Why I Want a Provisional Follow

Cameron Sturdevant Cameron Sturdevant is the executive editor of Enterprise Networking Planet. Prior to ENP, Cameron was technical analyst at PCWeek Labs, starting in 1997. Cameron finished up as the eWEEK Labs Technical Director in 2012. Before his extensive labs tenure Cameron paid his IT dues working in technical support and sales engineering at a software publishing firm . Cameron also spent two years with a database development firm, integrating applications with mainframe legacy programs. Cameron's areas of expertise include virtual and physical IT infrastructure, cloud computing, enterprise networking and mobility. In addition to reviews, Cameron has covered monolithic enterprise management systems throughout their lifecycles, providing the eWEEK reader with all-important history and context. Cameron takes special care in cultivating his IT manager contacts, to ensure that his analysis is grounded in real-world concern. Follow Cameron on Twitter at csturdevant, or reach him by email at cameron.sturdevant@quinstreet.com.
By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2011-11-07 Email Print this article Print
provisional follow

Making good choices about my social networks would be easier if I could "provisonally follow" someone before committing for the long haul.

As it stands today, unfriending or unfollowing someone on one of my social networks seems akin to breaking up with a high school sweetheart. Therefore, I'd like enterprise social networks to enable what I'll call "provisional following." In other words, I'd like to be able to specify the how long I'll follow a person, project or document when I initiate the "follow." At the end of that time, I'd like to be presented with some options about how to continue the social network connection.

The assumption that I want to be connected to others in my professional network now and forever is just plain wrong. While Google+ Circles, Facebook lists go part of the way toward recognizing this fact of life by letting me group connections and control the way information is shared, I'd like an easy way dissolve social connections.

Here are the ways I would use provisional following. 1. Test drive. I often follow people who post something interesting only to find that this was an isolated phenomenon. At the end of the test drive, let's say two weeks, the provisional connection would present a choice box asking if I wanted to convert to a permanent follow, continue provisionally, or drop. Cool.

2. Limited interest. Not everyone I work with is permanently useful. For example, a PR rep is someone I might "friend" or "follow" while I'm working on a review, but I don't necessarily need to be connected beyond the term of the project. On the otherhand, a product manager or engineer IS someone with whom I want a permanent connection.

3. Smarter choices. This is related to the Test Drive. When I formed the core of my professional social networks, I started with people that I really knew, people who actually were my friends. Over time, I've moved into a periphery of acquaintances and friends-of-friends. I'd like to be able to provisionally connect to these people to see if there is a professional basis for continuing the connection.

If a provisional follow feature were available, I think it would help me improve the quality and relevance of my social networks. Besides deescalating the drama that is currently associated with severing a social connection, an easily convertible, provisional following feature would give me the power to ensure that my social relations were actually intentional, useful and relevant.

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