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Small Worlds, Connecting the Dots and Dark Side of the Moon

It never ceases to amaze me how the world connects. The “dots” we create as we meet people, take on new experiences and generally make our mark on the world often join together to create startling insights and opportunities.

One of my favourite examples of this comes from Steve Jobs. If you get a chance, watch this video of him addressing students at a Stanford University Graduation ceremony about 6 years ago.

The speech is superb – emotional and motivational. Jobs manages to make you laugh, cry and – most important of all – gets the brains (young and old) to click

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and tick in thought.

One part of the speech focussed on following your heart. Just doing things – that make no sense at the time. He told the tale of dropping out of college and for some reason taking a course on calligraphy. He didn’t know why he took the course – but looking back he can clearly connect this to being obsessed with getting the fonts right on the original Apple Macintosh computer. That’s why today our Mac and Windows computers have great fonts!

Steve said: “You can’t connect the dots going forward, you can only connect them going back.” That was the only part of his magnificent oratory that grated with me. Entrepreneurs can’t say can’t – and you can’t say can’t to an entrepreneur! I think building a Personal Network is the strategic pursuit of creating the dots with a view to making those connections work.

Anyway, this week’s “small worlds” in my life.

1. I bought a book that I’d had my eye on for a while – “Just My Type” by Simon Garfield. I’m not a designer – but I do like fonts. I’d seen the book reviewed – and a skim through in the bookshop convinced me it would be a fun read. I settled down at home to read the intro – and the opening of the book was about the Steve Jobs story above. I’d had it in mind as the intro for “my book” (when I finally get around to writing it!). Ah well, another excuse to not put pen to paper yet.

2. My last blog post was about Reflexivity. I’d never heard the word – and was struggling to find a meaning for it. Lo and behold, one of my twitter pals got in touch about something else – and I mentioned the word (he’s far brighter than me – so I thought he might know a little about it). He sure did:-

As it happens “reflexivity” of two types I am expert on:

– philosophical reflexivity that is concerned with the relation of concepts to experience & how they co-effect each other {example: no point in concepts of left and right if you can’t move. And that is what we find: kids with paralysis & motor difficulties don’t form spatial concepts like left and right easily}

– sociological reflexivity, especially in the work of Pierre Bourdieu the French sociologist (now dead), who pioneered the use of it in empirical studies that avoid dead ends by understanding reflexive co-relations {example: buying behaviour for Chanel No. 5 is based on idea of exclusivity. IF too many class BC&D women buy it exclusivity is destroyed & sales plummet. Therefore Chanel in the 80′s used jazz music in adverts because this put off C&D buyers & some B’s whilst A’s loved it. This re-established the “exclusivity” of their market & sales became stable again. This pattern is necessary to all long term perfume sales. Its a great example of the co-relation of cultural/economic reflexivity.}

3. My blog has been getting some serious traffic (for me) in recent weeks. I hoped it was that people had recognised my talent – but no! It’s the the release of the film – “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” that has triggered it. I wrote a post a while ago entitle “Dark Side of the Moon” – and it has managed to reside on the first page of Google’s search engine. Who says wordpress.com is no good for SEO!

The “small world” on this one is that also residing on Google’s first page for “Dark Side of the Moon” is fellow Bath Tweeter Marcus Tullius Cicer – @georgianbath!

Hoping to join the dots with my Roman colleague at a Tweetup in Bath soon

End “who you know” culture – War declared on nepotism!

April 5, 2011 10 comments

Well there’s nothing more “King Canutish” than trying to stem the tide against human nature! Today, the UK’s coalition government has declared war on nepotism. See the report here at the BBC website of an interview with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Regular readers of the blog will have seen a post about British culture called “Posh & Posher: Education & the Old Boys Network” earlier in the year. The main point of the post was that Personal Networks can bring influence and power. Alongside this was a more worrying trend that the increasingly closed network of “old school chums” in government leads to our politicians being out of touch.

I happened to be watching breakfast TV when Clegg was being interviewed. I nearly choked on my cornflakes!

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He said: “We will stop all informal internships in Whitehall, in government, so that you can’t just have this network where people get an internship because of who they know. They should get an internship because of what they know.”

I’m a big fan of meritocracy – we’ve all worked with people who have little talent, but great connections! However, what needs to be recognised is that in the absence of knowing a person, we test out people ultimately through reference to others. Here are two personal examples from the last week that illustrate that “who you know” is so important.

First example, I’m planning to invest in a small US start-up in the area of crowd sourcing. I had a conference call with one of the advisers of the business who is based in San Francisco last week. We’d not met/spoken before – but I have the luxury of checking out his CV via Wikipedia and LinkedIn. He can do the same for me. CVs over – how do we connect. Well, he knows and is trusted by my friend (and start-up founder), Todd, who I’ve know for 20 years. At the end of our first call, the guy in SF floated “do you know ****”? No, but I did know someone who knew **** well – who used to be my companies chairman – and onwards. We’re all reassured by the trust of the “who we know”. CVs are the “what you know”!

Secondly, I had a tweet last night from a Friend of a Friend – Chris Book. We’ve not met, and this was his first tweet to me. He’s from Bath and is very good pal of one of my first connections in my new home town. He tweeted me because of who I know – and knowing my interest in Personal Networks. He wanted my opinion. His tweet was:-

Interesting thought (ish) – my last contract I got through linked in (exactly 3 years ago) this one through twitter

My opinion is that LinkedIn is primarily a CV – and has filled a gap in finding candidates, collating information. The “recommends” service has little use. If you wanted to business with someone or employ, you would pick up the phone/email and check with their connections. Twitter has moved this on so much, you can see whether people are genuinely active – and who wants to know them and engage! Twitter gives the who you really know and have a relationship with – and how they interact with you in a transparent format. LinkedIn gives you the “what you know” and “what you’ve done” presentation.

Sorry Nick! I’m a big fan of the coalition but you need to accept that “who you know” will always be our way of quickly building trust to offering partnerships, employment, opportunities – and internships! As Social Media develops Personal Networks will become more valuable every day. Everyone need to keep focussed on the “who you know”. It will always be the most important and valuable asset you have in life. The CV and application form doesn’t tell the true story….

If LinkedIn closed down – would you REALLY miss it?

February 15, 2011 14 comments

I’ve been wading through LinkedIn’s IPO registration document. It’s called an S-1 and can be found on the SEC site in the US. I used to spend time wading through these things when the main competitor in my photo business, Getty Images, were listing in the US. The language has got even drier and risk averse. Do have a read – but you will have to skip over a substantial part of the document that tells you why they might fail. Here’s a section I found particularly “entrepreneurial” … must have driven the “forward looking” execs mad…

SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

This prospectus, including the sections entitled “Prospectus Summary,” “Risk Factors,” “Use of Proceeds,” “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and “Business,” contains forward-looking statements. In some cases you can identify

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these statements by forward-looking words such as “believe,” “may,” “will,” “estimate,” “continue,” “anticipate,” “intend,” “could,” “would,” “project,” “plan,” “expect” or the negative or plural of these words or similar expressions. These forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements concerning the following: …………

I had been chatting to a friend about how we use social networking. He’s not a fan of LinkedIn – the classic argument of “you only go there if you are looking to find a new job”. However, he did make a good point: “If LinkedIn closed down tomorrow – would you really miss it?”

It got me thinking. Then today, I was pointed in the direction of a post from 2009 by Lea Woodward entitled “What If Twitter Went Down & Never Came Back Up?” How dependent are we on social media?

Let’s take a look at LinkedIn’s S-1 filing. The two elements that I highlighted – in amongst the legal backside watching – were:-

We believe we are transforming the way people work by connecting talent with opportunity at massive scale. Our goal is to provide a global platform capable of mapping every professional’s experience, skills and other relevant professional data to his or her professional graph, including connections with colleagues and business contacts.

and

Business Model with Powerful Network Effects. The size and growth of our member base, the number of enterprises and professional organizations that use our platform, and the amount of rich and accurate information generated by our members increase the value we deliver to all participants in our network. A larger member base provides more opportunities to form professional connections for members, as well as increased opportunities to identify and attract talent for enterprises and professional organizations. At the same time, an increasing number of enterprises and professional organizations accessing our network enhances the relevance for members who stand to benefit from professional insights and opportunities. We believe the breadth and depth of our network would be difficult to replicate and represents a significant competitive advantage.

It seems to me that in the trade for free use of LinkedIn’s platform – they are benefiting from the network effect immensely. Personally, I find LinkedIn an interesting peripheral service that helps get a perspective on who I know – and keeps me in touch with what they are doing.

Are the key relationships in my Personal Network supported or “managed” through LinkedIn. Definitely NOT!

If the doom and gloom of the LinkedIn prospectus all came home to roost – would I REALLY miss it? I got over SixDegrees.com closing down during the .com fall out over 10 years ago – so I could get over LinkedIn closing its doors too.

I’d be interested in hearing about how critical LinkedIn is to how you carry out your work. What’s your opinion?

[Have now created a LinkedIn Poll. Please take the time to vote -
http://linkd.in/gaeWb1]

“Old” Friends and Digital Dog Years

February 9, 2011 9 comments

As you might have seen in the comments on yesterday’s post – life can’t be lived in a vacuum. I’m enjoying having the opportunity during my period of “funemployment” to step back and review the “world” of Personal Networks – and my own personal network.

For my part, I’ve recently done an audit of my Personal Network. Analysing in particular who I knew – and the cross over into social media. During this process, I also mapped out my objectives – and several weaknesses.

1. I am moving my family across the UK to Bath – and I only know a handful of

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folk there. Action – use social media to check out the noise and ask friends if they know anyone who they could intro me to.
2. I’ve got a passion for understanding Personal Networks, I believe there is an opportunity somewhere within – but I’ve no academic background & no contacts on the periphery. Action – write the blog and try to engage with people in and around the sector.
3. I do want to create another business in the next couple of years – but don’t have mentors to help me with that (I’ve spent the last 5 years doing that for others – and forgot myself). Action – go and meet interesting, bright people from all different areas. Find that support network.

Interestingly, the first objective is the hardest. We’ve got out house in Bath (still living mostly in Leicestershire) – but my current close connections are the builders (and jolly nice chaps they are too!). My wife and I are getting out and about – even going to the local quiz nights when we are there on a Sunday evening. However, time is tight – and there is always something to do … and friendships will come slowly.

However, since starting blogging back in July last year – I feel I’m really making process on objectives 2 & 3. In fact, there’s at least one person met on-line who ticks the box for both areas – and feels like an “old friend”! Isn’t that strange? Maybe there are “social media” years like dog years? Digital Dog Years. So 9 months on-line = 3 normal years?

I’ll embarrass my new “old friend” by talking about him a little. Now that will be a test of friendship….

I met Joel D. Canfield when I was given an invited by Seth Godin to join a private network that Seth runs called Triiibes. It was kind of a personal invitation – me and a couple of thousand others. Joel was one of the first people to greet me as I “walked through the door” into this daunting on-line world. He was sincere – and we struck up a conversation. After a day, he took a risk – and sent out the note below to 20 or so of his closest connection on Triiibes:-

a new friend who feels very old guard Phil O’Brien is a new Triiibester; we’ve only just met. But his comments and his blog just might resonate with y’all. He writes about the value of personal networking. He seems like a kindred spirit :)

Joel is leading a very different life at the moment – roaming around North America with his wife and daughter. They’re home schooling – and running a virtual business at the same time. He’s living a nomadic life to the full.

We’ve done a Skype call – but essentially our “to and fro” is via email. I can trust him to throw out my thoughts on what I want to do – and he is helping and mentoring me. I’m the proud owner of his book “The Commonsense Entrepreneur” in audio and iPad format – and the writing/ethos shared strikes a cord. Copies of the book are flying out to real-world friends and contacts.

There are also people who I’ve “met” on-line who I hope will be friends. People like Beth Campbell Duke (who was the first person to comment on my blog) and Neal Schaffer (whose LinkedIn book I reviewed). We chat occasionally – meeting for that “digital coffee”.

I’ve also enjoyed making the connection with all the people that I’ve interviewed for the blog – and those that have kindly commented. It’s an environment I like – and I think the transparency of social media makes getting to know people (or at least the basic information) quicker and easier.

Another person I’ve struck up an on-line friendship with is Chris Redmond. He’s a busy international executive (today Moscow – tomorrow Africa!) – but finds time to run marathons, write a blog and twitter. I found a blog post last September that resonated, I commented – and we struck up a conversation. I joined his SuperRedNetwork on LinkedIn – as what he described as a “wildcard”. They’ve made me feel at home – and next week I will meet some of them (plus Chris) for the first time in person at a charity dinner in the UK. Now that will be strange. I wonder if meeting “off-line” will increase or reduce our relationship’s “Digital Dog Years”?

What impression am I making? Who do I know? What do I know about them? … and many more questions – SUMMARY

February 8, 2011 4 comments

Well, it’s been a great experience pulling together this three part series. I hope that in reading it, you have found some insight in to your Personal Network – I certainly have in writing it.

I’ve reviewed three new products/service – from MyWebCareer, Connected and Nimble. I have also had the privilege to interview the founders of each business.

The first step with each of these solutions is going off to the “cloud” and pulling together personal information

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from the likes of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google. However, each solution has a different angle on aggregating this information.

I started this series of posts by asking a series of questions? They were:-

* What impression am I making?
* Who do I know?
* What do I know about them?

My exploration of the value of Personal Networks constantly throws up questions – and these are only three of many.

What impression am I making?

MyWebCareer, undoubtedly answers this question. Although, like everything in life – it’s only an opinion.

If you are developing and cultivating your Personal Network – you should be concerned about your “brand” and how you are perceived by your network. I don’t see any reason for not giving it a try – and using its clever scoring system to bench mark your Personal Brand and on-line presence. I’d also recommended this service to Personal Brand consultants (like Beth Campbell Duke) – it’s a simple way to get clients thinking about how they shape up … and how they can improve. I will certainly diary time each month for a brief review of which direction my MyWebCareer score is moving – and why.

So, this is the easy bit of the post – if you want this question answering .. then just log in to MyWebCareer.

Who do I know? What to I know about them?

This is a tough one. The undoubted, sure fire winner of the commercial race is Nimble! It’s driven by an inspirational founder, Jon Ferrara – with the conventional CRM customer base waiting with open arms for a Social CRM solution. It will work for SMEs (Small & Medium Enterprises) at all levels from management to sales staff to customers.

However, my interest is in Personal Networks. As regular readers will know, my favourite quote is from Mick Cope, who wrote the FT book, “Personal Networking”:-

“By professional networking I mean a set of close contacts or associates who will help deliver my value to market. The key thing is that these are people who will ‘help’ you in the market, THEY ARE NOT THE MARKET. Sorry for the full-on letters, but my definition of a network is ‘people who will help amplify my personal capital in the market’, not a bunch of friends and colleagues to whom I try to sell under the guise of giving them a great opportunity. Active management of these people is not networking; it is client relationship management, a whole different ball game…”

This is the third time I’ve quoted this in my blog – it sums up the idea of a Personal Network for me. Mick will be charging me royalties soon….

During the interview with Sachin Rekhi, the founder of Connected, we discussed who was his customer. He said: “We looked at delivering this products to companies – chasing the VP of Sales. However, we decided that Connected is a more personal product – and we’re committed to take the harder track of acquiring customers one at a time.”

So, for someone with the long-term/life-long strategic goal of cultivating and developing their Personal Network – I think Sachin has set the best strategy. Unfortunately, this does not make it a sure fire commercial winner like Nimble! Getting people to stand back, take stock, work out where they are going – and recognising that their Personal Network is the key to long-term development will be a challenge.

While writing this series of posts, trying out the software and interviewing the founders, I’ve started to get a much better feel for the support needed for a Personal Network to function. The “Who do I know? What to I know about them?” is a fundamental building block in this.

I’ve also taken a look back my blog post “Personal Networks, Soloware and ‘The Individual is the new Group’”. In summary, that post makes the argument that the power of the individual through “Soloware” is much greater than that of the Enterprise through “Groupware”.

From all this deliberation, I am starting to understand that the Linchpin society put forward by Seth Godin in his book (indispensable, unique people are the future) – means that enterprise driven CRM systems are not the solutions required for the social media connected 21st century.

I always believe that when I am getting to grips with a complex issue, if I can visualise it (or in my case create a block diagram) that I am getting near a solution. Here’s my first iteration:-

Here the individual has their Personal Network, gathered from the “cloud” – which we see in solutions like Connected and Nimble. However, the significant difference that I envisage is that the enterprises we engage with as “Linchpins” to deliver projects will need to give access to their corporate information in the same cloud based way.

This will demand a whole new level of trust between individuals and enterprise – and a shift of power. In our new world – The Personal Network is king!

Thank you to Nip, Sachin and Jon – I’ve really enjoyed connecting with you … and wish you and your ventures every success.

What impression am I making? Who do I know? What do I know about them? … and many more questions – PART 3

February 7, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve enjoyed writing this series of posts. It’s been a privilege to “be in the room” with some inspirational startup founders/entrepreneurs.

Let’s get the hard bit out of the way first. Despite my promise at the end of Part 2, this post – reporting back on Nimble and interviewing their founder Jon Ferrara – will not include my summary. I’ll do that tomorrow… Think of it as a 3 part post and summary… I know, I know, how can you ever trust me again! Sorry.

Jon, as I mentioned in the post last week, was the founder of Goldmine – a ground breaking CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool

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from 20 years ago (in fact it probably defined CRM!). He’s a busy guy – and I really appreciated that he was prepared to give me an hour out of his busy schedule to do a Skype video call.

We seemed to hit it off from the start. After Jon telling me how warm it was in Santa Monica (and showing me he was in short sleeves and shorts) I turned around my camera and showed him the sunset view of the Alps from my chalet in Switzerland. We chatted for a while about the pleasure we had shared in selling our businesses – and then taking time-out to spend with our young families growing up.

Then Jon kicked in to telling me about his new venture, Nimble – and I knew straight away he was focussed on success. Earlier in the year, I wrote a post about how I was struggling to find my way and whether I could bring a team together and achieve a second entrepreneurial success. My post was base on an analogy around Pink Floyd and the success of their Dark Side of the Moon album. Well – I might have pulled back from thoughts of startup for now (hence the concentration on daily blogging) – but Jon’s undoubtedly got an idea for a platinum album that’s going to top the charts (again) for a long time. He’s a visionary….

His starting point this time is very, very different than his days as co-founder of Goldmine. Jon says: “I started Goldmine with $3,000 and an idea. It was the days of pink ‘while you were out’ slips and little black books called Daytimers. We had no loans and no venture capital.”

He continued: “We had absolutely no money for advertising, so I made friends with people who were writing about the space. The writers told me ‘we want to have stories about people using the products’ – so that’s what I gave them. Goldmine’s name got more column inches than anyone else.”

There was a strange Déjà vu feeling about all this. Back in the late 1990s, my business chose Goldmine – and we did the case study working with their solution partner. It’s still on Goldmine’s site (the company was acquired by Frontline in 1999 for tens of millions of dollars). Today, he’s taking time to chat and give time to a start-up blogger… Sound familiar.

Jon speaks at a 100 miles per hour. He warned me about this before he launched in to a presentation about Nimble and a walk through of the system. He talks so fast he could have a second career as a rapper!

Nimble is much more than a PRM (Personal Relationship Management), CRM or sCRM (Social CRM). In fact, Jon says: “I don’t like acronyms.” However, he does recognise that a world with social media creates new challenges. He says: “I want to help Nimble clients swim in the social river. Social Media is akin to the industrial revolution. If people and business don’t understand that it’s the place to manage relationships, listen and communicate – they are going to get killed.”

Jon’s reinvented himself, but with the same passion for helping people build relationships with customers (and colleagues). He’s cynical about the CRM business that he helped to build with Goldmine. He says: “You look at these systems with a screen laid out with 50 fields. That’s grandpa’s CRM system!” He also describes these systems as “stodgy and old school.”

I’d been given access to the Private Beta and had a play. I can imagine that for anyone coming from the structure of Goldmine or other enterprise CRM – this is the ideal transition to “swimming in the social river”. Jon showed me through some of the updates in the pipeline, He’s intent on making the interface even more visual. For example, losing the names and links and putting pen portraits anywhere he can. He’s building the system to be able to do absolutely everything a person/enterprise will need to make sales and build relationships. There are already a raft of integrations with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Gmail, Imap, Google Calendar – and he sees no limit to the role Nimble will take in unification.

I asked Jon about how this would work in practice. I seem to remember the Goldmine salesman 15 years ago flashing me through screens at the speed of light – and I was convinced it could do everything I could ever dream of. Jon said: “I realise that with all these systems the 10% that people definitely use is contact management. The challenge is to get the 10% for relationships used. With Nimble, we are going to give the contact management away – that’s the free part. The rest will be the important bit – getting in to the conversation and building relationships.”

We talked about the “battle for the tabs”. As Jon shared his screen during the demo, I took a look at the tabs he had open in Google Chrome. It was a similar mix to mine – the usual suspects of GMail, Google Calendar, Hootsuite, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. For systems like Nimble to become THE contact/relationship/personal network service – they need to get on the tabs – and then push the others out (in my opinion). Jon said: “I want to get a space on there – and happy for the others to stay. However, Nimble will connect the dots in your life – we’ll help nurture those relationships, communicate and listen.”

Jon is preparing to market Nimble through his well worn path of “classic CRM resellers.” This is a very familiar strategy to how he built Goldmine. He sees the “sweet spot” as the “SME business users who are mostly ignored.” He defines these as anything from a single user to a typical 10-25 seat sale. He’s also keen to bring in individuals – and his proposed free contacts only service reflects this.

Jon has set up Nimble with a clear strategy in this new area of social media. He’s using tried and trusted methods to get to market – skills he learned building Goldmine. He’s also got the financial resources and clout to get what he needs done (some of the LinkedIn integration he showed me in beta was groundbreaking). Jon will find a shoal of “Grandpa’s CRM” users coming to swim with him in the “Social River.”

I’ll finish this post slightly flipantly, with a “British” twist on brand names. Nimble has a very fond place in the memories of my youth (I am showing my age). Nimble was a household name through British TV ads about a special bread to keep an eye on your weight/figure. Take a look at these ads – brought to you by the wonders of YouTube. One even features a very young Joanna Lumley. It will bring back memories for my older UK audience…

Jon’s Nimble is no lightweight – but it’s certainly going to fly! Do take the time and register for the Private Beta.

Back tomorrow, with a summary of where I think MyWebCareer, Connected and Nimble sit in the world of Personal Networks.

What impression am I making? Who do I know? What do I know about them? … and many more questions – PART 2

February 4, 2011 2 comments

Hopefully, you are visiting this post after reading Part 1 yesterday. Today, I’m focusing on a new service called Connected that was launched earlier in the week. However, there is a summary of both Connected and MyWebCareer at the end of the post.

The review of Connected is interspersed with quotes from Founder Sachin Rekhi. He kindly gave me 45 minutes of his time (very generous for a man launching such a major service) – and I only wish I’d recorded

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the chat for you. He’s an inspiring person to interview.

Connected grabbed my attention while waiting for a flight that had been delayed for 30 minutes. I checked my Twitter feed and spotted a message by Guy Kawasaki that announced the new service – it sounded exciting.

I’d only got my iPad to hand – so thought I’d boot up Safari and check out the service. I’m glad I did – because the service was a WOW! You don’t get many of those from start ups….

In the time that I had free before the flight left I’d “touch screened” my way to connect all my various repositories of information (and there are many), explored some fantastic apps – and bored my wife by saying “look at this!” several times.

I was surprise by three things on first impression:-

1. It worked great on the iPad – looked as if it had been made for the device
2. All the connections to Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, etc were seamless – and merging/matching was excellent
3. I’m very used to services offering integration to contacts via these services – but Connected also brought your communications/messaging in to the system, as well as calendar

I mentioned this to Sachin on our Skype call. He said: “We started the business a year ago, went live to the world two days ago – but have spent 6 months in private beta. I had a couple of beta users using iPads – and they beat me up on the interface … They were happy when we launched, and I am glad you are too.”

The result of this trawl of personal data collated all the information I need to answer two of the big questions in Personal Networks – “Who do I know? What do I know about them?”

I discussed this with Sachin. My view was that Connected was producing the sort of contact report that I would expect to get from a good (maybe great) personal assistant before a meeting/call. Sachin said: “I’m really delighted to hear that. Many of our potential customers already value relationships and are willing to do the work – and Connected makes their life easier and saves time. There are another group who just want things on a plate – and it works for them too. Our focus is to make Connected easy and lightweight for the user.”

I have a real interest in the language used to communicate a fresh idea. My particular issue when I talk about Personal Networks is that people say “Oh, you mean like Networking – going and giving business cards to lots of people” (which I hate) or “Ah, It’s Facebook then – isn’t that just for saddos. And why do people keep pestering me to friend them on LinkedIn.” (well not quite!).

Sachin and I discussed whether he felt there was “baggage” associated in words he had used in his blog posts like “Rolodex” and Personal Relationship Management (PRM) service – with connotations of CRM. Sachin said: “We talked a lot about this. Rolodex can be connected with salesmen from another age. CRM has a lot of issues too. However, these terms bridge the gap to help people to understand what we are offering – and then we’ll show them the new way we are approaching things. I’m still staggered that there is still such a huge installed base of products like ACT! and Goldmine. I’ve been driven by the fact that there are abysmal tools available for people wanting to develop their Personal Network.”

We both agreed that the initial WOW of Connected was not in question – but the retention of customers to make it THE dashboard for the the Who and What of their Personal Network was the real challenge. Sachin said: “We’ve no doubt that folk who want to do a better job will like Connected – it will appeal to many. Retention will require us to get users to understand that with the benefits come constraints and disciplines. However, I think we are keeping this to an absolute minimum. Beta users are reporting that they are putting aside 10 minutes each morning to use Connected and then keeping it open in a browser tab to review during the day. We are also offering a daily email which gives a summary of who you are connecting with – and who you might want to connect with.”

It’s still very early days for Connected – and although the list of integrations is long (Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Contacts – Calendar – Voice) there are some missing. Sachin said: “We wanted to start the conversation with customers – so have gone to market with many features still in the pipeline. We are a long way down the road with prototype integration with Outlook – and will hook up with mobiles (already doing that with Google Voice) with either an iPhone App or at&t piece. In the long run we’ll be aiming to get all communication in there – including SMS and Skype”

The user features are rich. For example, there are a range of Apps including Contacts Maps. This is an integrated solution similar to MapMyConnections which I reviewed earlier in the week.

I’ve tried out quite a few services in this space. Gist is the most well known – which personally I find an information heavy experience. I don’t feel that it really gives me the Who and the What – and is especially annoying at not matching contacts. Also, in terms of contact integration, I have used (and paid for) a service called AddressBookOne (which has some nice iPhone integration).

I found the experience of Connected – and chatting to Sachin – energising. I would recommend that everyone who has a Gmail/GoogleApps account and a social media network to give it a go. It will be a challenge to make it THE key app for your Personal Network – but it’s got a great chance. If Path founder Dave Morin is turning down offers for $100m from Google – then Sachin will soon be beating off offers too! He seems to have this area sussed. Remember, you heard it here first … well except for Guy Kawasaki and a rather nice review by Yesware.

This post has gone on a bit – and I’d like to summarise in another post (Part 3 on Monday!). There was also another late entry to this theme in the form of Nimble (another PRM). Nimble was originally introduced to me by Neal Schaffer of Windmill Networking (whose book on LinkedIn I reviewed last year). I was invited to their Private Beta yesterday – and will be interviewing their Founder, Jon Ferrara (who also helped to create Goldmine) in the next couple of days. It will be interesting to chat with him and make the connection – my old business was a Goldmine user “way back when”.

Back on Monday with Part 3 – and I promise not to drag it out to 4 parts! Have a great weekend…

The Secret History of Social Networking

February 2, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m not wanting my blog to become a review of the BBC’s output – but they are creating some terrific programming around networks. The latest find is a BCC Radio 4 report called “The Secret History of Social Networking”.

In the aftermath of the success of the movie, “Social Network”, BBC journalist Rory Cellan-Jones has traveled the globe to interview many of the “actors” who helped to create the Social Network phenomena. Interestingly, this story starts 37 years ago with “Community Memory” in Berkeley, California.

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The series is in 3 parts – the first was broadcast last week, and I tuned in to the podcast of it last night. It’s a good listen – and I think will become even more interesting as it races towards the modern day take-off of Social Media.

During the series there are contributions from Twitter’s Biz Stone, Path’s Dave Morin, Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley, Facebook’s Chris Cox, the WELL co-founder Stewart Brand and writers Howard Rheingold and Julia Angwin. There’s a nice preview video interview with quite a few of these contributors on the main BBC webpage.

In the UK you can “Listen Again” with iPlayer. It seems that those outside the UK can also get access by subscribing to the Podcast.

Dark Side of the Moon

December 28, 2010 5 comments

Sorry for the unusually long gap in blog posts. I have two excuses – firstly, I’ve become a bit of an obsessive twitter user … and secondly, I had a bad dose of “Man Flu”! During my convalescence, I did manage to catch a really good Sky Arts documentary on Pink Floyd’s creation of Dark Side of the Moon. For those who are not 70s music aficionados – here is the programme summary:-


Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” Classic Album is the creative story behind the masterpiece: “Dark Side Of The Moon”. “Dark Side Of The Moon” transformed Pink Floyd from art house favorites to global, stadium superstars. With the timeless qualities of its production and musicality, allied to the hypnotic evocation of its central themes – alienation, paranoia, madness, war and death, “Dark Side Of The Moon” would become the album that would

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dominate the 70′s and 80′s (with a record number of 741 consecutive weeks in the Billboard 200).

The reason I mention this was that I found it fascinating how a group of individuals could come together to produce something so brilliant. The programme showed that it was not just the brilliance of the 4 band members – it was the whole network of people around them. The documentary interviewed the band and explained the parts played by many others in producing this level of excellence. People like Alan Parsons (the producer), Storm Thorgerson (sleeve designer), Clare Torry (haunting female vocals), etc. Some of the cool quotes that intersperse the tracks were provided by roadies, doormen, etc – it was a real team effort.

Three things struck me – and felt very relevant to my thinking as I try to create a new start up business, VizWho:-

* You can get the core members of the team right – but to produce something special – all the team need to come together
* It’s so much easier to achieve this when you are young. Maybe it’s the lack of commitments – coupled with youthful enthusiasm. (Do I sound like an old git?!)
* Finally, once successful – is this possible to replicate? It was interesting seeing the ageing band members still playing their instruments brilliantly … but it’s unlikely they will every create another “Dark Side of the Moon”!

At the same time, through my twitter following I’ve found some terrific blog posts. One was particularly relevant to this last point – by Ben Horowitz (he’s a very serious person who cofounded, along with Marc Andreessen, the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz). The post that took my eye was how he “reluctantly funded” a new venture created by a successful entrepreneur. Ben’s take was:-

…one general rule of mine is don’t hire or fund rich people. The reason? Building a technology company is hard. It’s really frackin’ hard. Many of the tasks that you do when building one are no fun. When things go wrong as they always do, it’s no fun at all. Rich people tend to like to work on things that they enjoy, because if they don’t enjoy it, well, they are already rich. When the going gets tough, the rich get going . . . to their vacation homes and their yachts.

Luckily, Ben did decide to back this venture. I’m currently thinking that having been successful and not being young anymore is really pushing against me building a successful start up!

Maybe I need to just dip back into music history a little further … Frank Sinatra did sing “The Best is Yet to Come”…

Strength in Weak Twits (ties)

December 3, 2010 9 comments

I’ve always been interested in Mark Granovetter’s theory around the “Strength in Weak Ties.” In the 1970s he asked a group of people about how they had got their job. Of those who found jobs through personal contacts 55.6% reported seeing their contact occasionally (more than once a year, but less than twice a week) and 27.8% rarely (once a year or less). When asked whether a friend had told them about their current job, the most frequent answer was “not a friend, an acquaintance.”

I’m very much a weak tie man. I love serendipity – and I enjoy matching people up who have similar interests/objectives from all over the place. This week has been a joy for me – with my new found love of Twitter. It’s not the chatting that I like – it’s the opening up of a new world of people with similar

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interests/objectives to me. I’m enjoying creating the seeds of relationships at the very outer circles of my Personal Network.

Here are some examples of people who have appeared in the last 7 days who seem to share my passion for Personal Networks….



Jason Armishaw
@jasonarmishaw from New Zealand. His business is the PeoplePeople. He also has a new business launching in 2011 – like me! I “discovered” Jason when he wrote a great blog piece “Is Off-line Networking Dead?”


Heather Townsend @joinedupnetwork from Milton Keynes, UK. She is the Author of the forthcoming book The FT Guide to Biz Networking. Her business is called JoinedUpNetworking. I came across Heather when she wrote a blog post called “When does a contact become a genuine connection?”

Jordi Robert-Ribes @jordi_pro is based in Andorra. His speciality seems to be Networking into New Worldsand is also an Investments Director. Again through Twitter, I found a very seasonal blog post “Christmas cards don’t nurture your network”

Jason Jacobsohn @JasonJacobsohn is over in Chicago. He’s definitely part of Malcolm Gladwell’s band of Connectors – and speak on networking. His company is called Networking Insight. The post that I found via Twitter was “9 Reasons why your Network is your Greatest Asset”. If you get the chance – head over there and add to the list!

There were a bunch of other people too – but these 4 stand out as understanding the Value of Personal Networks. Overall, a great first week on Twitter – and I’m very happy that my Personal Network is being enriched by these distant links.

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