On the need for new etiquette in the age of social media...

Please read this post from Chris Brogan: "Etiquette in the Age of Social Media".

Please.

In this time of rapid change, our tools and technology are in many ways getting out ahead of our culture and conventions. We do need to pause now and then and reflect on how we use these tools in a civil and positive manner that enhances communication. Chris' list may not be "the list"... we may not yet call him the Emily Post of social media... but his post is a useful contribution to a conversation we all need to have. (In a civil manner, of course. ;-)

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Why Facebook needs an "unsubscribe" or "block event invitations"...

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a way you could easily ignore/block event invitations from a specific person? Today, Mari Smith directly involves me in a piece on her blog called " Facebook Event Invitations - Unsubscribe Option?" that goes right to this point.

THE BROKENNESS OF FACEBOOK

Here's the thing... I don't know Mari. That I can recall, I've never met her. I've never attended any of her online events, nor had I read her blog prior to this morning. Yet inside of Facebook I received the occasional message from her about upcoming events she was doing, none of which were honestly of interest t me. After her latest message about an upcoming event, I couldn't understand why I was receiving her message. Naturally I tried to see if she was one of my Facebook friends, but of course Facebook's <expletive deleted> brokenness didn't give me that answer:

facebook-friendsearch.jpg

I checked my Facebook Groups, too, to see if I had subscribed to any group that Mari coordinated. No luck there. So having no clue why I was receiving these messages, I sent her a Facebook message asking to please remove me from her distribution list, as it seemed to me that somehow I had wound up on some kind of list or group inside of Facebook.

Now, I'm glad I was polite, since my message to her wound up as a screen capture in her blog post today.... (goes back to my mantra "Never put online anything you wouldn't want to appear on the front page of the New York Times.")

She wrote back a polite reply, but as she notes in her post, there is no easy way to do what I requested inside of Facebook. There is no way to "Block Event Invitations from this person" or "Unsubscribe". You can, of course, "un-friend" the person, but what if you don't want to go that far? What if you only want to stop receiving their event invitations in your inbox? (And what if, as far as you can tell, they aren't one of your friends?)

Mari says:

With all due respect to Dan, I’m sure he doesn’t know if he had just RSVP’d NO or clicked the Remove from My Events link, he would not receive any further emails.

Actually, I did know this, but it only solves the issue for that particular event. If I RSVP NO or remove the event, I will not receive any more email notices about that event... but in my case, because I couldn't figure out why I was getting these email invites in the first place, I wanted to not receive any further email messages about any events. (Which sounds harsh, but keep in mind I didn't understand why I was getting these... see below...)

Mari's absolutely right that a "Block Event Invitations from this person" feature is necessary. If you have someone who you would like to keep as a contact in Facebook, but you are just tired of getting their event invites, you should be able to block their event invites, just as you can block application invites from a user.

She also suggests to organizers to create a "DO NOT INVITE" list, although I would suggest this should perhaps go the other way... create an "INVITE" list to which you add people - and then remove the ones who no longer want to receive your invitations. That might make it easier when you are creating an event invite.

MYSTERY SOLVED

Now I did figure out why I was receiving Mari's invites. It's simple, really...

She is one of my Facebook "friends"!

Yes, indeed, even though a search of my Friends in Facebook tells me "You have no friends named "mari smith".", there she was in the S's when I manually paged through all my Facebook friends.

So that's why I was receiving her event invites... because I had allowed her to do so... by at some point approving her friend request.

As I mentioned above, as far as I can recall, Mari and I have never met or interacted online. (Apologies, Mari, if we have and I simply don't remember.) I'm also very definitely NOT one to simply approve a friend request. I usually don't approve one unless: 1) I actually know the person; or 2) some combination of the following: a) when I look at their profile they look like someone interesting for me to follow; b) they write a very compelling personal message in their friend request; and c) they are also someone who is connected to a number of other people I know.

So at some point in the past something caused me to approve her friendship request. Perhaps it was last year when I was doing a lot more with Facebook and was actually following a great number of people through their status updates, the mini-feed and such. I don't know, but in any event, there was no mystery involved here (other than why Facebook doesn't make it easy to find people listed in your own Friends list!)....

FACEBOOK, CAN YOU FIX THIS, PLEASE?

A couple of lessons out of this for me:

1. DON'T RELY ON FACEBOOK'S SEARCH - If you want to find out if someone is a friend on Facebook, click on Friends on the top of the page, then the "Everyone" tab, and then manually page through your friends list (alphabetically sorted by last name).

2. FACEBOOK NEEDS A "BLOCK EVENT INVITATIONS" ACTION - I agree with Mari that this action would great to have for the times when you don't want to completely remove someone as a friend but you do want to stop receiving their event invitations. (Although I think that an email exchange like Mari and I had is also a great step because otherwise the organizer may still think you were invited and not understand why you haven't responded.)

What do you think? Does Facebook need this functionality?

P.S. And my apologies, Mari, for not realizing that we were connected on Facebook...

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The Economist's "MUST READ" Special Report on the "new nomadism" and how our world is changing...

It's not very often at all that I say that there is something out that I think that people really "must read". In fact, the last thing I can really thing of that I recommended this strongly was The Cluetrain Manifesto, but that was back in 2000!

economistlogo.jpgSo I find myself a bit surprised to be making that recommendation for a piece in that most mainstream of all business publications, The Economist.... but in my opinion it really is a series of articles that people should read, contemplate, and talk about.

The Special Report, titled "The New Nomadism", looks at the changes happening in our society as we arrive at this fascinating intersection where we have incredible amounts of network bandwidth available wherever we are - and smaller more powerful devices that can take advantage of that bandwidth. When we can work wherever we want, whenever we want, what does that mean for our society? for our work environment? for our work/life balance? for our communities?

The piece has 7 main articles, several of which go on for several screens:

(FYI, the Economist has made this report available for purchase if you would like it in print form.)

There is also an introductory piece, "Our Nomadic Future", which is also worth a read.

All together the pieces ask some of the excellent questions that I think we need to be thinking about. I intend to write some further thoughts in the days and weeks ahead. We also discussed this whole piece at some length on the April 16th Squawk Box podcast and it was something I covered in my report into yesterday's For Immediate Release podcast.

Here's a taste of the first article in the series:

Urban nomads have started appearing only in the past few years. Like their antecedents in the desert, they are defined not by what they carry but by what they leave behind, knowing that the environment will provide it. Thus, Bedouins do not carry their own water, because they know where the oases are. Modern nomads carry almost no paper because they access their documents on their laptop computers, mobile phones or online. Increasingly, they don't even bring laptops. Many engineers at Google, the leading internet company and a magnet for nomads, travel with only a BlackBerry, iPhone or other “smart phone”. If ever the need arises for a large keyboard and some earnest typing, they sit down in front of the nearest available computer anywhere in the world, open its web browser and access all their documents online.

Another big misunderstanding of previous decades was to confuse nomadism with migration or travel. As the costs of (stationary) telecommunications plummeted, it became fascinating to contemplate “the death of distance” (the title of a book written by Frances Cairncross, then on the staff of The Economist). And since the early mobile phones were aimed largely at business executives, it was assumed that nomadism was about corporate travel in particular. And indeed many nomads are frequent flyers, for example, which is why airlines such as JetBlue, American Airlines and Continental Airlines are now introducing in-flight Wi-Fi. But although nomadism and travel can coincide, they need not.

Humans have always migrated and travelled, without necessarily living nomadic lives. The nomadism now emerging is different from, and involves much more than, merely making journeys. A modern nomad is as likely to be a teenager in Oslo, Tokyo or suburban America as a jet-setting chief executive. He or she may never have left his or her city, stepped into an aeroplane or changed address. Indeed, how far he moves is completely irrelevant. Even if an urban nomad confines himself to a small perimeter, he nonetheless has a new and surprisingly different relationship to time, to place and to other people. “Permanent connectivity, not motion, is the critical thing,” says Manuel Castells, a sociologist at the Annenberg School for Communication, a part of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

This is why a new breed of observers is now joining the ever-present futurists and gadget geeks in studying the consequences of this technology. Sociologists in particular are trying to figure out how mobile communications are changing interactions between people. Nomadism, most believe, tends to bring people who are already close, such as family members, even closer. But it may do so at the expense of their attentiveness towards strangers encountered physically (rather than virtually) in daily life. That has implications for society at large.

Anthropologists and psychologists are investigating how mobile and virtual interaction spices up or challenges physical and offline chemistry, and whether it makes young people in particular more autonomous or more dependent. Architects, property developers and urban planners are changing their thinking about buildings and cities to accommodate the new habits of the nomads that dwell in them. Activists are trying to piggyback on the ubiquity of nomadic tools to improve the world, even as they worry about the same tools in the hands of the malicious. Linguists are chronicling how nomadic communication changes language itself, and thus thought. Beyond technology

This special report, in presupposing that a wireless world will soon be upon us, will explore these ramifications of mobile technology, rather than the technologies themselves or their business models. But it is worth making clear that technology underlies all of the changes in today's nomadic societies, so that its march will accelerate them. Wireless data connections, in particular, seem to be getting better all the time. Cellular networks will become faster and more reliable. Short-range Wi-Fi hotspots are popping up in ever more places. And a new generation of wireless technologies is already poised to take over. Regulators have grasped that the airwaves are now among society's most important assets. America, for instance, has just auctioned off a chunk of spectrum with new rules that require the owner to allow any kind of device and software to run on the resulting network.

Cumulatively, all of these changes amount to a historic merger, at long last, of two technologies that have already proved revolutionary in their own right. The mobile phone has changed the world by becoming ubiquitous in rich and poor countries alike. The internet has mostly touched rich countries, and rich people in poor countries, but has already changed the way people shop, bank, listen to music, read news and socialise. Now the mobile phone is on course to replace the PC as the primary device for getting online. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 3.3 billion people, more than half the world's population, now subscribe to a mobile-phone service (see chart 1), so the internet at last looks set to change the whole world.

<snip>

The most wonderful thing about mobile technology today is that consumers can increasingly forget about how it works and simply take advantage of it. As Ms Canlas sips her Americano and dives into her e-mail in-box at the Nomad Café, she gives no thought to the specifications and standards that make her connection possible. It is the human connections that now take over.

It is truly a fascinating time that we live in right now, and kudos to the Economist for a strong piece that looks at the larger societal implications of all these changes.

What do you think of all these changes going on?

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Updating "Netiquette" to embrace social media/networking tools... Chris Brogan takes a stab at it

What does "Netiquette" look like in today's world of social media and social networking?  In his recent post, "Considering Social Network Etiquette", Chris Brogan starts a conversation about what are the rules of etiquette guidelines in these new services like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.  It's a great conversation to have because the reality is that "etiquette" is a constantly evolving set of conventions... and those conventions naturally morph and evolve over time.

Those of us who have been around the Net for a while will certainly remember the Usenet Netiquette guidelines (look at the column of links on the right side) - more or less summarized in the Wikipedia "Netiquette" entry.  Some may even recall that this was written down back in 1995 in an IETF informational RFC as "RFC 1855: Netiquette Guidelines".  While those documents are a bit dated in their technologies (not many folks use "talk" anymore and Usenet is no longer where the conversation is), many of the points are still sound, but yet there are new nuances to the newer services.

What is best way to politely decline a friend request from someone you don't know?  Given that Facebook now shows all your friends when you leave a group or remove an application, what's the most polite way to leave a group or remove an app that a real friend created?  Should you somehow acknowledge every blog comment?  How do you politely decline to forward a LinkedIn request?  or politely decline a request to endorse someone in LinkedIn?  What's the best way to deal with inappropriate "wall" posts in Facebook?  (And let's not even get into MySpace...)  When is it appropriate to copy/paste someone's email into a blog entry?

The reality is that we're all making this up as we go along... and in our daily actions and reactions we are creating the "cultural conventions" that over time come to be known as etiquette.   They will vary somewhat across cultures - and that's the challenge because while we are part of our own culture, we are participating in a global culture, and that can be a challenge.

"Etiquette" also changes over time.  Cultural conventions evolve.

The conversation is one we all need to participate in as we all actors in this particular evolution.  Reply to Chris' post.  Or this one.  Write your own post - or book - or e-book.  Start a mailing list.  Or a web page.  Many newcomers are looking for the guidance in how to navigate the new frontier... let's help.


Kathy Sierra moves on... Alec calls for civility and an apology... and some thoughts on the mob rush to judgement

Per Alec Saunder's great post this morning, I learned that Kathy Sierra wrote a "final post" on her blog and is now debating what to do next... but fairly certain it won't involve blogging or public speaking, at least for some period of time.  Her post is a good one and includes at the end of her text a collection of some of the great pictures that populated her posts.  I always enjoyed her posts not only for her great content, but also for all these great graphics that she created.  She has a fun and witty way of simplyifying complex issues into simple pictures.  If you haven't seen her work, do scroll down through her post to see the images.  They're worth it.

I think it is a loss for us all if she is now ending her blogging (at least in this form and place), but I don't underestimate the issues with which she is grappling.  Given all that has transpired and the heinous images and text she had to deal with, it's definitely understandable that she's going to take some time to figure out what's next.  I do hope she does figure out a way to continue her teaching... she's good at it and her continued voice would be good to have out there.

Alec's post, though, brought my thoughts back to the third post I was intending to write here on the situation.  When the whole storm started, I wrote some initial thoughts and wondered if maybe this might make people think.  I followed up with a post of links, but I had another post I started which I titled "Kathy Sierra and the Blogosphere's Mad Rush to Judgement"... but then life intervened and the time to write that post never materialized...  in the meantime, though, others did perhaps a far better job than I would have. Two in particular I liked:

Stephanie's post included this text, which said it well:

Please, Blogosphere. Keep your wits. This is a messy ugly story, and oversimplications will help nobody. Holding people guilty until proven innocent doesn’t either.  <text snipped>

If you have something thoughtful to say, then say it. But if all you have to say has already been said out there ten times, or if you won’t take the trouble to check your sources, read carefully, calm down before blogging, avoid over-generalisations, and thus avoid feeding the already bloated echo-chamber — just go out for a walk in the sun and let the people involved sort themselves out.

Indeed.  That's largely why I didn't post here more on the issue... I didn't have the time to check sources and do the other work to add anything thoughtful.  Without that work, what could I have added?   Not relying on a single source is absolutely critical... and yet it is something that seems to be forgotten by so many as rumors simply propagate through the blogosphere.  (I found myself just this morning sitting on a story that I could have run with (for an internal blog)... but waited until I could confirm with a second source.)  It's a lot easier just to hit Publish and send the words off.

I also was not involved directly in the issue... and it seemed that certainly initially there was a huge amount of posting - without hearing from all the folks involved.

It's also key to remember that we have many other ways of communicating and getting information directly from people involved in the situation.  Jim Turner has provided some good and detailed coverage of the whole situation and one of the things that I have most respected is that he has done the extra work and done things like, oh, calling up people involved on the phone!  Novel concept, eh?  In our online world, people often tend to forget about that little phone thingie sitting on their desk...  but having that direct conversation can be so critical. 

I note that the storm continues... the NY Times: "A Call for Manners in the World of Nasty Blogs"... Tim O'Reilly issued his draft code of conduct... Business Week: "Web Attack" (which isn't about Sierra but about similar online nastiness as it relates to business) and "Managing the Menace of Online Mobs"...

Do we need a defined "code of conduct" for the blogosphere?  I don't know that we need something formal to which people agree... I'd like to hope we're all adults here (and yes, I realized that there are kids posting out there)... and if you look at Tim's code of conduct, you could more or less summarize it as:

Call it what you will... in the end I think we all need to just be a bit more civil to each other... to make sure there are verifiable sources for what we write... to take deep breaths (and breaks) before responding to emotionally-charged issues/comments... to treat other bloggers the way we want them to treat us.

Will we?  The optimist in me would like to hope so...   (they cynic in me says we've been dealing with this issue since the dawn of time and so while this whole episode is a welcome reminder, it's certainly only a matter of time before it crops up again...)