Monday, July 28, 2008

Civility 2.0

I am finding it more and more difficult to decide what to Blog, Tweet, Status Update, Wall Post and I don't even have a word for what I do in! in short I am experiencing a Social Network Overload of Tools (or SNOT for short) Too often I resort back to eMail, with the resulting loss of Knols.

One reason for my difficulty was exemplified in my real world existance this afternoon at TMO's (But you would need to read my Martian Observer Blog to relate that label to anything) Suffice to say that the two of us were deeply engaged in a rich and varied dialogue on the wonders of Everything 2.0 (a numeric label that he hates incidentally) During this wide ranging discourse I was watching the face of his spouse known as SWMBO, waves of different looks from sheer disinterest, boredom, and frustration washed across her visage. I believe it was TMO who first offered to change the subject, and we got the very dangerous response "It's alright.... I'm used to it!" Needless to say we changed topic immediately, neither of us being totally neanderthal!

The issue: We were not being Civil, in fact we were being plain rude!
The subject matter of our discourse did not match the audience present.

I have thus developed a communications model making use of the G8 Traffic Light Protocol, (which is my favourite classification tool comprising 4 colours White, Green, Amber and Red. )

Imagine you are in a Restaurant and you have 4 means of Communication:


Green=Talk Loud Enough So The Whole Table Can Hear

Amber=Talk to the persons either side of you


Apply the right Traffic Light Colour to each of the following communications
"Shall we all split the bill?"


"You touch me again like that and I will tell your partner!"

"What are you both ordering, I'm going for the steak"

The above exercise did not include the more complicated topic or group based segmentation, but hopefully showed how easy it is to classify communication type in the real world.

In the more virtual worlds of social networking we have just one communication type and that is SHOUT. Unless one switches back to email where we have a number of techniques ranging from type of addressee (To: cc: and bcc:) to group lists and the Subject Line that allow us to target our messages, and thus be more civil.

Social Networking Tools have not yet evolved Civility Features, this blog is hopefully the start of a common design pattern that will allow all developers to develop "civil" tools.

The colours are basically a form of Meta Data.
WHITE= Public Broadcast equivalent to SHOUT
GREEN= All Community Members equivalent to talking to the whole table.
AMBER= Defined Group(s)= Normal Voice between a few people
RED= Defined Individual(s)= Whisper

Title and Category fields would be an additional set of parameters that allows effective decision consume/notconsume from the audience/reader

I look forward to avoiding the need of going to so many places.... or feeling less restricted.


  1. The meta-data you refer to might be thought of as a form of signaling or as the outbound version of advertising your presence.

    You want to qualify what you say. There are number of dimensions that might be relevant beyond just the audience. There is the criticality of the communication. There is the extent to which action is required. There is the degree to which the recipient should hold the information closely. You may wish to get positive confirmation of message received and acted upon. You may also want to indicate that you are teasing ;-)

    Twitter has some of this in the form of DM. When you reply to someone it has a bit of Amber to it, whilst allowing others to watch if they are interested.

    The subject line in emails can be used to differentiate messages, such as through a preface of FYI: to the subeject.

    The more general principle here is that your transmission needs to take the receive into explicit account, not treat as an after thought.

  2. Andrew McAfee also touches on this in his post at

    He believes that there is room for signaling about intent and content.

    He refers to EnTwitter as Twitter for the Enterprise.


Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts...