Ink Paper Words' Profile

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Pacific Northwest, United States
In elementary school, I desperately wanted my mother to order books for me from those flyers Scholastic hands out to kids. She refused, citing the "perfectly good library down the street." I exacted revenge by becoming a card-carrying ALA accredited reference librarian. Ha! Take that!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My Reply...5 Years Later

Ronald Reagan and the National Day of Mourning

I am only making a comment about this now because it has come up on another board I participate in and I referred to the quote in question. Rather than being a "roach coming out to express my opinion," I was specifically asked for it. Hating hypocrisy, I gave it without sugarcoating or spinning. To my amazement, the local paper picked it up, then some blogs and then some industry-related journals.

The thing I find particularly amusing is how the author of the Conservator Blog (or something similar, apparently now inactive) decided that he knew me well enough to describe my political leanings and acted as though he knew me. Now that's a laugh. No one cites him, so he must therefore cite people he writes about, Sorry Charlie. Or Jack or Brian or who the hell are you anyway?

On a human level, I certainly understand the pain his widow and children must have felt at his passing. No doubt similar to what I felt when my father died in 1986. But I also remember his many unfortunate political gaffes and can now only be described as poorly advised positions. Homelessness is a lifestyle choice. Ketchup, for purposes of school lunches, is now a vegetable. And that is only the beginning. One can only hope that when their relative, a former world figure not known for being an intellectual giant dies, that some people might have opinions and that they will voice those opinions.

Personally, I believe that Reagan would hate the idea that government employees would have a day off because of his passing. Those who think I should have elected to spend the day in genuflection rather than fixing my hard drive don't know me very well. I don't think Reagan would have wanted people of my class to have anything more than what we already got. I wasn't planning for the day and didn't expect it. A reporter asked me what I thought I told him without guile or any desire to "spin" my opinion. That bloggers decided to do it for me afterward was outside my ability to control.

I do think, however, that this experience serves to show why one must be guarded when speaking to reporters for any reason and be careful about what they say. Had I to do it over again, I probably would elect not to make any comment. The many bloggers who thought they had amusing comments to make reagarding my comment would have one less thing to remark upon.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Of Internet Drama, Trolls and Hissy Fits (part 2)

I recall that some years ago there was much public lamenting about the ever decreasing lack of communication and that people didn't seem to be writing much anymore. It appears that the Internet has certainly changed all that. According to the most recent stats I could find an estimated daily average of 210 billion emails are sent every day. Now, even when taking into account that many of these are spam (some sources citing numbers as high as 30%), others are trivial work email (Reply to All is the bane of the workplace, LOL), that still amounts to a significant amount of communication. Factor in blogs, message boards, newsgroups, listservs, wikis, RSS feeds and social networking sites and it doesn't take a huge stretch of the imagination to see that if anything, communication is booming in these days in Internet ubiquity.

But while we are talking to each other more than ever – albeit virtually – what is happening with the quality of that communication? Certainly, the Internet provides a fabulous means of opportunity not only to keep in touch with family and friends, but to make connections with people across the globe who share one's interests. People who would recently never have had any reason to meet due to distance are now able to meet and form virtual, yet nonetheless real, relationships. I met my fiance via a dating site. Despite the fact that we only lived 30 miles apart, we would never have met had it not been for the web.

It is my belief that a sense of community among virtual groups is a vital, growing thing. And, just as people can form a community based on shared likes, community can just as easily be created between people who share a common dislike.

I am thinking of a particular “anti-fan” community and what has happened to it. Of course,no anti-fan community could exist without a given celebrity having a legion of fans and a lot of public exposure. In a strange way, I think the ubiquity of this particular celebrity has insured the existence of a community devoted to pointing out his/her foibles and lack of knowledge. One might think, perhaps rightly, that such a group inherently be somewhat volatile, but over the years that I've participated on the site, I was repeatedly struck by a sense of cohesion among its members and a level of caring about each other that seemed unusual. Perhaps the “anti-fan anti-fans” who bash these members have unknowingly created a defensive “circle the wagons” attitude among community members. The community had a policy against trolling which was frequently breached by people eager to insult and denigrate those of us who did not share their love. Usually these trolls were banned from the community with little fanfare.

It all seemed quite shocking then when the moderator allowed a troll to run rampant over the community. After a couple of months of this harassment the truth came out that this person was in fact an employee of the site subject, had apparently befriended the moderator who then allowed him to uncontrolled access. The resulting drama of name calling, accusations and the banning of people who had been members for years made the board a very unpleasant place to hang out. The sense of betrayal among members was very palpable and real.

I suppose it is natural that communities on the Internet, being a reflection of the humans who interact on them, will be born, grow and eventually die. In this case, however, the community did not die; it merely moved to a new piece of virtual real estate. Despite the best efforts of some (I suspect well-funded) to kill the community, it lives on – minus its creator.

Some years ago I began online dating, and was frequently asked how real a relationship could be when you had not only not met the other party but in fact lived thousands of miles away from them. After forming friendships with various people, I can affirm the sincerity of those attachments. At one point I knew I would have to break up with someone online. The sense of dread was no less than had it been a local. The fact that it happened via email may have lessened the difficulty of doing it, but not the knowledge that I was going to hurt someone. The relationship is real. The feelings that result from it are real.

Even so, I think it's important to remember that the air of anonymity behind the monitor does enable a less than accurate presentation of who a person is. This may seem that I am contradicting myself, but an element of caution is never a bad idea. It may be easier for someone to mask a true identity in web-based communication but that certainly isn't anything exclusive to the Internet. I had been married to my ex-husband for several years before I discovered some secrets that he had quite successfully hidden from me.

What defines community when frequently its members have never met? Clearly it is more than simply staking out one's virtual soap box and shouting out to anyone with a search engine. I've been a member of an email loop since 2000. Despite our varying professions, families and interests and other life conditions, we have shared triumphs and tragedies, loves and losses, heroes and heartaches. We may have come together because we shared a certain interest on a message board, but it's been years now since we discussed the subject that was our original impetus for meeting. Members have come and gone but the community lives on.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Facebook Reconsidered

I've been hearing a lot lately about Facebook and its possible use by employers as a way to find information on a candidate that would be a deal breaker in hiring that person. On one hand, it's a given that as part of the screening process employers would dig up whatever they could as long as the search is cost effective. By the same token, candidates should do likewise to the employer. Come on, it's not a good idea, no matter how desperate the economy seems, to take a job with an organization that is clearly a bad fit. Personally I'd want to know everything I could before I accepted an offer.

Some make the counter argument that a person has control over their profile and the information posted in it and employers could only see what was there if they had specific approval to do so. However a recent news article about a teenage girl in the UK lost her job for posting a status update saying that her job was boring leads me to think that Facebook may very well make otherwise private information available to employers for a fee. Considering that until very recently they also claimed copyright to posted content, it doesn't seem all that farfetched.

However, were I the employer, I would be wary of information gleaned through such sources. There is no control over such sites that ensures the accuracy of the information contained therein. At least with a job application there are enough permissions and authorizations granted that if he lies on the application that is sufficient grounds even years in the future to warrant termination. I have accounts on social networking sites MySpace and Facebook, but not under my actual name, and the email address associated with them has nothing to do with the email address I use for professional purposes. Add to that the fact that there are several other people with my actual name on Facebook and Google -- but they aren't me. Sure you can pull up a name, but if it isn't the person you're considering, what good is the information? It just means that much loss of productivity by the HR department.

Another angle to consider is a candidate's right to have a social life examined. While it's certainly possible to post pictures of legal activities such as gun ownership and consumption of alcohol, these are still things that might cause an employer to look askance at you as an employee. And really, isn't the competition stiff enough already? Why give an employer the ammo to shoot you with?

I guess it boils down to a matter of discretion and awareness of online security. I would recommend that people use online email addresses and aliases that do not reflect their name or geographic location. Have a separate email address that is used exclusively for job searches. Have a social life but be smart about what you post. Realize that information can be retrieved even after you think you've deleted it. Be aware that even though we feel anonymous and omnipotent behind our monitors, the fact of the matter is that everything can be retrieved. Do what you can to make sure it doesn't come back to haunt you.

And don't, for God's sake, log in and post at work. Assume that your employer can see anything on your screen. is there really stuff so compelling on FB that it can't wait until you get home?

I still plan to use Facebook because it's been rather fun to connect with old friends, classmates and coworkers and to find people with similar interests. But even with my precautions, I plan to use a high degree of discretion.

Facebook gives employers clues to intelligence, personality
Why employers should reconsider Facebook fishing
How employers look at MySpace and Facebook pages
Employers leverage cloud computing to invade your Facebook privacy
Can Your Myspace Or Facebook Page Cost You A Job?