Thursday, November 10, 2011

Social networking etiquette …don't forget to wave!

While I am out travelling and meeting folks, it gives me the opportunity to revisit the topic of social media and for the HP NonStop community, activity has picked up with more engaged in discussions than I have seen before. And yet, there's always opportunity for even greater participation - join in!

As I prepare this post I am wrapping up my brief stay in Venice and I am about to head to Croatia. Not by car, but by the only easy way to see as much of the coast of Croatia as possible – a rather comfortable small vessel able to pull into the smaller ports. However, the downside is that I am often left to make small talk with others – something I completely avoid doing when I take to America’s interstates and byways.

Invariably, when I am with other travelers, the conversations turn to “and yes, what do you do?” Of course this is a reference to the vocation I pursue and when it comes out that I write and that I provide commentaries and opinion papers, the response isn’t always one of comprehension. “Fair enough, but what do you really do?” becomes the all too familiar response! If I try to steer the conversation to marketing and business development, eyes quickly glaze over and the conversation turns to something more topical and of interest to others. And talking about steering the conversation, it would be remiss of me not to remind everyone of how cold it remains in Boulder, Colorado and the picture above was taken a few days before we left. Any questions now as to why we gladly accepted the offer to meet with folks in Italy?

Even though I had business interests to distract me in Venice it was hard not to appreciate the history of the place. After all, this was where the adventurer Marco Polo began his journey that took him to China, and even today there is an air of adventure still present. The type of ships visiting port has changed and there’s little evidence of the great trading halls that dominated the scene, and yet even as tourists continue to wonder at the sites you have to be impressed with all that the city has witnessed over the centuries.

It was to be twenty five years before Marco Polo made it back to Venice, but before he could even talk about his adventures, somehow he found himself in jail and it was while he was waiting to be freed that he dictated details of his travels to his cellmate. As a result, information about Asia and China only trickled down to a select few and it took more than a century before Christopher Columbus was able to convince the court of Spain to return to China. But yes, taking a different route this time, as he thought he knew of a short-cut! And yet, the community that is today Venice is looking fragile with every potential of succumbing to the elements that seem determined to have done with this magnificent city.

How things have changed. It was only in January, 2010 that Astronaut T.J. Creamer tweeted “Hello Twitterverse! We r LIVE tweeting from the International Space Station – the 1st live tweet from Space! :) More soon, send your?s” Evidently, according to comments that followed this tweet, astronauts aboard the ISS had received a special software upgrade, such that during periods when the station actively communicates with the ground … the crew have remote access to the Internet via a ground computer. The crew views the desktop of the ground computer using an onboard laptop and interacts remotely via their keyboard touchpad. Everyone associated with the space program, including the extended community, can follow every step of the journey these modern day’s adventurers take.

The emergence of social media and with it the opportunity for social networking ensures information is disseminated more rapidly than it has ever been in the past, and among communities sharing a common purpose, it encourages the development of strong community ties. As everyone becomes aware of changing circumstances at about the same time, there’s ample opportunity to explore what will follow. And through these interactions and support, the community becomes stronger as it continues to bond. Yes, communities that have staying power are often those that attract strong individuals but with shared experiences their opinions are often important catalyst for further growth.

My experience on the board of ITUG taught me the value that comes with community and the value those positive interactions up and down the community fostered. No opinion was ever discounted or relegated to second-class, but rather helped ensure what we all felt was the essence of Tandem, the fun that come through networking, beer-busts, First Friday’s and even for the lucky few those crazy TOPS gatherings, has been preserved and carried to a younger generation. I can’t recall a single instance at any recent events involving the NonStop platform where there hasn’t been someone who has approached me and asked about what it was like all that time ago. And now, social networking has opened the doors to an even bigger audience and the community is the stronger for it.

Forget about the negativity that crops up in some forums, or the put-downs that some members are subject to. For the most part, all forums and discussions continue to add to the “buzz about the NonStop platform” that has been at the root of why so many within HP have enjoyed the grassroots emergence and development of so many social media avenues focused on NonStop as exists today. However, I would like to encourage even more participation. There’s simply no better way to ensure balance than to have as many opinions expressed as possible, for if we all are not vocal, the risk of repetition increases and the message eventually is diluted to the point where communities gradually drift off in pursuit of other interests.

I take a broad mix of magazines with me when I travel and as I read the back page editorial, Exhaust Notes, in the December 2011 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser, the author raised the issue about the decline of “the wave”. From the first outing Margo and I took on our junior motorcycle cruisers, more than a decade ago, every person riding a motorcycle that we passed, whether simple commuter or tricked out sports-bike, or even hard core biker on a heavyweight custom Harley, lifted his left hand and gave us a wave. (Interestingly enough, there were very few women motorcycle riders when we started whereas nowadays we see a lot of them out on the open road!) “Historically, motorcyclists have always been part of a breed characterized by fierce individualism,” the editorial began. “This difference in personal choice (to ride a motorcycle) led bikers to feel a strong sense of community … (and this) feeling of connection was often manifested in ‘the wave’.”

However, on our most recent outing just a few weeks back where we rode to Golden, Colorado, for coffee and where the return trip proved extremely painful for Margo as she dropped her cruiser literally outside the house, I was taken aback by how few riders today were still supporting the wave. The editorial reflected my own observations and the author went on to say, as the popularity of the wave appears to be declining, “the whole myth of individualism that’s so strong in (America) is leading many people down a miserable path of alienated lifestyles and social isolation.” This is followed a little later with “our social networks have become smaller as the tentacles of individualism have taken over our lives. We are not the richer for it. We are more alone.”

Yes, social networking is important for the NonStop community. As we take stock of who really supports the platform there are plenty of individuals out there and that has been the nature of NonStop from the earliest days of Tandem. In past years, it was a lot easier to go with IBM, perhaps Digital or even with Data General and Prime – but Tandem? For many years it did mark us as a breed apart. We were the individuals who really had firm opinions about better ways to process transactions. And yet this does place an obligation on us all – participate! Become visible! Post from the edge of the universe! Talk about what we have seen and the adventures we have had! We may not be facing rising tides and the prospect of annihilation, but our community today is fragile nonetheless. Yes, it’s worth protecting and yes, it is easy to grow.

There are rules of course, and there are many sites on the web that describe social media etiquette. Most of them can be ignored as the NonStop community is more mature. Two observations I do like and remain valid even for us include “your actions show you what a person you are, but that is not as important as showing what kind of brand you are. One thing we do know, we hate knowing that these brands are trying to be something that they are not – this comes across as fake and will mean that you will not believe in them.” And then there is “depending on your blog’s purpose, be wary of over-selling. Make sure you’re still providing great community value. (And yes) you can post as often as you want on your blog. It’s your blog!”

These observations came from two well-known bloggers (Peter Chubb, blogging on the site and Chris Brogan, an individual blogger) and do address concerns I often hear. It shouldn’t need any further commentary from me, but across the NonStop community your voice is very much needed. And appreciated. We are all individuals and continue to prove that with the technology pursuits we make – so yes, no need to be fake or to over-sell. In my post of October 9, 2011 “Enough is enough!” I wrote of how NonStop should not be losing and about how the NonStop Server has turned a corner. This observation should provoke many within the NonStop community to write about – there’s many opinions out there and yours may just be the one that tips the scales further in favor of NonStop!   

As we all know, the NonStop community welcomes fresh, positive input on almost anything NonStop Server related. Have a go, and have fun! And help keep the community thrive – your opinions are just that important. The author of the editorial in Motorcycle Cruiser closed with “remember community as that next rider waves to you; feel it, relish it, embrace it and be proud. And don’t forget to wave back.” And I can’t think of any better way when it comes to encouraging you all!      

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