Blog vs Real Life

07 May 2004|Christoper Ireland

While I often converse thru email with people I’ve met thru blogging, I had yet to meet any of them in person. Until yesterday, when I had lunch with John Porcaro. I knew I would like John (and I did). I don’t think it’s possible to present a false personality in an extensive blog and since I read his regularly, I had a good idea of who he was. What surprised me was what more I learned from meeting him in person.

I learned that John and I had both worked with Microsoft for the past 14 years, sharing many friends and co-workers. It’s hard to get that level of specificity from a blog. He’s got a very active mind, changing topics with ease and grace. Again, while expressive style is obvious in a blog, it’s not always clear how agile the person is. John’s also youthful, outgoing, healthy and casual. While I could speculate on these aspects from his activities and photo, it was instantly confirmed on meeting him.

Why were these characteristics only apparent in person, or rather why were they so quickly apparent in person but not as evident in a blog? My belief (and bias) is that some qualities are difficult to express thru language, numbers or visuals. That is the primary reason I strongly advocate for diverse approaches to research, including ethnography. No matter how large your sample size, a quantitative survey will only show you that information which can be captured in numbers. Likewise, phone interviews will only provide information that lives in words and voice. Body language, environmental context, physical expressions of personality (like clothing), and other aspects of personality vaguely summarized in the term “presence” are all extremely rich sources of information. But to get their full extent and integrate them into a whole, you have to “be there.”

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