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How Much Social Networking Is Too Much?

Ok, I’ll admit it. I’m not the most active social networker out there. I have a blog, a Facebook page, and even a Twitter alias. However, I only got the Twitter alias because I had a colleague with whom I was working on a project who was very hard to get a hold of. When I mentioned to him that sometimes I needed faster responses, he said he always tweeted where he was and I could follow him that way. So I signed up with Twitter just to keep track of one person, and I never tweeted on my own account. However, sometimes people find my Twitter alias and request to “Follow” me. I ignore these requests because right now there’s nothing for them to follow.

I use Facebook to keep in touch with my friends and family. I have a large extended family in a different state, with lots of babies getting born to nieces and nephews, and Facebook gives me a way to keep track of what everyone is up to and to see lots of baby pictures. Then business colleagues started sending requests to be my Facebook “friend,” and I certainly didn’t want to insult them by refusing, so I accepted their friend request. However, then people I don’t even know started sending me friend requests. They had read my books or my articles or taken a class or seminar from me. How could I insult them by refusing? Some of them I accepted and some I ignored. But I feel it must be very boring for them because I keep my professional life and personal life very separate. Many of my friends have no idea what I do, although some are aware that I travel fairly often to do some type of teaching. My simple response when someone asks what I do is to say that I am a technical writer. So on Facebook, I never post anything technical. I know many other people are comfortable combining their professional and personal lives, and their Facebook pages combine tips and tricks about SQL Server with descriptions of where they had dinner or what they’re cooking, announcements of wedding or births, shared links to their favorite causes or candidates, and comments on their current business trip. But I like to keep Facebook for my personal life.

So where do I post my technical trivia such as tips, tricks, and new discoveries? I could post technical trivia to my blog, but I prefer to use my blog for more substantial topics (almost like technical articles), with code samples and discussion. (There are, of course, exceptions, and I have blogged about upcoming seminars, these SQL Server Magazine UPDATE commentaries, etc.)  I could start tweeting, but the 140 character limit makes me very nervous. I know I can get too wordy sometimes, but I don’t think I can shrink down my thoughts to quite that size.

A couple of weeks ago, I started a new Facebook page as a “public figure,” and the page name is the name of my latest book and favorite technical subject: “SQL Server Internals.” I’ve posted several tips and tricks already, and I try to post a link to an interesting blog post every day. When I’m teaching, I’d like to post some of the interesting questions I get from students, and I’ll have my first opportunity to do so next week. I even figured out how I could post from my phone using texting, so that’s probably how I’ll do it during class. Now I feel like I can stay “connected” to my technical colleagues, as well as to my friends.

Just this morning I started wondering if all these different kinds of connections were really a good thing. I’ve written before about the over-abundance of technical information available, and now with Twitter and Facebook there are two more sources. If people start posting useful technical tips on these social networking forums, how can that information be organized and retrieved when necessary? If someone replies to a tweet with a solution using an undocumented trace flag or DBCC command (which could easily be mentioned in 140 characters), what happens when the recipient needs to find that information again? Are Facebook posts and tweets returned in a search? Yes, there are ways to search Facebook posts and Twitter, but they aren’t included in a complete search for all information on a particular topic. However, blog posts are returned. So I think I’ll stick to using my blog for the really juicy technical information that readers might need to refer back to and use other channels for trivia and pointers to the good stuff that might otherwise be missed.

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