The best no-bullshit “Rules of Networking”

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The question was asked, on Quora,  “How do I get better at networking?

There were 38 answers. The response that got the most upvotes, was the one by Zach Freedman. Someone who tells it like it is. His response was certainly different from the other responses, and garnered the most comments (and, as mentioned, upvotes)…

  1. Networking is bullshit. You don’t “network”, you meet people. Get out of the results-oriented mindset and enjoy the conversations. Be a goddamn human about it. Put down your phone, because…
  2. Comfort zones are bullshit. The only network worth having is one that has a diverse group. Wide and shallow is the name of the game. With a wide network, you have more interesting conversations, more options for solving problems, and more ears on the ground to spot trends. Grow some balls, leave your silo, and make friends with people who are utterly unlike you. Twitter and Facebook shield you, which is why…
  3. Social media is bullshit. Talk to people in the real world. A lot. Expand your options using meetups, clubs, mixers, and getting friends to drag you along to their social stuff. Try and talk to everyone at the event. Ignore your business cards, because…
    Business cards are bullshit. There’s exactly one reason to use a card – you take their card because you want to follow up on something they said. They like old Benzes and you have a friend who collects them? Ask for their card, write “Connect w Jeff re Benzes” on the front, pocket the card, and follow up with it. Don’t give out your card unless asked, because…
  4. “Let’s talk later” is bullshit. They’ll never follow up with you. The ball is firmly in your court. If the conversation went well, call them back within two days, link them with what you wrote down, and check in every two weeks or so. Two weeks?! Yes, because…
  5. You never stop selling. You never stop shipping. Your life is vibrant, fascinating, and fast-moving. Every week, you have new people to connect and new developments to tell others about. And you do so.

Your regular contact builds friends. Your excitement makes them want to listen. Your activity spreads the word that you get things done.

Conversations aren’t “How are you doing? Fine, how are you?” They’re real, visceral, and worthwhile. Most importantly, you’re actually helping people, and that’s why you start networking in the first place.

 You can read the original in Quora here.

Asking the question: GOOD; asking it over and over: BAD – where social engagement in the workplace fails.

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Using social tools within the enterprise is a valuable thing. It lets people ask questions to a bigger audience than just those sitting within hearing distance of their desk.

I’ve discussed this in earlier posts (ESS (Enterprise Social Software) – user adoption, and Let’s share!). It’s incredibly valuable to be able to draw on the knowledge of others. That’s why it’s good to be able to ask questions. The answer given helps not just the asker, but can help others, and at the same time, others can add to the answer creating even more value.

Where I feel this all falls down though is that, often, there is no real way to capture that knowledge that came about from the questions asked. Continue reading

Look Down

In a recent post (“Is being Socially Connected online really that damaging?“), I discussed a response to a video on YouTube that preached the sadness of the way people are constantly online.

I’ve just discovered another response to “Look Up”. This one is called “Look Down“.

And here’s the link to another good one:

 

Hah! My first data scrape

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I’ve just finished Module 2 of the MOOC Data Journalism course (that I mentioned in an earlier post).

The description for this module is:

This module deals with the range of skills that journalists use to obtain data. This includes setting up alerts to regular sources of information, simple search engine techniques that can save hours of time and using laws in your own and other countries.”

And (like all the other Modules) is made up of four parts:

  1. Setting up ‘data newswires’
  2. Strategic searching – tips and tricks
  3. Introduction to scraping
  4. Data laws and sources

In Part 3, I learnt to do some basic data scraping. This, essentially, is a way of grabbing content from lists, and tables, on web sites.

We covered a few tools that make this possible. The one that did surprise me was that you can use a spreadsheet created in Google Drive.

The command is IMPORTHTML(url, query, index)

Just as a practice I used it to scrape the list of Titanic passengers from Wikipedia.

Here’s the Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Titanic_passengers#Survivors_and_victims

And here is the Google spreadsheet that I imported the data to: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1g_ngM049ZgAPh25UXMmwWwMDlvGY_nD6aGbFLhBJwXo/edit?usp=sharing

It was my first scraping, and nothing fancy. Also the data does need a bit of cleaning (in one case, there was extra info in the HTML that the scraping pulled in).

Also, this functionality is not just available in Google Spreadsheet. I have read that Excel can also do this. If you know of any more, please let me know.

Cheers

 

Is being Socially Connected online really that damaging?

immersed

On the Scientific American website, the other day, I came across an excellent article that discussed some of the common grumbles that people have about being socially connected online. (“I don’t care what you had for breakfast.”, “How about talking to some real people!”, etc.)

The article was written by Dr. Elizabeth L. Cohen, an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at West Virginia University, and Dr. Rachel Kowert, an Associate Researcher in the Department of Communication at the University of Munster.

The article was in reaction to a video that talked about the damage that being socially connected has.

I really liked the article because I also feel that being socially connected is not bad. Or wrong. It is just another way of being social.

I have been in touch with Dr Cohen, and Dr Kowert, asking them if I could reproduce their article in my blog. They have graciously agreed…

In his viral video, Look Up, Gary Turk emotionally appeals to viewers to unplug from their social media (just as soon as they finish watching the video, of course). Cell phones, online games and social network sites are all depicted as distracting us from intimate human contact and a cause of loneliness.

The video, which has racked up more than 37 million views on YouTube, appears to have struck a chord with many people feeling disillusioned with being constantly connected. But before you get all sentimental and throw away a perfectly good iPhone in a pool of your tears, let’s take a step back for a minute.

Current communication and psychology research paints a much more complicated picture of how these technologies affect our social well-being. A full refutation of all the arguments implied by the Look Up video would be worthy of a dissertation, but inappropriate for the scope of this blog. Instead we’ve picked seven claims to compare against current research.

 Claim 1: We are connected to lots of friends on social media, but we don’t really know each other.

Truth: While it’s true enough that we can’t know everybody that we are digitally connected to intimately, we don’t think that’s the point. Social technology plays an important role in helping to maintain our strong-tie relationships with people we already know. Social network sites also enhance our weak-tie connections and raise our social capital, which can lead to a number of positive outcomes such as improved health and civic engagement.

Claim 2: We share frivolous bits of ourselves on social media, but leave out anything meaningful.

Truth: This is the classic, nobody-cares-about-what-you-had-for-breakfast complaint. But why should you care? Because what we had for breakfast is valuable, potentially meaningful social information. One status update can be frivolous on its own, but over time, these seemingly insignificant bits of information about what people are doing, what they like and where they are can coalesce into a sense of others’ presence, providing a peripheral but intimate awareness of that person.

What’s more, posting status updates on social media isn’t just valuable for followers, it’s also good for the posters. Experimental evidence suggests that just the act of leaving a status update can make people feel less lonely, presumably because posting reminds us that we are part of a larger network.

Claim 3: The community, companionship and sense of inclusion provided by social media are illusions.

Truth: The community companionship and sense of inclusion provided by social media are real. recent study found that people who use social network sites to interact with existing friends felt a greater sense of connection to them and reported a greater sense of belonging than those who don’t. Our own research also provides preliminary evidence that simply monitoring other people’s activity on social media can help fulfill basic human needs for belonging.

Claim 4: Online games are socially isolating and not a worthwhile way to spend time.

Truth: Our research suggests that online game players are often stereotyped as being anti-social, reclusive and isolated, but online gaming is actually highly social, requiring players to interact with, coordinate, lead and compete against hundreds of other players in a shared space. In many games, socializing is actually rewarded because player coordination eases the difficulty of in-game tasks. Research also indicates that gaming can support pre-existing relationships and help people develop new relationships.

Claim 5: Kids don’t play outside any more because they are always on their technologies.

Truth: Nobody can deny that digital games can be more fun to play than hopscotch at the park. But is staying indoors to play really so bad? These days, digital games promote exercise and social interaction with others.

But social technology might not have anything to do with kids staying inside. In her new book, It’s Complicated, danah boyd discusses the influence of technology on teens and “tweens.” Her anthropological study suggests that the real culprit behind the empty playgrounds after school has more to do with parent culture than it does teen culture. Over-scheduled and over-protected children don’t have much time for free play outside. In fact, connecting through social media is sometimes the only way kids can connect with their friends outside of teacher and parent supervision these days.

Claim 6: It’s become abnormal to talk to strangers on commuter trains because people are too involved with their personal technologies.

Truth: For those of you who can remember riding a train, bus or elevator when people didn’t have mobile devices, ask yourself how often you remember looking up, making eye contact with strangers and talking to them. The truth is, it’s always been taboo to talk to strangers, and as long as there have been trains, we’ve found things to look at besides other people.

Claim 7: If you look down, you could miss the love of your life.

Truth: Perhaps. But if you don’t also look down at your online dating profile you can also miss the love of your life.

Of course, Look Up didn’t get everything wrong. Never looking up can be both rude and dangerous. Because our technologies develop more quickly than we do, we definitely have some catching up to do on developing social etiquette and public policies that will keep us courteous and safe.

Still, suffice it to say that we think the video stretched the truth about how damaging media use is for our relationships. Turk’s fears are nothing new, though. Virtually every technology innovation has been met with some trepidation about how it will affect our social well being. Even the Walkman was accused of making listeners more narcissistic and detached from other people. But in the long run, it was nothing to be frightened of. We’re willing to bet that your iPhone is probably safe too.

What do you think of that? Do you agree?  Don’t agree? What are your thoughts?

 

Why I hate CAPTCHA (or “I am a Human!”)

I think that most people have, at one point, come across CAPTCHA (or similar), that small box that contains a distorted word that you have to type correctly.

Kill Captchas

This is done to prevent bots, or automated software from logging into sites, or filling in forms, etc.

What really bugs me about this approach (from a User Experience point of view) is “Why do I have to prove that I am human?! It’s putting the onus on me, as a visitor. The system should be putting the demand for proof on the bots!

Here are two excellent articles that cover exactly what I am referring to:

The Scientific American article discusses how, whenever there’s a problem in the modern world, we counter it by building barriers. Barriers that provide more inconvenience to genuine users, than for the “bad guys”.

Beyond CAPTCHA: No Bots Allowed!” goes into the problems that are encountered with CAPTCHA. How the distorted text is so hard to read, etc. It carries on describing alternatives that can be put in place. It was, however, in its conclusion that the author showed that he understood my pain, with this sentence:

Don’t make users take responsibility for our (site owners) problems.

This followed up with the succinct:

Bots, and the damage they cause, are not the fault or responsibility of individual users, and it’s totally unfair to expect them to take the responsibility. They’re not the fault of site owners either, but like it or not they are our responsibility — it’s we who suffer from them, we who benefit from their eradication, and therefore we who should shoulder the burden. And using interactive authentication systems such as CAPTCHA effectively passes the buck from us to our users.

 

Kapow!! There it is…don’t make the problem with bots, the responsibility of the users!

I agree totally! Do you?

(What are your thoughts on CAPTCHA?)

Captcha

What’s the point of an online Community?

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There is an discussion going on in one of the BA LinkedIn groups. The person who started the discussion was that when she joined the group, it was “to understand how others BA see their role and how they overcome the issues they face.” However she’s only finding discussions and articles like “5 Tips to apply to blablabla”, or “10 Things you should know on blablabla”.

One of people who responded stated that “forums (or groups or whatever) are best when they are about exchanging or sharing ideas. That means that the person who starts the discussion needs to participate other than just at the start.” Often what will happen is someone will post a link (often to their own material), in a group/forum, and then never be heard from again. The group/forum is, effectively, just being used as a noticeboard.

So what is an online community? And what makes it different from a social network?

Michael Wu, a smart man who is one of those people who earns a living staring at tea leaves in the bottom of a cup, said that…

the single most important feature that distinguishes a social network from a community is how people are held together on these sites.”

In a social network, Michael says,  people are held together by pre-established interpersonal relationships, such as friendship, classmates, colleagues, and business partners. The primary reason that people join a social networking site is to maintain old relationships and establish new ones to expand their network. on to state that social networks

Carrying on, Michael explains how Communities, on the other hand, are held together by a common interest (it can be a common project, goal, location, etc.). People join the community because they care about this common interest that glues the community members together. Some stay because they felt the urge to contribute to the cause; others come because they can benefit from being part of the community.

So keeping in mind what Michael said, and looking at these people who post “10 Things you should know on blablabla” links in discussion forums. The area where they are posting, is a community, and there are, most likely, some people who benefit from reading the posts. But are these posters really helping “contribute to the cause”? Or are they just generating noise? I know what I think…

 

“We use Google…to find out about our own company”

Using 3rd party tools to find what I wantYou wouldn’t believe the number of times I have heard people say that when they want to find out about their own company, they use Google

Case in point – I was at a well-known appliance store the other day, that has branches throughout the country.I asked the girl at the checkout whether there was a store in one particular city. While she looked furtively at her screen, I took a peek over her shoulder. It was the company’s intranet. I advised her to open up a new tab in her browser, go to Google, and type in the name of the store plus the word “branches”. She obediently followed my instructions, and two minutes later she was able to give me an answer.

I won’t talk about the magic that Google performs to bring you the information that you want. I do want to talk, however, about why people are going to an outside facility rather than using the companies own resource…findability  and usability.

Findability does not just mean being able to search for something and getting results. It also means that the information on the intranet is structured in a logical way that allows people to navigate to information quickly. Often, little thought has gone into the way information should be presented:

  • What information do the users (in this case all staff ranging from back office workers to those at the client interface) need access to?
    Analytics will show you what is being accessed the most. Well thought surveys can return valuable information. Even talking to staff members individually,or in groups, can add a lot of value.
  • How can the navigation structure be set up so that it is intuitive?
    Use the feedback you got. Perform a card sort to help build up a understanding of how the staff want information grouped. Put together a “mock navigation”,using a suitable tool such as Optimal’s Treejack, and see how easy it is for user’s to find what they are looking for.
  • What other ways are there that the information can be accessed quickly? Short-cuts, quick links, FAQs.
    Create a screen mock-up, and test how easy it is for staff to find the information. Use a tool that allows this to be simulated on-line, and set up real-life scenarios involving staff members with different functions to determine whether improvements can be made.
  • Pay attention to the questions that are often asked by staff.
    These will usually turn up questions that get repeatedly asked. “How is xyz done?”, “Where do I find information on our widgets?”. These questions make up the basis for the FAQs or a wiki.

 

Trad ECM is so out-of-touch

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Traditional, legacy ECM platforms like Documentum, FileNet and OpenText are not ready for this new world. Those technologies were architected in a time when users and content stayed behind the firewall, on servers and PCs.

So starts paragraph two of Alfresco’s whitepaper “Next-Generation ECM”. This, and a recent post by Laurence Hart in which he says “Records Management as we know it is dead and it has dragged Enterprise Content Management (ECM) down with it.”, piqued my interest.

Preceding all this was a promotional email from Alfresco’s Melissa Meinhart: “4 reasons why Traditional ECM is dead“. Her reasons were:

  1. Users are demanding support for their new tablet and mobile devices, new remote working styles and new cloud apps. You aren’t going to change the users. You must change your approach to ECM.
  2. It’s not just users who are different today: the enterprise is different, too. A new, more expansive view of the enterprise requires a new approach to ECM… an approach that recognizes that modern enterprises are not bound by the firewall.
  3. Social content is now also enterprise content. Today’s enterprise content is driven by mobile devices and the fact that photos, videos and comment threads help companies get real work done faster. The context of the content — who posted it, at what time, in what circumstances and their opinion of the content — is now central to that content’s value.
  4. Traditional ECM vendors are failing at addressing the new realities of the IT infrastructure. ECM technology built for the new enterprise needs to span from traditional on-premise deployments, to virtualized private cloud deployments to full-fledged public-cloud SaaS deployments — and everything in between. And it needs to keep everything, and everyone, secure and in sync — no matter where users or content resides.

This got me thinking… My current role has me working with clients to help them create intranets that are “social”. Ones that foster richer collaboration, and interaction.

Customers are focusing more on this “visible” part of the social collaborative experience, along with the “content management” part that goes with it. In this case, I am talking about the content that is surfaced on the Intranet pages.

Those areas that come under the heading of “Information Management”, such as Records Management, or Enterprise Content Management (ECM), are “roadmap” items. Things that the customer knows are important, but that they also realise, needs more extensive analysis, and planning.

This awareness, by companies, that a well-thought out ECM system is a necessity, is truly excellent. But Alfresco’s white paper raises some good points…users are, more and more, disconnected from the Enterprise. They work anywhere, at any time, on any device. And there are still concerns (rightly, or wrongly) about content “in the cloud”.

Another excellent point that the white paper makes is something that I have had many long discussions on, at my current place of employment (and which is worthy of a separate blog post). This is with regards to the social content, and conversations, that are now trying to be fostered (see the above paragraphs). These often contain valuable tacit knowledge, or are artefacts that companies don’t want to lose.

Traditional ECM is not sufficiently capable of accommodating this new user behaviour, the extended enterprise, or social content. And even Microsoft’s SharePoint, now considered one of the latest members of the “ECM club”, is lacking.

Naturally, Alfresco’s white paper is a pitch for its own product. I do not have a problem with that. They raise some valid points, and their solution looks like it could have potential. I do want to look into it further though, and assess whether their solution is the “one”.

If you want to read about their offering that they claim meets the challenges of the new ways of working, as well as some other great insight to this area by, refer to the links below.

Social Media and Profile Photos

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There’s a lot of research about the way our brains process faces and how they have a unique way of making us happy. A smiling face, even in the form of a small profile picture, tells us someone else is there. The web is a social environment, and at the heart of it all is people.”

The above snippet comes from Box’s “Introducing Box Notes” page…

The three sentences, highlighted above, say a lot. The web is a social environment.

And it doesn’t just apply to the “web”. Social is being adopted by companies, inside the facelessfirewall, also and having people’s photos available make a big difference. I have often heard from clients that they “want to get to know who their fellow staff members are”. And having a photo turns a person from a faceless work colleague (often in a separate building/town/country), into a real person.  

What about people outside the enterprise?

Something that I have been using for a few months now is Microsoft’s Social Connector for Outlook 2010. This allows Outlook to display the profile photo, and info, from one of the social networks that that person is a member of.  In my case, I have set up the connector so that it connects to LinkedIn. What difference does this make? A lot! When I get emails from clients I know, having their photo on display, makes it more personal, and for people I haven’t yet met, it makes that first face-to-face meeting so much more enjoyable.

So, here’s a push to stop hiding. Come out into the open. Let us see who you are. (Naturally, there are limits…)

 

Should we brand our Intranet?

IntranetLocation:    LinkedIn SharePoint Users Group
Date:           2 days ago
Situation:   Jodi Stevens, a Web Content Specialist” put a question to the group…

 

Just curious how many brand their intranets beyond the basics like changing themes?

 

At the time I read it, there were already two responses. I added my own…

It’s an interesting discussion – whether to brand, or not.

With regards SharePoint, Microsoft’s Jeff Teper – senior vice president for SharePoint, advises…

“Use SharePoint as an out-of-box application whenever possible — We designed the new SharePoint UI to be clean, simple and fast and work great out-of-box. We encourage you not to modify it which could add complexity, performance and upgradeability and to focus your energy on working with users and groups to understand how to use SharePoint to improve productivity and collaboration and identifying and promoting best practices in your organization.”

However, and this is something that Dan Adams touched upon, you need to think about the purpose of the Intranet. Is it just a file-share-replacement? or is it a focus point for staff members to learn about the company, about each other, as well as to engage them and to foster exchange of ideas?A “branded” intranet, if done properly, can achieve the latter. I say “if done properly” because a “hack-job” can result in a something worse than a plain vanilla install. To do it properly, it is essentially to have, not only developers who know what can be changed without breaking something, but also a designer with UX/UI skills. These make for a very pleasant user experience, and one that helps the intranet align with the company values, as well as being somewhere that people “want” to go to when they turn their computers on first thing in the morning.

At the same time, a good Information Architecture (IA) helps, enormously, with usability and findability. Often, when an intranet is created, items and content are put into places “that make sense…at the time. Then as more things are added, they are placed either “where it makes sense for the person adding it”, or a new grouping is created. As time flows forward, the intranet becomes more and more complex. Having an IA that is usable, as well as maintainable, requires a lot of work, but can make a big difference to the system.

The Intranet can also act as a file share replacement. There are many benefits to this. Being able to label content as well as apply extra metadata to it, adds considerable value. Content can be grouped more effectively, and can be surfaced (through search functionality) in a way that has more meaning to the end-user. However, here also, great care must be taken. A suitable taxonomy should be created, as well as a way that allows content to be correctly labelled. Otherwise you end up with the original file share – just in a different format.

Underpinning all this.. some form of governance is important. This is what ensures that the intranet remains that great place that it started out as, rather than degenerating into a complex, tangled bog of despair that people use because “they have to”.

Intranets

Recently I found a piece on the internet titled “SharePoint V The Rest of the World”. One part of it that stood out was the statement that the type of software used doesn’t affect the overall value of the Intranet

Billy Cripe responded to this, and I made a statement that I feel that I want to broadcast again…

“You’re out of here” – getting rid of your friends

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A recent foray into Facebook led me to an post where the author said that he had unfriended some people because they started arguing, and complaining about what he had written.

If we translate this into the real world, effectively what the author had done was say “I don’t like your opinion, I don’t want to be friends with you any more.” Just because of a comment. Pretty harsh stuff.

This brings up a couple of points that bother me with regards this realm:

1. It’s called “Social Media”. Dumping your friends just because they said something you don’t agree with isn’t being very social.

2. What sort of “friend” are these people, and what sort of “friend” is the author, when just because you don’t like what’s being said, you say “I don’t want to be friends anymore.”

3. I agree that you can build up friendship through common interests, etc., but where’s the line between friendship, and acquaintance?

 

 

Pharma and social media….examples of why it’s risky

SELCS_Writing_Labs

A couple of weeks ago I came across a fascinating piece describing Facebook’s decision to insist that Pharma companies allow commenting on their Facebook pages.

The article raises some interesting questions about social media, and being responsible for the content, including that entered by others (e.g.comments on a page). 

I urge you to read the article, and leave a comment below. What are your thoughts? Is this a good thing or not? Should Pharma be held responsible for content created by others when that content is just a comment?

Here’s the link to the article: http://www.emoderation.com/facebook-tells-pharma-brands-they-must-allow-comments

And here’s one that discusses Pharma and Pinterest:
http://www.fiercebiotechit.com/story/visual-web-cautionary-note-pharma-about-pinterest/2013-07-15

See you back soon…

5 FREE Computer Tools for Every 21st Century Teacher

Alanna is a music teacher and ICT coordinator with “a passion for everything education related.

Recently she put together a list of 5 FREE Computer Tools for Every 21st Century Teacher.

It’s a great resource. I encourage you to visit her site and give her a word of encouragement for the great work she is doing!

Inspiring EdChat

One of the questions I was asked in my interview for ICT co-ordinator was: ‘With the current budget in schools and little money available, how could you ensure that progression was taking place with technology and there was quality ICT provision in school?’ This was a gift of a question – I was able to draw on my fabulous experiences with the world of Twitter and the amazing sharing of ideas on a daily basis. What schools don’t realise, is that when teachers actively collaborate, even outside of departments on a whole-school basis, amazing things can be discovered! With an array of free software and websites available, here are 5 free computer tools I think are fantastic for every 21st Century Teacher:

1. YouBlisher

YoublisherThis is the latest FREE ICT tool I have discovered thanks to connecting to other teachers via twitter and have used within my school for the first time…

View original post 711 more words

Emergent Collaboration

Mike Jacobs from Chess Media Group presented at AIIM’s conference in 2012. I discovered it on YouTube last night (click here to view it).

In his talk on Emergent Collaboration, he described a social business framework. This consists of 5 main areas:

  • Process
  • Organizational Culture
  • Governance
  • Goals and Objectives
  • Technology 

These 5 areas were further broken down into various sub-areas, You can click on the image below to see more on this.

This really got me thinking…you need to cover all five areas to make sure the adoption of a collaboration strategy is sucessful. Just having one is not really enough.

For example… having the technology is important, but this by itself is not enough…