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.