, is about the time you break it! For those of you who always read instructions, terms and conditions and 'how to use this site' pages, you might be a bit better prepared. But for most of us it is a 'try out a community and see' kind of approach. There is usually someone in line who will YELL out and tell you what you are doing is annoying - either that or you won't make any new virtual connections or friends.

Most netiquette stems from the Netiquette Guidelines put out by Intel Corp in 1995.  From the Introduction:
"In the past, the population of people using the Internet had "grown
up" with the Internet, were technically minded, and understood the
nature of the transport and the protocols. Today, the community of

Internet users includes people who are new to the environment. These "Newbies" are unfamiliar with the culture and don’t need to know about transport and protocols. In order to bring these new users into the Internet culture quickly, this Guide offers a minimum set of behaviors which organizations and individuals may take and adapt for their own use."

The document is worth a read just for their fun 'newbie' explanations - remember when reading that use of the Internet for the general public was still new and growing and not quite as ubiquitous as today - and then fell free to LOL. My favourite is: "Don’t assume that people who you don’t know will want to talk to you. If you feel compelled to send private messages to people you don’t know, then be willing to accept gracefully the fact that they might be busy or simply not want to chat with you."  I reckon it is just as relevant when communicating with people you DO know!

Workplaces often have their netiquette hidden in Policies and Procedures. Items will include anything from how your email signature should look to how to represent the company on line, using social networking sites, to some even some stricter policies which ask employees to refrain from mentioning their organisation under 'employment' on non work related social networking sites like Facebook.

Virtual social netiquette is a little harder to work out. Alongside learning the interface, working out the netiquette is often the real challenge. A days worth of eavesdropping on the train or in a coffee shop will usually elicit at least one comment like these:
  • "I mean she tagged me looking rank. What does she think?" 
  • "Why would you befriend someone you only just met. It's weird isn't it?"
  • "I wish they would just assume I got their email - I just don't care enough to reply right now"
  • "He keeps writing comments that make ME look stupid".
And like any community membership, it's not until you do something 'weird' and someone bothers to tell you, that you  have stepped over the (often) unwritten line. And those lines are different in each setting - just like any face-to-face group you are part of.  I have to ask. Is there any easy way to learn a local netiquette?

It's a minefield out there ... take care!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What does your desk top say about you?

When I was a teen I loved those articles in girlie magazines that showed the contents of a celebrity's handbag.  A little peek into another's life.  It brings out the voyeur in me, like when you sneak a peek at what picture someone has in their wallet when they open it, or what is on their desktop when they open their computer in front of you.

Well to be honest, you probably don't really want to see what's on the desktop of my PC. I look a little dishevelled, a little bit all over the place. It is the year's end and I have files that haven't been cleaned up on there since the return to work in back in January. I don't seem to work so hard to keep it organised these days, but I suspect that has something to do with the the new digital love in my life. I recently succumbed and am now part of the iPad brigade. Now, there, you can get an insight into how my life works.


 This is only today's version mind you.  I can be found at a free WiFi spot near you re-arranging my screen on any given day. This is a screen shot of screen one. I am up to five.  I think it is rather strange that one glance at my home screen and I don't look like a scholar or reader. No bookcase or newsstand to be seen.  Ahhh .... that's tricky huh?  Well all my books and reading are in screen three an onwards. My work screens. My 'no distractions here' screens you could call them. My home screen is currently themed as a practical space for the quick things I do on and off all day on my trusty tablet. My distractions you might say!

What you can see on my home screen and menu bar, is that my applications for connecting are very much at hand. My social networking, contacts, and email are all there waiting when I switch my tablet on in the morning.  Although I do know more social people who have their Facebook and Twitter on their permanent menu so it doesn't matter which screen they are on.

So how connected are you?  How distracted? Can you tell from your desktop, or home screen on any of your mobile devices?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Blogging Again ...

Been there done that!  I've tried the blogosphere before. It was good for my writing discipline. But I stopped.  Not sure what that says about me and my discipline really. But here I go again. If one is to blog, one must join it to one's addiction, in order to be successful. 

At last week's CreateWorld 2011 AUC Conference  (South Bank, Brisbane), I sat in rooms full of really great people.  Social people.  Really smart people: Geeks, semi-geeks and wanna be geeks. (I say this in the most affectionate way.)  I've been in rooms of geeks at conferences before, but this one struck me as social. Collaborative even.  Something new to me for a tech-based  gathering. I figure I had previously been going to the wrong ones. The hierarchy of geekiness was missing as undergrads presented papers that were the highlight of a session, and breaks were filled with exchanges of information, networks, knowledge and generally good cheer. "I like these people", I thought to myself.  I don't often think that when I am in a room of strangers.

What I loved about being in a space that collected keen adopters of technology, was the screen glare in the room as an audience member.  Try it sometime. It really is the digital version of eavesdropping. Sit up the back of the auditorium and while listening to the speaker/s, watch the screens pop up. Tablets, phones, laptops - you name it. (Mainly Apple ones of course because of the AUC connection - but I was also pleased to see I was not the only android phone user around that week). It made me sit up and take note. A room full of screens on, and yet there was connection with the speaker and one another. I had always thought of the screen-glare as a distraction ... not a connection.

As a lecturer who has witnessed the mobile computing world enter auditoriums and lecture rooms and not been quite sure how to handle it, I got a totally new perspective at CreateWorld. A digital-epiphany of sorts you could say.  It was long overdue and probably really just demonstrates I am not a digital native - more a digital parent!. While some screens were pointed at Facebook, Twitter, email and other daily digital distractions, I figured this was no different than day dreaming your shopping list and still taking in  a portion of it. We all do it. We are a multitasking species. What worked for me, like the white light of a million screens, was the connections people were making.  Tweeting their reactions to the speakers making social connections with others at the conference, uploading pics of iPad symphonies to Facebook, and sending each other digital business cards across the conference spaces. And that was just screen connections in the room.

Meal breaks saw just as many screens glaring as it did people chatting to one another. Good eavesdropping freelance writer that I am, I overheard conversations of people who knew each other from the Twittersphere and Second Life who were meeting face-to-face (FTF) for the first time and connecting in an instant after the initial micro-second shock of "you don't look at all like your avatar". Personally I was pleased to meet people from my own institution I had never met in person - alongside writers of articles I had read from other parts of the world.  I was overwhelmed by the sharing of knowledge and genuine interest in digital creation. The conference was a microcosm of the best of both FTF and digital relationship and network building. The connection worked.

And thus this blog begins. A blog about how we connect with one another. Specifically how we connect using digital communication. Hardware and software. Synchronous and asynchronous. Human to human, yet hopefully mediated by kind computers and clever programs which will enhance our experience of being relationship with one another. Of course in the end it is up to us how effective these relationships are.  But more on that later. At the very least this blog is a space where waxing lyrical about digital communication will not be driven from a "the devil is in town" perspective, but rather one of thoughtful opportunity seeking. In the words of Dale Spender in Nattering on the Net (1995): "The challenge for us ... is to learn to live with computers and to make a better world".  And I suspect it all starts with how we connect.




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