Tagetiquette

The Multitasking Tribe Out on the Town

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Still life at Dumbo

Over at the New York Times, there was an article the other day: Out on the Town, Always Online. While curiously sparing out most attempts at digging for deeper explanations, it shows and discusses how people have become used to permanently be connected through their cellphones. (Note that I’m trying to avoid any generational reference.)

The Nagara Zoku

To any of us, the folks who are out and about and won’t hesitate to reply to a text message or a tweet during dinners, conversations or on subways, the article doesn’t really explain anything new. However, there are a few nuggets in there, and a few points certainly worth discussing. At the very least, it’s a discussion we’ve all had many times – I certainly did, with family and more offline friends alike.

That behavior, the never ending multi-tasking, of course has a name, too. The Japanese refer to it – to us – as the Nagara Zoku, the Multitasking Tribe.

And there’s a fair bit of potential social conflict in this where other tribes are involved.

I’m being social, just not with you

“I don’t think of what’s here and what’s not here as separate,” he said. “Like I’ll be out with my mom and if I look at my phone, she says I’m being anti-social. I say, ‘I’m being social, just not social with you.’ ”

For us, that’s normal. Hey, I’m not less engaged, but more so! Only, it’s not easily apparent for everyone outside, well, our heads. After all, as often as not reaching for our phones isn’t with social intent, but with the intent to cocoon, to tune out for a moment, or because we’re bored of the conversation.

Either one of which is legit, but we easily send the wrong signals.

Participate in the future before you build it

Most of this potential conflict is part of a change process. Protocols change, and quickly. Says Spencer Lazar, founder of mobile startup Spontaneously:

“I get away with it more than other people because of the industry I work in. I try to adopt behavior that will reflect the way the future will be. It’s important to participate in the future before you build it.”??

The future etiquette is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet. We see that every day, and there’s a crass difference between having dinner with our families (“Can’t you put your phone away for a minute?”) and our peer group (“Have you checked in on Foursquare yet?”).

For me personally it’s a matter of great personal interest to watch how etiquette and behaviors change, and it has even become part of my job. What’s not to love about it?

The rule of the trajectory

Curiously, the New York Times article notes that evening plans for one of the featured couples are “vague”. If anything, planning social activities seems to have gotten much less of a pain compared to when I was a teenager – And I’m almost sure it’s not exclusively because I don’t feel as akward now as back then.

Where a few years ago, you’d need a more or less rigid schedule, now a trajectory is all you need. No more meet at Bar X at nine. Instead, we’ll leave at 9, join us when you’re free, you know how to find us, and we’ll take it from there. A state of flow instead of a rigid framework. It’s in flux, both in terms of activities and group members. And this makes it more open, more social, more participatory.

In other words, it’s altogether smoother, more elegant.

And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Protect your tweets – or don’t

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Recently I proposed to add a little Twitter feature, namely an indicator for why you protect your Twitter feed. (Why is this important? To prevent social awkwardness.) Tapio picked up on this issue and asked (among others) me:

You folks out there must have come across that situation: a new follower request comes in, you don’t know the person, what do you do? Simply deny? Feels impolite, doesn’t it? So here’s a meme: Why do you protect your Tweets (or not)?

Well, I’d love not to have my Twitter RSS feed indexed: So my 140 character ramblings wouldn’t be archived by The Google & co. On the other hand, all the cool mashups and extra services like FriendFeed wouldn’t work with Twitter, either. But so far, I figured the following: I’ll keep my Twitter feed public: That way, feed aggregators work, and it’s easier for new and old Twitterers to follow my tweets, i.e. to get in touch. To prevent awkward moments in the future, I’ll simply not write what I can’t stand by; and not post anything while annoyed. Both of which I guess are kind of good guidelines for any kind of communication anyway.

So back to Tapio’s meme: I’m curious, why do (or don’t) you protect your Tweets? Let’s hear from Markus (Twitter, blog), dotDean (Twitter, blog), Felix (Twitter, blog) and Michelle (Twitter, blog)

Twitter feature request: Protected updates options

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One thing that’d be really useful for Twitter: If you could signal somehow why your Twitter updates are protected. Some folks do it because they prefer to communicate within their circle of friends. Others do it so they can monitor who subscribes to their tweets – which is the only way of making sure that your tweets’ RSS feed doesn’t get syndicated all over the web. If there was a way to say what your motivation is to keep your tweets protected it might spare a many a moment of social awkwardness, non?

Writing email that gets answered

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Chris Brogan summarizes how to write email so that it’s easy to process further:

Key points:

  • One Decision Per Email (so it’s easy to process)
  • Don’t Ever Say “Quick Question.” (Because it’s usually not. If it is, there’s no need to announce it.)
  • Your Signature File (it should contain your contact details, but be brief and concise)
  • Following Up (is important, but keep it brief)

Thanks, thanks, and thanks! Read the rest at Chris’ blog.