I was slightly stunned this morning to have coffee with a friend who, when I mentioned the Google announcement about OpenSocial, hadn’t heard about it. Sometimes I forget that not everyone has the same feed reader as I do – I still sometimes think it’s like the New York Times, a shared experience.
So I had the opportunity to take a first pass at trying to explain OpenSocial to someone, which is really good practice for me, since I will be presenting on Web 2.0 for nonprofits at Philanthropy Day on Tuesday, and this announcement does change things somewhat.
Thank god for the rapid-fire response to OpenSocial in the blogosphere! Over the last couple of days, most if not all of the blogs I regularly read have offered either their take on OpenSocial, or a digest on the posts they found interesting or helpful. I was able to draw on a few of these when improvising an explanation to my friend this morning.
So I get how OpenSocial will help streamline Social Network strategies, both personal and professional. It will allow you to seamlessly integrate your personae and networks from a multitude of Social Networks into one coherent profile. My question is: Is this entirely a good thing?
What if I’m not fully integrated yet?
I maintain a personal and a professional blog. Two. They are entirely separate. I also maintain a presence on some social networks that is more geared toward my personal persona than my professional persona, and vice versa. There’s nothing remotely shady about my personal blog or SoNet personae, but I have enjoyed having two different spheres in which to express myself.
I know I’m not alone.
My question is, will OpenSocial eventually break down these protective walls between personae?
I realize that I will still be able to choose which widgets come from where to live on my “container” – my personal website where I can draw in my LinkedIn profile, my Twitters, my whatnot. I realize that the power is still mine to determine what I say and how I say it online. But my question is more of an observation of a trend – of which OpenSocial is only the most recent signpost.
There’s been a deepening trend toward personal transparency in the blogosphere over the last few years. And I don’t mean the TMI kind of transparency that leads bloggers to disclose details about their dietary foibles, bedroom habits, and scatological histories. These are all details that suddenly saw the light of day because of the supposed “anonymity” of the internet.
I mean the kind of transparency that looks the reader in the eye, states my full name, rank, and serial number, and claims my thoughts and ideas as my own. No pseudonyms, no fey anonymity.
I remember how shocked and impressed I was, years ago, when I first read Dooce and saw that she had emblazoned on her masthead “I’m Heather B. Armstrong. This is my website.”
Of course Dooce is famous for being one of the first well-publicized people to lose her job because of her blog. She counsels people not to make the same mistake she did, even though it sort of brought her everlasting fame. For years I heeded that advice.
But things have changed. Bloggers no longer have to remain anonymous. Employers encourage blogging, or at least tolerate it. Yes, the same rules still hold that have always held for public discourse – don’t say something you wouldn’t want your mother – or your boss – to hear. But blogging – and online presences – are more accepted now in the mainstream. You’re less likely to get fired just because you blog.
In addition to the changing paradigm in the outside world, I am finding that my interior landscape has changed. It is becoming more and more difficult to decide where I should post something – personal or professional? What’s the difference?
For some this may not be news. For many of us, it is earth-shattering.
I am extremely fortunate in that my professional life has naturally and organically come to reflect more and more my pre-existing, personal passions and preferences. I – finally! – get to do what I love.
So why maintain a wall that no longer serves any purpose?
When I was in college, I lived in the most distant dorm to campus available. I went to classes, then I came home. I felt sorry for the students who could see the classroom buildings from their bedroom windows. I dressed in certain clothes for work/classes and changed into “play clothes” when I came home.
Now I can feel the two wardrobes, the two spheres, becoming one. I heard the first, faint strains of this approaching tune when I started reading about the OpenID movement – and I thought h’m. Now that OpenSocial is on its way, I am h’mming even louder.