Why can’t Online be more like Offline

As I said in my previous post I have spent a bit of time cleansing my social networks to make them work better for me and hopefully enable me to engage with them more often and in more appropriate ways.

The underlining issue for me is that unless the social networks and social media tools I use can actually blend into my life and activities then I’m unlikely to engage with them (selfish I know but how different am I to most people) – this is a recent change of tact for me as I used to love playing with new networks and seeing their potential benefits and uses. But my available time has reduced dramatically over the last few months due to a number of reasons and I am finding that I simply don’t have the time to engage with some social networks because they take too much effort to interact with and they don’t always contain the people or connections I need in a given situation.

A couple of examples being Gowalla and Foursquare – I used to enjoy checking in and finding out who was either in the same location or who I’d missed etc, but now I simply don’t bother – lazy perhaps. This doesn’t mean that Location Based Social networks aren’t useful – they are, but the mass public are using them yet and not enough of my friends or groups I connect with are using them often enough to justify the investment of time – I no longer have the time to simply find out what loose connections were or are doing. But I believe there is something a bit more fundamental to this feeling.

My general lack of available time leads to less engagement with a variety of “fringe” social networks and has made me think about those networks which offer me most value and that in turn lead to the cleansing exercise – as my involvement in these networks has to deliver value for me or I’ll simply drop out of them. In terms of location features, a lack of take-up amongst my Facebook connections means that Facebook places hasn’t even attracted my time yet?

It also poses another issue which I only really thought about recently when I bought my wife a new iPod Touch. If as a fanboy of social networks and social media in general I struggle to engage with some of these sites then what is the impact on general public. My wife’s use of Facebook has increased since she got the iPod touch, my view on this is that it is easier for her to engage with then waiting for the PC to start-up and then access the browser and most, if not all of her connections are on that network.

I think the challenge and issue I was trying to solve with the cleansing exercise is captured in the following very long but surprising easy to digest presentation by Paul Adams:

“I don’t have a single bucket of friends”

I am however connected to a variety of  people who make up groups each with a different identity and each with a different purpose and within those groups I have different relationships with people – strong ties, weak ties and temporary ties.  (the definition of these is provided within the presentation below)

This is exactly how my offline life is – a series of connections to groups and relationships all separated by boundaries of one form or another and generally they don’t overlap. Due to my commitments  – my family + my full-time employment + my part-time employment + being a school governor – managing these relationships, boundaries and connections online requires working harder than I do offline – surely this isn’t supposed to be like this!.  I know that managing my networks in the way I have decided will enable me to create some aspect of separation but not to the level that reduces my overhead in managing my online presence.

I have made use of Facebook lists to provide a level of additional privacy, but will need to review after my cleansing exercise. But other networks don’t really provide the same features, and this is why I have decided to use each network in the way outlined in my previous post.

Seeing this presentation made me feel a bit better because it wasn’t down to me not using the networks properly but because there is simply no social network that allows me to do this.  I know we all need to grapple with the blurring of our lives, but sometimes boundaries are their for a reason and we need support mechanisms to maintain these boundaries should we choose to.  This is often one of the barriers that people state to me when not engaging with social media within the workplace. People are concerned that aspects of their lives will be shared with people who they simply don’t want to share it with.

I’m now a School Governor…and how not to run a campaign

Before the schools broke up back in July, the school that my two sons attend had elections for the School Governing Body.  I put myself forward and wrote a brief description of why I wanted the position – To be honest it was  about personal development and an opportunity to inform and influence how the school is run. I’m assuming this is the standard reason most people would put themselves forward as a governor – and if I’m honest I thought that I’d be unsuccessful – but always worth putting yourself forward..sometimes you’ll get lucky!

In a vain attempt to try to influence the voters (other parents), I launched a very poor and uncoordinated campaign on twitter (didn’t bother with Facebook) using the hashtag #voteforcarl and unfortunately it failed as I made some simple school boy errors:-

  1. I didn’t research my market.
  2. I didn’t compliment with any offline materials or supporting literature.
  3. I didn’t inform any other parents that I was running a campaign and would value their support.
  4. I didn’t bother continuing the campaign after one day – I personally got bored with promoting myself (there is a lesson in there!)
  5. I failed to follow or even encourage other parents to follow me…
  6. I really wasn’t that bothered if I failed to get elected (don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy to have been successful, but there are other things in life that I can worry about!)
  7. I may have actually forgot to use the hash tag #voteforcarl!! Can’t remember and searching for the hashtag yields no results!!

How I got elected is a mystery, maybe the strange world of the playground and the fact that whilst I may not know many parents, they may actually know me or even my wife who is a Teaching Assistant at the school or my two sons, who are quite popular – if the truth be told…So If you ever want to get elected into a post, please don’t ask me for help or advice, there are many experts out there and I’m lucky this time that I didn’t need to engage with one of them.

Whatever the reason the other parents voted for me, I feel an obligation to them – to do what i can to improve the school (it is already a good school) ok, so maybe to ensure we maintain standards and excel where possible, i’m not sure yet.

So I now embark on a learning journey about the school, being a School Governor and all the details that most parents don’t need to know about but probably should. I’m hoping that I can get access to Modern Governor from Learning Pool as it looks like an excellent resource for someone like me.

I do actually have (and some of you maybe surprised here) some ideas that I think will help improve the school and its role in the community that I need to work up and of course I’m keen to meet all of the other School Governors.

I may blog from time to time about my experiences as a School Governor in a broad sense as I am aware that it is a naturally sensitive area.

This is not the post to talk about School Governors and the Big Society – that will be another day!