Monday, December 31, 2007

Networking 101

Successful networking has one hard and fast rule. If you know nothing about networking, if you can't remember all the ideas of how to meet people, if you are awkward in real life and can only network online, if you can never think of something clever to say -- whatever your handicap -- it doesn't matter. You need to remember only one thing:

Networking is about what you give, not what you get.

I was fortunate enough to that at one of the first pure networking events I attended, and it's the bottom-line truth. You can immediately identify the person who mingles at a networking event and is focused on the next person they will meet rather than the person they are talking to right now. Everyone knows someone who only calls when they need something. Those people aren't going to get much cooperation when they call on you for a favor.

Actually, I was just joking with a colleague about someone we know who only stays in touch if he thinks he can get something from the relationship. We agreed that we love the guy and we laughed it, rather than being annoyed. After some thought, I realized he can get away with it because he will always, but always, take your call if you need him. So he won't call just to gab; but he also doesn't expect you to, and he will always be on the lookout for how he can help you.

Actually, a few years back, someone told me about an interesting study which showed that women tended to focus their networking on higher-ups, rather than on peers or people lower on the ladder than they are, and this limited their ability to leverage the network. One reason is that a network is an investment, not a loan. The other reason is that you really don't know who will help you, and you don't know who will be promoted tomorrow. Everyone is worth investing in, regardless of their ability to help you.

I actually heard a talk-show host who, while interviewing Tom Hanks, told him he had started out as an assistant in the office, and he remembers bringing Tom some coffee. Tom Hank's immediate reaction was "Please tell me I was nice to you."

That's networking. Whenever you meet someone, whether it be F2F or virtually, the first thing in your mind should be "how could I help this person?". It could be on a personal or professional level, or just telling him where there's a good restaurant nearby. You have something to contribute; don't be stingy.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Often people tell me that social networking is a huge time-sink. Okay, so they use the phrase "waste of time". I explain to them that it's not a waste of time; it just isn't any more efficient than regular F2F networking. F2F networking involves being in the same physical space with an arbitrary collection of real people and introducting yourself.

However, I am beginning to think that is incorrect; that social networking is better at managing and strengthening ties.

Today I had a first-time meeting with Kfir Pravda. I ran into him at a networking event that was publicized on Facebook. IOW, I would not have met him if it weren't for Facebook. The funny thing about that is that over lunch, we discovered that not only do we both work in the same field, we basically know all the same people, live less than 5 kilometers apart, and have even worked at the same company. IOW, eventually, we would have met even with out FB.

So back to the topic. In a room filled with arbitrary people, you are attracted to those who are "like" you in some way (unless you are a very professional networker and force yourself to introduce yourself to people who are unattractive, which I admit to having done.).

In a social networking space, I believe you are even more attracted to people like you. Not that there's anything wrong with that. This means that our social groups are going have multiple ways to connect with one another. It will strengthen the ties within that social group, and we are going to have a better grasp of the group's size and scope.

I see that already with my synagogue. I opened up a Facebook group for us, and it creates a way to remember people's names, and it gives us topics of conversations when we meet up on Saturdays. Even if you don't look into the other person's interests or write on their walls, you at least can joke about their being your Facebook friend.

In theory, I could dramatically extend my network on FB, LinkedIn, Ning, Plaxo, etc., to people I wouldn't normally meet. In fact, that isn't what is happening. Instead, I find am casting the same size net, but getting more of the fish in the vicinity of the net.

Although I encounter people of a wide variety over the social networking sites, it turns out that in fact, I am not really connecting with them. It's pretty much the same as striking up a conversation with the person behind you in the supermarket. Most likely you won't get beyond smalltalk because you don't have much in common.

Where social networking is effective reflects an ongoing icebreaker game. Here is someone you know, or who is in the same social or professional circle, and here is a tool to keep the conversation rolling.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Touchy Feely

This week, a longtime (male) colleague sent me a "KissMe" request on Facebook. I thought about it for a second -- should I return the kiss ("Yeah, Baby" is the button you need to click) or ignore, or reject? What does it mean if someone sends me a kiss? Are they hinting at something? And so on.

After a few seconds, I thought, what am I thinking about? It's not an actual real kiss. It's a couple of bits on the computer. How hung up am I? To what levels am I going to take frigidity? Yeah, Baby! Return the kiss!

Later on in the week, I saw the friend had updated his status message to say that if people had to ask what a New Year's Kiss was, they were risking not getting the kiss. Yes, he was just being friendly and sending a New Year's Greeting to all his buddies. I was quite thankful that I wasn't so hung up as to be afraid of sending a few bytes to a colleague. Phew.

OTOH, last week someone new friended me, and then started sending me dozens of requests for kisses, hugs, adding applications, etc. Forget the fact that this could be construed as a come-on and is a hassle to deal with. I mean, if you make new friends, sometimes people will come on to you. Nothing wrong with that. The bottom line is, hey, you are a loser if you are spending that much time trying to get non-real kisses and hugs. Get a life. I rapidly unfriended the guy, and lost nothing in the transaction.

Bottom line: if you are using Facebook for making friends, loosen up. And if you are using Facebook for networking, you also should loosen up. Nobody can really DO anything to you on Facebook. Loosen up. You can always rid your profile of people you don't want but first, reach out. It can't hurt. Really.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Facelift: Video on your wall

Shared media creates a common language. If we've seen the same movies, read the same blogs and heard the same news, we have a common culture and frame of reference. In this context, the Facebook Wall features are great. You meet someone new, or someone old, and you know something about their frame of reference. I am quite happy to get all kinds of interesting videos, graffiti, etc. on my wall.

Unfortunately, some people use little discretion in what they post on their wall, or what they send to others' walls. For anyone who hasn't got perspective on this yet, one sentence should do: My boss is one of my Facebook contacts. If that sentence wasn't enough, consider that your boss is probably on Facebook too.

You know, I like nudity as much as the next person, and I have heard and laughed at many a dirty joke. But do I want them displayed where past, present and future business associates can take a look and see what level I will stoop to? I think not.

Long ago, I managed to train all my real friends not to forward junk to my inbox. Occasionally, friends send things they know I personally will like. The only people who send me "inappropriate" jokes are people who know me really, really well, and know just what kind of inappropriate is funny to me. And, of course, that is my private e-mail inbox that my boss and IT manager aren't looking at.

The other thing that absolutely amazes me is WHO sends me these posts. On Facebook, the people who send me the most inappropriate posts are people who I know briefly through networking. This amazes me most of all. Supposedly, they are connected to me for business networking purposes (otherwise they would have asked me to coffee by now). I assure you that posting a video called "Stripping" on a business associate's wall will not make a positive professional impression. Especially if the associate is a woman.

Also, chain letters. Why are you sending me a chain letter if we are barely friends? Is it too obnoxious to send your real friend a chain letter--but you are afraid to be cursed with 1000 years of bad luck for not forwarding it? I get it, you want to curse me with the bad luck and not one of your actual friends. That's something that is sure to make a good impression on me.

And that teddy bear who is travelling around the world? Hello people, he is not travelling anywhere. Absolutely nothing will be achieved by posting him on someone else's wall.

If you want to say hi, there is poking, hugging, waving, and sending messages. If you want to create a common language, do please post on my wall. But don't just forward me garbage to remind me of your existence or because it is easy. You will be defriended.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Physical Media Sucks

My video consumption habits are embarrassing. Firstly, I don't own a television set. Secondly, I don't download illegal videos. I actually go down to the store and rent a video (which I see on my PowerBook, rendering my Mac un-cool at least for the duration of the movie).

I pay for my music, too. I am not embarrassed to admit that I have had an e-music subscription for something like 3 years. E-music is consistently ignored as a major music downloading site, but they are probably the closest competitor to iTunes in downloads -- only they charge a quarter of the price so in revenues they are much lower. Oh, yeah, and no DRM.

I pay for this stuff because, well, frankly, I've made a lot of money in the software business, and people in glass houses... At any rate, I do think that artists and writers should be fairly compensated, and I don't mind paying something reasonable for my entertainment. (After all, I have no cable or satellite charges.)

But I am close to giving up on renting DVDs. Forget that the price still is outrageous and the selection is limited. The real problem is that the physical media sucks. I rented 3 videos this weekend. All 3 were scratched, damaged or otherwise compromised.

Okay, so the video shop compensated me or gave me another copy; but there is no compensation for sitting on a cold, rainy night on the couch with your family only to have the DVD bug out an hour into the movie.

I wish there were an e-music for video content. If anyone knows of one, let me know. I would rather see movies with fewer special effects at affordable prices, downloadable without worrying about security risks to my computer. One way or another, though, I am done with physical media. I have a feeling I will be able to find a much wider selection outside the video store.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Advertising's diminishing returns

"Did you get any good ones?" I asked my 7-year-old son as he opened his pack of sports player cards.
"I got one of the coaches," said Tevel.
"Hey, what's that on the back of the card?" I ask.
"Oh, it's just an ad," he answers. "Well, not really an ad, but like an ad."
Nothing impressive in that, except that my second-grader not only recognizes an ad, but he recognizes the difference between a third-party ad and a self-promotional ad. He doesn't know the terminology, but he knows the precise difference.

A friend of mine said he doesn't understand Facebook's business model. I said advertising, and he said "I don't see any advertising in Facebook." I am sure he doesn't. It is there, but he doesn't see it.

Advertising is becoming more pervasive. It is getting bigger, louder, more dynamic. It jumps around to get your attention.

We are getting better at tuning out. We will never perfect tuning out, but it is clear that getting our attention is more expensive than it used to be. For consumers, getting expert opinions and reviews is easier and cheaper than it used to be.

At what stage will advertising become pointless? It's hard to actually imagine, but it seems to me that the point of diminishing returns is approaching. At what point will advertising business models be less appealing?

I'm aware I am taking this idea to an extreme, but how extreme is it really? How much is advertising affecting your decisions in actuality?

I'll tell you about some reverse situations in my next entry. I was actually looking for a vendor who advertised and couldn't find anyone.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Beacon: even less appealing than Spam

Considering the level of intrusiveness of Beacon, there is a high level of complacency regarding Beacon, and an unjustified level of faith that it will just go away because of its lack of popularity. The Facebook group protesting Beacon has only 55 users.

I've got news for you. If you know what Beacon is, you are in the minority of Facebook users. Most Facebook users don't know, will never know, and will never care. That is why it is ludicrous to suggest that there should be an "opt out" feature. It is even more ludicrous to suggest that Facebook will back down from the Beacon.

Despite initial reluctance, and taking some minor steps back from its original plans (and you can bet it will step back up in the future), Beacon will go ahead as planned. Over time, the few people who even noticed its existence will get used to it, or opt out of Facebook. And over time, the big brands will recognize that nobody cares anymore and they will all opt into Beacon.

It dismays me to see how the big social networking guys are dealing with this. They are blogging about it. They are setting up groups against it. They are telling anyone who will listen how to block it.

They aren't quitting Facebook. Gentlemen, and I respect and love you all, but you are behaving like crack addicts. You complain about the damage to your health but you ain't quitting.

Believe me, if Jeff Pulver sends a message to all 4000 of his friends that he is moving over to MySpace (or wherever), 90% of us will up and follow him. If he and Robert Scoble did it, all of us would move. Until they do, though, none of the rest of us can afford to.

Facebook is making some clear strategy statements in its developments. One, it is a closed system. You can't export your friends or applications. Two, your privacy will be eroded over time. No protest is going to change that, because those are the basic inherent features and architecture of the Facebook philosophy of How It's Going to Work.

Beacon will not go away. It will only get stronger and more invasive over time. The people who are complaining are fewer than 1% of users. They may think they are the "influential" users, but so far, well, let's just say I am not impressed by the influence on Facebook.

IMNVHO, the only solution is to leave Facebook, and only the thought leaders can do it. If they don't, I predict that within 3 months we will forget that Beacon ever existed, but the advertisers won't.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


I have finally overcome my prejudice against non-people and am now able to carry on level-headed telephone conversations with machines. No matter how many times I have to be routed either by pressing a button or by making a voice command, I find myself fully at ease and competent in navigating the complexities of the interactive voice response systems I regularly encounter.

I am perfectly comfortable with the ones who call me too, in fact, I find it much easier to conveniently end the conversation with them than with the human telemarketers.

One thing still irks me, though. The machines have an identity crisis. They aren't sure if they should call themselves "I" or "the system" or the royal "we" or just always use the passive voice and avoid identity altogether.

I think it is time that we gave the speaking objects their own pronoun, and I would like to propose the pronoun "Iyt", a mix between "I" and "It". This would make everyone more comfortable. The machine could then just say "Iyt am transferring your call." I'm having more trouble with the direct object, though. Meet and mitt are taken, though "Please tell meet your name," does have a good ring to it.

Well, coining one word is just going to have to be good enough for me. You're welcome to make your own proposals.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Google Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the art of getting a better ranking for your web site when people search for it on the web. Of course, as we all know, when it comes to search, mostly you just care about your Google ranking.

Firstly, it is a bit sad to see the money being poured into SEO. When you think about it, the bottom line is that there is a whole industry built up around behind tricking the search engines not to give you the most useful results.

Some of that distortion is fine and legitimate. I mean, if you want to buy a stapler, and the stapler sellers are all investing on SEO so you buy staplers from them, that makes sense. But if you want to find out what a stapler does, then you aren't going to get particularly good results, with the exception of Wikipedia. Unfortunately, the fact that Wikipedia is going to end up being the only authoritative souce on (any idea/item) is another distortion of reality. If you are the world's absolute smartest stapler expert, and you have a web site devoted to staples, but you don't have an SEO budget, I'm afraid you probably won't end up with good ranking in the search engines and you had better get yourself listed in Wikipedia.

Back to topic: I accidentally found a good shortcut to doing SEO optimization. Just do a GoogleAds campaign. I did one for a couple of grand, but I would guess that even a couple of hundred would do. Google apparently knows where its bread and butter come from, so if you are running a GoogleAds campaign on your site, you can be sure to get better ranking for that product on regular Google search too. The best part is that it works not only for the product you are promoting; I found I got higher ranking for all my products for the appropriate keywords. Obviously, the keywords had to be in the text of the pages of my site.

BTW, the GoogleAds campaign sucked. There were too many fake content and link sites, proxies, etc. Most of what I got was garbage, and although Google has been polite and responsive about it, all indications are that they aren't willing to take financial responsibility for spoof site results. I ended the campaign quite quickly.

Although I didn't get one useful lead from the GoogleAds campaign itself, I did get quite a number of other leads, both for the target product and others, by improving my search engine rank as a side effect of the GoogleAds campaign.

So if you are running a site on a low budget, I would suggest trying a GoogleAds campaign for improving your Search Engine results. It is a tenth or less of the price of good SEO, and the results seem to be very good. Even on a corporate budget, I am considering replacing my SEO budget with half as much for GoogleAds. I wouldn't be surprised if I get even better results than traditional SEO.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Trust me

The more I use Facebook, the less I trust it. The more I see the granularity of information I've got about my friends, the more I think that privacy is underrated.

For example, one of the popular apps is "Hot or Not" where you rate your friends' appeal. Let me tell you something: there is almost nobody in my life who I would like to know my honest opinion about his hotness. Not my neighbor's son, not my boss, not my cousin, not that guy who hit on me last week, not Jeremiah Owyang, nobody. You tell me: is your best friend's husband hot or not? Neither answer is going to cut it on that one.

I'm using Hot or Not as an example, but it's any application. I don't want all of my "friends" to know who I poked, bit, or hugged, that I joined the AlAnon group, or that I saw the movie Clueless.

Assuming you could answer anonymously -- do you trust Facebook to keep the secret? Do you even trust yourself to click the right button to make it secret? There are tons of privacy and notification settings, and I've played around with a bunch of them. It's not really clear exactly what they do, and obviously, whatever is private to others is still not private to the Facebook backend or to the application writer (who is not Facebook and is not your "friend").

And then there are the friends you don't want. Those people you meet in everyday life that you can't avoid and you are polite to, but you pray they will not "friend" you because there is no way you want anyone to make any connection between the two of you. There is no tactful way to let them know that although your friends include people you have never met, they do not make the grade.

The upside of relinquishing your privacy is that you will get personalized advertising, customized to show you things you really might be interested in buying, rather than random advertising. Glory days!

Assuming you could get excited about any kind of advertising, the level of privacy you are giving up on social networking sites is less than comfortable. Nicholas Carr recently said, basically, that he wished he didn't know, but I wish it didn't happen.

I also recommend reading the cited blog by Nate Weiner. The bottom line is that Facebook isn't only recording what you on Facebook, but also what you are doing outside of Facebook.

Frankly, all of this freaks me out quite a bit. If I take this to the natural extreme, that means everyone I know can know everything I do when I am on my computer. All I can say is F2F meetings are going to become an increasingly important part of my life.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Sound of Your Voice

Social networking enables a tremendous range of communications methods. But if you really want people to do something, there is no substitute for a phone call or in-person visit. A vast amount of my time these days is spent on the phone. And, where possible, on a fixed land line, where I can get good voice quality.

My main non-work-related endeavor these days, for anyone who hasn't caught on, is putting together a party to run for local elections (mayor & city council) in my town, Hod Hasharon. For those purposes, sending out e-mail really sucks. It simply is not possible to get people to physically show up if you send an e-invitation (unless you are really a rockstar). It is not possible to get people to volunteer their time, even for something in their own interest, such as their kids' school council, unless you pick up the phone and talk to them personally.

To get someone to do something, you need to understand their capabilities, their motivation, but moreover -- you need them to believe you understand them. You need them to believe this is going to be a success. You will never achieve this by e-mail. You can't listen to someone by e-mail. You can do it by chat, with certain people under certain circumstances. But for most people, it must be by voice.

E-mail is tempting. At this point, my group is too big for me to be able to call everyone every week. So I use e-mail to update people. But mostly, I have to talk to them. There is no other way to truly motivate.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Sick of Social Networking

Only a few days after my recent post on how my moods have improved thanks to social networking, I had the great good fortune to post a definitively down-in-the-dumps status message, no pun intended, due to a stomach virus that's been bugging me for 3 days now. Yes, folks, for some 72 hours my Facebook status has shown the actual truth, which is that I am sick.

This was a good experiment in what happens in social networks when it isn't your birthday, when your life, in fact, sucks. This will be a short post.

Social networks have proven worthless in such situations. As it is, I think most of us generally don't know what to do when someone is distressed. If you are distressed, therefore, my advice to you is to ask people for specific help, and if they offer general help, think of something specific you need.

Though I managed to resist the temptation to ask my friend to clean my house for me, I was able to leverage my real life networks for rides for my kids, a place for them to hang out in the afternoons, and some soup. The best real life networks in my life for this purpose are, surprisingly, the community-oriented networks (neighborhood, school board, synagogue), rather than individual friends. Those networks seem designed for mutual help, rather than intimacy.

Special thanks to Saul, Natie, Rochelle and Sigal, only one of whom is also a facebook friend.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Happy Days

As if my life weren't phony enough, with Facebook status and Twitter, we now can get constant updates on the minutiae of one another's lives, provided, of course, that the twitterer is willing to expose the minutiae to potentially everyone in the world.

Obviously, this has some implications for what we are going to say in our status. Since subscribing to their feeds, I have learned that my friends are never bummed out (unless their baseball team loses), never frustrated, are cheerful at their jobs, always enjoy their children, and they eat out a lot.

In fact, my own mood has significantly picked up since I have begun broadcasting it. I have never reported any negative feelings or emotions. The worst I've put on my Facebook status is "tired". And while I do think it is probably in the interest of my friends and co-workers to know when I have PMS, according to my Facebook status, I never do.

I've heard that there are many people who are struggling to keep more than one online identity: one professional and one personal. All I can say to those people is: good luck. Everything online is googlable and once googled, indelible. Other than private e-mails, which are also owned by Google at this point, assume that whatever is online is "out there" and findable for anyone who wants. In other words, you have to be careful what books and albums you review, too.

My basic assumption in going online is that this is my personal brand, wherever I am, and whomever I "friend". My status updates reflect some aspect of reality, but you can be sure that if I am down in the dumps, you won't know it from my Facebook status message, my blog or comments, or posts in any group I belong to. You won't find out who I think is an idiot or when my kids give me a hard time.

I have read in those self-help books that if I keep a positive outlook, I will begin to feel happier, so maybe social networking is contributing to everyone being a better person. Personally, though, I just feel phonier, and I'm a marketing guy, so I was full of it to begin with. Oh wait. Maybe I should not have admitted that I read self-help books. That would be like saying something is wrong with me, or used to be before I read the books.

And yes, if you are my Facebook friend, be assured that I do get the RSS feed and take a look at your newsfeed regularly. Twitter, btw, was just too much for me, so please don't be offended if I don't follow your micro-blog. I love you all and want to know what you are actually doing and feeling, not just the phony stuff, so just call, okay?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Making it Real

Leveraging your social networking friends requires taking a larger risk than friending someone. If you've been on any of the social networks for any amount of time, you probably have accumulated a number of "friends" who you don't actually know. I'm not talking about people who you know online or know something about -- I mean friends you really know nothing about. You just got a friend request and accepted, and thought no more about it.

It's nice to have non-friend friends, but what is the use (other than to show off how many friends you have)? If you look at the rockstar social networking guys, you see they have various ways to encourage their thousands of "friends" (or "fans") to correspond with them. They ask questions, encourage poking, create causes and groups, and Chris Brogan ( even encourages people to just pick up the phone and call.

But for people like me, who aren't rockstars, we need to actually initiate contact a lot of the time, and in fact, it isn't necessarily a lot easier than initiating contact in the real world. To really leverage these contacts takes two elements: time and guts.

Guts first. I was sitting with a "friend" I'd met through traditional networking (someone introduced us at an event) and she was saying how she hated traditional networking because wherever she went, she discovered she was the weirdest person in the room. I didn't know what to say, because the person was successful, good-looking, considerate, a good conversationalist, and just basically, well, not weird. Either she went to events with really boring people, or it was just her perception.

All of us have that perception, in fact, that we are either weird, shy, obnoxious.... something that is going to make us bad at networking (either physical or non). For all of you people who think there is something "wrong with you" (that is 100% of us), please keep in mind this important fact. Statistically speaking, the more unusual you are, the higher the likelihood that you will say something interesting and memorable in a conversation. Hopefully it won't be something embarrassing, but frankly, I'd rather say something embarrassing (as long as it isn't offensive or hurtful) and be remembered, than to be forgotten. Another important statistic is that of people who have ever said anything, 100% have said the wrong thing at one time or another.

Back to the topic, so what happens when you try to actually make physical or verbal contact with one of your friends? I've been researching this by inviting some of my virtual friends for coffee, which in my country, is the default real world activity for a non-romantic social interaction.

The results have been mixed. So far, about a quarter of the people have accepted my invitation, which is actually a great result. I mean, I have met people in my industry, chatted socially with some new people who might become real friends, gotten voters for my party, etc.

On the other hand, some of the responses have been a bit pathetic. One of my non-friend friends I ran into at a physical event, and the friend recognized me from the social network we belonged to. We exchanged cards, and friended on all the other networks. This person had a very large number of "friends" and was someone in my industry, so I dropped a note saying that we had a lot in common, and we should have coffee. I can't say I was turned down, because the person didn't even grace me with a response. Another non-friend friend said they didn't want to speak by phone because he wasn't accustomed to meeting people he didn't know. I don't know about you, but with the exception of my mother, everyone I know used to be someone I didn't know.

So what do you think? What is the correct etiquette when someone you have friended, or who has friended you, wants to speak physically or meet? Do you initiate these contacts? What have you done when people initiate contact with you? Is it creepy or does it sound like a sales pitch when you get a real request from a non-friend friend? Or am I specifically just creepy or phony sounding?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Facebook is too narrow

The more predominant Facebook becomes, the more we gripe about it. It doesn't export my address book. It doesn't allow more than 5000 friends. It doesn't have good capabilities for classifying my friends (we call this tagging these days). Etc, etc.

Facebook has gone further than anything else as a platform for creating and sharing applications. Well, almost. Facebook is just a small slice of the Web. And the Web has gone further than anything else as a platform for creating and sharing applications. Okay, it's not yet as easy as sharing on Facebook. Yet.

This morning, in an interview for PulverTV (, I said that the direction is consolidation, to allow us to manage our online identities, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my thinking was way too narrow.

What really has to happen is it needs to be easier to manage all of my online identities. I need one spot, one home page, where I can manage all of my identities. I don't want to enter the same details in every social networking site, but I definitely want to be part of a lot of them. I don't even want to log into them all on a regular basis -- and I don't want to have to add friends to each one separately. I don't want to have to announce to each network separately every time I update my blog.

What I want is a centralized personal portal, one that is:

  1. Extremely easy to use
  2. Allows me to use whatever applications I want to use, and
  3. Gives me an easy way to configure different sets of friends.

I will expand on each of the above.

  1. Extremely easy to use: Just like a blog site, MySpace, or Facebook, I want to be able to move information around, enter my own information, change colors, add my own fields, add applications, have private or public information, etc., on my personal home portal. This should not require any programming. Here Facebook has it approximately right.

  2. Application friendly: Wouldn't it be cool if my Facebook friends could also be my SecondLife friends? Seamlessly? What if I could choose Pandora as my music app, not something Facebook provides me? I want all of that, and seeing my friends' various status messages from all the social networks/blogs/microblogs. I want to be able to cut and arrange that in various ways, sometimes by topic, sometimes by network, sometimes by application, and sometimes by an individual person.

  3. Easy to configure: I want to be able to tag my different sets of friends in various ways, and give them access to different bits of information easily. At the very basic level, I have professional, personal, and intimate friends. My professional friends should not see my birthday cards or MMORPGs. I might have different blogs or tweets that go to all/personal/intimate circles. I might have different Amazon wishlists available to different groups of contacts. Once I define my own tags/categories, I can invite certain groups to particular events or to particular applications. I should be able to configure different look and feel for each group.
It goes without saying that all of this has to happen within one unified address book. I don't want separate address books and categories on each device and each social network. I don't want separate address books on Gmail, Outlook, Nokia, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I want one address book. I want each individual categorized with his/her tags, in the same way in each of those places.

If you add me to your network, I should be added to all the networks you and I are part of together, again, according to categories (I want to define that my professional contacts don't know I am a member of the Mud Wrestlers United network, even if they are there too.)

So that is where I think social networks are headed. I see the whole internet as one big social network. I think that the winner will be the platform that allows us to do that in one place. At this point, Google is the closest to creating that kind of experience, though Yahoo is a close second.

Because of its serious technical/design/support problems, I don't think Yahoo can gain the popularity for this leap. Google is still not a serious contender for corporate professional use, and they aren't fun enough for social networking. I envision this coming from a startup or from a platform that was designed for something else but evolves into this. I have doubt that Facebook is going to be able to scale up to this level, but if they are, they are also a serious contender.

Sadly, for me, this isn't going to happen for another 5-10 years, and I am stuck mired in management of my multiple personalities.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What are you using social media for?

One of my friends posted a Facebook question: What are you using Facebook for? She didn't get many answers, but from my observation, today's mainstream users fall into a few categories:

  • Fun users: By far the majority, people are using social media to supplement their "real" contact with friends. They are poking, sending gifts, writing messages, and just generally interacting in new, fun ways, with people they already know in RL.
  • Supplementers: In this category, we have people who are using social media to supplement their real life groups in some way. Either they belong to a virtual group (such as an open-source project or chat room), and they can use social media to enhance it, or they belong to a real world group (such as a corporation or a party-going club), and they are using the social media to enhance that. I will devote a future post just to exploring some of the supplemental ways people are using the media.
  • Wait-and-see users: Plenty of my professional colleagues seem to be joining just to "see what happens". They aren't really part of the conversation. They've joined, and they are waiting for "something" to happen to them or for it to become suddenly obvious why they joined. Some of them are relatively serious about building up a good friend base, so that whenever "it" happens, they will be ready.
  • Tinkerers (myself included): Similar to the wait-and-see users in that they don't know what is going to happen. Unlike the wait-and-see users, the tinkerers are trying all kinds of stuff to see what "it" might be and how "it" might work.
  • Monetizers: Application developers who are really ahead of the curve and can already see ways to monetize the platforms. Some of them will succeed, some won't. The quickest monetizers seem to be in the adult industries, that is gambling and sex, not surprisingly. There are also quite a lot of monetizers in the consumer goods industries.
  • Pundits and prophets: The pundits and prophets are either being paid by their companies to figure out social media, or they are already making a living some way through social media. Some of the pundits don't need to make a living on a day-to-day basis, so they are really in the best positions to leverage this media.
The conclusion is that most of us are going to be reluctant to answer the question "What do you use Facebook for" because our answer is some variation of "just fooling around with it".

Nobody is going to answer the question "What is your social media strategy?" because the kind of people who know what social media is don't tend to be the kind of people who know what strategy is. And the few that do know what both mean are probably smart enough not to publicize their social media strategy to their competitors.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Why Facebook beats match-finding sites

Today's post is dedicated to a friend of mine, who I won't identify, but who commented to me about how over the last few months, the dating sites haven't had the quality and quantity of useful leads they used to. As I pondered this, Facebook pitched me a new application available, called היכרויות בפייסבוק, or for the rest of you "Dating on Facebook (in Hebrew)".

And though my friend says that Facebook doesn't appeal to him, I fear he shall have no choice but to join, because everyone in his demographic with any cluefulness will be on Facebook and not on those sites. Having checked out the application myself, I have composed my top 10 list of reasons why Facebook rocks and the other match-making sites are doomed.

10. It's free.

9. You can immediately identify the losers who have no friends.

8. You can tell a lot about people by who their friends are. In Israel, there is even a fair chance that you have a mutual friend, who can give you a recommendation (or not).

7. You can identify the losers who are online all the time and don't know about privacy settings.

6. Instead of reading phony answers to phony questions, you can find out what the person is actually interested in and actually doing. (Unfortunately, in my case, that tends to be sending free gifts and bakery items to my offspring.)

5. With non-losers, (that is, people who know to update their status fairly often, but not often enough to make it seem they are twittering), you can learn something about their real lives.

4. You can meet people through doing actual stuff you are interested in, just like in real life, before people spent all their time online. Now not only don't you have to go to a real live protest to oppose your least favorite government, but you don't have to go to protests to meet similarly-minded members of the opposite sex, either.

3. 195 (as of today) different applications for meeting people, from the mundane (as the one above) to the bizarre (Human Pets) to the insulting (Hot or Not), and yes, even anonymous (Loop12), although how anonymous is if your friends see you added the application?

2. Let's face it, do any of us have time to add ourselves to ANOTHER site with ANOTHER login and fill in ANOTHER set of questions only to find out that the database on this site mostly overlaps the people we were introduced to in the one we've been using unsuccessfully for the last 3 months? Facebook even has members who are too busy to spend huge chunks of their time surfing for a mate (read: the non-desperate).

1. No men over 50! For women who aren't financially independent, perhaps men nearing heart-attack susceptible age/weight are attractive, but for those of us who are financially independent, dating someone with a decade of extra experience has limited appeal.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

How do I know you?

Walking along the beach a few years ago, I passed a college-age couple and overhead a bit of their conversation. "Wow," she was saying, "It didn't say on your profile that you like Foosball!" The first thought that came to my mind was "Why do two people who live in college dorms need to use a dating site?"

I spend a lot of time thinking about social networks, and what has happened to our communities. For great coverage of that topic, read Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam, but for people who don't have time to read 1000 pages, the bottom line is that over the last few decades, people in advanced countries have become less social. We go out less, participate in community and religious groups less, invite friends less, vote less, have dinner with our own families less.

But people feel the loss. People need people.

So to what extent can we replace our physical social networks with virtual social networks? Screen time has moved to the computer, meaning interactive screen time rather than passive screen time. That means real potential for relationship and community building online.

But I can't help feeling that it's just a tad empty. My kids get excited when they get a new fish in their Facebook aquarium, or when someone from the family "friends" them. My daughter is at the age where it builds her confidence to see on the screen her list of "friends". But no matter how personalized the gifts, pumpkins, or pokes get on Facebook, they never actually feel personal.

On my birthday, "friends" wrote on my wall, but then, I realized, other than my cousin, none of the people who wrote me birthday greetings on my wall are people who I've met in person more than once. After the initial elation that "someone remembered" I wasn't emotionally touched that people wrote on my wall on my birthday. (No offense to any of you, it really was considerate of you.)

I don't blame online communication for this. I blame the hollowness of our lives. Our relationships have taken a back seat, and the online relationships that fill the gap are better than nothing. Most of us, as adults, have forgotten what it is to have dinner with a friend. And when we try, well, everyone is too busy. I wonder what they are busy with. I can't even get them to go exercise together, so I know that they aren't even exercising properly. They don't have time for themselves, so I don't feel offended that they don't have time for me.

And then comes along the convenience of having friends online. You can mass-send all of your holiday greetings in 10 minutes. You can have some kind of exchange with a dozen people in an hour, and still have time for TV or whatever it is they are all doing in the evening, so why waste your time with coffee with just one friend? You HAVE enough friends now. Or do you?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Why I'm a guy.

This is another blog about my blog.

In my post today, I referred to myself as the marketing guy, which is something I do fairly frequently. Quite obviously, I'm not male, and I'm also quite painfully straight. So you might be wondering why I think I am a guy.

It's because "gal" sounds stupid. Lady is worse, and woman does not sound friendly.

It also is a reference to myself as the "marketing guy" as opposed to all the other functionality guys in my company/industry/peer group. As it would happen, all the other people in my company who are in charge of a business function are male. That is, I'm not the marketing gal vis-a-vis the marketing guy. I am the marketing guy, vis-a-vis the R&D guy, the finance guy, the professional services guy, etc. As it would happen, my online peer group is mostly made up of guys. I keep saying "as it would happen" to be nice, but we know it isn't nice and it isn't just "as it would happen." We won't cover gender issues in this blog, except in this posting. So let's just say it's a guy's world, and most of my peer communities are predominantly male.

The final reason why I refer to myself as a guy, or use the male generic pronouns, is just linguistic convenience. Even 10 years on, when I see someone say "she" to refer to the generic person, in order to be egalitarian, it's a distraction. It's like using a font other than Times New Roman because it's ergonomically more legible. Nothing is more legible than TNR for the simple reason that I have been reading TNR for more than 3 decades and nothing is more convenient than saying "him" when referring to a generic body, because I've been doing that for even longer.

I'm a language person, and I do believe that language forms our ideas and our culture, but in this particular area, I'm sticking with a male frame of reference. When my frame of reference changes, only then will I change my language. Or when someone comes up with a commonly-used better female version of "guy".

How does this pertain to me?

Though I've been a slashdotter ( for half a decade, an active LinkedIn ( user for several years, and a listserv moderator for longer than I can remember, it's only after seeing Robert Scoble's blog on Facebook vs Google ( that I started giving some serious thought about how this pertains to me.

I'm the marketing guy at my company, which provides telecommunications infrastructure solutions to telecommunications vendors. (read: we have a dozen enormous customers and potential in the world). In addition to that, I am putting together a political party to run for the local municipal elections.

Over the last month or two, I have basically submerged myself in this online social media culture. There's a lot going on! But it's pretty self-focused. If you aren't in Silicon Valley, part of a Web 2.0 company or a startup, or involved in consumer marketing to under-30s, very few people in your circle of reference know what a blog, RSS feed, or online social network can do for them. I'm in high-tech in Israel, which is just about as close to Silicon Valley as you can get. While quite a lot of my colleagues are members of some of these social networks, an extremely small percentage of them are actually using them for anything. Case in point, I posted on the Digital Eve (women's high-tech networking, over 1000 members, many in marketing positions) listserv asking people how they manage their company's online presence, and only one person even got back to me.

So how does this pertain to me? How far ahead of the curve am I in this area? And how cool is that to the few other people who are also ahead of the curve? Is this going to allow me to be able to "friend" some high level executive at AlcaLu or Ericsson and follow his interests on his microblog? Can this supplement or substitute for going to those conferences and shaking people's hands?

What about in politics? Is it possible to leverage these social networks for my local community work? For my synagogue? For my kids' school? To run for mayor? That's going to have to happen in different networks, in a different language, with a different group of people.

I don't know. I suspect that the opportunity is now, when it is still possible to friend someone you barely know and have them accept your friend request. So bear with me, as I try, and we'll see how it goes.

Monday, October 1, 2007


Welcome to my blog. I'm open to any suggestions on a better title for the blog. I'll be posting here approximately once a week. I promise it will be well-written.

Feel free to follow my microblog on Twitter if you want to know insignificant details about my life. I won't be posting those here. In fact, I can't guarantee I'll be posting them on Twitter forever either. Sharing boring trivia with interesting people has limited appeal. My verdict isn't in on Twitter, but you can be sure I'll share it here once it is.

Friday, September 28, 2007

I actually know these people!

I have to post this blog now, or at least soon, or the following sentence won't be true.

Most of my friends on Facebook and LinkedIn are people I have met or spoken to in the real world before I friended them in the virtual world. Because I have a couple of hundred connections, I am not overly embarrassed to make this admission. However, the more involved I get in social media, the more I feel that I should be humiliated not to have a greater following of virtual friends who have never met me and probably never will.

It's so simple these days to "meet" people. The nametags we wear online are so much more useful than the ones we wear when we go to events. The nametags show our faces, tell something about our education and profession, about our interests and our kids. Striking up a conversation is easy, but why bother? You already have a conversation going on your blog or mini-blog, so you can even find out if you like someone without ever having met them.

Fear of rejection is a faint memory in this online world. If someone you don't know doesn't accept your friend request, you just figure they are not into the whole social networking thing. It is not like asking for someone's phone number and being laughed at. The person getting the friend request may think you are off your rocker, not up to their standards, or pathetic, but, you never have to suffer the body language or verbalization that would let you know that.

Every geek's favorite thing about the online world is that your popularity typically is a result of your personality, insight and ability to communicate those insights. Good looks and ability to kiss up are of limited value. Likewise, moxie (guts/chutzpah) is becoming less important, because of the ease of friending and the limited impact of rejection.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the real world works differently, and in many ways, in completely the opposite way. What does this mean for how our society is developing? What does it mean about our contributions to our local as opposed to global communities? What does it mean we should teach our kids about getting along with others? How is it changing how we manage our real friendships? How is it going to affect those who don't have twitter accounts as opposed to those who do?

I'll think about all those things and keep blogging. I hope you'll join the conversation.