Be Excellent to Each Other

At dinner with Jacob, Kyle, and my wife a while back, a discussion of drama in InfoSec came up. We started talking about our generally preferred medium of communication: Twitter. It's definitely both a blessing and a curse. I attribute a lot of the successes in my career to the connections that I've made on Twitter. But at the same time, it definitely has some limits.

First, there is that glaring limit of characters. There is the whole ( n/n) thing that people do where they spread an idea across multiple tweets, but that's not particularly elegant, and it doesn't always work. Second, there's the problem of text itself. Like I talked about in previous posts, text is an inherently limited medium.

When those two combine, you don't end up with Captain Planet; you end up with a lot of misunderstandings. As Stephen Colbert helpfully pointed out the other day, "Who would have thought a means of communication limited to 140 characters would ever create misunderstandings?"

A little while ago, Twitter rolled out the ability to download a full archive of all of your tweets. It packages everything you've said on there into a nice CSV file, which I then pulled into Excel. Removing all the retweets and such over the years, my 13,000 or so tweets comes to around 300 pages. That might seem like a lot, but when you realize that those tweets are spread all the way from July of 2009 to today, that number seems much less impressive. To put it in perspective, each of the blogs that I've written lately comes to about one page, give or take a paragraph or two. (The first Harry Potter book was about 300 pages, for reference.)

Why, then, do we allow ourselves to get riled up by things that are said on Twitter? Brevity is great, but when you're dealing with complex discussions and topics, the extra space that other mediums provide becomes far more important. If I had a nickel for every time I've seen discussions on Twitter start to get heated, only to see another tweet come out saying that it was a misunderstanding, I could probably retire to being a profession Twitter-er. (Twitter-ist?)

I've been there. We all have. But the next time that OMG DRAMA THING pops up on Twitter, stop. Think for a few seconds. Realize that you're not getting the whole story. Then, if that thing really is that important to you, ask to talk to the person offline. Maybe ask for a Skype call, or an email, or God forbid a phone call. Remember that it's a human being on the other end of that hastily written text. Just try to be excellent to each other.

And because there's always a relevant xkcd, don't be this guy:

Duty Calls