Monday, March 22, 2010

Netizenship - Do and Don't

Help yourself - Be a Good Net-izen.

In a professional context, the best thing about e-communication is that distance becomes irrelevant. It is also the worst.They say that words once spoken can never be taken back. Hence think twice speak once. But spoken words only live on in the memory of the listeners and speech is accompanied with physical cues which gives us a chance to resolve miscommunication. E-words, on the other hand, live on in perpetuity; for a search engine to discover, out of context, out of date. The probability of leaving others with impressions of ourselves we never intended is greatly enhanced. Second, e-communication may be the first order contact to be followed by in-person, if all goes well. So home-grown conventions have been developed but they vary. My rule is better safe than sorry. From daily email to social media sites, blogs e-behavior that wins friends and influences people is somewhat of a mystery. There is no e-Miss Manners to save me for getting that foot into my mouth (and remember it stays there). Social entrepreneurs must communicate with a variety of people; people very different from ourselves but possibly sympathetic to our cause. So experiences can be enhanced for all parties with simple net-iquette.

e-mail: be factual, be non-judgmental. Keep it short - it is not the place to vent your feelings, opinions. Do document decisions after a meeting. Always acknowledge even if to say there will be no follow-up. If resolving an issue - do not go back and forth more than 3 times. If not resolved after 3 iterations, e-mail will not resolve it. There is no excuse for not following up on email (includes CEOs- if only to delegate - convention varies on this between India and US - but I know when I get a reply from an admin - I think the CEO is old-school - not net savvy and hence - is he/she worth my time? ).

social media sites - advantage is that such sites already impose a certain amount of discipline. Studies have shown that teenagers actually benefit from the open group interaction because they are motivated bu having as many friends as possible. But still, before posting that pic, ask yourself - how many people are interested in seeing my cross eyed drunken face captured at the last party? Not even you.

blogs: decide what the blog is about and deliver what you promise. Its not how often you write, its what you write. Simplest way to start is - as the name says - a personal log of things that interest you. Blogs are a great way to espouse your cause as long as that cause is not you.

websites- Do create a personal (or professional) website - this is the place to brag about yourself/your organization/your team. - as long as it is the truth. Easy navigation, process, policy, values clearly stated will set you apart from others and create an aura of openness, fairness. Initially you can treat a website like a resume. If you are adept, a website is a great way to communicate your mission, vision and build supporters. It grows as you grow and saves time in the long run by reducing replication of work.

Finally a word about Humor - Don't. Unless you are a professional you won't get away with it. That is because humor is context sensitive, time sensitive. However, do take a light friendly tone (free of overt status verbiage - a problem in India more than US). Save that for in-person. If you become an expert there (you can see who laughed and who didn't) you can then try it - maybe - on your blog, fb update.

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