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How I met my sister – An internet tale - July 16,2008
I am writing this column from New York where I have come to meet a sister I never knew I had. By the way, I just added this to the list of “You know you are a true Jamaican…when you discover that you have brothers and sisters from one or other parent that you previously did not know about.” This is my true story (swear to God) of how I met my sister on the world wide web.

Now – before you all draw up a chair, get comfy and start to think that this is a free meal from Yvonne’s all-you-can-read buffet of life, I think you should know that this is not going to be a cautionary tale about irresponsible parenthood, nor another juicy chapter from “The Young and the Reckless – Jamaican style”. So sorry. This article is about social media and the unmistakable and global impact of the internet.

Every innovative wordsmith
Plus, my visit here in Manhattan is timed to coincide with the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) conference which has attracted nearly 1,500 participants so I will have lots to tell about that too. But I’ll catch you up on that later on, now on to my story. To give you a brief background: throughout most of my life, my maiden name has been the butt of many a tasteless (some think funny) joke. In fact many of my friends use my maiden name as my first name, which I don’t mind. What I did mind when I was growing up was that I and my siblings were called everything from, ‘Grinning-ham’, ‘Ghingham’, ‘Grinny’, ‘Grin-man’… well, you get the picture. And believe it or not, every innovative wordsmith thought that there was a place carved out in literary history for them after their witty repartee on hearing the name.

Long story short, throughout my growing up years, which was before many Jamaicans had their names listed in the phone book, outside of my immediate family members, I never met anyone else with a surname like mine. Believe me, I have looked high and low, everywhere a long list of names was published in the newspaper I would scan hopefully through them. Every new class I attended I listened keenly as the names were called in alphabetical order.

Occasional sociopaths
And it was not so much that I was seeking to make a connection with some long lost relative but more in the hope that on meeting this undiscovered Grinam, I could ask him or her a thing or two about how they put up with the name heckling. Desperate times they say call for desperate measures, so as I got older and (maybe) more hopeless I began to hastily sift through the death columns. No luck. So, anyway, I got married and by law own an innocuous sounding name which is only bludgeoned by occasional sociopaths who despite my spelling it out loud and pronouncing it, insist on calling me ‘Mis Nicholas’ – grinning from ear to ear as they say it.

Fast forward to February 2008 when I received a tentative e-mail from – ‘a Grinam.’ Eureka! In her early-twenties, she is a U.S. resident and was curious to find out about her father’s family so she did a family search on the internet came upon my profile, (my website) and some of the work I had done. Her first e-mail described her father (my father too) and she wondered aloud if we had the same father because of our unusual surname and if somehow we were related. Long story short again – we do and we are. So her e-mail said in part, “If you know any information please contact me via e-mail. I believe that in order for me to be complete I have to know who I truly am. Once again I am very sorry if I have bothered you.” So, in the short space of time it took to Google a name and send an e-mail over the internet – I became the proud ‘owner’ of an additional sister, plus the one I have who already ‘owns’ me. And we are here in the ‘Big Apple’ armed with a jpeg-photo sent via e-mail, and phone numbers, to meet her. Stay tuned and yes, I will ask her about the name heckling thing.

Facebook and Twitter
Now to the business communication moral of this story: the world wide web has transitioned from being an information repository to becoming a platform of collaboration and community building. Social media sites like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter introduces us to all the friends of our friends and their friends. We get to know their likes, dislikes what they are doing now and we can blog our life away if we wish. Marketers can have a field day with viral marketing. How crazy-cool is that? Power has shifted from those few who once monopolized our thoughts through targeted messages, back to us. They now have to give us more than a listening ear. More anon.

Feedback on ‘Death By Powepoint’
• I enjoyed your article. Some of your comments are so true. Interestingly, we as Jamaicans like to showoff on the simplest of things and often miss the essence of our own point. Being an avid user of ppt, I try my best to keep this as simple as possible, with the intent of not losing my audience. So, please keep up the good work and I'm looking forward to reading your next article. – Thanks, Sean

• I liked your article maybe because I have also noticed this problem and even pointed it out to several presenters. I felt so strongly about it that I even did not open my powerpoint slides at the last JSE Conference and the recent Mayberry Forum and told the audience that they can look at them later-right now let us discuss and understand the subject.
Congrats on highlighting this important matter. – Sushil


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