Archives for July 2004

Online social networks go to work

This MSNBC article on Online social networks go to work reads like a summary of our book.

Travis Kalanick, Founder and CEO of Red Swoosh

Q: How do you use online social networking services?

A: Social networks are like grease — in some cases, gasoline — for our personal business networking machines. If you aren’t plugged in, you will be out-done by better-connected, hyper-networked colleagues and competitors.

Cartoons and Social Networks

This 2000 article, See you in the Funny Papers: Cartoons and Social Networks, is even more relevant (and entertaining) today than it was when first published.

The field of social network analysis seems to be in … center-stage position today. The fact that social networks is “hot” is indicated by its increasingly frequent appearance in the popular media, particularly in the comics. And, interestingly enough, many of those treatments are quite sophisti-cated. They refer, not just to the network idea, but they often reflect some of the more subtle and sophisticated ideas from our field — and they do it with wit.

Conversational Cheap Shots, or How to Strategically Manage Your Conversations

I recently found re-posted this old article on Conversational Cheap Shots, or How to Strategically Manage Your Conversations.

An excerpt:

It is hoped that exposing these tactics will help muzzle the growing abuse in our conversational landscape. …

First, we have the Ad Hominem Variants where you attack the person as a way to avoid truth, science, or logic which might otherwise prove you wrong. Next are the Sleight of Mind Fallacies, which act as “mental magic” to make sure the unwanted subject disappears. Then, we move on to Delay Tactics, which are subtle means to buy time when put on the spot. Then, the ever popular Question as Opportunity ploys, where any question can be deftly averted. Finally, we have the General Cheap-Shot Tactics and Irritants, which are basically “below the belt” punches.
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Additional suggestions welcome…

100 Things About Me (Scott Allen)

I asked the students in my Virtual Handshake telecourse to do this — figured it was about time to do it myself! OK, here goes… (all links open in a separate window so you won’t lose your place)

1. I believe that, done correctly, writing about yourself is not a matter of ego, but a service to the reader, to give context to your relationship. If you don’t feel the same way, you may as well stop here.
2. Creating business relationships online is my great passion, as well as my business.
3. I’d still do it extensively even if it weren’t my business.
4. I’m co-authoring a book about it.
5. This probably won’t be in it, as they only want 80,000 words!
6. I have two more books planned after this one.
7. My co-author and I met via a Yahoo Group.
8. We have been working together over a year-and-a-half and still haven’t met face-to-face.
9. I met our agent through a contact on LinkedIn.
10. I haven’t met him in person, either (and probably won’t, at least for a long time).
11. I adore my wife and son.
12. We homeschool him.
13. Why? Because we can.
14. I have two stepsons who are grown with families of their own.
15. Their teen years were hell for all of us, but now I couldn’t be prouder of them.
16. I’m a grandpa — three times!
17. It didn’t really sink in until one Christmas, my older stepson gave my wife and me his and her coffee mugs with pictures of their baby, and the words “I love Grandpa” on it.
18. I recently started getting gray hair.
19. I’m quite happy about that and will never try to cover it up.
20. People still think I’m in my 20’s sometimes.
21. I still get carded at the grocery store. I’m hoping #18 will change that.
22. My wife and I met through swing dancing.
23. On our first date, I wasn’t paying attention (more accurately, I was paying attention to her), and I thought my glass of beer was actually a bottle. So I completely doused myself in beer when I proceeded to kick it back and take a swig.
24. We’ve been together now just over 13 years, and I’ve never done that again.
25. I used to be a champion swing dancer.
26. Yes, that’s my wife.
27. The 50 or so trophies we still have are now acting as a giant air filter in our garage. They collect more dust than an Ionic Breeze Quadra.
28. I’m a great dancer, but a better choreographer.
29. I’m a native Houstonian.
30. I’ve never lived anywhere other than Texas.
31. I have no Texas accent, which I attribute to my mother being a vocal coach.
32. I spent the better part of three summers in Sweden.
33. I’ve been to Europe two other times, once on a choir tour, and once on a handbell choir tour.
34. I’ve never been to Spain, but I kinda like the music.
35. I’ve never been to Heaven, but I’ve been to Oklahoma.
36. When I can’t think of anything else appropriate to say, I frequently quote song lyrics.
37. I’ve also been to 37 of the 50 states.
38. I planned that (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, never mind).
39. I love to travel (or hadn’t you guessed?).
40. I build relationships online with people all over the world. My goal is “a friend in every city”.
41. I’ve kissed a dolphin.
42. I love redheads (G-rated, don’t worry).
43. My first name is actually Gordon. Scott is my middle name.
44. My mother planned it that way. She wanted me to use a first initial, which she thought sounded distinguished — “G. Scott Allen”. She didn’t know about Scantron forms, which caused me great frustration throughout my childhood.
45. I always thought that I would be in pretty bad company if I used it. The only ones I could think of were F. Scott Fitzgerald, J. Edgar Hoover, and G. Gordon Liddy. Not exactly role models of dignity.
46. I wish my name were more unique. There are a lot of different Scott Allens in the world. Maybe I should start using the first initial again.
47. I was raised by mother and grandmother.
48. I didn’t really know my father until my late 20s.
49. We get along great now.
50. We IM more than we talk on the phone.
51. I think it’s pretty cool that David Allen is my uncle.
52. I didn’t know that until I was 30-something.
53. There’s a lot to be said for genetics. I’m far too much like both my father and and my uncle to explain away any other way.
54. I’ve never worked for anyone other than myself for longer than two years. I’m neither proud nor ashamed of that — just a fact.
55. I’ve had some great mentors, and been a mentor. It’s a wonderful experience.
56. Mentoring: The Tao of Giving and Receiving Wisdom is one of my all-time favorite books.
57. I usually only sleep 4-5 hours a night.
58. I “work” 15 hours a day, 6 days a week, if you can call what I do working! “If you love what you do, you never work.”
59. I joined 24-Hour Fitness and usually work out after midnight.
60. According to the World’s Smallest Political Quiz, I’m as libertarian as you can be.
61. I believe we need viable third-party politics here in the U.S.
62. No, I really don’t believe “the rules” apply to me. Isn’t that the meaning of the word “exceptional”?
63. I am on a spiritual path.
64. I honor each person’s right to find/choose his/her own.
65. The one thing I can’t stand is intolerance.
66. I believe The Art of War should be removed from business bookshelves and replaced with The Art of Peace.
67. I believe The Prince should be removed from business bookshelves and replaced with The Little Prince.
68. I believe in coopetition. A rising tide raises all ships.
69. I prefer stick shifts but don’t drive one at the moment.
70. The one thing that truly scares me is peak oil. It’s here—if not now, soon—and it’s inevitable.
71. Yet I fool myself into thinking my ’88 Corolla somehow balances out my 2000 custom high-top van.
72. I want a wind turbine for my house.
73. I wish I knew more about sustainability and ecology than I do.
74. I’m an ENTP.
75. 15 years ago, they were all pegged at the extreme, and now, everything except E is very close to the middle.
I take that as a sign that I’ve achieved more balance in my life.
76. I love games — pool, chess, checkers, Monopoly, darts, Stratego, Dungeons & Dragons, you name it.
77. I play guitar.
78. I also play electric bass.
79. Yes, I picked up bass after guitar.
80. Yes, I’m a frustrated guitar player.
81. I’m still a darn good bass player and played professionally for several years.
82. Geddy Lee, Chris Squier, and Stuart Hamm are my favorite bass players.
83. Stevie Ray Vaughan is my favorite guitar player.
84. But I emulate Billy Gibbons and Eric Clapton more — they don’t play as many notes!
85. I know that speed without musicality is junk, but musicality without speed is still wonderful.
86. I love writing.
87. I love public speaking even more.
88. I’m living the life I love.
89. #58 will have to change in order for me to still be able to say that six months from now.
90. OK, three months from now.
91. I sing in the shower. And the car. And the bathroom. And anywhere else I won’t drive anyone else crazy with it.
92. I find yardwork invigorating.
93. I don’t feel the same about housework. I’d hire a maid before lawn care.
94. I love good food. A little too much.
95. I’m the cook in my house.
96. I’m also the masseur.
97. I think those two things have saved my marriage!
98. I have a million-dollar idea at least once a month. Now I just need $100,000 a month throw at them.
99. I deeply appreciate well-designed products.
100. My life wouldn’t make a very interesting book or movie, but it would make a great collection of short stories.

Blogs: The Future of Politics?—NYC, Aug. 10

I plan to attend this upcoming event:

Blogs: The Future of Politics?

Speakers: Jeff Jarvis, Daniel Radosh, Geraldine Sealey, and Bryan Keefer.

Once the province of lone web fanatics, blogging has gone mainstream,
becoming an indispensable source of news and commentary and a means of distributing information that the traditional media, politicians and others
can no longer overlook. Hear some of the most successful authors of
political blogs reflect upon their chosen medium: how blogs are changing
the political process, what bloggers tell us that other media don’t, and
why we should read them if we’re not already.

Jeff Jarvis’s primary blog is at BuzzMachine.com; Daniel Radosh’s commentary on pop culture and politics can be found at Radosh.net; Geraldine Sealey writes the War Room ’04 column for Salon.com; and Bryan Keefer is assistant managing editor of Columbia
Journalism Review
‘s CampaignDesk.org.

Date & Time: Tue, Aug 10, 2004, 7:30pm

Location: Steinhardt Building, 35 West 67th Street

RSVP

Angel investing opportunities in social network software

As part of a recent article Scott Allen and I wrote for Worth magazine, we did some research on angel investing opportunities in social network software. Although some of the hype around the social network arena has (fortunately) abated, there are a number of areas in the social software industry where we still see significant investing opportunities.

Some ideas follow:

* Companies that reengineer traditional business processes using social software. Accolo has created a unique technology to accelerate the recruiting process. Eloqua uses social software to make companies’ sales and marketing efforts more efficient. In particular, they help you figure out how to meet the right potential customers, and who they are. (My company, Nitron Advisors, is also an example of this trend. We are reengineering the traditional independent research process. )

* Identity management. FOAF (“Friend of a Friend”) is an open source personal identity management protocol which allows you to manage your identity and your relationships on multiple social networks. Broadband Mechanics is working on technology to help people in this area.

* Using “peer-to-peer” instead of centralized networks. Confidentiality is a major concern in social network systems because the user’s personal data is typically uploaded to a central location. WiredReach is in trials with a decentralized model that keeps the information protected on customers’ individual PCs.

* Blogging tools. Six Apart and LiveJournal are among the companies designing software that makes it easier for non-technical people to create a blog.

* Foreign-language versions of the successful business models. Social software is becoming prominent in the US but is just beginning to catch on abroad. Now may be the time to consider investing in such companies as OpenBC, which is comparable to Ecademy but available in English, German, and Spanish. eConozco.com is a Spanish-language site similar to LinkedIn.

Ryze eyes shift in networking model

Today, Ryze founder/CEO Adrian Scott announced plans for significant changes intended to improve the quality and experience of business networking on Ryze. None of the plans are written in stone at this point, and he has opened it up to the Ryze membership at large for feedback.

The feedback indicates we’re doing a few things well, but that there are a lot of things we could be doing better. Different people feel differently about different aspects of Ryze, just as people network with different approaches and styles. As we look at improving Ryze, we want to address the issues that people have raised, keeping in mind the overall goal of improving the quality of the business networking on Ryze for all, and making it a great place for thoughtful interactions.

Scott also offers some insight into Ryze’s philosophy, sharing two principles that guided them in creating these proposed changes:

– Structure over Policy

Structure refers to providing an environment that supports the goals of Ryze through the architecture and avenues for communication. Policy is the setting of standards that require communication, voluntary cooperation and ‘policing’ of violators. When structure helps support goals, positive actions are encouraged just by means of the structure itself and ‘policing’ and ‘enforcement’ are minimized. In the case of trying to solve problems only by ‘policy’ rather than with structure, there needs to be a complicated policing and enforcement system, which is not much fun for anyone, and is not realistically something we can provide to a large membership with a limited staff.

– Encouragement of Quality over Quantity

We’d like to create an environment that encourages quality, rather than quantity for its own sake. We still have a ways to go on this, but it’s an important consideration as we look to the future.

I’m particularly encouraged by the latter. The public displays of the twenty most active and largest networks, the number of hits to someone’s profile, and even friends lists have been items that I’ve long had issue with. It is simply human nature to “optimize for the metric”. If you put a number up there and make it public, a significant number of people will alter their behavior to maximize that number, whether that’s really a good, sensible thing to do or not. And those who don’t feel an unspoken psychological pressure to do so — it makes others feel inadequate.

Case in point… consider the guy who offered feedback on my LinkedIn class saying, “I looked at Scott’s number of connections and was not impressed. I almost have as many as he does!!!” Mind you, I had almost 200 at the time, and no great desire for more. When you publish those metrics, you encourage those kind of attitudes. So I’m very glad to see this shift at Ryze.

Some of the major areas targeted for change include:

Guestbooks:

We are looking at converting the guestbooks to being “Friends-only”: only friends can write in and view the guestbooks by default. Members could still opt to have their guestbooks visible and available to all as a preference setting. This will certainly affect the nature of Ryze quite a bit, which will take some time to adjust to. While it will reduce the volume of messages, it will still provide an easy outlet for people to keep in touch with their friends, and encourage thoughtfulness from others by guiding their communication to private messages. It will also enhance the perception of Ryze as a place for business.

Searching and contacting people:

We are looking at shifting to a model where advanced searching would be free, but gold membership would be required to contact people who are more than 2 degrees away and not in any of the same Networks on Ryze. Gold members would be able to contact a limited number of these ‘distant’ members in a time period, such as 20-30 per month.

“Friends” or…?

We’ve also gotten a lot of feedback that we should we replace the word ‘Friends’ with something else more ‘business-like’. We’ve heard suggestions including ‘Colleague’, ‘Trusted Colleague’, and a few others. We’re not sure which direction we should go on this and would be interested in your thoughts. If we go with something other than ‘Friend’, we probably need to move from talking about ‘Friend of a Friend’ to using the ‘degrees of separation’ terminology (e.g. a friend of a friend is 2 degrees of separation, and a friend is 1 degree away). ‘Colleague of a Colleague’ would sound pretty confusing :).

Friend (or whatever) requests (one of my pet peeves, and I’m very happy to see this shift):

We’ve gotten a lot of complaints from people who receive lots of friend requests from people they don’t know — in some cases, repeatedly. This looks like another area where ‘policy’ solutions alone don’t work and more structure is needed. So we’re looking at requiring people to type in a person’s email address to be able to request to add them as a friend. This is pretty standard in most networking-related services. As part of this, we’ll be upgrading the infrastructure so you can have multiple email addresses attached to your Ryze account, something that’s been on the to-do list for a while :).

While it may be noble and friendly to want befriend everyone, the kinds of functionality that can be valuable using friends as a filter get less useful if there’s only a modest amount of selectivity in who’s added as a friend (again, more reason to reconsider if they should be called ‘friends’).

Network lists:

The “Most Active” & “Largest” Networks listing would be phased out, replaced with items like links to Networks that your friends are in. Though the lists are fun, they don’t encourage quality interactions or recognize the value of focused networks with high signal-to-noise ratios. They also don’t work well as the number of networks increases. [ Network Invites will also be released soon which Network Leaders can tap into to grow their membership by email invites from both them and their membership. ] We expect to test this new version of the Networks page out later in the week, along with making the page load faster.

Other miscellaneous changes include:
– Limit of one photo for free members
– Removal of “who’s visited your page” feature (Good riddance! It made many people uncomfortable.)
– Removal of “Newest Photos” list
– Removal of comments in event RSVP (I understand the issue, but think there are better solutions)
– Privacy preferences will become part of the setup process (to help prevent people unknowingly entering the network on medium privacy setting, and no one able to contact them until they contact others).

The proposed changes are open for comment in the Ryze Support Network. You’re also welcome to come discuss the proposed changes in the Using Ryze Effectively Network.

LinkedIn facts, direction, highlighted in Oakland Tribune article

A recent profile of LinkedIn in the Oakland Tribune highlights some of the more interesting facts about the site, as well as their future direction.

Some of the highlights include:
– “While LinkedIn.com is a free site, and intends to keep providing a free service in the future, it plans to launch a premium service that would have additional features around the end of the year.”
– LinkedIn users accept 83 percent of referrals
– 840,000 members.
– 10,000 are venture capitalists.
– Bay Area is the densest concentration of users, with 120,000 members there.
– Most members tend to be between 30 and 55 years old.
– 97 percent of LinkedIn users join based on invitations from existing members.

One low point is an inaccurate generalization from Aberdeen Group analyst Chris Selland:

“They’re using it for personal business. They’re not looking for sales leads. They’re looking for job leads.”

Actually, only about 25% of LinkedIn users are job seekers. Another 25% are hiring managers and recruiters. But about 30% are using it for sales and business development purposes. It’s not the reporter’s fault, but that statement just isn’t accurate.

The most valuable thing in this piece for LinkedIn users is a quote from Konstantin Guericke, their VP of Marketing:

“This is not the sort of place where you build a network. It’s where once you have one you can leverage your existing network.”

This is a key point I think many people misunderstand about LinkedIn, especially those whose primary exposure to online networking has been through sites that allow direct contact and have public interaction spaces. Think of LinkedIn like a map that lets you navigate your network when you need it.

Tools to manage small project teams

Created by Garry L. Booker. It is intended to ...
Image via Wikipedia

All of life is one big To Do list. I personally spend most of my time managing project teams for the various projects that I am responsible for.

I have been looking for some time for a more efficient way to track the progress of my teammates. I have used Microsoft Project in the past, but it is elephantine overkill for the vast majority of projects. The folks at Project Kickstart were kind enough to send me a copy of their project management software ($129.95), which is specifically designed for smaller-scale projects.

Key Project Kickstart functionality (from their site):

+ It’s fast and easy. Your plan is ready in minutes.
+ Plan with confidence. Nothing overlooked. Nothing forgotten.
+ Schedule any way you want. Your choice. Use Project KickStart’s built-in Gantt chart for small to mid-size projects. Or “hot-link” to Microsoft Project or other software.
+ Runs on Windows 95 / 98 / Me / NT / 2000 / XP and is networkable

Project Kickstart is a very basic project management tool, which is particularly appropriate for highly disorganized people. It will walk you through the basic steps you need to take to create a project plan, and will help you to track what happens when. It is particularly helpful for people who have a task to do, and are inexperienced in how to convert a task into a step-by-step action plan.

However, you can replicate most of the software’s functionality (without the Gantt charts) in Excel or another spreadsheet program. I played with Project Kickstart for a while, but now I use a project management tracking spreadsheet that I developed with counsel from my coauthor Scott Allen. I think this is more useful and flexible for many purposes. To download it, click here.

Each week, my team members update the spreadsheet with their progress and send it back to me. It is useful for them and for me to track the progress of our various obligations.

I welcome any feedback you might have.

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Finding the ideal ergonomic keyboard

I have been experimenting with some new options in ergonomic keyboards. Most of us spend hours per day on a keyboard. But most keyboards are built for the convenience of the manufacturer–with all the keys in a straight line– not for the way that our real, non-linear hands work. To learn about the newest and most creative options in ergonomic keyboards, see this useful Extremetech review.

I used a split-key keyboard (similar to the Microsoft Natural) for years, which was acceptable but not ideal. The folks at SafeType keyboards were kind enough to send me one of their patented and very unusual vertical keyboards, which I used for a month. ($295 new). To understand the creative design, I recommend see the photo on their site.

The advantages of this keyboard:

+ It forces your hands to work in parallel to one another, rather than side by side. This is a much more natural position.

+ It forces you to improve your touch typing, since you cannot readily see most of the keys.

+ Easy to install

+ I took only a few hours to return to about 80% of my normal typing speed.

The disadvantages of this keyboard:

+ It looks like the joystick for the commander of the starship Entrprise. You will get many surprised reactions from other people in the office, because this looks so unusual.

+ Certain key combinations (particularly with the Control and Alt keys) were extremely awkward to create.

+ I was moving my hands around a lot, from the main keyboard to my mouse, because the Safetype keyboard does not come with a built in mouse. In addition, I had to move my hands a lot from the keyboard sides to the central well, which was extremely awkward.

After a month, I switched to the Kinesis Advantage keyboard. It’s $299, but you can get a better deal if you ask for a refurbished one. This is the primary keyboard I use now. The keys are built into a curved well around your hand. The advantages of this keyboard:

+ Feels much more natural. Instead of you forcing your hand flat to adapt to the keyboard, the keyboard is built around your hand. I thought that it was more comfortable than the traditional split -keyboard design.

+ Easy to install

+ I took only a few hours to return to about 80% of my normal typing speed.

The disadvantages:

+ A few keys (e.g., the Insert key) are awkward to create. However, the keyboard comes built in with a macro facility, so you can reprogram around those issues.

+ Again, this keyboard does not come with a built in trackpad, so you constantly have to move your hands to get to the mouse. I really don’t understand why it is designed this way; it seems much more logical to me to build in a trackpad.

I think my next keyboard experiment will be the Datahand. It is twice as expensive as the others, has a long learning curve, and looks even more bizarre, but I think will impose dramatically less stress on the hands.