Thursday, September 15, 2011

Where are you now?

I recently received an invitation from someone I have never met to join the social networking site WAYN, an acronym for “Where Are You Now?”

My first response is, “Who wants to know?” Next, “Who cares?”

WAYN wants to know where I am now. Foursquare wants me to check in on my mobile phone wherever I go. And Facebook wants to know my status. 

The very essence of social networking websites is to share with friends what you’re doing, watching, reading, listening to, photographing, buying, thinking, planning. Most of these friends you may never even have met face to face or not seen in years. And there are many, many flavors of social sites, just check the growing list on Wikipedia.

Yet as a nation, we are so worried about privacy that we enact the U.S. HIPAA Privacy Rule, unleashing a bureaucracy of forms to sign, virtually unread, at every medical office you visit. Thanks to HIPAA, the nursing home could only tell me an aunt’s “status had changed” instead of informing me she had passed away in her sleep. At least her privacy was safe, while I drove like a madwoman to see if I could reach her bedside in time.

Yet we have IDs and passwords and security questions and special images for dozens of websites where we conduct business, because transactions contain sensitive information we never want to share. Too bad hackers are finding ever more insidious ways to break through these barriers.

Yet our cable provider now offers a comprehensive home security system so we can watch streaming video of our home when we’re away from home and even get text and email alerts when someone comes in the door or the system is armed or disarmed.That's how closely we could be watching our home for intruders...or our family members.

And yet…and yet…we willingly give away to the world who we are, where we are, what we’re doing, both in word and visuals. So much for personal privacy.

I guess freedom really is just another word for nothing left to lose.

P.S: In the interest of full disclosure, you can follow me on this blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, or  ;-)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Write like you (should) speak

Plain English. Simple language. Conversational style. I'm all for it.

Often, this approach is called "writing like you speak" -- advice that doesn't take into account how some people talk.

One guy I know sounds like a corporate memo, even when speaking to his kids -- with planned discussions and agreements about coming to an understanding.

Another is the opposite, sounding more like a kid (OMG!) than an adult.

And others ramble on and on (and on), without any sure path toward clear meaning or interesting storytelling.

What's a writer to do? These postings have some observations and suggestions:
  • Don't Write Like You Talk by Robert Warren offers several solid tips about writing in a conversational tone.
  • How to Write Like You Talk by Richard Skaare has three recommendations for upgrading the quality of written conversations.
  • Miss Lola writes like she speaks and says, "both are lacking discipline."
Here's what I suggest if your speaking or writing style are somewhat suspect: Write like other people talk -- people you find interesting, persuasive, easy to understand. If you copy their effective communication styles long enough, you will surely end up creating one that's distinctly your own.

And when that happens, I want to hear all about it.

Peace out.