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Social and Media

Are Laptops Obsolete at Conferences Today?

By | Social and Media
Assorted smartphones. From left to right, top ...
Image via Wikipedia

I have a smart phone, so do I really even need to bring a laptop with me when I travel for business anymore?

That is the question I wanted to explore during the last five days in Austin, Texas. I brought both with me, but primarily used one throughout this experiment.

The iPhone.

Smart Phones: The Good

I’m definitely not an Apple fanboy, but during my stint at the Social Business Summit and SXSW the iPhone delivered 95% of the functionality I needed as a conference attendee in a foreign city. These were the high points:

portability No question, the smart phone wins in this department. Lugging a laptop around everywhere you go can bog you down, while simultaneously cramping your style if you’re unable to ditch it. The idea of having a computer in your pocket while on the go in a new city is very appealing, and allows you to nimbly navigate your way through the gauntlet of different sessions, gatherings, and parties.

real time communication Communicating with people is huge at conferences. You want to be able to maximize your hang out time with certain individuals, or maximize your ability to run into them, and that can be chaotic at large venues. Talk and text are still great ways to coordinate rendezvous points with people whose telephone numbers you know, but it’s also great to use Twitter and foursquare to broadcast where you are and locate people you follow.

connection Ease of communication, in turn, leads to connection. The mobile smart phone can replace serendipitous encounters altogether, while also enabling a special kind of randomness that makes big conferences worth attending. For example, I was able to meet and have dinner with Peldi, the creator of Balsamiq after noticing this tweet from him on my phone. Awesome guy, by the way.

meeting people I intentionally did not bring business cards this trip because I thought back to the connections I made at Blog World Expo last year and how big of a role business cards played in the relationships I was able to develop since that time. Based on what I’ve seen, the business card is dead. We hand them out to one another, but what happens next? Often times, nothing. Which is making way for mobile service apps like LinkedIn and Bump to take over. I used both applications and am excited to see if they produce better relationship building results for me post conference.

relationship building Along those same lines though, just finding out somebody’s Twitter user name and following/listing them from your phone as you meet them will really help in the relationship building process. As time goes by after the conference, there may not ever really be a need to pick up the phone to catch up with somebody you met at a conference. But when you’re able to see their status updates on a daily basis two things happen: 1. they stay top of mind for you, and 2. you can cherry pick the responses to certain things that they say, giving you something to build on.

compass The ability to easily find out where you are in relation to where you want to go makes having a Smart Phone at a business conference almost a necessity in and of itself. When you only need to know the name of a destination, and not where it is or how to get there, exploring on your own becomes an exhilarating experience. You don’t have to do what the group your with does if you don’t want to, because you can find your way around and meet back up with them later using your Smart Phone’s communication and connection tools.

Smart Phones: The Bad

There is really only one bad thing that I can think of, when it comes to solely relying on a Smart Phone at a business conference, and that has to do with typing large quantities of text. It’s obviously not appealing to type paragraphs of information from a Smart Phone, so if you’re live blogging or polishing up the manuscript on your memoirs, then you’ll more than likely still need a laptop to perform those functions.

Conclusion

I did use my laptop during my trip to update this blog, so I don’t know that I could personally get away with not bringing a tool to provide me with blogging capability. Netbooks serve that function and are very lightweight, so I still wouldn’t need to bring a laptop with me, by definition.

After this trip though, I am now a firm believer in the smart phone as an indispensable, all-in-one business tool at conferences. A tool that allows you to engage and be productive after cutting the strap off your laptop bag.

Dachis Group’s Social Business Summit 2010 Highlights

By | Social and Media

I was able to attend the Dachis Groups inaugural Social Business Summit 2010 yesterday, in Austin TX, and it contained a pretty stacked line-up of social business thinkers. Rather then writing some kind of review of the experience, I thought it would be more useful for me to just say that I really enjoyed myself, shout out to Peter Kim, and to highlight some of the key things I took away from some of the various speakers:

The Good Stuff

There was a lot of good stuff at the conference. The following are the big themes that really resonated with me, and got me excited that they were being talked about:

Doug Rushkoff – @rushkoff
“The way for companies to make money is to actually be good at something.”

I think that it’s easy for organizations to look at something like social media and think that it could possibly substitute for a solid product and decent customer service… it can’t. Doug sums it up rather nicely.

Charlene Li – @charleneli

“Social Business is hard because management must be able to give up the need to control, while being able to command.”

Spot on. The need to control is exactly the challenge that most large organizations are facing. After sitting through the conference, it became apparent that command means having documented strategy and policies that people can be held accountable against. Control means saying no.

Jamie Punishill – @jpunishill

“It is very hard to adjust a company’s bio-rhythms to align with the social web.”

Totally agree. Massive bureaucracy in approval processes and meetings are real time killers. Allowing everybody to have a say, means that you’re not going to be able to capitalize on things as they happen… Which is key because the half life of a story on-line is somewhere between two to four hours.

Frank Eliason – @comcastcares

“Personalizing customer stories and sharing internally with customer care associates drive reaction.”

The point being that working stiffs, like me, look at data all day long. But it isn’t until you see an actual personal story from somebody before it gets personal for the people in the Ivory Tower. Frank’s team started sharing customer blog posts, good and bad, so that everyone in the company can find out what’s going on.

We’re All In This Thing

It was really good to find out that the people working in large organizations were facing the same challenges as I have faced, and that there are some external organizations that understand those challenges are equipping themselves to help us brave this new frontier.

Good times.

:

Getting Over a Fear of the Benign

By | Social and Media

merry crisis and happy new fear grafittiI was reminded last week that no matter how hard I push, and believe me I can push pretty hard, a certain fear will always rule the day. That fear is of the unknown.

When we’re looking at the unknown, it’s perfectly logical to fear that any negative risks associated with action always outweigh the risks associated with inaction. But that’s simply not an absolute. I would argue that substantial progress can only be made when those risks associated with a new action are taken… Besides, what misstep can’t be cleared up with a little authenticity online these days?

Hithertofore, I would like to go on record saying that only good can come from producing social media in an up front way. Even in large organizations.

That’s not to say that fearing the unknown isn’t a perfectly acceptable behavior. It’s healthy to respect the unknown, just as long as that fear does not paralyze progress. So how do you tell the unknown from the benign? I would say that social media is benign, for the most part.

That should make things a bit easier.

What is Benign?

Let me temper the term benign with intention. If your employees are on video doing malicious things to people’s food, for example, then social media doesn’t feel very benign to you… However, an organization would A. never intend for their employees to do malicious things to people’s food and B. never intend for that type of video evidence to circulate.

An organization would intend to get information out to people though, and that type of social media IS benign… not to mention the best low cost way to spread a message.

If that information is packaged in an interesting way, then when that information is turned into social media and hits the internets… you can only win. Worst case scenario is that nothing happens because nobody notices. But if/when people do notice, I’m arguing that only good can come from it, no matter how entrenched the opposition is to your cause.

Think About It

When was the last time that social media brought an organization, or even an individual, to their knees from a financial perspective. Seriously. As much as people opine about the power of social media, I don’t know that you can come up with an example. (But I welcome you to try in the comments below) In the meantime, you need to get over your fear of the benign and start figuring out that social media CAN help you reach actual business objectives.

On Guilty Pleasures and Growth

By | Social and Media
Re: pwn'd
Image by onebutan-iphone via Flickr

What are your guilty pleasures, and when was the last time you indulged in one? I indulged in one of my guilty pleasures the other night and it was great experience.

Here are the details:

Backstory

I am admittingly late to the blogging game, as I only started blogging on LouisvillePM in July of 2008 and here in 2009. When I returned from living overseas in 2001, the social internets of my world were made up of a couple message boards. One for the car I drove, one for the NBA team I loved, and one for the local underground dance music scene I was into… Things were somewhat anonymous back then, and what I really enjoyed about those experiences were the arguments.

The sarcasm and oneupsmanship displayed on message boards is hands down, second to none.

Where I grew up, having a quick wit was a necessity that I learned to enjoy. Therefore, the fact that people I didn’t know were attempting to be smarter, funnier, or more sarcastic than me on the boards turned into hours researching topics, establishing positions, and making snarky counter arguments on points that, in retrospect, didn’t really matter. However, they did make for a thriving community.

This obsession morphed into a guilty pleasure that I had to stow away because it was taking up too much of my time. Time that I could waste here instead, right? What I had forgotten about, over the past few years, is the skill that getting into online arguments bestowed on me. The ability to rapidly pick a side and defend it with logic and proof is transferable into the real world. Even if it was developed in an unorthodox and potentially lame way…

Two things I learned during my time on the message boards were to not make things personal and to not take things personal. I can disagree with your ideas from here to last Wednesday, but I can’t call YOU names. If you insult ME, I will not get mad because after all… we are arguing on the internet which is something that people shouldn’t be allowed to get mad about.

Guilty Pleasures and Growth

Justin Kownacki has been on a totally entertaining tirade lately about being a better audience. About pushing each other. About making the social web better. I’ve appreciated his edge since I discovered his blog, but after reading these posts his words hit me. Being cool to one another in the blogosphere is expected. Coming on to somebody’s personal blog and disagreeing with them is almost unheard of these days… it could even get you labeled as a troll. (Which would be a fate worse than death for some.)

However, that is what Justin is asking us to do, because disagreement leads to both individual and group growth. I then realized this meant that I had to engage in a disagreement with him. Not in some kind of macho, there can be only one type of way. And not just for the sake of disagreement, either. I had to disagree because I had a disagreement, and because I owe it to him to push him in hopes that he would push me in return, and on… until some kind of conclusion.

The fun part is that I’ve spent the last few months reading through his responses to people who disagree with him on his blog. That led me to believe that I would be accosted with sarcasm upon any disagreement I displayed. The thought of this excited me, however, because it meant that I would be able to jump back into an intellectually sarcastic mosh pit of growth with somebody who’s opinion and style I respect.

I wasn’t disappointed. And what I learned about Justin through our exchange is that he seems to subscribe to the same two principles I learned on internet message boards: don’t make it personal and don’t take it personal.

After experiencing this with Justin, I agree that the social internet will only be able to grow and thrive is if WE are able to actually disagree with one another, on each other’s blogs or anywhere else, without getting our feelings hurt… These thoughts, however, will need to be explored in other posts.

Right now, I’m still giddy about the “fight” I was just in with Justin. And hope that we can continue to verbally joust with one another as the opportunities present themselves. We’ll both be better for it.

Why KRAPPS.com is Awesome!

By | Social and Media

KRAPPS.com is totally awesome, so is their logoI’ve had a resurging interest in promoting @mathiask’s inaugural, I am Choking iPhone app this weekend. For whatever reason, I believe in it and want to see it become some sort of meme if possible.

Yes, I am aware that I need help.

So in my haste to get it in front of iPhone bloggers this evening, I cruised over to AllTop, scanned for blogs that looked like they knew how to party with their iPhones and reached out to four of the 50 or so blogs on the list that seemed to cater to apps of this nature. I didn’t write long winded messages about how I’ve loved their stuff forever, I simply wrote:

A friend of mine, @mathiask, created the I am Choking iPhone App that I have reviewed here on my personal blog. If it’s worthy of a mention on/from [BLOG X], that would be awesome. If nothing else though, I thought you may get a kick out of it. 🙂

Jerk Alert

What I didn’t do, before I rushed in to blogger outreach mode… was a quick Google Search on “I am Choking App.” Had I done that, I would have saved myself the embarrassment of askinig KRAPPS to take a look at an iPhone app that they had already showcased brilliantly right after the Super Bowl.

Totally my bad.

The Upside

What’s really cool about this story though, is how KRAPPS handled my obvious faux pas. I wasn’t scolded or made to feel stupid. KRAPPS sent me the link to their post about Peyton Manning using the I am Choking iPhone app after he threw that interception…

Phenomenal.

So I’m writing this post as a tribute to krapps.com, the place for out of the ordinary iPhone apps. I am now a blog subscriber, a Twitter follower, and promoter of what they’ve got going on over there. If you have a sense of humor, you should be too.

Health 2.0 Case Study (My Appendectomy)

By | Social and Media
Stethoscope
Image via Wikipedia

It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an appendix… Speaking of the appendix, I just gave mine away on Friday after waking up with a horribly indescribable pain. Due to my inclination to be online most of the time anyway, I decided that the internet was going to be an integral part of my experience as soon as I noticed something was awry.

My friend Fran Melmed recently asked: what the heck is health 2.0? After my experience on Friday, I have some thoughts on what it could be…

Something Is Wrong

We’ve been living in our bodies our whole lives, and whether we would like to admit it to anybody else, at the time, or not… we know when something is wrong. I think that this is the point where information is needed the most. Panic and denial can easily creep into your psyche at this stage in the game, so credible information sources are great for early stage self triage.

In my situation, I woke up at 5:00am with a horrible stomach pain, unlike any other I had previously experienced. I don’t know about you, but I always try to figure out a possible cause whenever I experience gastro-intestinal challenges, so I kicked myself for eating goat cheese for the first time ever the night before. After my groggy self diagnosis, I did what any blue-blooded American would do, I tried to alleviate myself of the problem and having no success, I decided that I would curl up in the fetal position and attempt to sleep it off.

When I woke up in pain still at 7:30am, I thought that I might have a problem that had nothing to do with goat cheese. This was the point where I needed information, and fortunately for me I found it on WebMD.

Personal Research

heath 2.0 graphic of thw quadrants of an abdomenI wanted to rule out the goat cheese so I Googled goat cheese allergy and found that I wasn’t exhibiting any of the symptoms of being allergic to goat cheese. That’s when I started to poke around my abdomen and started to think that my appendix may be causing me the pain.

So I cruised to the appendicitis symptoms page on WebMD and read through it. What got me was the part about many people being unable to describe the pain. It was definitely unique. Something else noteworthy was that symptoms may vary. Nausea being a symptom that I was not experiencing. And that the pain should be most intense in the lower right quadrant of my abdomen.

Don’t you just love those kinds of descriptions without any context? How am I supposed to know how my abdomen breaks up into quadrants? Right, they had a picture. Brilliant. That was exactly where it was most intense. I then had enough information to not feel stupid about calling my doctor.

Professional Verification

I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on TV, so I figured that I should call mine for an over the phone consult before rushing to the Emergency Room. I got a hold of her, and described my symptoms. Obviously she couldn’t diagnose me over the phone but we could talk about options. It was around 8am and she told me that she could get me in at 11:45am if I wanted to wait, but she would more than likely order a blood test and a CAT scan for me anyway. That would mean I could drive around town in the snow with a sore belly, or just cruise to the Emergency Room where they could check me out and administer all of those tests in the same place.

I am on a High Deductible Health Insurance Plan with a Health Savings Account, so I asked about any cost differences between the two ways forward. She told me that they would be negligible. Being that it all came down to convenience for me, the fact that I had a good idea about what was wrong, and that I was pretty uncomfortable at this point I opted for the Emergency Room.

aside I think that this part was huge. Obviously I trust my doctor, but in this situation we both knew that there were limitations to what she would be able to do, if my problem was what we both suspected that it might be over the phone. I was then able to make a decision, with some rough financial facts in hand, on my next course of action. Doctors have the knowledge and experience… I see them as a huge part of any Health 2.0 solution, but maybe not always in exactly the same ways that they are or have been utilized.

Possible Health 2.0 Experience

Being the nerd that I am about the internet, I thought it would be cool to tweet during the experience to see what would come of it. I got some responses from @FLPhysicianJobs and @jphoff which were awesome. I also received some direct messages from a local Twitter friend, @bankdraft, which were cool because she identified herself as a nurse.

aside That got me thinking… How cool would it be for nurses and patients to tweet back and forth during the waiting period? Which was rather lengthy. I mean there were something like 10 different nurses who interacted with me throughout the day, so it’s not like there’s some sort of shortage. Seriously though, I felt totally engaged tweeting updates with somebody who knew what they were talking about while I waited. She even followed up with me two days later to see if I was taking my meds. Which was an awesome reminder. I was taking them anyway, because it’s not everyday that I get to take a narcotic, but we had “gone through the surgery together,” so I also didn’t want to let her down by not taking my meds.

I also talked with my boss while tests were being run, and got to hear how his wife made him take a cab to the hospital at 4am when he had to get his appendix removed. It was cool to be able to talk with somebody who had been through what I was about to go through, who could tell me that it wasn’t that big a deal. How huge would it be if all patients could be connected in real time to facilitate this type of conversation as well?

Friends & Family

This appendix thing was unexpected, but pretty routine for the pros at Floyd Memorial, so I didn’t want to burden friends and family with the knowledge of my ailment until after it had been remedied. Facebook came in handy for this, as my wife let the cat out of the bag after I called her to tell her I made it through and I followed up with a comment on her post as well as a status update of my own.

Presumably, I could have been Facebooking while waiting for the procedure as well… But the truth of the matter is that I really didn’t want close connections to worry over something that I felt wasn’t that big of a deal. That was my choice, and I realize that there is give and take between finding people to relate with your procedure and causing unnecessary worry by letting people in on real-time health updates.

Fin

That was my experience in a nutshell. And I’ve written all of this to say that I think that there are real, inexpensive ways for Health 2.0 to start to take a foothold in the United States. It’s easier than ever for possible patients to access information on medical conditions, plus it’s relatively easy to connect with health professionals and patients like you in real time. There is no real excuse, that I can think of, to not start experimenting with some of the tools that are currently available and free.

What do you think?

Are You Choking? There’s an App for that…

By | Social and Media

I am Choking Application ScreenshotWith all of the iPhone apps out there that allegedly “help you with your business” or “revolutionize the health care industry” or “entertain you” it’s nice to finally find an App that can:

“Save Lives!”

Enter I am Choking, the only free app, that I know of, allowing users to let anybody and everybody clearly know that they are choking.

Has it really taken us until 2010 to build such functionality? As a child, I remember fearing that I would one day come across somebody who was choking only to A. not understand that they were choking and B. not know what to do about it.

Sound familiar?

The I am Choking app solves both of those problems and because I work with him at my day job, I was able to catch up with the force behind this application, Mathias Kolehmainen. Below is a behind the scenes look into the mind of somebody who is clearly scary awesome:

Exclusive Interview Alert

I am Choking Demo Screenshot@hallicious – I love the I am Choking App and can’t wait to use it in a real world scenario. I see it as the first transcendental application on the iPhone. Why did you build it?
@mathiask – Not to get too philosophical, but before I am Choking, there was no use for your hand held device should you ever find yourself choking on a piece of steak or a noodle. I wanted to make the hand held device relevant in such a situation… Much like if you have no clue where you are, you can pull out your phone and find a way home. I am Choking has integrated the iPhone into the choking experience, making it relevant in a dire circumstance.

@hallicious – That’s amazing. What motivates you, as a world class innovator?
@mathiask – I would say that technology motivates me as a world class innovator. Technology has given me and my family so much, over the years. I feel compelled to give back until it hurts.

@hallicious – Phenomenal. Last question… Now that I am Choking has debuted on the iPhone, to rave reviews, are there any plans to port it over to Android?
@mathiask – I’ve thought about porting it to Android and if anybody at Google wants to provide me with a Nexus One, I’d be happy to make that happen.

@hallicious – Tremendous. Mathias, on behalf of myself and all three of my regular readers I’d like to thank you for your work as a humanitarian and for your time with me today. I know I’m really looking forward to finding out what’s next from Thought Shaping.

There you have it, folks. Click here to learn more about the free app that is changing the world or find it from your iPhone by searching “I am Choking.”

Is Social Media about Trust?

By | Social and Media
Phone a Friend
Image by sea turtle via Flickr

The Edelman Trust Barometer came out this year and although the market may be up from this time last year, trust is down. Especially in social media, as Tom Foremski points out on his blog Silicon Valley Watcher. The stat in question:

Trust in information from friends and peers, “people like me,” dropped by 20 points, from 47 to 27 percent.

Which leaves me wondering a couple things. A. Who are people like me? And B. Is Social Media really about trust or is it about connection?

Let’s explore.

People Like Me

I grew up in Southern California, have a metal plate in my face, graduated from the United States Air Force Academy, served in Iraq, am a project manager/intrapreneur, received an online MBA, prefer to drink malt liquor, work for a health insurance company, own turntables and am into turntablism, have a wife and two kids, love electronic dance music, enjoy carne asada burritos more than any one man should, play video games, exercise three times a week, follow the Minnesota Timberwolves, blog, tweet, and have driven the same car for the past nine years…

Who are all these people like me that I’m supposed to trust?

Because I haven’t found one person like me, despite my efforts, for the past 20 or so years. My wife is probably the most like me person I’ve found and even we have heated arguments over trivial things, meaning we don’t always see eye to eye. I have found people who I share interests with, but who I would not classify as like me. Which leads me to…

Connection

I don’t believe that we’re ever going to come across a bunch of people like ourselves. What we will find are people who share interests with us and the great part about the internet and social media is that we all seem to put those answers into tiny, searchable, little boxes in our profiles. That’s the key to me…

Am I trusting a “friend” because they ate at a restaurant that I have wanted to go to, and confirmed that it was good, if I then go to it? Do I have to trust that my “friends” only fan cool Facebook pages before I fan them myself?

Or do I do these things because I want to, and use social media to connect with people?

I’ve watched movies/TV shows, gone places, purchased expensive and non-expensive items and used social media to connect with people before, during and after each process. It’s all about the connection and the ensuing conversation, in my mind. We both did or are doing something and can talk about it together. That’s what social media allows us to do now.

So is there any trust in social media? Was there ever any? Does there need to be?

State Government Social Media Case Study

By | Social and Media
another RSS icon
Image by GeekMom Heather via Flickr

Let’s say you have a job where you are required to make 100% sure that none of our 50 states have made a disaster declaration… everyday. And by required, I mean the Federal Audit type of required. You have to prove that you are taking every measure to ensure that you know when a State Governor declares a disaster.

Easy right, just hop on over to each state’s official website one time, pick up their RSS feed and throw it in your Google Reader. Then, in Google Reader, search on the term “Disaster Declaration” or any term for that matter, check the results everyday, and your life is cake.

That’s what I thought…

Now let’s say that 11 of our 50 states, and the District of Columbia, don’t have actual RSS feeds on their websites. WTF? 20% of this nation’s states are RSS incapable on their official sites… No worries though, right? Plan B means that I can create a feed from any website. Yes, however, my new scraped RSS feed only picks up the headlines from the page it’s scraping. That means my Google Reader can only sift through the headlines of each entry from those 12 sources to look for my keyword search.

Now when audit time rolls around, I can’t say that I have 100% assurance that I’m catching all disaster declarations because there isn’t an across the board standard for posting disaster declarations on state websites. Each state can do it their own way, like bury the disaster declaration into a generic Executive Order Headline.

extra bonus When a new regime takes office, they may change the URL or sub-domain for the Governor. That means you have to stay on your toes for changes because you could stop receiving information from a site without being aware of it. Easy to recognize if you’re only checking that one state. Not so easy to pick up on if you have 50 state sites mixed with other state information sources in your feed reader.

After spending a considerable amount of time on this problem, the result is that you have to manually click and surf through 50 websites everyday to make 100% sure that a disaster has not been declared that day in any state. The future is now.

RSS Shunners

The idea behind RSS has been around since 1995, yet the following states have not found an easy way to incorporate it into their official websites. In case you weren’t aware, here is the list of the states taking the simple out of Really Simple Syndication:

Arizona RSS feed of PDF files = Not reader friendly
Connecticut
Kansas E-mail updates
Maryland Subscribe link leads to a Contact Form
Mississippi RSS icon with no link
Montana
New Hampshire
New Mexico
Oklahoma
Washington RSS feed of headlines only = Not reader friendly
Wisconsin E-mail updates

District of Columbia

[Disclaimer Alert: The thoughts above are my own, and do not represent the thoughts of anybody else… including my employer]

Internets Anonymous

By | Social and Media
A social network diagram
Image via Wikipedia

Jolie O’Dell just wrote a post on ReadWriteWeb called Open Thread: On Trolls, Anonymity & Making the Internet a Better Place, that you should check out. In the post, she questions the symbiotic relationship that anonymity has on the web, and whether or not social media is helping to extinguish trollish behavior on-line.

I happen to think that putting your name on your on-line communications is an important part of being a netizen. Unless of course you have the same name as a million other Chris Halls in the world… Then it’s ok to have your wife come up with a silly moniker for you to tie to your real name so that you can be distinguished from the fold.

E-mail Address Unique Identifier

This anonymity conversation with Jolie comes on the heals of a discussion I had with a colleague this morning. I’m currently wondering if any large organizations are bumping the E-mail addresses they collect from their customers/members up against Twitter’s database of 50M plus member accounts to follow and analyze their conversations. The possibility of abuse is probably moderate, but if we truly want a customized user experience, then privacy concerns need to be abated.

Speaking of databases, at one time I thought I could get my head around making relational databases, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t do it. What I do remember from the experience though is the concept of the unique identifier. A key that allows data to connect. I can’t help but think of this analogy within the realm of social media. Sure some people have a ton of E-mail addresses and they use different ones for different social networks, but others use a single E-mail address, or unique identifier, across networks.

Couldn’t this identifier be used to find people across networks and truly un-anonymize the internets?

Free Tool

While you chew on that one, I came across some free tools today called Maltego and Maltego Mesh thanks to Dan Morrill, and these tools provide you with a private investigator’s ability to identify people and their connections on-line. All you really need is an E-mail address or IP address and you’re on your way… I just started tooling around with it today, but thought it was pertinent to this post.

Let me know what you think of it all.

No Coding Skills = No Problem

By | Social and Media
Will Code 4 Food
Image by bugbbq via Flickr

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be able to write code for all of the wonderful ideas you have swimming around in your head? I know I have… a lot. As a matter of fact, just the other day I caught myself looking at profiles on Twitter, seeing all the cool things people I admire have made, and wishing that I understood how to write code so I could make my very own creations without having to depend on others.

Then it hit me: Web development skills aren’t for everybody. And the good news is, you don’t really need them to put your ideas out there. Here are two cases in point:

ning You might have heard me talk about the Ning network I created, built up, and sold last month, LouisvillePM. What attracted me to Ning was the interface. Its boxy in nature but it’s also drag and drop. That’s right, you don’t have to be able to code anything on the site to customize it with graphics and features. Your very own white label social network without needing a developer means that you can focus your time building out the community.

weebly What Ning is for drag and drop social network building, Weebly is for drag and drop web site creation. One big feature I’ve discovered is e-commerce. That’s right, you can drag and drop items in your very own store, along with adding videos, pictures, and a blog. There is no longer an excuse for small businesses to have web sites that look like they were created in Microsoft Front Page 98. Seriously people. No excuse. I’m tooling around with Weebly for a couple projects I’m working on and am really impressed with the interface. Definitely worth checking out.

Proof of Concept

The biggest deal with drag and drop sites is that they give you the ability to prove your concept without needing to hire somebody to build out your web presence. I don’t think that this fact can be understated. At one time, like four years ago, it would take a lot of money and effort to build out a web presence. You’d have to know what you wanted, hire somebody to build it, wait for them to build it, and then pay them for it and for any updates you wanted to do later. That meant up front cost, plus residual cost, coupled with uncertainty.

But with Ning and Weebly, you can throw a site up in a flash, focus on reaching your target market, and determine whether or not you have a viable business idea. After all, the web site is just the medium in which you reach your customers. It isn’t putting food on the table by itself. There’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that goes into getting people to care to look at your site.

So take an Agile approach, get something out there, get it noticed and see if it sticks.

Twitter Empathy Revisited

By | Social and Media
Big Hug
Image by derPlau via Flickr

Last May I wrote about something I was trying along the lines of Twitter and Empathy. The idea was to give random props to strangers on Twitter and see where the conversations led. To be honest, the experiment started because I used to automatically follow everybody who followed me and there was no way to filter my tweet stream on my mobile device. So during the walk to and from my parking garage every day I would go through a tweet stream of random people and see a bunch of tweets that were screaming for some sort of empathy.

I really want to live in a world where people have each other’s back on Twitter, but I’ve learned something about the difference between providing empathy to strangers and friends from this experiment that I wanted to share:

Empathy with Strangers

When I would respond to a tweet from someone I didn’t know, one of two things would happen. The person would either give a one to three word response back, in the form of gratitude for my message, or they would not respond at all. More people responded with a thank you then did nothing at all, but it was as if we were both riding on a bus together with different destinations. They weren’t expecting to see or hear from me again, and so they provided a cordial response with no real opening for a conversation.

Empathy with Friends

Now that Twitter Lists have arrived on the scene, my organizational problems have been solved. I’ve made some lists, and I’ve been able to give empathy to people who I’ve either met in person or had conversations with on-line or in real life. Because I can organize and see what they’re doing, I can be there for them. This strengthens our relationship. Responses back may be similar one to three word answers, but they also may actually lead to a conversation about the general topic or about something totally different. I think this is because we already have a rapport together.

My Take Away

If you have a reason to get somebody’s attention or want to get to know them a little better, throw some empathy their way with these caveats: Giving empathy to strangers on Twitter makes you a nice person. Giving empathy on Twitter to people you know or who know of you builds relationships.