Friend Cautiously

My friends over in the Inspirational niche are fond of saying “Life Is What You Make It”,  but this is especially true of one’s online experience.    Since the long ago bad old days of Compu$erve   (and Holly can correct me if I’m wrong I suspect also GEnie) every user has the right to control what is on their screen.   And no user has the right to dictate another’s participation.   If you do not want to see my avatar and hear my point of view,  you have every right to block me,  so that nothing I say appears in your stream  (and I must say that Facebook has come a long way on this– in the Compu$erve days you could still see where some one had posted in a thread,  although their actual message was  not visible you could still their user ID and the message header– on Facebook it really is like you sat shiva for the person you blocked and they are dead to you and simply do not appear on your screen.   You get an error page if you try to click on their content and you really,  really need never know that the person you have blocked continues to live right there in your same online neighborhood.

I’ve met a great many people who publicly state that they have never blocked anyone.   I’m never entirely sure if this is simple boasting,  by people who have actually used a block button in their time,  whether some folks have a moral hangup that it is not okay to block people or if perhaps some of my friends really are so saintly that they get along with absolutely everyone.  (I am not denying nor discounting this last as a possibility,  though I can’t honestly say I’m betting on it either.)   In my considered opinion,  simply blocking a user whose input you do not value and whom you do not feel you can have a pleasant and productive interchange with is the most polite course of action possible when you run into someone who  “rubs you the wrong way”  or whose attitudes and opinions you find particularly distasteful.    Note that I am not in any way whatsoever suggesting that you block all people who disagree with you.

I have been making and keeping friends online for more than twenty years now.    It was many, many years ago (on a trip to Washington, DC for the March On Washington for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights in 1993 I think) that I first met face to face a large number of people I had chatted with online for a long time.     While I fully understand the phenomenon of new users thinking of the people they chat with on their computer screen are somehow different than or even odder somehow less human than the people they live with,  the people they work with or the people they ride the bus with or go to the movies with. I absolutely positively don’t have separate categories   “online friends”  and  “real friends”.     For me they are all just friends.    I absolutely urge you to block  (or just unsubscribe) anyone who becomes a real negative to your online experience.     And if you find that someone has blocked you,  try to remember that blocking was in fact a great deal more polite than telling you to your face precisely why they do not want you in their life.

Having Fun

 I strongly suspect that I have not actually cycled up yet.   That the good day I had today was more or less just a high point or reprieve in a depression that will continue once I finally go to sleep and wake up again.   I’ve been up for about 28 or 30 hours as I type this.    I actually first went to bed around 9pm last night,  but I couldn’t fall asleep.   And my very thick winter beard  (untrimmed since sometime in the fall) started to itch.    I went to the bathroom,  took a hard look at my face in the mirror and fetched the clippers from the cabinet.

I started at the longest setting, nine,  and clipped my beard away,  going over and over my face while turning the setting a notch closer every now and then.    I used the clipper without the attachment to remove most of my beard,   though I did leave a short mustache and goatee.    I did not in fact actually shave my face,  so there is a layer of stubble on my cheeks and neck.    But I felt ever so much better after my beard trim and shower.    When I came out of the bathroom,   I put on some fresh clothes and rather than try to go back to bed,  logged on to my laptop.     Around 1:30 am,  a good friend who lives just a couple of miles away invited me to come over.     So I spent the night staying up at my friend’s house.      We had a lot of fun hanging out together and I did not come home until after 9am.

I am frankly pleased with myself for getting out of the house.   And thankful that I have such a good friend who lives so nearby.   And whose hours are just as irregular as mine are,  such that I was able to have a great visit and so much fun while most everyone else in this part of the world was asleep.      I really do cherish all of my friends,   both the ones I speak with online and the ones I see face to face.   And I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being one of them.

PS–If the bacon chocolate peanut brittle in the background appeals to you,  click here to order some through a non-affiliate link.

Plus Ca Meme Chose, Plus Ca Change

“Plus ca meme chose,  plus ca change…    Nothing endures, not a tree,  not love,  not even a death by violence.”   John Knowles–  A Separate Peace

The more things change,  the more they stay the same.   Back in 2008 I wrote a post on a blog called Chain Drop titled  With A Little Help From My Friends.    While that blog is no longer there,  I republished that post in 2010 on BrooWaha,  a citizen journalism web site.    And today I found myself thinking that although most of the friends I rely so much upon today are actually different friends than the ones I wrote about four years ago,   most everything I do,  I still do with a (not so) little help from my friends.    I believe the post below remains as relevant as it was in 2008 and in 2010.   Here then I present,  With A Little Help From My Friends:

When I stop to think about it, I realize that for me All social media and social networking and (insert other buzzwords here) all really boil down to one thing. Making friends.

That sounds so simple, too simple really. It has no “secret formula”, no Web 2.0, no sense of having just let all of you in on some big secret. I started blogging because I had fallen into the habit of keeping up with two of my oldest, dearest friends (Hi Ron, Hi Bev) via their blogs and I wanted them to be able to keep up with me too. And I included book reviews in my blog posts almost from the first, because I work at a library and I am genuinely passionate about books and reading.

And then something funny happened. I was looking at my traffic report one day and I noticed that there were people coming in Just to read the book reviews. People I had never met and had never told about my little backwater of the blogosphere. So I started thinking maybe it would be neat to actually promote my blog a little bit. Somewhere or other I found a list of blog directory sites and began submitting my URL to them. A few at time, when I had time. And then one day I got to one of the sites on the list, Blog Catalog. My life, and my blog would never be the same.

I started hanging out on the Blog Catalog discussion boards and soon found myself engaged in conversations with all sorts of really incredible people. Having been involved in many online communities before, I knew instinctively how to ease myself into the group and make friends with people whose virtual company I enjoyed. Honestly, I had no agenda at all in pursuing these friendships. I just gravitated to people that I liked.

When I upgraded my blogspot template and my site went all FUBAR, I didn’t think twice about posting an appeal for help on BC. Though I Was a bit surprised that I soon had two top notch HTML developers fussing over my code and fixing the problem for me. When I casually mentioned that I was thinking about moving my blog to Word Press I was amazed that a buddy offered to host it on his server and set it up for me. When I had questions about how things really work or what I really need to know and do as a fledgling web publisher, I was incredibly gratified to receive expert advice and counsel from business professionals, attorneys, college professors and many, many other people whose expertise would have been far, far beyond my means or reach had it not all been offered in friendship.

And the thing about focusing on making friends with other bloggers is that they Never stop surprising me with their gifts. Which is how it is that I find myself collaborating on what I hope will be one of the hottest new sites in Social Networking with a man I respect enormously and who has already taught me some invaluable lessons about blogging, about life and about friendship.

And my blog? It’s taken a lot of work, quite frankly, but it is really starting to take off. With a tip of my hat to my friend Lucy Dee, I remind you of the old saw about the ten years it takes to become an overnight success. I am well into the first of those ten years. And whatever the other nine point something bring, I’m quite sure that whatever success I enjoy will be due to the help of my friends.

This post was lost to me when the blog died. I recently retrieved it from the Way Back Machine. All of the links in this post are to the Way Back Machine’s January 2008 archive rather than to the actual sites. If you follow any links, remember that you are web surfing in January 2008 rather than today. Also, as you will see the archives saves only limited information and the archives do not in most cases display custom themes and other site specific graphic elements.  I no longer hang out on Blog Catalog,  although many of my friends from that site remain in contact with me on Facebook these days.   My address books (and my friends) are a huge intangible assett that continues to get me access to and assistance from people I could never afford to pay for their professional advice and counsel.

Just Friends (Not Just Facebook Friends)

Anyone who has used Facebook for more than a short while and is not completely closed to accepting friend requests and at least occasionally meeting new people is well aware that there is a big difference between “friends”  and “Facebook friends”.   Even if you are Not in fact a LION* chances are  that your  “Facebook friends”  are an odd mixture of people whom you’ve known in different places and at different times over the years of your life.   I have some good friends who maintain in their minds (and thus in their realities) a very real distinction between  “friends”  and “online friends”.

A buddy recently mentioned to me that he personally will not agree to meet an online friend face to face without first speaking with them on the telephone.    And I know this buddy is hardly alone in that point of view.  (As a hearing impaired person who physically can NOT talk on the phone,  I would be tempted to say something like  “stay the frig away from me you hearing chauvinist”,  except that he is a good friend whom I’ve known for years and who is in fact extremely accommodating about my hearing problem.)   I personally do not make any distinction between  “online friends”  and “friends”.   For me they are all just friends.    After yesterday talking about and linking to a handful of old friends,  I thought that today I would throw a bit of link love to some of my newer friends:

Holly Jahangiri— writer, mom, social media bon vivant and super blogger  is the author of  A Puppy Not A Guppy and several other children’s books as well as the recently released  Innocents And Demons.   Like me,  Holly is an online old-timer going back to the earliest days of Compu$erve and GENIE,  where she was a sysop.   (Sysop is a low tech synonym for indentured servant who runs forums not for pay but to avoid huge online access bills.)   While Holly tells me that she is not a LION* she has over the years built up a huge circle of friends, fans and admirers who visit her personal blog  (It’s All A Matter Of Perspective) and who are now flocking to her newest niche blog The Next Goal.

Tom Cooley is totally drama free.  While he is something of an expert at promoting content  (ask him about Buzzfeed) he tends to be on the quiet side and almost never raises his voice nor gets rankled.  Tom has developed a big interest in aquaponics and along with Michael Q Todd  is one of the founders of #sustainchat which is working to use social media to work on addressing the environmental and social needs of our planet for a sustainable tomorrow.

Jake Kern is a true friend.   With a remarkable eye and hours of research each day,  Jake publishes Inherently Infinite and Intimate a collection of some of the best photography to be found on the interwebz.   Jake has a remarkable gift for understanding people and mediating disputes and is a lot of fun to hang out and shoot the breeze with.    As I said to Dane yesterday  “…the thing of it is, to have friends you have to be a friend. Whatever that means to you. (and your friends)”.

If you haven’t already met these folks,  I urge you to check out their blogs and say hello.   (I assure you none of them bite;  and if Holly threatens to stick Prunebutt on you don’t worry,  he’s imaginary.)   Here’s hoping that your week is going well.

PS–the photo above does NOT depict MY “Facebook friends”  😉

Still Thinking

I first reviewed No One Cares What You Had For Lunch on October 19, 2007,  less than six months after starting the blog which has become Libdrone Book Reviews.     I’ve actually learned a great deal more about blogging than I knew back then,  not long after I published Blogging About Books About Blogging.   I know, for instance that a personal blog is actually a much better niche choice than a book review blog if you set a goal of publishing a new post every single calendar day.    When I started blogging I worked for a large county public library system and was all but literally swimming in some of the greatest new books.     Even with my early concession of deciding that I would   “feature”  rather than review books I found that it took an enormous amount of time and effort to publish a coherent three paragraph post every day about one or more great new books.     It was well less than year into my first blog  that I cut back first to three posts per week and then two posts per week— and even with those lower frequencies I took hiatuses from it at times.   Sometimes planned,   sometimes not.

Even though I wasn’t blogging every day,  I did spend time every day hanging out with other bloggers on sites like Blog Catalog and Entrecard.   Both of which are still there.   Though neither of them now attract the communities of smart, interesting people who made those sites such incredible destinations in their hey days.    Over the years I’ve been a part of so many communities.   First way back when on Compu$erve and then later on MUDS in the early days of the public (text based) Internet,  and then on various websites since.    I’ve learned that businesses come and go.    And the communities which they allow users to form are ultimately very fragile.   Web sites and online communities will inevitably come and go.   But many times the relationships linger.    I still visit Ron and Bev‘s blogs from time to time,  just to see what’s news with them.   Though the Compu$erve forum where we first met has been through just as many changes over the years as we ourselves have  and aren’t really a place to hang out anymore.   I still talk to friends  (mostly on Facebook these days)  like JD and Tiffany whom I first met on Blog Catalog,  although that web site too is still around  but is simply no longer the hot spot of smart, creative people who were going to publish blogs and make a lot of money from doing it.   (HA, HA, HA)

Yet I know no finer men than Dane Morgan (who taught me more about marketing and about respectful disagreement among real friends than anyone else I’ve ever known) or Rich Becker,  one of the most outgoing and friendly people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet who brings the public relations skill set to the world of social networking with a level of intelligent and open discourse that very very few will ever match.        The folks I have linked to in this post are only a small handful of the people whom I have met and gotten to know in the twenty years that I have been online.    I argue that the real value of all that networking is the real human relationships I continue to maintain,  with people I have come to genuinely care about,  in some cases even though we have never actually met face to face.   Someday Facebook and Twitter and any other communications tools you now use today will come to seem as quaint as a 300 baud chat room does,   for those of us old enough to remember such things.

I’ve challenged my friend Michael to visit a number of my old  haunts.   Not because I in any way think that Michael or any of my other new friends  actually need to visit old sites where I once met people who have proved to be incredible friends and friends who have in different ways helped me to become the professional that I am today.     I am not actually against continually trying new tools, new social networks and trying to find the golden nuggets in the chaffs of wheat.    But unless finding those golden nuggets  (rather than writing a book or  publishing a book or creating a successful business for examples) is your primary goal,  no human being can possibly have the time to be on every social web site.   And any business that hopes to do other things  (like turning a profit, perhaps) certainly can not afford to be.

Alan Jobe is the author of  Walking Down The Avenue,  from Libdrone Books.