Does Orkut have absolutely no sense of social propriety?

I joined Orkut back on about day 3 after their launch. At the time, knowing several people following the social software / online social networking space, I invited all the ones I knew who weren’t already members… academics, journalists, bloggers, etc. That was back at the end of January.

I’ve been fully unimpressed by Orkut. Like so many social networking sites, particularly those that try to bridge between personal and professional, it has a few interesting ideas, but some major shortcomings when it comes to social propriety, e.g., being asked to rate all your contacts as to how “sexy” or “cool” they are. Since that initial batch of invitations, I haven’t invited other people to Orkut, except at their request.

But this week took the cake. Apparently, Orkut took it upon itself to re-invite all the people I had put in as friends who hadn’t joined yet. Bad enough that they did it. Worse, they did it in my name. That’s right — they resent my original invitation!. 90 days later!

This is horrifying to me. A serious academic in the space and a CEO both were polite enough to reply to me saying they weren’t interested. I have no idea what the various major journalists, etc., must think. I end up coming across as a petulant nuisance, and I don’t even know it’s happening!

Orkut, neither you nor any other social networking services have any right to send something out in my name without explicitly telling me what you’re going to do! There’s nothing on Orkut anywhere that gives any indication that this is going to happen!

Now, to salvage my reputation and credibility, I feel the need to go send personal apologies to the 20-30 people this may have gone out to (and I don’t even know for sure who it went out to or when).

Some sites, thankfully, get it right. LinkedIn, for example, sends a notice after 30 days, in their name (not mine), that the invitation is getting ready to expire.

If I didn’t feel obligated to stay there as an observer, I’d cancel my membership. Get it right, Orkut, if you plan to stick around.

UPDATE: Apparently, Orkut had posted something about this on their news page:

Invitation Problems 4/27/2004

We reported on April 1st that a set of mail problems had been fixed. We have now solved an additional set of issues specifically related to invitations. A large number of invitations that we tried to send in the past either were not delivered correctly, or were unusable. We are now resending those invitations. We have attempted to remove the ones for users who did signup with the service, but there will still be some duplicates.

Hmm… at least this explains it. Still doesn’t make it right. I appreciate them trying to remove the ones who had signed up. But sending the rest of them 90 days later without asking anybody was a bad decision.

There’s a saying: “In business, timing is everything.” What might have been appropriate three months ago isn’t necessarily now. Regardless of the reason for it, Orkut still shouldn’t have sent them out without asking.

New York investment conferences: talks on social network software

I will be speaking on social network software at these two New York conferences. I hope to see you there.

+ The Hedge Fund Start-Up & Business Development Forum, May 11-12, 2004

+ Private Equity Summit 2004: Fund Formations & Emerging Investment Opportunities, May 18, 2004

Social Networking Directory – Privinfo

Courtesy of Cem Sertoglu, I learned recently about this new Social Networking Directory, Privinfo.

Interesting perspective on creating your social networking profiles

Erik van Bekkum did something really interesting in creating his Ecademy profile — he enlisted the help of his friends.

In case you’re not familiar, Ecademy has as one element of its profile a field called “50 Words”. It’s intended to be a list of keywords that describe you both personally and professionally. It can also help you find other people like you by searching for the members with the most matched words.

It is quite an exercise in reductionism to try to capture your identity, your essence, in 50 words. Erik enlisted the help of his friends:

I tried to stay away from the business keywords only and introduce personal ones as well. To do this I started off with 15 personal keywords and 15 business keywords. Then I let my associates put in four new ones of each category and take one or two out from the ones I came up with (as long as they are motivated..). I did the same with some friends who were able to describe me better than I myself. The result is that I have a list of words that could describe me from my personal perspective (who I think I am, or want to become) and from the perspective of people that know me (who people think I am, or have been).

via Jack Vinson

NY Bloggers: Monday, May 3 @ 6PM @ APPLE STORE SOHO

I look forward to attending this mini-conference for New York Bloggers, Monday, May 3, 6PM, Apple Store Soho. See you there!

I have to say I’m very surprised that they don’t have some sort of easily visible mechanism for identifying who else has signed up.

Corporate Blogging Elevator Pitch Contest: The envelope please…

The results are in for the Corporate Blogging Elevator Pitch Competion, and the winner is…

Lee LeFever of Common Craft Consulting!

Lee won a $100 Amazon gift certificate from Weblogs Inc. sponsor Spoke Software, the publication of his winning pitch on the blogs of all the judges, and, of course, “bragging rights”. ;-)

This couldn’t happen to a nicer person. Lee has been a friend and colleague of mine for a couple of years now, starting on the Communities of Practice Yahoo Group, where we met when he was running the online communities at Solucient. I’ve frequently linked to and quoted him here, and he’s been a valuable contributor to our book. He also has a tremendous knack for explaining technology in plain English.

The judging panel consisted of Dave Pollard, Dina
Mehta
, Don Park, Flemming Funch,
Jim McGee, Lilia
Efimova
, Martin Dugage, Phil Wolff,
Ross Mayfield,
Ton Zijlstra, and yours truly. It was quite an interesting experience, as we collaboratively developed the scoring criteria, as well as having all the scores open for the other judges to see (the contestants were anonymous, though).

Here’s Lee’s winning pitch:

First, think about the value of the Wall Street Journal to business leaders. The value it provides is context — the Journal allows readers to see themselves in the context of the financial world each day, which enables more informed decision making.

With this in mind, think about your company as a microcosm of the financial world. Can your employees see themselves in the context of the whole company? Would more informed decisions be made if employees and leaders had access to internal news sources?

Weblogs serve this need. By making internal websites simple to update, weblogs allow individuals and teams to maintain online journals that chronicle projects inside the company. These professional journals make it easy to produce and access internal news, providing context to the company — context that can profoundly affect decision making. In this way, weblogs allow employees and leaders to make more informed decisions through increasing their awareness of internal news and events.

One of the things that became abundantly clear out of this exercise is that there are a ton of good ideas out there, but we are still trying to figure out just exactly what the compelling business case for corporate blogging is.

Lee’s pitch is excellent — it very clearly describes what blogging is, makes a case for business value, captures your interest, and does it all in a casual, story-like format.

But perfect? How can anything like this ever be perfect when you’re going after a moving target? For that matter, the perfect pitch to one executive for his company won’t be the perfect pitch to a different executive and her company. One of the things that became abundantly clear in this exercise is that there’s no one perfect.

I think there’s room for a lot more development in this area, which I hope the other judges (and Lee) will participate in. Congrats again to Lee, and I look forward to more good things from him. And a special thanks to Judith Meskill for bringing it all together.

How to get clean HTML from Microsoft Word

When you paste formatted content from Word into a Web-based HTML editing system tons of Microsoft specific tags come along for the ride. They are in there for round-tripping; so that you can put the content back into Word without it losing its Word-ness.

If your goal is to serve the content online and never take it back into Word, those extra tags need to be eliminated. If you leave them in, your entry will look one way in Internet Explorer (which is surprisingly Microsoft tag-friendly) and much differently in all other browsers. Their class attributes and non-valid tags will defeat many of your site styles, giving your visitors a mouthful of Verdana and Arial when you are expecting them to partake in Georgia or Trebuchet MS.

When Jason added the BloggingSundance Deal Tracker table, it was possessed by MS tags. My efforts to scrub the HTML by hand were going too slowly so I did a quick search for an exorcist. Dean Allen’s Word HTML Cleaner came to the rescue. It is too easy to use: Just upload a 20K-or-less HTML file that you exported from Word and he will expel the tag demons for you.

From: Microsoft Expel – The Unofficial Microsoft Weblog – microsoft.weblogsinc.com

Seeking Intern: Researcher/Writer on Social Network Software

Would you like to contribute to a groundbreaking book in social network software?

As our regular blog readers know, we are now writing a mass market book on online social networks, and specifically social network software. The book includes an overview of social network analysis as it should be leveraged by businesspeople. The tentative title is “The Virtual Handshake: How You Can Leverage Your Social Network and the Internet to Accelerate Your Business”. Extensive information on the book, including a detailed free guide to the major online business network sites, is at http://www.TheVirtualHandshake.com .

We are seeking an intern to work with us on research for the book.

RESPONSIBILITIES
+ Research existing academic literature for relevant research to contribute to our book
+ Write certain subsections of the book.
+ Timeline: work will be completed between now and fall 2004.
+ We estimate that you will spend about 50 hours on this project over the course of the summer/fall.

QUALIFICATIONS
+ Very strong writing background for both academic and non-academic business audiences. Perfect written English. Ability to communicate complex concepts in words of less than two syllables.
+ At least two years graduate study in a field related to social networks, business, organizational behavior and psychology, online communications, or similar. Our ideal candidate is probably a PhD student .
+ Excitement about being part of the team producing a best-selling book in this field.

INCLUDE WITH DETAILED RESUME
+ dates/hours of availability during the summer and fall
+ evidence of writing/communication/editing skills, including writing samples (e.g., articles you have written for a mass market, non-academic audience)

BENEFITS
+ Learn far more about social network analysis and about social network software.
+ Significant creative input and flexibility that other opportunities can’t provide.
+ Very positive references (if merited).
+ Opportunity to work with mentoring-oriented authors.
+ Contribute and grow up to and beyond the level of your abilities.
+ Credit in the book for your contributions

HOW TO APPLY
Contact via e-mail only; do not call. Save your resume in Microsoft Word format with the name “Last Name_First Name_Year.doc”, e.g., “Foucault_Michel_2004.doc”. Please make sure that you include all of the information that we request above, or we will not be able to consider your application.

Please send resume and cover letter to Resumes @ Teten.com with “Social Networks Writer” and your name in the subject line. For example, write “Social Networks Writer –Foucault Michel”.

Education — the real "next big thing" in online social networking

Now that people are starting to get over the “gee whiz” factor of online social networks and starting to actually make productive use of them in a business sense, they’re also starting to realize that there’s more to using them effectively than the simple mechanics of using the site.

As an analogy, anyone who can type and is basically computer-literate can sit down and use Microsoft Word. But if you want to create winning sales proposals, then you probably need a little more help than the manual provides. And it’s not just the tool you need to learn, it’s the business processes around the tool.

The sites are starting to understand that, too.

Tribe has the Tribe.net Newbies Tribe, and a full-time member services person, Walter Thompson, who acts more like a guide than like tech support.

On Ryze, users help users. The Using Ryze Effectively and the Do you knead Ryze? networks offer peer support, with a lot of participation and guidance from more experienced users.

Ecademy has put together a substantial number of guides, including an excellent multimedia tutorial.

LinkedIn gets it, too. That’s why they’ve worked with me to develop a great curriculum for the LinkedIn Unleashed teleclass I’m giving on April 28.

This is, I believe, the “next big thing” in online social networking — not any new feature, or any new player in the space, or any radical new technology, but people learning how to deal with the very human aspects of interacting online more effectively to support each other in achieving their personal and professional goals. It doesn’t come naturally for everyone in the physical world—why should we expect it to online?

We’ve seen this pattern before with every major recent software trend: ERP, CRM, enterprise portals, content management, etc. One thing that is consistently true is that no matter how easy the software is to use, there’s still more to implementing it effectively than simply installing it. Why should we expect it to be any different with social software?

Jeeves, what's the next big thing in online social networking?

According to Tickle CEO James Currier, “Search is a natural way for online social networking to move forward”.

Excuse me?!? Am I missing something here? Please explain.

“The advent of Web search in the 1990′s taught us to query text data pages instead of talking with each other. Tickle people search brings online search full circle, back to letting us find the right people to talk to.”

OK. And that’s different from all the other online social networking sites how exactly?

To articulate the value proposition to users, Tickle invoked the example of a woman who is in the market for a home. By querying “mortgage” on the search engine, she turns up a list of her first and second-degree Tickle network friends with expertise in mortgages. Any of these she can then contact directly. A friend-of-a-friend mortgage broker may actually earn business this way, Tickle declared.

Wow! You mean it works just like Ryze, LinkedIn, Tribe, Ecademy, OpenBC, and just about every other social networking site out there (except, ironically, Orkut)? I suppose the ability to mix people results and web results is novel, but I’m not sure how valuable it is.

A useful corollary to this approach is the ability to serve keyword-based ads matched to search terms on the social network. When users run a search on Tickle, Google’s sponsored listings appear above AskJeeves’ algorithmic results.

Ah-hah! Now we’re getting to where the real value is (at least for Google, anyway). Although, I’d venture a guess that if you put Google AdWords on the search results page of one of the social networks, you’d accomplish the same thing.

When a visitor opts to search for people only, the sponsored listings are not displayed.

Doh! There went your value! So it only applies when it’s a web search?!?

Am I missing something? Somebody please tell me I’m missing something. Because if this is the next big thing in social networking, I may as well find a new career.