Social Networking

Feb 26, 2008

I'm tokerud on FriendFeed.com

Friendfeed_logo

Friendfeed.com launched today. It's been in Beta for a while. Very cool at least on first blush. It aggregates a whole bunch of posts according to your settings. I set my Friendfeed to show del.icio.us, flickr, tech ronin and twitter posts for openers.

The people behind this are from but not currently of Google. This is moving towards what will be better when OpenID gains adoption. Check it out!

Jun 20, 2007

iPhone Story Keeps Getting Better

Last week, Apple re-did their entire website. It is way improved with tons of motion. Things pop-up, slide, roll up and down and play. The iPhone section has 2-minute QuickTours. In the Internet in your Pocket section, there are 5 QuickTours.

Quicktours

As of Monday, the iPhone got an optical glass top layer instead of plastic. It also got a much improved battery life going from 5 to 8 hours of talk time. And, one more thing, you can buy your iPhone on Apple's online store, eliminating long waits in line.

Iphone_youtube

Today, it got YouTube. All the technorati have been wondering what the missing 12th button might be. In at least one demo, there was a 12th button but you couldn't see what it was. You can not only watch YouTube videos, you can instantly send links to your friends by email.

Youtube_button

Now we know. Maybe Apple is done with surprises. But, I doubt it. My guess is the story will continue to get better right up to launch day. I wonder what is next?

May 17, 2005

37Signals' Backpack Breaks New Ground

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After reading lots of favorable commentary, I signed up for a free Backpack account. Backpack is one of the very few web apps that achieves a responsiveness that is similar to what I expect from the desktop. It's the most responsive web app I've ever used. And, as a result, my Backpack main page is now my Safari 2 home page.

The 37Signals folks are using a new and better approach called AJAX which produces an unprecedented level of responsiveness. That's huge, but, equally important, 37Signals is religious about simplicity, minimalism and end-user control. Here's what they say in their manifesto:

You should make the rules. Most information management tools are riddled with mandatory fields, complex multi-step processes, and specialized "buckets" for data. ... Backpack adjusts to organize things your way. It's a blank slate that offers you less structure and more space....
Clear, Simple, and Fast. At the heart of Backpack is simplicity and clarity. Things work the way you'd expect them to work. Everything complex has been tossed so the tool is simple to the core. In fact, nothing takes more than a few seconds. Our "Ajaxed" interface elements eliminate reloading hassles. Backpack gives you the benefit of the web (centralized access, no install, no IT nightmares) without the downsides of the web (reloads, slowdowns, poor interfaces). - 37Signals

Up till now, we haven't been able to do some things that Backpack makes possible:

Create web pages without HTML. Backpack has got to be the quickest, simplest way I've ever seen to put up good-looking, modifiable webpages.
Share daily life/work information without extra fuss. You create a little list and notes for yourself in a couple minutes, but that list is an editable webpage that you can share with specific friends, family, co-workers or clients or the general public.

37Signals is pitching Backpack as a PIM that happens to be online. It lets you create lists, notes and reminders and add images and files as you like. The idea seems to be that we've never had the flexibility to share these kinds of things at will so we won't really know what value that represents until we start just using the tool. Then we'll run into places we want to share stuff.

I don't have immediate and obvious needs to share my lists and what not. After all, I've already got a blog where I can do most of that. So I've been evaluating whether I want an online PIM rather than or in addition to the great desktop tools I already have.

Besides the aforementioned exceptional look, feel and responsiveness, what I'm liking so far:

The List Checkboxes are slick. First, you get them with every list item automatically. Then, when you check off an item, it goes to the bottom in gray and smaller and checked off. And there's a little trashcan there if you want to delete it.
Notes are cool too. Each note has a subject which appears in a nice bold and then the separate body of the note. You can put bulleted and numbered lists in your notes along with images and links to web pages.
No synching!!! Great for people like me who use two computers regularly. The first time I went to my PowerMac, it was sure great that my Backpack stuff was right there and I could edit or add things knowing they would be synched without synching on my Powerbook when I started using it again later.
You are backed up. OK. I backup my really important work-related stuff pretty religiously, but not the rest. You’ve got a built-in, automatic and trouble-free backup all the time.
It's got tags. At the moment, tagging is hot. So, I'm glad it's here in this 1.0 release. Haven't tagged a thing yet, but hey, I'm just getting started.

This might work. Adequate. Now, add the benefits of sharing:

Sharing is the new killer app. A tool/environment that is selectively shareable. You are in an instantly shareable and invite-your-friends-to-edit environment all the time. D. Keith Robinson says it: “You can send or share pages with people, thus allowing them into a bit of your world as needed.”
It’s like a wiki but better. Simple syntax to accomplish bullets, numbered lists, links, blockquotes, bold, italics and such.
In place editing. Unlike a wiki page where you edit the whole page or not at all, this little guy has sub-areas that you edit. The edit link appears in bright orange when you hover over something editable. Cool!
What O'Reilly Radar calls "round-trip format for Backpack content: Backpack → Email → Backpack is a breakthrough. I can email Backpack pages to myself or others and they look like they did online. Then, while offline perhaps, I can edit the email and email it back to update the page when I'm back online. Yeah.
Sending reminders to your cell phone and mobile access isn't half bad either.

Downsides:

If you haven't planned ahead and can't get online at the moment, you don't have access to your stuff. Most of us still have offline moments. Backpack works better when you are online at will. And, god forbid, the service could be down.
There's a small privacy risk when I work on stuff that is just for me and that I don’t want others to see. Yes, if everything goes right, it is protected. But, ever heard of chaos theory? Things don't always go according to plan.
A wysiwyg desktop tool would still be easier to use if you want any formatting. Backpack's markup language is great, but can't beat wysiwyg. Geeks will love Backpack, but will everyone else?

Less is more and all that, but I've still got feature requests. And, the more features added, the harder it is for 37Signals to keep things dead simple. I need:

A way to reorder my notes. Right now, unless I'm missing something, there's no reorder feature and my most recent notes go to the bottom of the list. Couldn't you just add the reorder buttons that work so well in lists to notes?
To be able to drag photos in. You too Flickr! This works on the desktop, so I want it here too. I'm afraid this feature requires excessive back flips but it sure would be nice.
To be able to move my content from one page to another easily. To refactor as a I figure out what I want to share. Once again, drag and drop would be perfect.
Lower prices. OK, I'm spoiled by Flickr pricing, but it sure would be nice if the highest level Backpack account was $5 a month instead of $19 and that the second from the top level was $24.95 a year. I know these are good deals for commercial users, but in order for this place to be the ideal play pen, we need plenty of elbow room to experiment. Raise the rates later if you must but not while we are still getting our feet wet. How about a 2-month trial period at Flickr prices?

As I've said before (Collaborative Environments), as a tech-enabled free agent (ronin), I need to be able to work and collaborate virtually. And I don't want a lot of corporate crap and control layered on top. Backpack feels like the perfect next step in this direction.

Update May 17, 2005: I just upgraded to the $9 a month package with 100 pages. Couldn't wait.

My Public Backpack Page

Jan 02, 2005

43 Things Rocks!

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If you were wanting to make New Years resolutions but didn't quite get around to it. Or you want to make your list public, this is your site! If you need ideas for what you are up to in life, check out the world's most popular goals. Go quickly while the year is young!

OK. I've raved about social networking services before - Ryze, Orkut, Flickr. And chances are 43 Things won't be the last SNS that I rave about and I may abandon it as I have others because something better comes along. In fact, right now, blogging is my social networking community and that's where I most want to put my energy. But this is a cool, small side line worth checking out.

43 Things is a vast improvement on these other services from my point of view. I've already entered 27 things and about 8 entries in the last hour. That's the sum total of my experience with it.

But what is this 43 Things? If you haven't heard yet, it just came out in December. Was invitation only temporarily and now seems to be totally open. And it's about entering the 43 things you want to do, publishing those things so others can see them, seeing the aggregation of everyone's lists. Using keywords on these things. Writing entries about the things you have on your list. Seeing what other people who want to do the same things or have already done those things have to say about them.

This is not idle chatter. And at the same time it is fun. You could take this 100% seriously and not have as much fun perhaps. My list of 27 things includes things like: write a good book and the perennial lose 10 lbs and walk across the Golden Gate bridge.

Maybe this is a flash in the pan, but it couldn't be more timely.

Dec 01, 2004

Doc Searl's Secret to Success

Borrowed Ideas Gapingvoid

This looks pretty doable:

Do good work and Stay in touch. That's all you really need in a connected market, frankly. - Doc Searls

Half of it comes from Garrison Keillor's close at his Writer's Almanac podcast site [via gapingvoid.com] The great and funny cartoon above is by Hugh MacLeod. Really enjoying his illustrated posts.

Sep 16, 2004

Finally, Social Interface Design

Joel Spolsky has put words to something hugely important in software: the social interface. OK, I'm biased probably. I have a Master's degree in Sociology and Bachelor's in Psych. I like stuff like this. But still. Here are some excerpts from this excellent article:

Software in the 1980s, when usability was "invented," was all about computer-human interaction. A lot of software still is. But the Internet brings us a new kind of software: software that's about human-human interaction...
When you're writing software that mediates between people, after you get the usability right, you have to get the social interface right. And the social interface is more important. The best UI in the world won't save software with an awkward social interface...
With social interface engineering, you have to look at sociology and anthropology. In societies, there are freeloaders, scammers, and other miscreants. In social software, there will be people who try to abuse the software for their own profit at the expense of the rest of the society. Unchecked, this leads to something economists call the tragedy of the commons.
Whereas the goal of user interface design is to help the user succeed, the goal of social interface design is to help the society succeed, even if it means one user has to fail...
Software used in teams usually fails to take hold, because it requires everyone on the team to change the way they work simultaneously, something which anthropologists will tell you is vanishingly unlikely.
Joel is aggressively applying these insights to his company's software called FogBugz:
FogBugz has lots of design decisions which make it useful even for a single person on a team, and lots of design features which encourage it to spread to other members of the team gradually until everyone is using it.
The discussion group software in use on his site is also benefiting:
There are dozens of features and non-features and design decisions which collectively lead to a very high level of interesting conversation with the best signal-to-noise ratio of any discussion group I've ever participated in.
Joel's Building Communities with Software written in March of last year is a wonderful companion piece to this one.


Aug 26, 2004

Blogging: Improving the Quality of your Hits

Have you ever looked over the stats for your blog to see what people are reading? I have, and it's not pretty. Let me show you a random bit of stats for this blog compliments of Typepad:
Tech Ronin Type Pad Stats

These are almost all coming from Google and they are almost all about the latest *hot* gadgets. A more impressive term is personal technology, but still. I have to say that these *searchers* have good taste. Only the best for my google-based readers.

The truth is that I always have my ear to the ground for the best personal technology. It's really just me being curious and trying to get what I want. But, because of that, I track about 40 different sources with some regularity and hit places like Gizmodo, Engadget, The Gadgeteer, PDA 24/7, Russell Beattie, et. al. almost daily with my trusty newsreader NetNewsWire. I find stuff that's hot. And when I know it's new, hot and cool, I often write about it with my particular slant.

My blog name is Tech Ronin, after all. Tech is a major feature, whether it is gadgets or software or the impact or opportunities of technology. Anyway, the confession is that I do these little personal technology articles partly because I know they are going to get a lot of hits.

But what I really want is a following. And not just because I find cool technology. I really want the following to be about my authentic voice, my ideas, my writing. Stuff that's much more subtle than things you can find by putting a word or two into Google.

I guess you could say that my personal technology stuff is partly my loss leader. I'm really up to bait and switch. Maybe some folks who find me on Google will decide to subscribe. I want subscribers because that starts to feel like friends, associates, partners, community. It would be cool to gain financially, but that's way down the list.

OK, I think I promised to tell you how to improve the quality of your hits. Here's how. Don't sell out and narrow-focus your blog to the point that you forget that it's the added value, the personal touch, the writing, the connection and accessibility that will get you fans.

Mar 29, 2004

Ryzing to the Top: 8 Tips

ryze_logo.gifA member of Ryze wrote me today asking me what I would recommend to him in terms of how to get the most out of Ryze. I got so carried away on the subject, that it was obvious that I needed to post my observations and recommendations here.

This isn't earthshaking stuff, but I would have gotten a quicker start at Ryze myself if I would have known these things to begin with:

1. Spend some time there every week. Things build with time and regularity.

2. Carefully pick 1-3 networks to participate in actively. You may want to reserve time looking for a good one, but once you've found one, I would read a few months worth of posts (depending on the volume) to understand what they are talking about and who the major participants are and then start posting good, helpful, thoughtful comments and ideas. Let yourself be known on the network(s). It's easy to spread yourself thin and never get known anywhere but I've found that people read your posts with more interest once they *know* you.

3. Be as open as you feel comfortable with so that people will be able to establish a one-sided relationship with you simply from checking you out on your page. Be personal. Be appropriate. Get ideas for your page by looking at other pages. People refer other people to my page because they think it is a useful page.

4. Keep up with your guestbook entries on your own page. Once you get going, it's easy to fall behind. Make short upbeat GB entries in return to everyone (you can provide advice to those whose entries seem offensive and encouragement to newbies, etc.) and invest additional time in especially thoughtful guestbook entries based on what you find at the other person's page for the people you would really like to connect with.

5. Browse Ryze for interesting people. You can search on interests, see who the friends of a person you like a lot are and find interesting people from their posts in networks. When you find someone interesting, make a guestbook entry in their page or send them a private message, whichever seems most appropriate. I found that Ryze is more interesting the more public people are in their communications, so I've leaned towards making guestbook entries unless it was clearly better to use a private channel.

6. I also entered testimonials and tips myself as I learned about Ryze and that drew attention to me and brought hits my way. [Ryze has a large rotating set of tips and testimonials that Ryzers can submit]

7. Also, I have a weblog and wrote a fairly elaborate set of posts about Ryze and social networking [Social Networking Made Easy, Part 3] which caught the eye of Ryze founder, Adrian Scott, and he requested to use a big excerpt from my post on his welcome to Ryze for beginners page. That gives me lots of hits.

8. Be open and interested regarding promoting your own business, but first focus on connecting, being interested, being helpful and expressing yourself.

Mar 02, 2004

Flickr Flash in the Pan?

flickr_logo_beta.gif

Darn! I was sure flickr had more potential than Orkut and represents a step forward for social networking services. It's pretty slick and full-featured and there's more to do with pix exchange and live chat, but it's idling near zero right now. The bulletin boards aren't active, for one. There's a small group of regulars online, but that's about it.

Another sign of inactivity is that most of the same pix from two weeks ago are still at the top of the most popular pix list. This is a problem for a service that is named for its pix exchange capability and the pix aren't even very good yet.

I was hoping for a surge of interest, but no. I'm wondering what happened. Is live chat more threatening? Yes. Does it take more to get used to it? Probably. Does nobody know what to do with the pix exchange capability? Seems so. Is chat more of a 25 and under phenomenon that doesn't match up with the maybe slightly older age group that's exploring social networking services? Or do people who want live chat already have themselves set up with those facilities and not see the need to go somewhere online to chat?

Maybe it's just that the Orkut surge was so recent and people aren't ready to start all over again with Flickr. And certainly, the energy from Flickr itself, other than a promising start, is weak at best. The most recent post on Flickr's news page was on Feb 13th when the service went beta. I'll bet some backend work is being done, but the stuff you see on the surface appears to be the same. Energy absent.

One of the interesting problems Flickr may have is that their core users are players of The Game Neverending and my guess is that these gamers would rather be playing GNE than chatting on flickr. I would rather be playing GNE than chatting on Flickr but it's not *out* yet.

There's a strong place for Flickr, though. If you want to work with others, collaborate, socialize and chat with a focus on real world topics rather than fantasy, you need a non-fantasy networking service of some kind. So now how do you take the state-of-the-art tools of real-time gaming and enliven a social networking environment? How do you add more fun and flare and enable people to more easily get to know each other, throw ideas around, share experience, collaborate and create?

I, at least, don't know how to do that on Flickr. What all can you do with photos and little pix? You could exchange pix of rock, sports and movie stars I suppose. You could show people what your town looks like. You could show people what you are seeing right now while you are traveling or somewhere where something interesting is happening. You can always whip out your family and pet photos in a *getting to know you* conversation. You could keep your favorite book and album cover images in your shoebox and illustrate your conversations with them. That might be fun.

One reason I might not have a very good *second* impression of Flickr is that, given the meager population so far, I'm mostly interacting with strangers without context because the only place where you can find people online right now is at Flickr Central and to a lesser extent Flickr Ideas unless you've set-up a *meeting* in advance.

It gets interesting when you *meet* someone you know and like for the first time like I did when I *met* Dina Mehta online. One thing Flickr is in need of is more people so that you anticipate having these happy serendipitous encounters more often.

So, for now, Flickr is flatlining. If you see signs that Flickr is firing up, please let me know. I would love to be there when that happens.

Feb 15, 2004

Angling towards the A-List

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What to do when you are out in the boonies when it comes to the weblog world? Liz Lane Lawley just wrote an account of her gradual entry into the inner circles of blogging plus a mild rant against the *not so nice* complainers who are bad-mouthing some of the great A-Listers she's gotten to know and like.

My initial reaction to Liz's post, was yes, this is great. I'm glad Liz has had that experience. It's good to know that it is possible. Like Liz, I figured out after a while that it helps to link to and comment on someone's blog if you want them to someday link your way or comment. And I blogged it when I started the process: Blogging as Social Networking. Makes sense.

But as someone who didn't get lucky or employ the strategy Liz describes and have someone of Joi Ito's stature and centrality in the blogging community, comment in my blog early on in my blogging career, I can see the other side very well too. I've been blogging since about May 1st 2003 and I am out in the boonies from the standpoint of readership and google-juice. But I'm gradually, oh so gradually, making progress and am actually much more optimistic about gaining a readership that makes my writing efforts seem worthwhile than I was the first few months.

When you are starting and hoping to achieve a readership, it sometimes feels like the deck is stacked against you. After a while, you realize that people look at other people's links to decide what to read. You know they look at Technorati which weights links to your blog based on how many links the linkers have. And that's how Google decides who to put at the top of a Google search. As Clay Shirky has said in Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality, there's such a thing as a power law that's at play.

A persistent theme among people writing about the social aspects of weblogging is to note (and usually lament) the rise of an A-list, a small set of webloggers who account for a majority of the traffic in the weblog world. This complaint follows a common pattern we've seen with MUDs, BBSes, and online communities like Echo and the WELL. A new social system starts, and seems delightfully free of the elitism and cliquishness of the existing systems. Then, as the new system grows, problems of scale set in. Not everyone can participate in every conversation. Not everyone gets to be heard. Some core group seems more connected than the rest of us, and so on... later users come into an environment shaped by earlier users; the thousand-and-first user will not be selecting blogs at random, but will rather be affected, even if unconsciously, by the preference premiums built up in the system previously...

The early bird gets the worm. In this case, people early on the scene have an *unfair* advantage in terms of their position in the network. And it gets worse because *outsiders* can get *in* by linking to and commenting in the the blogs of the top dogs. So then you have people putting the A-List in their blogrolls hoping that an A-Lister will *discover* them and point back in their direction in some way providing a lot of visibility and google-juice. It works and the side-effect is that it reinforces the tendency for new readers and the old readers to read the A-list. And, of course, it's not just the A-List, but the B-List and C-List.

In fact, as a blogger advising someone on how to get some readers, I would suggest that you look for the not so famous but somewhat established blogger (that you like) to link to and read their blogs and comment in them. They might have more time for you than the A-List which as has been described elsewhere may be more in broadcast mode than networking mode. They have so many readers that they may not have the time to respond to many comments. Their *network* cards are full to overflowing.

What some of the good writers and observers who got into blogging late are thinking is: "I can blog as well as those A-List bloggers but I'm twisting in the wind out here with few to no readers". Then the thought might sneak in: "Do I have to kiss up to the A-List to get read? Whatever happened to the democracy of publishing that was supposed to be one of the big good things about blogging?"

Now, circling back, I totally agree with Liz that the A-Listers are good people. I'm sure if you approach them appropriately with good quality comments and links, they'll *let you into their club*. There is no club, officially or unofficially. Just a bunch of people who know each other and often like each other and network with each other and share ideas with each other (and perhaps link to each other). Nothing wrong with that. It's not a conspiracy at all. Just an artifact of the network effect.

It's not the democracy we could dream of. But, you know... You can still get known if you work at it. It might take a while. That's fine. The beauty really is that it's possible. And, besides, if you make a little effort and write OK, you'll get some readers. First one. Then two. I like it. I like the process of finding good bloggers and then linking or commenting. I want to spread the good word. And I have A-list, B-list, C-list and newbies on my list. Since I identify with the newbies and aspire to being slightly-famous, I like to give them exposure.

This is going to work out. But, I do still sometimes get pissed off when the A-List is always at the top when I do a search. I wonder how to find the late comers to the party who are especially good or just have the information I want right now. I'm all in favor of compensatory structures that can help level the playing field with grace.

Feb 10, 2004

Collaborative Environments

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If you are a free agent, you may like me wish for the ultimate collaborative environment that enables you to easily work with other untethered, non-local free agents as if you were in the same place and organization. Email was the first solution and remains the best and most ubiquitous at this time. Email works for low intensity needs.

Online communities and their latest offspring, social networking services, are *lite* collaborative environments. You get messaging, testimonials and fancy bulletin boards. Community members can create them. This gives you conversations around topics of interest.

In her excellent post today entitled the Uncompany, Jeneane Sessum asks for more. She talks about the features of a powerful and expensive collaborative environment called e-room that she used at Ketchum Communications when she worked there.

Jeneane's post put collaborative environments front and center on my radar screen. Her description of e-room made me realize that this is one of the key missing pieces in making our distributed, near-jobless future work.

We have tons of software and hardware technology to make a great collaborative environment. I often work alone rather than try to coordinate with remote free agents. What if we took all the little pieces of technology floating around from bulletin boards, social networking services, email, wikis and blogs and brought them together for the purposes of letting us work together remotely?

I had never heard of e-room. Jeneane also mentioned Basecamp - a brand new collaborative environment for creative services businesses. She noted that Basecamp lacks a key ingredient from her perspective, a central server where you can put files in a place that lets teammates and clients have limited or unlimited access to them.

Now that I think of it, a few months ago, one of my clients asked me about something like this. He wondered how much it would cost to put an online environment together that would let him present educational materials and management tools to his entrepreneur clients and have them be able to enter information into the tools or comment on the materials online so that they could all benefit from the interaction without having to get together for a meeting in *meatspace*.

I can see this kind of thing being delivered as a service which would include the option to have say 250 gigs of storage for file sharing (1 big hard drive these days). There would probably need to be levels of service because some industries need collaboration more than others. In the creative services world, you need a *lot* of shared storage for one thing and teamwork is *central* to the performance of the work.

Business networking would be a great companion to this type of collaborative service because once you have the ability to collaborate with adhoc teams, you want to have a great network full of potential teammates. And every time you work with people you strengthen your knowledge of their skills, abilities, personalities, values and workstyles.

In fact this lack of collaborative tools has limited the value of business networking services. They currently are all talk. The best you get is conversations around bulletin boards. People don't put much at stake in these environments. If people start working or playing together online, they not only get to know each other better but they get to build trust by tentatively and then more intensively collaborating.

This is all new to me. But I now see how it fits in as another crucial piece of the tech ronin puzzle. Stay tuned.

Feb 04, 2004

Orkut: Day 7 - Update

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The initial excitement for me at least has died down already, but I'm hoping for more new features and developments to keep me and everyone else interested. There needs to be more things going on to sustain our interest and provide value. I would love all sorts of extensions such as blogs and personal pages for openers. Visual diagrams of friends of friends. There are lots of possibilities.

One thing that was disappointing for me was that lots of people I invited ignored the invitation (or was it spam-filtered out? Apparently Hotmail an Yahoo have been blocking Orkut invitations) or said I've already got too many social networks to deal with and don't have time for more. It's ultra easy to send out the automated invitations, but I haven't found that they get the job done of enrolling someone in the value of yet another social networking service.

Nevertheless, I currently have 31,632 people in my network of 10 friends. They tell you how many friends are in each friends' network. So I counted and got 532 friends of my 10 friends. But, there's tons of overlap, so the total is probably about 300 max.

On the other side of the friends coin, I'm starting to run into the bane of a good social networker's existence: what to do when someone I don't know asks for my friendship. I've had 2 of those so far. So I googled them and looked at their profiles. One I accepted and one is still in la-la-land - haven't decided yet - there's not even a photo just an avatar to go on.

Curious what normal users are doing with this. My guess is that people are *fans* perhaps of my weblog and want to gesture to me in some way. I wish there was a less extreme condition like Marc Canter's People Aggregator which lets you say *I don't know you, but would like to* and then perhaps a little note box so they could say what the connection is and something about themselves that resonates.

I like the guestbooks that Ryze has. A guestbook is a great place to say hi to someone you would like to know. Or, of course, a private message would work too.

My personal solution to eliminate display of my marital status was to just erase it. Duh. Eventually, I figure quite a few other people will opt for that if they are not interested in dating.

Jan 30, 2004

Orkut: Day 1 - Having Fun

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OK. I know I just said that the last thing we need is yet another social networking service. Because it fragments things and screws them up. And I said *bad* things about Google just recently too. But hey, life unfolds from minute to minute. Being curious and receiving an invitation from someone I like, I signed up last night without a second thought. Orkut was down for repairs/upgrades when I first tried but an hour or two later I was in and on.

They've got a big questionnaire that is good I think. Gives you lots of room to quickly list stuff about yourself, interests , and professional stuff if you want to fill that in. And, in lots of places you can control who has access to that particular tidbit - such as your age, for example ;-). The groupings for selection of who gets to see the piece of info are: you, friends, friends of friends and everyone. That's not quite as granular as I would like but is an excellent first cut. And, if you don't fill it in, it just doesn't appear - a blank by that attribute is not displayed for all to see that you did not reveal that info.

Here's what I like mostly. You can surf around with great velocity. You can join *communities* aka bulletin boards, networks whatever quickly. You can surf the people in those communities quickly. It looks great!!! Aesthetics always make a big difference with me when I'm using a piece of software.

So the speed and ease let you get around and see a lot of information in a hurry. I like the decisions they've made in general. They promise your email address is secure. Good enough for me for now. I've invited about 10 people and have some confirmed friends. Am connected to 15000 people with 9 friends. The big numbers are not a goal at all but total people I'm connected to has risen by about 2000 in the last few hours. I'm still interested in the friends of friends and that's about it except when browsing. I like to see which communities people affiliate themselves with and occasionally will look at their profiles. Having legible photos everywhere helps.

It's fun. That's the testimonial. Fun as a function of ease of use, aesthetics, and tasty people information and communication. The less the dating element intrudes the better for my taste. I like that I can make that clear and then actively pursue people for affiliation, friendship, information, support and, oh yeah, business networking. Don't like that my relationship status is one of the key variables displayed in people lists even though I've specified that dating is not what I'm looking for - I would rather see a different variable displayed and hope they fix that one somehow. If you want more opinions and speculation about Orkut, just Google for it. ;-)

Jan 28, 2004

Fragmented Social Networking Services

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I'm afraid that most of the enthusiasts for social networking services are beginning to get fed up. These services, now abbreviated YASNS (Yet Another Social Networking Service) are proliferating like rabbits and its getting frustrating. First the programmers and entrepreneurs, then the bloggers, then the press and more recently Venture Capitalists have gotten hot and bothered about the potential of all these services.

On the one hand, I'm glad we get to play and experiment with these little social networking environments, but people skip around and spread their energy and attention so widely with no cross-talk between the services. Especially for people like me who want to try lots of these services. I get stretched too thin and my online *friends* seem equally stretched and enthusiasm is dropping like a rock.

My real world friends have given these services little attention. Maybe I'm not in the right age group, but I couldn't recruit more than a couple friends onto Ryze and haven't hardly tried with the others. It's not like the others (LinkedIn, Friendster, Tribe et al.) had so much more to recommend them that I could say, nevermind about Ryze, this new one is IT.

I've given most attention to Ryze (of which I've been a gold member since Mar-03, but have to admit that when I started blogging around the beginning of May, most of my free *online networking* energy has been spent either blogging, perusing other blogs or commenting on other blogs. Once you have a blog, you're committed in a way that being a member of these communities doesn't come close to unless perhaps you are the moderator of a network that is active. [See my Blogging as Social Networking post.]

These YASNS just aren't very good yet. Maybe they never will be. But they seem to need more than profiles, testimonials, photos, explicit friend networks and bulletin boards to go very far. There needs to be more to do on these things. More ways to get to know people and interact with them. To build trust. To provide support.

Most importantly, these communities need to be linked. These gated networks aren't working. It's frustrating to fill in profiles over and over again. It's impossible to get your real friends to monkey around with all these different communities and spend time filling in profiles and inviting friends.

We either need a much better YASNS that kicks butt and stands out as the one worth joining so people aren't fragmented so much in relatively equal and limited islands. Or, we need some decent standards and EASY ways to join multiple YASNS. And forget it if you want me to pay for all these different ones. That's not happening. I'm about ready to drop my gold membership on Ryze because I'm really not getting much use out of it.

What if my friends join different individual YASNS and invest their time in the particular one or ones they join. They want me to get on their YASNS and I want them to get on mine. We either stubbornly stick with our own first choice or switch or join both.

What I'm trying for is to get my actual friends networked together online so I can see and benefit from explicitly identifying and knowing who the friends of my friends are and so on (4 deep is the absolute maximum of interest and 3 deep (which is just the friends of my friends) is a great starting point.

The latest YASNS, Google affiliated no less, is Orkut. Some are praising it. I still think there's social gold in these hills but am not sure were going to find much of it with the current explosion of new services. Too much already.

Sep 24, 2003

Blogging as Social Networking

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I'm finding myself lured away from spending as much time as I might on Ryze Business Networking for two reasons: (1) I'm spending a lot of time blogging and (2) I'm using my networking time surfing blogs, bookmarking the good ones, blogrolling the really good ones and occasionally commenting on them. The blogosphere is getting a little warmer to me these days. Not yet as warm as Ryze, but getting there. I think it's partly the phenomenon of TypePad which is smaller and has an extra hint of community to it. I was hoping for more of that and it's here.

I recently decided to add a whole bunch more links to my blog in the way of a generic blogroll plus other lists of blogs and sometimes website links. Part of the plan is that it gives me a nice place to surf from and hopefully turns you guys on to good blogs but the subtext, secret reason (oops! not secret anymore) is that I'm hoping some of the admired bloggers I link to will come over and check out my page. And, at least on a small scale, there's a detectable uptick in my blog traffic and a couple of these people have linked to my page! Whoopee!

As a relative newbie to blogging (started end of April), I'm easily excited by this. In all seriousness, though, this tit for tat behavior is tangible, real live social networking. Coming over to investigate my blog is a welcome contribution of attention. Linking to my blog is much more. The linker is affiliating him- or herself with me. Affiliation sounds a lot like networking to me. For that matter, linking sounds a lot like networking.

It's an interesting difference from my experience on Ryze. There, you write nice little notes in each other's guestbooks. You send private messages. You *talk* to each other via guestbooks - often publicly - as step one. Later on you declare someone to be a *friend* which is a link on your page - it's just that it doesn't mean the same as a link on my blog. But it certainly does declare an affiliation.

What's cool about blogging is that you've got a meatier medium of exchange. It feels a little like Ryze is on the end of the scale of "all talk and no action" and blogging is much more about action. I thought of the networking and reputation management and testimonials that occur at the ultimate trading site - eBay. It's not just talking about networking, it's real. It counts.

I still like Ryze though. It has been my best source of blog readers. It's OK on Ryze to just strike up a conversation with a stranger without really commenting or offering an opinion. You can just say "hi, you look like a kindred spirit." Blog comments sometimes are like that, but the norm is to discuss the blog entry. It's not as straight on with the person, it's about the content.

I'm circling over insight here without quite landing on the runway. I would love to hear comments from other bloggers who can relate - and anyone else on the planet as well! ;-)

Jul 30, 2003

Social Networking Made Easy, Part 8

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Helping Each Other: Type 1 - Reciprocity

Besides the social aspects and enjoyment of meeting new people or the intrinsic value and importance of forming personal and business relationships, a major aspect of networking has to do with helping each other. At first glance, you might think of reciprocity or the, more primitive, old saw "I'll scratch your back and you scratch mine".

There is an implied score-keeping to this. If person A does some special favors for person B, then B owes A some favors in return. Ordinary good manners might dictate this. For example, if someone invites you over to dinner, it is considered good etiquette to invite them over to dinner in return. Tit for tat.

When someone I know asks me for a favor and it's not ultra easy and something that seems immediately appealing, I might in a split second consult or construct a mental ledger and consider, has this person done favors for me already so I really owe them this favor in return or not? If they haven't done me a favor, and I don't feel like helping or it seems inconvenient, I might just decline or "beg off" with some excuse or another. I can "with good conscience" and without undue concern, just do what I want and figure my needs are important too and I don't want to help right now in the way I'm being asked to help. I'm good.

Then, there is a darker side of reciprocity. Someone asks me for a favor or I spontaneously think of something I could do that would be helpful to another person but, before I offer to help, I consult the ledger. I want to make sure that I'm not going to wind up being taken advantage of. I don't want to be so generous that it makes my intended benefactor uncomfortable (I'm so considerate you see) and, further, it would be nice if this person has the wherewithal to pay me back later.

I think reciprocity is a good minimum standard to follow in networking but it is short-sighted and doesn't create anything beyond the ordinary. It doesn't generate a virtuous circle. I'm not providing leadership in the situation. I'm still contributing to a status quo of scarcity and selfishness.

I would like to see a different kind of reciprocity that is more generous and more inspired. It wouldn't involve the ledger as a standard. The ledger might still pop into mind, it could still be there in our considerations, but what I would like to see is for us to (1) get in touch with, own and get enthused about our own deep desire to contribute to others, (2) stay in touch with our own needs and keep them in the equation when we decide whether or not to contribute and (3) ask for what we would like from others around us, so that they can experience the satisfaction and self-expression of contributing to us.

Jul 20, 2003

Creating Trust by Trusting

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There's an important little story over on Kotte.org. It's called Business lessons from the donut and coffee guy. It seems that *Ralph* lets his customers make their own change. As a result, he probably loses a little change each day and he is able to serve more customers and has a really loyal following. Jason Kotte aces the breakdown of the dynamics of trust in the situation and how it makes Ralph's business successful. It's worth reading and pondering for my business and maybe yours...

Jul 18, 2003

Panther Address Book helps social networking

I am thrilled to hear that by the end of this year when Mac OS X Panther is released, I will be able to note connections between my contacts in my address book. The screenshot I saw showed fields for friends and assistants. It tells me who people know (at least who they know that I know they know). The new Address book will also have a Scripts menu which will hopefully spawn the writing of lots of AppleScripts to extract value out of the Address book.

Even though I'm no AppleScript programmer, if someone else doesn't do it, I will undertake to write a script that will quickly find all the address book records named in the friends field of a particular record or group of records. That would be step one... I'm hoping that some AppleScript geek will seek to chart the relationships in a scriptable drawing program like Omnigraffle after that. I would very much like to see such a chart of my own address book once these fields are filled in. [via Interconnected, write-up and screenshot at MacMegasite]

Jul 14, 2003

Social Networking Made Easy, Part 7

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Things have at least ostensibly become a bit difficult of late for our workingman and workingwoman heroes. We no longer have the 20th century luxury of being kept employees trading our freedom in for a secure job. That's really what the bargain was and still is when you can get it. And lots of people want that deal just so that they can follow the customary path to security.

We don't grow up safe and snug in our communities and families anymore knowing we'll be taken care of by our kin if worse comes to worse. So, this new heroic undertaking, is truly heroic. Being human is no doubt potentially heroic to begin with, but now many of us are thrust into the breach, perhaps without realizing it. A breach that calls for sustained courage and ingenuity.

It used to be that if you were born into or managed to gain the advantage in life, you could probably keep it. And that's certainly not all gone away, for those who have wads of money and aren't foolish with it. But promises can't be made for those lucky few anymore - because, the truth is, we're not sure what's gonna happen next.

Consider those poor souls in the World Trade center buildings. Quite a few of these people were hotshots. And I think you would agree, we didn't imagine that the twin towers would ever collapse. Sure we had some fears lurking about terrorism - we'd certainly seen some scary flicks - some which seemed possible - but not like that!

During the dot com boom, lots of people quit more conventional jobs and either started their own businesses or threw their lot in with a start-up. The cautionary tale here is that a few got rich and many more were worked almost to death without much reward and are now scraping by looking for a job or freelance work.

So, what's the answer? How do we do this 21st century hero deal and come out smelling like a rose? I hate to say it, but it sure looks like we are knee deep in shit. Did I mention navigating muddy waters earlier? Yeah. We - you and me - are going to have to dig down and find what it takes to get through this transitional or perhaps long-term period of uncertainty.

These are some of the trends that are emerging right now. The internet stubbed its toe in the dot com crash, but rolls on becoming even more entrenched and ubiquitous - globally. There are droves of free agents in the economy. Smartness, information, creativity and individuality rule, trumping natural resources, industry, and even cheap labor. Computers are now firmly established as tools for communication, not computation.

All I can say is, fire up that website. Get and keep yourself connected and in communication with your buddies and your not-yet-known but nearby friends of friends. Your colleagues and former colleagues. The people you've found in your life that you can trust, who help you move forward, who are on your side and bring out the best in you. And all those kindred spirits around the globe who share your values and interests. Open your eyes. Face up to the fact that this isn't the past - it's the future! [To be Continued].

Jul 12, 2003

Social Networking Made Easy, Part 6

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We've established that things have gotten pretty disconnected in recent years. Career and family ain't what they used to be. It seems time to create intentional social networks and - hey - that's what we're doing!

Personal Webpages exist in the millions. And now that digital cameras are cheap and available in every shape and size, people are putting their photos on the web en masse! Weblogs, the hottest things in personal publishing, are proliferating at a stunning clip and new, easier-to-use blog tools like TypePad will only accelerate this trend.

Email has become a mainstay of our communication system. It provides this incredibly convenient way to stay in touch. Although, there are still a few hold outs, you can count on using email to communicate with just about everyone. Sending out an email to any number of people is almost immediate and practically free - personal publishing any time you want (the magnitude of our spam problem is testimony to this).

Instant Messaging is a way to be closer to our buddies - real time. It gives you a sense of being in the same room with someone. IM is now progressing to real-time audio and video messaging. Apple's new iChat AV, just released in June, is showing great promise for free long distance and video phone if you've got a computer on each end of the line.

Mobile Messaging. With the recent wide availability of smarter cell phones, text messaging and, now, photo messaging are surprising people with their popularity. The Japanese and Scandinavians are crazy for it and the rest of the world is catching on quick! This is even cooler, because it's mobile. You don't have to be sitting at home or limited to times when you are lugging your laptop.

Howard Rheingold's latest book, Smart Mobs, explores the plethora of possibilities this leading edge cellular technology opens up. At the edge, cell phones with built-in global and cellular positioning systems allow you to arrange to be notified when someone of interest (perhaps a buddy) comes into your geographic proximity. Imagine a rock concert or even a crowded evening network event - you suspect that some of your friends are there somewhere -- well, it won't be long before you'll be able to find them and be at choice about whether to make contact. You'll be able to select how visible you want to make yourself - from moment to moment, depending on your mood or need.

All these communication channels are popular and growing. Because of the amazing build-out of global wired and wireless networks, none of these channels require proximity. You can IM or mobile message your friends in Norway, Hong Kong or Katmandu. Of course, you can call just about anyone, anywhere on the globe. But, regular long distance phone can be expensive. Even here, long distance phone rates have dropped dramatically of late. I'm currently using Bigzoo.com prepaid long distance. I get national long distance at 2.9¢/minute and can call from the US to the UK for 2.9¢/min and China for 2.8¢/min.

Add in the vast varieties of new online communities, bulletin boards, commenting and more and it is clear that the options for connecting are enormous and still growing rapidly. Participation in all of these options varies from near zero to near immersion in online and cellular communications. Wearable computing devices including watches, eyeglass cameras and screens are becoming available and the wirelessly networked geek elite is trying these now. These days, it doesn't take more than 18 - 24 months before these edgy toys start going mainstream.

With all these tools and infrastructure, what does our hero, the free agent, do to regain the sense of connection and, at least a semblance of the stability, that was once a standard feature of everyday life? [To be continued]

Jul 10, 2003

Social Networking Made Easy, Part 5

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I was just saying that the workforce is a "really disloyal, hustling, hunkering or hostile group of people". That sounds a little harsh. I'm a compassionate fan of this workforce. It is just that the churning and fragmentation of the work and career scene has created a motley crew. Dumped out of the secure nest of traditional employment onto the street, we woke up into a world where everyone is a sort of free agent responsible for their own employment or business gig.

  1. Disloyal: we know that our employer or clients will downsize or reorganize our jobs or contracts out of existence when it suits them. Dependent and dutiful employee behavior may never have been a good proposition. Now it is so dysfunctional that the norm is to keep your options open and be ready to move quickly when or before your job or contract is terminated - not if. This doesn't mean most of us don't try to appear loyal.
  2. Hustling. Working hard, mobilizing, even scrambling to keep financially afloat, to forward his or her career, to keep an ear to the ground for changes and opportunities, to get or keep more and better clients. This is perhaps the Type A - active - response.
  3. Hunkering. Short for hunkering down in one's home. It's the head in the sand method. Battening down the hatches. Playing video games. Ignoring the changes all around us. Gardening. Drinking beer. Being a couch potato. Either wracking up big credit card bills or skimping and playing it safe. Being apathetic. The Type B - more passive - response.
  4. Hostile. These are the people who are pissed off that all this is happening. They're the ones left holding the short end of the stick. They may not be able to get a job better than McDonalds, if that. They've lost or never had faith in the system. They are cranky. Some are extremists, some are "crazy", and some are agile and amazing political activists.

The truth is that we use all of these responses at one time or another as we try to adapt to our new circumstances. The social and economic safety net has withered. But, we live in a pretty abundant society so, even in tough times, at the minimum, we can probably get some credit to tide us over until things improve and, if things really get bad, there's still bankruptcy and what's left of a social safety net for those of us who are in dire financial straits or know how to manipulate the system so that it thinks we are.

How does social networking fit in this world? It's what's needed. When traditional social structures have disintegrated to the point where we are all veritable free agents, we immediately face the need to to get connected for jobs, work engagements, business alliances, marriages, partnerships and friendships. We free agents are free to choose but it's never been truer that "freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose".

Luckily, we have a growing, internet-enhanced toolkit to draw on to get that close, cozy, connected feeling and economic viability we all want. A created rather than inherited (family, neighborhood, town, class) or indentured (traditional, hierarchical employment) social network can be our new succor and safety net. Whether by necessity, drive or enthusiasm, many of us are learning to navigate these muddy waters. [To be continued]

Jul 09, 2003

Social Networking Made Easy, Part 4

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I bet you thought I forgot about this topic. Not quite. As I recall we had built a simple personal web page, done some discrete email marketing and worked the Ryze online community - all so that we could get ahead through social networking without having to go to dreaded networking events cold-turkey. That was a good start.

Remember that this all started because of the small world phenomenon we read about where everyone is connected within six degrees of separation. Even though we often feel really isolated and alienated, is that just an illusion? Well. Not quite. Compared to other periods of time, we are probably more isolated and alienated on average than ever before.

We've gotten all mobile in the last century. First it was moving off the farm into the city. Then everyone got cars. Then an awful lot of people seemed to work for corporations and move around a lot. Or they just moved anyway because they could. That was the nuclear family thing where we lost our close connections to our local communities and our extended families. We didn't know our neighbors anymore. All that.

Since then, all hell broke loose. Somehow, families sort of stopped happening. A whole bunch of people married really late or didn't get married at all. They lived together. Serial monogamy was and is still big. Divorce skyrocketed. Cities wound up being places where mostly singles lived. Gays came out of the closet and seemed to proliferate. Families, what was left of them, moved to the burbs.

Besides all that, the workplace kind of fell apart too. It used to be that you could count on having a career - blue collar or white collar. You could count on staying with a company for a long time. Somewhere after the sixties, that whole postwar phenomenon really lost its momentum. It's been a downhill slide since then. What we are left with is a really disloyal, hustling, hunkering or hostile group of people who make up a whole different kind of workforce - if you can even call it that now.

No, the small world phenomenon may be very real, but that doesn't mean we're feeling close, cosy and connected. However, we could be. We are in close proximity and we are a bunch of social animals longing for belonging. It just might look different - real different. Let's keep going with this and see where it leads. [To be continued]

Jun 05, 2003

Googling by author


I'm probably the last person to consult about Google rankings. But, that said, I'm certain that the rankings are based primarily on how many links a particular post or site has. I want to put my two cents in for giving substantial weight to the author as well.

When we surf the net, we are often surfing for interesting people not just interesting places or specific information. Google should keep track of how many hits and links a particular author has across all their websites, blogs, comments, etc. Couldn't the author be part of the xml so that Google's bots can easily gather and compile that data? I guess there's a potential privacy issue here, but the information is out there anyway...

Second, web standards people and leading edge developers, if you are listening, we need end-user tools to help us more effectively surf these info waves for people. For that matter, show me the top 1000 authors or maybe bloggers on the Net by category. It needs to be a big number because the last thing we need is to filter out the new, creative and minority fringes. Diversity in cyberspace is akin to diversity in nature - it's crucial.

An anonymous comment on Derrick Story's post today about finding music at the Apple Store is the music surfing analog re looking for people: "More than discovering a song for me is discovering an artist who you can relate to. It feels like a friend you don't talk to often but no matter what you've both been through you always have some common ground."

May 26, 2003

Social networking made easy, part 3

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This entry is part of a series on social networking, please go back at least one notch and skim part 2, for background. This complete thread starts with 6 degrees of separation.

Getting to know people: this simple structure of personal pages on Ryze, makes it easy to get to know quite a bit about people who interest or attract you. You can use the search and link functions to identify candidates for connection and then view their pages to check them out. It feels a lot like shopping - for interesting people. I guess you could say that, in this way, Ryze is a kind of mall or bazaar. It's fun. You now have a warm and fuzzy enough feeling about an interesting person, to venture a contact.

Establishing Contact: This is key. Most of us don't like this part in real life - meeting strangers. Here, we are way ahead of the game because we know a lot about these "strangers" before we attempt to make contact - we've picked out the ones who look most promising. We can ask them about something we saw on their page. We can point out our common interests, background, industry, career or personal experiences. If that weren't enough, there's one more great feature. Each personal page has a guestbook and there is a culture that supports signing a person's guestbook as an initial overture. On Ryze, it is OK in fact encouraged to sign a complete stranger's guestbook. And, usually, the stranger will return the favor and check your personal page out and write some kind of reply. You are off and running now if the chemistry goes well with the guestbook exchange.

Building Trust and Comfort: As you can see, it's pretty easy and comfy getting these relationships started. There are a couple neat mechanisms for this next phase. On Ryze, you don't list your phone or email address in the real world on your page. However, you can choose to share this information with someone when you feel comfortable doing so or think it would be more convenient this way. It's an act of trust to do so. You are trusting your new "friend" to use your contact information responsibly. At some point you can declare a person to be a "friend" and add them to your friends list. They may or may not choose to put you on their friends list - these are personal decisions.

Exchanging Knowledge, contacts and support: Since Ryze is a self-declared business networking environment, people expect to network. And that means more than just building a network. Our common understanding and certainly Ryze's definition of networking also implies helping and sharing with each other. It's commonplace for people to offer to help you and to favorably look upon requests for help. This would be true in a "real world" networking situation, though, what's special here? There's a prominent place on each personal page for you to put what you HAVE to offer and what you WANT. Let's make it explicit. This is modifiable so you can change these depending on what you have and want right now. You can effortlessly search for people who have what you want or want what you have.

I'm currently a paying member of Ryze. This is the first of the new breed of online communities that I've tried out with some degree of commitment. I've just touched on some of the highlights of the Ryze environment - there's lots more. Ryze is great but I'm still curious about what else is out there. You'll hear about my discoveries here. If I've peaked your interest about Ryze, though, do come by my personal page and say hi in my guestbook!

May 25, 2003

Social Networking made easy, part 2

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OK, things are going pretty well. We don't have to go to networking groups and meet strangers if we don't want to. We don't even have to cold call or warm call to strangers. Life is good!

I said that this sort of gated online community called Ryze would smooth over the rough edges of this networking thing. Ryze, like a lot of other new networking or community-building kinds of web sites, is an emerging phenomenon - it has a life of its own and is constantly evolving. Plus, similar sites are springing up and each has it's own particular nature and feel. Here's a brief list of some of the competition: Friendster, blogging communities like Live Journal and Radio Userland, LinkedIn, Ecademy, Friends Reunited, There and Everyone's Connected.

Let's remember again, why we are doing this. We aren't getting onto the internet and futzing around with an online community just for the fun of it you know. This is serious! ;-) We are doing this because we want a way to more easily identify and connect with kindred spirits for our mutual benefit. We are looking to activate the field of dreams we've been talking about. Humans are social beings - we want and even need to socialize. Maybe we as individuals are going for two things in all this, then: (1) we want to socialize with people we really like and resonate with and (2) we want to trade knowledge, opinions and support with them once we know and trust them enough to feel comfortable doing so.

So, the fraternizing in item #1 is potentially really enjoyable, but right now let's stay on track and look at what needs to happen to get the knowledge, connection and support benefits of item #2. To do this, we need to (1) find the "right" people, (2) get to know them and (3) establish trust and (4) feel comfortable. Ryze business networking operates on and enables these things. Let's look at the first task and see how Ryze works:

Identifying People: There are many ways that Ryze helps here. Everyone has their own home page and this allows people to reveal themselves to others including photographs plus a lot of identifying information like current town, home town, schools attended, companies worked for, positions held and interests. For paying members (up to $10/mo.) these words are all clickable hyperlinks that find other Ryzlings who match that interest, home town, etc. A general search function allows you to find on any word you want. The only real hitch here is whether or not people feel safe enough to reveal information about themselves in this environment and whether or not enough people find this kind of thing worth doing. [To be continued].

May 22, 2003

Social Networking made easy, part 1

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When I think of networking, the first thing that comes to mind is attending a leads group or some kind of networking event where you smile, pass out your business card and introduce yourself over and over. It's always seemed like something I should do to market myself and get new clients but when I've tried it, it's felt awkward, artificial and 'em painful. So I decided a few years ago that networking events weren't my thing.

But, now I know about the small world phenomenon and I want to get all the goodies at the end of the six degrees of separation rainbow. And I suspect that activating my field of dreams has something to do with building up my network - or networking - the N word. Do I really have to go to those awful events to get all the goodies? Let's look.

Nope. You don't have to be physically present with someone to network with them. Phew! That was a close call for a second there. Even in the "old" days you could always write a letter to someone to acknowledge their work or to introduce yourself. Or you could pick up the phone and call - we call this "cold calling". Letter writing to network - maybe. But "cold calling" sounds as bad or worse than going to a live networking event for the first time. Letter-writing and then calling is warmer, but how much fun is it, really?

The modern equivalent to writing a letter to network-at-a-distance would be writing an email. Emails are instantaneous. They are less formal - sometimes that's a plus, sometimes not. You can send a bunch of them at once - and that might possibly work as long as you have an angle that makes your email not seem like spam. Without getting stuck on the spam question, we can just note that if you already have some relationship to the person you are writing to and you aren't making a blatant commercial proposal, you'll probably make it past the spam police and your email will arrive without tremendous stigma and will perhaps be read. Minus a previous relationship, you may not have a high "response rate" as they say in the direct marketing world. Bottom line: email is incredibly convenient, can't live without it, but there are more ways to network-at-a-distance and some of them should at least augment your email networking campaign should you undertake one.

With all this fancy internet stuff, isn't there a better [read easier] way? I've got one for you. Remember, the gated online community called Ryze that I referred to a while back, well I think it's a better and easier way. Oops, we are running out of room in this post - blog posts need to be bite-sized chunks, you know. I'm sorry. Come back soon for part 2.

May 18, 2003

Creating weak ties, part 2

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Let's assume that you've established your own little place in cyberspace. You've put up some information about yourself and what you are doing. You've even put up a picture of yourself. The proverbial welcome mat is out. The main purpose of all this is to let interested people check you out and get a feel for you without having to email or call you cold turkey.

That's great, you say, but there's an awful lot of websites out there in cyberspace and I'm afraid my little URL isn't exactly on a major thoroughfare - how will people find me?

You have a point there. They might find you accidentally while they search for some service or interest on Google but if no one else is linking to you, you might be at the bottom of the Google list and they probably won't get that far.

Your long lost relatives and school buddies can find you now, by searching for you by name. That's progress - those are perfectly good weak ties - unless you hope to remain unfound. I hadn't thought of that until just now. I guess there are drawbacks to visibility in cyberspace. My suggestion is - deal with it - with a little luck they won't call.

I'll leave the exhaustive coverage on "how to get links" to the professionals. I'm thinking of the simple everyday stuff. People who have websites, like to point to resources they think have merit. When people ask if you have a website, you'll be able to say yes and give them your URL. Now you are getting links.

You are probably a member of some organizations that have listings - and you'll usually be able to list your URL. If this listing is online, you are one click away from your prospective visitors. Maybe it would be worth your while to make sure you are in the directories that apply to you. These listings are usually free. Here's a great one, put your URL in your email signature. Someone will click that link sooner or later. :-)

Now that we've covered some of the basics we can move on to more exotic fare. Stay tuned for part 3.

May 15, 2003

Creating weak ties, part 1

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On Tuesday, we started talking about the small world phenomenon. I, at least, started getting excited about this field of dreams that stretches out all around us - globally - and is navigated through weak or loose ties. I'm ready. What can we do to activate this field of dreams right now?

Part of the formula is having a personal web page of some sort. There needs to be a place in cyberspace where you can be discovered. Where you can reveal yourself, your interests, your accomplishments, your ideas, and yes, even your computers, cars, pets, children and mates if you so choose.Why is this so important? Because it is perfect for developing weak ties!

In my business, it looks something like this. A prospective client finds me in one of five ways: (1) in an online directory such as the one on the FileMaker site, (2) through Google or another search engine (3) my little Ad in the FileMaker Resource Directory that comes in the box with FileMaker software, (4) a news item about a new update or a review on the Net or (5) someone recommends me personally (more on word of mouth later). Except for avenue #5, these other sources leave my prospective client in the dark.

She doesn't know me from Adam. Except, she can go to my website, see what I look like, where I live, that I like football and am a Raiders and 49ers fan, how well-kept my site is and even get a feel for my philosophy and business practices. She can begin to grok me - enter my world a bit and kick the tires. That's a weak tie already, albeit a one-way tie. My prospective client now feels like she or he knows me well enough and knows that it is safe and inviting (or not) to call or email me to see whether or not we might want to do business together...

Sometime soon, I'll tell you a little about Ryze, a sort of gated online community for business networking. Because the community has some barriers to entry and privacy is scrupulously controlled, people feel more comfortable opening up on their personal web pages.

May 14, 2003

What's a blog?

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I've had a couple inquiries from my friends asking me what this blogging thing is all about. First, blog is short for weblog. Tom Coates, the author of one of the best weblogs I've seen, plasticbag.org, has a good little article in his about section explaining the finer distinctions of the world of weblogs. Here's a little taste:

...Weblogs allow people to find new and interesting links on the internet. They let people read the soap-operas (small and large) of real people's lives. They give you access to the news stories from the people who were actually there on the ground. And it's a space where you can get to know another human being personally - through the immediacy of e-mail .

And there are so many weblogs, personal sites and journals out there - they represent such a wealth of different experiences, backgrounds, sexualities, lifestyles and cultures - that there will always be something there to keep you entertained...

Excerpted from What the hell is this site for? where you can read Tom's full article.

For another good definition, see Walt Mossberg's column excerpted here:

A blog, short for Web log, is a type of Web site in which the owner posts frequent musings or reports about topics of interest. These postings are usually filled with numerous links to other Web sites of interest, including other blogs. It's a sort of instant, constantly updated, electronic journal and guide to other items of interest.

Blogs are in some ways a new form of journalism, open to anyone who can establish and maintain a Web site, and they have exploded in the past year. The good thing about them is that they introduce fresh voices into the national discourse on various topics, and help build communities of interest through their collections of links....a blog is only as good as the blogger.

May 13, 2003

6 degrees of separation

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It's not new news in the world of science and the world at large that we are all connected by six or fewer degrees of acquaintance with anyone else on the planet. But here on the Net, social software is hot and everyone is talking about six degrees of separation otherwise known as the small world phenomenon.

Until recently, I just assumed that it would be my close relationships that would bring me the information and opportunities I've been looking for, but this new science of networking says different. It is our bare acquaintances, our friends of acquaintances, who can play crucial roles in our lives. These kinds of relationships are called weak or loose ties.

The people we hang out with don't often give us the breakthrough contacts or information we want because, generally speaking, we know the same people and the same information that they know. However, each of our friends, belongs to other networks that we don't belong to. And in those small tangential worlds, people and conversations - just out of earshot, so to speak, may have something of great value for us if only we could get access to them. Those perfect job leads, apartments, ideal mates and business deals are within your field of six degrees of separation...

That's where the internet and social software come in. Suddenly, it seems, developers are coming out of the woodwork proffering new communities, tools and services that promise to give us an unprecedented level of access to these, just out of reach, riches of information and introduction. These new tools and services grease the wheels of social interaction at a distance so that we can activate this field of dreams through our interests, backgrounds and circles of friends.

Slashdot's Sunday post pointed to these two good posts on social software by Tom Coates and Howard Rheingold.

May 06, 2003

Why am I blogging?

Let me count the ways...
  1. Self-Expression. I soak up interesting knowledge like a sponge and have tons of ideas. This weblog is an easy way for me to have an online column without having to adhere to anyone else's agenda. It fulfills my longing for self-expression.
  2. Get my thoughts down on paper. Having an audience, however small or even imaginary is a big motivator for me. Maybe I'll be read by casts of thousands at some time in the future and they'll come back and read this - one can always hope. These fantasies and hopes fuel the fire that has me take the time and trouble to write. Once written, I've elaborated, extended and clarified my thoughts.
  3. Attract like-minded souls. I'm hoping that I will be discovered by some interesting people who like what I'm doing enough to comment on my posts. I expect some of these people to become online friends and allies. I expect to learn from you.
  4. Share my joy. You know how it's more fun when you can share your enthusiasms? I've had a great time lately writing about the new Apple store, for example. I want to turn people on to this amazing new thing. I love sharing my latest, exciting technology discoveries and associated experiences with fellow travelers.
  5. Move my career forward.
  6. I'm hoping that this amazing vehicle that lets me speak to the world about whatever strikes my fancy will (a) inspire me to greater heights, (b) open unexpected doors and (c) lead me in unforeseen rewarding directions.

    These are good reasons. This is how I explain why I'm doing this. In truth, I'm drawn to it. I have a passion for it. It's fun. And if I get some of the benefits listed above, it will be frosting on the cake!