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Posts Tagged ‘connections’

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

Viewdle – social face recognition – interview with founder Laurent Gil

February 17, 2011 5 comments

I’ve just come off the phone from chatting with Laurent Gil, the founder of Viewdle who have created some revolutionary patented face recognition technology. If you read my blog early today, you will have seen their launch video (it’s shown again below).

I asked Laurent whether the video was just a big budget ad creating a vision – but with few links to reality. Laurent said: “Definitely not. What you see is not science fiction. This is the first application of our face recognition technology. Even on the relatively small processors on mobile phones, we can recognise a face in 300ms and then go off to the cloud

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to get more information. It’s just like you see on the video.”

“It’s not a big budget advert either – we’re a start-up! We got together with some cool guys we knew in LA, explained what our technology does and they shot it. It was shot with HD cameras – so you might not see the same definition on your phone quite yet – but the rest is here now with Viewdle’s technology.”

I probed further to see if he could explain why this video had had such an impact on me and many others – the leap in techology is a bit scary. Laurent said: “We have some very serious brains behind this technology. We have 8 PhDs and 30 staff just working on visual analysis. We have a total of 65 engineers. Our team work in Palo Alto, South America and in the Ukraine.”

I’d read on the LA Times blog that Viewdle’s technology “has its roots in technology created for the surveillance-happy government of the former Soviet Union”. Laurent said; “No – that’s not right. People like to say that – but all my staff are much younger than me and from way after the cold war days. The technology came out of clever people in maths and science in Kiev – but out team is around the world now. Our business is consumer facing – and we plan to apply this exciting technology to social media, not surveillance.”

Laurent explained that the technology works on a “Faceprint” that is generated by the software – typically from Facebook albums and photos that you have tagged and have access to. On the phone the super fast comparison and matching is based around this “FacePrint”.

Laurent talked me through the broad vision of Viewdle: “We are getting social at the point of capture – and creating the links to your friends and family. We are closely integrated to Facebook – and the generation that loves social media. Young people want to take and share pictures now. They don’t want to have to go and tag on the desktop. Our technology tags, routes and shares instantly for you – it’s a photo messaging tool.”

They’ve got some heavy hitter supporters in terms of technology and finance. People like Qualcomm, Blackberry and Texas Instrument. They’ve also announced today at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona a Software Development Kit (SDK) – so he said: “expect to see applications on your phone using this technology by the end of this year.”

I asked about whether it would be hitting the iPhone soon. Laurent said: “Apple acquired Polar Rose last year. They are a face recognition company – but we believe that what we have developed to work actually on the phone is very different. I suppose you could say we are Apple competitors.”

Throughout the conversation, Laurent talked up the idea of Viewdle being for “friends and family” and that “it is an extension of what young people are doing already on Facebook.”

I asked about the “Big P” that hangs over this – Privacy! Laurent said: “We’re focussed on being consumer and social. We work within that environment – and so we recognise and track the Privacy Settings in Facebook. If you are sharing your pictures with someone – then Viewdle can use them to help you.”

I checked how this would work with the SDK – allowing other organisations to build applications. He said: “We are very careful in this area. We know it is sensitive. We are going to make sure that there are the restrictions at the API level so that you can access the ‘Faceprint’ of only those people you connect with and if they allow access.”

There is no doubt that this is a fantastic bit of technology – and that people using social media will have their lives enriched. I spent many years as a professional photographer – I understand the passion to share images. It’s ground breaking – and the Viewdle video gives you a clear view of how that works on a social level. It’s great.

Personally, I am not so worried about privacy – it is ultimately an individual’s choice what they chose to share. I’m an entrepreneur – and I believe these exciting new technologies will find many great uses. However, I do think that Viewdle’s video – with its technology “here today” – will fuel the debate about the “time bomb” of what the Facebook generation chose to share about their life. The “Digital Dossier” or the “Digital Footprint”.

Reading the article on Technology Review – I was struck by one of the comments that focussed on the Orwellian implications:

The amazing thing is that Big Brother is being built without a penny in taxes. We just buy all the gadgets, voluntarily, that enable it.

I’m not so worried about Big Brother. It’s the simple things in life and relationships for me. I can’t see a future where my son will scratch his head and say to someone he thinks that he might have met before – “Do I know you?” He’ll probably know so much more (even at first contact) than he would ever want to know!

Googleing, Networking – and the activity of Pandas

February 16, 2011 2 comments

One of the best blog posts I’ve read in a long while is by Adam Rifkin.

Adam posts and twitters under the name “I Find Karma”. The post I liked was called “Pandas and Lobsters: Why Google Cannot Build Social Applications…” – and amongst other things drew the analogy of our behaviour on Google being very “panda like”. I love analogies – and Adam’s navigation

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of the social media landscape in this way is well worth a read.

Here’s the intro of the much longer article:-

After researching what pandas do all day, I was struck by how panda-like we are when we use the Internet.

Roaming a massive world wide web of forests, most of our time is spent searching for delicious bamboo and consuming it. 40 times a day we’ll poop something out — an email, a text message, a status update, maybe even a blog post — and then go back to searching-and-consuming. For a decade, Google has trained us to optimize our pandic selves:

The kind of application that Google knows how to make well are the kind that embody a panda’s “eats, shoots, and leaves” model of Internet behavior. Pandas spend every waking hour foraging — aka searching — and consuming. The most successful Google applications serve such a utilitarian mandate, too: they encourage users to search for something, consume, and move onto the next thing. Get in, do your business, get out. Do a Google search, slurp down information, move on. Pull up Google maps or Gmail or Google news, do something, leave.

I’m constantly reading blogs and articles in the press. A couple of articles have filtered through the reading pile in the last couple of days that are relevant to this panda analogy.

The first was an article in Intelligent Life (currently free to download as an iPad magazine). The article was called “Appleism v Googleism” by Robert Lane Greene – and discusses the clash of cultures between gadget-maker and search engine. The writing is great – and one particular point in the middle of the article struck a chord:-

It’s worth noting “to Apple” is not a verb.

There’s a subtle difference between the activity – Googling – and the long term affinity/passion that many have for Apple.

This linked through to a recent article I’d read by “corporate anthropologist” Karen Stephenson called “Network Management” which she had written back in 1997.

What is a network? In today’s popular literature and business press, there is a lot of talk about social and organizational networked the role they play in fomenting change. Typically, this literature focuses on the notion of “networking” as an action orientated, i.e., network as a verb……

There is a second meaning to network, however, and it is far more profound than the first. ….. network as a noun…

The three separate threads help me to conclude that Networking can be a very short-term – “eats, shoots and leaves” – style of activity. We’ve all heard of turnover focussed “busy fool activity”. Don’t get suckered in to networking without a strategic objective – it’s definitely in the “busy fool” category!

I think that more and more people are coming around to this way of thinking. I read a great blog post yesterday by Penny Power (founder of Ecademy). In her post, “#Slow Media – can we get off the Social Media hype and take care of one another”, she has one quote in there that particularly resonates:-

the ‘digital age’ that believes that connecting means ‘manipuating a connection for my own gain‘.

Networking whether face-to-face or via social media needs to be a slow process – building trust. There are way too many insincere “eats, shoots and leaves” networking activities going on. Your Personal Network should be your “fan club”/supporters – and you theirs … it’s not the people you sell to or manipulate.

Building a Personal Network, I believe is nurturing and creating your most valuable asset to last you a lifetime. It’s a strategic issue – where sometimes networking is a tactic.

Don’t be a panda with your Personal Network (pandas are an endangered species, you know!?) …..

“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…

What impression am I making? Who do I know? What do I know about them? … and many more questions – PART 1

February 3, 2011 Leave a comment

As regular readers will have noticed, I’ve moved my blog posts to a daily frequency. I was concerned that I’d find enough to write about – but in the last two weeks I’ve been struggling to filter buckets of ideas and prioritise topics.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to interview the co-founder of a new service called MyWebCareer – and expected that to be the sole topic of today’s post. However, today has seen the launch of a new Personal Relationship Management (PRM) service called Connected – and I’ve decided to feature both together in a two-part series!

The cross over of the services has given me much food for thought – so I will review

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separately and round up with conclusions in the second part.

As you can see from the title of this post, when you want to assess your Personal Network – there are a lot of questions to be answered. Both of these services provide answers – but in subtly different ways.

If Connected is offering PRM – then MyWebCareer is a PFM (Personal Footprint Manager). As well as test driving the MyWebCareer service, I also had a chance to chat to one of the co-founders, Nip Zalavadia. Nip filled me in on how the business was started and on the idea of “footprints”. It’s an intriguing story…

Nip and the co-founders come from a very different world. They have “experience in developing mission critical solutions for US Federal Law Enforcement, Intelligence, and Forensics clients.”. Nip pointed out: “Our expertise comes from one of the very few areas where Government practices are far in advance of the private sector. Footprints are the low level traces that people leave behind – and in our former employment used to help us find criminals.” The premise of MyWebCareer is that they can work for YOU to help understand the “footprint” you leave when you are on-line – and what future employers might find out about you.

To use the service, you grant MyWebCareer access to your social media acccounts (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) – and to supplement this they analyse other public data from places like Stack Overflow (particularly relevant to programmers) and trawling the “Deep Web”.

It all sounds rather sinister – and when I looked through their review of “My Score Guidance”, some of the observations were quite “spooky”. The information collated was surprisingly thorough – and their conclusions on the ball. It reminded me of the very popular YouTube video on privacy issues – and in particular ordering a pizza in the future.

Nip’s seen the video – but he and the team at MyWebCareer approach this area in a very positive way. For them it’s not about getting people frightened about what’s on-line, it’s about working on the side of his customers to help them understand how a current (or future) employer might view them.

I logged on to the service – and tested it out. The linking to each of the social media networks was very smooth – and the “Dashboard” produced was pretty informative.

MyWebCareer produces an innovative scoring method – with a benchmark and grading for different key areas. Nip explained to me that “this number is produced using sophisticated link analysis, visualization, entity extraction and semantics. In the US the number produced would be a very a familiar scoring method to anyone who tracked their credit ratings – a number called an FICO.” For those not in the US, including me, FICO is short for the Fair Isaac Corporation – a public company that provides credit scoring.

The company has a nice line from one of their Twitter fans “If @Klout and @LinkedIn had a baby, his name would be a new #Startup called @MyWebCareer.” It’s a cool description – and not far off the mark.

The really good things about the service – and is uncommon in many start-ups – is that they’ve thought through the next steps. If you’ve followed the stories here and elsewhere on LinkedIn InMaps launch – there have been many comments along the lines of “that looks great – but what does it mean? What should I do with it?”. Well MyWebCareer is ready with the next steps and answers to your questions. After it has created your score, you can then get a comprehensive breakdown of how the score was collated – and most importantly what you can do to improve it.

I’d encourage you to give MyWebCareer a try. I reckon that it took 30 minutes for me to grant access to services and review the findings. Time well spent – it certainly gave me some pointers. This Beta version is free – and the pro version will be on its way with more gizmos (and a moderate price tag soon). If you are serious about your Personal Brand – this is an important first step in looking at your Personal Network and understanding what impression you are making.

End of Part One – I’ll be back tomorrow to review Connected and then discuss how these services cross-over and compliment. If you need a reminder to pop back – do subscribe to RSS or Email newsletter on the top right (or follow me on Twitter @personalnetwork)

Mapping your Personal Network – around the world

January 31, 2011 3 comments

There’s been an amazing amount of interest in the new InMaps service from LinkedIn. The great thing about this visual feature is that it has by-passed language barriers and circled the world. If you don’t believe me, just have a quick search on Twitter for InMaps – and you’ll find many people, every hour, sharing their InMaps with the world. See the screengrab below with the tweets in many languages in a 20 minute period on Sunday.

It got me thinking. Is there a way of seeing your contacts geographically in a visual form? With the magic of Google (and a little help from Quora) – these things are never too far away.

My discovery was a Beta software called MapMyConnections. It’s a cool little visualisation software that uses the LinkedIn api. See results below from my test of the system. I think it’s another useful

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way of looking at my Personal Network (although I am a little concerned about the 24 people who seem to be on a boat – or overboard – between Liverpool and the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea!)

The application is the work of Jan Willem van Eck. He describes himself on Twitter as “crossculturalist, builds bridges, geo-minded, explorer (strateGIST at Esri Netherlands); social media enthusiast. for the love of geography”. Sounds a great guy – and he seems to have built this in his spare time with limited resources. Take a bow!

Do give MapMyConnections a spin – and please do zoom in to my map and try to explain the 24 connections who seem to be all at sea!

InMaps inventor DJ Patil talks through his LinkedIn map

January 26, 2011 6 comments

InMaps is such an exciting new feature of LinkedIn – it’s occupied my thinking on Personal Networks for the last couple of days since writing my original post on the subject. DJ Patil is the Chief Scientist at LinkedIn – and seems to have been in charge of driving this project. Watch this video to see him explaining his network (and those of a couple of others) – with the advantage of a very large piece of paper!

It’s fascinating to see that this rich map has been algorithmically defined on connections – and does not use the

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metadata (often inconsistent) input by LinkedIn users.

Over at Flowdata (the very best place to find updates on visualisation) – DJ took time to comment on the blog post by Nathan Yau (Flowdata’s founder). He said:

One thing that we should note about the calculation is that this only uses the “graph” of connections. We don’t use any other information. I think that is one of the very powerful aspects of this visualization. For example, in my case, it identifies my wife’s networks, students, people I went to grad school with, etc. Additionally there are a couple of reasons why this was a challenge. A) Getting everything to work in the browser in a smooth way from small networks (come on Nathan you need to add some connections :-)) to larger networks. B) The ability to “process” as many user’s networks as they use the site. There are over 85M users and that requires some serious processing power. We’ll do a more extensive write up when we can and I can say I was surprised by how much compute power we had to apply to make this real.

DJ’s key points are that the “groups” of different colours are formed by connections. He also discussed the challenges of implementing this sort of visualisation to the huge LinkedIn following. Would be interested to see how the servers have performed the last couple of days.

Well done DJ – this is certainly a real help to my research on Personal Networks.

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