And then you would like to subscribe to this person …


Tara’s recent article “I subscribe to you” really resonates which me (no quote, go read it and come back) though I come from a different side onto this topic – the “subscribing” perspective. I don’t mind having several systems in which I have to follow a person, I don’t need the one place to “subscribe” to you, but there is the thing with all of these applications …

The usual way
Usually you meet a person and then you would just like to exchange the usual stuff – business card, email etc. After some time you may discover each other in another platform and just add a link there as well.

The unusual people
But from time to time you meet a person which is just so interesting to you – not necessary you to them and that is fine – that you want to get a hold of them with more than just a business card. And in this nice web space, chances are that you do have different places to look for various incarnations of a person.

Their blog, subscribed, a pod / vidcast perhaps, subscribed … but then it gets into something I think we do not have developed working systems or rules for.

The problems start …

Can I assume that if you have none to few buddies on your flickr acocunt that you are quite selective? Should I add you as a skype buddy? IM? Myspace, Podshow? Perhaps some Second Life account? Or do you hang out more on IRC, which network then? Interstingly you do not do these systems, but actually Orkut or friendster or … or … [add thousand other ways]

What is with your Linked In and openbc one, or do you spit out anger if you are even asked about it like Ben Metcalfe recently ? He is one of the guys I would take for hating such services but being on such actually would make me believe that he might be into this one. But go read why finding him on linked in does not mean that he actually is into using linked in.

On the one hand, you do use a lot of those services. On the other hand you feel overwhelmed / annoyed / what ever when somebody like me starts connecting to you through most of those systems in a short time.

To run through my list of possible connections and research you is a matter of some minutes. I could also start commenting on / start blogging about interesting stuff I discovered in reading up a bit on your blog like for the last 30-70 postings. Easily doable in no time.

Chances are also that I start giving out links and suggestions immediately – you as a ‘new’ contact do not know that I am like that. Of course you will receive special attention for a short time – you are like a new toy – but then it will move over to normal.

And then there is silence …
But chances are, if I do so, that you take a step back on even talking to me at all because you’d probably think I want to stalk you. Which I am not – I am just really fast in reading, comprehending and typing. It is in my nature to send you information or in this case connect.

I “bombard you with this shitty requests” (comment of a person after I managed to send out a flickr request and a plazes one in one day), and either you may take it well or you are annoyed with it. But as we are polite people we don’t say if we do not really feel like answering this.

And just because I read your blog and listen to your podcast does not automatically mean that I qualify as a contact / buddy. But my request may have been nicely written and so you want not to just say no – and let it lay there for some while. And probably forget about it.

You are not helping either …
Is it just that you have no time, or is it rejection? Because answering with “well, you are nice, but this is not the level of contact I want to share with you” is not something we like to write or say. Which is probably why we so seldom do it.

But I bet we think about it as well as “why does (s)he do this? (S)he should know better!” Really? Most of the time there is nothing where you offer me to find out about how you would like to handle these kind of connections / to be handled.

And the other way round may sound less intrusive, but still gets bad feedback: Provide you with a list of all the possible ways to connect and leave it to you to choose the ones you like. Because you are faced with the same kind of decision as if I would send you request after request from all those systems.

You did connect on flickr with me but did not answer on plazes, but did again add me at site Y – should I just resend the invitation to you?

The next problem: Are you a friend? Or a contact? Or are you just too nice?
Flickr allows me to mark somebody as a friend or a contact. So is it okay if you mark me as friend but I you only as a contact? Woah, I made you a contact, but you call me a friend! Do I have to call you a friend also then?

If we are buddies in 5 systems already, and I discover something new like 43people – should I not assume that if I find you there as well, that connecting is fine?

Well, there might be a problem with it – Ben would be a perfect example of this. I have some connection throughout various systems with him and if I would have found him on Linked in, I would have taken that as a sign to add him as well.

But let’s say everything until now really went well. Happy adding everywhere. And suddenly I read on your blog that your biggest problem is that you are too nice and just cannot say no. Great.

Which leads me to one of my favorite topics.

The problem of culture
Different cultures have different more or less unwritten rules how contacts are made. We tend to forget this in the world where everybody lives in the same space. But there are differences and not all of them are pretty.

A sidestep:
Especially with the American one. It makes me physically sick to hear the American sugar coating everything and running around finding everything “Awesome! Your great! Super! Your the best! Great meeting you! Let’s do that again! Wonderful!”

If you are European (and my fellow European readers please agree or disagree) and you come to the US, at first you feel great about so many nice people and what they say about you. Until it dawns on you that they say that to everybody.

Then – at least I did – you start to feel robbed. Because what felt special first is just a polite lie, a common way of talking. But it could be true. So next time, you are more prepared and tell yourself it is over the top. And fall for it again.

It gives me headaches and so far I now tend to just think you are lying to my face. And this constant disbelief in what you say makes at least me shy to appreciate what you say and suspicious times three. (Yes, my head can rationalize and put it in perspective better than my feelings can.)

To give you an easier example which is not as dramatic:
Every time I am asked “how do you do” you will see me pause for a second.

I have to restrain myself not to answer the question. I have been taught this phrase since my first year of English but even today this *is* a question to me. And in those seconds there is this feeling of disappointment again. Hey – they are interested into how I am *meep* nope, just a phrase.

End of sidestep.

So again, culture also applies to how we react on contact request, and even though we are in this bubbly 2.0 space, many of us where brought up not only with the culture of our country and all the implication, there is another one.

Even if we get over our education and dive into the happy net space, there is big one which brings additional problems:

The problem of gender / intimacy

Not only do we play hide and seek about how we do or do not feel when making / reacting to contact requests, it gets even more complicated when we add the man / woman issue to it. (In case you want to chime in and say “but I do say how great it was meeting you!”, read the above sidestep again.)

How do you feel when you get attention by somebody from the same sex? Probably kind of okay, and if you are a male, you might see a sporty side to it. Now imagine the same from a woman. Or the other way round.

Is the other person just interested or is there more to it? Is this just a smiley, or is there more to it? Hm, she does not react to my mails, but I hear from friend x she does to him? Hei, he writes about exchanged communication with that other girl, but not about ours? We have mailed for some time now, does this mean this goes further than that? If I agree on meeting that person, what do I get myself into?

Relax. Most times this is not about you being of the opposite gender. It is about you being an interesting person and somebody having taken interest in you. Not about a love interest.

What is working, what is not
Yes, this in part was a rant as well as a request to everybody out there to make this as easy for everyone else around you.

The following are some suggestions.

  • Give me a natural starting point
    for my discovery to learn about what you want or do not want up front. And help me make a decision why you on the one side offer you telephone number on your website but at the same time get annoyed if people send you an invitation to more harmless services like this.

    In most cases that would be your website, your blog. A sentences sometimes says everything.

    If you use a system like linkedin or alike, this is a good place also to start.

  • Make a page which services work for you or not.

    (Also make it clear that you will reject every other invitation if that is the case).

    If you hate social services and still get invitations all day long, go register for them. And put into your profile that you loath this application and do not want to connect with anybody in here. This will still make you look like a jerk, but at least I am know where I am with you in this application.

  • Give me a sense of what is important for you or not

    For example “connect with me on these 5 networks, I don’t care at all about a mass amount of contacts, but I will only register with best friends on service X”.

And if you want to subscribe to ‘me’?

I am currently going through the different systems I am using or not and try to compile a “how and when to connect to Nicole or not” and will post about that later. :)

For business purposes I mainly use, because it allows me a much better control over what contact information I reveal, but especially it allows me to get your contact information if you so choose.

I would love to have in there linkedin’s feature of stating “this is when you should or should not connect with me”. I am using at the moment something I borrowed from Jeff Clavier:

Please note that I only connect with people I have met previously and established a relationship with, and that I am not seeking new connections for the sake of growing my network. I want to be able to represent who you are and what you do when I am asked to forward a request.

(There is a bookmarking feature you can use also and please do not misuse contact requests for sending emails.)

If you are interested in trying openbc, take this link if you register for a free premium month, and this one for two months if you are a women.

So, why this whole posting?
Only if we collect ways of what is working or not, we have a way to connect without hassle and without bad feelings. Try to think of cases which really made you cringe or where you where delighted. If you write a bit about what annoys you or makes you tick, it helps everyone.

Especially when those are unwritten rules in your country / society. Chances are, you had to be brought up in them to understand them – and many of us haven’t. :)

And now I have to sign up for this 43 thingie, looks interesting …

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2 Responses to “And then you would like to subscribe to this person …”

  1. Karin says:

    Actually, when I first heard about social networks – like LinkedIn, I thought it was clever, that you could keep track of and find people you already know, whereever they go, (not stalking, just updating info) ;-) But now there are so many networks, now people can get lost forever – easily – just like before. :)

  2. Nicole says:

    Which is why I stick with the two, with favoring openbc over linkedin; just as reduction of those kind of systems. And the reason I favor openbc is exactly the contact management part of it – it defenetly helps you on the road! :)