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I met a man on the internet….

June 17, 2011 6 comments

Don’t worry – it’s not quite how it sounds. I’m not joining those newspaper headlines about Facebook fuelling divorce. However, I am meeting some very interesting people on-line – and then meeting up in the “real world”.

I had breakfast with one of them this morning. Rob Geraghty is an entrepreneur – involved in many projects – including his presentation training company the Wow Factor. Rob got in touch with me (via LinkedIn) after stumbling across my blog – and in particular liking the idea of “funemployment”.

We met for breakfast this morning – and one of our similarities was how baffled our wives are by this concept

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of people connecting via the web and meeting up. There is always a raised eyebrow when the response to “what are you doing today” is “I’m having a coffee with a man I met on the internet.” It does seem strange…

However, I’ve been thinking about it – and actually, it’s one of the brilliant opportunities thrown up by social media. In the past you would try and find like-minded people by traveling to conferences, speaking to lots of people with vaguely similar interests – and occasionally finding someone worth connecting with.

In our new world, you can easily find like minded people. You can do the research and understand what makes the person tick – and get to a stage of comfort way before you decide to write that first introductory message to initiate a connection.

I read today about Google’s new tool for “on-line reputation management”. It’s called “Me on the Web” – and can be found in your Google Dashboard. Google and many others recognise that our on-line presentation will be increasingly important as we build our Personal Networks of the future. I don’t believe this to be just a marketing exercise – it’s a way of reflecting on-line your values, interests and character.

Rob has added to my list of men met on the internet. Others include:-

Chris Redmond is an inspirational leader – and thought provoking blogger. (Attended one of his charity fund raising events in Reading.)

Jordi Robert-Ribes is a internationally respected speaker on networks. (Met for lunch in London when he was over from his home in Andorra)

Benjamin Wirtz is a young entrepreneur creating applications to help people manage their networks. (met for coffee in London)

Anyway, Rob was good fun to be around – a very similar connector. Within a week of his email – and before we met in person – we’d made a connection that should be of benefit to the Cricket charity that I’m involved in. Today, we worked through a few ideas that might be mutually beneficial – and our on-line “research” of each other before this meeting has already accelerated the level of connection and trust.

Connecting via the web is undoubtedly the most efficient way to meet like-minded people. I will be continuing to meet men on the internet – and I do recommend you give it a try!

Replacing half your friends every 7 years – and the tattoo consequences

June 8, 2011 8 comments

I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about the research undertaken in the Netherlands which concluded that most people replace half of their friends every 7 years. It was brought to my attention by a couple of on-line friends – Jordi Robert-Ribes and Ben Wirtz – who both happened to raise it when we met up in the real-world for the first time. Maybe they were both hinting there was only a 50:50 chance we would still be in contact in 7 years … or less!

The research came out of a project in Holland called “Where friends are made. Context, Contacts, Consequences,” and was set up by Beate Völker. Beate doesn’t seem that keen on connecting – she has one of those Twitter accounts with protected Tweets! The actual research was run by Sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst of Utrecht University (not on Twitter at all!). It always baffles me when

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Sociologists/Anthropologist/academics don’t “come out to play” in the world of social media.

Mollenhorst conducted a survey of 1,007 people aged from 18 to 65. He contacted them twice – with a 7 year gap in between. From the original group, 604 people answered on both occasions. The survey contained questions such as: Who do you talk with, regarding personal issues? Who helps you with DIY in your home? Who do you pop by to see? Where did you get to know that person? And where do you meet that person now?

The results showed that personal network sizes seemed to remained stable, but that many members of the network were new. About 30 percent of discussion partners and practical helpers had the same position in a typical person’s Personal Network seven years later. The big finding was that only 48 percent of the original contacts were still part of the network.

I have thought for a while that this was interesting research – and it became more relevant after I saw the video of a lady – Suzy (also from the Netherlands) – making a permanent record of her 152 Facebook Friends in the form of a tattoo!

Currently the video has been watched by over 300,000 people. It’s not getting as many likes as dislikes – as I write the score is 511 likes to 1,018 dislikes. Let’s hope that there are not too many of her friends in the disklikes.

Well, Suzy is on-target with the work of Robin Dunbar. She’s bang on with 152 friends and his Dunbar Number of 150. However, she might have also given some thought to the work of her fellow Netherlander Gerald Mollenhorst. She’s in for a lot more than a 7 year itch!

[UPDATE – Tattoo story was a hoax (a good one at that) – changing 50% of friends every 7 years was not! More at CBS News]

Photographs and Memories – Facebook Style vs. Bonfire Style

April 3, 2011 8 comments

I seem to have spent all my free time in the last few weeks pouring through boxes of photos. These aren’t from my career as a professional photographer – they are my personal “snaps” and crates full of family photographs stored by my father up until he passed away a few years ago. We are on the move to a new home in Bath – and the storage space of our new house is greatly reduced compared to the stable block bursting with “stuff” at our current abode. I’m a hoarder!

Photographs are wonderful things. They stir memories. They promote a human interaction in the taking and the sharing. They always have done and always will. In modern social media there

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has been no change. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said of the social elements of FB Photos:

““The photo product that we have is maybe five or six times more used than every other product on the web — combined,””

Photos are Facebook’s lifeblood.

From these boxes, I pulled out a bundle of holiday snaps this week. Four packets of pictures from my first foreign holiday to Portugal in the late 80s – nearly 25 years ago. I went with a couple of friends (who happened to be girls). We had a great time, I got painfully sunburned, my bed got infested with ants – it was fun.

However, what the hell was I wearing? Did people really sell clothes like that in those days – and why was I the fool buying them? Who are those people in the pictures we shared beers with?

Well, I’ve been able to “weed history” to my own recollection. There are 5 pictures saved – they are highlights I can use to remember. The rest of the packs (including the shocking images you can vaguely see in the thumbnail image here) are heading for the bonfire. The saved images are going in my “Personal Box” where I store my keepsakes. Mine!

How will a Facebook generation cope with this “baggage”? These 4 packs of images, today would be uploaded to FB unedited – and remain there for all to see 25 years later. They’d undoubtedly be shared with virtually everyone I’d had a beer with on the holiday and “friended” on Facebook. Can anyone explain to me how that “baggage” will work for Generation Y? Will FB let you weed and put on the bonfire by then?

One of my favourite songs is by The Beatles – “In My Life”. Its chorus goes:

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them

Everyone does that. Recollects, smiles, cries – with affection. It’s personal. My life is richer for the people and the experiences – but the record is in my minds eye with photographs aiding that recollection. How does that work in the deeply shared and connected world of Facebook?

STOP PRESS

I was just about to press the “publish” button …. and …. discovered a brand new iPhone App called “The Last Night Never Happened“.

As they say these days “we’ve got an app for that!” Not quite the answer – but people are starting to realise the issue.

Friendship Overload – With friends like these…

March 22, 2011 2 comments

As I continue to research the dynamics of Personal Networks – I see a real issue looming of “friendship overload”.

My last blog post included a quote from Identifii’s founder Usman Sheikh:

Graduates have typically 6-800 friends on Facebook – it’s a new personal asset that this generation just takes for granted. It’s ‘just there!’. These links through their lifetime will be the links that will create partnerships, job offers and other opportunities.

That’s a big number for a 20 year old to carry along for life!

I then read the Leader Column in a very traditional British magazine, “Country Life” – entitled “With friends like these…”. One of the key quotes

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in the article was:

This should be a boom time for friendship. Once, geographical separation and the divergence of life’s path would make friendships difficult to continue. Now, Facebook means that an act of conscious will is required to lose touch…

Country Life’s particular angle was about how you get to know who your REAL friends are when the going gets tough. The focus of the article was on the troubles of Prince Andrew, Tony Blair and Colonel Gaddafi. Here’s another line from the article:

… few things are more revealing of the moral character of an individual that his or her attitude towards friends who are going through a bad patch.

Wow – young people are going to have to have bucket loads of “moral character” to support the number of FB friends they have!

This brought me back to a topic discussed a few months ago in a blog post about INSEAD professor Martin Gargiulo. Here’s a brief exert.

…. he compares the reciprocal relationship between people in the network to electrical copper wires. Firstly, the thicker the copper wire – the more energy in the relationship. He goes on to use the same analogy to say that these cables do not rot – and can be easily reactivated. It’s a good way to consider those weak ties (and often close relationships) where our communication is infrequent.

I was greatly amused by how he describes that relationships have to be pro-actively broken. He says that “you must murder” a relationship to really break it! The relationship – not the person…

I am sure we can all think of many friends who we have lost touch with through “natural wastage”. Personally, I think that works well – and it’s often a “toss of a coin” on meeting again whether my reaction is either “Why, oh why did I lose touch with that person – they are great” or “Ah, it’s flooding back to me why I lost touch!”.

I think that all these hundreds and thousand of “copper wires”/friendships staying connected – and with energy flowing through Facebook – this can only lead to “Friendship Overload”. What do you think? Please comment below or take part in the poll on LinkedIn.

Identifii – What sort of person am I? – ENFP, actually…

March 21, 2011 10 comments

In my exploration of Personal Networks, I’ve come to the conclusion that the process starts with a fair degree of self awareness. I’ve always been a “self help” addict – and many years ago I became interested in psychometric testing after undertaking a Myers-Briggs MBTI test. Since then, I have worked with a business psychologist in a number of ventures – and it’s added terrific value. Interestingly, the most pleasing thing with psychometric testing is the synergy between the individual gaining self awareness, the team involved having a shared “score” to communicate around – and the organisation seeing the economic benefit of building long lasting teams with complimentary skill sets.

I recently stumbled upon a start up called Identifii, based in Singapore. It’s an interesting business that focuses on a young audience

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to make sure they start on the right career path. The key to this is helping with self awareness through psychometric testing.

I chatted with Identifii’s founder Usman Sheikh about his new business. First off, he gave me his vision for Identifii: “The right people in the right jobs results in a better world.” That’s a big idea – I like that!

Usman has recognised an issue – and wants to solve it. “The primary problem we aim to solve is one of incorrect career path selection. I graduated from college nearly 5 years ago and when I catch up with old friends, I estimate that over 70% of them, are not entirely happy with what they do on a daily basis. However, they are at a point in their lives, where change has become an extremely difficult option and the decision to ‘just to live with it’, is how they resolve the issue. Many of them selected career paths at graduation, paths which were not always suited for who they were, but rather paths chosen and based upon other factors, such as employer brand or monetary compensation.”

Identifii is focussed on Gen Y – the 16-25 year old college graduate, Facebook generation. In fact, after applying to be part of their Alpha test group, the only way to log-in to the system is via Facebook. So I dusted by FB ID off (an old git like me only uses it to keep an eye on the kids) – and gave the service a try. Five minutes and 20 questions later, I had my psychometric test done – and guess what, they had got me 100% right. See the analysis below!




I’ve been called many things in my life – but I think that I like “Colourful Storyteller” the best! From Identifii’s dashboard, I found out that famous people of my “type” – ENFP (Extrovert/iNtuitive/Feeling/Perceiving) – include Charles Dickens, Robin Williams, Sandra Bullock & Meg Ryan. Cool!! Top three career paths were Journalism, Public Relations and Entrepreneurship. I shared the comments with a couple of friends – and they chuckled at the weaknesses … “Lack of discipline in following through on important detail”, “propensity to focus on what’s achievable rather than what’s doable” and “tendency to become bored or side tracked after creative process is done”. How they laughed – got me in one!

I thought back to when I was leaving school and had a difficult time choosing between a career as a civil engineer, social worker or photo-journalist. Luckily, back then I somehow selected the right career path – with Identifii it would have been so much easier!

I asked Usman why he had created Identifii. “I was at University finishing my Economics degree and thought that I would become an investment banker. Luckily, I did an internship before I graduated and realised it was not for me. I went off to Cambridge University (England) and got my qualification as a certified psychometric consultant. It let me explore how people made choices.”

“I then build a relationship with Psytech – a vendor of psychometric tests – and in 2007 they granted me a license for their products in Pakistan. One of the opportunities I had in Pakistan was to work with 200 graduating MBA students. These graduates felt destined to work at the big multi-national companies (MNCs) like Unilever, P&G, Standard Chartered, etc. I understood the attraction of the large brand and the paycheck – but realised that for 60/65% this was not a good long-term fit.”

Usman could see the opportunity – but felt it was not the time to pursue. He headed back to Singapore and worked with friends developing Hatch Media in to the leading Youth Marketing Agency in the country. He discovered a lot about the 16-25 demographic from his experience there – the Generation Y.

When he saw the exponential growth in Facebook in 2009-10, Usman realised that the time was right to bring Identifii to market. He knew his idea needed major distribution – and FB was the channel.

As with all start-ups, it’s not been plain sailing. He explained how joining the Founders Institute in Singapore was a turning point. He made connections, found mentors to help refine his ideas – and was able to secure the funding needed to start things rolling.

Usman’s perception of Singapore, South East Asia and the surrounding areas was compelling listening for me. “LinkedIn awareness in Singapore with the youth audience is close to 0%. People here are still choosing careers based on traditional pressures like parents wishes, brands and the paycheck size. I believe that there is an opportunity for SMEs (Small & Medium sized Enterprises) to stop the traditional flow of talent to MNCs. We aim with Identifii to job match young talent with more satisfying jobs in the SME sector.”

I was surprised that the Identifii platform only allows access via a Facebook log-in. Usman explained: “We chose Facebook as a way to filter who came in to the site. LinkedIn also has very little take up in the region. However, in the future we will offer a straight forward log-in process and customer validation with Twitter and LinkedIn.”

Usman has a very intuitive feel of the youth audience. “Graduates have typically 6-800 friends on Facebook – it’s a new personal asset that this generation just takes for granted. It’s ‘just there!’. These links through their lifetime will be the links that will create partnerships, job offers and other opportunities.”

Identifii is currently in Alpha testing. He’s opened it up to about 150 people who he knows – or in my case have registered interest. It’s already seen a viral effect with 2,000 folk now using the service. I must admit at the end of the psychometric test when you say “you’ve got me dead right” – it does make you want to get your pals to give it a try. Quite infectious marketing.

Usman’s target audience is a graduate 2 years out of university or college who has just realised they have taken the wrong career path. Identifii will be there to help them get back on course.

As well as the many job sites on the web, Identifii faces competition from newcomers like Roundpegg, OneDayOneJob and BranchOut. I think Usman’s focus in English speaking Asia is a good strategy – and we might well see it transfer around the world too. As he identifies though: “The biggest challenge is building our relationships with employers to provide jobs for Identifii’s users. We currently have 25 businesses involved – and are aiming for 200 employers by summer. It’s essential we can prove we can match the new found awareness with a suitable job.”

Usman is intending to roll out a whole range of self-assessment/psychometric tests for Identifii. He wants to “democratise” this sort of testing by making them free or low price. He also intends to make them fun – so that people enjoy taking part.

I really like Identifii – and Usman’s vision of making the world a better place by getting Gen Y in to the jobs that match them! Do give Identifii and their psychometric test a try. Please do come back here and tell me what “sort of person you are”!

Is Facebook the “McDonalds” of your Personal Network?

February 22, 2011 10 comments

I’ve been listening to an excellent BBC radio series called “The Secret History of Social Networking” – and reviewed the first in the three-part series about three weeks ago. I got the chance to listen to the other two parts on a podcast the other day – and both were gems. The podcasts are available internationally – so do follow the link at the bottom of the last post to load up to your iPod or listen on-line.

There were two different quotes in the interviews by Rory Cellen-Jones that struck me. The first was from John Perry Barlow. In the 80s John was on the board of the prototypical social network, The Well, and continues to be a respected

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commentator. In answer to Rory’s question about Facebook he said:

I think that it has enough of the characteristics of group connectivity that it seems to be fulfilling that need in the same way that treacle can make your appetite go away so that you don’t go out and eat your broccoli. It’s the white sugar substitute for the brown rice nutrition that real community might be able to provide you.

Wow – that’s powerful stuff. The analogy with fast food and wholesome nutrition is particularly thought provoking – especially when I see the time spent on Facebook in my household (and by the stats available on-line)

Also, in the programme was an interview with Chris Cox, one of the “Inner Circle” at Facebook. He was asked about how Facebook had gained popularity and overtaken the likes of Beebo and MySpace. Rory placed Chris, at this time in 2006, as being “connected with every Facebook innovation – all of which were hated”. He asked Chris – “what was the worst single reaction to any change.” Chris immediately said “Newsfeed”:

Before Newsfeed your home page just said ‘you have 2 new messages – go look at your profile.’ And afterwards it was a story line, it was literally a newspaper of what people were saying and what photos they were posting. … Nobody liked it. I remember my entire inbox being full. Personal messages from friends and family ‘can you please turn this thing off – we all hate it’.

When asked why Facebook had persevered with this controversial feature, Chris said:

The usage told us people were fascinated. But getting through these first few days…. You just need to have your own vision and need to be willing to stick to it in the face of criticism.

I love the entrepreneurial drive to see changes like this through in the face of negative customer feedback. Interesting that the guys at Facebook could read the numbers – the usage – and understand the addictiveness of the Newsfeed!

One of the best commentators on the dynamics of Social Networking (and Personal Networks) is Paul Adams. He has been featured on this blog before. He was a key User Experience guy for Google – and is just about to take up a post at Facebook. On his personal blog, he’s just posted an excellent commentary called “The Problem with On-Line Reputation”. In it he states:-

As with most people problems, I feel the roots of the solution lie offline. From our ongoing face to face interactions, we learn who is knowledgeable, who to turn to for an informed opinion, who is likely to say it like it is, and who has hidden agendas. There is no substitute for that. Reputation is built conversation by conversation at the desks, halls, cafes and meeting rooms of businesses all around the world.

I’m feeling that in the long run, the “quick hit” of Facebook will backfire. Who fancies putting down that “junk food” for a minute and treating yourself to some more nutritious “brown rice” …..face-to-face??

I have created a LinkedIn Poll called “Is Facebook the ‘McDonalds’ of your Personal Network?” – my last poll “If LinkedIn closed down – would you REALLY miss it?” has had over 1400 votes in a week.

Please go and vote, add comments – and do tell you friends (via Facebook – or face-to-face!).

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