Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Network Unto Others As You Would Have Others Network Unto You

Network Unto Others As You Would Have Others Network Unto You

By Dennis D. McDonald

Last week Wade Rockett left an insightful comment on my McDonald's Rules of Personal Connection Behavior post. I had proposed an initial set of rules concerning personal decisionmaking about participation in social networking activities:

  1. There are only 24 hours in a day.
  2. Some of these hours are devoted to work and some to play.
  3. During these hours we make decisions about connecting with others and about allowing others to connect with us.
  4. How we make these connections are driven both by (a) our willingness to connect with others and by (b) the identities of the people we are willing to connect with.

The background to my post is that I'm a firm believer in social networking fatigue. For example, as a Linkedin member, I'm more likely than not to reject an "invitation to connect" if I don't know the inviter who uses a generic invitation.

Here are Wade's additional rules:

  • There are only 24 hours in a day, so honor your energy (TM Merlin Mann) and respect the time and energy of others.
  • People are not baseball cards, to be collected via social networking sites. Focus on creating and maintaining meaningful, relevant connections.
  • The meaning and relevance of some connections might only emerge over time and in ways that you don't expect. Be creative with your network.

I like Wade's suggestions, especially the "people are not baseball cards" comment. (I admit I don't "get" the Merlin Mann reference.) But when I sat down to create a unified list of rules that combine mine with his, I was stumped. My approach to rules was essentially analytical and quantitative -- sort of "right brain." Wade's rules are more "left brain."

The best I can do to combine the two is the title of this post: "Network Unto Others As You Would Have Others Network Unto You." If you have a better idea, please let me know!

Note there is no reference to "community" in this saying. I have questions about when to apply the concept of "communities" to social networking. In my view, one of the major advantages of social networking and social media is that individuals can use technology to establish and maintain relationships with many individuals, regardless of location. 

I guess I draw the line at creating a technology-enabled social network where I have lost the ability to recognize individuals within the network. But maybe that's just me; I would be very interested in hearing other comments about this topic. Here are some sample questions:

  1. When using social media to engage large numbers of people online for commercial or marketing purposes, is it ethical to use automated processes and rules to simulate that communications are personalized and originating with a real human? (I call this the Electronic Betty Crocker question.)
  2. If an electronic avatar can pass a Turing Test in its communications with individuals online, should operators of that avatar be required to inform individuals they are dealing with an artificial construct?


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