Dealing with social media addiction

The internet is silting up with ego-driven dross. It’s little wonder that the anti-network-neutrality brigade would like to turn it into freeways and side streets, depending on willingness to pay. And, equally, it’s no wonder that the network neutrality supporters want everything to stay the same and for the pipes to be fattened ad infinitum.

With limitless capacity and fixed price access, anyone who can afford a few dollars a month is able to promulgate whatever they want out to an unsuspecting world. They could do it with blogs, podcasts, videocasts, social networking sites, Second Life or Twitter.

It doesn’t matter that most of the utterances are ignored by most of the world. For most people the joy lies, I suspect, in the uttering. It’s like vanity publishing. Everyone has a story and this is a way to get it out.

Most people like making connections and ‘friendships’. By participating in a social site like Twitter, they can delude themselves about their connectedness. Enough of the digital glitterati hang out there to make it worth dropping by and picking up what these A-listers are up to. Even if it is as boring as ‘stuck in traffic on 101’, or whatever.

If we were able to really restrict our appetite for social media consumption to our genuine friends and work colleagues, for example, then we’d probably derive a lot of value from it. I wouldn’t mind knowing what my four analyst colleagues at Freeform Dynamics were up to at any time although I really wouldn’t welcome a continous stream of the stuff.

And this is the issue really. If you get involved in any big way with blogs, podcasts, videocasts and social sites, it can be like a drug. But this drug doesn’t so much mess with your head as mess with your time. "I’ll just see what [name your own guru] is up to at the moment" and that’s another chunk of your life thrown away, never to be recovered. It’s even worse with videos, which are becoming all the rage in Twitterati circles. A bit of puff and a tiny URL and, if you’re not careful, you end up watching some nonentity on an ego trip.

I think we ought to start accounting for our time in the same way that lawyers do. And then measure the value extracted from each social media engagement. Did it entertain? Did it educate? Did it inform? Choose your own criteria and monitor your online activity. If you’re dissatisfied with the outcome, ask yourself what else you would have spent that time doing. If the answer to that is ‘something better’ then you have a problem. Only by recognising the consequences of the addiction can you form your strategy for beating it.

PS For social accounting purposes, that probably took you 135 seconds to read.

Social media at a glance (well 57 readable pages anyway)

Lee Hopkins and Trevor Cook have written the second edition of their Social Media eBook. If you feel uncertain about the SM (no, not that one!) world, then this will help. It’s a 57-page pdf but it’s an easy and informative read.

Don’t be put off by its Australianness or its datedness in the early parts, it probably needs a slight update when it comes to mentions of things like Writely, which was renamed last October. The value of this .pdf eBook is that it’s running you through the principles of the new web world.

The wiki bit is the least insightful by these two excellent writers, but they compensate by examining real projects so you should get an idea of their relevance to you.

Nothing is beyond reach: Facebook, Twitter, Jaiku, Second Life … Offhand, I couldn’t think of anything significant that they left out. (The providers of the services that weren’t mentioned will probably disagree. They can chuck in their comments on this blog if they like.)

Take a look. It costs nothing apart from half an hour or so of your time.

Second Life and end-user programming

I delivered a Second Life article to Information World Review. Full of illustrative pictures. I expect it looks wonderful in print, except I haven’t got my copy yet. Maybe it’s languishing at the (rarely visited thanks to broadband at home) office.

It’s not online at IWR either, but I expect that will change soon. What surprised me is that it appeared in IT Week. I guess my contract allows them to do that. Have to check. But no pix. I bet that’s interesting – reading 2000 words online. Hmmmm.

And I delivered it on 13 January. I guess I was ahead of the deadline. I’ve certainly moved on. Barely been in Second Life since filing the piece. Moved on to widgets. And then moved on again. RSS as it happens, but that’s not going to be published for a while. Now it’s back to widgets.

I see my column on widgets has turned up. It talks about Yahoo! Pipes and how SAP person, Craig Cmehill is using the service. Also Teqlo and IBM’s QEDwiki get mentions, all as part of the move to user-enabled-programming.

And that’s where I am right now. Actually trying to get some decent results out of some of these user mashup tools. So I might go quiet again…

crayonville bedlam

Neville Hobson tipped me off about a coffee afternoon at his offices in Second Life.

I thought a few people might turn up and have an interesting and civilised conversation.

This is what actually happened:


And that was after it had quietened down a bit.

Flicking on the chat history, revealed a conversation of sorts. But, to someone (like me) unused to this kind of thing, it sounded like total mayhem. Here’s a one-minute extract to give you a flavour:

[6:13]  Shel Witte: The organization creates the ethical foundation — beginning with the tone set by leadership.
[6:13]  Jangles Junot: part of an ethicasl foundation is transparency/
[6:13]  Doug Hayashi: right–it’s not just about blogs
[6:13]  Katicus Sparrow: we’ve been talking about how marketers do or don’t need to be transparent w/ their audiences
[6:13]  Katicus Sparrow: when using new media like blogs, etc.
[6:13]  Praja Rahja: And the lines around transparency
[6:13]  TheDiva Rockin: I didn’t say Hi – So Hi All (On slow ass pc)
[6:13]  Hanko Florio: transparent?
[6:13]  Divo Dapto: so here’s my thought….have we become too anal about transparency
[6:13]  Kim Chihuly: is it similar to the problems with product placement in television programs?
[6:13]  Jangles Junot: a fake blog isn’t necessarily unethical
[6:13]  Jangles Junot: depdfnsds on transparcneyc, among other things
[6:13]  Katicus Sparrow: disclosure ..
[6:13]  EvansMom Goodspeed: not really divo
[6:13]  Lynette Radio: agreed shel, this is why i think it’s important to make a decision on this before going ‘public’ and sticking to it no matter what
[6:13]  KaneTFM Abel: absoulte transparency is necesary in todays "age"
[6:13]  Divo Dapto: don’t get me wrong….honesty is ihonesty
[6:13]  Cleon Goff: not a question of ethics….it’s about disclosure
[6:13]  Shel Witte: Depends on the fake blog, doedsn’t it?

That was one of the less busy times. Just nineteen comments – they peaked at over 30 in one minute.

I found it exceedingly difficult to read, think, seek out the author’s avatar, maybe find out more about them, compose a reply and keep track of whether the conversation had already moved away before hitting the ‘Enter’ key.

Brain-numbing stuff.

On the other hand, it was a lively gathering and I’m sure some new friendships were formed. I noticed one or two suggesting they slope off elsewhere for a private chat.

This sort of thing probably requires a strategic approach, just like going to a networking meeting or a conference. Figure out what you want to achieve, have the chatter as a backdrop and home in on those with whom you hope you have a mutual interest.

I think I’ll just nip back and see if I can nail someone…

… too late. The party’s over. Oh well.

PS You can download a full transcript, courtesy of C.C.Chapman on the crayon blog.

Second Life: what to do first?

A sceptical friend asked how he could get a quick experience of Second Life. This was my response:

Here are three SLURLs – once you’re signed up for a free Second Life account, you can start visiting. Best to log in first.

Click on a link below and it will take you to a web page that offers to teleport you. Click the orange teleport button. It will offer to launch the program, click on the button when it ‘ungreys’.

This location teaches all the basics:

This is the Cisco campus:

And here’s the Academy:

Now look at your Second Life screen and you’ll see a map. Bottom right is a teleport option. Click the button. You will be taken to the location.

To look around, use the right or left arrow key. If you see a red column, it means you’ve been teleported close but not to exactly where you want to go. Get the red column in front of you and press up arrow to move towards it. If you’re in a hurry press the Fly button (no pun intended) and then forward arrow. You’ll get there quicker.

Good luck.

When Second Life anonymity bumps into reality

I signed up for Second Life in June last year and, thanks to a pair of poorly performing computers, didn’t take it far because I was too irritated by the process.

I cranked up the performance of both machines and really got stuck in over the Christmas period, first of all meandering around as someone who looked like a fitter version of me. Then I wanted to be less threatening (big, bearded, old) etc, so I changed sex and made myself look like a modest young woman.

This was all fine, apart from when I was being propositioned, until I started chatting with someone while I was lounging in an armchair on the stage at Cisco’s amphitheatre. He walked up to the stage and we exchanged pleasantries. Then it turned out we were both into social computing, both providing services to Cisco and he mentioned that his web address was in his profile. I clicked and it turned out we had met in real life.

What if the conversation had taken a different tack?

What if he’d propositioned me?

How would that have made me feel?

Worse, how would it have made him feel?

Obviously I can head that sort of behaviour off at the pass, but it does trouble me deeply that I – someone who is normally open and honest – had actually created a situation through my deceptive appearance where people could be lured into behaviours they would certainly not adopt had they known who was behind the avatar.

Yet, my non-threatening appearance encourages friendly conversation and leads to insights that I might not arrive at were I to say, up front, "Hi, I’m really a male journalist". Until the meeting with someone I knew, I was fairly relaxed about my pose. And, it has to be said, having fun. After that meeting, the deceptive aspect bothered me a lot.

I am researching Second Life to discover whether it has a practical business value. Maybe, after this stage of my participation, I’ll revert to the real me.

But you can be sure that other people in Second Life are setting out to deceive quite deliberately.

Anyone want to share their thoughts on the issue?