Tag Archives: rants

Twitter Etiquette

I know we’re in the infancy of a new communication technology with short real-time burst communication formats like Twitter and SMS, but I really, really hope it doesn’t take us as long to establish basic rules of conduct and courtesy as it did with the telephone and e-mail.

The ubiquity of instantaneous, short-format communication is sometimes used to give sloppy etiquette and inconsiderately-timed interactions a free pass. But, we’ve had phones in every home, on all the time, for generations, and mobile voice communications for decades now. When presented with a clear framework of accepted norms, we’ve proven ourselves (most of us, anyway) capable of respecting personal boundaries and exercising common courtesy.

However, these norms revolve around channels that have always been understood to be real-time. Now, advances in device technology have brought communication formats that we’ve been given to think of as asynchronous to us in real-time. SMS notification of new Twitter direct messages is a great example of this — I don’t receive an SMS every time I get a new e-mail (that would be awful!), but Twitter DMs are infrequent enough — and typically time-sensitive enough — that I usually want to be notified of them right away.

Unless, of course, the person at the other end of the Twitterphone has different standards of conduct, or ideas about what the appropriate use of direct messages is.

With SMS, in particular, standards of conduct are evolving because adoption and use of SMS are still evolving (at least among Americans). Sometimes, when I go to text a family friend regarding logistics — whether we’re going out together for the night, traveling together, or what have you — and my wife will gently remind me that “not everyone texts, you know”. This has largely ebbed as, well, just about everyone texts these days. Still, I was pleasantly surprised when texts started arriving from my father (the Nexus One probably had something to do with it).

So, as we continue to evolve our standards of communication etiquette, I’d like to propose a few simple rules that, I hope, will help keep us all on civil terms. Ahem:

  1. Please, please, please reserve Twitter DMs for time-sensitive, personal communication. If you want me to know about your new book, your company’s product, your band’s gig, or your cat’s birthday, and @-reply will be just fine. Don’t worry — I’ll see it.
  2. If you’re going to DM me, it would be, you know, courteous of you to follow me back so I can reply. Do you know what you are when you can call me, directly, anytime, to tell me about your product, but I can’t call you? A telemarketer, that’s what. Give that a ponder.
  3. If you’re going to send a welcome message thanking me for following you, an @-reply is probably just fine, unless you’ve got a specific, private question to ask. If you don’t bother to follow me back, and your DM-spam arrives in the middle of the night (when I have my phone nearby, you know, for emergencies), you know what that makes you? That’s right — a telemarketer that wakes me up in the middle of the night. Probably not what you intended.
  4. If you use SMS extensively, particularly (as is increasingly the case) in place of voice mail (which, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate), it’s likely a good idea to make sure the person you’re texting has unlimited SMS (I do) or at least an unlimited plan. And a nice rule of thumb is not to text at an hour when you wouldn’t call — they have the same effect, as far as intrusiveness is concerned.

Bottom line — SMS and Twitter are not e-mail, folks. Please stop treating them as if they were anything less than what they are — real-time communication.

Out with the Old…

We’re knocking on the door of a new year, so it’s list season, for better or worse. Rather than swim against the current, I’ll join in. In my opinion, it’s high time for a list of things not invited back to 2010. Here are my let’s-leave-it-in-2009 candidates. Enjoy.

  1. Cable television

    Comcast, you and me are through. Oh, I know, you’ve provided me with years of passable high-speed internet service, but you know what? I just shaved 65% off of my combined phone/internet/TV bill by ditching your useless Crippled Basic Cable TV service and all-you-can-eat long distance digital voice. My 21st-century-rabbit-ears-and-government-subsidized-digital-tuner handle the former, and my mobile phone handles the latter, just fine, thanks.

    Furthermore, as you may or may not have noticed, anything and everything I could want to watch in the way of TV shows is now available online or on Netflix, at my convenience and on my schedule. There’s more to watch than there is free time to watch it. It’s just that *almost none* of it is on your crappy basic cable channel lineup. Channel surfing is so 20th century.

    And you know what else? I know exactly what you’re up to when you buy NBC-Universal the same day that you start a “voluntary pilot program” metering bandwidth use in Portland. I can see where this is going, and I don’t like it one bit.


  2. Old Media Whining about New Media Eating Their Lunch



    Pick one.

    “Complain” is not on the list. (Nor is “summon monsters”, so don’t go running to Congress trying to get your antiquated business model protected as a historic structure or something cute like that).

  3. “Information overload”

    There is no more “information overload” now than there was pre-Internet. The problem is that our filters are broken or not properly configured.

    For generations, we’ve been processing the equivalent of terabytes of unwanted data in the form of billboards, radio and television commercials, bad stand-up comedy, and interminable anecdotes from co-workers. Despite this deluge, we’ve managed to adapt psychological coping mechanisms that have kept most of us out of the looney bin.

    To complain that having a few inboxes to check and text messages to respond to is some kind of hardship is a rather entitled and self-centered point of view. Rather, consider thanking the bright folks who keep coming up with new ways for you to filter all of this wonderful content coming your way — they’re making it easier to ignore the sources of noise mentioned above. And I don’t know about you, but being bombarded by a stream of information from people I know and care about that forces me to ignore the stream of information from people trying to sell me something is progress in my book. Bring on the overload.

  4. “Marching orders”

    We are not in the military. The client is not a general (thank god).

  5. “Social Media Strategy”

    I don’t want to “engage” with your “brand”. I want to buy shit from you. Maybe. We will, in time, look back and laugh at the notion of corporations spending good money trying to buy a soul in the form of “social media strategic consulting” from some expert.

    Oh, hell. Why wait. Let’s laugh now.

  6. Big, ugly, plastic sunglasses. On men.

    Seriously. Can “sleazy chic” die forever now? Because it’s really, really just sleazy.

  7. Cutesy Job Titles, Descriptions, and/or Requirements

    Let us have no more posts seeking “Ninja” this or “Rock Star” that, unless they involve, respectively, killing people, or playing the guitar and dating supermodels. Because you know what? Building Flash-based websites requires neither the use of throwing stars, nor Marshall stacks.

    OK, throwing star push pins, maybe. But lets keep it non-lethal, kids…

OK, that’s it. I’m done complaining, and I’m ready for the rush of pure joy as we turn over the odometer, clean the slate, hit the reset button, and retread all the tired old renewal metaphors once again. Breath in, breath out. Wax on, wax off. See you on the other side.