A Twittering (and Related Social Platforms) Update Part 3 – Following No One

[Note: This is a repub of a post originally written in Aug 2012 on the version of this blog that died. We’re getting lots of requests for it so we’re republishing it here. Enjoy!]

This is the third post in a six part blog-arc about some recent research NextStage has done regarding Twitter and several other social platforms.

These posts will cover

  2. Watches
  3. "You don't follow anybody"
  4. Twitter v LinkedIn v Facebook v FourSquare v Pinterest v …
  5. Private v Public Personae
  6. "You rarely point to someone else's writing"

This post deals with something people complain about from time to time, the fact that… I Don't Follow Anyone …and therefore I'm antisocial. This is a demonstration of either such wonderfully flawed logic as to itself offer an explanation of same or such a limited world-view as to be saddening.

Twitter et al are becoming more and more marketing platforms and few marketers (in my opinion) understand the psycho-sociology behind them enough to use them properly as a marketing platforms (did you read the take-away in this arc's previous post?). Followers and twits (now do you know why I call them "twits" instead of "tweets"?) are for sale. Lots of companies (and some individuals) routinely purchase them as part of their marketing campaigns when products launch, rebranding occurs, etc. etc.

Let them purchase all they want. Unless that purchase includes recognizably genuine phatic content — mundane chatter from individuals who are psychologically vested in the product, brand, service, offering, … — it's worthless.

Being boring and dull, my needs are equally mundane. I'm not interested in adverts even if they are in 140 or fewer characters.

But I do follow people, simply not on Twitter. I correspond regularly via email, Skype, phone, etc, with a fair number of people. That fair number, regardless of medium, is typically around 70. Why 70? Read They're Following Me! (More on Twitter) for the answer. What am I doing with 375 or so followers? I'm providing them with Watches so that tribe size remains manageable, frustrations (followers and my own) are minimized and people only have to read what they want.

My regular use of channels alternative to Twitter amounts to following them and in what I believe is a much more intimate, much more personal way than Twitter, and specifically to an earlier point, in a way that greatly approximates how much I value everybody's time. If I don't know you, if I'm not somehow vested in your life, I don't really care to know what you're doing every fifteen minutes of your life. If I do know you and I am vested, I'll be in touch in ways that let you know you are genuinely important to me.

Is this what NextStage suggests to clients regarding social policy? Heck no! What, do you think we're nuts or something?

But can you understand that our (pretty much everyone here at NextStage has the same attitude) thoughts on how, when and where to interrupt people's lives with social information makes us killers at helping clients interrupt consumers lives in ways that stick positively?

No? Then I must ask "How are your social efforts doing, really?"

I rarely refuse interactions, be they phone or Skype. I'm known for not responding quickly to emails yet I am known for definitely responding. One correspondent also wrote that he had to get use to the idea that I actually read everything in an email, not just skimmed and not just certain parts.

My emails often start with

(catching up on emails)
Comments within:

My responses to a specific item come right after that item, much more like a discussion and much easier to follow as no one has to go digging for threads.

I do follow people and do so by occasionally looking up their streams for "interesting to me" items. There are two things happening there: 1) I determine what to look at (like walking down bookstacks in a library) and 2) I determine the schedule (I'm not interrupted).

The majority of Twitter streams don't interest me because they're either irrelevant to my day or embarrassingly unsubstantiated opinion. Some of what's on Twitter is phatic but it's from people I don't know hence, with no investment in them as friends, why do I care about their phatickly boring day? It's just as boring as mine, I'm sure, and sometimes mine is mind-numbing (what we in the NextStage offices call "brainpoo") and if mine is numbing enough why would I want to further subject myself to someone else's insipidities by encouraging theirs?

Or perhaps it's true and I am anti-social.

Sometimes I find something I want to pass on to my followers and do so via a ReadWatch. It doesn't happen often. It happens so seldom, in fact, that one can rightly determine something really has to impress me before I'll intrude on other people's times and spaces. The last time I posted a ReadWatch the author wrote to thank me for recognizably increasing their traffic. I was flattered because the increase was several multiples of my number of followers at the time.

So I do follow people, simply not obviously so, and I follow my friends in a way that allows them to keep their relationship to me private if they so desire.

A Link Does Not a Friend Make

From the above we can conclude that I have a definition of "friendship" different from the current social-marketing norm (see what a friend wrote about my friendship in my About the Author section of Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires (available in print and on Kindle.Tales Told 'Round Celestial Campfires Someone read that and wrote that they hoped their friends thought as well of them. I offered that it depended on how they valued friends. Go figure).

These concepts of friendship and time also explain my reluctance to refer people through online social networks. Unless NextStage has actually worked with someone or some company or I consider you a friend, I won't perform an introduction or offer a referral. A link does not a friend make and while some I do business with have become friends not everyone I do business with is a friend. Also, I know enough psycho-social behavioral dynamics to know that, for the majority of people, how one treats one in business is how they'll treat you outside of business, ergo there is, to me, a difference between those I count as friends and those I know in business. Sometimes the differences are only revealed over time.

The lesson here is, if you want something from me, don't act as if you're my friend if you don't really know me. Just ask me for what you want. You're much more likely to get it as my BS tolerance is extremely low. Example: a brand management company sent an email to our R&D group asking how to contact me. This impressed the heck out of me as my email address is easy to find with a few minutes search engine work. Eois got the email and wrote back asking what they wanted (nobody here recognized the company or the writer). They were interested in our research and how I do research. Eois wrote back that he could answer their questions, what research were they interested in?

At this point the writer owned up that they wanted to sell me something.

Eois' BS tolerance is higher than mine but that's why he gets paid the big bucks. State your goal up front when contacting us. We really don't want you to be all phaticky if we don't know you.

NextStage's BlueSky (BS) MeterYou know, there might be a market for a BJ Meter, similar to NextStage's BlueSky (BS) Meter except it's more tuned to the types of BS that come from fawning and sycophantery when the goal is to make a sale. Imagine not being sure of someone's intent, passing their blather through a tool and knowing for certain all their praise is in hopes of getting something from you and preferably a dollar!

What'd'you think? Would there be a market for such stuff?

Next up, Twitter v LinkedIn v Facebook v FourSquare v Pinterest v …

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Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation Now Available on Amazon

First, we appreciate everyone’s patience while we got this volume out.
And now, from Holly Buchanan‘s Foreword to the book…

Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and ExpectationAfter inhaling Reading Virtual Minds Volume I I was like an antsy 3-year old waiting for Reading Virtual Minds Volume II. It did not disappoint.
I love the way Joseph Carrabis thinks. He has a unique ability to share broad rich theory with actionable specifics. Unlike many technical writers, he has a unique voice that is both approachable and humorous. It makes for an enjoyable read.
But what’s the main reason why you should read Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experiences and Expectations? Because where most companies and designers fail is on the expectation front.

Humans are designed as expectation engines.

This is, perhaps, the most important sentence in this book. One of the main points Joseph makes in this volume is this – Understand your audiences’ whys and you’ll design near perfect whats.
Design failures come from getting the whys wrong. That can lead to failures on the experience side, but also on the expectation side. And that can be the bigger problem.

Expectation is a top-down process. Higher-level information informs lower-level processing. Experience is a bottom-up process. Sensory information goes into higher-level processing for evaluation. Humans are designed as expectation engines. Topdown connections out number bottom-up connections by about 10:1.

Why is this so important?

In language, more than anywhere else, we see or hear what we expect to hear, not necessarily what is said or written. Across all cultures and languages, neurophysiologists and psychologists estimate that what we experience is as much as 85% what we expect to experience, not necessarily what is real or ‘environmentally available’.


When people expect A and get B they go through a few moments of fugue. External reality is not synching up with internal reality and the mind and brain will, if allowed, burn themselves out making the two mesh.

Get your consumer/visitor/user experience AND expectation right, get their why right, and you’ll be exponentially more successful.

Here are just a few of the goodies you’ll find in this book:

  • Privacy vs. value exchange and when to ask for what information. Joseph has some actionable specifics on this that will surprise you.
  • Why we design for false attractors rather than the real problem.
  • The importance of understanding convincer strategies. Convincer strategies are the internal processes people go through in order to convince themselves they should or should not do something.
  • Companies spend a lot of time trying to convince consumers to trust them. But what may be even more important is understanding how to let consumers you know you trust them. This book has ideas on how to show your customers/users/visitors, “I believe in you”.
  • How often our own experience influence our designs. Unless you’re able to throw all your experience out, and let the user’s experience in, get out of the usability and design business.
  • How to allow your visitors easy Anonymous-Expressive Identity and make them yours forever.
  • Regarding new material, design, interface, the importance of making sure your suggestions provide a clear path to the past (thus being risk averse while providing marketable innovation).

As always, Reading Virtual Minds provides specific actionable ideas. But it will also make you think and approach your work in a new way. And I think that’s the best reason to treat yourself to this book and the inner workings of NextStage and Joseph Carrabis.

(and we never argue with Holly Buchanan…)

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Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th edition

It’s with great pleasure and a little pride that we announce Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat “4th EDITION” part is important. We know lots of people are waiting for Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation and it’s next in the queue.

But until then…

Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION is about 100 pages longer than the previous editions and about 10$US cheaper. Why? Because Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation is next in the queue.

Some Notes About This Book

I’m actually writing Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation right now. In the process of doing that, we realized we needed to add an index to this book. We also wanted to make a full color ebook version available to NextStage Members (it’s a download on the Member welcome page. And if you’re not already a member, what are you waiting for?)

In the process of making a full color version, we realized we’d misplaced some of the original slides and, of course, the charting software had changed since we originally published this volume (same information, different charting system). Also Susan and Jennifer “The Editress” Day wanted the images standardized as much as possible.

We included an Appendix B – Proofs (starting on page 187) for the curious and updated Appendix C – Further Readings (starting on page 236). We migrated a blog used for reference purposes so there may be more or less reference sources and modified some sections with more recent information.

So this edition has a few more pages and a few different pages. It may have an extra quote or two floating around.

You also need to know that Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History is a “Let’s explore the possibilities” book, not a “How to do it” book. As such, it deals with how NextStage did it (not to mention things that happened along the way). It does not explain how you can do it. This book’s purpose is to open a new territory to you and give you some basic tools for exploration.

There are no magic bullets, quick fixes, simple demonstrations, et cetera, that will turn you into jedis, gurus, kings, queens, samurai, rock stars, mavens, heroes, thought leaders, so on and so forth.

How to Do It starts with Volume II: Experience and Expectation and continues through future volumes in this series. We’ve included a Volume II: Experience and Expectation preview with a How to Do It example on page 302 so you can take a peek if that’s your interest.

That noted, I’m quite sure that you won’t get the full benefit of future volumes without reading this one because unless you’ve read this one you won’t understand the territory you’re exploring in those future volumes.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat’s Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION. It’s so good and so good for you! Buy a copy or two today!

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Brad Berens on “How Big Can the Web Get?”

Brad Berens commented on my How Big Can the Web Get? post that online to offline isn’t as interesting a question as heavy versus light use. I responded that I agree that the yearly dropoff rates are a relationally small number. He mentions the Nielsen Media findings of a few years back that the average American has 96 TV channels at his or her disposal but only watches about 15.

His thought is that it might be pre-emptive media filtering to me and I asked if that information had generational boundaries and took into account sites like ManiaTV.

If generational, we could be witnessing voluntary simplification on the web. This is something NextStage has been seeing for a bit and there’s not enough real evidence for it to be anything more than an interesting anecdote at present.

I agree with Brad that an interesting research venue is heavy versus light use, what Brad writes as “…an increase in the number of websites visited per session/day/week versus a more static number, etc.” This is something I think is going to be directly addressed by portals and especially portals where the visitor can place “browser windows” where they want, something alluded to in my recent IMedia piece on the death of the webpage.

Also, I think another question moving forward is what impact internet television is going to have on what people watch and how they watch it. I’ve been having some interesting talks with Drew Massey and Jason Damata of ManiaTV in preparation for an IMedia column. Interesting things are happening and, you betcha, what gets measured and how it gets measured is going to change.

What does this do to quorums? Not much, I think. The joy of quorums and quorum sensing is that they are elements of The Village (hate to harp on that concept and I do think it’s a powerful one). They come and go as required and are psychologically mobile, fluid, dynamic. Their size is more dependent on what the quorum needs to get done than the number of people willing to take part. Too large a social construct for a given function and it fractionates. Subgroups form which take on specific subfunctions, each group growing or fractionating until the optimal size for performing its function is reached. Bandura’s work pretty much confirms this, I think; quorums (groups) will form and dissolve based more on the group’s belief it can achieve some goal it defines for itself.

Quorum will sense they can form or not and that will continue. New media and new technology will only provide different petri-dishes, if you will. Society as a whole will only recognize the quorums have formed once the quorums begin to crawl out of the dish.

Links for this post:

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The Complete “Who’s In Control?” Arc

Note: Another arc, this one eight posts long. Amazing, isn’t it?

Who’s In Control?

A friend told me he is in therapy because his life is out of control. Too many demands on his time. A cell phone and a pager and a PDA and children and a wife and a job and a …

I listened. I congratulated him on deciding this was a problem for him and seeking help. I didn’t want to tell him that his immediate solution to the problem — too many demands on his time — was to add another demand to his schedule — a regular therapy session.

People who work with me call me a workaholic. Another friend tole me last week that I’m always busy because I’m always doing something, always active. People have repeatedly either told me they’re amazed at what I’ve done in my life or asked how I could achieve what I have. Some of it is nature (my musical ability or lack thereof, for example) and some is nurture (a family and culture where solving problems and core elements of solutions was prized, a family of readers, homes full of music and song, a family and culture that taught by storytelling and process modeling).

There’s also the fact that I realized at a very early age I was different from my peers in ways I couldn’t explain. I’ve wondered, in retrospect, if this awareness I had has similarities to the young boy or girl realizing they’re gay.

Aside from the anatomical confusions that are part of adolescence, what are the external physical manifestations of what amount to completely functional yet decidedly differently neurologic structural adaptations to… what? Are the neurologic adaptations required to alter physiologic manifestations Nature’s way of testing a theory? Easy theory to test: are there more gay people per capita in the world now than elsewhen in recorded history?

If yes –> homosexuality is an adaptive model that is working for the here and now. If not –> then not.

The concept of adaptive modeling is a challenging one for many people. Especially those who don’t study how things evolve over time (my thinking? Everything evolves over time). Nature (like me, I guess) is always testing theories and providing solutions to problems. I’ve heard it said that the age of the dinosaurs was Nature testing whether big teeth and big muscles were the way to go and eventually decided no, they weren’t.

Who’s In Control? (part 2)

We left off wondering if big teeth and big muscles was an experiment that failed. Here we pick up with how Nature really tests theories…

Well, close and no cigar. Nature found a solution that worked in the environment of the time. As things changed, old solutions didn’t solve the new problems (something I’m hoping to communicate in my comments on Starting the discussion: Attention, Engagement, Authority, Influence, …, but that’s another blog entirely and literally) so come up with some new solutions. Right now it seems Nature is testing to learn if big brains (comparatively speaking) are an adequate solution to the current problems.

My guess (in this anyway) is that the cure is worse than the disease. Big brains seem to causing more problems than they solve (see The World Without Us for a good read on this subject). And big brains’ current run is something less than a million years. Dinosaurs had several million, at least two orders of magnitude the run of big brains.

So maybe, just as big teeth and big muscles evolved to insure a good, long run, so shall big brains.

Who’s In Control? (part 3)

Here we question if homosexuality is another one of Nature’s experiments.

So if homosexuality is a test on Nature’s part, so be it. I’ve mentioned a childhood acquaintance, Andy, before. One of my strongest memories of Andy involved a third child whom I’ll call “Robert”. Andy never played with Robert because, when Robert played house with little girls, Robert often offered to be the “wife”.

I still remember, when Andy told me of Robert’s role-reversal play, how Andy wrinkled his nose, how his lips and face tightened, how his body tensed. I realize now he was merely demonstrating something he learned from his family, didn’t realize it then (it was only third grade). The message was quite clear — Robert was diseased, somehow wrong and wrong in an incredibly terrifying way because, while Peter, another friend, had an obviously club foot, Robert had no outward signs of his deformity. You couldn’t be sure by looking if someone else was wrong the way Robert was wrong.

Oh my! Scary Scary!

Who’s In Control? (part 4)

Here we deal with some of childhood’s mysteries. Just as Robert’s tendencies weren’t obvious in the way Peter’s club foot was obvious, so my tendencies, my “wrongness”, wasn’t obvious to those I played with.

My grandmother Sadie, when I was two or three or so, use to call me her Little Professor (another very involved post dealing with obvious evidence that remains unseen) because I seemed to study every thing around me. Grandma Sadie rejoiced in my wrongness but Andy, when he shared Robert’s wrongness with me and I replied, “So?” because men did a lot of the cooking in my family and performed other “traditional female” chores (I still do my share of the cooking, do the laundry, vacuum, …) turned that same look of fear, disgust and repulsion on me. The unspoken “Oh, God! Not you, too!” was as wounding then as the pod person’s signaling of “Other! Alien! Stranger! Intruder!” in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Andy’s mother spent a lot of time on the phone with my parents attempting to understand me or have my parents get me the help I needed to be a normal child. She was a very sweet albeit extremely prejudiced woman. I wonder if Andy ever grew beyond her lessons. For that matter, I wonder if I have.

I’ve written before that I now make a living out of thinking differently. My different neurologic wiring, whether an evolutionary adaptation, a simple sport, a stray gamma ray or not, is something I’ve managed to turn to profit. I can only hope Robert has done the same. In life.

Who’s In Control? (part 5)

Here we discuss finding teachers who honor differences rather than attempt to beat them out of you (with apologies to Indian Schools, Catholic schools and all the other educational institutions that are stereotyped correctly or incorrectly as not dealing well with differences in the student body).

Part of recognizing you’re different is deciding if you will foster those differences or not. In my case it meant either finding or being offered teachers who could help me decide if I wanted to foster my differences or not.

That is an important point. Not “teachers who could foster my differences” but “teachers who could help me decide if that’s what I wanted”.

Disciplining the mind is (technically) no different than disciplining the body. There’s the Nature v Nurture limitations again and that’s about all. True teachers know the student’s limits as well as their own. If there’s any difference between mind and body it’s that muscles grow and tighten as discipline’s applied. The mind? Does the skull reform as more training’s applied? Do we grow a sixth finger as knowledge grows?

I sometimes wish it were so. Instead disciplines of the mind — often closely tied to disciplines of the body — manifest themselves in the looks given when the obvious is to others not so, when order leaps from where others can only see chaos.

Who’s In Control? (part 6)

Here we explore one of the things I was taught early in my studies; Every weakness is a strength, every strength is a weakness (one of the early people who worked with NextStage couldn’t understand this. Their tenure was unfortunately short).

The most I could ever benchpress was 350# ten times and that was years ago. I have talked and laughed and trained with people who could benchpress me, the bench, that weight and a hundred pounds more all day without breaking a sweat. I’ve also met, studied and worked with people whose intellectual capabilities make me seem a driveling fool. I don’t know who I pity or envy more.

But weaknesses are strengths just as strengths are weaknesses (remind me to tell you about moving safes sometime).

A problem, once solved, bores me — great for research, lousy for productization (and Susan, the truly intelligent one in the family, suggested a reframe of this such that it’s also great for productization. I always tell people she’s the really smart one. Wish they’d believe me). A question, unanswered, requires research — It was suggested I check [[(a now defunct)]] blog twice a day and post to it. Post what? It takes me two weeks of study before I begin to understand the questions being asked. Coauthoring a blog has given me the opportunity to analyze the thought processes of others personally, sans the objective distance the NextStage Toolkits provide me. I’ve learned why people are sometimes impressed at my ability to focus and other times accuse me of not appreciating a situation’s complexity.

Who’s In Control? (part 7)

This section begins the round up and offers some solutions for my friend who’s confession got me started on this arc.

So how do I, with all my physical and mental training, help my demand enshrouded friend?

  1. Put yourself first in your life. Until you know how much space you take up there’s no room for anyone else.
  2. Work towards Joy. (ask a semanticist or a linguist to explain the humor in that one)
  3. Understand that you can’t recognize joy unless you’ve experienced sorrow.
  4. Recognize that you can’t choose everything that happens to you and that you can choose how you respond to it.

Less euphemistically?

Who’s In Control? (finale)

We conclude with some expansions of what was offered yesterday in part 7.

  1. Make yourself the most important demand in your life. Are emails a time suck? Don’t get them for a day. People will call if they need you. The phone ringing too much? Shut it off. People will knock on your door if it’s important. Too many people knocking? Take a day and tell no one where you go. Are you too important? Then you’re not. Not to yourself. Until you’re important to yourself you’re not important to anybody else, you’re a crutch.
  2. It really is that simple. No, really, it is. Is it not that simple? Do I not understand? Back at you. It is that simple and it’s you that doesn’t understand the true, real nature of the problem. Solutions are obvious. They always are. You just need to look in the right place to find them. Finding solutions isn’t the challenge, it’s knowing where to find them that is. Learn how to do that and you’ve learned it all. Take a lesson from the US Naval Academy. Take time to learn what’s important and focus on it.
  3. Make a list and keep to it. Realize there are only so many hours in a day and fill your list accordingly. Get a lot of items? Then you’ve made a two-day or week long list. Add to or reorganize your list only for items 1 and 2 above and in that order.

There you have it: Carrabis’ 3 Laws of Humans. Consider them Asimov’s 3 Laws of Robotics for those of us who don’t want to be robots.

And now my hand tires from all this writing. I compose on paper, review, rewrite and edit on paper before I type it into the computer and post it online. Not always. Only the important ones.

And the solution? Quite simple. Time to stop.

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