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My Online Alter Ego

When I repeated (RT in Twitter lingo) this Dilbert stripe about Tweeter with my own sort of trying to be funny list of why I don’t use Twitter, I was actually pondering whether I should use it. I was not aware of the deeper micro-blogging vs. “traditional” blogging discussions. Matt Mullenweg knows what he is  writing about, and in his opinion it’s not really a “versus,” it’s an “and.”

I mostly agree: it’s blogging, and micro-blogging, and facebook and the other social networking sites, whether general or of specific focus), and forums, and mailing-lists, and bulletin boards, and emails, and IRC, and Skype (and the other VoIP services) and del.iciou.us (and the other social bookmarking sites) all the other communication means made possible by the Internet, including Google Wave. All of them make up a modern person’s “online alter ego” and they are mostly complementary with some overlap.

All of the above tools have in common, that they enable some form of social interaction over the Internet. It’s a meeting of the minds for the situations in which physical barriers make shaking hands difficult or impossible. They can be classified along different criterias: Few of them are one-way, while most of them allow for some form of feedback and the most advanced are fully interactive in real time. Some of them are one-to-one, some are one-to-many, and some are many-to-many. Some are newer than others. Some are more fashionable than others. Some have aged better than others who have been attacked technically (spam) or have not followed the fashion of the day. Most of them are more than just Zeitgeist, though. They help fill a basic human need. Their purpose is given by the use we make of them – sometimes generic and sometimes specific; sometimes for work and sometimes for leisure. Sometimes it is an extension of real life; and sometimes this communication has a life of their own.

However, the list also has a versus element: all of these tools feed on one single, scarce resource: your time.

I have only a limited amount of time to dedicate to both my real life and my online alter ego, and so do you (unless you found the holy grail, in which case I’d appreciate your kind consideration). Every minute I spend online has an opportunity cost in real life. At this time of the night. while I’m not tired yet, after son and wife are long asleep and after I drove my friend Robert to his hotel, I don’t mind spending some time feeding my blog. And there are plenty of slack time opportunities. But if a friend would knock at my door at 1.30 AM, I’d set the computer aside and prefer to share a cup of tea with him. YMMV.

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