Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do

The title of my book started out as a tweet. It was a response to my frustration at corporate accounts and brands starting to appear in Twitter and wanting to be my friend. How could I be a friend with a corporation?

But it works in both directions. Now that social media is saturated with brands it is easy to forget that there are real people bring their Twitter accounts. When we feel like hurling abuse at an organization that we feel have let us down or behaved badly we should remember that there is an individual behind that account, often not very well paid, and often young.

I can still feel frustrated at the impersonal pollution that brands have inflicted on my online conversations but both sides can do better.

As Ella Minty points out in this LinkedIn article “if they are not there to enter a real dialogue with their consumers (the shouting and all that included), why are they there?”

Real conversations with real people about stuff that really matters is what the internet was for. These conversations can include brands and corporations – and we can help them achieve this lofty ambition.


Many moons ago I wrote “Social media adoption happens one conversation at a time, and for their reasons not yours.”
This is true for all change where you require other people to behave differently. They need to have understood what is proposed at a personal/conversational level and seen what is in it for them.

Neither corporation wide hard sell, nor being told they “have to” work. Both of those, even if in the short term they appear to have brought about the desired changes in behaviour, invariably provoke a reaction and can even in some cases can shift things into reverse.

If you want to really bring about change you have to take the time and effort to treat people with respect and give them good reasons why it makes sense for them to do what you are asking of them.

Not many people charged with bringing about change have the necessary patience.

Shape bending

The collections of microbes, molecules, and mostly space that inhabit this infinitesimally small part of the universe that I have grown accustomed to think of as me cause my finger to touch the screen of my phone, which triggers electrical impulses which generate Unicode, translated into fonts, then back into zeros and ones on a packet switched network that itself is nothing but molecules and impulses such that your collection of microbes, molecules and mostly space that inhabit the infinitesimally small part of the universe that you have grown accustomed to think of as you believes it has understood.

We overlay all of this with our different stories and feel closer or further apart as a result.

Neither of us are in control of the process and none of it means anything.

It’s nothing to get bent out of shape about.

Shit tinted glasses

“It [the internet] is just a thing. Whether it is good or bad depends what you do with it. If you don’t like what you are doing with it then it is simply a reflection of what you are as an individual, an organisation or a society and that is what you have to fix.” – Vint Cerf

I continually forget this even though I was there when he said it and I quote it all the time.

The internet just is.

Facebook just is.

Life just is.

My experience of life is a result of all of the cultural, genetic, and personal history baggage that I carry around with me.

It is a made up story.

Remembering this is important.

It’s the little things.

Almost every day someone in my immediate network will struggle with their technology. Whether this is while using their phones, accessing their emails, or responding to error messages from the system, it is often very basic things that they struggle with.

But it is clearly widespread. If I extrapolate what I see in my own network to the entire population then the overhead must be enormous. I know in the predominantly Windows workplace people spend inordinate amounts of time fighting their technology. One of the reasons I have always preferred Apple stuff is because they make their best efforts to reduce this level of frustration but even they are far from perfect.

This is a hard problem to solve. Technologists make their best efforts to improve interfaces and simplify processes and yet at the same time the possibilities increase and our expectations are raised. Equally people still seem to have a quite passive attitude towards technology and, in my biased view, don’t make enough effort to overcome some of the more basic difficulties.

Most of the time I try to be patient when I am asked to help but it can be frustrating. I remember a quote from an old IT guy at work: “If you want to sort out your corporate computing make UNIX the standard platform and if the buggers can’t work out how to use it they shouldn’t have a computer.” and on a bad day I feel like agreeing.

Things that have caught my eye

Just a couple of links this time but both current and fascinating.

An Algorithm That Grants Freedom, or Takes It Away.
I know I go on an about “the ideology of algorithms” but this article gives a good idea of why it matters. Algorithms already deciding all sorts of things to do with people’s lives. Who gets to decide their priorities and how will we feel when we realise that they are already being applied to us?

when trust is lost.
Fascinating take on the Chinese response to the corona virus from my friend Harold Jarche.


Believing our own stories

Our brains are pattern seeking mechanisms. Evolution has given us an ability to see patterns of threat or opportunity. We do this all the time, and can’t stop ourselves. We string together a succession of these patterns and identify with the narrative that they create. They become what we think of as our self, our identity, what we think of as “me”.

Most of these patterns are based on things we have heard from others around us – family, society, peer groups, the media. Once we have taken in these patterns, established this narrative, and identified with it as “me”, we will do anything to hold onto it. Anything that shakes this narrative is seen as an existential threat. And it is.

If our sense of self weakens it feels like facing death. We will struggle to maintain it in the face of evidence to the contrary from the world around us. We will make ourselves miserable if that world doesn’t conform to the way we think it should be. We will fight other people who don’t agree with our narratives. We will attempt to bend the world around us to try and force it to conform to our narratives and in so doing we are causing untold damage to the planet.

We should take our stories with a pinch of salt. We should remember it’s all made up.