Craft Beer, Fine Wine, Artisan Spirits, and Mouthgasmic Food.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Rise Austin Session: Hacking online Communities - Yelp for Business Owners

We've heard all about the website Yelp.  Some people love it, and some people hate it.  Some people feel that their policies are unfair to business owners and that business owners are powerless to reviews.  Don't fret.  Don't get angry.  Do get proactive, and do learn how to manage your business owner's account to turn sour reviewers into happy customers.  On Tuesday, March 3rd, I'll be giving a presentation on Rise Austin to show you how to navigate and understand the ins and outs of Yelp policies and how to understand the Yelp community.  I'll also show you several small Austin businesses that used Yelp to drum up business (without paying $300 per month). Click here to register

And the biggest question on your mind now: Since Yelp is being sued, will it go away?  My personal opinion is "No, Yelp is not going away."  The amount of traffic on Yelp is staggering compared to other similar websites.   Yelp was offered $500 million dollars by Google.  Yelp has spurred many angry articles in the past about their policies.  None of those things have made any impact on Yelp as they are continuing to grow bigger and bigger.  Yelp isn't going away, in fact business pages on Yelp are often very close to the top when searching for a business on Google.  If a business doesn't have a website and adequate SEO skills, you can guarantee that their Yelp page will be the first link up on Google. 

What can you do?  You can ignore Yelp.  Some businesses thrive regardless what reviewers write about them.  On the other hand, you can use Yelp, a website with roughly 8.5 million visitors daily, as a marketing tool.  For Free.  If you can't make it to the session, here's a sneak peak into one of the topics I'll be covering.  I'm also available at or 512-981-7627.

Rule 1: Do NOT ask for reviews.  This is in fine print on the Yelp for Business Owners page here.  It really should be in bold and in all caps.  Do not ask customers for reviews.  Do not ask friends to review.  Do not ask family to review.  Anytime a business starts to get many positive reviews from people who aren't obviously part of the community, things look suspicious.  These newbies are often referred to as 0/1 as in zero friends and only one review.  There's nothing against newbies as everyone starts somewhere, but it does look suspicious when as business gets nothing but newbie reviews.  There an entire thread on Yelp dedicated to outing suspsicous looking activity on reviews also called shill reviews.  This type of behavior only creates anger and distrust in the community, and even casual Yelp users recognize the behavior easily.  Urban, an American Grill took it to a new level by having employees write shill reviews even before the restaurant opened.  Yep, it is pretty easy to see that they have literally shot themselves in the foot.  I'll be displaying the reviews written by the employees and of the Yelp community at the Rise presentation.  They have been taken down by Yelp Admin for the time being. 

You might ask, "But I'm referring users to Yelp when I ask people to write reviews for my business."  Yelp gets about 8.5 million visits a day.  They probably don't care if you referred 100 users a day to their website; they don't really need word of mouth advertising.  However, the community does care that your reviews (even though your friends and customers have good intentions) look like shill reviews.  If your friends and family do review you, it should be disclosed within the review.  With social media being a huge part of our lives, you can't hide your friends and family anymore.  It is better to be upfront rather than the being outed on the master debater business flogging thread

Also, here's a few other interesting characteristics about the Yelp community.  They love dogs and support almost every single event or cause for dogs.  If you have a dog business, you are pretty much welcomed with open arms.  They love supporting local businesses.  Most are internet savvy and educated.  While there are always a few angry and unsocial-able people in every community, Yelp users are generally very friendly and outgoing.  Many business owners are also have individual accounts on Yelp, and they are also active in the community. 

To register for the full presentation on March 2nd, click here:   For more information: or 512-981-7627.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fino, Jack Allen's, Wine & Food Foundation w/Mirabelle, Carillon, & Uncle Billy's bringing you good eats and drinks

With five booze and food events right around the corner, Austin is in for a treat.  Fino, Jack Allen's, The Wine and Food Foundation, The Carillon, and Uncle Billy's all have some fun events in store for the beer, wine, or cocktail lovers.  You'll know where I'll be!  See below for deets. 

Fino's St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur Dinner  75. per person, Cocktail Reception @ 6:30 PM, Dinner @ 7 PM. Reservations at 474-2905



Girasol- Fino Sherry, St. Germain, Sunshine Bitters

Course 1

Scallop Crudo with Grapefruit & Lavender
Paloma Flower- Don Julio Reposado, Grapefruit, St. Germain, Grapefruit Bitters & Egg White

Course 2

White Gazpacho with Green Grapes & Marcona Almonds
Cedar Fever- Old Tom Gin, St. Germain, Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur, Peychaud's Bitters

Course 3

Pork Belly Confit & Foie Gras with Smoked Potato & Apple
Scotch & St. Germain Surprise

Course 4

St. Germain Sorbet & Cupcakes from Jennie Chen
St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
Jack Allen's Kitchen, Wednesday, March 3, 2010 7:00 pm, $65.00 per person/all inclusive
5 Course Paired Wine Dinner with Ironstone Vineyards and Brazos Valley Cheese
Join Jack Allen’s Kitchen, Brazos Valley Cheese, and the great grapes of Ironstone Vineyards for a terrific wine, cheese, and food pairing dinner in our private dining room overlooking the greenbelt.  Ironstone Vineyards, fourth generation growers and one of the ten largest family owned and operated wineries in the US, features the Christine Andrew, Leaping Horse, Sonoma Creek, and Ironstone Vineyards labels.  Included in the evening’s presentation are five current releases that display Ironstone’s rich fruit flavors, balance, and grace. Oh, yeah, and then there’s Jack’s food – making magic happen with incredibly fresh local produce, fresh Gulf caught seafood, and delightful cheeses from Brazos Valley Cheese. Jack will share background on each flight and course, including a discussion of Ironstone’s Sustainable Viticulture practices -  their time-honored and environmentally respectful approach to vineyard management. (Translated: they take great care of their piece of earth, which is really cool.)  Call 512.852.8558 or visit our website for reservations.
The Wine & Food Foundation & TEXSOM Fundraiser - Louis Jadot Burgundy Dinner with Director of Winemaking Jacques Lardière
Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010 7pm Reservations: 346.7900
  $85 per person, held at Maribelle Restaurant, 8127 Mesa Drive, Austin, TX.
Parmesean Crisp with Lemon-Chevre Mousse & Chives
Confit of Veal Breast with Creamed Chanterelles on Toasted Brioche
2007 Pouilly-Fuissé
Herbed Chilean Sea Bass with Lemon and Watercress Puree
Roasted New Potatoes and Zucchini Custard
2007 Chassagne-Montrachet
Roasted Squab Breast with Leg-meat Confit Strudel
Blueberry Squab Jus and Spring Vegetables
2006 Pernand Verglesses Clos de la Croix de Pierre
2006 Moulin-à-Vent, Chateau des Jacques
Pepper Beef Tenderloin with Gruyere Butter and French Onion Jus
Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding, Creamy Garlic Mashers, Haricots Verts
2006 Pommard
2006 Gevrey-Chambertin, 1er Cru Lavaux Clos des Jacques
Cheese Course
Crotin Aged Chevre, Iberico and Brillat-Savarin Cheeses
and Walnut Burgundy Bread
  2006 Corton Pougets, Grand Cru
Flourless Bittersweet Chocolate Torte
Mascarpone Crème Fraiche and Blackberry Crush 


Online Cultures and Offline Behaviors - the entire thing

Here's the entire Online Culture, Offline Media article.  Again I would like to thank Chris Lamprecht for consulting on the history of online culture. A very big thank you to John Knox, Michelle Cheng, Armando Rayo, Jillian A. Lee-Wiggins, Ricardo Guerrero, and Chris Apollo Lynn for their valuable comments and insight on this article. Also, big thanks to Natanya Anderson, Oscar Davila, Tolly Moseley, and David Neff for their support.
Part 1 - Abstract and History of Online Culture

Abstract and Background
The integration of online lives and offline lives is a relatively new mainstream concept.  With a growing number of the population now joining social networking sites, online and offline culture have been mish-mashed haphazardly with rough guidelines on etiquette and behavior.  Because the social constructs of online lives are different than those offline, I felt that an article covering the social aspects of online behavior and offline behavior and the creation of online culture was much needed.  It seems that many people behave online as if they were anonymous even though they are not.  This article will discuss some of the psychological aspects of why people engage in socially unacceptable behavior and how the culture of that behavior is created.  I'll lead into a section on the societal impacts of social media, some quantitative data on social media, and then onto a discussion of etiquette. 

A little background about me: I'm trained as a social psychologist, and my research area is behavioral neuroendocrinology in social relationships.  In short, I study how hormones might affect behavior, and how behavior might affect hormone release.  Relationships, largely romantic ones, are the context in which I study hormones and social behavior.  You might notice relationships as an overarching theme in this article.  This article is not meant to focus on how to use social media (though the topic is lightly discussed); rather this article aims to explain the constructs of behavior when combining offline and online culture.  In other words, the purpose is to discuss human behavior online and offline.

Brief History of online cultures and early online microcultures.

The Evolution of Culture is a long and drawn out process.  Theorists have debated exactly what culture is, how it arises, how it evolves, and how it is transmitted.  Not by Genes Alone, How Culture Transformed Human Evolution by Richerson and Boyd, is a great book for some insight on these topics since there won't be debating here.  Culture can have several meanings, including (from Wikipedia) 1) High culture - sophisticated taste in fine arts or humanities. 2) an integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning or 3) the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group.  For purposes of this article, I'll be focusing only on the third definition of the word culture.

Before Myspace, Facebook, or other social networking sites became popular, online culture was relatively undefined and used by a rather narrow group of people.  In other words, it was not mainstream or widely used.  One of the first methods of online real-time communication was "Internet Relay Chat", or IRC, which people often accessed from university-provided UNIX accounts. UNIX accounts also provided a "finger" command, which showed you basic information about another user -- an online "profile" of sorts.  It had information such as name, email address, and a ".plan" file which the user could fill with any information they chose.  The information was neither required nor validated.  These online personas could be entirely anonymous, and easily kept that way.  While people did meet each other in person after contact via IRC, meeting people in person after only online communication was much less common than it is today.  The taboo of meeting someone online was that it was "weird" or that people only met online because they had personality issues or something of that nature (completely untrue, might I add).  The demographic of people using IRC was a very narrow group of people who were interested in using computers as a communication device and had the skills to use the IRC program.  It is difficult to say how many people were communicating via the Internet in that fashion, and many have abandoned that mode in favor of more popular modes such as ICQ, AIM, or Googletalk.  Chat programs are now extremely popular for everything from providing online customer support to chatting between friends on social networking sites.

Another popular form of online communication is Internet forums.  Before the World Wide Web, the earliest forums on the Internet were Usenet newsgroups.  As the World Wide Web became more mainstream, Web-based message forums became a popular medium for online communities.  Internet message forums are typically focused on a certain hobby or recreational activity.  Through my own hobbies, I joined many of these online communities.  Most of the organizations I joined over the years were nationwide with members scattered across the country.  The mode of communication and conduct of business was mostly online via Yahoo groups (which can be public or private depending on the group's needs) or listservs (email mailing lists) and moderated forums.  These groups were comprised of people who were highly invested into the particular hobby or activity, but who were not necessarily computer savvy.  While one could choose to be anonymous within these groups, it was mostly impossible to do so, as people would eventually meet you at shows, trials, clinics, or other events surrounding the hobby.  Joining these national clubs which existed mostly on the Internet was my first encounter with an online culture where members were expected to meet in person.

Whereas, the central focus of Internet forums is the content of the messages themselves; more modern social networking Web sites such as Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter have shifted much of the emphasis to the user's profile and identity.  Most of these social networking sites discourage anonymous profiles.  Indeed, most people create profiles on these sites using their true identities.  Similarly, fraudulent Wikipedia personas are also frowned upon.  It is now common practice for employers to check up on a potential employee's Facebook or Myspace profile.  Also, bachelors and bachelorettes should consider cleaning up their social media personas as it is now routine to check up on potential dates prior to agreeing to a date.  One social psychology study even shows that people are assessing personality from just a single photo.

In summary, Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and message forums were one of the early modes of online communications with anonymous users.  There was no expectation that the users would ever meet in person.  Later, some groups and organizations used the Internet as their primary mode of communication, and meeting users in person was a by-product of attending club events.  Nowadays, the norm of modern social media tools and websites is that profiles disclose a person's true identity, and meeting up with other users in person is no longer considered taboo or "weird".   Websites like or are examples of websites created to facilitate offline meetings of online communities.
Part 2 - Establishing Culture

Establishing Cultures and Randy Pausch's Last Lecture
How culture is established is a multifaceted and deeply involved process.  Some factors in establishing culture include the speed at which cultural norms are set, whether there is a clear leader or dissenter, and how outside visitors view the culture.  There have not been empirical studies on establishing microcultures to my knowledge, but in many social psychology studies, microcultures are indeed established for the duration of the experiment.  One well-known study that investigated the creation of micro-culture is the Stanford Prison Study by Phillip Zimbardo.  While this study uncovered many unknown aspects and phenomena about the human psyche, it was also an extreme example of culture creation.  Twenty-four male students were recruited to participate in a study in which half the participants were to be guards and the other half were to be prisoners in a makeshift prison.  Using a variety of methods including the factors previously listed, the indoctrination into this simulated culture was so harsh and so disturbingly easy that the study was ended after only six days.  If you haven't been exposed to the Stanford Prison Experiment, please do check out the website and think of the implications the study has in many real world situations.  It is incredibly easy for anyone to fall into the role of a prisoner or guard in their personal relationships, work places, or government.

For this next section, I do not have references or empirical studies to cite.  Many of the following situations are anecdotal, and I'm open to other interpretations.  Here are some examples of how I've set rules in a microculture, and a link to how to nurture an online community.

Example A. As a biological specimen collector for the Texas Attorney General's Office (think CSI), I've had to work with many children, most of whom are pitching a fit and crying.  When the children get to me, I tell them directly in an assertive yet calm tone, "There's no crying allowed here."  I do this with lots of children between the ages of six months old to five years old, and the method has a 95% success rate.  Many parents stare in awe and ask, "How did you do that?"  Simple.  I established the rules for my laboratory, and the children followed.

Example B. One of my hobbies is dog training, handling, showing, and judging.  Along the way, I'm often approached for advice by dog owners who do not set specific rules and boundaries for their furry loved ones.  Dogs have very different social structures than humans.  Giving dogs free reign and no rules usually leads to dogs who misbehave in a variety of ways including: jumping on people, gnawing on people, ignoring people, running away, refusing to obey commands, growling at people, challenging or fighting with other dogs, getting food whenever the dog wants, or food aggression.  When people ask me for help with these issues, I immediately point them to the Nothing in Life is Free program and the Umbilical Training Method.  These programs and other variations are quick and easy methods to teach dogs rules and reinforce desirable or undesirable behaviors.  Simply, the dog must offer desirable behaviors prior to receiving food or attention.  It is the owners who should demand and get the attention, and not the other way around.  Many dog owners assume that dogs should behave in the fashion that we desire, but they are dogs and do things that dogs enjoy.

Example C. Every semester that I teach a new class, I establish a microculture in my classroom.  I learned the hard way that if rules are not explicitly set at the very beginning of class, the entire semester could be a disaster.  My first solo teaching experience: I was given two weeks notice that I was teaching an Introductory Psychology course to 250 students.  Needless to say, I was not prepared nor did I expect college freshmen to behave so immaturely.  Since I am of small stature, female, and appeared young, it contributed to the problem.  It is commonly known that these are the three factors that are most correlated to classroom management issues.  Students would stroll in late, they would talk on their cell phones during class, and they would protest assignments and exams.  I did recognize the problem early on, consulted with my teaching mentors, Dr. Ludy Benjamin and Dr. Stephen Balfour, and got my class whipped into shape by mid-semester.  Other graduate students who came to my class described my students as polite, quiet, well-behaved, and almost like a military troop.  A colleague also taught the same course, but she did not instill any rules.  The misbehaviors in her class grew over the semester.  Asking the department head to sit in on her class only exacerbated the problem.  One student yelled obscenities at her during lecture, and neither the department head nor the lecturer addressed the issue.  In the mind of the students, if the department head thought it was okay to be obnoxious and rude, then it certainly was acceptable classroom behavior.  In conclusion, I now spend the entire class period the first day of class in every single class establishing the cultural norms of my microculture, and then we spend a day watching The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.  If you haven't watched the lecture (available on googlevideos or youtube), stop reading this article and watch it now. Randy Pausch's Last Lecture is one of the most motivating and useful lectures that is a must watch for both educators and students alike.  Randy Pausch's lecture is a guide to how to live your life, how to nurture your relationships, and how to achieve your dreams.  The purpose of watching the video is to establish expectations and classroom culture.  Randy Pausch is not only a great lecturer, he's also models classroom behavior the way I would like.

Part 3 - Social Psychology and Online Communities

There are several social psychology concepts that can shed light on human behavior online as well as raise additional questions.  Michelle Greer wrote this insightful article that is related to the first concept I'll discuss.  On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog.  You are deindividualized until you choose to disclose your identity, which is fairly common practice.  However, even when identities are disclosed, people still behave in ways that they wouldn't in person because they feel like nobody knows their identity.  When people are deindividualized with masks or within a mob, they do things that they normally wouldn't.  The example I use in teaching is the Ku Klux Klan.  Do you think that KKK members would engage in the behaviors (many illegal and horrific) that they do without wearing those masks?  I think not.  With the rapid growth of social media, remaining anonymous on the internet is incredibly difficult.  Once information is on the Internet, it's always on the Internet.  Users can be found, for better or worse.  So, unless you intend to live in hiding for the rest of your life, be mindful with what you post online.  You are an identifiable individual.

Many social networks employ some method of dialogue.  Facebook has walls and comments.  Twitter has @replies so you can follow conversations.  Many blogs allow comments on postings.  Fred Wilson's Blog has so many regular readers that they have their own microculture.  Even Yelp has talk threads.  With these methods of communication, we can see a series of social psychology concepts in play.  Humans are subject to confirmation bias, which is the tendency to only seek information that conforms to our beliefs.  We tend to disregard information that isn't consistent with our own attitudes, and we have a very difficult time being objective.  This is a concept we should keep in mind when engaging in social media and doing research or polling people on the Internet.  It leads us to search for articles we want to find, and leads us to discount information we just don't want to see.

Following that same vein, there is no hard data on what is exactly going on in social media.  There is a plethora of quantitative data on how many views a page or post receives and from where the traffic originated, but there is no data on how content is perceived.  Little to no accurate or complete qualitative data exists.  Comments on wall posts or blog posts are qualitative, but it represents a very small portion of the readers.  There is no data on how the other users who chose not to comment actually feel about the post.  So while there is data on the number of viewers and when they viewed, there is little indication of their reaction to online content.  This is where cultures can sour a bit.  Austin Yelp Talk threads used to be filled with light-hearted banter and fun topics.  Over time, a few users became snarky, rude, condescending.  Some believed that if you ignored those users (often called trolls), they would go away.  That is a very common technique in dog training using operant conditioning , i.e. not rewarding unwanted behaviors.  However, the other issue is that if those users repeatedly violated the "be cool" guidelines in the terms of service without any one calling them out, then saying nothing is in some sense establishing that behavior as the norm.  While users can flag rude and snarky posts for removal, most Austin Yelp users simply quit using the talk threads because the culture had changed.

One might think that people would be unlikely to conform to behavior just because they observed it on the Internet or in person.  The popular opinion is that humans are free from influence when it comes to making their own decisions or controlling their own behaviors.  Nothing could be further than the truth.  Many social psychology studies show that when the situation is ambiguous, people look to others and model other people's behaviors.  Even in situations where a norm is already established, others behaving in another fashion can entice people to change their own behaviors (watch the video, it's hilarious).  This may explain how a faux pas might become the norm for behavior.

One issue that doesn't have a name yet and has not been empirically studied is users' feelings after posting something on the Internet.  It appears that there is a certain sense of self-worth or accomplishment  because one's own opinion is posted on the Internet.  The user feels that because he or she has a right to post things online, his or her opinion is valued, trusted, or even validated.  While I highly value my Freedom of Speech, I do not think that just because certain information can be posted that it should be posted or that it is correct.  My personal rule of thumb is: If I won't say it to someone's face, I shouldn't post it online.

Part 4 - The Importance of Social Media and Social Media as Advertising

The Importance of Social Media in our society

The importance of social media is quickly growing; some cities have developed online community newspapers. Social media and online cultures do matter.  Online communication is just one medium in which to transmit information, exchange ideas, and meet people.  Here are some stories of how social media has affected something offline, both positively and negatively.

Case 1. Rock Art Brewery was sent a cease and desist by Monster (the billion-dollar energy drink company), over a Rock Art beer called Vermonster.  To make an incredibly long story short, fans of Rock Art Brewery united on blogs and Twitter urging people to boycott Monster products.  Hashtags ranging from #boycottmonster to #savethevermonster flooded my Twitter feed.  Even non-beer drinkers saw the inequity of the situation and pledged their support for Rock Art Brewery.  Just check out all the blog posts listed here. Those blog posts went up in just a matter of days after the word had gotten out.  Eventually, Monster backed off, and Rock Art Brewery was able to continue selling their Vermonster free of harassment.

Case 2. As I was watching CNN at the gym, Josh Levs was doing a segment about using social media to find missing children.  He showed this Facebook fan page called Missing Children, Let's find Them.  Imagine an entire city being alerted to a missing child via radio, television, news articles, Facebook, and Twitter.  Finding missing kids would be so much faster and more efficient.  If you know anything about missing children, the length of time they've been missing is highly correlated to the likelihood that the child is no longer alive.  Time is critical in these cases.  This is only one way that social media can be beneficial to society.

Case 3. is a very popular blog filled with secrets submitted on a post card.  While the submitters of the post cards are anonymous, the idea that someone can disclose deep and disturbing secrets has spawn into what amounts to an emotional support group.  Click on any of the comments and you'll see evidence of an online community within One reader's email on how she decided to not commit suicide was posted for a very long time on  Sometimes, we all just need someone to listen to us. 
Case 4. This story isn't about triumph or useful ways that social media can be used; this story is one of how social media can have powerful effects.  You might remember in late 2007, a young girl committed suicide after receiving messages from a fictitious myspace friend.  The lesson that we should all learn from this story is that social media, though online, is powerful.  It can create strong friendships, and it can also hurt others to the point of committing suicide.  Please use social media carefully.  Stop Cyberbullying.

Social Media as a means of advertising

Now that we have established that social media is a mainstream mode of communication, let's look at what it means to advertise via social media.  Research (non-academic to my knowledge) has shown that people are more likely to believe word of mouth marketing (the recommendation of their friends on products) rather than traditional advertising.  The issue with this type of advertising is that - contrary to popular belief - some of the mouths doing the advertising are being paid by the companies for said advertising.  I personally feel that this behavior is misleading because the information is no longer coming from an unbiased source.  If you haven't already seen it, the Federal Trade Commission has just released guidelines on blogging.  It is common for bloggers to receive complimentary items, but there are some bloggers that are also paid for posts, tweets, or other forms of advertising.  In the food blogging world, there are marketing blogs that are set up to appear as if they were food blogs.  I feel that everything should be disclosed, allowing the consumer to decide who they want to believe.  Here are some links for reading.

Part 5 - Social Media's Growing Numbers

And because I love numbers, here are some links to interesting articles with numbers.  The theme for these articles is that social media is a big deal, and the numbers of users is growing. - This site contains a plethora of data on bloggers and the state of the blogosphere. - Mind-blowing social media stats - Fred Wilson writes that blogs are becoming main stream.  Out with the old media, in with the new. - Fred Wilson has a microculture on his blog. Nice. - I love numbers. I love graphs.  Here's some data on co-hort analysis. - More Twitter data - Information travels fast via Twitter. - Old media evolving to stay alive. - Who's on twitter? - In old media?  Here's how to evolve. - Three new social media articles worth a read
Part 6 - How to Nurture Relationships Online and Offline

From the Whuffie Bank to RoadTwip, there's no shortage of advice on how to build social networks.  Here's a link to Gary Vaynerchuk’s five commandments of social networking with many more following below.  However, articles about how to translate those social networks into in personal relationships aren't common.  Additionally, what you see online is not necessarily what you'll see in person.  There a many people who have high Whuffie balances, but they don't have many positive connections offline.  And there are many people who are great influencers person, but rarely use social media or have low Whuffie balances.  Here's one link to a guide on how to attend a tweet-up, how to say thank you on the internet, and here are a few of my tips.

1. If you are the organizer of a big event, show up, and deliver.  There's nothing worse than going to a meet up, and not having a meet up. It wastes the time of many people.

2. Give more than you can take, online and in person.  Reach out in some other way besides the Internet.  Perhaps someone on Twitter recommends you to a client which brings you very profitable business.  It would not be out of the ordinary to send that person a thank you plant or a dozen cookies, provided you know that person's work address.  You might even invite that person to lunch.  When I was the Ways and Means chair for one of my national clubs, I learned that a person who recently placed an order had a death in the family.  I did not know that person outside of filling the order, but I sent the family a sympathy card in the regular postal mail.  Few things in life are worse than losing a loved one, and I'm a big proponent of oxytocin and social support.  From that, we began to communicate more and more often.  Less than a year later, the family, who lived on the other side of the country (Austin, TX to Washington, DC) met me in person for the first time while I was in DC, and presented me with a very valuable and large gift that both my dog and I love.  This example shows that a stamp and a card could turn into a wonderful long distance relationship.

3. Follow up with people online and in person.  Social networking isn't about making many "single serving friends."  I try to always "reply" to every single person who "replies" to me on Twitter in a positive fashion, no matter what they say.  It fosters conversation because my followers learn that I consistently respond positively.  If you want to show people that you're likable, what better way than to have them associate you with positive feedback?

4. One of my favorite business Twitter accounts is @FSAustin - for the Four Seasons and Trio in Austin, TX.  The hotel and restaurant's phenomenal service shines through on their Twitter account as well.  @FSAustin's tweets are useful, full of local tips, upbeat and happy, and very timely.  They don't tweet too often, yet they are always there when you "at reply" or "mention" @FSAustin or direct message them.  Not only do they reply to people frequently online, they are the very same way offline.  Their Twitter managers always make it a point to greet me if they see me in the hotel or even out and about town.  All staff members, including the general manager, wait staff, masseuses, and even the valet drivers, are always smiling, and very receptive of any concerns, online and in person.  They are a great example of a business that builds strong relationships with their customers online and in person.

Twitter and Blogging Etiquette

There is no shortage of posts and articles outlining Facebook, Twitter and blogging etiquette.  However, I haven't found any articles that are dedicated to outlining behaviors online and offline.  Here are some useful links on twitter and blogging etiquette.  My personal opinion in the next part will not outline the issues already discussed in the following links.
Part 7 - Online Manners

Here are some of my personal tips concerning online and offline behavior.
1. Accepting complimentary food and drinks from a restaurant is fairly common for a variety of reasons including birthdays, replacing another dish, extra long wait times, etc.  However, I personally feel that one should never ask for complimentary food simply because he or she blogs or tweets.  Stating "I am a blogger, writer, reviewer, and therefore I want free food and drink" is in poor form.  Tweeting that you should receive free food, drinks, and other goods is just wrong in my opinion.  This is how some restaurant owners might feel about asking for free food and drinks.  Anyone can write a blog on the Internet.  Having a blog doesn't make a person special or deserving of complimentary treatment.  If you are respected and known for your writing and your opinions, the staff will recognize you and compensate you as they please.  Keep in mind that individuals who are well-known for their influence in media all started out somewhere.  Most of them pay for their meals despite what the public might think. 

2. When posting reviews or information online, be thoughtful and careful, whether the information is positive or negative.  Remember, telling your friends that you had a bad experience is not the same as posting it online.  Everyone can read it online, which can hurt feelings or make business owners very angry.  My personal rule of thumb is that I will let the restaurant know that I am having a poor experience while I'm there.  If the restaurant tries to fix the problem, I'm happy with that.  If the restaurant doesn't try to fix the situation, I feel that it is fair for me to post my experience if I decide to post at all.  Before I post a negative review, I have several people proof read it to make sure that the post is fair and the restaurant had adequate opportunities to fix the issues.  If the experience was positive, I will focus on the positive points and mention the minor issues if there were any.  If I thought the food was mediocre, I don't post that it was fabulous.  Accurately conveying my experiences is important to me.  Writing that every single restaurant was just a fantastic five star experience might cause others to start questioning my integrity, sense of smell, and taste buds.

3. Promoting events should be given careful thought.  If the event clearly requires an RSVP or tickets, it is to everyone's advantage to make that blatantly clear.  No one wants to show up to an event to discover that tickets cost a small fortune or that it is not open to non-members.  If you would like to attend an event out of your price range, you might volunteer at the event, which frequently comes with perks.  Check out my navigating food festivals post.

On the other hand, businesses often host free events to celebrate with their customers and to bring in new customers.  I'm not in the market to buy a new or expensive vehicle.  If a local Porsche dealership is throwing a party to celebrate a new model, I'm probably not going to attend.  The effort and funds that the Porsche dealership is investing into the party isn't targeted for non-customers.  Be mindful of businesses before advertising all events as free and open to the public.  The party may be free for attendees, but  the business is the one footing the bill.  I ask business owners first if it is okay to promote their event on my blog or twitter.  Also, keep in mind that free food and drinks brings out everyone in town.  Free food and drink events will be crowded and busy.  Enjoying a free party is a privilege, not a right.  Don't get angry if you happen to miss the free food and drink.  If you are vending at an event, it is to everyone's benefit to ask how the event will be advertised, how many people the organizers are expecting, and how tickets for the event will be distributed. Dos Equis learned this the hard way.

4. Burning bridges when you might need them the most.  Online communities are just as real as offline communities.  If you own an Italian restaurant, it would be wise to be friends with other Italian restaurant owners.  I'm not saying that you should be best buds and spend every waking moment together.  But you ought not write unflattering things about them online.  I once tweeted a positive comment about a yogurt shop I frequented.  30 seconds later, a gelato shop tweeted how yogurt in general was a terrible product.  I was put off by the gelato shop's behavior, and I don't intend on patronizing a business with such an attitude. 

5. If you have socially unacceptable attitudes, you shouldn't broadcast them.  It's 2009, but there are still racists, sexists, and mean people in this world.  Those attitudes are socially unacceptable, and if you choose to post them publicly, you might not have many friends.  Two local DJs made that mistake, and there has been quite the buzz about it.  I'm not going to debate whether what was said was actually intended to be a racial comment.  Regardless, some listeners were offended.  I feel that I can pull a Delfina's pizza stunt in which the employees wore their negative reviews on a shirt, and I'm going to link to a racially insensitive post written about myself.  Since it is about me, I won't be hurting anyone else's feelings by using it.  I'd also like to mention that I am Asian, and the writer's husband also proceeded to make sexual arm gestures and hip gyrating moves during the interaction.  The two local DJs and the author of the blog post have committed a serious social blunder. 

6. Somethings are better kept private.  Posting personal information online might violate someone's trust in you, exploit someone's privacy, make others feel uncomfortable, tip off authorities and lead to your arrest (it's funny, just read it), or create problems in the work place.  In browsing through the previous blog when adding it to this article as an example, I found the content to be quite inappropriate in social media.  There are support groups for depression and other mental illnesses.  Posting information about personal marriage problems, drug dependency, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder along with identifying photos and information is not a good idea.  This would make online and offline interactions with either person in this couple awkward to say the least.  I feel awkward reading it.  Social media outlets should not be used as a support group.  It is better to find a support group that also uses social media for healing.  There are also websites like FmyLife and PostSecret to vent those private feelings.

7. It is perfectly normal and accepted to disagree with others online.  However, disagreements can be handled with tact.  Unless you do want some major attention, fighting online probably isn't a good idea.  Fighting in offline doesn't accomplish much either. 

Also, please read this post written by another Austinite (not related to my incident either).  Tweeps, don't be mean.  Twitter users are real people with real feelings.  Now that online interactions intersect with real lives, think twice before hitting send.  

Part 8 - References and Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Chris Lamprecht for consulting on the history of online culture. A very big thank you to John Knox, Michelle Cheng, Armando Rayo, Jillian A. Lee-Wiggins, Ricardo Guerrero, and Chris Apollo Lynn for their valuable comments and insight on this article. Also, big thanks to Natanya Anderson, Oscar Davila, Tolly Moseley, and David Neff for their support.

How to live your life, Lessons from Randy Pausch -

How to build and online community -

Newsgroups -

Twitter and Human Evolution -

How to say Thank You on the internet:

Less online, more offline -
What not to blog -

Keeping your bodily functions off the Internet -

The Whuffie Bank -

First impressions on the Internet -

Tweeters, mean people suck -

Wearing criticisms with pride 1 -

Wearing criticisms with pride 2 -

Destroying business relationships -

What's a single serving friend? -

RoadTwip -

Twitter manners 1 to 11 -

Don't post negative things about work on Facebook -

The real you on Facebook -

ThatKevinSmith Vs. SouthwestAir -

Don't demand free stuff -

Background checking your dates -

Delete your drunken photos before your interview -

Gary V's social media rules, wine not included -

Post Secret -

My dog is totally awesome -

Stop Cyberbullying -

Angry business owners get violent -

Stanford Prison Study -

Social Psychology - Deindividuation -

The Ku Klux Klan -

Deindividuation and the KKK -

On the Internet, no one knows that you're a dog -,_nobody_knows_you%27re_a_dog

Social Psychology - Confirmation Bias -

Ignoring problem behaviors -

Operant Conditioning -

Classical Condtioning -

Social Norms -

Social Psychology - Conformity -

Conformity Video (funny) -

Bazaarvoice white papers -

This site contains a plethora of data on bloggers and the state of the blogosphere-

Blogs are becoming main stream -

Fred Wilson has a microculture on his blog  -

I love numbers. I love graphs.  Here's some data on co-hort analysis -

More Twitter data -

Information travels fast via Twitter -

Old media evolving to stay alive -

Who's on twitter? -

Quantitative and Qualitative Data -

Three new social media articles worth a read -

Freedom of Speech on the internet -

In old media?  Here's how to evolve -

Word of Mouth Marketing -

Internet Trolls -

10 simple rules for Tweeting up -

Classroom Teaching Tips -

Social media, playing economics games, and accountability -

FTC and Blogging Ethics Articles 1-6 :

On building successful long-term relationships -

Follow this business twitter account -

Oxytocin, it's good for you (the hormone, not the drug) -

Watch what you say on the radio -

You're a tenured professor on wiki? -

Dos Equis blunder of a party -

This story is so Farkable -

Find missing kids -

Craft Brew wins this round -

.plan -
Mind-blowing social media stats -

Austin's online community newspaper -

Listservs -

FmyLife -

PostSecret - - -
Interesting additional reading articles:

Explaining cognitive surplus or why are we on the Internet -

Do you Foursquare? -

Retweet me -

I can't disclose everything everywhere:

Social Identities and forums: A Frame model:

Canidate 101: Do's and Don'ts:

Social Recruiting -

Don't fight on Twitter and murder afterwards -,0,7371262.story