What Are You Hiding?

Dec 27, 2009

Barbara Safani on emurse wrote a post about “Five Quick Ways to Get Your Resume Tossed in the “No” Pile“.

What struck me the most about that list? Every item was about leaving out something. The most obvious allusion to that is when she says “the reality is that when the graduation date is missing, you are actually calling more attention to the very thing you are trying to hide.”

I think that’s a very important thing to remember. What we leave out, more often than not, is just as, if not more, important than what we put in. And people notice that. To be real, you have to take the risk of putting everything on the line – even things which may be potentially embarrassing.

Yes, there’s a fine line between managing your personal brand well, and covering up things which you don’t want people to know. The best solution? Neither, in my opinion. If you live your brand, if you live by your beliefs consistently and are who you say you are, you should have nothing to hide.

And that’s what we should all strive for, I think. Being completely authentic that we have nothing to hide.

Now, ask yourself – what are you hiding?

The Problem with Twitter Trust Metrics

Dec 27, 2009

Charles Green from Trusted Advisor just wrote a post about measuring trust on Twitter.

I think it’s an interesting measurement, but there are issues with it. He mentions the biggest one, saying

clipped from trustedadvisor.com

The biggest problem comes not in the measurement, but in the subject matter. So it is with trust. In the TweetLevel tool, trust is largely a function of how many people cite you. That’s perfectly reasonable. People definitely hang on Perez Hilton’s words a lot more than on mine.

But it does beg a huge trust question: trust Perez Hilton to do what? To say what? To behave how? What is it that we trust about John Mayer–and is it the same thing as for which we’re trusting Oprah?

blog it

That speaks for itself, I think. Nothing more to add there.

My biggest worry, however, is the possible effects this measurement may have. As much as I see the value of measuring something, a measurement like this brings a lot of false promises. Most importantly, trust is a very personal thing. What matters is how much each individual trusts you, it’s not a question of broad statistics, in my opinion.

The issue of a trust metric like that is this. Once you put a number to something, people tend to strive for higher numbers. It’s the nature of human competitiveness, kind of. And I fear that the more we put a number to trust, the more people will try to game the system just to get higher numbers, making more retweetable tweets, etc. And that could easily lead to even less personal interaction.

TweetLevel measures how often you’re cited, and that’s certainly valuable. But we need to not confuse this too much with trust. Yes, it’s probably a reflection that people trust what you say, and think you have valuable input. But do they really trust you? And I think that’s the main question. You can be having personal conversations on Twitter, things that others don’t retweet. Your trust metric won’t go up, but because your conversations are personal, the person on the receiving end gets to build a relationship with you more and gets to trust you. Is this any worse than being retweeted often? I’d say not.

A while ago, Chris Brogan wrote this:

clipped from www.chrisbrogan.com

I’d go to Savvy Auntie because Melanie Notkin will give me advice that would help me buy for kids, where Amazon’s just too big to feel helpful in that regard.

I’d go to Wine Library because Gary Vaynerchuk will take the fear factor out of buying something I’m not educated about.

I’d go to Glynne’s Soaps because I appreciate Gayle and Jennifer’s efforts via social media, so it’s like buying from a friend.

blog it

And I think that’s more important. What you do with the “trust” that you have. It’s all well and good having high numbers, with people retweeting you all the time.

But you need to remember to ask two things. Firstly, what are they retweeting? And secondly, how are you relating to those who are retweeting you? It’s not all just about retweets. There’s also huge value (perhaps more) in a personal relation, that cannot be captured from that.

Who are you writing for?

Apr 4, 2008

Seth Godin recently asked that question.

Are you writing for the first time visitor? Or for the one who has been following you since the start?

I’d like to throw in a third part. Or are you writing for yourself?

That third question is the one I’m struggling with a bit lately. Where do you draw the line between being expressing your thoughts about what matters to you and writing about what people are interested in?

If you go too far to the former, you run the risk of being insignificant – speaking with nobody listening. And that’s not what I want this blog to be about. I don’t want it to be a ghost town, or just me ranting to nobody. I hope to be able to be part of a community, and make an impact on people.

But on the other hand, if I drift too far to the latter, is it compromising on authenticity and who I am?

And that’s not even going into the tone and style of writing.

Honestly, it’s something I’m still trying to figure out. It’s a tough balance, in my opinion, and I’m not sure. Any suggestions?

Don’t Lie

Mar 17, 2008

Undercover Black Man criticized (actually, ‘criticized’ is an understatement) Margaret Seltzer for her book “Love and Consequences”.

Using the pseudonym “Margaret B. Jones”, she wrote that she was half-white, half-native American, and raised by a black foster mom. She wrote what was supposedly a personal story about how she used to be involved in gangs and drugs until she turned her life around.

The book got good reviews from the press and critics, until it was discovered that the whole story was fiction. And that’s where Undercover Black Man (among others, I’m sure) picked it up and lambasted her for lying.

The thing is, she could have avoided all this by stating up front that it was a fiction book. Maybe she thought it wouldn’t have had as powerful effect. But there’s nothing wrong with a powerful, moving, fictional story.

By passing it off as a true personal memoir, she lied. And it’s cost her. Her book has been recalled, and no doubt her reputation (as well as the publisher’s) has been shot.

The whole fiasco just goes to show how important honesty and authenticity is. Edgar J. Mohn once said “A lie has speed, but truth has endurance.” In today’s world, that’s even more true, I think.

With the connectivity of the internet, you can’t hide anything forever. Sooner or later (most of the time, sooner), you’ll be found out. And with the power of the internet, where everyone’s voice is amplified, that lie can cause you more damage than ever.