Thursday, March 31, 2011

Can't grok Gmail HAL - Privacy Trends unfolding

Blame the Daleks: I've never got over the childhood scarring from knowing our sofa was just no match for their death rays! I consider myself fairly well-read, certainly with a vocabulary bigger than England's soccer manager Fabio Capello claims. But thanks to the Daleks I've never read much science fiction so, until today, I'd never heard the word 'grok.'

 kim cameron  

People didn't "get over it". [] DOES NOT COMPUTE yet - "creepy" GMAIL HAL too far out to GROK. Just wait.
Check out his

It seems that 'grok' means "to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science—and it means as little to us (because of our Earthling assumptions) as color means to a blind man."

@Kim_Cameron is reacting to Tech Crunch's news about the new Gmail advertising: the company's deploying their ability to mine the contents of the individual emails in your Inbox and serve up ads that are targeted to be relevant to your current interests, based on your profile of whether you've actually read emails with that sort of content before, how close the sender is to you in social network friendship terms, and more...

@Kim_Cameron's reacting that people haven't happily accepted the data mining by Google (and Facebook and most of the 'free' ad-supported Web 2.0 services). They don't 'grok,' merge their identity in group experience.

It's unfair to pick at views restricted to less than 140 characters in a Tweet, but surely it's only some people who don't 'grok!' Facebook absolute user numbers continue to increase; individual engagement with the site each month is hardly falling noticeably; and millions of people continue to enjoy the convenience of Gmail and similar 'free' hosted email services.

However, as we've noted before, expect the 'non-grokiness' (did I just coin a word?) to cause some people to look for more private ways of engaging in the cyber world. @Kim_Cameron's space-constrained dire "just wait" warning probably won't come to pass soon enough to be measurably linked to Gmail's latest innovation, but there's some grain of truth to his prophecy!
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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why bother with mission statements?

If you're a one-man-band, regardless of whether there are others in the organization or not, then mission statements are so much hot air and a waste of time. But if you're prepared to lead followers who are willing to be led then a mission statement can prove vital to get everyone on the same page with a shared understanding.

I often say that project management, at any level, is at heart as simple as going to the grocery store:

  1. First, you need to know why you're going. That's where mission statements come in. And the reason for the journey has got to outweigh both the cost of travel and the benefit of staying put. Like going to get provisions for breakfast so you won't be hungry in the morning.
  2. Second, you need to know what you're going to do. For example, the objective is to get milk.
  3. Next, where are you going? (Better than GPS, this is a certain shelf on a cabinet in the store...) And where are you going from?
  4. Only then can you plot the route for how you're going to get from A to B.
  5. Choices of route and 'transport' determine the skill-set of who is needed.
  6. Finally, people come with calendars that dictate when this can all be accomplished.
So, that's it! Project management in six simple questions. The important things to note are
  • Make sure you ask - and completely answer - the questions in that order
  • Next, remember that the why and the what do not, ever, change during the life of the project. But the how, who and when probably will - and what, the objectives, can be modified with care!
For more on crafting mission statements read
 Inc. Magazine 
Here's how to craft the perfect mission statement for your company.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Business data are vulnerable to thieves

According to a BBC news item today, security firm McAfee alerts that "Intellectual property and business secrets are fast becoming a target for cyber thieves...research found that some hackers are starting to specialise in data stolen from corporate networks. McAfee said deals were being done for trade secrets, marketing plans, R&D reports and source code."

Well, a security firm selling products to counter such threats would report the threat, wouldn't they?

Whether you lean towards that cynical view or not, the reality is that many organisations find that their core value now lies in the data they store. (It's not just firms like Google that have precious few assets beyond the data that other people allow them to collect; many much smaller firms, too, have valuable data they can mine for value.)

And it's often trivially easy to lose it. Last week I walked out of a building with a copy of the business's entire database stored on a tiny sliver of a card often found in digital cameras, tucked safely in my shirt pocket.

Not only had I signed a non-disclosure agreement, but I'd checked with the Managing Director, the Operations manager, the IT manager and the individual who administrates the database on a daily basis before I took the data. They knew why I was taking the copy and trust me to delete it as I promise when our agreed limited purposes are over.

However, a thief wouldn't bother to make these safeguards, and would find it almost as easy as I did; whether acting as a business visitor, cleaner, security guard or temporary staff member. They don't even need to walk out with a USB stick - your data can just be emailed out to a Gmail or Hotmail account. Remember, much of your data probably leaves the building routinely on employee laptops, pads and smartphones. Take precautions!
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Friday, March 25, 2011

Social media disrupting organisation structures

Great conversations with other digerati at #chelttwestival last night with lots of interesting war stories:

Social media/networks deployed in government departments are empowering ground-level staff to connect cross boundaries (geography, time, department, skill set...). And empowering them to connect straight to senior management. They love that; and so do the seniors - they get immediate access to real-time info about what's actually happening, without filtering, spin or time delays. But layers of middle management are threatened with irrelevance and resist change due to fears of power loss. Arab Spring suggests they won't succeed in holding the status quo!

Jury is out on whether internal social networking can effect positive change in smaller organisations: with under 100 staff (the overwhelming majority of outfits) there might not be enough overlap of affinity group interests to catalyse viable sub-group activity. It certainly can't be done without a supportive culture.

How threatening is Philip Rosedale's virtual company with no formal offices and a virtual staff of ever-changing freelancers who transparently bid for work? Could this be a Perfect Market in operation? Once invented, can other businesses resist the competitive pressures it will unleash?

How do you guarantee a viral message impact? You can't - it needs luck as well as humour, value, creativity, originality, and more. But maybe you just try it; work hard at it; and don't tell anyone if it doesn't work!

British survey of last ten years' worst innovations is headed by "Reality TV" and, 2nd, "Facebook & Twitter" - Yet we "all" watch reality TV and Facebook/Tweet about it! It's probably for the same reason that blokes talk about the latest sporting events, even if they hate sports and find it boring...The fear and cost of potential social exclusion is so great it alters our behaviour!

Thanks for the stimulating ideas @reid24hrs @rich_copy @jonnop @thebrandbutton @lizziefenwick and @glosjobs and others!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What customers want

Recently I was told that Richard Olivier (son of renowned actor, Laurence) uses Shakespeare insights to coach leadership skills. It just occurred to me that other literary figures have much to teach business, too.

I remember school studies on Chaucer's Wife of Bath. In her tale the queen famously tasked a knight with discovering what women want most in the world. The tale's answer, of course, is that women want to be in charge [of their husbands and lovers], to have the authority to make their own choices. Just like customers do.

(It's this insight that's leading our emphasis upon customer managed relationships rather than the more usual Customer Relationship Management.)

There's a great insight here for how to treat customers. Marketing is not about bringing a product we've built to the market and persuading people to want it; it should be about discovering what the marketplace wants and needs - and feeding the results to those in the business who can innovate a response. Everything else, as Peter Drucker said, is a cost of bringing the innovative response to fulfill the marketplace's need.

Yesterday I met a senior executive in the publishing industry. (Now that's an industry facing disruption from technology; new competitor entrants like Amazon, Apple, Google and more; the collapse of traditional retail sales through bricks-and-mortar stores, forcing mega-retailers like Borders out of the market...)

This executive told me he's taking exactly the Drucker (or Wife of Bath) approach: he's spent much of the last year immersed in his market, discovering end-user customer needs afresh, and beginning to innovate a response. I'd invest in him and his business rather than those hoping that change won't happen.
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ethics in action

  • How many companies pay an invoice, by electronic funds transfer, the day it's been approved for payment?
  • How many companies encourage their employees to take 'thinking time?'
  • How many companies have an informal rule that senior managers leave the building within minutes of the end of the official working day, and encourage staff to do the same, to counter the temptation to work around the clock?
The client I'm working with this week does all these things, and very many more, because of a deeply held ethical commitment that emphasises the importance of people in the business (customers and suppliers as well as employees) instead of the pursuit of wealth at any cost. 

How many companies have a sensitive alcohol policy? My client does not reimburse alcohol when entertaining business contacts; but, so as not to embarrass the guest by revealing that, if they take someone to dinner and the guest wants a glass of beer or wine with the meal, the host will settle the bill with the restaurant and reimburse the company for the alcohol portion privately: it's a policy that recognizes the sensitivities around the issue and refuses to put people in an uncomfortable position...

Guess what? With attitudes like these, this company has more than enough money to pay all the bills, hire new staff and grow the business; and they've got enthusiastic workers with a great camaraderie and genuine 'can do' spirit; along with mostly delighted customers (retention rate >95%); and suppliers shocked and impressed that they get paid promptly without having to chase.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Agile learning

About to embark on a new software development project I was talking last week with Barry, our genius programmer and head of development. He was glad to hear that we're once again starting a new code base.

He explained that each time he starts over he does things a bit better than the last time: maybe the tools available have improved; or just simply he's found by trial and error the best way of doing things; or something he learned later down the track on the previous journey would have proved useful at the foundation stages and now he has chance to build that learning in...

It's similar to the drive I took this morning to a client: first time I went, I had to pay close attention to the GPS. Next time it was easier. Today I could tackle the journey confidently, allowing for traffic (even if that did mean an 05:30 start!)

There are lots of reasons for adopting what's called the "agile" method, moving forward in short sprints before huddling down and preparing for the next move. Look at the pace of change in agile-developed web apps compared to traditional operating system and application software such as word processors.

It's one of many valuable insights from the software world to take into the rest of life. Simply put, it's easier to pilot a wave runner than turn a supertanker!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Twitter firmly established in breaking news

Mike Schorah on TwitterI was travelling on public transport when I came across the first news of the Japanese Tsunami, via Twitter not the mainstream news media.

Around a week later I saw this:

 Earthquakes Tsunamis 
 by MikeSchorah
6.0 earthquake, Babuyan Islands region, Philippines. Mar 20 4:26pm at epicenter (15m ago, 111km NE of Laoag, depth 37km).
15 minutes ago Favorite Undo Retweet Reply

Along with hundreds of others I did an immediate Retweet while the mainstream media is still focused on Libya and Japan with no mention at all of an event in the sea between the Philippines and Taiwan. Presumably it's not of much Western economic significance!

Twitter is confirmed as a mainstream piece of Internet infrastructure and the US Library of Congress archives every single public Twitter message. Amazing.
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Friday, March 18, 2011

LinkedIn daily maintenance routine

So, you've created your profile on LinkedIn, and you've built your network, and you have optimized your profile. Is that it? Can you ignore LinkedIn from now on? If you do, you'll get the results you deserve ;)

No one has much time to spend on routine maintenance activities. But if you will invest just 15 minutes two or three times each week then you'll gradually discover a pay-off. How to spend the time?

  1. Deal with anything in your LinkedIn Inbox: that could be connection requests or direct messages from your connections about a variety of subjects ... If you're a senior executive then it's probably best to keep your network small, confined to people you have a close business relationship with; for all others, consider accepting all incoming connection requests as a matter of course - you can always remove the connection later if it's not working out for you.
  2. Several times each week try to reach out to add a couple of more connections to your network, perhaps discovering them through people connected to those you already have a connection with, or by researching companies that you are interested in and making a direct approach to an individual there.
  3. Several times each week try to make brief contact with a couple of people already in your network, just to 'touch base' and keep the contact going. Many times you won't get a response, but the activity will help to keep your name in front of those in your network.
  4. Briefly review your Status message and Profile information: any time you make changes here the update will be broadcast as part of your news feed to those in your network. Again, it's about keeping your name in front of those you know.
  5. Finally, consider diving in to the Questions and Answers section (currently via the 'More' menu option). It's worth taking time to see if there are any open questions that you can answer, particularly from people in your network. Activity here helps to build your reputation and 'status.'
  6. Review the new LinkedIn News to see if there are interesting items from your network that you should be aware of: and, of course, you can make your own contribution to the News feed, enhancing your visibility as you do so.
With a little investment of time on a regular basis LinkedIn can be an invaluable career and information resource.
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Thursday, March 17, 2011

About.Me - Another opportunity for self-promotion

One of the issues many of us face in this age of multiple social networks lies in tying it all together.

There are so many ways of self-publishing on the Internet that it's becoming necessary to provide directories and splash pages to try to simplify things. About.Me is another opportunity to do this. And it's free of charge, at least for now.

It's not obvious how this will all unfold (.tel seemed like a great idea, but is probably more useful for businesses than for individuals, for example). But you should grab your preferred URL to enhance your 'personal brand' before anyone else does! e.g. Apart from anything else, doing this will help your personal search engine optimization (SEO) rankings, pushing you higher up the Google list!

It's such a simple service, basically a place-holder for you to enter your name and some brief bio information. Then you can link your space to your presence on Twitter, Blogger, YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook and more ... And enter URLs to other spaces you want people to be able to connect to, like your .tel account.

About.Me already provides some basic statistical tracking, but in April 2011 they intend to integrate the much more powerful statistical tracking from

Optimizing your LinkedIn profile

So, you've created your profile on LinkedIn, and you've built your network, but how do you optimize your profile?

  • Change the LinkedIn header from the default 'Job title at Company' format to reflect your core skills and interests - position yourself for the next job rather than the one you currently have! And you have 120 characters available to shout out who you are, what you do, what your ideal client is, etc.
  • Remember that your name, profile picture and this headline section will show up on whatever you do across LinkedIn; 
  • Change your present position job Title field to reflect more of your core skills and interests rather than merely a generic job title such as 'Sales Director.'
  • In the Summary section you have up to 2,000 characters to represent your skill set and achievements. Draft your entry first in MS Word and copy and paste into LinkedIn. That will help to spell check, and you might be able to pull through some bullet point formating also. Use white space, bullet points and CAPITAL letters to draw the reader's eye.
  • Customize the web links to your website, etc. by editing the web address and, instead of choosing the default "Personal Website," "Company Website," "RSS Feed," "Blog" or "Portfolio" select "Other" so that you see an additional field appear. You can then describe your website, blog, etc. with a call to action that makes it more meaningful and attractive.
  • Link your Twitter account to your LinkedIn profile: that way, people can easily jump from your profile to find your most recent micro-thoughts from Twitter. But, set the link up the other way, too, so that your tweets automatically update your LinkedIn profile status. Just remember to keep your tweets professional to enhance your reputation!
  • And, an absolute must do: customize your LinkedIn public URL to be of the form - Then use that URL on your website, your email signature, Facebook and anywhere else you can think of to send people back to your profile. This one tip is a gold mine because LinkedIn pages get incredibly highly ranked by Google so you should find your LinkedIn profile appearing on the first page of Google hits whenever people search for your name.
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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Building your LinkedIn network

Once you have completed your LinkedIn profile the next major step is to start to build a network of professional contacts. Remember, though, that the main value from LinkedIn comes when you build a network of people you have a genuine business relationship with, at present or in the past, rather than being 'socially promiscuous' in the way that networks like Facebook encourage.

If you're a senior executive on LinkedIn it's not a good idea to accept random connection requests from people you've never worked with. They actually advise that it's all about the quality of your connections, not the quantity. So it's even a good idea regularly to trawl through your network to remove connections that are no longer relevant. (Though it's fair to say that others disagree with this advice and encourage random linking on the rather mercenary basis that you never know when someone might be useful to you in future!)

But to build up your list, look for people in your address book and business card collection and search for them on LinkedIn. The service makes that easy and you can use the 'Add Connections' option from the 'Contacts' menu to search through your online, Outlook, Apple Mail and similar address books. You can also hunt for Colleagues and Classmates. Then LinkedIn will start to make suggestions of 'People You May Know,' based on others in the network of people you connect with on the basis that you're likely to know 'friends of your friends.'
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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

LinkedIn basics - Complete your profile

Following yesterday's initial assessment of the recent release of LinkedIn News I promised a short introduction to LinkedIn in a mini-series over this week. LinkedIn is increasingly being used in preference to the traditional job-hunt process and for recruitment.

For many professionals it is vital to have a rounded and credible LinkedIn profile. But build it up gradually over some weeks: a sudden flurry of activity might concern your present employer that you're looking for a move, and to outsiders looking on it might seem a bit desperate ;)

LinkedIn is for professional relationships and I've recently reduced my connections by over 100 - it's not (like Facebook) a place to be electronically promiscuous with people you might have heard of once!

So, register at and a complete profile requires you to fill out:
  • Your current position
  • Your two past positions
  • Your education
  • Profile summary
  • Profile photo (a recent upgrade allows viewers to zoom in to a bigger image)
  • Your specialities
  • And at least three recommendations from other users
It's this last point on recommendations that is one of the features that makes LinkedIn so potentially valuable, and deserving of a special post all on its own!

Finally for today, don't just create the profile and forget about it: go back regularly, at least once a month, and check to see whether you can tweak your profile summary or some other information. Not only will this make sure that your profile information is accurate, but the fact that you've made a change gets pinged out to others in your network via a news feed; and your profile is more likely to show up in recruiter searches if it has been recently updated.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Assessing the significance of #LinkedIn News

Almost every day some new feature gets added or tweaked at one or more of Twitter, Facebook, Google or one of the other major Web 2.0 properties. Regular users find that sometimes these changes are huge: significant rather than merely cosmetic.

One of the larger changes came last week with the release of LinkedIn News. At present in the web world it's fashionable to talk of content being "curated," breathing ever-changing dynamism into a term dating from stuffy libraries and museums. LinkedIn News offers a new way of content curation: it's an attempt to filter the volume of daily generated news by the significance attributed by people I know in my network.

This is a major step forward. LinkedIn hopes that it will increase its value, giving users more reasons to return and spend time in the network each day. For users, there's a stronger incentive to build a genuine network of business contacts with none of the promiscuity of the more casual Facebook "friendship" variety. Next, LinkedIn News gives each user potential power to become an influencer in their network, a trusted source of niche expertise ... We are all becoming marketers and publishers!

But will this form of News work? Some may fear missing out on interesting content: well, don't rely solely on LinkedIn! Instead, find new significant content and "curate it" for the benefit of others in your network. By doing so you will be enhancing your professional reputation.

To my astonishment, last week I met several "digital professionals" who voraciously engage with Twitter, Facebook and others but claim not to "get," or use, LinkedIn. This release of News is a potential game-changer and, for the benefit of people new to LinkedIn, today's post is the first in a mini-series on the LinkedIn service. Enter your email address at and you'll get the rest in this series sent to you automatically.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Social media fail #Fukushima

Sitting watching the unfolding news of catastrophic loss of life and property in Japan I am shocked like many others, feeling powerless to help.

Then, though, I see @gustodeli tweeting about delivering lunch to a private jet sitting at the airport in Cheltenham for delivery to clients in Geneva. Their Twitter stream says they don't know who it's for this time, but last time it was Take That.

Lunch delivered internationally by private jet seems wildly inappropriate in the light of the chaos and suffering in Japan. It seems even more inappropriate to Tweet about it!

Friday, March 11, 2011

More on Profile Control

On Wednesday I wrote a simple piece about taking control of your online identity. It followed on from stuff earlier in the week but I really didn't expect too much reaction as I dashed it off quickly before a very full day of intense meetings... However, I got a long and thoughtful email from one reader who asked for more. I just hope the lesson is not that I should rattle off posts without thinking too deeply in future!

I got told, "...the first page of things that come up for me are a fair reflection on who I am and what I do so I shall keep working on getting the good stuff out there. The only problem I can forsee for myself is that people could start posting negative and detrimental articles and then I won't be able to do anything about it. What would be useful is a check list of things that we can all do to keep our public profiles up to date and secure..."

The BBC News warns of cases where a person's reputation has been harmed by something they'd rather not see broadcast on the Internet. But, for those who don't want to hire a reputation management company, here's a checklist:
  1. Enter your name (in "quotes") in Google and note the order of the results that appear: that's your prioritized list of sites to take control of.
  2. Have you registered your presence on the major networks? Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube are perhaps the biggest and best known (and most important for your personal 'branding') but they're far from the only ones: last time I checked there were more than 700 Internet properties where you can register! The good news is that you don't have to be on more than a fraction of them; but you may want to consider registering your presence on, say, Foursquare even if you currently have no intention of using it ... It's the same principle as a business or product brand seeking to register to prevent others from 'cyber squatting.' There are plenty of alternatives, but target="_blank" is one tool that enables you to check the availability of your 'name' across many sites at once.
  3. I began writing many more tips, but the list was getting so long that even I wasn't prepared to keep scrolling down! So, instead, check out Dan Schawbel's Personal Branding Blog. He has made an industry out of advising people on this topic, and he's going to stay on top of it with current information in a way that I just can't!
The key point I want to make is to be intentional about your online presence: don't just let it happen, take control - do some research and put what you learn in to practice in a way that works for what you want to do.
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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Feeling in Wonderland: Illegals to leave legally!

A bit of light relief today: I came across a quirky news report that just made me laugh.
According to the Arab Times the Kuwait Ministry of the Interior is encouraging all illegal residents to visit the department so that they can be fingerprinted. They will then be issued papers so that they can legally leave the country.

Is it the language translation, or is there something genuinely odd or funny about this? It made me giggle as it sounded a bit like Alice in Wonderland logic.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Simple thought: Don't just follow where others take you

I had several meetings yesterday and one group of people picked up on this week's blog posts from me:
It's fair to say that reactions were mixed:
  • One point of view couldn't really see the problem, and decided it's all going to happen anyway so why kick up a fuss? There's nothing you can do...
  • Others took the extreme (often called 'Luddite') view: I'll have nothing to do with this technology then...
  • If they were at the extremes, the bulk of the group were somewhere in the middle, but expressing astonishment at what the technology is bringing about, seemingly with no forethought. 
Here's the simple thought: don't be a Luddite; but don't fall into the other two camps, either! Rather, take responsibility, take control, for what you do and how you do it. Don't just broadcast information, whether it's your personal photos, relationship details or location or whatever. Instead, think first about how this might come across; how it might be used for you, or against you; now, or in the future.
They once tried to teach me 'Transactional Analysis.' The only thing I really took away was the notion that the healthiest position is what the Theory calls 'Adult:' and I understood that to mean taking responsibility. 
So, take responsibility for your personal 'brand.' Start by running your own name, in quotes, through a search engine like Google.

Do you like the results? What are you going to do about it?
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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Location privacy: cell phone tracking

Following on from yesterday's post about privacy concerns around using location-based services (think Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook Places, Google Buzz and a host of others)...

A German politician, Malte Spitz, obtained six months' worth of data held by his cell phone carrier Deutsche Telekom and had it turned into an animation by German newspaper Zeit Online. If you don't speak German then the detail will be lost on you, but the point is conveyed by the animation:

Click on the map image here and zoom in using the map controls to see really specific detail!
Dynamic map e.g. Monday 31 August 2009
6 Incoming calls
21 Outgoing calls
Duration 1h 16min 8s

34 Incoming SMS
29 Outgoing SMS

Internet connection
21h 17min 25s
What do you think? You can control how much you share with Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook and similar. But you can't do anything about the cellphone tracking without leaving the phone at home. 

Cellphone companies might choose to begin to use this data for marketing (think SMS adverts arriving as you walk past a coffee shop). But it's really only law enforcement agencies who have access to this data; and then it should be via some legal process ... Unless hackers get into the databases ... So is this really that big of a deal, in privacy terms? This doc explores some of the issues.
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Monday, March 7, 2011

Foursquare privacy

I've resisted playing with the selection of location-aware apps until recently. But now some client needs push me towards them.

Take, for example, Foursquare. It claims in excess of 7m users and is easy, even fun, to engage with: register at, or just download the app and register from there... They say, "Foursquare gives you & your friends new ways to explore your city. Earn points & unlock badges for discovering new things."

It's bizarre how addictive it can be; and how weirdly rewarding it can feel to gain nothing tangible, just a few 'points,' for checking in to a venue or being told you've become the 'Mayor' of a place. It reminds me of how we were able to train our tiny children with a sticker on a chart for good behaviour!

But, then, there are the concerns: by travelling around, adding places, correcting details, taking photos, writing tips ... we the users are populating what will become a really valuable database. Foursquare will use the contents to make lots of money. Not only is there the richly detailed geo-location information; but there'll be lots of detail about the sorts of things people do, when, how often - and how one location is associated in space and time with another ... and on and on ... Foursquare will make money and users are 'paid' for their work on the company's behalf in 'points' and fun and information. ('Information' is not just about deals or good things to eat or do. Here's one practical suggestion: "Gents! - Don't use the middle urinal. You may be dripped on by the water tank above!")

Users might also suffer some privacy concerns. Foursquare takes this privacy issue seriously. But the project drew valuable attention to the issues of broadcasting empty homes:

What to do?
  • Think!
  • Consider posting your location updates after you get back rather than in real time
  • Consider registering your First name and the first initial of your Last name only; what profile picture are you going to put up?
  • When registering, read the site's Privacy Policy; check out the Settings and consider changing the default settings to be more restrictive.
  • Consider only making 'friends' through the software with people you really want to have a relationship with in geo-location terms. I've got many American friends using Foursquare, but now I'm living back in Europe there's no need for them to know precisely where I am through the day! Equally, I've only got Foursquare close family and friends in the same city able to view my profile detail. It's not like Facebook or LinkedIn where people choose to be a bit more promiscuous in friendships!
  • (With Foursquare) Do NOT link your Twitter account if you value privacy: yes, it's possible to change the settings so updates are not automatically pushed to Twitter; yes, it's possible to restrict your travel details to friends on Foursquare; BUT if you link your Twitter account to Foursquare then anyone can type[Twitter Account] into their browser address bar to see your activity. If you don't link Twitter then they have to know your Foursquare user number first.
What am I missing here? This technology field is changing and evolving almost daily and 'best practice' needs to change to keep up. 

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Friday, March 4, 2011

#LaptopFriday - not quite in pyjamas!

BBC News today is celebrating the rise in home working and global businesses apparently run by bright young things in pyjamas! The article points out that technology enables people to start up a business with few overheads and yet a global reach. "...people have realised that you don't really need offices - you just need talented people and thanks to technology you can connect people up."

It's not all plain sailing because businesses find that it's sometimes hard to keep everyone on the team 'in the loop.' That just means you have to work harder at communication, perhaps running a daily newsletter or conference call.

And being with other people is more stimulating, leading to better ideas. That's why, in Cheltenham, there are initiatives like #LaptopFriday and #cheltsocmedcafe to get people out of their home and experiencing some of the serendipity of traditional water-cooler conversations.

Of course, this blog post was written from the #LaptopFriday location, with the added benefit of loud gossip from the three mummies at the nearby table!
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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Managing your reputation

Why bother? Some are shocked by the hints of Runaway Jury in real life after recent reports in the Wall Street Journal that "Facebook is increasingly being used in courts to decide who is—and who isn't—suitable to serve on a jury." The article explains that TV viewing, hobbies, religious affiliation, photos and other clues as to a juror's values help lawyers decide which jurors they prefer to have hearing the case.

But we shouldn't be surprised: after all, 'nothing' gets deleted once it's on the Internet. And a generation brought up from birth to assume that every grandma's handbag contains at least one mobile phone, and everyone publishes photos and personal musings constantly finds nothing strange.

Instead of fretting, take control: there's a growing industry in people advising others to become the "CEO of you" and that includes each of us learning to become our own Marketing Officer. Simply put, it's not enough now to know how to type on a keyboard, use a mouse, or send an SMS... We each of us have to think strategically through how we wish the world to perceive us.
  • Start by entering your own name (in "quotes") in Google to see what comes up.
  • Learn how to use the Privacy settings in the social media publishing tools that you have.
  • Be thoughtful about what you publish, when, how and to whom.
  • Think about buying your own domain name and becoming active in your personal brand management.
Should we be comforted that not all is out of control? The Maryland State DPSCS has (briefly) stopped demanding the login password from job interview candidates after a public outcry. But the practice is currently only suspended for 45 days and it's hard to imagine someone in a job interview deciding not to 'voluntarily' hand over their login information!
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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Facebook releasing home & phone details - Expect backlash

Why buy a paper shredder to protect against identity theft when sites such as Facebook will share your info? I've already committed "Facebook suicide" - see even more

The Huffington Post has reported that "Facebook will be moving forward with a controversial plan to give third-party developers and external websites the ability to access users' home addresses and cellphone numbers in the face of criticism from privacy experts, users, and even congressmen."

Facebook consistently erodes users' data privacy settings, for example by encouraging the sharing of limited information with friends, then changing privacy policy and settings to open up the information to a wider circle.

I'm already hearing anecdotal evidence that users are disengaging with Facebook: absolute numbers of users continue to rise, but there's a trend against posting updates, just reading what others have written. Social networks encourage a 'virtuous circle' of activity that sucks in users; but it doesn't take much for that circle to start spinning the other way and for users to become less active.

Expect users to safeguard their privacy and even to seek alternatives. There are already signs that some of the love affair with social networking is cooling.
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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Serving customers in best way possible = good business sense

Would you send your customers to another company?

It was really nice to have a positive reaction to a recent client proposal; but better still was the conversation with the European Managing Director who gave me the feedback. He took time out to emphasise his company's values and their focus on serving the customer base.

He told me that he encourages his colleagues, especially in marketing and sales, to understand that the company is all about serving, to the extent that they encourage customers to go to a competitor if they can get better value elsewhere. In this way, he believes that his team will outperform other companies and give such great service that customers keep coming back, and encourage others to become customers, too.

With tens of thousands of B2B customers and a customer retention rate in excess of 95% his company is doing lots of things right and I applaud them! I'm very much looking forward to the continued engagement...
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