Selective vs. promiscuous linking

One of the great dilemmas of online networks is what does a ‘link’ mean? Orkut offers several levels of ‘friendship’, whereas Friendster and LinkedIn just offer the binary option: yes i am your friend, no I am not. In several conversations with the LinkedIn team, I have heard them say very strongly that they want to promote a culture in which linking is meaningful–it indicates that you would actually pass on a request from the person to whom you link. Which, after all, is the whole point of LinkedIn and similar systems.

I agree 100% with this. When I get link requests from people I barely know, my standard response is:

I’m sorry, but I have a policy of not linking to anyone on LinkedIn with whom I haven’t developed some sort of significant business/personal relationship. This is nothing personal against you; this is a general policy I have to prevent me from getting deluged with requests and to keep consistent with the LinkedIn philosophy. I’m happy to get to know you in other contexts. I hope everything is well with you!

However, cultural realities — the desire to appear more popular and connected—may make it hard for LinkedIn to hold by this idealistic position. On their home page is this ad:

Get Exposure with CV Advantage
Is your resume lost in a sea of 1-2 page resumes?

Which leads to http://cv-advantage.com/CVA_LinkedIn/
, which says on it:

Don’t forget to send us LinkedIn invitations if we’re not already connected!

This is an invitation to the most promiscuous possible linking. If LinkedIn wants to make their system functional, and not have it drown in a sea of spam and unwanted requests, I suggest they make a stronger effort to discourage this sort of approach.

Which leads to a broader question: how can LinkedIn and similar systems create a culture and design a system to prevent such activities? by imposing a maximum number of connections? by grading people on % of requests which they accept? other?

Reading Yahoo! 360 through Lucasfilm's Habitat

Marc Hedlund eloquently analyzes Yahoo! 360 through “The Lessons of Lucasfilm’s Habitat”, and I agree with his key points: walled systems stifle innovation and offer an inferior user experience for power users—but may offer a superior user experience for regular users.

That said, in the long run regular users can become power users. Many people (like my mother ) started out within the AOL walled garden, but have since graduated to more open and sophisticated platforms—e.g., from an @aol.com address to my mother’s personalized @DanceTimePublications.com address. An effective service has to allow people room to grow.


Via Clay Shirky

LinkedIn's Questions to ask of 'Social Networking' Providers

Following is some marketing material from LinkedIn. Of course, no surprise, this is written in such a way that all the answers make LinkedIn look good. I reprinted this because these are valid questions to ask, and worth thinking about. Courtesy of Patrick Ewers.

8 Important Questions To Ask When Evaluating “Social Networking” Providers


1. Does the service publish information on your members without their consent?

In contrast to many opt-out services, LinkedIn does not publish information on individuals without their consent.
LinkedIn protects the privacy of everyone – both users and those who have not joined the service. LinkedIn’s opt-in approach is also the key to its effectiveness: 83% of all contact requests on LinkedIn are endorsed and accepted, because every individual involved has opted in to the process.

2. Is the service easy for your members to use – and easy on their computers?
LinkedIn for Groups is an easy-to-use Internet service. Because LinkedIn’s platform is a standalone Internet service and does not run in the background uploading information from users’ local machines, LinkedIn for Groups consumes no CPU or memory resources beyond those needed to run a standard web browser.

3. Does the service require the administrator to upload a list of your members’ email addresses before receiving permission to do so from users?
Unlike most other providers, whose invitation process may violate privacy regulations and your group’s privacy policy, LinkedIn for Groups provides group administrators with a safe and secure method for inviting prospective users to join a group without the need for an administrator to upload email addresses to LinkedIn’s servers. LinkedIn’s process still ensures that only authorized invitees can join a group.

4. Is the vendor’s service compliant with European Union privacy laws?
Because LinkedIn strictly protects the privacy rights of both users and non-users, LinkedIn complies with international privacy regulations, unlike several other providers. LinkedIn has received official EU Safe Harbor Certification.

5. What is the vendor’s revenue model?
Offering a service to groups and associations that gathers data on individuals in order to build profiles or dossiers available as part of an enterprise software product sale is a serious conflict of interest. LinkedIn does not sell information or software to enterprises. Our revenue model is based on premium service subscriptions.

6. What kind of professionals does the vendor’s service target?
We designed LinkedIn to be used for the kind of business most professionals need to do via their trusted networks: hiring employees and finding jobs, finding business partners and industry experts, engaging services providers and contractors, or for sales.


7. How many actual registered users does the vendor’s service have?

LinkedIn has over two million active registered users, more than five times the number of users of the next closest provider of group networking services. The size of a user base is a good indicator of which service individual members prefer, and we suggest surveying your members to find out which service they prefer and are already using today as individuals.

8. What does the press have to say about the vendor and its service?
LinkedIn is recognized by the press as the leading network platform for business. LinkedIn’s recent press coverage includes accolades from PC Magazine, Time Magazine, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, PC World, US News & World Report, CNN, the New York Times, and dozens of other leading publications.
LinkedIn is the only professional
network tool provider that has won PC Magazine’s “Top 100 Sites You Can’t Live Without” award and the Red Herring 100 award.
For more information, please contact groups@ linkedin.com

Interviews with Heather Hamilton, Tim DeMello, and others

Landed.fm, internet radio focused on career issues, has some free interviews with Heather Hamilton (Microsoft recruiter & blogger), Tim DeMello, CEO of Ziggs, and others. Check it out!

Yahoo! Groups Changes Interface

Yahoo! Groups has changed their interface. Most of the changes are cosmetic, but notice this:

Members
• We’ve made it easier for you to find and get to know fellow group members. The Members list is now searchable by all members, not just group owners and moderators.
• You can now search for members by Yahoo! ID or alias. (Previously you could search only by email address.)

Translation: Yahoo! is trying to convert the over 1 million Yahoo! groups from simple mailing lists into true communities. It’s a fairly safe bet that this functionality will somehow be folded into Yahoo! 360, recently profiled by danah boyd.. I’m surprised that Yahoo! can make this change without notifying their members, but I’m sure that they worded their user agreement broadly enough to permit this extremely significant change.

Strangely, the Yahoo! user profile form does not include an area to include much of the standard profile information: employer, marital status, etc. I’ve got to assume that will change also soon.

I’ve thought for years that Yahoo! has been underleveraging the very popular Yahoo! groups platform. For example, the ads I get don’t even seem to be terribly (if at all) context-sensitive, unlike Google’s gmail ads.

This may be a sign that they’re starting to exploit this asset.

Guaranteed Way to Meet Women (or Men) for Dating

I’m definitely not endorsing this, but see the end of Heart Hacking — lessons for the online dater by Rachel Neiman for a guaranteed (albeit deceptive and unethical) way to meet women (or men) online for dating purposes.

NowPublic launches: innovative new model

Jon Whelan (who I know from his past life with Afternic) just emailed me that NowPublic has launched. This is a very intriguing model, giving people a profit motive for photoblogging and helping bloggers to substantiate their stories. If I were in their shoes, I would later roll in a Google Answers-type service. For many stories, the photos are not critical, but additional research is valuable.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The News is Now Public
Vancouver, BC, March 22, 2005.
NowPublic, a breakthrough news service that allows users to direct citizen reporting of emerging stories, launched today. The website, located at NowPublic.com, brings together photographers – both amateur and professional — and bloggers, and provides them with the tools and resources necessary to cover news stories anywhere in the world.

At NowPublic bloggers can create photo assignments, recruit local volunteers and even set budgets for material they would like other members to report on. The NowPublic community votes to prioritize assignments and filters coverage from eyewitnesses and people close to the real story. Photographers can submit and circulate their work while safely managing their images using NowPublic’s smart media format. Readers of NowPublic get a fresh look at events and can compare real time, breaking stories from the blogging community to mainstream media coverage.

People who write blogs and share photographs already impact the way we get our news. In 2004 bloggers in the U.S. were issued credentials to cover the Democratic National Convention. Fact-checking news Bloggers challenged CBS, one of the world’s most powerful media organizations, forcing Dan Rather to resign over inaccuracies cited in a “60 Minutes” story. Estimates indicate that almost 23,000 new blogs are created every day, with the “blogosphere” doubling in size every five months. “Blog” was even named 2004 word of the year by Merriam-Webster, Inc. (Webster’s Dictionary).

Digital cameras, camera phones and blogs have put the tools of the news trade into the hands of the public. The news isn’t a private club anymore. The news is NowPublic.

………………………………………………………………………………………………..

NowPublic (www.NowPublic.com) is owned and operated by BlueHereNow Technologies, Inc., a private Vancouver-based company with offices in New York. The firm is made up of a seasoned team of Internet professionals with decades of experience building and operating profitable online ventures. For more information about the company and its projects, please contact Michael Tippett at info@nowpublic.com.

(c) 2005 BlueHereNow Technologies, Inc.

###

Five Rules for Balancing Business and Friendship

From RLI Corp. Vice President, Executive Products Group, A. Q. “Skip” Orza:

1. Never renege on your handshake. Multimillion-dollar, complex deals are sealed by handshakes or verbal agreements on the phone, and you live by them. If you don’t honor them on paper afterward, you’ll lose longstanding friendships that are productive business-wise and socially.

2. No ethical shortcuts. Be open and honest in everything you do, go the distance to make sure all that you do is on the up and up. By the same token, make sure you associate with colleagues/friends with the same ethical and moral compass.

3. Defend the inner circle. Watch the people around you; see if they try to cut corners or find an easy way out of things — cheating on taxes, taking financial shortcuts. If you notice that they do these things in their personal lives or in social situations, they’re almost certain to do it in their business dealings.

4. Stick to win-win situations. Make sure every deal you make is mutually beneficial — to you and your company, and to your colleague and your colleague’s company. In short, make sure each deal makes good business sense for all involved.

5. Don’t ask, don’t sell. Never ask colleagues to compromise business standards for you just because you’re down and need the business. And they should never ask the same of you.

Mergers and acquisitions in online dating

TheDeal has a good overview article on mergers and acquisitions in online dating:
The match game.

(The article says ‘Subscribe now and receive instant access’. However, when i click on the link, I can see the whole article.)

Some highlights:

Co-founder Forgatch says eHarmony has been cash-flow-positive since 2001 and has been approached by potential buyers. Although it carries no advertising and is pricier for users than many rivals, revenue grew 200% and registrations climbed 125% between 2003 and 2004, and it leads in new subscription revenue, he says.

Friendster Inc., a so-called social networking site, has raised $13.5 million in venture funding to date and expects to be profitable this year (Teten: which I find hard to believe).

33% fewer consumers are browsing online personals today than a year ago

Contact Network Corporation Raises $1.6M

Geoff Hyatt forwarded me this press release below, which isn’t even on Contact Network’s own home page, reporting that Contact Network raised $1.6M. When we earlier profiled Contact Network, we reported that:

As of March 2004, Contact Network has 16 corporate customers and 24,500 paying seats. The Boston Consulting Group and Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business are among their clients.
….As of March 2004, Contact Network’s revenue run rate is about $1.5 million annually.

Combine this news with Yahoo!’s launch of Yahoo! 360 and Yahoo!’s long-awaited acquisition of Flickr, and it’s clear just how many investing opportunities there are in social software.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Lisa Allocca
Red Javelin Communications, Inc.
(978) 470-2227
lisa@redjavelin.com
www.redjavelin.com

Contact Networks Raises $1.6M in First Round Financing

Private Investors include Search Industry Veterans

Boston, MA – March 21, 2005 – Contact Networks (www.contactnetworks.com), a leading next generation enterprise search company, announced today the closing of its Series A funding. The financing round came from individual and institutional investors and includes the founders and management of the successful search technologies TripAdvisor (acquired by Interactive Corp, NASDAQ:IACI) and Direct Hit (acquired by AskJeeves, NASDAQ:ASKJ). The funding will be used to expand the sales, marketing, and support teams and to accelerate Contact Networks’ ability to enter new markets.

Contact Networks provides an innovative and specialized form of search called Enterprise Relationship Search that helps employees answer the common question “who knows whom…” in the corporate setting. Relationships win business and Contact Networks finds important business relationships that already exist within a company. It helps people take advantage of friendships, enabling them to see hidden connections two or three degrees away in order to find new clients or establish new sales.

“Enterprise Relationship Search is emerging as a business application that drives revenue growth,” said Geoffrey Hyatt, CEO of Contact Networks. “If you are responsible for sales, client development or business development, you want more and better relationships with your prospects. Discovering a colleague down the hall or across the country who can make that initial introduction helps to access and win that account.”

Search Industry Veterans Invest

Additionally, investor Langley Steinert, Chairman and co-founder of TripAdvisor, will join the Board of Advisors at Contact Networks. Prior to co-founding TripAdvisor, Steinert was VP of Marketing and Business Development at the Internet commerce tools company Viaweb (acquired by Yahoo!). Additional investors include Stephen Kaufer, CEO and co-founder of TripAdvisor, David Parker, CEO of DigitalAdvisor and VP of Business Development of DirectHit and several institutional investors.

“Enterprise search is a critical need in the corporate world. While consumers turn to Google and Yahoo for answers from the web, corporate employees also want to mine the useful resources of their own company,” remarked investor Langley Steinert. “For sales and business development, it is critical for employees to leverage the existing relationships their colleagues already possess. Closing just one or two additional deals solidifies the ROI for an application like Contact Networks.”


About Contact Networks

Contact Networks is a leading provider of next generation enterprise search solutions. The application enables an organization to efficiently access and utilize the relationships that employees have to outside contacts and companies. Sales and client development teams discover introductions to target accounts that help win the deal. For more information about Boston-based Contact Networks, visit www.contactnetworks.com or call 617.305.7961.

###