Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Where Status Doesn't Matter

If you are a kewl social networker like myself, you update your status message on Facebook regularly, as in more than once a day. If you are a Twitterer, you do it as part of your ongoing Twittering, meaning you update something like once an hour unless you're in an airplane. Honestly speaking, there is something nice about knowing the status of my friends and their mundane lives. It's not totally mundane to me, and it does give something to talk about when we get together or speak.

Potentially, the status message could be useful. I've seen a number of blogs from big social networking types regarding how they've gotten immediate help by Twittering or updating their status message on Facebook. I've made a point of responding to a number of friend statuses to see what happens, and every now and again I've gotten some responses to my status messages (usually claiming I was being funny, a sign that at least a few of my friends have humor as dry as my own.)

By and large, though, the status message just doesn't matter. Honestly, 90% of what most people do is what they did the day before. I'm sure it is of no interest, even to my good friends, to have updated info about when I am at work or at home. There are only so many moods you are going to put on there. Thus, those of us who update our status regularly spend a fair amount of brainpower thinking of something clever to write in there. And being entertained when someone else puts something clever there.

I've made some genuine attempts to use the status message to do useful stuff, like get a babysitter, invite friends to something, get you to read my blogs, catch a coffee with someone in Tel Aviv, etc. Unlike the big social networkers with 4999 friends or followers, or those who post specific questions on how to configure their web servers, I've found the status message basically useless.

Assuming that most people don't have thousands of friends, and that their requests are more arbitrary, and that most people don't check their friends status on an hourly basis, it's pretty reasonable to assume most of us will find our status to be insignificant.

Status messages, furthermore, suffer from configuration scatter problems much worse than e-mail. We may have a few e-mail accounts, but most of us have our mail forwarded to one or two, both of which we check at least daily. But status messages? I have status on every social network, status on g-mail, messenger, Skype, etc., and each one needs to be set separately.

Do you know anybody who, when they answer the phone, sets all of those to "busy"? I think not. Presence and status actually are of importance in communications; but today's implementation is incredibly crude. Add to that the minimal amount of attention our associates are spending worrying about our status messages, and the value of them diminishes even further. I guess that just goes to show that there's only so much status to go around.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

You're Never Alone

When I travel for business, it tends to be to conferences. As the marketing guy, I am there to learn, my main job is to meet new people in the industry. What this amounts to is that what sounds like "getting away from the bustle of daily life" ends up more like a non-stop marathon of being friendly to strangers and desperately trying to keep up with work in between.

A typical day starts with my waking up 2 hours early to catch up on e-mail, walking over to the conference center, mingling and attending conference sessions all day, making my way back to the hotel, and answering more e-mail. Often I have a scheduled meeting before, after, or during the conference.

You might ask how I have time to blog, and the answer is, obviously, I don't and apologize for the 2-week delay since my last post.

Despite having come on this trip alone, I don't get much of a chance to actually be alone. So I greatly cherish the one hour I religiously take for myself, no matter how busy my business trips are: I take myself out to a proper dinner in a proper restaurant.

Being in downtown London, I'm not the only diner eating alone, and on Monday another lone business traveller entered and sat at the table next to mine. Keeping in mind that it's basically my profession to strike up conversations with strangers, this should not have made me in the least uncomfortable; but being as I was quite determined to have this one hour to myself, I immediately started thinking of ways to avoid conversation. Fortunately, the gentleman pulled out his cell phone and began texting away.

Indeed, it's noteworthy how unaccustomed we have become to being alone. One of the VPs at a local cellular carrier told me that they actually have tracked the phenomenon of people who pretend to be talking on their phones in public places, just so as not to have the appearance of being alone or unimportant.

How are you with alone? Do you too feel you need to text, twitter or call someone just so you won't be too bored with yourself? Can you just sit still and enjoy your meal without multi-tasking? Moreover, are you avoiding doing things alone because it might make you look like a loser?

Take heart, you are in the majority. But also take care. We need our time alone to decompress, to think, to enjoy being with ourselves. When we lose touch with that, we lose something precious.