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I’ve been neglecting this blog, and haven’t posted anything here for a long time – despite this it gets a regular 30 or so visits a day, up to 50 some days. I recently started a new blog, Charlton Fun City, writing about music and posting videos and clips, and have been trying to write something for that every day. As is probably inevitable with a man of my age, not much of it is about new artists; so far it seems to mainly be about the new material of old artists.
A few days ago I started to think: I’ve got a load of emails waiting for responses – mostly they’re the ones that need a bit of time and thought to complete – so shouldn’t I be doing that rather than writing posts about Wilko Johnson’s farewell gig? Come to that, shouldn’t I be writing more on this blog? After all, I’m a self-employed person working in a fairly small niche, and always battling to pay my bills and stay on the right side of the Mr Micawber’s famous happiness calculation.
My favourite sibling author duo, Chip and Dan Heath are bringing out a new book shortly, and have been sending out emails trying to drum up trade and build a buzz. I first encountered them through their second book Switch, which is an overview of research into how to get change to work well. As you might expect from the authors of Made to Stick, (which is about getting people to hear and remember what you’re trying to communicate), it is well and engagingly written, in an easy-to-read style familiar from the works of Malcolm Gladwell, who they credit a couple of times.
Even though it doesn’t give as much emphasis to Solutions Focus approaches as my SF chums would like, I think Switch is great, and I consistently recommend it – in fact if you’re reading this blog then I definitely recommend it to you, you can read/download the first chapter here – and I’m looking forward to Decisive, which is subtitled “How to make better choices in life and work”.
One of the points they’ve been making in their prepublication publicity emails, is that we have a strong tendency when faced with a decision to see it in starkly binary terms: should I do A or not? or at best, should I do A or B? Of course the range of possibilities is much more open than that, and the Heath brothers talk about ‘widening the frame’ to look for other possibilities.
So when I was meditating this morning, one of my distractions was the realisation that I don’t have to choose between having a music blog, or a blog about change and growth, or answering my emails – I just have to choose which to do each day. So now, instead of aiming to write a music blog each day, my aim is to write something each day – some days it will be a music blog, some days it will be a response to one of those back-up emails, and some days it will be a blog here.
Now, you may have noticed that the tile of this blog sets up an either/or choice: Either/Or Vs Both/And. The truth is that sometimes we can only have one thing or another – we can have our cake or eat it; I probably only have the time to write one thing each day; you can either use a semi-colon or a comma. So there’s a time for everything – and that reminded me of a song, so why not go for a both/and with this blog post, and make that point with some footage of an old band?
So where could you ‘open up the frame’ to consider both/and options – or even a whole host of different possibilities?
I have a conundrum with my website, and I’m wondering if I should remove the most popular part of it.
On my Buddhist Coach website I have a (still incomplete) section on different types of Buddhism. This is by far the most popular part of my site, receiving vastly more traffic than the rest of the site combined, and generating something like 95% of the search engine traffic to my site – it comes about 4th on on a Google search for the term. It looks like I’m providing a useful service in explaining some of this stuff, and at the time that I wrote it, it seemed far clearer an explanation of this complex topic than anything else I could find on the interwebs.
My main problem is that this page doesn’t lead people to my site who are very likely to make use of my services, and all this site traffic makes it impossible for me to make sense of the analytics to the rest of my site – so I can’t tell if the people who are looking for me and/or the services I provide are getting what they want from my website. By contrast, my Helping Change website gets very little traffic. On the whole, the only people who visit it are specifically checking me out, or looking for the kind of service I offer. This makes it easy for me to see which pages are read, and which are ignored or skimmed, and thereby improve the site.
Arthur Quiller-Couch is said to have advised writers to ‘murder your darlings’ – that is, delete their favourite phases or passages in their work, to benefit the whole piece. Is it time for me to murder (or at least relocate) my website darling, or is all traffic good traffic?
Not long after I signed up as @jnanagarbha I began to get people that I didn’t know starting to follow me. When I commented on this, I got one response that made me think that the person was expecting me to say profound things because I’m an ordained Buddhist. I felt a degree of pressure to do this for a while, and made some half-hearted attempts, but I soon found this rather uncomfortable. Not least because many of the people following my Tweets are also ordained Buddhists, and some of them have much more experience and greater depth of practice than me.
In the end, I decided to set up a second account @BuddhistCoach which I use to send out the odd (hopefully) useful comment, and open to the idea that I might get some more work through my engagement with Twitter.
Over the weeks I’ve noticed a few trends in Twitter and in my own Tweets, and seeing some of my friends seem to share some of my perspectives (Hi @Bodhipaksa!) I thought I’d write some stuff down. So, onto my credo
I’m only going to follow you if I want to read your Tweets
The people I mention above who started following me were ordinary folk. After a month or so this began to change, and I began to get more followers who were either seeking to put across a particular vision, thought I might share similar beliefs, or wanted to sell me something. Although I can’t begin to guess why someone who sells luxury cars (automobiles) in California would think that a skint Buddhist in south-east London was a likely customer!
There seems to be something of a convention (or even obligation) that when someone follows you, then you follow them back in return. Many people seem to try to get followers by following people – sometimes at random – in the hope that they’ll follow back and then click on links offered to various deals or whatever. You can even pay people to do this for you.
I’m not going to automatically follow you back. If someone follows me on either of my accounts then I go and look at what they’ve been Tweeting. If I find it interesting (and I explain some of the things that influence my decision below) then I’ll follow, if it doesn’t then I won’t. This is because…
If I follow you, then I am going to try to read your Tweets
Perhaps this is a little old fashioned, and maybe I’m looking at Twitter in a similar way to email, but I do try to read all the Tweets I’ve received. This is because I’m more interested in depth of connection than breadth. This will limit the number of people I can follow and stay sane, so I’ll say something about…
Some reasons that I won’t follow you – or will stop
• I don’t follow people who are trying to sell me something – even if it’s something I might be interested in buying. Call it stubbornness or a point of principle, I just don’t like being hassled.
• I don’t follow if every Tweet is a link – I need some context and a sense that you’re a human being.
• I won’t follow, or will stop following you if you belt out dozens of Tweets in a row. I find a block of Tweets from the same person a bit overwhelming, so space them out a bit guys.
• I make a distinction between social Tweets and business & spiritual practice Tweets, both in my own Tweets and my following. I seldom follow people I don’t know on @jnanagarbha, and I’m likely to get bored with multiple Tweets about your cat or favourite bits of technology on @BuddhistCoach.
I’m not wishing to be rude here, but I’m afraid I’m not that interested in the minutiae of the lives of people I don’t know living in cities scattered across the planet – and I don’t expect you’re that interested in the sleep patterns of my toddler. In fact I don’t expect my close friends are that interested in such stuff either. (I’ve since changed my mind on this a bit – see below)
• I won’t follow you if your Tweets conflict too strongly with my values. I’m a Buddhist, I strive to make my communication honest, helpful, friendly and constructive. I’m not going to follow you if your Tweets are harsh, violent, consistently angry, or abusive. Nor will I follow you if you advocate violence or causing harm.
• I’m not going to follow you on both @jnanagarbha and @BuddhistCoach – that sort of duplication would just be silly. Although a few of my friends follow me on both, presumably they’re interested in what I have to say in both contexts.
• I’m not going to follow you if you don’t have any Tweets yet, or you don’t have a profile picture or any biographical information – because I don’t have enough information to make a decision.
• I’m not going to follow you if your name is a random string of letters or @(insert female name here)1987 – how dumb/ horny do you think I am?
Twitter is a new phenomenon. Perhaps my approach to it will change over time, or I’ll just get bored with it and withdraw my energies. I anticipate that Twitter itself will settle down after a while into some more normalised patterns, and then something else will come along that we’ll all get excited about – I’m already venturing into boos, which seem like fun.
7 months later…. 23 December 2009
I’ve been meaning to read this through for a while and see if things had changed with greater experience of Twitter and it’s wider adoption, and slightly to my surpise only a couple of things come to mind.
One is that I’ve got very bored of people who Twitter quotations all the time, and that it turns out I’m more interested in your cat than I thought I was. I guess one of the things I’m wanting from Twitter is some degree of connection. If people only Tweet assertions, or supposedly encouraging quotations I find that pretty boring. I want to know a bit about who you are, what the struggles in your life are, how all these ideas relate to your life.
Another thing is that I’ve now set up a third Twitter account which I use to follow famous people and news sources and such like. I guess all I’ve done with these multiple accounts is to create my own Twitter lists, but since Tweetie handles multiple accounts and not lists then it works pretty well for me for now.
I guess I can sum up my Twitter credo is to be as fully human as I can, and use Twitter to connect as fully as possible with other humans.
Have a great festive season.