In this brave new internet world (as of about 1995), I’ve been thinking of my personal information sharing generally as public and private.
Because of my work, classifying information comes as second nature. I have two separate and non-intersecting information streams. You are reading part of one of them.
100% of the talk about people on social networks and things going horribly wrong are people who don’t make clear distinctions between the public, professional, personal, and social aspect of their lives. Getting into etiquette with social networks can be tricky. I find it best to, as a rule, separate business and pleasure.
Public information is available for anyone in the world to read. I put it out there so that people can learn a bit about me.
The reason I started writing things in the public eye is because I realized that if I didn’t define myself and give people something to read who didn’t know me, someone else would. This is the same reason that I don’t publish raw slide decks of my presentations, but I put my speaking points intermixed with the slides in a blog posting. Text based communication loses a lot of intent and inflection, so I try to make up for it in this way.
I didn’t want to have a blog. Once upon a time, when I was younger (and even more naive), I thought that I could get by on merit alone; I believed that if I did good work, my work would be recognized for and stand on its merits. I read things like The Fountainhead (watch the movie) and took from it “Oh! If I do good work and work toward my own sense of excellence, I will triumph in the end!”
I don’t think so anymore. I think success takes more than merit.
Not only do you have to do good work, but people need to know about it. You need to help people directly, impart lessons you’ve learned without being an arrogant jerk, and sell them on why a good solution is better than a thought-to-be-sufficient solution.
When Livejournal came out, I thought that this was lame in the same way Jennicam was lame. My conclusion was that blogging was about media and attention seeking. I didn’t have a need to have a public blog for people who didn’t know me could learn tons about me without my knowing them.
More importantly, it wasn’t interesting.
I found it massively egotistical that anyone would want to know what I bought at the grocery store or ate for lunch. I didn’t understand sharing of the mundane. Clearly many people do not share this opinion today.
The stuff I put on my blog are my presentations, the way I manipulate data for my own uses when I haven’t seen it represented in my way previously, or my attempts to explain the poorly explained. The ideal that I aspire to is “I wouldn’t find it interesting to read, I don’t write it.” I imagine that might come off as rampagingly egotistical at times, but I really make an effort not to be. I laugh at myself and at life as much as possible. It’s pretty ridiculous a lot of the time. My work tends to be very serious and can effect, in a real appreciable way, the lives of others. I take it very seriously. When people do important work badly, I can take it as a personal affront.
I would like to post more, but too much of it is sensitive, under contractual obligations, or in personal confidence. Unlike many people that do not share my views, I can’t disclose in good faith.
What I find interesting about social networks, and by that I mean mostly Twitter and Facebook, is that it can introduce a gray area between public and private information; a social periphery of information that busy people share in order to keep in touch with people they think are cool.
That’s pretty much how I view a friends list; “These are people I think are cool.” If I would invite you to an informal party is my general baseline for inclusion into my social network.
Twitter: Low attention span blogging and random link sharing.
Bad Penny: Informal writings, past sharable presentations, and general information sharing of things I find interesting.
Facebook: Fun people that I associate with socially.
LinkedIn: People I have done business with or know professionally that I would vouch for. Yes. I really do know all of those people and have had dealings in the past.
As any good rule, it is proven by its exceptions. Excessively cool people are allowed to break most rules.
My advice to everyone: be excessively cool and don’t take things seriously that do not merit being taken seriously.
Life is too short to be taken seriously. — Oscar Wilde
Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions. –Mark Twain
In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play. –Friedrich Nietzsche
Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature. –Tom Robbins
Necessity may be the mother of invention, but play is certainly the father. –Roger von Oech