Monday, September 15, 2008

Why Newbie Took Such a Long Blog Break

I can't believe I haven't posted here since the beginning of the summer! I know, I know, I'm a negligent blogger. Shameful. Partly this summer was really really busy (I was traveling for most of July), and partly I just needed an extra-long blog break... But mostly I was working on this.

So for those of you who wondered where my blog energies have gone -- now you know!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Newbie Unplugged Again

It's that time of year again -- my annual unplugging! We're heading to the cottage for a much-needed vacation. And by "cottage" I mean the commune I grew up on (see earlier posts for the whole sordid, raised-by-hippies story), which is in Ontario's Dead Zone -- no cell phone reception, no internet access, and we're staying in my mom's old commune house, which has no running water and no electricity. Yeah, it's pretty Amish.

The upside to this primitive living is that I'm forced to actually take a vacation -- no checking voicemail or email, no calling work, no blogging or tweeting. For two weeks I'm actually focused on spending time with family, and relaxing.

The big bonus however, is that it REALLY makes me appreciate the mod cons that we take for granted. Like the internet. And toilets. :)

I'll see you all on July 13th when we re-enter the 21st century!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Newbie Ponders Digital Life After Death

Never before in human history has communication been so widely enabled. There are so many communication tools available to us these days, it can be overwhelming. Most of my friends and collegues have profiles on multiple social media platforms -- Twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace; most have a blog or more than one; most have more than one email address (gmail, hotmail, work email) and two or more phones (home, office, cell). Many even have multiple cell phones. Some even use the post office to send old-fashioned greetings using pen on paper or cardstock.

As human communication tools have evolved and multiplied, so too has the social infrastructure to maintain them, the apparatus that allows the government to be aware of your whereabouts. When you move or change service providers, there are clear and organized methods for communicating this change of address, phone, etc to those who need to know. Also, when someone dies, there's paperwork filled out by the next of kin or executor that indicates what is no longer valid, or the change in ownership of certain contact points -- address, phone number, cell phone account -- that typically pass to the next of kin or executor. But there's no official way to communicate this change of status to our digital selves.

A very close friend of mine passed away two years ago, after a long, brave battle against breast cancer. She's gone, but her hotmail, her blog, and her facebook page are all still alive. Her next of kin (her mother) and her executor (her partner) don't know what her passwords were, and there are no clear tools for communicating to the authorities in charge of those online properties that these accounts should be legitimately deleted on her behalf, or ownership of the accounts passed to those who might be in a position to update her status.

So where are the infrastructure tools for tracking our digital lives, and deaths? We all talk a lot about managing your personal brand or brands online, which is all well and good if you're alive to do it. But who manages your personal brand after your death? Have you planned who is going to update your multiple online personas and profiles? Have you communicated your passwords and login info to your next of kin or executor?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Newbie's personal brand - or lack thereof

I've been feeling guilty that I haven't put much effort into creating or maintaining an online personal brand. Sure, I have this blog, and this blog name is what I use as my Twitter handle; but that's about the extent of it. Everywhere else -- facebook, myspace, LinkedIn, I'm me -- but different aspects of me.

I use MySpace exclusively for staying in touch with my far-flung family; facebook for keeping up with friends and some professional contacts; and LinkedIn for professional contacts. Except for my LinkedIn widget here, I don't cross-promote, either. I couldn't help but feel that maybe I've been doing myself a disservice by not having a more cohesive online presence.

But this recent post about personal brand from one of my fave bloggers, Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist, has me thinking differently. Maybe what I'm doing -- using different social media for different aspects of my business and personal life -- makes sense! What a relief. Isn't it gratifying when a smart thinker you admire validates your instincts?

Also, I've always felt guilty about how choosy I am when it comes to adding friends in any of these spaces. I don't add friends on MySpace -- my family are the only ones I want reading that. Typically I don't add friends or contacts on facebook unless I've met them at least once in person and face-to-face. And I don't add contacts on LinkedIn unless they are, in fact, professional contacts.

I work in publishing and I get a lot of friend requests on MySpace, facebook, and LinkedIn from authors whom I may have corresponded with on a professional basis in the past, but have rarely actually met in person. I almost always turn them down, or add them on a "limited profile" basis, especially on MySpace and facebook, and then end up feeling guilty, like I'm spurning them. I've yet to find any validation on this point.

So for all you smart thinkers out there: what do you do when you get friend or contact requests from people you don't really know? Do you automatically accept everyone who wants to link up with you? Or are you more choosy?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Newbie takes offense

I read Mitch Joel's Twist Image blog every day and 99.9% of the time my reaction is to nod in agreement. But today his latest post, "My conversation can beat up your conversation," specifically this portion of it, stopped me cold [emphasis added by me]:

"There's a strong case as to why all of us need to be spending more time on Technorati and doing everything in our power to build both our ranking and authority. Let's be honest: what's the point in Blogging if you're not building readerships, conversations and exposing your ideas to a growing audience?"

Wow. I don't even know what to say. What's the point in blogging?? Maybe it's me but that last sentence really touched a nerve. I realize that Mitch Joel is talking to (sorry, "conversing with") a marketing-centric audience, and for that audience alone I do agree with his statement -- if you're blogging for marketing purposes, on behalf of a brand or corporation, numbers count, and growth is a key measurement of success.

But it's such a bald, bold statement that I think the context is lost, and that's a shame, because out of context the statement comes off as... kind of arrogant. And, in my humble opinion, it's not true outside of a marketing context. There are plenty of reasons to blog for a small, stable audience: to keep in touch with friends and family; to chronicle an experience or evolution of thought; to share your ideas with a small, select group.

This is primarily why I started this blog. I'm chronicling my experience as a newbie; my ideas and thoughts about my adventures in social media aren't new -- but they are new to me at the time they occur to me, and like most humans, I'm following my instinctive urge to share my thoughts with friends new and old.

Let's face it, nothing I've posted is going to be of much interest to a larger audience. My goal is to share a conversation with a small, select group and I have. I've never made any effort to grow my audience, and as a result my audience has stayed small. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Newbie discovers Skype!

Someone just asked me how much time I spend in Second Life on a weekly basis. My immediate answer: not much, hardly any time at all. My thoughtful answer: about 1 hour minimum, maybe 6-8 hours max when I'm attending author events. That doesn't seem like a lot until you type it out like that, but it also doesn't *feel* like a lot. Maybe because when I'm in-world I'm so engaged with other people I don't notice the time passing.

For example, I spent a delightful 2 hours in-world last week with Kate, Connie, and Eden via their avatars, shopping (of course) and just generally gabbing via Skype.

I have to say, the Skype experience absolutely made the outing twice as fun. There was a little bit of overtalk, but once we found our rhythm it was so much easier and faster to share thoughts, ideas, reactions, etc. via voice instead of stopping to type it out in local chat.

We'd tried the in-world voice option before, but gave it up due to insurmountable static and volume issues. Skype worked smoothly and the four of us chatted freely and easily as never before. As Kate put it:

Once you go Skype, you'll never go type!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Newbie witnesses first Second Life "griefing"

Yes, it's true; my SL cherry has finally been popped. I've been griefed!

Well, not me personally, but an event that I set up. While co-hosting an author book launch for Gena Showalter's The Darkest Night (first in her Lords of the Underworld series) in Second Life last Friday night, the event was unfortunately marred by a couple of unwelcome visitors. I hasten to note that the agency we're working with to create and run these events had many staff on hand, who quickly and smoothly defused the situation and banned the offending avatars from the parcel. But I can't help but feel a little more grown-up, a little more... experienced in Second Life now.

Anyway, Chloe had a great time and so did the author! Here's a snapshot of our avatars dancing with the demons:

Chloe is the one on the left with red hair and big black wings; Gena's avatar is the pale-skinned beauty in the denim skirt on the right. (Clearly she's already found out that the shopping is the funnest part of Second Life!)