Communications Nightmare

I noticed the other day that rather than becoming easier, corporate communications have become significantly harder. The dream has always been one universal way to contact people and share information that allows everyone who needs it to get it, while maintaining corporate security.  Instead of creating this, we’ve ended up with a Tower of Babel in which we are forced to seek out and actively watch numerous applications.

For example, on any given day these sites/apps/programs for Corporate Communications

  • The Slack Channel for my local dev team
  • The Slack Channel for my global dev team
  • Skype to converse with a specific team in India
  • What’s App for management discussions
  • Google Hangouts to interact with the Customer Support Team in India
  • Corporate email
  • Text from a handful of management types who don’t like any of the previous options

The Corporate Communications NightmareThere are more that I use less frequently.  My point is that rather than simplifying communications over time, we’ve complicated them, and in doing so, increased the likelihood that important messages will be missed.

The problem is that rather than committing to that one “killer app” which has failed to materialize, we’ve Balkanized our communications and compartmentalized our information.

What’s needed?  I’d say that one “killer app”, but time has shown that’s not the solution.  Better, we need to be smarter about what we use.  While it’s nice to let teams choose their apps to help facilitate communications that will work for them, we need to remember that we can also be creating barriers within our organization.

The solution comes down to people making better decisions.  We all need to collectively stop asking “can we” and think more in terms of “should we.”

Just a thought…

Adventures in Comment Moderation – How to be “That Guy” on Facebook

Most of us never even realize it, but Facebook allows us to moderate the comments that show up against our posts.  In the base usage, it is very important as it allows you to remove the comments your college roommate posted containing links to the pics of you doing belly shots off an Asian hooker in Vegas last week when your boss thought you were home sick.

The problem is that it makes us all Online Community Moderators, and even worse, untrained, and potentially unprincipled Online Community Managers at that.  Luckily, most of Facebook users appear to get it;  they leave their comment stream alone, or only delete the occasional offending post “for cause.”

…when you attempt to control the discussion, it ceases to be a discussion, it becomes a lecture…

There are others, however, who treat their comment stream with a more Stalinist view.  It’s “agree with me, or you won’t be seen with me” for them.  You’ve probably run across them in the past, and not even noticed.  Have you ever posted a comment, only to find hours later that it disappeared?  Does it happen every once in a while, generally with the same Facebook “friend”?

You’ve run into “That Guy.”  You too can be “That Guy” by following a few simple tips (in Madlib format, select the one that applies):

  • Have an agenda.  We all want to hear all about being (conservative/progressive/a grateful dead head/transgender) all the time.
  • Flood our streams with your words of wisdom.
  • Take us to task for not being as (conservative/progressive/grateful dead head/transgender) as you are.
  • TYPE IN CAPS because we’re too stupid to read your missives in lower case.
  • Accept no comments other than “Right on”, “You rule” or “I wish I was you.”  Delete the rest.
  • If you are unfortunately called out on something simple, like the fact that bipeds walk on two feet, not three, delete the post and all the comments, rather than fessing up.
  • Routinely suggest that anyone that disagrees with you should be (flogged/shot/tarred and feathered) then blame everyone else for fostering a culture of violence.
  • By all means, block anyone that appears to disagree with you.

Here is the sum of my 16 years in Online Community Management: when you attempt to control the discussion, it ceases to be a discussion, it becomes a lecture, and that pisses people off and makes you look like a fool.


The Illusion of Privacy

The launch of Google Buzz this week has once again brought questions of privacy and social networking applications to the forefront.  Just as many of us have questioned over the past few years the repeated failure of Facebook to respect our privacy.

To my mind, this is a very simple thing: never post anything to any networking service that you wouldn’t want to see again.  Ever…

People have lost jobs over what they have posted on Facebook and elsewhere.  I have seen it several times personally.  Further, at some point you may need to search for a new job.  A prospective employer may see that photo of you doing belly shots off that Asian hooker in Vegas last year, and bang, you don’t get a call back.  In other words, it’s hurt you, badly, and you never even know it.

So right now, I bet a lot of you are saying “no problem, I’ll just clean up my profile if I need to do a job search.”  The problem is that content often gets scraped off sites and turns up in other places.  My content from this blog is regularly grabbed by sploggers and reposted elsewhere.  It’s almost impossible to get the content removed.  I’ve tried.  Further, to take our Vegas analogy further, what happens if Google grabs that picture in their image search?  Many bloggers use that service to find pictures to reusue, regardless of copyright.  What would you think if your little Vegas picture appeared here?

Remember this: any semblance of privacy online is an illusion.  From the beginning, your ISP could be logging what you do, could be archiving the sites you post on, and Google could be indexing the images you post.  Once it’s out there, you have no hope of pulling the information back.  So think twice…and don’t put your faith in Facebook, Google or anyone else to respect your privacy.

The Day Social Media Went Mainstream – Google Buzz

Google decided that I was ready for Google Buzz this morning, and it magically appeared in my email console.  If you haven’t heard of it, watch this video:

On first take, when viewed inside of gmail, Google buzz seems to be a real yawn.  Just another place where you need to update statuses to keep in touch with folks. Exactly what I’ve been warning would become the death of social media, the great diaspora wherein we all end up on separate and unconnected platforms.

That was my initial opinion, and now I can see I was dead wrong.  This isn’t just another service, this very well could be THE service (I struggle to avoid LoTR analogies here).  You see think about all the Google services, mail, image hosting, url shortening, search, profile, translate, Youtube, all woven into a single semi-open platform.

Instead of bits and pieces, we have the whole ball of wax.  Then wrap in a nice little API which I assume they will offer and you have everything that Twitter, Facebook and all the other social media services aren’t – an all encompassing open social platform.

So what happens?  Buzz becomes the lynch pin for the service that allows them to take on Facebook.  Forget about Twitter, they are immediately an also ran service.  By the end of the week, my Mother will be following me on Buzz, something that will never happen on Twitter.  No, this is a Facebook killer of epic proportions.

Here’s how it goes.  They firm up the platform, get people used to using it, then they make a simple pitch: who do you trust – Facebook or Google?  At that point we all nod, and it’s “last one left on Facebook turn out the lights.”

This is the day when Social Media went mainstream.

Geo Location Services and the Coming War for Our Whereabouts

Over the past few months I’ve been messing with Foursquare…the geo location service-based social network-game.  Frequent readers will possibly remember that I’m not a really big fan of sharing geo location information, even though I’m perhaps one of the few who has directly had his life saved by cell phone geolocation.

Foursquare is an interesting study.  By turning the geo location service into a game and allowing the most frequent visitors to locations to earn the title of  “Mayor” of that spot, as well as providing badges which users can earn for certain actions, they’re amassing a fairly comprehensive database of mostly bars and restaurants around the globe.  They’ve beautifully applied some of the best features of online communities in a way that has allowed them to expand at an exponential rate. Continue reading “Geo Location Services and the Coming War for Our Whereabouts”

DeLurker Day!

Today is DeLurker Day, the day in which bloggers like myself celebrate our readers by offering you an invitation to leave a comment.  I know there are a lot of you out there that read this blog almost daily, but as you know, there aren’t always a lot of comments.  Take the time and let us know who you are and what you like, don’t like and what you’d like to see here or in the world in general, in the coming year.

From Wikipedia, the definition of a lurker:

In Internet culture, a lurker is a person who reads discussions on a message boardnewsgroupchatroomfile sharing or other interactive system, but rarely or never participates actively. Research indicates that “lurkers make up over 90% of online groups” (Nonnecke & Preece 2000).

So take a minute to drop a line and join our conversation!  We’ll all be glad you came. (A tip of the hat to Jeff Bennett for pointing me to this campaign)

The Real Currency of Social Media

“It’s people. Soylent Green is made out of people. They’re making our food out of people. Next thing they’ll be breeding us like cattle for food. You’ve gotta tell them. You’ve gotta tell them!” Soylent Green – 1973

So what is the real commodity of social media?  It’s people.  You and me, and all our friends.  Period.

Over the past few weeks, this as really started to steam roller.  Let’s take a look at a few examples:

Read all the links then think about it.  Basically the fine folks at Facebook, Google, etc. are selling us, and not even to the highest bidder.  They’re selling us to any bidder that comes down the pike.

For the record, if you use ANY Facebook Apps, like Farmville or do Facebook quizzes, I consider it mandatory for you to take the ACLU quiz.

I’ve made the decision a few years ago to leave somewhat transparently on the web, but most of you actually believe you have some level of privacy.  That level of privacy is, unfortunately, illusory.

Expect this to become a huge fight in the coming year.  It won’t go away,  and I suspect few of you will accept such cavalier attitudes towards your privacy.

Social Networking for Tween Girls

It was utterly inevitable…via CruchGear and Matt Brodeur:

So this seems like a good enough idea. It’s called MySecretCircle and it’s basically it’s a closed social network for girls. You and your buds buy a USB key that acts as your login. It autoruns under Windows and OS X and brings up a photo and journal sharing system that only allows certain people access to your daughter’s personal info.

In theory and in practice this is great. It ensures your tween doesn’t connect with creeps like me. Kids can only connect with friends that have their private key – no one else exists in the site except for Sabrina Circle, the Tom of this candy-pink MySpace.

Social networking and tweeners is a match made in heaven for them, and hell for us parents.  Can’t you just hear it “Daddy, she flamed me…”

It sounds like a great idea, but I think they’ve missed something in the realm of parental control.  I’ll have a good look soon, and if it works, I’m sure I’ll have two little beta testers pounding the keys before you know it.

Does Twitter Dilute Media Brands?

For the past couple weeks I’ve been tweeting for the site under the Twitter handle “Reel_Time” and I’ve found some very interesting trends.  Most disturbing is that Twitter doesn’t really appear to be an extension of the conversations that start on my site, it appears to be something wholly different.  Similar conversations in a place where I don’t get any ad revenue.

As of yet, I’m not seeing this as increasing the value of the brand.  Of course, while twitter may be hitting the mainstream, I suspect we’re still on the bleeding edge of Twitter in the saltwater fly fishing niche.  It just seems that where my readers used to find me, I am now trying to find them.  A horribly upside down delivery model it is when you’re starting out!

The Bad, or Not So Good:

  • Spammers – they apparently target new accounts – a good number of my initial followers apparently thought I wanted to pay for the “secrets of making millions via twitter”.  For the record, I don’t think there is anyone out there making THOUSANDS yet.
  • Mostly Shops, Guides and Website Owners – in a lot of ways its me and my competitors talking.  Honestly, that makes me want to share…less.
  • Haphazard Marketing – I’ve seen several shops or guides who don’t have a website or haven’t updated that website in over a year.  Yet they have time to tweet on a regular basis.  Tweeting is nice, but take care of your marketing 101 basics first.

The Good:

  • Fishing Reports – while my forum users macerate on the implications of posting fishing reports via Twitter, its already happening and there are enough respected industry names doing it that I can say with certainty, fishing reports via twitter are here to stay.
  • Immediacy – I’m a big fan of  “right the heck now.”  I hate to wait.  Twitter means I won’t have to wait.
  • New Enough That We Can Make This What We Want – I suspect the real gold here is in the hashtagging of reports.  If we develop a way of tagging that makes regional sense (most New Englander’s don’t need reports from Maryland) then we’ll all win.  I generally hate protocols, but this may just be what we need.  Something like #SWF-BOS for Boston area reports…then fight to keep it from becoming another Usenet.

The trial continues…

Twitter, Hashtags, Baseball and a Dose of Spam

For about a year, I’ve been using twitter and hashtags to tweet with fellow Red Sox fans about our favorite topic, the Red Sox.  Over that time, I’ve seen a big change how it works.

First, a definition from Twitter Wiki:

Hashtags are a community-driven convention for adding additional context and metadata to your tweets. They’re like tags on Flickr, only added inline to your post. You create a hashtag simply by prefixing a word with a hash symbol: #hashtag.

When I started about a year ago, there were a handful of folks that were tweeting with the #redsox hashtag during the games.  DougH, AdamCohen, AaronStrout and Fairminder would pretty much be the list.  Most of them aren’t really seen tweeting about the games anymore, and it doesn’t surprise me.

Early adopters really hate a crowd, deep down, and the numbers of folks that use the hashtag now have soared.  Even Jerry Remy (and his assistant John) are using the hashtag to tweet during games.  However, with the popularity, there are problems:

1. Spamming –  I’m now seeing people using the hashtag to advertise stuff that has nothing to do with the Red Sox.  Last night DaveAndelmann tweeted an ad for his Phantom Gourmet tv show which would air after the game.  Boo hiss, Dave!  If everyone does this, it becomes unuseable.   The problem is that everyone seems to think that Twitter is their own private advertising medium.  Really, c’mon, admit it…

2. ReTweetBots – I really hate seeing accounts (not really people) like Redsoxgame or Yankeesgame or RedSoxTweets mindlessly retweeting scores and articles with the #redsox tag.  The problem is, if the original was already tagged, we’ve seen it before. With these retweetbots, we’re destined to see each article about 6 times.  Stupid…

3. Red Sox Tweets Turn Off My Other Followers – Yup, not everyone wants to hear it.  Since I’ve tagged my tweets, you can filter them in Tweetdeck, (go to the bottom of your friends column and find the filter icon – then select text – #redsox and they’ll be gone.  But most people won’t take the time to do this.

Either we find fixes for these problems, or the noble effort that was live game tweeting will crash and burn.  I predict unregulated this will go the way of Usenet possibly by the All Star break but certainly by September.

I suspect in the long term, the real solution is that live game microblogging needs to be done under the auspices of a website where someone can actually police things help maintain a quality experience.  Perhaps if Jerry Remy were to put a Laconica install on his site, that’d be the place.  Or perhaps the crew at could upgrade from their current comments system…