Saturday, August 15, 2009

"Twitter value" is NOT an oxymoron

It comes up in conversation every day. OK ... mea culpa ... I usually bring it up. I drop some "Tw" word and sheepishly cringe as I wait to see the recipient's reaction to this bombshell, which unveils the fact that I do something so patently insane as frivolously wasting my time on social media.

Occasionally, the recipient's lack of surprise is a surprise to me. For those few (such as @dkhare), my relief must be palpable; for everyone else, I need a stock answer to "Why??" -- preferably convincing.

Twitter value 1: Welcome to my neighborhood

There are real people behind the avatars, and I get to know them 140 characters at a time. I gravitate to wonderful, smart individuals with interesting things to say. Six months of careful selection and pruning have garnered me a personalized, interactive network of techies, scientists, professors, business professionals, visualization designers, transportation experts, and lots of geospatial geeks.

Wandering around the neighborhood is as simple as clicking an icon on my phone and reading what's up. I engage Twitter in waiting rooms, on the bus, when I'm the first to arrive for a meeting, and whenever my husband picks up the remote.

Some of my Twitter friendships are growing into LinkedIn professional connections. @JasonBirch correctly predicted the lines would blur. Remember, these are real people and the conversation balances sharing interesting information and life observations/events (such as the birth of @GisPathway's geobaby). I don't care what they had for lunch, because I'm not a foodie, but I'll gladly share in the celebration of new jobs and sympathize with the trials of a challenging day. The best analogy may be water cooler conversations.

Twitter value 2: You can contribute

Everyone has skills and experiences that can be helpful to others. Everyone can be important in some sphere of Twitter connections. What is your special expertise?

Anecdotally, I found the joy of contribution my first week on Twitter. I haven't taught courses in years, but Twitter let me discuss strategies like active learning with @DonBoyes and suggest specific techniques I had used.

A common strategy for giving back on Twitter is to provide niche industry news with related links. You can do that. Retweeting (aka sharing the Twitter luv) can be win-win-win. Be viral with the best of what you read to benefit those who read you - the first win. Validate and credit the original poster - the second win. Give back; contribute value; be important - the third win. You can do that, too.

Twitter value 3: Craft your personal brand

My heart goes out to friends and family who are out of work. Personal branding and professional connections are especially important to them; however, standard advice is to establish this critical foundation before you need a job.

When you Google your name, how many links come up? How old are they? How relevant are they to your current interests and skills? Do you like what a prospective employer would learn about you?

Twitter provides an opportunity to publicly demonstrate your personality. Are you a gadget guru, incisively opinionated, or a peace-maker? Show the world just by being yourself, but avoid tweeting confidential company information, directly or indirectly. My personality, as discoverable on Twitter, is always real and always current. If you believe Twanalyst, I'm a Boffin. :0)

Twitter value 4: Learn something relevant

Twitter complements news alerts and blogs feeds. Browsing tweets gives you a sixth sense. For example, you can maintain a feel for multiple perspectives on divisive issues.

I regularly learn about new resources (tools, research, data) that are orthogonal to immediate interests, but come in handy, later. I hear experiences of early adopters and join in collaborative assessment. I share the excitement of new releases and vicariously attend conferences via Twitter.

If you're curious or need help, post a question to your followers. Request advice on which technology is best. Ask something off topic. Oddly, I was able to help @SMCSeattle with the name of a sticker company this week.

Won't you be my neighbor?

One lucky, pre-Twitter conversation with @SirChasm convinced me that we were birds of a feather because we ranged easily over a broad spectrum of philosophical and technical topics. We took the opportunity to maintain a connection and I am thankful for the initial serendipity.

A fitting bio and tweets create a public presence on Twitter that invites such serendipity. Searching for relevant others through keywords and hashtags short-circuits the need for serendipity.

For Twitter primers, check out How to be a good dog on Twitter and the Twitter FAQ. If you think I would add value to your neighborhood, you can find me @GeoEntelechy.

You be the judge

Is this convincing?

Do you know of other articles or posts to which I should point my skeptical friends?

What is your favorite example of Twitter value?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

How: To Tweet, or Not To Tweet

Twitter confounds many with an unnerving freedom to say anything to everyone. It repels others with embarrassingly childish language (tweeps, professional twits, tw*) and popularity-contest customs (retweeting, follower counting, #followFriday.) It's no wonder that my friends have difficulty resolving the frivolity of extreme life-casting (here's a picture of my lunch*****) with my insistence of professional and business value.

If you are on the fence about whether to tweet, or not to tweet, I advise the following steps:

1) Hey, Mikey... try it, you might like it

2) Do the hardest parts first: user name, picture, and bio (it's only 160 characters)

3) Follow people you know

4) Search for keywords in your field to find interesting people to follow

5) Listen and learn. It may take a while to become comfortable with the culture and traditions. Following @mashable or @Twitter_Tips may help.

6) Tweet carefully. The personal and interactive nature of Twitter have supplanted any interest of mine in overly passive TV. To reap those benefits, you need to become part of the community, so say something; however, deleted is not really deleted, so remember that your tweets become a semi-permanent part of your personal or corporate brand.

7) Decide on the level of time commitment you wish to make to this community and follow through. Note: I'm still on this step. :O)

In case you have my proclivity to research, here are a few of my favorite relevant sites:

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Reflections on DevSummit

"Go deep." That was my mandate as I headed down to the ESRI Developer Summit. Fully cognizant of my fortune as companies tighten their belts and impose travel restrictions, I disconnected from the office and determined to extract as much value as possible from my time in Palm Springs. To those less fortunate, I will relate three elements of that experience: social media, web mapping, and SQL Server.

Twitter and Social Media
Last year, I increased involvement with social media, but I still call my efforts experimental. I expected Twitter to lose my interest within a week, but I find myself regularly evangelizing its rewards. Case-in-point: a pre-summit Tweet-up arranged by DTS-Agile. (Thanks @dbouwman.) Putting people with names and avatars made subsequent tweets more personal and encouraged a greater sense of community throughout the conference. Live tweeting was limited, but interesting, and enabled a non-attendee, @kvangork to counter a presenter's image format recommendations in real-time. However, I'm on the fence about whether my time would have been better spent creating reviews.

Web Mapping
There were copious sessions on the web APIs from ESRI including ADF, REST, javascript, Flex, and Silverlight. I walked away with a much better understanding of the options and keys to an appropriate selection. ESRI expects to put the recorded sessions online in the next week or so. If you wish to dive into the web mapping APIs, I suggest starting with David Chappell's keynote and then proceeding based on your intended uses and developer areas of expertise. ESRI's online resources for these APIs provide many useful samples from which to extract code. Additionally, I found the Open Layers presentation a refreshing perspective.

SQL Server
"Working Effectively with the Geodatabase Using SQL" presented useful tips for working with native spatial types and spatial indexing. Details on the ESRI integration of these types was helpful. However, my unrequited desire is the ability to integrate/register SQL Server views into ESRI tools (provided the SRIDs match and feature types are compatible with the geodatabase data model). A serendipitous complement to this session and to reading Beginning Spatial with SQL Server 2008 was a brief visit with Spatial Ed and Seattle area GISers at the airport prior to departure.

Final Note
The extended schedule kept me engaged and exhausted. Even so, there were presentations I missed: slides from GeoWeb Community Development have pointed me to some helpful new resources including an ESRI account, and I look forward to the viewing Effective Geodatabase Programming when it is posted.

Recorded sessions are now available.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Free Social Networking Buttons

Here is my "Hello World" to social media and an exercise in learning more about GIMP. My name is embedded in the GIF comment, so that should be sufficient attribution. First I created flat buttons. Here they are in case you would like to take and modify them:

Then, I selected the background color area and used lighting effects to get the shine on the final buttons:


Monday, March 2, 2009

geo-what? pseudonym explained

My pseudonym, GeoEntelechy, has its roots in Greek metaphysics.

Aristotle's "entelechy" is a wonderfully concise term meaning that the purpose lies within. It neatly wraps up his concept of the ultimate goal as a pulling force inherent inside a person, thing, society, ... On an individual level, it resonates with self-actualization (Maslow's hierarchy of needs), finding yourself, and living up to your potential.

I prefix entelechy with "geo" to focus on the purpose of place. Built (and natural) environments constrain how place may be used. Categorizing places into an urban ontology relies as much on function as form. For example, an office building and an apartment building primarily differ in their use. A highway is not fully a highway except when in use.

GeoEntelechy reminds me:
1) Where constrains the domains of who, what, when, why, and how.
2) Place changes over time, and there is value in guiding these changes.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

MetaBlog: multiple identity disorder?

Should I long for the simple days of the unix whoami command -- a dozen years ago, back when online chat rooms failed to keep my interest? Now, I'm relying on the unexpectedly useful skill of creating Dungeons and Dragons character identities. The crafting of each of my multiple identities is driven to varying degrees by social networking tools, how others are using the tool, and elements of myself that need an expressive outlet. I need to understand friendship in each context and tailor my content contributions to each identity and audience. This is complicated!


First, I decided to make a concerted effort to catch up with my cohort from graduate school. The mutually beneficial appeal of a site that would track current contact information and make additional business connections was a good excuse and strategic method for reconnecting. With a flurry of Google searches and a barrage of invitations my network grew and interconnected wonderful colleagues, classmates, and family members with interesting careers. I already had this public identity tied in a neat little bow, my resume, so barrier to entry was low.

  • whoami = resume
  • friend = people with jobs
  • content = resume & changes in job status
  • fulfillment = maintain and nurture my professional network


My teen cousin borrows my phone to check his Facebook. Co-workers talk about it. I thought I had outgrown my e-chatty stage and was hesitant to commit to an excessive time sink, but success with LinkedIn had weakened my resolve. I care about these people enough to empathize when they are hurting and share in their joys. I want to define myself as a human within this community, but am not ready to put my life under an electronic microscope.

  • whoami = limited personal profile
  • friend = people to whom I'd be willing to address a personal e-mail
  • content = telephone conversations I wouldn't be embarrassed to have on a bus
  • fulfillment = feeling of community, being close to those who are distant


When I found myself arguing the value of mini-blogging with “I read it someplace,” it was time to extend my networking to Twitter. The limited syntax for explicitly defining identity avoids guiding you to preordained use cases. Identity and friendship are fluid rather than static properties here, so current interpretations of myself may not hold over time.

Right now, I am drawn to the freedom of tweeting on my eclectic variety of interests. As a researcher, I am a collector of perspectives and have studied extensively in 4 fields. Perhaps an affinity for “wearing” different contexts causes me to fracture my online selves more than most people. Ironically solving an identity crisis with an identity, I intend to use my current Twitter account to pull together interdisciplinary interests. Somewhere, out there, is someone who will understand the jargon and vocabulary.

  • whoami = content and friends
  • friend = people with something interesting to say
  • content = anything interesting to me
  • fulfillment = customized headlines, new interest-based connections, interdisciplinary expression


Currently, my blog plays a supporting role to Twitter. The format is equally open and serves up detail where headlines and links to existing websites are insufficient. I express in original prose analyses, explanations, book reviews, whatever.

  • whoami, etc. = reference pointer to Twitter identity


This constellation will flex and change. Will I create a private family story/photo album blog? Should I splinter my various interests into different Twitter identities? What level of time will I invest in each arena. What tool will I use to streamline tweet perusal?

Whew! That's exhausting.

Now, it's your turn. whois ______ ?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Resume thrown at