Play nice in the sandpit

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The title of the post is advice (or a stern command?) given to me in pre-school when I was five years old. Is it the most useful advice anyone can ever get? Possibly.

It is advice I often repeat when discussing the best way to behave in the online ‘sandpit’. Social networking spaces online are full of fun kids and shiny toys, plus room to play, make noise and stretch the boundaries a bit. It can be easy to get carried away and forget about playing nice.

So, as I launch into the online space of another library conference, I’m taking a few moments to remind myself of my own sandpit rules. Oh sure there are heaps of netiquette guides and even strict rules on how to behave online, but when it really comes down to it, the advice about playing nice in the sandpit goes a long way.

Share your toys
It can be easy for the kids with toys to become focused inward, and forget the joy of sharing with others. I’m sure I didn’t know the word ‘clique’ at aged five, but I sure felt excluded from some of them. My aim at this conference is to hang out at the Tweet Perch in the exhibition hall as much as practical, to show people new to the online space how much value Twitter, Facebook and other online tools can add to the conference experience. If not one single new person chooses to join in online, that’s fine. Sharing the toys and giving people the encouragement and support to try the tools is my main aim. (By the way, did you know there will be Apple iPads to test out?!)

Keeping it clean
I’ll never forget the day I found cat poo in the primary school sandpit – it well and truly put me off sandpits for a few weeks. While I might drop the odd virtual sandwich crust or biscuit crumb in the corner, I try to keep unwanted stuff out of the online space so I don’t put other people off using the same space.

Looking out for others
As a kid, I could be a pretty big sook at times. Sometimes I just wanted to play on the swings by myself, despite my friends in the sandpit calling me to join them building the world’s greatest underground city. Online, it’s very easy to drag people unwillingly into the space by posting comments, uploading photos and videos or sharing information that they would prefer to remain, well, not quite as visible. If I take a photo of you at the conference, I’ll ask if I can post it online with your name. If you say no, that’s perfectly OK, I’ll respect that.

 I’m looking forward to meeting new people and catching up with old friends, both in person and online at ALIA Access 2010. If you see me playing less than nice in the sandpit, don’t hesitate to remind me of my own rules 🙂

Warren Cheetham
Digital Coordinator – ALIA Access conference committee

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