Why are virtual chores fun but real chores a drag?

February 6, 2010

   

I’ve pondered the question many times of why people gladly spend endless hours performing virtual tasks that in their real life they avoid like the plague.  A recent post by @fjfonseca over at BitRebels touched on the subject, and as I have a 14-year-old daughter who has her virtual Facebook farm and aquarium and other examples too numerous to mention, I really started to think about it. Why does my daughter so gladly do these virtual chores in Farmville, but avoid helping take care of our real pony, dog, cats, and fish? When I try to get my kids to work on our garden every year it’s like pulling teeth, but her virtual garden is award-winning.

     Perhaps one reason is the feedback system involved. In Farmville she reaches levels, gets awards, and her accomplishments are sent over social networks to her friends. With her real garden she gets a ‘job well done’ from me, and far down the road some vegetables to eat. Maybe I should be learning from the virtual chores, I need to supply awards and badges, positive reinforcements and recognition of achievements. I guess calling her friends to tell them when she’s finished projects wouldn’t be appreciated by my daughter, though.

     Seriously, I would like comments on your take on this, it’s growing exponentially over on Facebook, and is just the beginning of a greater phenomena. Other examples are ‘games’ like the Sims, or the programmed pets that die on you if you don’t care for them properly. Can we learn lessons from their success in engaging people to apply to real life interactions?


Which Twitter are you using?

January 4, 2010

     We’re all on the same Twitter feed, aren’t we?  No, actually we each have our own customized feeds of those we choose to follow and I think we don’t realize how much these can differ. So is there really any such thing as a universal Twitter expert, guru, coach? Is there an Emily Post on Twitter that covers everyone? I don’t think so. You need to find and follow the people relevant to your particular community or communities. There are many different communities on twitter, and like communities anywhere they differ in customs and manners. Some people just endlessly tweet what they do all day, as so many people wrongly perceive Twitter is all about. Communities of online merchants see nothing wrong with talking about and promoting their offerings, public relations and marketing people see nothing wrong with endless self-examination of the effects of social medias on their fields. Charity fundraisers see nothing wrong with their endless appeals. Geeks chatter endlessly about the latest apps and gadgets, musicians connect and promote, writers network and chat. The list goes on and on.

     Some of the more well-known Twitter ‘personalities’ cross over many of these Twitterverses, but I’ve noticed lately a slightly schizophrenic tendency in their tweets and blogs as they try be universal to an increasingly diverse following. You can’t be all things to all people, as they say. And one set of rules of behavior won’t fit very different communities on Twitter. The way people use Twitter is their own affair, and shouldn’t be crammed down other’s throats like ‘the one true religion.’

     This is not to say there isn’t overlap, or that one is limited to one type of community. It’s my opinion one should broaden and connect with all types of people. I’m all over the place, and I think that has helped me realize how many different Twitters there are out there. And how different in intent and usage they are.

     Do you think there is some universal etiquette or set of customs applicable to everyone on Twitter?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.


My Grandmother, Old Ironsides, and Immovable Objects

August 23, 2009

My grandmother passed away a few years ago, in her 90’s and still the terror of the rest home where she was living. She was an amazing woman, when my grandmother met an immovable object, it moved! I loved her very much. There is much of her stubborn resistance in me.

I was probably around ten years old when these events took place, I had a younger brother and sister spaced out at about two year intervals. Every summer we’d go to Grammy’s for a week or so in the summer (we had a grandfather, but he’d given up arguing with her years ago, and my main memory of him is sitting back in a corner wreathed in cigarette smoke, doing crossword puzzles, and hardly ever speaking).
Part of the visit every year would be a cultural trip to Boston, which always included walking the Freedom Trail around downtown Boston. She would also pick a couple of other things to see, such as the Art Museum or the State House. This year she had decided that we were going to see Old Ironsides.
My grandfather would always drive us to the end of the subway line in Natick, gratefully drop us off, and head home for some peace and quiet. He was too wise a man to want to accompany us. The system was; Grammy would hold my hand, I would hold my brother’s hand, and he would hold my sister’s hand.  We must have looked like a team of mountaineers roped together. This formation would be held whenever we were on the move, which was most of the time.
My grandmother, who was a rather small elderly woman, got us off the subway somewhere in the North End, and we marched down streets until we came to a military gate with docks and ships visible in the distance. A  sailor in uniform with a rifle was standing guard beside a small gatehouse. Without stopping, my grandmother (with us in tow) started marching past.
“Ma’am, stop ma’am!” He was very young and obviously not used to dealing with determined grandmothers, though I’m sure he could have stopped Soviet spies and such without so much difficulty. She kept onwards paying no attention, so finally he interposed his body with the rifle held across his chest to physically stop her. She finally stopped and informed him we were going to see Old Ironsides. He then informed her that this was the Coast Guard Base, and that it was over at the Navy Base further around the harbour. Poor man, he thought this would end the matter. He did not know my grandmother. With a yank on my hand, forward march again! The sailor jumped in front of us again and repeated what he’d said, sounding more panicky as he realized he was losing control of the situation. My grandmother didn’t stop, but plowed right into him as he tried to stand his ground.
“I’m a taxpayer, and you work for me!” she exclaimed (probably one of her favorite lines) and pushed onwards. Somehow, to this sailor’s credit, he prevented her from pushing past him without actually having to shoot her or anything. She didn’t admit defeat, but off we went back up the street, with me trying to be rational with my grandmother, explaining Old Ironsides wasn’t there. She was furious, and next thing I know she drags the human train of us into a Navy recruiting office she’d spotted. She always carried a huge purse on expeditions, and as the astonished recruiter sat behind his desk where he’d been eating his lunch, my grandmother started stripping all the wall racks of pamphlets, taking every one of them and stuffing them in her purse.
“Excuse me, ma’am, but ….” before he could figure out quite what to say, my grandmother had finished and glancing around to make sure she hadn’t missed any, started marching out the door.
“I’m a taxpayer and these all belong to me!”  She had had her revenge.

The next year she decided we were going to tour the governor’s mansion, which had tours of public parts of the building like the White House. We were in our usual formation following behind a tour group, when my grandmother suddenly veers off and through some door on her own. “Grammy, we’re not supposed to …” and was met with her usual admonishment that we were taxpayers and this mansion belonged to us. We passed through several rooms that were obviously not intended for public viewing, they looked more and more like rooms people actually lived in. Finally we came to a large living room, with a somewhat elegant woman sitting on a couch. My grandmother marches up and sits down beside her.
“Hello, I’m Ruth Ward, and these are my grandchildren” and started reeling off our names and ages. I was mortified. The woman turned out to be Mrs. Peabody, the governor’s wife, and she was very nice about the whole thing. In fact, her and my grandmother exchanged Christmas cards for many years after that. There are many more adventures with my grandmother, I’ll probably write about some more of them sometime.


Label Jars, Not People

June 10, 2009

  

     People are social animals. Perhaps that explains our need to feel included, to be part of a group. There’s nothing wrong with that, if you like playing chess you might meet with others who play chess, if you love art you sometimes hang out with others who love art.

     But be careful not to label others, it defines and limits them in your mind.  Joe is a Republican. So you take for granted his position on abortion, on the size of government, on a whole range of issues. But people are more complicated than that. Each person is a unique universe of interests and possibilities. When you describe yourself, or others, you should  mention interests,  passions, characteristics. ‘He plays chess’ – not – ‘He is a chess player’.

Remember those lovely Venn diagrams from school?  

venn diagram

Just three labels and you’ve excluded most of the world!

  Labeling yourself or others seems just a convenience.  but the consequences can be serious.  I caution you against being labeled an environmentalist, a chess player, a Republican. Groups by their nature exhibit two sides, inclusive and exclusive. If you are not in a particular group, you are outside of it. Expecting a certain response because of how you categorize someone makes you more likely to get it.  Label yourself and you’re more likely to act in a rote way instead of how you might act naturally.

     The labels we use narrow our areas of commonality. Don’t limit people with labels!