Sunday, 22 February 2009

Share in teh Awesome!

Twitter never ceases to amaze me. I've seen lots of memes pop up and fade away in my Twitter stream, but, by far, the strangest is the #AlanStevensAvatarWeekend hashtag that sprang up this weekend. Forty people adopted a picture of me as a child in my Captain Kirk shirt as their avatar.

The background for this strange occurrence is another Twitter meme. I noticed people putting old pictures of themselves, often with outdated hair styles, as their Twitter avatar. While I have plenty of embarrassing hair styles in my past, I decided to join this meme by showing my geek cred. On Thursday evening, I changed my avatar to the afore mentioned picture.

On Friday morning, Andrew Duthie noticed my picture and claimed that he had been outclassed. Next, Y. Alan Griver adopted the picture as his own avatar because, he said, it's a level of awesome he could never reach. By Friday afternoon, Andrew and Alan had both adopted the picture as their avatar and invited everyone else on twitter to do the same.

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Picture 1Friday night, I looked at my Twitter stream and saw around half of the tweets had my photo as the avatar. I announced that I felt like John Malkovich inside his own head. If you've seen Being John Malkovich, then you know what I mean. I wasn't active on Twitter this weekend, I had children and home repairs to deal with, but I watched on with amusement.

Saturday night, I looked at my followers list and saw that many of my most recent followers had the Alan as Kirk avatar. I find it amazing that people who didn't even follow me on Friday, had my picture as their avatar on Saturday.

I want to give special recognition to two variations on the #AlanStevensAvatarWeekend theme. Rick Hodder changed the shirt color to red, giving it a look of almost certain doom. Scott Koon (aka lazycoder) took a different picture of me from 20 years ago instead of 30 years ago as his avatar.

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Thanks to everyone involved in this silliness. You all gave me countless belly laughs this weekend. I can't wait to see what surprises my Twitter Tribe comes up with next!

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Stay awesome,


 Thursday, 15 January 2009

It’s a Major Award!

On January 1, I was pleased to receive an email with the subject “Congratulations 2009 Microsoft MVP!” It is nice to be recognized for my contributions to the Microsoft developer community. I’ve made a lot of friends and learned plenty by traveling around and giving talks, as well as helping organize developer events.

If you are unfamiliar with the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional program, you can read up on it here. Personally, I was overwhelmed by the show of support that I received from my peers when I announced my receipt of the award on twitter.

If you go here you can see what I’m talking about. It goes on for a few pages. I feel a bit like George Bailey in that my wealth and my reward is the amazing group of friends I’ve made.

The MVP award is for the contributions I made in the previous twelve months. I am not obligated to make any further contributions, but who am I kidding, now that I’ve found my Tribe, I can’t seem to stay at home.



 Thursday, 29 May 2008

TechEd Developers Tweetup

It's time for TechEd 2008. This year the conference has been split into separate weeks for IT Pros and developers. I will be attending the developer edition next week in Orlando. This is my fourth consecutive TechEd conference, and the first I've paid for personally. That's right, this conference is so valuable, I'm willing to pay out of my own pocket to attend.

This will be the first time I've been to a large conference since joining Twitter. Twitter has been a great tool at smaller events for meeting up with people and spontaneously organizing outings to restaurants, bars etc.

Hunter French created a Twitter group on the TechEd Connect site. If you will be attending either week of TechEd, I encourage you to join the Twitter group so other tweeple at the event can keep up with you during the conference.

In the group, I have created a Tweetup (Twitter Meetup) event for Wednesday, June 4 at noon in the dining area. Everyone interested should join us. I'll print up some signage, but if you just look for the people obsessively typing on their phones, you'll find us. Use this link to add the event to your calendar.

Here are the people that I follow on Twitter that are planning on attending TechEd Developers. If you are attending and I didn't list you, please add a comment with your twitter handle.

@wbm @bencarey @jfollas @dcampbell @pandamonial @jmcwherter @mhouston @lespaulrob @aaronlerch @keithelder @arcanecode @gblock @dougt @glengordon @jeffreypalermo @joefeser @ardalis @saraford @darcy_lussier @OdeToCode @MobilityMatters @shanselman @jjulian @careypayette @scottcreynolds @laurelatoreilly

I look forward to meeting the people behind the 48x48 pixel avatars. See you in Orlando!


 Sunday, 18 May 2008

How I Found My Tribe on Twitter

I've been using Twitter since 11:04 PM October 25, 2007. I quickly found it to be useful and entertaining, like a group IM client or IRC. But Twitter is different than previous "group chat" tools. I've been struggling with what exactly is different, and I think I've finally put my finger on it.

The people I interact with on Twitter are my tribe. I like the word "tribe" because it connotes a shared identity. My Twitter Tribe are a "we" and an "us". I suppose this is how sports fans feel about their fellow fans, but I've never had this experience before, or at least not to this degree.

It was Rands who introduced the idea of tribes in Twitter to me. He does an excellent job of explaining some of the game-changing social networking hacks that Twitter provides, but he misses something that I've been trying to come to grips with. Twitter has provided a new sense of belonging in my life.

Because Twitter is an "opt-in" social network, it self selects for like interests. I don't follow people because they are "famous", but because I'm interested in what they have to say. What was unexpected at the start was that I became engaged with the people themselves, and not just their insights and wit. For instance, when I got into Joe O'Brien's minivan this weekend, I immediately realized it was the same vehicle that had been stolen and recovered. I only knew this piece of Joe's personal history because he had twittered it. I remember the feeling of relief I felt when he announced, on Twitter, that the police had recovered his family's primary vehicle.

Beyond all the productivity, entertainment and publicity benefits of Twitter lies this fact: I love the people in my Twitter Tribe. If you're uncomfortable with the "L Word", then please accept that I feel emotionally connected to them, even if I've never met them. When I do meet people after following them on Twitter, I have an urge to hug them like a reunited friend.

Twice now I've had the opportunity to meet up with members of my tribe that I hadn't met previously, and the experience was seamless. I didn't "think" I knew these people. We knew each other. We were already an "us"; a tribe. At the Indianapolis Code Camp last month I met around ten people I knew through Twitter and it reinforced my feeling about the power of Twitter.

This past weekend at the Cleveland Day of .NET I met easily twenty people that I knew through Twitter and followed that many more new people I was introduced to. This was a very emotional experience for me. You see, I am part of a small demographic of social or extroverted computer nerds. There aren't that many people like me who are geographically close. Not enough to call a tribe, anyway.

Through Twitter I can connect with this demographic of people all over the world, and maintain constant contact. Twitter bridges the gaps between conferences etc. where people in my niche gather socially. Because of Twitter, I am in touch with "my people" all the time. The sense of belonging and acceptance is unprecedented in my experience.

There are many ways to use Twitter. There is no "right" way to use this simple service. I have stumbled into one particular habit of use. I am not resorting to hyperbole when I say that the effect has been life changing. Your mileage may vary, but from conversations I've had, I know I'm not the only one experiencing these effects.

I always demo Twitter at the start of my presentations these days as a way to encourage audience members to continue the conversation and learning outside the session. Perhaps I should include a warning "This service could lead to serious emotional attachment and meaningful relationships resulting in a fulfilling sense of belonging. Proceed with caution."