Posts Tagged ‘Online Communities’

When you become an expert adventurer (oh snap… am I claiming to have expertise on a subject? Sure am!), having everything served up to you on a silver platter by way of online recommendations gets a little stale. I miss the surprise injections of ideas and stimuli from parties outside my social circles. Surfing through Facebook, flipping through photos on Instagram, aimlessly watching Twitter feeds waiting for something interesting to pop out and catch my eye… in moments, most of my connections seem to be talking about the same topic, taking photos of the same subject matter and so on. My only saving grace is the odd witty caption, joke or sarcastic remark from a few people who are known for such. I’m understanding why many of you only chose to follow a dozen or so highly entertaining people.

My world is about digging up what others know little about. And while online tools still help me do this, it’s now become more like rummaging through the piles that most people would pass by in order to find those little golden nuggets. What I once loved about the interwebs was that most of it was unknown. We were still pioneering it. And it was a haven from the relatively ridiculous and mundane  behaviours that had taken over things like email (Forward this to 15 people on your list or you’ll have bad sex for a year!). Now it’s getting to a point where it’s becoming a civilized place to live. We’re appointing sheriffs and local law enforcement to keep the peace so we can all co-exist. But in that, if it means tolerating the overwhelmingly useless dribble or spending hours putting the right filters into place to weed it out… quite frankly, I think I’d rather just go elsewhere.

It turns out, elsewhere is “offline.” What? Seriously… hitting the streets, walking through doors I’ve never opened without having looked it up online, picking up books to read based solely on the cover (or off the recommendation of the staff in the bookstore who can’t ever shut up about the last insane book they read)… yes, finding the real nerds. Social networks are making the world too big. And when it gets too big, it loses its value for me. It’s harder to connect, harder to have genuinely interesting conversations. So, see you later interwebs. I’ll be back to use you for writing and publishing and the sort, but as far as supporting my adventuring pastimes, you just aren’t bringing me what I need. Expect an exodus of the nerds in the coming months. Surely, I’m not the only one feeling this way.

I’ve developed a disdain for anyone using the term “guru” or “expert” to identify anyone they deem knowledgeable on a subject. Why? Because somehow, in the last five years, it’s become a faux-pas to be confident in your knowledge base. The early social media goers who were throwing around the word like a smear of J on their PB abused it. Wrecked it. Made the rest of us all suspicious (serious generalization, I’d like to think I’m not alone here, but then again, it could just be me) of anyone who might possibly think they know what they’re talking about.

WTF social media goers? Why’d you have to go and be that way? Now I question everyone and everything. And eff, it’s exhausting sometimes. Here you are, making me skeptical of everyone and checking out their credibility for myself before I believe a word they’re saying. Seriously, what gives?

It’s not even as though this stops in the online realm. The minute anyone uses the “e” word, I get that look on my face. Haven’t seen it yet? Just refer to yourself as the “e” word in my presence and keep your eyes locked on my facial expression. You’ll see it.

You’ve created a monster. An inquisitive, questioning, not-as-trusting-as-I-once-was monster. It’s like, I won’t trust anyone’s knowledge any more until I’ve done the background check and appropriate research to figure out if I think said person actually knows what they’re talking about. And in a world where everyone can be a publisher, it’s more time-consuming than ever. Double checking your facts because I’m not sure you’re telling the truth to begin with… how dare you challenge my once naive trust like that.

Thank goodness there’s this thing called the internet that I can at least use for my due diligence. If you’re talking social media talk and calling yourself a guru, I can creep your Twitter profile, your Facebook page and other realms of yours in order to make up my own mind. I can find out when you’re speaking next (or if you’re speaking at all) and suss out your skeezy used car salesman vibe vs. your genuine will to help people. And if you’re claiming expertise in an area I know nothing about, and you also happen to not have any kind of internet presence for me to verify what you’re talking about? Well, it’s more likely I’ll go look for your colleague who has spent the time to ensure I can at least find a bit of information about them.

See? Ruined!

If you’ve had any contact with social media, any at all, you should know that one of the main reasons for being online is to find your influencers. Those people who care about you, your brand and everything you stand for. Finding them in the past hasn’t been easy, and it’s definitely been time-consuming. Almost to the point that it may not have seemed worthwhile to put that much time and effort into it. But now… now! My goodness, now, finding your influencers is as easy as spending a few minutes a day participating in conversations, spreading information and just all-round caring about what your friends and followers are up to.

As of July, 2010, Master Maq reported that there were 10,501 local Twitter users in Calgary. I’m not sure what the number is a year later (that was the last report I found on his blog). I’d be surprised if it had more than doubled. Even less than that amount of Twitter users are real information contributors. Many of you folks sit out there lurking, just waiting for the rest of us to entertain you. But that’s not to say you aren’t watching.

Awhile back, waaaaay back to November, 2010 (if you can remember that far) there was a panel at Third Tuesday about last year’s civic election. One of the panel members (forgive for not remembering his name) asked the audience members how many of them were on Twitter. Once those in the room with accounts raised their hands, he proceeded to call them (us) all weird. But it’s true. We are a weird bunch. Not weird like you’d expect to encounter at a sci-fi conference, but weird in the fact that we’re so plugged in, so hyper-engaged. It’s this characteristic that makes Twitter a hotbed of influencers. People who want to be in the know right now.

Last month, I sent a question out into the Twittersphere asking how many people shared information with their offline networks that they heard about through one of their social networks. Nearly everyone who responded (granted, this was only a dozen or so) said they shared information with offline friends frequently. All respondents I knew to also have relatively large offline networks. In other words, they are just as plugged into the “real world” as they are to the online one.

Have you ever heard of the 1/9/90 rule? The gist is that for every 1 person that posts content online, there are 9 people interacting with that post and 90 people watching and reading what’s going on. There’s no timeframe for those eyeballs mind you. So in a real-time environment like Twitter, we can’t count on followers alone for an exact measure of reach. In fact, we can’t count impressions at all, merely the potential reach. That number would be astronomically large, so even predicting a reach of 10% of that number is impressive. If you’re repeating the message, well, compounded tweets will make it around eventually. And remember, it’s not a passive medium, like reading a newspaper or magazine. It’s an active one where people are having dialogues and conversing about everything from where they’re going for lunch to local and international themes and events.

I’ve said many times before that Twitter is the most valuable social networking tool I’ve found to date. For those of you who balk at its use (whether for B2C or B2B business use, promotional or personal), it’s a sure tell you don’t understand the medium, nor do you seem to want to. On this point, please accept my condolences on all of your missed opportunities. We shall continue to reap the benefits of our active little circle without you. But for any of you still curious about what the Twittersphere may hold for you, jump on in! The water’s fine.

Do you remember when everyone was all excited that the internet, and subsequently social media, gave them a voice? It was novel to publish something that anyone else could read without having to go through a publisher. Anyone could find you. So many people were rushing online that it was a little overwhelming. It was almost like a million stock brokers all shouting on the exchange floor. Buy me! Sell me! Ah heck, somebody just listen to me! And like the good little minions we’ve been trained to be, we stuck our fingers in our ears and hummed as loudly as we could. “I’m not listening. I can’t hear you!”

The land of Twitter, at least the land of Twitter that I knew, went through a phase where it was all just a bit too chaotic. There were people everywhere, yet only a handful who seemed to know what they were doing. Some of them became annoyed with the massive amount of newbs flooding the little world they had worked so hard to create. In the Calgary scene, I caught wind of a rather grumpy undertone starting to take seed. Resentment? Exhaustion? Having to watch and experience yet another wave of people “discovering” social networking and how fast their message can travel, watching them stumble a bit when to us it’s so natural and so easy after years playing with these tools. I could see how that could get old real fast.

But do you know what’s gone and happened? Why, we all stuck it out. Surely, if you were that fed up with everything, you could have simply given up, closed your account and moved on. And some of you have, but the rest of us… we’ve stuck it out. Our little community was experiencing a rather massive growing pain. But much like our awkward adolescent years, we’ll grow up and block it out.

We’ve created something pretty special. We’ve created a place where individuals come along to a group full of people they’ve never met before and announce “Hello, I’m here!” Do we turn away with a cold shoulder? No, we turn towards them, give them a big a smile and say “Welcome!” And with that, we’ll turn to the rest of the group and say “Hey group! Have you met so and so? They’re new here. Why don’t you help me make them feel at home?” Then the group swarms around, and the newcomer is welcome. All it took was for them to let us know they’re here.

This feels good. I’m proud we’ve managed to cultivate a little sense of community in this online world. Those of you in amidst the crowd, helping others figure it all out, you stand out to me. You’re my kind of people. I can’t wait to see this perpetuate.

Facebook Places....coming soon

Image by dnfisher via Flickr

I just updated my Facebook iPhone app.  Upon opening it, Facebook Places was highlighted.  This was my reminder to go in and change my privacy settings.  There was an instance that made its way to my ears through noon hour chit-chat in our lunch room earlier this month.  The friend of a coworker had reached a hotel in the Eastern US while on vacation with his family.  He didn’t realize that while the hotel was checking him in, so was Facebook.

I don’t know this man.  I don’t know how web savvy or non web savvy he is.  I don’t know if he hit a button by accident.  But the reality is, he checked in on Facebook Places somehow and didn’t realize he was doing it.  His check in was broadcast to his friends on Facebook.  Not a big deal, right?  Well, that depends on how picky you are about who you’re friends with on Facebook.  As my coworker commented, “what a great way to let people know the opportune time to break into your house”.

Facebook has ruffled more than a few feathers in its unconventional approach at defaulting to share your information.  I for one am a fan of the culture shift they’re heavily influencing.  It’s forcing each of us to be more aware of our actions and interactions, our relationships on and offline, our participation.

I think many people are up in arms about Facebook privacy because they want Facebook to do this work for them.  They’re accustomed to someone else looking after them and their information.  Well guess what?  It’s on your shoulders.  Facebook has given you the ability to take full control of what you’re sharing with your network and what you’re not sharing with your network (and don’t forget that the possibility exists today that ANYONE has the potential to see what you’re posting).  In my mind, Facebook is doing us all a favour.  The stakes are high if you haven’t looked into customizing your privacy settings or taken a good look at the information you’re sharing with your networks.

In a day and age where we cannot rely on the world around us to make smart decisions for us, where it is up to each of us to look after our own health (both physically, mentally and financially), where taking more and more ownership over elements of our lives is becoming the rule rather than the exception, Facebook is but a smaller piece of this really big pie.

Think about it.  Self serve banking, managing your employee benefits, building your own website, doing your own home renos.  Everywhere we look, there’s a DIY (do-it-yourself) format.  So why is it that we’ve embraced it elsewhere and yet resist it so readily on Facebook?

The bar we once held to companies to protect us is now being held to each of us.  We hold them to high levels of due diligence, do the same for yourself.  Acknowledge the favour Facebook is doing for you, be an adult, and be accountable for your actions online.  It’s not up to Facebook to protect you.  It’s upto you to do that.