It seems to me that the most exciting new form of communication is “open messaging.” (If somebody’s coined a better term, let me know.) I’m talking about messages and notes that are directed at a specific person, but are posted publicly, inviting input from anyone else who might be interested.
- A wiki “user page”: This is a page associated with a certain member of a wiki community, but (usually) viewable and editable by anyone. People can be contacted without disclosing any personal information; and the public nature of discussions enhances collaboration. This works really well on Wikipedia, where editors working closely together often chime in on one another’s projects.
- A MySpace “comment”: Often used for comments like “happy birthday” or “sorry your cat died.” It’s a nice way to keep up to date on what’s going on in your friends’ lives.
- The Facebook “wall”: essentially the same thing as a MySpace comment.
- Twitter messages directed “@” somebody: This is distinct from a “direct message,” which is private. If I type “@BobSamplename Have a nice hike!” it will be visible to Bob, but to anyone else, as well. If I type “d BobSamplename Sorry to hear about the genital warts”, nobody else sees it (oops.) Having the easy choice between public and private is very convenient.
Status messages on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. are similar, but usually not directed at anyone in particular.
Using all these services means there’s a lot of “chatter” in my life lately, but it opens up all kinds of new possibilities. In editing Wikipedia, I often find other people who are at odds, and am able to jump in and help someone figure something out and move forward. Other times, I see that somebody is working on a topic that’s interesting to me, and we’re able to collaborate on improving an article, and learn a lot in the process.
On the social networking sites, it means I’m able to keep up with what people are doing. This is nice for social reasons — birthdays, hiking trips, etc. — but it’s also very useful on a professional level. It means I find out about interesting events, conferences, networking opportunities; it also lets me jump in and help someone with a problem, which builds my business reputation. That individual may become a client someday — or, another acquaintance who sees my helpful response may consider hiring me.
This stuff is very exciting, and it’s all changing very quick. My mom emailed me last week, concerned because she hadn’t seen me updating this blog in a while; so she checked my Wikipedia contributions, and didn’t see a lot of activity there, either.
So I told her about Twitter, my latest obsession.
10 years ago, I’d exchange an email or phone call with my mom once or twice a month. It’s a whole different world now.