Make Your Point in 140 Characters

If you haven’t caught wind, yesterday there was a dust up around this status update by @ScottBourne. “I’m consulting with a wedding #photog studio selling against a studio doing $500 weddings. Our new ad – ‘We fix $500 wedding photography.’ “ While I would normally ignore the “controversy” surrounding the heated discussion that followed, I soon learned that my friend @mitzs had received some harsh words via direct message from Scott. I have never met @ScottBourne but I do feel his tweets with @mitzs could have been more civil. Let me go on record and say, “Yo Scott! What up with dat? A bit rude ya know.” If you need to get up-to-speed read @mitzs blog post about professionalism (NOW with tons of comments) then @ScottBourne blog response to the topic of cheap photography, and if you want my opinion on the subject then read my articles on How Much Are You Worth? or Understand Art & Business 101 and finally Forbes & Crowdspring Fire-up Designers

My point today is not to defend or attack anyone, but highlight the shortcomings of communicating via status updates which have evolved from longer written communication via blogs or email. Maybe you’ve been in the workplace long enough to recall HR presentations about proper email etiquette. The primary focus of these presentations was to make employees aware that the written word is often literally absorbed by the reader, and applied wit or sarcasm can quickly be misunderstood. Email evolved to include emoticons, asterisked salutations *smile* even SMS lingo to help convey the tone of a message. The fact is the subtly of vocal inflection is something we easily forget about in the written word. How many times have you received an email you thought was funny, but when read literally by someone else they didn’t get it? “Oh, you’d have to know John to understand.”

It’s now 2010, and email is still used, but SMS messaging is becoming more prevalent. Twitter & Facebook require you to get your point across in 140 characters. In Scott’s blog post today, he responds to the controversy by stating, “I repeat, I was half-joking. I knew it might be a bit controversial given the fact that people who inhabit social media tend to be reactionary and don’t always stop and think before they react. (Me included) But I guess I wasn’t prepared for death threats – again.” Basically, without the context of Scott’s conversation, the statement by itself rubbed a few folks the wrong way. Conversations have only escalated into a large flame war via blogs, comment boxes, tweets & the like. With that in mind here are a few guidelines for communicating in the short form:

1. Learn to use emoticons, gestures or a simple LOL to convey humor, sarcasm, wit, or otherwise not serious statement. “Babies–the other white meat.” will be read literally no matter how absurd that sounds by thousands of folks. Sure, you can argue only the stupid ones without a sense of humor, but you only avoid stupid people by living in a vacuum.

2. Have a lot to say, include a link to a blog post on the topic. This won’t prevent people from flaming you, but at least your status updates show proof of your intentions.

3. If you’re going to DM someone via Twitter, have the decency to follow them so they can DM you back. This promotes a bit of good will, and perhaps a private conversation might (I said might) stay private.

4. Don’t jump on someone for a single “rogue” tweet. Take a moment to read their Twitter stream to see if the statement falls into a larger context. Simply put, maybe that conversation has NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU.

5. Don’t make it personal. Sure you’re getting in some zingers right now, but what happens when you’re reminded of your transgressions later? Passionately arguing a point does not require aggressively attacking the person involved in your discussion.

6. Don’t take it personally. We’re all adults. “Sticks & stones…” and all that stuff. We’ve all been disappointed by folks we admire, those who didn’t meet our expectations. Social media opens up a new world of expression, but it doesn’t hold you hostage. Everyone is free to unfollow or unfriend whoever they choose. You can’t change other people, but you CAN make a change.

This isn’t the first nor will it be the last time a difference of opinion leads to obstinate debate. Strong willed opinions with good intentions tend to get overshadowed by loud-mouthed voices filled with vitriol & angst. That’s why I love United States. Where else can such a dysfunctional, diverse group of people mix themselves into the melting pot of American greatness?

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  • randy January 25, 2010   Reply →

    Excellent post. You hid the proverbial nail on the head! I have traded messages with both @scottbourne and @mitzs about this via twitter, but what I really wanted to tell them is summarized in your blog post here. This should be required reading for all twitters πŸ˜‰ I think this whole thing could have been avoided if Scott had used a πŸ˜‰ in his original tweet instead of later saying he was half-joking.
    Keep up the good work!

  • brad January 25, 2010   Reply →

    This is all grand, however I also feel that Scott nailed it as well.
    It is not Scott’s fault for the mis-interpretation of others because of their lack in being able to Think before they act and/or respond.
    Scott’s info is matter-of-fact, and an appropriate wake-up-call for real pros to better educate their existing and/or potential clients.
    Would you honestly expect him to “sugar coat” the issue so that it is “politically correct” and not have any impact at all?
    It’s up to YOU how YOU interpret the information and utilize it. How about learning from it and helping to better the situation vs. complaining about it?
    Keep the good points only, why waste your time otherwise? πŸ˜‰

    • A.J. Wood January 25, 2010   Reply →

      I agree Scott wrote a well-informed article, and yes, perhaps the firestorm that brewed is not entirely his fault. However, I do feel that if you’re going to challenge someone via DMs you should allow for an appropriate DM response. Also, I don’t believe that personal attacks on any level help to make an argument.

      Not everyone who disagrees with you is an idiot.

      <sarcasm>Except for Bob. We all know Bob is an idiot.</sarcasm>

  • egower January 25, 2010   Reply →

    Thanks for taking the time to write this article. Very good.

  • ~Tye January 26, 2010   Reply →

    BINGO! AJ very well said!

    (The following is generalized because there are more people involved in these behaviors than Mr. Bourne alone… who is a prime target for public ridicule because he is so publicly/widely known)

    (REPEAT! This is not directed at any one person, it is highly generalized and I am not pointing any fingers, just pointing out a few thoughts as topic of discussion. πŸ™‚ )

    When someone attacks behind closed doors, then blocks you so you can’t respond, makes me want to call *intentional foul*. Redirect of attention from the “Real” problem doesn’t solve the “Real” issue. Getting defensive and lashing out, also makes me want to scream *you brought this on yourself*. If everyone stood up and took a little responsibility for their actions instead of playing *cover it up*, people wouldn’t get so bent on private behavior that is contradictory to a persons public behavior.

    I personally was flamed by several individuals over something that I had claimed full responsibility for, my fault, *so-n-so* were great, *so-n-so* does great things for this community, I apologized to everyone whom I may have offended and “said” people and their followers still called names and made threats against me in DM’s. When I see this kind of blatant bad behavior, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    It all leaves me with the question: “If it was all jokingly/sarcastic, then why have all traces from these feeds been cleared?”

    No matter what is going on right now, I feel that in the end we all need to be accountable and take responsibility for our own actions, because look at the impact “we” (one individual) can have on so many people. Just a few thoughts.

  • mitzs January 26, 2010   Reply →

    I don’t believe Scott was joking at all. If he was, why would he post 5 mins later, if you have a 10 dollar head then by a 10 dollar helmet? This argument has nothing to do with money. It has to do with someone who thinks they can walk over anyone they please if they don’t think the same as him. He doesn’t even try to see where someone is coming from in their thinking. Does he go, I see what your thinking but here is the flaw in that. Or even, I don’t agree with that and here is why? No, he goes on the defense and attacks people, tries to belittle, bully, or insults them into submission. You call this the actions of a professional trainer? And even though he has lost followers and stuff over this. Has he learned any lesson at all? No, he will not even take responsibilities for his action. Instead he blogs that we are lazy and untalented. How would he know? The man has never ever seen my work. Nor does he know anything of my work ethics. I was told just a couple of hours ago he is now calling us liars in his twitter feed even though I have proof of what he has said. He represent his self and his writing in a false way. He knows nothing of my work ethics or my work. Yet he writes as if he has study it and it didn’t come up to scratch? As for severing up fries. Well, I have been a manager at both Micky D’s and Hardees. It is honest hard work and I am not ashamed of that. My point to all this? He is still attacking people, he is still insulting people and calling them names like he is in 3rd grade. But more importantly he is skipping right around the real issue of how mentally abusive he is to others.

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