RegulationsAs I was riding in on the bus this morning, I was reading the paper (over one of my fellow passenger’s shoulder, of course) and saw an article in the Houston Chronicle titled “Skip the cuteness on e-mail.” Being too far way from the paper to read the details, I started making up the story in my head about some of the “cute” things I’ve tried to do in e-mail, blogs, and on Twitter that have backfired on me. When I started thinking about why it backfired on me, I realized that it was because:

  1. I wasn’t clear on my message
  2. I thought everyone that reads my message knows me personally (and my personality)
  3. I forgot that sometimes sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek comments don’t translate well to text (even with cute smile icons!) 😉

So, when I cross the imaginary line, I’ve found that there are some pretty, shall I say – “un-shy” people out there that will quickly call you on your faux pas and I’ve found myself typing out an apology for my lax in social web protocol. This type of self-regulation of the social web keeps honest people honest, and reminds you that your message is hitting a broader audience than you think.

Since I’m not too ashamed of some of my screw-ups and immediate dressing-downs, I’ll list some examples of what I’ve done, and a couple of other “self-regulated moments” that I’ve seen from others. I’ll start with the benign and work my way up to the more malignant goofs:

The “Joss” vs. “Josh” Whedon Mistake:
I’m a huge Buffy, Angel, Firefly, and Dr. Horrible fan, and was so excited that Joss Whedon has a new show called Dollhouse coming out next year. So excited that I wanted my Twitter friends to see the new wiki that was out there about the show. So, I fire off a tweet, but made the fatal mistake of typing “Josh” instead of “Joss”. Well, any fan worth their weight knows this is a major mistake in the Whedonverse, and it didn’t take long for someone to step up and let me know that I was obviously an idiot and must not be a true fan. Of course, being a true fan, this made me feel a little sick at my stomach that I made this typo. So, I quickly over-geeked myself with an apology to the Whedonverse and hope that they can forgive my mistake and let me back into the fold.

The “Spying” Joke Blows Up:
Okay… if you take anything away from this posting, remember this, “INSIDE JOKES TEND NOT TO BE FUNNY.”

Case-in-Point – I’m a Competitive Intelligence professional, and I do a lot of public speaking on CI as it relates to law firms. Well, one of the things that we joke about is the fact that some people think that we are basically spies, and that there is a certain ethical gray area that we work in. Of course, we are not spies, and it is something that we fight all the time. Well, my friends and I are always joking about this misconception, and bringing it up during our presentations, and we try to make light of the situation by injecting some humor. Unfortunately, I was welcoming a new member on Twitter, and made the mistake of joking about other CI professionals being in here “spying.” Doh!! Well, it didn’t take long to get a full-force rebuttal from another person explaining exactly what CI professionals do, and that spying is not one of them. I know better, I know better, I know better. But, I slipped up and tried to be cute, and it ended up making me look like I didn’t know what I was talking about. So, another self-regulation that worked. I immediately apologized, and promised myself to watch out on the “inside jokes” via Twitter.

The “If it was offensive when someone else said it – You probably shouldn’t repeat it” Regulation
Earlier this week, a well-known Legal Marketing guru retold an elevator pitch that a partner in a law firm uses, but probably should never have been used in the first place, and definitely shouldn’t have been repeated. I won’t repeat the pitch here, but let’s just say that it didn’t go over well with his readers, and it quickly got out via Twitter, and the posting was removed and replaced with a heart-felt apology. So, here’s a rule that you should remember before posting something. If you were to say the same thing out loud to one of your colleagues, and you have to look both ways to make sure no one else hears the joke, then don’t post it!! Inappropriate comments get ratcheted up exponentially on the social web. If you intend for a dozen people to read your post, expect that there are a dozen times as many that will, and if you post something inappropriate, start multiplying that number as well.

Social Web Self-Regulation is not the Political Correctness Squad
Some of you reading this are probably rolling your eyes and thinking that this is the PC Police gone wild on the Internet. Well, it really isn’t. You can have sincere disagreements with your fellow social webbers all the time. In fact, it is actually encouraged. I’ve seen many a good battle out on the social web and have enjoyed even chiming in a time or two arguing my point. But, when you make mistakes, it is kind of nice to know that others are out there ready to point it out to you, so that you can either clarify your position, or as in most of my cases, apologize for letting your fingers get ahead of your brain. I’d rather have someone let me know than have my comments sitting out there waiting to come back and bite me later. So, “Regulators, Mount Up!!”

NOTE: No sooner did I post this, than I found out that I messed up again! I incorrectly credited the wrong author of a social media blog posting last night. And, the correct author just clued me in on my mistake. Here’s to Gerry Heidenreich for setting me straight!! And to Craig Niedenthal for saying he’d still take the credit for Gerry’s article. I’m sure this isn’t the last time (today) that I’ll be corrected!!

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