Archives for November 2005

Right-Brain Visualization of Ecademy's Demographics

I’ve seen this concept done before around blog tagging, but I found this particular application of it pretty intriguing:

Most Popular 50 Words on Ecademy

Ecademy uses a concept called “50 Words” in people’s profiles. The idea is that with 50 words – generally nouns, adjectives and maybe a couple of short phrases (i.e., not prose) – you can pretty well describe your identity. It’s basically your personal keywords. The visualization above shows the most popular keywords that people use, rendering the most popular in the largest fonts. The result is a very right-brain view of Ecademy’s demographics as opposed to the more left-brain ordered list or chart. Intriguing.

Review: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Growing Your Business With Google

Disclosure: Our new book is about networks, and the process of marketing a book has certainly emphasized for us how important networks are. Honestly, we have to admit that most of the reviewers of The Virtual Handshake book were people with whom either my coauthor Scott Allen or I had some sort of relationship. There’s such a deluge of new books every day that you have to have some connections to get covered by influencers. If you dont have the right media connections, then you artificially create them by hiring a public relations specialist.

Because relationships are made up of give-and-take, we have to admit that some of the people who have written reviews wouldn’t mind a positive review of their next book, some Google juice from a linkback, our acting as a source for a future news story, positive coverage, or some other form of compensation. There’s nothing wrong or improper about that; it’s just fundamental to human relationships…but of course, should be disclosed.

There are a few reviewers (e.g., Harvard Business School Working Knowledge; Kirkus) who reviewed the book simply because they think it’s worth reviewing. We haven’t done anything for them; we have no connections to the reviewers; and we’re not too likely to do any significant favors to HBS and Kirkus in the near future. (Although perhaps I should give a charitable donation to HBS…)

Learning about how books get reviewed has certainly raised my skepticism about all the reviews that I see! This also explains why you see very few negative book reviews any place outside of certain major media (e.g., the Wall Street Journal).

With all of that as introduction, Dave Taylor recently wrote a positive review of The Virtual Handshake, which we greatly appreciate. He also sent me a copy of his new book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Growing Your Business With Google .

Quite a few people have sent me books lately to read, but Dave’s is one of the few which I actually am writing about. So that should tell you that I actually believe in what I’m writing! However, Dave has very high search engine placement, so that also could bias my writing, insofar as I may be hoping for a linkback or other subsequent traffic enhancers from him. Although I strive to be neutral in my evaluation, I’m just as vulnerable as anyone else to the fact that Dave has done me the favor of some links to our site and a positive review.

Enough disclosures. I read Dave’s book and do strongly recommend it. In fact, I liked it so much that I promptly gave my copy away to some of my friends at ArchitecturalDesigns.com, and I plan also get a copy to my mother, who runs Dancetime Publications.

First, I should mention the title is a misnomer. It’s really The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Growing Your Business With Search Engines. Of course, putting Google in the title spikes book sales, so I understand why Dave used that title, but 95% of the book is relevant to all issues around using search engine in your business.

This is an excellent, easy-to-understand overview of the basics of Internet presence, marketing, and advertising. He goes in depth into some issues that we skim only very briefly in our own book, e.g., maximizing search engine visibility and how to use Google adwords most effectively.

The book is well-organized and easy to follow, particularly because of Dave’s extensive use of callouts and other devices to make the content as bite size as possible. My strongest criticism is that the book is based primarily on Dave’s (extremely extensive) experience. I would have liked to have seen more analysis of other peoples’ revenues earned from following his counsel. Also, I think that the book is somewhat short on financial analysis: what is the ROI from following all of his advice?

With all that said: if you work with any sort of business that needs to be visible to the search engines, and are interested in monetizing your traffic, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Growing Your Business With Google is a very useful book.

Social Implications of Social Software

  

In this blog, we typically write about the practical use of social software. This month, I’d like to step back and look at the broader cultural implications of social software. Also, the points below are a draft of the speech I’ll be delivering Friday at the Virtual Handshake conference. (We hope to see you there!)

We define social software in The Virtual Handshake as ‘Web sites and software tools which allow you to discover, extend, manage, enable communication in, and/or leverage your social network.’ We include blogs, social network sites, virtual communities, relationship capital management software, contact management software, instant messaging, and other online business networks. More succinctly, Clay Shirky defines social software as ‘stuff worth spamming.’ The reason it’s worth spamming is that social software is where people live.

Social software is a subset of the broader set of technologies often called "Web 2.0". Traditionally, the Web (1.0) was simple HTML pages. Web 2.0 is a read AND a write medium. Because Internet literacy is now so widespread; because so many people have become comfortable with virtual interactions; and because of the penetration of broadband, the Web has become a social medium. Web 2.0 applications take advantage of that evolution. Quoting danah boyd, "The advances of social software are neither cleanly social nor technological, but a product of both."

We see 10 major cultural implications of the growth in popularity of social software, or more loosely, the fact that more and more of your social interactions are moving online.

I. Implications for Individuals

+ Basic computer skills really matter…and fortunately the next generation is much more technologically skilled than the current generation. It is harder and harder for blue-collar professionals, let alone white-collar professionals, to do their job without basic computer literacy. Think how often people of all socioeconomic backgrounds email one another, participate in web-based training, or apply for a job via an internet portal. Just to get a job in the first place, you need to know how to type and how to learn new software programs reasonably rapidly. The good news: given that 33 percent of online teens share content (artwork, photos, stories and videos) on the Internet, the next generation will have an even higher comfort level with this technology than the current generation working in corporate America. Scott Lichtman pointed out that at least daily access to a networked device – a computer or cell phone with email – is important for full functioning in the modern workplace. The interactive nature of social software means that fast responsiveness is important.

+ Communication skills really matter…but they’re not improving as fast as we would like. Half of all companies take writing into account when making promotion decisions. A poorly-thought-through email (or blog post) can get you fired. And yet, one third of employees in the nation’s blue-chip companies write poorly, and businesses are spending as much as $3.1 billion annually on remedial training. Approximately 1/5 of Americans are functionally illiterate. The job options for people who cannot communicate in writing shrink every day. If our education system does not address this problem, the disenfranchised will become even more disenfranchised. These days, less-than-perfect grammar has (unfortunately) become more acceptable in writing an email, blog or IM. What has become more important is getting an idea across succinctly and compellingly. This requires better training in critical thinking and understanding other people�s viewpoints.

+ Your professional competence will be more and more visible. As a result, the successful will get more successful, and the unsuccessful will have fewer second chances. Potential clients and recruiters are finding it easier to evaluate your visibility and knowledge in your industry, by reviewing your blog or using a biography analysis tool like ZoomInfo. 10% of all online searches are for proper names. David Teten’s securities research firm, Nitron Circle of Experts, benefit from this trend by developing processes to access quickly the virtual profiles of thousands of independent industry experts.

+ Your personal life will also be more and more visible. Potential employers and business partners will correlate your name with photos, perhaps even using technologies like Riya to identify you in photos that someone else took. This is excellent motivation to be careful as to what activities you engage in. If you want to be a club leader of the local branch of the Flat Earth Society, go ahead, but be aware that you may not be hired for a job some day because someone thinks you’re foolish for participating in the Society.

+ People will become more effective and more thoughtful in building their personal networks. Job applicants are already showing off the number of people they’re linked to on LinkedIn, and whom they’re linked to. ("Hire me and I’ll get you in the door at ______.") Who do you link to on your blog? Which people does Visible Path show that you have emailed? The answers impact your professional success. There exists an ongoing, cursory debate about the productivity of online social networks: is it easy to reach new business prospects and partners through multiple degrees of relationship-connections? What does seem to happen is that those people who practice building and strengthening relationships gain momentum and increasing benefits over time. That is, social networking technology is serving as just a tool towards the more sophisticated art of building personal relationships.

II. Implications for Businesses

+ Businesses can’t control the dialogue, but business will attempt to "own the frame", to quote Lee Bryant. Although businesses cannot control what consumers say about their products, at the very least they can make the conversation more visible. For example, you can seed Technorati and del.icio.us tags with some tags for your products, and hope that other people will tag their output similarly. Yo
u can review the entries for your products and services on Wikipedia for accuracy. And you can blog to make sure that your point of view is represented in the blogosphere.

+ The Pro-Am Revolution: more amateurs are pursuing their part-time activities to a very high, even professional standard. One of the multiple factors driving this widely-discussed trend is the ease of connecting with and learning from other serious amateurs online, creating a community of serious amateurs. Companies will learn to leverage their employees’ part-time activities. For example, if your employee is active in the local school board, perhaps she can have more influence to get the zoning changed for your new factory. Also, companies such as Nitron Advisors leverage businesspeoples’ interest in moonlighting.

+ The prosumer is always right. Inferior products are much more visible, and consumers are proactive about publicizing that fact, now that personal publishing has become so easy. For example, some bloggers recently publicized how Kryptonite locks could be opened with a bic pen, and lockpicker Barry Wels showed how you can open a Kensington laptop lock with a toilet paper tube. Kryptonite lost an enormous amount of money because they made the mistake of shipping an inferior product.

+ Companies will ship more often and fix more often. Have you ever wondered why the great majority of Google’s services are still in "beta"? One of the major reasons is that Google has found that they benefit by gathering reams of free online user feedback and incorporating it into their services before they go live with a finished product. They use the online network of the entire Google user community as their extended Quality Assurance team. Customers have been able to provide direct feedback to a vendor for years. Now, what is changing is that customers will form opinions and share them with other customers whether a company wants that or not. A business therefore needs to create a culture, and set expectations with customers, that it will deliver something compelling and improve it based on customer input of all kinds.

+ More and more value will rest in the long tail, defined loosely by Jason Foster as "the realization that the sum of many small markets is worth as much, if not more, than a few large markets." Businesses will figure out ways to make money by providing access to content in the long tail (e.g., Amazon), or by helping people to generate content in the long tail (e.g., Blogger). Chris Anderson has a book coming out about this topic in 2006. These businesses will provide the foundation for customized content and allow the many niche participants to do the actual content creation and word-of-mouth promotion. More and more people are producing content for the long tail and finding relevant content in the long tail by using social software.

These trends open the door for a wide range of new business opportunities. The emergence of the mobile telephone as a standard communication tool has significantly impacted our society (e.g., greater independence for teenagers) and that in turn has opened the door for a wide range of new businesses (e.g., the multi-billion dollar ringtone market). We look forward to seeing what social software does to us all!

(Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/misbehave/2352753067/sizes/s/ )

Marketing Yourself on MySpace

I have to confess to giving MySpace a bit of a short shrift at first, at least for business networking purposes. There’s no question that it has been phenomenally successful, but it has also been the subject of much controversy, thanks to its R-rated language and safety concerns (14 is the minimum age for membership). MySpace is the place to be if you’re in the music industry or the porn business, but is that really conducive to other business networking?

Well, it may not be the place to meet Fortune 500 executives or founders of funded Silicon Valley startups, but that doesn’t mean there’s not business going on there. Major brands like Panasonic, Nike and the new Harry Potter movie are not only doing display ads but setting up profile pages. But there are also a ton of small business owners, freelancers and work-at-home solopreneurs there marketing their products and services and finding strategic partners.

One such person is Stephen Ralph (UPDATE: Stephen moved to a new profile, link updated 8/12/06), a webpreneur whose businesses include Top Affiliate Program Directory and B2BSearch.org. He also runs the Affiliate Marketing Group on MySpace. Stephen has had great success marketing his businesses on MySpace and recently offered some tips on his forum regarding how to market yourself on MySpace (reprinted with permission):

There is no question that utilizing this mega networking portal can significantly increase your exposure. Myspace has roughly 40 million users worldwide and is growing at an exponential rate. Although it’s not the perfect advertising and marketing medium it offers an exceptional platform for you to be heard and get noticed.

Myspace provides you all of the necessary tools to market yourself or your business in a nice clean package. With all of the tools provided by myspace it’s even possible to conduct an Online Business solely from your profile (definitely not recommended though). Whether you are a model, plumber, online marketer, etc. your business and exposure can significantly increase by exploiting myspace for all of its potential.

Blogging:

The most important feature of your myspace account is your blog. Blogging has taken the web by storm these last few years and has become the “next big thing” in terms of Online Marketing. If you haven’t started utilizing your blog on myspace to market your business START TODAY. Quite simply, blogging allows you to share your expertise and knowledge with a larger audience.

Syndicating Your Blog Content:

If you’ve already started to blog, you probably noticed a link at the top of your blog page labeled “RSS”. This is essentially your money button. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and is written in Extensible Markup Language or XML. So what does it do? RSS feeds allow your blog subscribers to review your latest news without even being on your website or myspace page. Your subscribers can view your latest blog posts via web-based or desktop RSS aggregators such as SharpReader, Rocket RSS Reader or FeedReader to name a few.

Once you’ve started your blog you need to get your blogs RSS feeds into the major Search Engines and RSS/Blog Directories. The very first thing you should do is get yourself a free My Yahoo! and MSN Passport account. Once these accounts are set up you can add your RSS feeds directly to your profile. Doing this enables Yahoo! and MSN to spider (or search) your site. This is a known way to rapidly get your website indexed by the search engines.

Now that you’ve loaded your RSS feeds into the search engines you need to spend some time adding your feeds to the top RSS & Blog Directories on the web. A current listing of the top RSS & Blog directories can be found here. If you’re like me…lazy…you may want to utilize the following RSS submission service provided by Global Syndication, L.L.C. I have used Josiah’s RSS submission services in the past and will likely use them again since it only costs a paltry $9.95 per RSS feed and the service is excellent.

Ringing the Dinner Bell:

It’s important to stand up on your soap box and let the world know every time you post a new article on your blog. How do you do this?….By pinging the RSS directories and repositories. Sending out a ping is like raising the red flag on the mailbox to tell the mailman you have new mail to be sent. In this case, you are telling the RSS directories and Blog tracking sites that your site has been updated. I primarily use two sites for pinging the RSS and Blog Directories: Pingoat and PingOMatic. (The latter has been pretty buggy lately though.) Make sure you ping only after you add fresh content to your blog.

Tips Before You Write a Post:

Good Information – Offer your viewers quality content information and they will come back again and again. People primarily get online for what…. information! So give it to them. If you provide a product or service give your blog subscribers some inside knowledge they can use and they’ll love you for it.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Before you get carried away writing your articles you need to do some research on what people are actually looking for within your niche or area of expertise. Before I write an article I check http://inventory.overture.com to see what the general populace is looking for within my niche. This free service will show you how many people are looking for a particular keyword during the past month. There are other great services available but I’m using this one as an example for brevities sake.

Adding A Resource Block – This is where it gets good. No doubt some of you are exceptional writers and others will want to republish your masterpiece. LET THEM! This will only increase your backend traffic to your personal/business web site, your myspace page or your brick and mortar business. People are always looking for good quality information to display on their site. It’s a win-win situation because they get free content and your business and services get more exposure through syndication. You’ll also gain credibility within your respective field as a trusted professional or expert. Here’s an example of what a resource block looks like:

    About the Author:

    Stephen Ralph is the owner and operator of the Top Affiliate Program Directory. Top Affiliate provides free internet advertising for affiliates and affiliate program managers promoting one and two-tier affiliate programs. (You can add your business address, phone .. etc. as well here depending on what type of business you operate. If you don’t have your own website yet be sure to put your myspace profile URL and blog URL in here.)

* Be sure to submit your award winning article(s) to article directories as well such as EzineArticles.

I hope this information proves useful to you and your business. Check back with me soon for more Online Marketing updates or grab my RSS feed from my myspace blog or site blog. I wish you all much success in your business and personal endeavors. Laters!

These are excellent tips, but I replied with a couple more of my own:

Build Your Brand – Much of the appeal of MySpace compared to other social networking site is the (almost) complete customizability of your home page. Whether you’re talking about creating a personal brand or a business brand, your MySpace profile should reinforce your brand – the name of your company, the visual identity and style, etc. Want to see some great examples? Check out some of the Featured Profiles on www.MySpace.com (can’t just click on Home once you’ve logged in).

Create Value First – Just linking to your offsite stuff stinks like wet sneakers. It’s transparent, it’s lame, and most importantly, it generally just doesn’t work very well. Create value first. Tell people something useful and actionable. Answer a question. Create value. Then within that context, you can link to your other stuff. Case in point… Stephen’s article above. Imagine how lame it would have been for him to just go on the forum and say “Come check out the Top Affiliate Program Directory and you too can make tons of money through affiliate programs.” Would you have clicked? I doubt it. But once you read what he wrote, saw that he knew what he was talking about, and that he was willing to create value for you first, didn’t that make you a lot more inclined to click through to learn more about his business? Great example — follow it.

And as far as using MySpace for business networking? Well, I can’t say that I recommend it for everybody, but if you’re selling products or services that appeal to a young audience into pop culture, it’s definitely the place to be online.

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Etiquette for LinkedIn and the Professional Networking World

After a decade (and for some of us, longer) online, we know all about Netiquette, right? Don’t use all caps in your subject line (or, God forbid, the body of an email message). Don’t send attachments to people who don’t know you well. Don’t we know pretty much everything there is to know about etiquette online?

Well, maybe not. Online networking sites like LinkedIn can challenge our ideas about what constitutes white-lace-handkerchief behavior online. In fact, if we’ve learned that it’s important to be polite when using email, it’s even truer in the social networking sphere. Here are ten tips for establishing yourself as a well-mannered online networker, when using LinkedIn:

1) Create a user-friendly profile. Your LinkedIn profile is your virtual business card. Make sure that it represents you the way you want to be viewed by strangers – make that ‘people you haven’t been introduced to, yet.’ A sketchy LinkedIn profile signals that your busy day doesn’t allow you to fill in trivial details like what you’re doing now, what you’ve done in the past, or any other useful information. Such an incomplete profile won’t serve you as you network on LinkedIn, but it’s impolite as well: its message is “I’m going to use this database to find people, but I won’t bother to include enough information about myself to indicate how I might assist anyone else.” Take a few moments to fill in the gaps.

2) Invite true friends – or at least, true acquaintances – to connect. Spam is spam, and you must have a minimal level of contact with a person before inviting him or her to connect with you on LinkedIn. A contact – a less-intrusive overture than an invitation to connect – is a good way to approach people with whom you have no relationship. LinkedIn users vary in their views on how well you must know someone before connecting to him or her, but it’s inappropriate to send connection invitations to people who have never met you, heard of you, or had any inkling of your existence (unless they have indicated a desire to be approached by strangers). Think about it: if you found a person’s phone number on a scrap of paper, you wouldn’t feel that you had permission to phone him. Your possession of an email address doesn’t give you license to contact an unacquainted LinkedIn user and suggest a connection – and it’s this kind of overzealous outreach that gets users in trouble with LinkedIn, as well.

3) When you make a request, be clear about your intentions. You’ll find your LinkedIn contacts generally happy to forward your requests if you approach them politely and are clear about your goals. In the physical world, if you asked a friend to introduce you to his friend because of a mutual interest in sailing, and then actually hit the friend-of-a-friend up for a loan, you’d be viewed as a sneak. It’s no different online. If you’re job-hunting, say so. If you’re looking for investors, ditto. A wolf in sheep’s clothing soon finds his messages sitting, unforwarded, while his LinkedIn contacts wonder whether he can be trusted.

4) Reciprocity is a wonderful thing, and gratitude is key. When possible, it’s great to include in your LinkedIn outreach messages some suggestion that you’re aware of your obligations as a requester. That could mean an offer to make a useful introduction for the person who’s forwarding yours; or an offer to help in some other way; or just a heartfelt thank-you for the introduction you seek. It’s disconcerting for your first-degree forwarder to receive a slew of requests from you in one day (and this is common when one of your first-degree contacts is more-highly-connected than others) with no acknowledgement at all of the favor you’re asking. LinkedIn is no different from the ‘real’ world, in that sense: asking for an introduction is a favor, and it’s nice to show gratitude for that.

5) Pass along requests promptly, or say why you won’t. Membership in LinkedIn is a kind of agreement with the community that you intend to participate as an active node in a large and vibrant network. If people send you requests and they sit there, unforwarded and unresponded-to, for weeks, you’re not only the weak link in the system. You’re impeding someone else’s business efforts, and giving no reason for your bottleneck behavior. If you can’t forward on a request or move a communique forward, say so – and say why. LinkedIn provides a handy list of reasons for declining a request, plus an “other” option – use ’em.

6) Avoid the boilerplate text, if you can. Of course you can. Unless you’re terribly afraid to strike out on your own with creative verbiage, please make an effort to put your own stamp on the standard invitation language that LinkedIn supplies. For instance, you could mention something impressive that you’ve heard about the person you’re contacting, or bring an old friend up quickly up to date on your doings. Using the boilerplate text shows a certain want of effort – so, even if you stick with the standard language, why not add “sorry to use the boilerplate text, but I’m not much of a wordsmith”?

7) Don’t abuse your network. Once you have cultivated a network, it’s tempting to reach out to the gang anytime you have news or a need for assistance. And LinkedIn’s functionality allows you to broadcast a note to your posse of contacts, by way of a Profile Update blast. Use these sparingly, not as a substitute for the Daily All About Me Newsletter. If you do, you may find yourself being un-connected from people who can’t manage the high volume of what’s-new-in-your-life mailings.

8) Don’t invent history to acquire colleagues. LinkedIn allows you to find former workmates at any company that has employed you, without being connected to them otherwise. Finding a colleague match only requires that you and another person worked at the same organization during the same time period. So, as tempting as it may be to make connection with people who worked in various appealing companies over the years, if you invent a work history in order to do that, you’re going to Hell. Perhaps that is overstated, but if you falsify your employment history on LinkedIn in order to create colleague-links with people you haven’t actually worked with, it’s an abuse of the LinkedIn system and the trust of the LinkedIn community.

9) Play by the rules. There are a number of ways to misuse LinkedIn in such a way as to convey the message, “I don’t care about the long-term health of this network or the company that built it – this is All About Me.” Including your email address in your LinkedIn name, for instance, makes a fee-for-use service like InMail superfluous for someone who wants to reach you, which is (if nothing else) exceedingly rude, seein’ as how LinkedIn provides the basic functionality to users at no charge. Unless you want to broadcast the message, “I don’t care whether LinkedIn can optimize its revenue strategy or not – I’m gonna optimize my connect rate,” you might consider rethinking your Me First approach.

10) Value relationships over transactions. As in physical-world networking, valuing people for their intrinsic worth over the business transactions they enable is key. No less than in middle school, ‘users’ are never welcome company for long. “Ka-ching” networking – the kind of outreach that signals “Say, you could make me a buck today” is unseemly and unfortunate. LinkedIn is a fabulous tool that enables connectors and influencers to help other people and achieve their own goals, too – and it’s great when we keep those priorities in balance.

Happy networking!

Hitting Spammers Where It Hurts

Spam is more than just a nuisance — it is a major barrier to the effective use of e-mail as a simple and reliable communication medium. Despite legislation intended to reduce spam, the technological and logistical challenges make enforcement only minimally effective. Most spammers can still get away with it, because the chances of getting caught, prosecuted and forced to pay actual damages are pretty slim.

But Robert Lee over at ALoveLinksPlus.com has come upon an ingenious way to hit spammers where it hurts by getting the domains they use to spam with cancelled. Now, it won’t work with every spammer, but consider this — every one of those domains that gets removed costs the spammer not only the $10 or so for the domain, but also the loss of all the time and effort put into creating the web site at that domain and promoting it, and the opportunity loss of whatever sales might have been generated at that domain. That’s potentially hundreds or even thousands of dollars for every domain that gets revoked. Hit ’em where it hurts — the pocketbook.

The article below spells out the fairly simple process step-by-step. I plan to make this a regular practice and encourage you to do the same. It’s reprinted by permission, and you can help spread the word by reposting it on your own blog or website.

How To Combat Spam Email That You Receive

SPAM email messages, those unwanted commercial messages that slow your email program to a crawl and stuff your inbox full, are a fact of life. Fighting back is almost impossible. Until now.

Fight Back!

These are just a couple of steps, that will take no longer than 30 minutes, to combat spam and possibly even get the offending domain removed from the Internet. That’s right, you can get the website taken off the Internet and the domain name registrar that allowed the domain creation put on notice by the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN.org) that their business practices of registering SPAM domains are now being watched and documented.

Behind every SPAM email there is a company that will take your money for buying something. And the spammers are likely being paid a commission or selling for themselves. But you didn’t ask to get the email and you get 3, 6 or more of these offensive, bothersome and annoying emails every day. Take the time to follow these steps and you can effectively fight SPAM. Most SPAMMERS use false information in the registration of their domain name and it is this false information that we will use against them.

Step One
In this step we will verify that the "From:" email address is false or fraudulent in the SPAM you received.

  • Don’t delete that email. You’ll need it, so save it. And you’ll need the ’email headers’ that provide the information on how, when and by what path you received the SPAM email. If your email service/program doesn’t show the header information by default, please check the help section of the service/program to find out how to show the email header. Reply to the email and simply say "Stop sending me SPAM!" If the email bounces and you get a delivery notification error message (email could not be delivered, this user doesn’t exist, etc.) you can move on to step two.

    EDITORIAL NOTE: It’s not a good idea to reply to the Reply-to: or From: address of spam from the account at which you receive it. One way to handle it is to contact that address from an e-mail account you set up exclusively for this purpose, either on your own domain or a free e-mail service. Alternatively, I’m really not sure you even need to do this step. It’s some small added ammo, but fundamentally, the issue is that the contact info on the domain registration is false, not that the Reply address of the spam was. Jim Russell suggests in the comments: “Ignore the From and Reply-to headers, assuming they are bogus. Instead, learn to read the chain of Received headers and find out what mail server originated the message.” Thanks, Jim!

Step Two
In this step we will verify that the domain in the email can be identified and the owner’s information used in the registration of the domain is either valid or fraudulent. We will identify the domain that the email SPAM is directing us to and attempt to verify the domain owner’s information.

  • Check the domain registry information of the offending domain that sent you the SPAM. If the SPAM email doesn’t show a website name (www.website.com) then it will show a link to click on. Follow that link and copy the domain name. You need to be sure you are sure of the domain name spelling and destination of the link that sent you there. Some spammers are quite crafty in hiding their real domain name, so it’s important that you check before continuing with your complaint. I have found that SPAM domains are usually registered using false information and that is the tool we will use against these spammers. They may feel they are hiding themselves, but there is an information trail left behind. Initial payment for the domain registration made to the domain registrar is just one piece of information that is left behind. So, the domain registration company could ultimately go after these spamming domain owners but experience has shown me that it’s best to go through the official ICANN channels to get the domain removed from the Internet.

  • Go to an official WHOIS lookup and check the domain owners registry information. Follow the directions to submit the information about the domain that spammed you and you will get the information concerning the owner of the domain. Many domains that send SPAM use fake information in their ownership details and this is exactly what we are looking for. With false information being used in the domain registration you can effectively complain to ICANN and have the domain disabled. The domain’s numeric address will be removed and that will effectively stop the domain from being visited by anyone as well as sending any more emails.

  • Fake information in the domain registration details includes false owners email addresses, easily checked by sending an email to the contact email address provided in the registration. If the email bounces back to you with a delivery error, you can get the domain closed down! Other fake information includes fake owner names, fake business or personal addresses, false phone numbers, etc., which can easily be checked with other online resources.

Step Three
In this step we have verified that the domain registration information is false or fraudulent and we will report the domain to ICANN who will then report the complaint to the original domain registrar.

  • Report the false information used to register the domain directly to ICANN. You need to provide your own real email address and name, but you’re safe giving this to ICANN. Once you’ve submitted the basic information you’ll be taken to a second page that will allow you to include additional information. This is very important and should not be skipped if you want the spamming domain to be dealt with.

  • You will need a copy of the email complete with the ’email headers’ to paste into the ‘additional details’ section. Email headers are the email postal information that allowed the email to find your inbox. If your email service/program doesn’t show the header information by default, please check the help section of the service/program to find out how to show the email header. Include as much information as possible including how much you are annoyed at having to deal with SPAM.

  • You will receive an email from ICANN to confirm the information you provided, so be sure to confirm your submission by clicking on (or copy and pasting into your browser address bar) the provided confirmation address for your submission.

Step Four
Congratulate yourself! The SPAM domain will soon be taken offline!

  • Receiving a response from ICANN or the domain name registrar responsible for the spamming domain name registration usually takes 48 hours but can take up to 4 weeks. Save all correspondence you receive concerning your SPAM domain complaint.

  • Celebrate when you receive this email from ICANN or the domain registry involved:

    Thank you for your letter to ICANN regarding the false whois registration information at SPAMMINGDOMAIN.com.
    We have disabled the domain name because it is in violation with the ICANN policy.

    Regards,

Links in this article:

http://www.icann.org
http://www.internic.net/whois.html
http://wdprs.internic.net/ 

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Mastermind Group Operating Manual

This is the draft operating Manual for “Junto 2.0”, a MasterMind group based in the New York tri-state area. To learn what a Mastermind group is and how it works, continue reading…


Junto 2.0
DRAFT MasterMind Group Operating Manual
by David Teten and Kaushal B. Majmudar

Outline of Manual

I. Introduction
II. Objectives
III. Benefits
IV. How Does It Work?
V. Requirements for Entry
VI. Process for Joining
VII. Meeting Rules
VIII. Suggested Meeting Structure (Subject to Modification)
IX. Sample Meeting Topics
X. How to Exit
XI. Appendix 1: Ben Franklin’s Junto Society
XII. Appendix 2: Thoughts on cooperation from George Lucas
XIII. About the Authors

I. Introduction

This is the draft operating Manual for “Junto 2.0”, a MasterMind group based in the New York tri-state area. David Teten and Kaushal B. Majmudar have been working together to create this new group.

Jo Condrill’s definition of a Mastermind group: “A master-mind group consists of [a small team of] people who work together in absolute harmony to achieve diverse goals. While these people work in harmony, they may be very different from each other. The common element is that each draws something from the others, and each contributes freely to the group. It is the focusing of each mind on a common issue that triggers thoughts not readily available to one mind. Those in the group draw upon their unique experiences and specialized knowledge to help each other. When many minds concentrate on a single point, the activity generates a power over and above the sum total of each of the individual minds. It is as though an invisible force joins the group and provides additional insight. Personally, I have used the master-mind concept with amazing results — first to advance my career and later to lead a group of volunteers to achieve remarkable results, ranking number one in a worldwide organization, Toastmasters International.” (source) Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, is widely credited with popularizing the concept. For more background, see also this summary from the “NYC Junto”: http://www.nycjunto.com/whatisjunto.htm .

Our motivations in creating this group: primarily, to accelerate our success and personal efficacy in achieving our goals. Anthony Robbins once remarked that only about 5% of his audiences actually acts to implement and benefit from any of his teachings on how to achieve personal and professional success. Many books on success emphasize the value of creating a mastermind group (perhaps using some variant of the term). We decided to actually implement the idea that so many experts recommend. We were also motivated by some bloggers who also are active in Mastermind groups, including the prolific Steve Rubel.

We are posting this manual on the Web in an attempt to gather constructive feedback and share the results of our brainstorming and collaboration with other likeminded individuals elsewhere in the world. Everything herein is a work in process, and is thereby subject to discussion and modification as we receive feedback and as other members of the group provide input or suggestions.

II. Objectives

A. “Create access to advice, counsel, and personal cooperation of a group of people who are willing to lend each other wholehearted aid in a spirit of perfect harmony” (source: Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill)
B. Share best practices and resources
C. Work on self-awareness and self-improvement
D. Create synergies and new possibilities: “No two minds ever come together without, thereby, creating a third invisible intangible force which may be likened to a third mind” (source)


III. Benefits

A. Accelerate your personal and professional progress
B. An instant and valuable support community of peers and friends
C. Give back to your peers and to society


IV. How Does It Work?

A. Monthly meeting to be held for 2 to 2.5 hours, typically over lunch or dinner
B. Absolute maximum of 10 members
C. Rotate facilitation — each month has a new leader/note-taker for accountability
D. Occasional special training and learning sessions (possibly with invited speakers)
E. Group will meet in a mutually convenient place (can alternate geographically if to makes sense to do so)
F. Diversity of group is important. Strongly prefer representatives from diversity of occupations: entrepreneur, investment banker/asset manager, policy, legal, media, operating executive at large company, physician, politician, academic. We also strongly prefer diversity across race, religion, etc.
G. Use confidential Yahoo! Group for online communication
H. Democratic Process: everything about the group is subject to scrutiny, discussion and modification by vote of majority of members in the group.


V. Requirements for Entry

A. Nominated by existing member.
B. Within driving or commuting distance of group meeting locations (in our case in the New York Tri-state area).
C. Has a compatible current level of career and professional achievements and aspirations. Some evidence of being a significant achiever in chosen field. Potential to be at the top of their chosen profession or business.
D. Thoughtful and analytical.
E. Has the desire and inspiration to make this year, decade, and life extraordinary. Has an “internal locus of control”: knows he/she is ultimately responsible for his/her own success. Ready to let their desire to be passionate about their life and work overcome their fear of change.
F. Is an active listener. Responds well to, and acts on, feedback. Open-minded.
G. Wants to win based on values; has a greater purpose. Cares about and wants to give back to their community and society
H. Realizes that cooperation is far more powerful than competition, i.e., people who are committed to helping others succeed. Has an abundance mentality. Understands and cares about what drives his/her partners’ businesses.
I. Ideally, not working in the same industry as any current member, and with a significantly different personal background than every other current member.
J. Enthusiastic about participating with intent to actively participate in the group and attend meetings in person (commits to provide advanced notice to other members in case absence is unavoidable in a given instance)


VI. Process for Joining

A. Nominated by existing member of the group
B. Submit resume and statement of personal goals (1, 5, and 20 years)
C. Interview and approval by all existing group members


VII. Meeting Rules

A. Better to give than to receive (but the law of reciprocity works – give that which you would like to get)
B. Try to emphasize solutions, encouragement and pointing out possibilities vs. focusing on problems, criticism, and pointing out hurdles
C. Share time, ideas, and best practices, but don’t dominate
D. Listen actively and intently with a desire to understand. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” (Source: Steven Covey)
E. Maintain confidentiality. No one outside the group (not even life partners/spouses) should have access to any information about what is discussed by other members of the group, particularly the personal information of individual members. It is OK to share best practices and ideas that you have learned with others.
F. No putting down, arguing with, or directly contradicting other speakers. All discussions should be conducted “without fondness for dispute or desire of victory.” “All expressions of positiveness of opinion or direct contradiction are prohibited.”(Source: Ben Franklin).
G. Mutual respect and supportive environment to be maintained at all times


VIII. Suggested Meeting Structure (Subject to Modification)

A. Brief (one to three minutes) check-in by each member. Start with the best/most positive thing to happen since last meeting.
B. Book report by one member – distribute 1-2 page summary of book and lead discussion (15 to 20 minutes)
C. Person I admire report by one member – distribute 1-2 page summary of person’s life and what can be learned from him/her (15 to 20 minutes)
D. Update and ask. Each person must state a goal they will have accomplished by the next month’s meeting and review how they did on last month’s goal. Members can also share issues/problems they are currently grappling with and ask for help/suggestions from the group to unlock strategies, resources, etc. that might be helpful in overcoming these obstacles. (5 minutes each)
E. Free discussion time – discuss one question or topic of the day (e.g. see questions below) (30 to 40 minutes)
F. Distribute notes/highlights from the meeting to those (rare members) not in attendance, but who are committed members of this group


IX. Sample Meeting Topics

A. What is the function by which we should measure our life’s actions? Proposed formula:

Maximize: (Power * Money * Health * Spiritual Growth * Community Impact * Family Strength * Friend Strength) / Age,

subject to constraints of: ethics, law, and resources

B. Accountability Sessions (potentially a recurring topic): Each person to ask and answer the following questions: What are my most cherished goals for this coming decade, year, and month? What concrete steps have I taken to realize these goals? What are the steps that I should take, but have not yet done so to advance in the direction of my goals? Why have I not taken these steps and when do I commit to start? – group participants to ask and HONESTLY answer these questions once in a while in front of the entire group to encourage each of them to realize and take corrective action, but in a more self empowering and positive way than if it were to come in the form of critique from others.
C. Play the Game, a success technology developed by Sarano Kelley.
D. Learning about Thinking Sessions/Thinking Partners (See book: Time to Think by Nancy Klein).


X. How to Exit

A. Member no longer wants to be a part of the group (voluntary exit).
B. Member fails to attend 2 meetings in a row without advance notice AND good cause.
C. Consistent failure to participate in or contribute to the group, as noted by one or more current members.
D. If there is a consensus among more than 66% of the members that you should not remain in the group for any reason.


XI. Appendix 1: Ben Franklin’s Junto Society

Source: Ben Franklin’s biography, by Walter Isaacson

“Ben Franklin was the consummate networker. He liked to mix his civic life with his social one, and he merrily leveraged both to further his business life. This approach was displayed when he formed a club of young workingmen in the fall of 1727, shortly after his return to Philadelphia that was commonly called the Leather Apron Club and officially dubbed The Junto. Franklin’s small club was composed of enterprising tradesmen and artisans, rather than the social elite who had their own fancier gentlemen’s clubs.

At first the members went to a local tavern for their Friday evening meetings, but soon they were able to rent a house of their own. There they discussed issues of the day, debated philosophical topics, devised schemes for self-improvement, and formed a network for the furtherance of their own careers. Franklin’s Junto initially had 12 young members. Besides being amiable club mates, the Junto members often proved helpful to one another personally and professionally.

The tone Franklin set for Junto meetings was earnest. Initiates were required to stand, lay their hand on their breast and answer properly four questions: 1.) Do you have disrespect for any current member? 2.) Do you love mankind in general regardless of religion or profession? (Editor: add race, for the modern context) 3.) Do you feel people should ever be punished because of their opinions? 4.) Do you love and pursue truth for its own sake?

The pursuit of topics through soft Socratic inquiry became the preferred style of Junto meetings. Discussions were to be conducted ‘without fondness for dispute or desire of victory.’ All expressions of positiveness of opinion or direct contradiction were prohibited under small pecuniary penalties. Though the youngest member, Franklin was by dint of his intellectual charisma and conversational charm not only its founder but driving force.

The topics discussed ranged from the scientific to the metaphysical. E.g. Did importing indentured servants make America more prosperous? What is wisdom? In addition to such topics of debate, In Franklin’s original Junto, the members used as a guide a series of 24 questions, such as:
1. Have you met with anything in the author you last read, remarkable or suitable to be communicated to the Junto, particularly in history, morality, poetry, physic, travels, mechanic arts, or other parts of knowledge?
2. What new story have you lately heard agreeable for telling in conversation?
3. Hath any citizen in your knowledge failed in his business lately, and what have you heard of the cause?
4. Have you lately heard of any citizen’s thriving well, and by what means?
5. Have you lately heard how any present rich man, here or elsewhere, got his estate?
6. Do you know of any fellow citizen who has lately done a worthy action deserving praise and imitation?
7. What unhappy effects of intemperance have you lately heard; of imprudence, of passion, or of any other folly or vice? What happy effects of temperance, of prudence, of moderation, or of any other virtue?
8. Do you think of anything at present in which the Junto may be serviceable to mankind?
9. Have you any weighty affairs in hand in which you think the advice of the Junto may be of service? In what manner can the Junto, or any of them, assist of in any of your honorable designs?
10. What is the most interesting or unusual thing you have read, seen, or heard about in the last month? What is the most potentially dangerous or harmful? The most beneficial? The most significant for the people here today?
11. What can we learn from world events today? Has there been any notable failure or success, financial, political, or otherwise, from which we can gain insight and understanding?
12. Can a man or woman arrive at perfection in this life? What is the proper balance between idealism and pragmatism in our existence? (Franklin’s own question)
13. How can we judge the goodness of art, music, drama or literature?
14. Is science compatible with religion? What is the appropriate role of religion in our lives, if any?
15. What is the most important political issue facing this country in the next five years?
16. Have you lately observed any defect in the laws of your country of which it would be proper to move the legislature for an amendment?
17. Has anybody attacked your reputation lately and what can the Junto do toward securing it?
18. Is there any man whose friendship you want and which the Junto or any of them can procure for you?
19. Whom do you respect most? Why?
20. In what manner can the Junto or any of them assist you in any of your honorable designs?”
Franklin was in turn influenced by Daniel Dafoe’s essay “Friendly Societies” and John Locke’s “Rules of a Society which Met Once A Week for the Improvement of Useful Knowledge”


XII. Appendix 2: Thoughts on cooperation from George Lucas

Source: interview at Academy of Achievement at www.achievement.org, in response to the following question: “You mentioned the words “communal” and “connecting.” Your generation of the top film makers all seem to be friends. How did you band together in a field that is so competitive?”

George Lucas: “I think that’s the advantage that my generation has. When we were in film school and we were starting in the film business, the door was absolutely locked. There was a very, very high wall, and nobody got in.

All of us beggars and scroungers down at the front gate decided that if we didn’t band together, we wouldn’t survive. If one could make it, that one would help all the others make it. And we would continue to help each other. So we banded together. That’s how the cavemen figured it out. Any society starts that way.

Any society begins by realizing that together, by helping each other, you can survive better than if you fight each other and compete with each other.

Farming cultures started this way, and the first hunting cultures started this way. Everything started in city-states. We have a tendency to lose it when we forget that, as a group, we are stronger than we are as individuals. We start to think we want everything for ourselves and we don’t want to help anybody else. We want to succeed, but we don’t want anybody else to succeed, because we want to be the winner. Once you get that mentality — which is unfortunately the way a lot of the society operates — you lose. You can’t possibly win that way. Part of the reason my friends and I became successful is that we were always helping each other.

If I got a job, I would help somebody else get a job. If somebody got more successful than me, it was partly my success. My success wasn’t based on how I could push down everyone around me. My success was based on how much I could push everybody up. And eventually their success was the same way. And in the process they pushed me up, and I pushed them up, and we kept doing that, and we still do that.

Even though we all have, in essence, competing companies, if my friends succeed, then everybody succeeds. So that’s the key to it, to have everybody succeed, not to gloat over somebody else’s failure.

We continue to do that, and we do it with younger filmmakers. There’s no way of getting through any kind of endeavor without help from friends. And trying to be the number one person, ultimately, is a losing proposition. You need peers, you need people who are at the same level you are. You never know in life when you’re going to need help, and you never know who you’re going to need it from.

One of the basic motifs in fairy tales is that you find the poor and unfortunate along the side of the road, and when they beg for help, if you give it to them, you end up succeeding. If you don’t give it to them, you end up being turned into a frog or something. It’s a concept that’s been around for thousands of years. It is even more necessary today, when people are more into their own aggrandizement than they are in helping other people. I don’t think there’s anyone who’s become successful who doesn’t understand how important it is to be part of a larger community, to help other people in larger communities, to give back to the community.”


XIII. About the Authors

David Teten is CEO of Nitron Advisors, an independent research firm that provides institutional investors with access to frontline industry experts. He is coauthor of The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online, the first mass market book on online networks and social software. He runs TheVirtualHandshake.com resource site, co-writes a column for FastCompany.com, and writes a personal blog, Brain Food. David holds a Harvard MBA and a Yale BA.

Kaushal Majmudar
, JD, CFA – Kaushal is President and Portfolio Manager of The Ridgewood Group, a value oriented money management firm based in Short Hills, NJ, that runs managed accounts and hedge fund investments for individuals and institutions. Kaushal was previously an investment banker at Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers. He is co-author of “Create the Business Breakthrough You Want: Secrets and Strategies from the World’s Greatest Mentors” and is working on his second book. Kaushal holds a JD with honors from Harvard Law School and a BS from Columbia University.

Update: how to find a kidney donor on craigslist

Back in November 2004, I wrote what turned out to be one of the highest-traffic posts on this blog, “Can the blogosphere find a kidney donor?“. I had met a woman, Debbie Diamond, who was looking for a kidney on behalf of her brother, Neil.

Here’s the update directly from Debbie:

“This story has a lot of twist and turns. I cannot believe this and I am still pinching myself! I came to Craig’s List in search of a kidney donor for my brother. I placed ongoing ads for several months and got plenty of replies. Several people went ahead and took the various tests. Though two were matches nothing came to fruition for my brother. But, I am happy to say that my brother did get his transplant, from a source outside of Craig’s List 3 months ago and all is well.

While I was determined to save my brother’s life and find him a kidney donor, I was also helping another person find a donor for herself. Let me go back a few steps to show how much of a Craig’s List story this really is. Ten months ago there was an ad on CL seeking people to work at a great event in NYC. I applied and was hired by the two people conducting the interviews. This man and woman who did the hiring have been good friends for many years. They recognized me from the newspaper regarding my kidney search for my brother. They started to tell me about a friend of theirs who was on dialysis and in dire need of a transplant too. I initiated conversation with this woman via email first. After several emails we spoke on the phone at length. We then met in person, and once acquainted I realized that she did not have many resources on how to go about networking, etc. I told her to post an ad on CL which she did. She called me and said she did not get any replies and asked if I would post ads for her, which I did. While this is going on I am still working hard on finding my brother a match. Keep in mind that when someone goes for testing to see if they are a match, the hospital/transplant center will only see one person at a time. The tests are plenty, time consuming and some are not the most pleasant. So you cannot bombard the hospital with a bunch of people at once. Since I had received so many replies to my ad for my brother, I could not answer all of them at one time. I had to wait to see the outcome of the person being tested prior to scheduling the next individual. I had an email in my inbox from a woman in California. I had not answered her right away as we were waiting for another’s results. Finally, instead of answering her email I decided to forward it to the woman I was trying to help here in NY. The two women were also the same blood type. The women had been in touch and I have been emailing back and forth with the woman from California for several months too. It is now November. This has been in the making for about 5 or 6 months now. Like I said, it is not as easy as a quick test here and there… there are glitches, problems, set backs, re-doing of tests, etc. As I sit here and type this these two women are in a hospital in California; transplant complete!

The truth is that the chances of finding a stranger who is a match for a kidney transplant are slim to none. That is why they always tell you if a family member is a match (usually some family member would be) and can donate, that is the best case scenario. Having said that, it is equally difficult to find someone who does not drop out after starting testing, way before they know if they are a match or not. There are so many reasons that people drop out, and to hang in there with every trial and tribulation, and to take the last step and actually donate your organ, is a deed so great that words cannot even describe.

Most people thought I was crazy to post ads on Craig’s List seeking a donor. They also thought nothing would come through via this medium either. I am so glad I ignored all the doubt and negativity. Imagine if I hadn’t!? Anything can happen, and if nothing happened then we lost nothing, we just remained in the same place. If there is a moral to this, or actually several morals to this story they would be: Follow YOUR gut and not anyone else. The Two Women had The Transplant Too! If you get turned down a thousand times, if nothing happens for a year or more, don’t give up. Keep the focus and keep putting yourself or whatever it is out there. Eventually something will give. Even if it is just more information you never know where it will take you. I certainly did not. I found out though and I am glad I did. Nothing is too out there or to ridiculous for you not to give it a try. The other part of this is how great Craig Newmark and his site is. Craig’s vision did not include this (organ donations) at all. When he started he had no idea his site would become what it had become and that it would spread like wild fire all over the place. I have thanked him personally and have shared emails with Craig, always keeping him up to date regarding these two situations.

Again, thanks to all who were there and supportive, especially Craig and his site. Thank god my brother has a functioning kidney, is off of dialysis and leading a much more normal life because of it. And now a second person was spared more years of dialysis and getting sicker. Last but certainly not least, thanks to the woman in California, the Angel that was sent anonymously to my email inbox. Angels like her are a dying breed today which is sad but I am so grateful I found her!

This post is now closed to comments.

Joining the Conversation Drives Innovation

Leading up to their upcoming Innovation Forum, Fortune has launched a new blog, Business Innovation 2005, which features interviews with a diverse collection of business thinkers on what’s driving innovation today. Kudos to them for talking to people besides “the usual suspects” and for using the blog platform as the vehicle. It’s a great read – I spent a couple of hours there between the original content and the links out to other good stuff.

They interviewed me on joining the conversation, featuring my responses to the following questions:

1. How can mid-size to large companies use blogs, social networking sites and virtual communities in innovative ways?

2. What are the current buzzwords about innovation in the entrepreneurial world?

3. What Fortune 500 companies have been able to create a successful, entrepreneurial culture?

Check out the full interview. You can also stop by my longer commentary on About.com for a short reading list of my favorite picks for entrepreneurs from the Business Innovation blog .

Microsoft Will Present Case Study on How to Recruit Top Talent Online at the Beyond Blogs and Social Networks Conference

I’m glad to report that Glenn Gutmacher of Microsoft will present a case study on how to recruit top talent with online business networks at the upcoming “Beyond Blogs and Social Networks” conference.

You can get a feel for Glenn’s approach by reviewing his recent webinar at HR.com on new tools in online recruiting. The archived webcast recording is available free to all members of HR.com (which also has a free registration tier).