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May 1, 2009 » 8:52 am

Words and Reputation

Over at the Blue Oxen blog, I wrote about how I’ve incorporated Contextual Authority Tagging (your reputation in context) into my work.    (N5Z)

In the piece, I started using myself as an example. I listed three words that I would use to describe myself in a work context. I then started to contrast this with words that my colleagues might use to describe me. Then I stopped, thinking, “Why make up words that others might use to describe me, when I can get actual words?”    (N60)

Enter Twitter (and by extension, Facebook):    (N61)

Please help with an ad hoc experiment. Reply with three words that describe me. Will blog an explanation and the results.    (N62)

In retrospect, it was an incredibly self-indulgent thing to do. When I do this exercise with groups, it’s anonymous, and all of the participants are doing it for everyone. Neither was true in this case. No one was going to voluntarily say something critical for me, especially without understanding the purpose. Furthermore, I’m usually doing the exercise in a specific context, which is a big part of the point. The beauty (and challenge) of Twitter and Facebook is that my networks there cross all sorts of boundaries.    (N63)

All that said, the exercise was still instructive in many ways:    (N64)

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3340/3490759097_e700bbd3a2.jpg    (N65)

Most words were only used once. The larger words were repeated one other time. This distribution makes sense, given the multiple contexts of my friends and colleagues. One of my friends wrote, barbecue, something that most of my colleagues probably don’t know about me. A few of my colleagues wrote, wiki, which probably wouldn’t come up first for most of my personal friends.    (N66)

No one repeated any of my words, which surprised me. (Can you guess which three words were mine? See my other post for the answer.) The words that folks did choose certainly paint a fuller picture.    (N67)

I love how a few words can tell a rich story. Gabe Wachob contributed “Eugene Lee doppelganger,” is a reference to the parallel lives that Eugene Lee, the CEO of Socialtext, and I seem to lead. (I’m younger, but Eugene has more hair.) My friend, Elizabeth, wrote, “wicked scary smaht,” an oblique reference to our shared ties to the Boston area.    (N68)

Eugene Chan wrote, “curious, competitive, cunning,” a few days after I talked trash with his six year old son in a vicious game of Uno. The good folks at WikiHowl called me “myopic,” hopefully a reference to my eyesight and not my vision. (They are also my new favorites for calling me, “cute.”)    (N69)

Which brings me to my final point. There were a few cheeky comments (Cindy and Scott, that means you!), which made me laugh, and there were a lot of incredibly nice comments, which… well, which felt good. I’m a fairly well-balanced individual with a strong sense of self (“confident” was one of the words that was repeated), and I don’t need to hear this stuff to know that my friends and colleagues care about me. Still, it’s nice to hear. It made my day that much better. And that’s probably the greatest thing about the exercise. If at worst, all it does is elicit a few nice comments from your peers, well, that’s a great thing. We don’t do that often enough.    (N6A)

Many thanks to all of you!    (N6B)

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