Manipulation of images, media, and opinion

I normally don’t discuss political topics on this blog, but this particularly struck me as an example of one of my favorite themes: the importance of ‘peeling the onion’.

At first glance, it’s just a picture of smoke from damaged buildings from the conflict in the Mideast. At second glance, it’s a fine example of how not to embellish news photos.

Photo at
(original photo was pulled.)

If you can’t figure out what’s wrong, see

Via Metafilter

Update: Reuters fired the photographer involved.

Multi-sided markets, online

HBS Professor Andrei Hagiu is an expert on multi-sided markets, and recently interviewed me on that topic: Market Platform Dynamics–Catalyst Conversation: Conversation with David Teten. His site requires that you submit an email address to read the article (but I should note that he doesn’t actually test if the email address is functional.)

Review of new software tools to manage your network

I recently had the chance to play with the latest versions of several software packages which I use heavily: Act! by Best Software; eGrabber by eGrabber Inc.; and Cardscan from Cardscan, Inc. Disclosure: these companies were kind enough to send me sample copies of their latest models.

ACT! 2005 for Windows is a comprehensive tool for managing your key business and personal relationships. I have been using various versions of the program since 1996. As with previous versions, you have a great deal of power to slice and dice your data in countless ways. You can customize many different components of the program to make it work exactly the way you want. The new version includes some very useful features that previously I had to create kludges to simulate. For example, you now have one-click access to all of your open opportunities (i.e., sales leads).

The bad news: the program is slow, even on my fast Dell with 1 gigabyte of memory. It does not include certain functionality which I think of as mandatory: e.g., the ability to do a Boolean search of which groups a person is a member of.

Although in general I think Act is a very useful program, I urge you to test it on your machine with a large contact database and see if it runs fast enough to be useable in your environment.

eGrabber is an extremely handy program which converts free text (an email signature; a profile on someone’s web page) into an entry in your favorite contact manager. This makes it much easier to keep clean records of your sales leads and the other people with whom you need to talk. It’s an inexpensive tool and well worth installing. My one complaint: it does not properly process foreign addresses. If you provide it with an address in France, even if you explicitly write “Paris, France” at the end of the entry, eGrabber will not properly enter into your contact manager the fact that you are looking at a French address.

Cardscan 7.0 is a significant upgrade to Cardscan 6.0 . It is a small handheld business card reader plus a software program. The handheld scanner is not notably different than the preceding version, but the software program is a major step forward. With the prior edition, my assistant or I had to make manual changes in about 80% of the entries that came from this program. Cardscan would make errors by running letters together, not understanding that an email address was an email address, and so on. With the new version, we only have to edit about 5% of the entries that come in. My only complaint: with a two line address (e.g., “#3 West 35th St., 7th Floor”) Cardscan imports that data as one line with a line break. However, Act! works better if that data were converted into two different lines in the Address1 and Address2 fields respectively. I could not find a way to configure Cardscan to handle this common situation more smoothly.

Anyone who frequently meets new people would benefit by purchasing these useful tools.

The Next Generation of Contact Management Software

David had a chance to have a conversation with Greg Head, ACT!’s former General Manager, about the need for increased privacy, interoperability, and personal responsibility as contact management and social networking software converge:

Contact management software will always be centered around a database of contact information that tracks basic name, addresses, and other data — combined with powerful methods of managing countless commitments and a history of all relationships. That said, we will be doing more contact management activities using an Internet browser or PDA phone, as opposed to just Windows applications. These new methods will allow more integration to the phone and to Web services that can integrate into contact managers — to scrub addresses, to integrate with accounting applications, or to share your relationship data with others.

Head also had some thoughts about Microsoft’s role in the social networking space, as well as centralized directory services like Plaxo:

I may be a little biased in this regard, but I think that Microsoft will have to make some fundamental changes to develop the level of trust that is required for people to track, share, and leverage social network information in a Microsoft-hosted world. In fact, even centralized public directory services such as Plaxo might not be able to meet every users’ needs because of concerns with privacy and inconvenience. These services might be useful for the user — but are not so useful for the recipient of the “update your contact information” request. As the centralized nature of some of these become known, people will be even more reluctant to send their contact data off across the Internet.

Ultimately, though, Head says it’s more about personal responsibility and process as the tools themselves:

The majority of salespeople and businesspeople are still fighting the first phase of this battle: just tracking all of their follow-up and project commitments in a reliable system. Contact managers provide the tools, but the habit of tracking all commitments and managing them effectively can be different for each person.

Contact Management for Your Handheld

Following up on my earlier post on mastering your contact database:

You may wonder how you can gather all of the detailed information that you would ideally include in your contact database (spouse, children, political affiliation, etc.) You cannot meet someone at an event or online and say, “Hi? What’s your name? And your partner’s name? Children’s name? And by the way, would you mind telling me your social security number?”

The answer to this question: you will not and cannot obtain this detailed information upon first connecting with someone. Instead, you will gradually pick up this information as you spend time (online or face to face) with a person.

For example, you are working alongside Nancy at a large firm. The Human Resources department organizes a birthday party for Nancy on February 2. You make a note in your PDA, and next year you mention to Nancy, “Isn’t your birthday coming up?” We very strongly recommend that you update your contact manager every time you learn new information about someone you know.

Address-book update services such as Plaxo and GoodContacts can help you keep the information in your contact manager current. They allow people to maintain their own data, and your data is updated whenever your contacts update their information. They can also send out messages to people who are not users of the system asking them to update their information for you. However, we do not currently recommend using this feature. Sending out canned, impersonal messages asking people if they are still at the same address is a nuisance, not a relationship-building technique, and has caused a great deal of backlash . If you are inundated with business cards, you may want to consider buying an automated card scan device, such as CardScan.

If you want to be particularly diligent, subscribe to an online news-clipping service, like Google also offers a news-tracking service. Simply indicate to these firms the names of the people you most care about tracking, and the service will inform you when news comes out that covers those people. This provides you an excellent opportunity to write with congratulations when you learn about good news in the life of someone you know.

A portable contact manager (a personal digital assistant or a cell phone with a good contact manager built in) is an invaluable tool in managing your relationships. It makes it much easier to tell people, “You would really enjoy meeting my friend X”, and then immediately give the person X’s contact Information. It also makes it easy to update your contact database periodically as you learn more about people.

I personally use a Palm OS based PDA. I recently received a sample copy of Act for Palm OS, which I had the chance to review. (Disclosure: I was given it gratis.) This gives you most of the functionality of Act for the desktop, on your handheld.

The main advantage of the product: it really does give you most of the functionality of Act on your Palm. It is extremely convenient to be able to look up all of your past conversations, notes, and so on with all of your contacts. One of David Allen’s principles of workflow management is to centralize all of your tasks and information in one place. Act for Palm OS helps you to do that.

Some weaknesses of the product:
+ On my Palm Tungsten W, it runs slowly. It doesn’t have the high-speed response I’m used to from the standard Palm software. I suspect this is a hardware limitation, not a software limitation. The Tungsten W has long battery life but is a bit slower than some other Palm’s I have used.
+ The manual claims a limit of 1,000 contacts, although the help desk said that I could have unlimited contacts. I did an experiment and uploaded 6,000 of my contacts, and Act worked fine. However, I ended up reducing the number of contacts to about 1,000 of my current contacts in order to speed up the system.

If you use a Palm OS PDA and Act, I definitely recommend considering the purchase of Act for Palm OS.

Quantity vs. Quality, or why everyone really shouldn't be your friend

Following his musings on Quality or Quantity?, Palo Alto VC Jeffrey Nolan ran an experiment on LinkedIn, in which he created a fake account and invited some people who, by definition, could not possibly know this “person”. Never mind that this is probably a violation of their User Agreement (LinkedIn’s offline for upgrades today), it’s still good information that supports a point I’ve been really trying to make in several circles recently: If “friend” or “contact” is the only designation you have for people, then everyone who asks is not your friend.

For his experiment, Nolan sent out over 1,500 invitations from this fake account. As of Day 1, this fake person already had 16 connections! Only 4 people replied back that they did not know this person well enough to accept the connection. There were a couple of more people who asked for more information first. Now, certainly some large number of people have opted to just use LinkedIn’s new “Ignore” feature, but still, 16 people accepting a connection not only from someone they don’t know, but someone who they don’t validate through other channels (a little web research would have easily demonstrated this person to be fictitious), is pretty horrendous.

This problem, of course, is not exclusive to LinkedIn. And the problem is not so much of people being total fakes, like this, but of simply misrepresenting themselves, or having a poor reputation, and you connect with them anyway just on the basis of what you see in their profile page. I have at least three people who have requested to be my friend on Ryze who, after observing their behavior, I would have been horribly embarassed to ever have been associated with.

This should NOT scare anyone away from social networking sites—the dozens of success stories we’ve collected far outweigh risks like this. It DOES mean, though, that you really need to be selective about who your “friends” are, even online. People will use you for referrals, whether they involve you or not, and the quality of the people that you connect to WILL reflect on you. Choose your friends carefully, not indiscriminately.

Master Your Contact Database

A fundamental tool of a good networker is a thorough master database of contacts. While Outlook is passable as a contact manager, its primary focus is still as an e-mail client. True contact management tools are much better suited for active networking. We use and recommend Act! by Best Software. GoldMine is another excellent product. Both integrate with Outlook as an e-mail client, but provide much more robust functionality centered around contacts, rather than around e-mail messages.

Among the data fields that one should include:

standard contact information (phone, address, email, website, etc.)
category (1=family/best friends, 2=close friend, 3=casual friend, 4=casual acquaintance, 5=met once, and 6=stranger)
connections (how we met/common affiliations)
affiliations (clubs, etc.)
special interests
career history
appropriate holiday greeting (Merry Xmas, Happy Rosh Hashanah, Happy Chinese New Year, etc.)
For an exhaustive list, see “The Mackay 66” in Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.

It is critical to maintain the database with new information as you obtain it. People regularly switch jobs, locations, and occasionally spouses; one out of seven Americans moves every year. If you do not work to maintain it, the value of your database will rapidly degrade.

The exercise of building a database of everyone you know will facilitate keeping in touch with them, and will also help you think about who you can introduce to whom. This will help you to become a matchmaker, connecting people with similar interests. Incidentally, this is 90% of the job of an investment banker.

Make sure that you have critical categories well-represented in your network. In particular, a good network should include people from all of the following areas: real estate broker; a source for hard-to-get tickets; travel agent; community leaders from major ethnic/religious communities (Catholic / Jewish / Protestant / African-American / Feminist); headhunter; banker; elected local official; high-ranking police officer; firefighter; insurance expert; auto mechanic; media contact; and spouse and/or best friend. For more on this, see Harvey Mackay’s Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.

Learn the software you select inside-out. The searchability of a good database is one of the principle advantages of using technology for your networking. Take a class, get a good book, or even get some one-on-one coaching to be sure you’re really getting the most out of it.