The Top Five Defining Moments in my Online Life


1. Hotmail: my first personal email account

In the late 1990s, having email at work was a novelty but it was also rigorously restricted to non-personal use by the IT department. Hotmail provided an easy way to accept and send personal email. My hotmail account has long since closed due to inactivity on my part, but I used it regularly for several years. This hotmail account received several thoughtful and heartwarming messages from around the globe after 9/11 that I wish I’d had the foresight to export and keep.

2. Creating a portfolio website of my design work using Dreamweaver

Like any good designer, I had a black leatherette portfolio with color copies of my work inside clear plastic sleeves that I used to carry to interviews for freelance assignments. After 9/11, I was in between assignments, and I decided to teach myself Dreamweaver. The idea was to create an online version of my physical portfolio. I remember sitting in front of the computer, with Lynda’s tutorial book open, following her step-by-step instructions and creating tables and frames for my website. I felt an enormous sense of accomplishment when I was able to set up the website exactly how I wanted it.

3.   Establishing an online persona with Yammer at work (enterprise version of Twitter)

The advertising agency I worked for a few years ago encouraged us to adopt new technologies, including LinkedIn and Facebook. They also embraced Yammer, (a private, company-wide internal version of Twitter). I had just read Garr Reynold’s wonderful book, Presentation Zen, and I started sending out a “Tip of the Day” based on the many great ideas in the book. After a few weeks, I noticed that art directors in other offices around the world (whom I’d never met and didn’t know personally) had started following me and sent me a handful of messages thanking me for the tips. The sense of validation was wonderful: my first brush with online friendships was positive and rewarding. Yammer was also recently praised by Deloitte Australia’s CEO Giam Swiegers as a great forum for internal discussions to learn about employees’ thoughts and feelings about company policies. Swiegers also says Yammer is a fantastic tool for employees to quickly exchange helpful information with each other.

4.   Natural disasters and Twitter

When the earthquake struck the East Coast on August 23rd, we had no TV reception, and I turned to Twitter to find out what happened and to feel connected to others who went through the same thing. My feeling of disorientation faded after reading the many Tweets from others confirming it had been an earthquake. I found myself monitoring Twitter again during Hurricane Irene the weekend of August 27th. By happenstance, I saw a tweet for a blog post by Les Floyd extolling the virtues of a music video entitled “Fighting Trousers” by Professor Elemental. Floyd describes Elemental as a “time-travelling, steampunk, chap-hop rap star with an unquenchable thirst for tea and adventure…a caffeine-rattled explorer, philosopher, philanthropist and animal experimentalist [who] is quite simply one of the funniest characters I’ve witnessed in my life.” I agree with Floyd: the video is very funny, and Professor Elemental is pretty skilled at rap, too. “Fighting Trousers” was a welcome, light-hearted distraction during the bewildering hurricane weekend.

5. Social Media Friendships and Twitter

On September 4th, I learned via a tweet that Trey Pennington had died. I had never met Mr. Pennington, but I remember being impressed by the number of his Twitter followers (around 111,000) and noticing the upbeat tone of his Tweets. There was a poignancy to the news that he was no longer with us, because I started seeing tweets and eventually blog posts that confirmed he died by his own hand. Diana Adams wrote a particularly insightful post about Pennington’s passing and the flaws in social media friendships.

A couple of days later, I saw a tweet that Imad Naffa had died suddenly of a heart attack. I didn’t know Mr Naffa personally, but I remember noticing that the content in his tweets invariably linked to well written and informative articles that I enjoyed reading and retweeted on occasion. Watching the news unfold on Twitter was also very sad when I started seeing tweets from Naffa’s wife, Loretta.

Now it’s time to watch Professor Elemental’s “Fighting Trousers” again and have a soothing cup of tea.

Photo by James Cridland



Categories: Social Media
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