I originally posted this Nov. 30, 2007, on my Training Tracks blog at the American Press Institute. Since API’s web archives are gone, I am reposting it here because it is part of a series of three blog posts from 2007-8, one of which I mentioned in my keynote address for the Arizona Newspapers Association today. It originally was published without photos (I don’t think we could publish photos in that blogging software, but maybe I just didn’t know how). I have updated the links and added photos. I’ve added one update in the text and a lengthy update at the end. I think this was my first blog post about social media.
Can a graying guy who can operate a typewriter, recognizes a pica pole and remembers the smell of molten lead figure out the social-networking world of Web 2.0? I’m trying.
In the last few months, I’ve been adding friends on Facebook, connections on LinkedIn and sharing (presuming that someone has actually found them) bookmarks on Facebook plunge. Almost right away, people started finding me. This time I wasn’t passive. I used Facebook’s search for college classmates and found a woman who had worked on the staff of the Daily Skiff with me more than 30 years ago at Texas Christian University. We quickly reconnected, exchanged catching-up emails and became Facebook friends. I also found a former city editor with whom I’ve been sort of out of touch and reconnected with some other former colleagues.
While I found a lot of professional acquaintances on Facebook, I also found personal evidence that Facebook participation still has a wide generation gap: Of my 14 brothers, sisters, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, I was the second to post a Facebook profile. I quickly added my sister-in-law (the youngest of the 14) as a friend. However, I found 10 nephews and nieces on Facebook (interestingly, though, none of my three sons; I’m not sure what that says about them or me). I did not invite any of my nieces or nephews to become friends; I’d read or heard somewhere that the presence of old folks like me is taking some of the luster off Facebook and MySpace for younger users. And I’m curious how long (if ever) it will take them to notice me and invite me to be their friends (can an uncle be a friend?).
I decided it was time to be more active with LinkedIn, too. I spent a couple hours one morning and a few more minutes here and there seeking to connect with former colleagues and fellow trainers. I checked the connections of each of my connections, finding editors, reporters, trainers, a couple more college classmates – 97 in all (with nearly 50 invites outstanding, I expect to top 100 by the end of the day). As new connections accepted my invitations, I’d check their connections and send another invite or two.
The differences between the two platforms is clear — Facebook is more fun, though you can use it professionally, and LinkedIn is quite serious and professional, though it is fun to trace the web of connections and find some blasts from your past.
I don’t have much more than my résumé and connections on LinkedIn. Every time I check in, my profile page reminds me that I’m only 85 percent complete. It recommends that I seek some recommendations. But I don’t feel right asking anyone for recommendations. That asks more from them than just the click it takes to connect. And they’d probably start some speculation that I’m job-hunting. And if my boss looked at my profile and saw it littered with recommendations, would he presume I was seeking a better gig? I want to learn how they work, though, so I’ll probably write some recs for some of my contacts and see whether they reciprocate.
On Facebook, I comfortably mix the personal and professional (a photo album of my family and one of me in action professionally). I added apps (see, I’m already too cool to call them applications) that let me finally finish that map of my professional travels (a couple, actually, one of cities and one of states and countries). I’ve joined a few groups, one by invitation and four by curiosity – American Copy Editors Society, Exploding Newsroom, Journalists and Facebook, New Media and Trust Me. I’m a Journalist – though I don’t know yet how groups work. Steve Outing recommends that journalists maintain separate personal and professional Facebook pages, but so far maintaining one is plenty for me. (2012 update: Facebook doesn’t allow separate personal and professional accounts, but you can have a professional journalist page and/or allow subscriptions to your public updates on your personal account. I do both.)
I use the same photo on my LinkedIn and Facebook profile pages – me in jeans and a T-shirt, standing by a concrete letter B outside the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany. With the self-critical eye that most of us view our own photos, I like that my hat shades my face, though I notice the gut pooches out a bit under the T-shirt. It fits perfectly on the Facebook page but looks a bit light for the résumé approach of LinkedIn. I’m wondering which photo to use on LinkedIn. I’m not wild about my API mug (way too close) or even the best photo of me in action as a trainer. The photo of me interviewing Mikhail Gorbachev is a professional shot, and it’s a great photo to have, but wouldn’t using that on my profile page be way too pretentious (not to mention dropping the name just now)? So the Gutenberg shot remains for now (but let me know if you like one of the others).
When I invite people to become connections on LinkedIn, I ask them to tell me how they find it useful. I’ll ask the same question of my professional Facebook friends. I’ll share some of their responses in a future column – er, entry – but this one’s already getting too long. And I’ll report later on my experiences with MySpace, YouTube, Second Life and whatever comes next. That LinkedIn connection I can’t remember meeting just sent me an invitation to join something I never heard of, Plaxo Pulse.
An old guy can run pretty hard into the social-networking world and still not feel like he’s catching up.
2007 update: In the six hours since I posted this column/blog, I have (as predicted) reached 100 LinkedIn contacts, created my first Facebook group (Washington media trainers), received my first LinkedIn recommendation (I didn’t ask for it) and received my first Facebook poke (I’m not sure what that’s all about). Most of that happened with no work on my part, while I attended a four-hour meeting.
2012 update: Wow, I laughed pretty hard reading this. I presume many of my current posts will seem as funny in 2017. Where to start? I won’t update the number of LinkedIn contacts now, but it’s substantially more than 100. I did write recommendations for some people and many of them did write recommendations back. LinkedIn also is fairly irrelevant to my daily work, not even in the top five social media tools I use most now. And speaking of social media, did you notice I never used that term (but by the following summer, I promoted Jamie Kelly to be social media guide at the Cedar Rapids Gazette)? And when was the last time you heard a reference to Web 2.0?
As minor as LinkedIn is in my current social media use, I can’t recall the last time I used MySpace or Plaxo, though I still have outdated accounts with each (not sure I remember passwords to update them, or whether they would be worth the time). I never did make a Second Life account and can’t recall the last time I heard anyone mention it. But Facebook and YouTube remain key parts of my social media use (used them both several times the day I wrote this update). But I’m not active in any of the Facebook groups mentioned in the 2007 post (haven’t checked to see if they are active).
I’m surprised I didn’t mention Flickr in this post, because that was the first social tool I used heavily (and still is one of my go-to tools).
I also didn’t even refer to Twitter, which I started using almost a month later. I first mentioned Twitter in a blog post in January 2008.
I am now Facebook friends with all my sons and lots of nieces and nephews.
The Gutenberg Museum photo has been retired from avatar use on any active social media profiles, though I still like it (and used it above). My primary photo for most of my social profiles is my TBD mug shot at right, which was better than I look in most photos. Alas, it’s a bit out of date as far as facial hair goes: I had a goatee in that photo, and since grew it out into a full beard and more recently shaved it all off. I need to get a new mug shot on a visit to a newsroom sometime. (In negotiating my departure from TBD, I requested and received rights to the photo.)
As for the Gorbachev photo, I used it as the Timeline photo on my journalist page last year, with the same misgivings I noted in 2007. But it was easily the best photo of me working as a journalist that worked in the tight horizontal hole that Timeline allows. But the pretentiousness issue remains. So I’ll seek your input in a poll: