The value of community

Posted by Doc
Aug 10 2011

I’m attending the Agile2011 conference in Salt Lake City. I arrived on Sunday, and Monday was the first full day, and as always it was glorious and exhausting.

Last Tuesday, I tweeted – just once – that I was no longer with ThoughtWorks. When I arrived at the conference venue, and started seeing friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, I was astounded, amazed, and overwhelmed.

“I heard, and I’m so sorry.”

“You look great! You look so relaxed.”

“What will you do next?”

Consider that I had not personally spoken with more than one or two people about my change in circumstances. What I had done was to tweet and post on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.

One of the most amazing occurrences came when I was talking with my friend Doc Norton (@docondev). As we were talking, one of his co-workers sent him a message: “Did you see that Steven ‘Doc’ List is no longer with ThoughtWorks?”

Consider the amazing power of the social networks and community we live in. A few years ago, I would have been calling and writing to people individually and in groups to let them know what’s going on. Today, one posting and BAM!

The implications that go with that are important:

  • Your online reputation is important and real
  • Since perception is reality, people believe you are who you seem to be online
  • Building your network well can mean the difference between career choices and career compromises
  • Treating people well online, as well as in person, has real value
  • Think carefully about your online persona, and craft it with intent
I know far too many people who are very different in person and online. Sadly, it’s not uncommon to find people who feel that when they are electronic and faceless, it’s okay to be an asshole, or to be otherwise rude, inconsiderate, offensive, judgmental, critical, and so on. These same people might be lovely and sensitive and thoughtful in person, but online?
Why does that happen? Why do some folks feel like it’s okay – safe – to be so different online?
I’m not even going to try to come up with the answer today (although I do have some thoughts on the matter, and would be happy to hear yours). I’m just going to encourage each of you to consider my last point. It’s important enough, that I’m going to say it again.
Think carefully about your online persona, and craft it with intent.

A poorly crafted one will come back to bite you in the butt. A well crafted one will serve you well.

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