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Does this new etiquette still include “Thank You”?

June 23rd, 2005 · 6 Comments

Ben Hammersley’s slides from reboot on Etiquette and the singularity resounded with me. I need a new etiquette. Thank you Ben! [I'm just listening to the audio as I polish this draft.]

David Weinberger’s post No, I’m not keeping up with your blog had the same effect when I read it earlier this week.

In response to him, Scheherazade wrote:

I wonder at the people whose sidebar says “Blogs I Read” or “Blogs I Love” and then lists hundreds of weblogs.  Do they think we don’t know they are lying? 

I do read the blogs in my sidebar. Okay, the sidebar does need to be updated. But I read many more than I’ve listed.

In an attempt to make a temporary simplification during this busy season, I decided to reduce the number of blog feeds in my aggregator, keeping only those bloggers with whom I had had a conversation or other relationship. At the end of my elimination, I still had 300 + feeds. The circle of acquaintances is growing. I like people. I want relationships. I’m happy to find friends. But I also find myself in a dilemma.

Email puts me in a similar situation. I’m tired of reading posts where I’m told I’m rude because I don’t answer all my email the same day. I’m tired! Many days I don’t have time to work on my computer productively until 10 pm, due to the needs of my family. Many nights I sacrifice sleep so I can get to the bottom of the InBox. And then I stumble through the next day like a zombie mom, unencumbered by etiquette guilt but burdened by sleep deprivation, eyelids heavy, trading one weight for another.

Our connections on the internet allow for immediate communication. Unlike a paper letter, I can know my written words were received within seconds. But this same instant messaging (to use one term to cover many) is messy. If I receive 40 emails but only have time to answer 20, which ones do I choose? Where do my obligations lie?

Part of the beauty of blogging is its freedom. Many of us are blogging in our spare time. It’s a choice we’re making. A gift we’re giving. Yet it’s easy for the obligation to hang heavy. Presents are often spoiled by expectations. Parties are busted by the police. Legality cancels love.

I want people reading my blog to want to read my blog. And I hope we all can extend understanding and grace for each other, aware of our humanity, our limitations and our complex life outside a computer screen. I want people to keep my feed and read my posts not due to any obligation or burden of our relationship. Guilt trips can take you places but they don’t go to the right destination. I want people to come here because they have fun here. And as David wrote, I want to be released from other’s expectations. Do unto others as you would have them do to you. If you love someone, set them free.

Ben Hammersley’s call for a new etiquette is appropriate. We need new rules to know how to negotiate these new types of relationships and opportunities. Perhaps I am rude. [What is rude now?] But I’m doing my best to love those who are my first priority, my family and friends whom I can hug and help. Everyone else has to settle for second place. Sometimes that may mean days or weeks before I have time to write a reply, type a comment or post a link. I don’t know whether Miss Manners would approve.

But I do think she would approve of expressing gratitude. I hope that our new etiquette still has space and place to say thank you. I’m in debt to a few people. Maybe even a few hundred people. And I hope it will never be rude to say Thank You.

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6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ed // Jun 23, 2005 at 4:48 pm

    I think there are a lot of people out there who are unfamiliar with aggregators. I don’t think they realize that you *can* follow hundreds of blogs because a) not every blog gets updated every day and b) you don’t actually have to visit all those web sites looking for new content. Also for the RSS-hoses like The Huffington Post, Boing Boing or Slashdot, an aggregator allows you to quickly scan the subject lines looking for interesting topics.

    What’s a good FAQ on aggregators to use as a reference?

  • 2 Nicole Simon // Jun 24, 2005 at 1:04 am

    It is not only about the tools and to know about feedreaders. Of course on can follow so many feeds. I just trimmed my list down to around 650 blogs, having at least 30 feeds of them being around my own blogwork to follow it. Not that I could not follow the other 300 feeds, but more like an experiment if I would be missing anything.

    It just not for everybody.

    As I found, there is a profound difference in people how they write and read. Some people *need* to read every tiny bitsy word – they read it once and nearly can memorized the piece.

    Other people, like me, scim more through, forget at least 3/4.

    The first group is more likely to tell you how swamped with email they are – having about 10 mails for the whole day in their inbox. They are more likely to use their bookmarks to go through the 10 blogs they read.

    They don’t need an aggregator, because often, they can’t handle more than some blogs.

    It is a similar reason, why “real writers” often hate blogs or if they blog, blog seldom. But then, very crafted, very carefully selected in words. Whereas other people (like me) blog happy several times a day. (Not so worded, of course).

    Saying “stop lying to me” just means, that this person takes her behaviour and assumes everybody else is not capable of doing so. It would be good etiquette to show her, how other people tick.

    They don’t lie. They are just different.

  • 3 Lucy // Jun 24, 2005 at 12:17 pm

    LOL! Yep, you are the first person that comes to mind as “rude”!

    Have you lost your mind? And what kind of person demands immediate return on email? THATS kinda rude. Rather like demanding to be the most important person in your life, which is odd if they’re not married to you. And, seemingly, you’re married to a guy thats not that demanding even if he IS married to you :)

    BTW, if you get email from me and don’t respond … gee, could it be you have a life? vacation? flu? children? dead hard-drive? herds of armadillos in your yard? (sorry, they’ve been on my mind lately :)

  • 4 Lei/cottontimer // Jun 26, 2005 at 10:14 am

    I understand where you’re coming from. I recently joined the About Weblogs Network (http://www.aboutweblogs.com) as the genetics and public health blogger and a contributing blogger to the kids blog there. Increasing my blogging responsibilities has meant that I am no longer able to read everyone’s blogs as carefully as I did before nor am I able to leave as many comments. It has sent me on some guilt trips, but in the end, it came down to priorities.

    As for e-mail, my mom recently asked me why I didn’t answer my e-mail anymore (even though we talk via webcam every day, she still expects me to answer her e-mails). So I’m making a conscious effort to reply to e-mails first before comments to my blog posts.

  • 5 joann // Jun 27, 2005 at 6:56 pm

    Hey Julie,
    Just want to drop a quick comment. Hear ya!

    And if anyone thinks you are rude… heh heh. They really haven’t seen anything yet. LOL. OK. I’m just rofl now… cuz I was thinking, you could send them my way and I can show them what real rudeness can be like. heh heh. Alright, I’m just kidding. Someone is going to misquote me here. LOL

    Please please. You are NOT expected by us regular internet users to answer your emails anytime soon. We know you probably get quite a few. It’s OKAY! :)

    And it’s your blog. Do with it as you wish. :)

    Take care!

  • 6 Evelyn Rodriguez // Jun 29, 2005 at 5:30 pm

    Hi Julie,
    I’ve read that the size of human social networks appears to be limited to a value of around 150, but I had totally forgotten that until a fellow blogger at Gnomedex reminded me of that fact. It helps explain why I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of unanswered email, unread friend’s blogs, etc. etc.

    If you don’t answer my email, that’s fine. I probably won’t be able to answer yours either ;-) . I don’t find you rude, at all. But I’m not sure that everyone understands. I think a lot of people are peeved I don’t answer. Basically, I’m in overwhelm. I don’t feel guilty as much as sad; something seems to shift in a blog (maybe just for me?) when I am no longer able to interact as much. Blogging is as much about connection as it is expression.

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