The World Forces Split Identities in Social Media

i-am-a-pc Hodge The Cat

Growing up on a farm, as I did, provides a freedom that never leaves you. My parents lived on and immersed directly in their work: the farm. It surrounded them, day in day out. I am sure I absorbed this environment in a way where I expect little to no separation between work and my personal life. From this stems workaholism and dedication. A deep protestant work ethic.

There are significant downsides to total work immersion. Especially in this new world of always-on social media. You tweet a response to a work related question at 11.32pm, and follow up with a tirade against an airline cancelling your flight. The seamless melding of what is work and what is your life is one of the beauties of social media. We are all connected.

Yesterday, one of the downsides firmly bit me on the bum. One of my personal opinions; a flippant tweet has caused an ongoing kerfuffle at Microsoft. This is not the first time I have come unstuck on the social media frontier; and sadly I am not alone. Nor am I the last to be bitten. There are many bums with bite marks.

Until now, I have resisted the urge to have separate twitter identities. To me, creating and using different identities is the antithesis of social media. To be frank, I wish that I could be one identity on twitter.; but there are forces in the wider world does not accept the separation of personal identity and an employer’s identity. As I found in recent events, there is always the risk that someone will take an utterance out of context, and use this as a cudgel in pitiful internal office politics. Or, as others have found, fodder for gossip.

The cleaving of identities is a topic upon which I have struggled throughout my Microsoft career. Being true to myself, whilst attempting to comply with the weight of an employer’s expectations.

As stated yesterday, I have created a new twitter identity @RealNickHodge which is a private, for people only account. Each follower is vetted. I am being careful not to let in bots and sensationalist journalists. I am also wary of "brand name" twitter identities. I follow real people; people who are smart enough to realise my opinions are mine, and mine alone.

My old twitter account is now clearly identified @NickHodgeMSFT, with a profile stating my position and employer. As at the time of posting this blog entry, it has 4803 followers. I do not imagine the follower count will increase dramatically. Thankfully, formal Microsoft accounts such as @MSAU are doing an outstanding job of presenting a formal social face of the organisation.

Within 24 hours of creating the new account, I have about 200 real followers, less noise and I trust more freedom to be real. Or at least the freedom from guilt in speaking as me, being who I am.

From @NickHodge to @RealNickHodge

I have been on twitter since February 2007 as @NickHodge. Nearly 4 years. In that time, my account has gathered nearly 5000 followers. Whilst I have no accurate data on these followers: it is fair to say a majority are spambots or dormant accounts. There is absolutely no way I am that interesting to 5000 people.

Considering my twitter persona has been cheeky and somewhat iconoclastic, even to my present employer; and the content of 90% of my tweets are not related to work — I find it surprising to gather so many pieces of moss.

5000 followers does put the @NickHodge account into the top 20% of Australian twitterers. Being an open (not locked) account, this puts my utterances on twitter into the funnel for social media monitoring engines. Their systems will determine my follower count (and retweet count, and other metrics) puts me into a "must watch" list.

I base this assessment on my work use of social media monitoring engines. Keywords, key people. Associated, and you are prime bait for engines to watch filter and report to their corporate stakeholders.

Some people crave this attention. In fact, it is their life blood. I am perfectly fine with their need for followers, readers, fans if you will. But this is not for me. The direct association between my employer and what I say and think is not direct. At best, it is loosely coupled.

There is no quick mechanism to completely delete all your followers, and who you are following in twitter. As an immediate solution, I have suspended posting from the @NickHodge account and created @RealNickHodge. I am being strict as to whom I follow; the account is locked.

For me, it is back to feeling free to comment without the fear of causing collateral damage.

Coming out of the Dark Closet

Nick in Shinkansen

In the midst of the 2010 Federal election, Australian of the Year Professor Patrick McGorry has managed to place Mental Health on the national agenda. ABC’s Four Corners “Hidden Voices” dedicated a pre-election show to highlight depression, mental health: both significant factors in suicide.

Looking at the data, whilst suicide rates are falling – the rates in males 25 to 45 is still way above the norm. And more people die by their own hand in Australia than on the roads.

During the show, I tweeted the following: I suffer from Depression. There. I said it.

For me this has been a long journey. Thanks to excellent medical care, and can function in employment and society.

So, let me highlight: If you think you suffer from depression, are feeling ‘down’ – seek help. Start with your GP. Call Lifeline or similar service now. Do not be ashamed in seeking help. You are not alone.

Whilst there is still a stigma

Being depressed, and mentally unwell is still holds a social stigma.

Whilst public acceptance is on the incline: publically stating that you suffer from depression will have a negative effect on your employability. Whether working for a large organisation or as a single contractor: people around you will treat you with suspicion. Depression can be a disability that directly effects work performance; and the career prospects of individuals.

Or as is sadly all too common: no job at all..

Whilst remaining a supporter of various Men’s mental health charities. Personal donations. Growing moustaches, I am going to leave much of my personal thoughts to myself for the time being.

Not Missing, Just Resting.

I have been rather quiet of late.


  1. Day 5 of a man-flu. Just can’t shake it quickly.
  2. For the fourth time, I am taking a break from the Twitter stream. Funnily enough, life goes on without knowing everything else that is going on.
  3. Thinking. There is a rather lot of things to think about, if you permit yourself to mentally wander.

2010: Voting for Liberals

Fibre to the Dunny. For the Win!!1

In a G’day world podcast I appeared on in 2007 I stated I was voting Liberal. It should come as no surprise I am doing the same in 2010

At the beginning of Tony Abbott’s reign as leader of the Federal Liberals, I will admit I was uncertain of his ability to be the Prime Minister of Australia. Through this campaign, Mr. Rabbit has shown a wiser and more mature head. Having met Tony in person, spoken to him one:one and in 2004 manning an election booth – I am certain what we see with Tony is what we are going to get. Whilst I am no longer a member of the Liberal Party, I would consider myself a "small-L" liberal.

On one of the occasions where I met Mr Abbott when he was Minister for Health (2003 I think), we talked about the importance of Information Technology. He was no more a techhead as he was a Doctor; and was not convinced with my ranting on the power of the internet. A senior Liberal advisor stated firstly that all industries lobby about their importance to the future. Information technology is no different. Secondly, that once the politicians care about your industry, it becomes a political football. Increasing control, regulation comes with increased investment. Welcome to where we have been for the last 5 years.

This election Geeks have suffered a cognitive dissonance: vote Labor, get a government funded National Broadband Network (NBN) but with a coupled Filter/Censorship position. Vote Liberal, and you get no Fibre installed into your home but no Filter. Greens supporters will make the observation: "vote Greens". They’re too progressive and socialist for a country boy like me. Or, their attached policies are not to my liking. Larger Government, more public servants and more control of our lives by a nanny state rubs against my grain.

In the 2007 election, Rudd promised $4.7b for Fibre-to-the-Node NBN. This expanded into $43b Fibre-to-the-Home; spanning 93% of Australians as a mechanism for countering the GFC. Whilst there is no pure business plan to spend $5.37b per year over 8 years, Labor has failed to sell a complete social plan for the need for an NBN. There is no vision. Whilst the Minister in charge is shackled by the Filter debate, the geekerati will not help.

To illustrate the importance of internet access, this election Liberals are promising to invest $6.7b (I think) into internet connectivity. Not as generous on funding, and therefore speed – but within their budget constraints. To the Liberals, the largesse of the NBN is a place to grab forward committed funds to reduce debt. They have no vision for the use of the internet and how it has the potential to transform. The Liberals best warrior, Malcolm Turnbull, has been sidelined. I would hope that Malcolm gets re-elected and we find a pragmatic policy that is affordable. A cut down NBN; copper conduits purchased from Telstra with smarter negotiation. And with a vision for its use 30-50 years out.

Fibre, along with wireless, is the future. Both. This is not an either-or.

Oh, and if Labor get back in, the Filter will arise. Games and apps for phones and other like devices will require expensive classification. With or without a wonderful fibre NBN, our creativity will be throttled at the borders. Even if the Greens hold the balance of power in the Senate, Mr Conroy (if Communications Minister) will find another way to implement his filter.

But the NBN is not the main game as far as I am concerned.

My concerns with Labor is its propensity to plough Australia into more debt. Bad management by both Rudd, but also Garrett et al have resulted in significant wastage of my tax dollars. Less sovereign debt will leave Australia in a better position to deal with the shock of a slowly collapsing US and Europe. The argument that a Government can always tax more to repay debt: this is on the assumption that business is healthy enough to be taxed (and employ staff to be taxed) and there is a healthy world economy that consumes Australia’s exports.

Apart from spending hand over first, Labor has a track record of wastage. Reports on the Building the Education Revolution (BER) state a low wastage %. This is certainly not the case with the Insulation program, another GFC program. Government purchasing should be efficient and not waste taxpayer dollars.

Interestingly, the most progressive policy that taxes the big end of town this election comes from the Liberals: Paid Parental Leave funded by a levy on large business. I think that it is important that women can both have kids if they choose, and continue to work if they choose. Within the economic realities of today, the Liberals have the most attractive policy.

Like all elections, those marginal electorates are receiving the most attention. This is our system working. You have to make your electorate a marginal electorate if you want the same attention. Simple.

I am not so concerned with the “men in smoky backrooms” or voting by random party members that control the levers behind our Federal politicians. It is the same on all sides of politics. Continuing greater transparency on donations and lobbyists would be nice. But nice never wins.

My wish is for all parties to reduce middleclass welfare, and reduce taxation. Or, at least, funnel money into places where the market will fail. Roads, Hospitals, Education.

And here lies the drum. Both parties are using the flow on tax to wrest constitutionally state-based concerns (Education, Health) into the Federal sphere. If this reduced the management overhead, I would support this. The model that seems to be created to increase bureaucracy. More wasting of money. Both parties need to not waste money on overhead.

Politics is never simple: A vs. B; black or White. It is grey with multiple dimensions. This leaves us all wiggle room to argue and discuss; he said she said style conversations. Promises kept; changes in position. Hypotheticals. Rhetorical constructs. It is great to live in a country where we can openly discuss, argue and most importantly: vote.

As I hold a portion of my wealth in US$ and locally in cash – higher interest rates and a lower exchange rate that a ALP/Greens Government is likely to induce. And Fibre to my home, paid for by you buggers at $5000, sounds good too. But it is not good for the future of Australia. That’s why I am voting Liberal. As I am now in Mr Rabbit’s electorate, he has a safe vote in my hands.

Absolute Power

From Richard Farmer’s “Chunky bits” in today’s

I know that Lord Acton had papal infallibility in mind when writing to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887 but given the flaunting of their Christianity by our two alternative political leaders that perhaps just makes his words more appropriate:

"I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority. There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it."

Long Love Affair with Lego

Most Perfect Lego

In Toy Stories, James Maybuilt a life-size house out of Lego. It was awesome. On the DVD of the TV series, he skulks around the basement storage of Lego HQ where there is a box set of every box set Lego has ever made. He pops open 1973 and shows this London Bus set, which he details as "the most perfect Lego set". Someone gave me this set in 1973.

I remember this set well as it accidently ended up at the pawn/second hand shop in Lobethal, South Australia. Being of a tender age, I had carefully packed my Lego with other items I thought were going on a trip. Nope: they were old items what we no longer needed. My treasured Lego bus was gone! Thankfully, some brave adult retrieved the bus. I remember the incident, and this kit well.

Facial Update

Nick at Shibuya, Japan

It has been a long 3-4 weeks.

From Doctor’s visits and other experts, this is most likely merely a viral infection in the facial nerves. You can only take anti-virals within the first 36-72 hours – a time long, long ago. So its has been “just live with it”. Research has shown me that re-occurance of the opposing side is possible. However, it is quite disconcerting thinking that your face is going to ‘flutter’ or ‘twinge’ with nervous abandon.

Today was a major breakthrough. Presenting Windows 7 and Office 2010 to IT Teachers at Western Sydney TAFE. 3 hours of non-stop talking, and only a couple of facial contortions. As long as I don’t smile, eat or look up – all is well. Things are on the improve.

Totally buggered, however. Stuffed. Whilst I once presented for 8 hours, at least twice, when on a trip to India in 2001 – and been at countless tradeshows of 14+ hours of standing around and spruiking – 3 hours is still a long time to be “on”

So its onwards. Good to have a normal face back.