Thursday, August 9, 2012

Content, Context and Cell Phones Spell Near Disaster for the Unwary

This is a true story about my assumption that other middle-aged cell phone users have become as adaptable and, dare we say, "hip" as me.   I sent a text message to the BF several weeks ago, intending to ask him what time he would be home.   In my conscientious effort to avoid getting ticketed by the WA State Patrol (hmmm), I was brief and wrote something like "What time home?" followed by a heart.   My Blackberry  translates emoticons into the actual symbols they represent, so my heart didn't look like the mathematical less than sign plus a three, it looked like a heart.  

"Where were you?"
"I was meeting with a client.?.?"
"You said you would be home before three."
"No, I asked you what time you would be home."
"No, you sent me a text that said you would be home before three...It had that little alligator thing before the three."

I am abbreviating the conversation for sake of the blog and any sensitive readers, but as I reflected on this faux pas of communication, I realized that I broke four of my own cardinal rules of digital dialogue.

1. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.  I am perfectly aware that the BF's cell phone is basically, dumb and that he is neither fond of nor skilled at TXT messaging.   I tend to show off and pretend that I am younger than I am.

2. SPEAK AND WRITE USING STANDARD ACCEPTABLE GRAMMAR.  I introduced the first layer of confusion by not txting a full sentence and assuming that he would understand.  I preach about this all the time.   If you abbreviate, make sure that verbs and nouns and punctuation are still aligned in a way that makes some sort of sense.

3. CONSIDER YOUR AUDIENCES' TECHNOLOGICAL CAPABILITIES.  Translated symbols, video, hyperlinks, and all the razzle-dazzle that some email applications and cell phones and even desktop programs allow us are fun and can make even simple messages more interesting.  However, if your potential customer or personal friend does not have the latest version of software, a smart phone, or other enhanced capabilities, the message looks ugly and may not translate in the way you intended.  

4. I have a framed stamped on my desk that reads, "Learning Never Ends."  I should remember this.