Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Empowering Sinookas using Social Networks to Maintain a Durass

One of the recommendations I frequently give at conferences when asked about "What books are you reading" is to get out of the purely technical realm often so that you can communicate more effectively with the other humanoids. One of the common recommendations is to read all of the books by Kurt Vonnegut. One of his books I recently re-read (for probably the 15th time) is Cat's Cradle. In Cat's Cradle, Vonnegut defines a new religion called Bokononism (one of the first lines of the novel states that if you have a hard time believing that a perfectly useful religion can't be based entirely on lies, you won't like the book). Bokononism defines a bunch of new terms, which relates to the point of this blog.

First, some definitions from Bokononism:

  • karass: a group of people who, often unknowingly, are working together to do God's will. The people can be thought of as fingers in a Cat's Cradle.

  • duprass: a karass of only two people. The typical example is a loving couple who work together for a great purpose.

  • sinookas: The intertwining "tendrils" of people's lives.

  • wampeter: the central point of a karass

OK, so what does this have to do with anything useful? I travel a lot, even for a ThoughtWorker (a little over 200K miles this year). Of course, my wife hates the amount that I travel, but it's an occupational hazard. One of the things that makes us miss each other are the little unimportant side conversations we have when we are together: little meaningless observations, inside jokes, just the kind of things that people in a duprass do all the time. So I built a sinookas using Twitter.

I created a new GMail account for myself and one for my wife. Using each of those GMail accounts, I created a new Twitter account with protected updates for each of us, and we only subscribe to each other's Twitter stream. All the good Twitter clients make it easy to change accounts, so I have used this to create a private back channel for ongoing duprass style conversations (in other words, a sinookas). This isn't the wampeter of our duprass, but it does make the sinookas stronger. It's been great, and it's something that I recommend all traveling road warriors set up.

Now, my wife & I can have an ongoing private conversation about stuff that wouldn't make sense (or would be too politically incorrect) on a public feed. That allows us to miss each other less. Who says that you can't have a perfectly useful social network with just 2 people?