Take a Message – Too Much Of A Good Thing

December 16, 2011

Loyalty to any one sports team is pretty hard to justify.  Because the players are always changing – or the team can move to another city, you’re actually rooting for the clothes when you get right down to it.  You know what I mean, you are standing and cheering and yelling for your clothes to beat the clothes from another city.  Fans will be so in love with a player but if he goes to another team, they boo him.  This is the same human being in a different shirt, they HATE him now.  Boo!  different shirt!!  Boo!

Jerry Seinfeld,  Seinfeld – Season Six – The Label Maker – 1995

Seinfeld’s observation came to mind today as the Chicago Bulls basketball team prepares to play their first (pre-season) game with a new player – acquired earlier this week from hated rival – the Detroit Pistons.

Now Rip Hamilton is wearing our laundry.

Hated him then. Love him now.

I never really fell for Seinfeld, but he, like many successful comedians, has a personal style that delivers a truth usually hiding in the shadows.

On another occasion, almost 20 years ago, he summarized, in under a minute – qualities some might ascribe to certain Facebook users.

A quaint bit from an earlier time. Back in the day – before your data was posted, copied and stored ubiquitously on the web – everyone had a physical machine that took (answered) calls if you were busy or unavailable. Quaintly, recordings were made on physical tape, using an electro-mechanical recorder.

Users learned to game the system. There was an advantage to “screening calls” rather than answer them so you could mentally prepare for dealing with the caller on your own terms. Now the screening happens more upstream – as a user ID labels each incoming call, and decisions can be made as the call comes in.

Now audio messages are stored digitally, and easily converted to text or speech… to be consumed when convenient.

Phone messages still have a relative expectation of privacy. However, GPS tracking and records of time, date and called number – are all saved – allowing reasonable inference of subjects discussed. As previously discussed, these huge troves of data are a gold mine for intelligence agencies and certain private data mining companies.

It is a different story on the internet, where anyone who posts anything has the expectation that it will live forever, and re-appear in the most unlikely of places. Even on Facebook, your past will come back to haunt you, as the company rolls out its Timeline feature this month.

Scouting for new material, and presenting it quickly, is the currency of the Twitter service. We follow people we believe will fill our knowledge gap. Human limitations being what they are (you do sleep, eat and cavort – don’t you?) sometimes the stream goes unmonitored – and our gap turns into a gulf. Oops – tons of information out there we actually cannot process.

So we settle for second best.  We aggregate and look for patterns.  As though the knowledge that my friends are going to wish me holiday or birthday greetings because that is what they did last year actually will make me feel as good as the personal communication itself.

How to cope with email message overload was the root of one company’s policy to actually eliminate the stuff. A European IT company with 800,000 employees will ban use of email. And direct its staff to use more instant messages for communications.

Sounds a little deja vu all over again. The message was left. Duty done. Cue Seinfeld.

But it won’t be effective.

To achieve any sort of collaboration, synergy and effective communication – conversation, not content – is still king.


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