I've been thinking about James Whatley's discussion asking When does Batman sleep?
Here's the pull-quote...
Sometimes Brian, I find myself stuck in front of the laptop at like 10pm on a Sunday night. The kids are in bed, the wife isn’t far behind and there I am answering customer care questions over Twitter with some guy in Geneva! This isn’t my day job. I’m a developer. My question to you is sir; when does Batman sleep?
I find myself in a somewhat similar position.
My twitter account, like this blog, is strictly personal. These are my views, not those of my employers. Yet sometimes, I give what could be seen as professional advice.
I'm interested in phones - so when someone asks me for a phone recommendation, I'm usually happy to help. But should I recommend Vodafone devices? Should I recommend them a Vodafone device when I know there may be a better device on T-O2ang3?
What should I do?
The second story is no less interesting or important - but can I risk being seen as an employee giving an official critique on the company? Can I risk the potential drop in share price? Can I risk my personal comments infringing on my professional life?
What should I do?
I'm not Batman - I'm barely even Alfred. I work to live - I don't live to work.
I think it's accepted that I can use my private persona to improve my public persona. I can answer professional questions in a personal capacity. But if I do it too much, I risk being seen as nothing but a company stooge - without any of the protection of an "official" professional.
Recently, the role was reversed. My employers recently asked me to use my personal network to the benefit of my private network. At the launch of Vodafone 360 they wanted me to live twitter, twitpic, Qik and YouTube from my personal account.
This presented a problem for me. When I breach the sanctity of my personal account with professional content, do I devalue myself. Don't get me wrong, I don't think I'm Shakespeare being paid to fill Romeo and Juliet with references to Durex, but I like to think I have some integrity.
What Do You Think?
So, I asked the people who follow me.
I've been asked to twitter for a Vodafone launch event. Should I do it from @edent or should I keep this non-professional?
— Terence Eden (@edent) September 9, 2009
Reassuringly, the answers they gave were all in a similar vein.
@edent Why not set up an "event" twitter handle for the event - keep all separate
— Andrew Grill (@AndrewGrill) September 9, 2009
@edent do it from another account - with the occasional cross-tweet from this one
— Rachel Clarke (@rachelclarke) September 9, 2009
— Helen Keegan (@technokitten) September 9, 2009
— Denny (@denny) September 9, 2009
— Sam Machin (@sammachin) September 9, 2009
— ilicco (@ilicco) September 9, 2009
@edent I concur with the keep it seperate to your personal account, I for one value your opinions as entirely your own.
— Dominic Travers (@DominicTravers) September 9, 2009
— Matt Millar (@millarm) September 9, 2009
So, that's what I did. I tweeted and twitpic'd from @Vodafone_Group.
I didn't have time to set up a separate Qik account, so I used my own.
When I saw something that I thought my followers would find genuinely interesting, I retweeted my "professional" account.
But I feel uneasy about this. I don't want to be seen as "just" a Vodafone employee. I was originally @Vodaclone on twitter, but I changed my name to fully disassociate myself from my (current) employer.
I want to be interesting enough to be friends with. I don't want people to be friendly with me only because of what I do 9-5. I also don't want to alienate those who are interested in me by appearing to be partisan.
Reversing the Roles
What prompted me to write this post was a tweet I made this morning.
— Terence Eden (@edent) October 15, 2009
Both Bash and Kate work for the Telegraph. Neither of them tweet in a professional capacity.
I can't help feeling that I abused their personal space to ask them a professional question. Both were very polite in answering me. But, if they're anything like me, they'll soon find it tiresome to have every Tom, Dick and Harry asking them the same banal questions again and again.
I'm a firm believer in life/work balance. How do I square this with my desire to help my friends and help my employers? Is it even possible to demarcate between the personal and the professional?