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How to Communicate (Part II)

If you do a Google search on “how to communicate”, the first result is a post I wrote last April called “Communications 101: How to Communicate Better” looking at the various ways people communicate. Over the past nine months, it has attracted steady traffic – and, much to my surprise, maintained its top Google ranking.

Given there seems to be so much interest, it seems like a good time for an update given the communications landscape has continued to evolve. From a personal perspective, my communications behavior has changed. While I still have a Blackberry, its use has declined because I spend most of my (work) time at the office (PlanetEye) with other people as opposed to working from home or on the go. At the same time, I’ve recently started to use Twitter, although with nowhere near the enthusiasm of some people I’m following.

So let’s look at the popular communication tools:

Twitter: How can you explain the growing popularity of Twitter, a SMS-lite tool that you can use to broadcast 140-character messages to the world. One of the things that I find amazing and puzzling is how much people are willing to share about their lives, right down to the nitty-gritty details that you would assume no one would be interested in. Why has Twitter been embraced in this way? And why do some people furiously Twitter all day?

Where Twitter really shines – at least to me – is how it can be used to highlight interesting content such as blogs and news articles. Depending on who you follow, it can be a valuable tool to discover content you would never have seen. Now, if someone can come up with twitter.icio.us to bookmark all this content for later consumption, that would be great. (For a good read on Twitter, check out Shel Israel’s open letter to the Twitter co-founders, Evan Williams and Biz Stone, while Steve Hodson (aka Twitbox’s inventor) has a good post extolling Twitter’s best feature: simplicity.

Facebook: With 65 million registered users, Facebook is clearly one of the ultimate social networking tools. As a communication tool, it thrives by offering a user-friendly snapshot of what you’re friends are doing. Personally, Facebook’s e-mail service has limited appeal (why e-mail within Facebook if you’ve got several e-mail addresses where people can reach you?). Facebook’s best communication features are the ability to highlight content through posts and news feeds, and the status updates.

That said, I’m finding Facebook less useful these days, maybe because Twitter is more elegant way to get updates on what people are doing and what they’re reading.

E-mail: While it continues to be the “killer app” for digital communications, there seems to be a growing frustration with sheer volume of messages that arrive in peoples’ in-boxes. Ethan Caplan, for example, had a quality rant earlier this week asking for someone to come up with a filtering/prioritization system that would ease the load. Meanwhile, mobile e-mail through the use of the Blackberry and devices such as the iPhone continues to grow.

SMS: Amazing popular, especially with the young’ens and their multi-tasking, short attention span ways.

Telephone calls: Do you ever find yourself sending someone an e-mail rather than calling them? It’s like phone calls have become a hassle to make because they involve more time and effort. That’s just sad given phone calls are more intimate and resonate more. While this trend seems to gaining traction, it is fascinating to see how people are obsessed with talking on their wireless phones while walking, working out, driving, etc.

Video-Conferencing/video phones: After so many years of promising it will be the tool to bridge in-person meetings, phone calls and digital technology, video conferencing is still a second or third-tier tool. You would think, for example, that the young’ens would be all over video-conferencing given their love for SMS and YouTube.

In-person: While digital communication is everywhere, it is difficult not to get the feeling that meeting people is making a comeback. How else can you explain the growing popularity of BarCamp, DemoCamp, et al, as well as the wide variety of conferences? At the mesh conference, which I co-organize, one of the most popular parts of the program were the breaks between keynotes/panels. Why? It’s probably because people get a lot out of personal interaction, and seize the opportunities when they arises.

So, there you go. What are your thoughts? How have your communication habits changed recently?

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  • http://broadcasting-brain.com Mark Dykeman

    Twitter and Facebook were the two biggest communication changes for me, whereas E-Mail is not something that I use much outside of work.

    Twitter is like Facebook’s status messaging on steroids, to the point where Twitter can provide the Facebook status for you.

    Twitter is turning out to be quite a flexible little beast, as you’ve indicated. Folks like Maki (Dosh Dosh), Darren Rowse (Problogger) and Caroline Middlebrook have written great material on how to capitalize on Twitter and, more importantly, all the companion apps that people keep writing. It’s like the proliferation of Facebook apps that seem to double every three months, but far more focused and practical.

  • http://www.stephe.ca Stephe

    What I like about twitter is it isn’t yet crowded by hordes of my past acquaintances, ex-girlfriends and friends of friends (of friends). What I don’t like about twitter is its still largely a community of online insiders. Probably only a matter of time before it REALLY goes mainstream though I suppose. Where is it on the adoption curve – particularly in Canada?

  • http://www.markevanstech.com Mark Evans

    Apparently, we’re behind the Twitter curve according to this blog post:
    http://twitterfacts.blogspot.com/2007/12/first-state-of-twitosphere-in-canada.html

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