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Can we stop being so defensive about the tools we use?

This is a bit of a rant about something that is occuring all too frequently these days on my favourite social tool – Twitter. Yesterday an article in the Globe & Mail by Margaret Wente appeared that questioned, in her particular snarky tone of voice, the value of Twitter. You would have thought she questioned the cuteness of puppies by the vehement reaction by the Canadian Twitterverse. Update after update sought to match her snide tone and “set her straight”. It was an over-the-top reaction to a piece that in the grand scheme of things was just one persons opinion based on the plethora of mainstream media attention Twitter has been getting recently as the “next Internet phenom!!”. 

We really need to stop being so defensive. It’s a tool some of us use. It’s not for everyone after all and none of us own stocks.

Sure, it would have been nice if Wente had spent more time getting to know the tool before writing a piece about it, but let’s not forget that not every one has hours to spend figuring out the ins and outs of what is a highly charged, established community who are quite vocal when they deem you aren’t using it right. Not every one wants to either. If we cheer when Twitter makes the Wall Street Journal or The Star, are we not asking the general public to join based on what they’re reading? As with anything in life (and marketers should really know this already) people go through phases before deciding to buy (or join). Sure, we’d *like* them to take a test drive, but sometimes we have to rely on the dry specs and pretty pictures to even get on their consideration list. So Wente (who most likely has been hearing about the wonders of new media and Twitter from her colleague Mathew Ingram for months now) checked out the public stream and wasn’t impressed. Not surprising, there’s a lot of updates there about what people are having for lunch, and unless you have a group of people for whom you care about what they’re having for lunch, it really would seem silly for the lay person if we’re being honest. Of course that isn’t the *only* thing happening on Twitter, and not the reason I use it (I’ve explained before here and in an interview on CityNews recently why I use Twitter), but it takes a lot of time and energy to build that network… and maybe that isn’t time some people want to invest, or know they have to. Twitter works when it’s a conversation vs a monologue and perhaps, just perhaps, someone may have other channels they use when they want to converse. 

Let’s also add some perspective to the time investment using Twitter properly is – some people may not be able to bill clients for the hours upon hours they spend using the tool each day either, because they aren’t in marketing communications, PR, or customer service (or an entrepreneur, artist, etc.). Let’s keep that in mind when we jump all over people for not “getting” the tool.

I’m not a fan of Wente’s writing (or opinions) for the most part, but I recognize frustration with over-hype when I read it, and that’s what her piece felt like to me. I also wonder why no one called out the most glaring thing in regards to her article — she asked @biz (the guy who OWNS Twitter) for a chance to interview him the day before the piece ran. Did he care enough to defend it, or even respond? Perhaps her view of Twitter may have been different if the guy with the vested interest in getting positive coverage of his business by Canada’s largest daily paper had gotten back to her.

Twitter is for some, not for others, and it would be productive in my view to allow that there is more than one way to use the tool, or not. 

Also, that everyone is entitled to form an opinion based on what they read/ see. It’s up to the community to convince people the tool is right for them if we are going to get so defensive when they don’t “get it” and vocalize that, question it, or poke fun at it.

[photo credit: merwing via Flickr]

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Ada Lovelace Day – recognizing women in technology

March 24, 2009 is Ada Lovelace day and people from around the world are marking the occassion with blog posts recognizing important women in the tech field. While I initially thought I would write a post about a famous woman I admired, a trail blazer in the space, I ultimately decided to write about someone closer to home, someone I’ve known and worked with personally. Think global, act local if you will.

If you don’t know her already, her name is Vanessa Williams (aka @fridgebuzz) and she’s a leader in the tech and interactive space in Toronto. What makes Vanessa someone I admire is not only her incredible intellect and ability to code like a maniac in complex languages like Juxta, but the trail she blazed by being a leader when women programmers/ techies were a rarity. She’s commanded respect from her teams as well as from clients… all while believing in her inherent right to be treated as an equal in a male dominated field. She also took a chance with an idea she had for a startup and toiled away at her computer to make her vision a reality.

I don’t claim to know the intricacies of the work she does (I’m a strategist, not a programmer), but I do know that she always delivers results and I’ve had the pleasure of sharing many a pint on a patio and discussing the industry, technology, and the world with her. 

Vanessa is someone you should get to know.

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