Saturday, December 29, 2007

The death of social networking as we know it . . . Social Network Commerce

Social Network technology is only as useful as we make it. There will, however, be a point when it gets old or outlives its usefulness if all we are doing is connecting for the sake of connecting. If it's going to be more than a fad in the history books, then there should be something more than sharing information, displaying our music and video preferences, making introductions, playing games, and poking each other. Now would be a good time to figure out what to do with it.

Here are a few ideas. They center around a yet-to-catch on term . . . Social Network Commerce.

Police Departments

Some departments already distinguish between a crime in progress and the need to take a report (especially for insurance purposes). They have non-sworn personnel that either take your report on the phone or at your home. These reports are usually not followed up on unless other developments occur separately (like the recovery of a bunch of property). This program provides a convenience to the citizen and limits the cost (and the need for additional on-duty sworn officers) for the police department.

So stick your imagination cap on and think about this . . . you realize that your yard art has been damaged, your mailbox has been smashed, or your neighbor's car has been vandalized. Your local police department recently installed a social network precinct, and you already added them as a "preferred location." This virtual precinct takes reports around the clock, using either text or voice input. Follow up consists of a text confirmation or a phone call, and you can check the status of your report at any time.

Upon submission of your report, you check the block that allows your neighbors to see the type of report and a general description of what you reported. You limit their personal information visibility to the street you live on, not wanting to get a bunch of visits or calls from any nosey neighbors. You also check the block that provides you with updates. In a few moments, everyone in your neighborhood (that opted in) has received a text message or recorded voice message) with a brief summary, including the time frame you reported.

Within a couple of hours, you receive a text message that another resident on your street just reported something similar (they checked their stuff after getting the message), and you choose to allow them to communicate with you in a protected area -- accessible to you and your neighbor and the police only. You chat with your neighbor and realize that you saw the same car in your neighborhood, or that both of your teenage daughters knew the same "troublemaker," or . . . you get the point.

Would this benefit the people in the neighborhood?

Grocery Stores

Why do people spend more for milk and food at "convenience stores?" Because they are convenient. No matter what time it is, or how clear the parking lot is, the grocery store is rarely confused with something resembling "convenience." So why not shorten the time that it tales to get the essentials?

OK, this type of thing has been tried before -- with Webvan, Peapod, and the like, but it was a few years ago and those models were based more on delivery. Imagine you are in front of your computer and you are trying to squeeze in time to stop by the grocery store where you just need "a few things." Your local store recently developed (or joined) a social network storefront, and you already added them as a "preferred location." This store keeps a record (only for your benefit) of your frequent purchases, and allows you to import/export the list as a CSV file for use on your computer or smartphone (or pda, of course). They take orders for up to 15 items around the clock, also using text or voice input. You receive a text (email or SMS) confirmation or a recorded call, and you can check the status of your order at any time -- even in traffic!

You know that between 4:30 and 4:45 PM, you will be passing by the store. You access their site and click 14 of the 15 frequent purchases, and then search for a not-so-frequent purchase. You submit the order and pay for it in advance using your debit/credit/whatever card, and receive a confirmation that the order will be ready. Your order comes up on the screen in the store at 4:20, and one of the baggers is handed your shopping list and a cart.

At 4:45 you pull up to the drive through window, and the clerk recognizes you. After confirming that you want paper, not plastic, you receive two paper bags, inspect each one, and are on your way as (or more) quickly as if you had stopped at the fast-food restaurant of your choice. You are home in record time, and didn't even have to get out of your car.

Local Shopping Areas

OK, imagine this. There are a number of businesses in your city that realize that we have increasingly busy lives. They band "together" (or even better, are united by a pre-established organization like the Chamber of Commerce) to provide you what you want -- a pleasurable shopping experience. Each store provides a list of a certain number of their wares on a site and allows you to see what they have -- before you head off for downtown. That way, you can make sure you find what you are looking for (guaranteeing them a sale), and you have more time to "enjoy" the experience (and spend money at the local coffee shop afterwards). They might even allow you to purchase the item for pickup, or allow you to pay for it with your cell phone and your mobile bank account when you arrive, but that's another post.

So would this work? Jay Deragon's recent post makes the observation that "A business is driven by the need to produce revenue and subsequent profits for its stakeholders." Doesn't that mean that business are in business to be profitable? Shouldn't that mean they provide value to the consumer? For most people who like the "get in and get out" shopping method, I think it's a winner. Doc Searls is focusing on VRM (Vendor Relationship Management), and recently observed that "the Net has been seen as a way to remove the humanity from markets." This strategy gives a bit of a nod to humanity, while still offering convenience -- something we are demanding (whether we receive it or not) more and more. I realize some people enjoy "the hunt" and that actually purchasing something is not part of the game. It won't be mandatory that we pre-order, but it sure would be convenient. These two shopping types can co-exist easily, and meet for coffee afterwards!

Why does this represent the death of social networking as we know it? Because Social Network Commerce takes it to a new level. "Computers" were there. They needed people to use them for more than gaming before they were widely accepted. "The Internet" was there. It needed something for people to do on it besides just "be on it." And now, Social Networking is there. If we don't use it as a commodity then it will remain a hobby, or even worse -- an expense (think about the bass boat in your back yard) and those don't pay the bills.

What do you think?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

How I got started on Social Networking (MySpace, LinkedIn, and Facebook edition)

Though I am a lifelong Introvert, I have always been social.

I spent several years in policework, where no matter how much you didn't want to, you always had to talk to people -- usually about some pretty personal matters.

It was kind of like being in customer service for a funeral director. No one ever wanted us around unless something really bad happened to them, and it was clear that we better not screw up while we were invading their space.

After I retired from policework, I spent some time in sales -- mostly sales of services. I had to describe something that someone else would deliver at a yet-to-be-determined, likely inconvenient, time in the future. That's a really intangible thing to do, 'cause if you cannot say when it will show up and you can't describe it well you cannot tell when it works. Fortunately, you ALWAYS know when it doesn't. The unknowns, of course, made it fun, and I found it very enjoyable.

In both policework and sales, I realized, perhaps intuitively, that making connections with others was the way to "do business." I ultimately enjoyed meeting new people, and often kept in contact with people I had met, especially if we had a few things in common. So how'd I get into online social networking?

Here's a brief history of my experiences, in the context of three sites: MySpace, LinkedIn, and Facebook. There are others, and there are others I have joined, but these are the "big three," though not necessarily in the order listed.

I am the father of teenagers - two teenage boys, to be precise. As teenagers, they have to be involved in things their friends are involved in. As it turned out, their friends were involved in MySpace. Both my kids (in their early teens at the time) swallowed their integrity and alleged that they were old enough to sign up (this is reminiscent of someone copying a video tape or disk that has the FBI warning at the beginning).

After I discovered (refer back to the police training) that the only way to see their MySpace account was to be their friend, I decided to be friends with my kids. My older son was instantly impressed when he found out -- I think I got some cool points, at least initially. He received my friend "request" and said, "Hey dad, you got a MySpace . . . COOL!" On reflection, I think that this was the only time he ever thought so. Shortly after gaining access to his site, I "recommended" that he remove my home phone number and my address from his site. I then suggested that he review the site and remove anything that would cause his mother to blush. I've done this a couple of times since, but there are fewer and fewer problems.

My younger son witnessed this interaction and questioned the logic of adding his dad as a "friend." After a couple of days during which I waited patiently for him to add me, he casually asked what would happen if he chose not to. I just as casually responded that I would honor his decision by banning him from the MySpace community. He added me shortly thereafter.

My Entrepreneur side kicked in when a colleague invited me to join the LinkedIn network. I started out copying and pasting the "about me" stuff from my MySpace profile, but quickly realized it wasn't the same type of forum. MySpace was all "social," while LinkedIn was all about "networking," I saw the power of LinkedIn for business purposes, and began tuning and re-tuning my profile. Adding contacts became a hobby, and when the LinkedIn Answers section opened up, I realized I had found a niche.

I've noticed that only a portion of those with whom I would otherwise be connected are actually on LinkedIn. For them, I still have to make time to email or call them to get an update on their professional accomplishments. For the rest of us, there's LinkedIn. Maybe it's because LinkedIn hasn't been around more than a few years. Perhaps it's because no one has invited them. I'm not sure why it is, but I have connections all over the place, and a rapidly growing network.

I have been a college professor off-and-on for several years. When I started doing so on a fulltime basis, I realized that most of my students had a Facebook account. I realized that if I wanted to genuinely connect with my students, I needed to add another social network site to my repertoire. As before, I started out copying the stuff from my MySpace profile, but saw subtle differences in the atmosphere at Facebook. While MySpace was more bells and whistles, Facebook was more words and pictures. It just seemed more "cultured" than MySpace.

In any event, just about all of the students in my classes had accounts, and I had a couple dozen friends within a few days of mentioning that I had an account. I made a point not to send out friend requests because I didn't want there to be any perception of "pressure" or "favoritism." For the most part, I have maintained that philosophy, but have shifted strategies a little in favor of LinkedIn and network building.

There's something about Facebook. Like the other sites, it gives you a chance to catch up on the developments in the lives or your friends and other acquaintences. It also gives you a unique (more transparent) perspective on people with whom you have only corresponded via email, phone call, or other form of message transference. There are some who have a little difficulty accepting this (see my previous post titled "Get over it").

So there it is - a brief history of my adventure into the social networking scene. I have some overlap in my networks, but for the most part they are three separate areas. I'm not sure why there isn't more interconnectivity . . .

What do you think?

Friday, December 21, 2007

The CEOs new social network strategy

At some point in the recent past, there lived a CEO who cared so much for cutting-edge technology and unusual ways to increase market share that he spent a sizeable amount of his company’s profit on finding and implementing new ideas. One day, he realized that many of his employees had embraced the new “social networking” phenomenon, and decided to find a way to harness the power of this new technology to secure the future of his company. He instructed his managers to direct their minions on the appropriate way to represent the company in their off time. He made sure that there was no inexperienced addressing of product quality issues, and there were no online discussions that might expose trade secrets.

The CEO even got in on the action, and before long he had a login for every social networking site. He spent most of his time checking out the activities and connections of his employees and regularly changing his profile picture so that everyone would get an update and might see his handsome face and know that he was watching (and learning).

One day there came to the company two rogues who set themselves up as social networking gurus. They said they knew how to establish the company as a market leader while providing a venue for capitalizing on the social networking phenomenon and increase not only the bottom line, but also the position of the company in the global marketplace. The samples and statistics they showed were beautiful.

"I must have a strategy designed by these networking gurus," thought the CEO. "When I announce this decision at the annual company webinar, I will find out which of my executives and business partners are not fit for their positions. I shall know the brilliant minds and visionaries from the has-beens. Those networking gurus must be brought to me at once."

So the two rogues came to the Executive suite. The CEO asked to check out their profiles on a variety of sites, but they advised that was not possible, and their personal networking efforts and activities were relatively non-existent. They explained that only those who studied the space were able to help others understand it, and that participation in the space was something they “just didn’t have time for.” They noted that this information could not be understood by anyone who was stupid or unfit for his position within the company, but they assured the CEO that they could deliver results. The CEO gave them a vast sum of money so they could begin designing the company strategy immediately.

The rogues put up two cutting edge computer systems, with multiple monitors, and began building a closed social network that would allow the company to synergize the brainpower of employees across all divisions. They designed file-sharing systems that would allow multiple-user edits. They made sure that all who signed on automatically had the CEO and their supervisor as a contact, and they provided a recommend-connection mode that allowed supervisors to see who should be connected and communicating but was not. They designed policy that allowed for up to one hour per workday for socializing with others in the company, and encouraged employee access from home via VPN.

They expensed trips to remote locations and had lunch with some of the best and brightest strategists in the social networking space, charging the costs to the company. They worked steadily at the computers, building their own reputations on many of the largest and most profitable niche sites, and cruised the lonely matchmaker websites until far into the night.

Day after day, the CEO could hear the clicking of the keyboards. He became very curious to see the wonderful strategy these rogues were developing; and he decided to send someone to find out how the networking gurus were doing. But he remembered that no one who was stupid or was unfit for his position would understand their strategy.

"I will send my COO to the gurus," thought the CEO. "He is a very clever man, and no one is more worthy of his position than he."

So the COO went into the office where the two rogues sat working at the computers. The rogues explained the networking strategy that linked employees to one another, enabling them to capitalize on institutional wisdom and build on it – even on their own time. He stared and stared, and opened his eyes wide.

"I am in so much trouble!" he thought. "It looks like they are closing us off from our customers." He thought to ask the gurus how building a gated community would interface with the envisioned social networking strategy, but he said nothing at all.

"Step a little closer," said the rogues. "Check out these graphics! And the colors - are they not wonderful?" And they pointed to the computer screen.

The COO put on his glasses, and looked and looked at the computer screen; but he could not figure out how this closed environment supported his company’s outreach strategy.

"Oh no!" he said to himself. "Is it possible that I am unfit for my office? Certainly, no one must know it. Am I a complete idiot? I will never say that I cannot understand this strategy!"

"Well, sir, what do you think of it?" asked one of the rogues.

"Oh, it is exciting – wonderful!" said the COO, as he peered through his glasses. "The colors are gorgeous and the graphics are excellent. I shall tell the CEO that I am very pleased with your strategy."

"We are glad to hear you say so," said the rascals. And they continued talking of the design and vision for strategy implementation. They estimated the ongoing costs, and described the benefits. The COO listened carefully, for he wished to repeat to the CEO all that was said.

Soon the rogues began to ask for more funding for their work. All that was given to them they put into their pockets. Not a single dime was ever put into improving the company strategy.

The CEO sent another faithful friend, the CMO, to see the gurus’ work and inquire how soon the strategy would be ready, as the webinar was scheduled to happen soon. But the CMO fared no better than the COO. He stood before the computer screens, and looked and looked and looked, but he saw no useful strategy.

"Isn't this great stuff?" asked the two rogues. Then they praised the gorgeous colors and explained the design and its relationship to the current networking strategy, which was nonexistent.

"Oh, dear!" thought the CMO. "Surely I am not stupid. It must be that I am unfit for my position. That is very strange, as I have impeccable credentials and a resume that is very impressive. But I must not let it be known that I cannot understand this."

"Ah!" said he. "The strategy is most unusual; and the colors are marvelous. I shall tell the CEO what fine progress you are making."

Soon every one in the company was talking about the wonderful strategy that the two networking gurus were designing. The CEO thought that he would like to see the draft while it was still in the works. With a number of his executives, he went to visit the two rogues, who were working diligently, day after day, without really doing anything new.

Among the executives that accompanied the CEO were the two who had already visited the gurus. They thought that the others would see something in the strategy that made good business sense, so they began to cry out at once, "Look! Do you understand this insightful strategy? And the technology and design - are they not cutting edge?"

"What is this?" thought the CEO. "I see nothing new at all! Am I not fit to be CEO? Am I an idiot? If that were known, I will be terminated."

"Yes, yes, it is very exciting," said the CEO aloud. "I could not be more pleased."

He smiled and nodded his head, and stared at the computer screens. His executives, too, looked and looked, but saw no more than the others. Yet they all cried, "It is wonderful." And the rogues asked the CEO to provide some input on their draft design of his profile page, which they would roll out during the upcoming webinar.

The CEO put each of the rogues on his top connections list, and strongly recommended their work, calling them “Corporate Network Strategy Gurus.”

As the day of the webinar came nearer, the two rogues worked around the clock, inhaling energy drinks, and walking around the halls to keep their thoughts flowing. They were up the whole night before the webinar. They kept the lights on, their computer speakers cranked, and their plans for success empty.

Through the huge windows of the rogues' borrowed corner office, the employees could see they were hard at work. They edited and re-edited page upon page of code. They made drawings on whiteboards and sketched out designs on page after page of easel pad paper stuck to the walls. They wrote, revised, and re-worked; and at last, they said, "The strategy is ready."

The CEO, with his executives and board members surrounding him, went to examine the new strategy.

The rogues pointed to the computer screens as if there was something exciting there. "See!" they said. "Here is the website! Here is your profile! Here are your contacts! The company logo is watermarked in the cleverest places. You can drag-and-drop pictures, upload spreadsheets, interface with other internal corporate databases, and talk amongst yourselves as freely as if you were in a bank vault. That is the beauty of it."

"It is marvelous," said the executives. Yet the whole time they really understood nothing, for there was nothing to understand – this was all a (barely) new spin on an old business practice.

"Will you please provide us a quote for our press release?" asked the rogues of the CEO. "Then we will make a joint announcement, just in time to increase the excitement and attraction of the webinar."

The CEO deleted all his external networking website profiles, and issued a directive to have all his employees and company leaders to do the same. The rogues then showed each of the executives their new profiles. They had music and videos, and made a big deal about each one.

"How great an idea this is!" said the executives. "What a great strategy! What a wonderful idea!"

The CEO clicked on friend after friend, checking out each profile. He adjusted his top friends, posted on walls, sent instant messages, and even posted a few videos, and nodded his head enthusiastically.

"The webinar is about to launch," said one of his executives.

"I am ready," said the CEO. He gave one last click on his “about me” and prepared for the camera.

The two masters of ceremonies launched their browsers. They had yet to see the design of the site, as they wanted their own excitement to be expressed in their dialog. But they could not access the site, as they were not company employees. They assumed it was a technical glitch, and did not dare let it be known that they saw nothing. At least they could see the streaming video!

The CEO smiled at the camera, with the new site displayed on a 42-inch screen behind him, and all his executives stood beside him, with smiles on their faces. But those attending the webinar – the suppliers and partners, looked only at the screen behing the CEO, for they all wanted to see this wonderful site.

"How handsome the CEO's profile is!" they all cried. "What a great design! How well it represents him!" And they rushed to open a new window on their computer so they could check the site out in real time.

And they were all instantly depressed. None of them would admit that they could see nothing, for that would have proved them very stupid and unfit for a relationship with the company. No website strategy launch had ever been so widely announced or richly funded.

"But there’s nothing there!" said a customer in the chat room.

"Hush! Hush!" said a value-added reseller, “you must not have the new version of Java installed. Call Tech Support after the Webinar. Trust me, this thing is BiG! And, it’s revolutionary!”

But the customers, vendors, and suppliers began to private message one another about what the customer had said; "There’s nothing there! The customers cannot access the site!"

Soon all the suppliers were typing into the chat room, "But, we cannot access the site!"

The CEO saw what they said, and he shivered, for he knew that their words were true. He had agreed on the strategy because it was so familiar. Keep everything close-hold. Make it so contact with the company from outside is a privilege that is earned, not a natural response to an attempt to get information by a potential customer. But he couldn’t stop the process; and so he held his head up, put on his best fake smile, and continued his speech. And behind him, his executives smiled and nodded, and helped drive the company into the bankruptcy courts – even without a bursting bubble.

This contemporary portrayal of denial, rewritten from Hans Christian Andersen’s rewrite of an old Spanish story, was designed to provide a thought-provoking perspective regarding how social media (and other new technologies) can be seen by those entrenched in the status quo of yesterday’s business model. Will tomorrow’s successful companies apply the old rules in the relationship economy? Only time will tell!

The convergence of thoughts and ideas

Have you ever had the opportunity to see exactly why certain things happen or happened? I'm talking about going through a process, for days, weeks, perhaps months, and at the end you are able to connect all the dots.

Those are some pretty exciting times, aren't they?

I think that in order for such things to happen, we as individuals need to let our guard down and communicate - share our unstructured ideas - with others in a free form, fairly unrestricted way. Done properly, this will incite those around us to let loose and do the same. True contagion sets in, and soon we realize that this synergy has caused a convergence of thought, mixed (seriously) with multiple ideas.

That's when the fun begins!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

At some point it all comes together!

Have you ever noticed that just when you think you have it all figured out, something changes? I first noticed this in my early teenage years, though of course I never admitted to anyone.

I may have noticed it a few more times since, but recently I noticed it in a different perspective than ever before.

About halfway through this year, I noticed that I had been adding a lot of stuff to my "things to get done in 2007" plate. It wasn't long before I was seriously wondering if I would be able to get to them all, but somehow, without missing too much sleep, everything got done (or will be soon).

Sometimes, it was simply brute force that made it work, sometimes a little finesse, and on a few cases it was nothing other than Divine intervention (thanks!).

In the end (of the year), it appears that everything will be completed - on time. I guess that means I should make a New Years resolution not to fill up my plate so much. Or maybe I could resolve to keep on pushing the envelope. Or maybe . . .

What do you think?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Ten Useful Rules for Novice Networkers

I've had a bit of a break (not from thinking, just from sharing), and realized I need to change something. It's important to be fresh, right? In the interest of sharing, here's my thoughts on the 10 things that newbies to networking (online, of course) can do to get their feet wet:

1) start an account
The toughest part (as a procrastinator) is often the first step -- getting started. So pick a network, create an account, upload a flattering picture, and log off. It'll take a couple minutes -- big deal. You've entered the world of online social networking -- congratulations! You may want to get a free email account to use for contact purposes, but I haven't found it necessary to add yet another to my list since I get very little spam from any of the sites that I use.

2) see how many people you know that are already there
Most of the social networking sites have a feature where you can access your online email (Gmail, aim, Yahoo!, etc.) or local address book to compare notes and find out who among those you already communicate with is already there (the list may surprise you). I have never heard of this being a security issue, and I have used the feature several times. Note that these services compare email addresses, not names, city, state, etc. You may also reverse steps 1 and 2 by sending an email to a select few contacts to see which social networking site they use most. I suspect it will be one of those pictured above . . .

3) test the waters
Go ahead -- click on the hyperlinks located througout the site. See what the site offers for free (most will offer enough to keep you interested without ever charging a dime). Click here, click there . . . explore! See what others have posted on their profile page -- get ideas for your own.

4) join a group
Each site is slightly different, but there should be a place for groups that folks can join based on shared demographics, interests, etc. Join one -- any one -- and check it out. You can always un-join, but many will allow you to preview the group a little before joining.

5) make a new friend
These sites realize that we come back to a place (in the "real" world and the "virtual") when we know someone there and enjoyed our experience. You should realize that too, and plan for success. As you are exploring and joining groups, make a new friend! It's not all that different than it is face-to-face, except no one has to decide who is paying for the drinks :-).

6) talk in public
As you venture throught the groups and communities, find a place where you can post something . . . anything. It's a start! Just post someting simple like a hello and a question: "Hi, I was just checking out this group and wondered how often you guys check the messages." If you've added friends, make a note on their profile page -- perhaps simply a "Hi!"
Say something!

7) make a public post
Now that you said something in public, it's time to build your confidence. In the group area or community there is likely to be a place where more substantive posts can be made. These contain views, opinions, and things that you might otherwise not say immediately after introducing yourself to someone. Follow the lead of those who have already posted (unless they received a cold shoulder response from others). Make a post at least as long as one of the paragraphs in this post, even if it is only in response to someone else.

8) find reasons to communicate
One of the "tricks" of networking is to be ever-watchful for opportunities to communicate with your contacts. If you just met someone who works in outdoor grill sales and you see an article that says stainless steel exteriors are better than castiron, send that person a link to the article and ask for their input. If you just met someone who is thinking about relocating to Topeka and you see something about cities (like Topeka) that have the highest cost of living, send them the link and ask if they know about the information. Develop this habit and you will be at the top of your game before you know it.

9) introduce two others for no reason
As you intentionally network and communicate, you will not only find things to talk about but also people who should be talking to each other -- even without you. Tell them! There's nothing better than being introduced to a person you "need to meet" by someone who has no vested interest in the introduction or the relationship that follows. Be a Networking Matchmaker!

10) repeat 1-9
Do each of these until you do it out of habit. Post the list on your computer. Take a look at it every day.

How have you done so far? Don't worry if you haven't mastered any of these yet -- few people ever do. The list is not all-inclusive, but these are the basics. You will see them work and you will also find many excuses to put them off. I encourage you to follow through with your ideas as you come up with them. It's best to take an idea and run with it -- especially if you have the procrastination gene (like me).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

been quiet

I know the posting has been missing lately, other irons in the fire were getting very hot.

Check out


Monday, November 05, 2007

What's your greatest fear?

First, here's an update on the Cop Connection Network. We have a presence on a growing number of social networking sites. Check any of these out, and if you qualify, join the group:

The Cop Connection Network

The Cop Connection Network is an invitation-only network where cops can meet others in the field that are available to assist them in the future (like what should happen when you go to a conference). It's made for cops, by cops, to do what has yet to be done -- help with investigations, networking, training, grant-writing, policy drafting and collaboration.

We're contacting every police officer, sheriff's deputy, corrections officer, jailer, probation and parole officer, trooper, security guard, and anyone in a related field around the planet (and other planets if they have an Internet connection) and telling them about the Cop Connection Network.

As has been noted elsewhere, my understanding of the "network" in social networks means a parole officer in Michigan on LinkedIn could request an introduction to a police officer in Brazil via InMail, that travels via a Corrections Officer on Facebook (Mobile) in Sweden, who emails the message to a jailer in New Zealand he met on MySpace, who calls his retired friend in Arizona using jaxtr or Grand Central who sends an SMS text message using Skype to the guy in Brazil . . . in under an hour.

I don't plan to limit the Cop Connection Network to one site, because I expect (soon) the development of a cross-platform management program, and in the interim, I have the time to check the various locations and get/re-post messages. Think of the Cop Connection network as a headquarters for policing, corrections, and the courts. Each of the above sites are like precincts or satellite offices. We've already got Google opening the cross-platform communications mode with OpenSocial. And there are many developers working on an aggregator for users. Next, I think there will be one for groups, and we'll be there! And dare we ask for this to be a mobile solution, too? I cannot wait to be invited to participate in the mashup of Dashwire and ProfileLinker!

In the development of this network, my biggest concern is that we have secure access for social networking. This has been a concern in the social networking space for at least four years (more like a thousand in human years), as documented by SecurityFocus. I'm the webmaster on several police-related websites, and I cannot tell you in (publicly used) words how frustrating it is to find out that the site was hacked (again) by yet another resident of one of the countries we used to consider as the "third world." The alternative is complete secrecy, but then you face the trade off that depreciates membership . . .

The US Military portal requires the use of an individual-specific card, n compliance with Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12/HSPD-12 (check out the specs on the Department of Defense Common Access card). That would be nice, but isn't there an easier way to verify identity?

I'm not asking for a multi-encrypted 35 character alphanumeric password, but could someone please invent a fingerprint scanner for everyone else's computer and smart phone that will allow certain sites (like ours) to ask for verification?

So anyway, that's my "biggest concern." In reality, not much makes me afraid . . .

If all this social networking stuff is making absolutely no sense, take a moment to check out Scott Allen's link to "Social Networking in Plain English."

Speaking of Scott, if you realize just how powerful online networking is, you have got to check out his last book, The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online, available at In it, he discusses the dynamics and diversity you should see in your social network.

I'm working on that in mine -- see below.

Monday, October 08, 2007

I don't have time not to have time.

I've realize that there are two options for those of us who like to spin a lot of plates on the end of a stick . . . Limit sleep or work faster. I've yet to determine which will work best in the long run, but I have a new mantra . . . I don't have time not to have time.

All the plans, projects, and visions in the world cannot slow down progress, so we have to pick what we get involved in. Sometimes I pick too many, and they seem to self-prioritize. Infrequently I pick too few, and I go stir-crazy for up to ten minutes.

In any case, we have our networks to depend on (and to support). Wouldn't it be great of we could share the load with them?

The Cop Connection Intro Video

In a prior post, I outlined my thoughts on network(ing) terminology. I've yet to receive any serious confrontations, so apparently there's a consensus.

John Dierckx recently revisited Michael Pokocky's essay on The Collaborative Concentric Networking Model where it was noted that no one really knows what networking really is. It means different things to different people, and the constant is that people are desperate to belong to something larger than themselves and willingly join network after network until the idea finally sets in that they really don't want their lives to be so complicated. Interestingly, Fred Thompson's wife, Jeri noted in a recent interview that she learned growing up that 'There are things in life bigger than yourself: God, government and the greater sense of community are three of them.' See the Tennessean article.

Our networks cannot replace any of those, but they may try to take time away from them. Pokocky noted that Collaborative Concentric Networking supports those of us who feel the need to connect without the need to connect in each location. He noted that it encourages multi-community networking for the purpose of building one's own Collaborative Concentric Network, which is unique to the individual, and effective in building relationships between friends, colleagues, business associates, etc., to build one's own center of influence while reducing the time wasted now by not using one's communities effectively.

See Michael Pokocky's essay on The Collaborative Concentric Networking Model, reprinted here.

Will Reader of Sheffield Hallam University in Britain observed: "Although the numbers of friends people have on these sites can be massive, the actual number of close friends is approximately the same in the face to face real world." He noted that most people have five close friends, and this was no different among users of social networks. If we could all stop there, what would be the point of having technology that helps us track everyone? I appreciate and agree with Reader's observations, but I am confident there's something missing in the analysis . . .

Meanwhile, in the David and Goliath like face-off (Facebook vs. MySpace), it appears spammers and Microsoft may be increasing the odds. Wee and Levy pointed out what I think seems to be the deciding factor . . . Facebook won users because the site may be more private. It is designed to encourage people to use true identities, whereas MySpace has more anonymity and has been forced to confront reports of sexual predators on its site. Facebook also started a $10-million (U.S.) fund to encourage software developers to create customized games and videos. See the Globe and Mail.

I'm still working out the kinks on the Cop Connection, and currently focusing on adding new friends (with whom I am, admittedly, building not-so-deep relationships) so when we see where opportunity and preparedness meet we will be able to focus. We've got a Facebook group, a MySpace Group, a LinkedIn group, and a Google group, and there's the main site, as well, at In the coming week we'll be in several discussions on how best to implement the mix of overlapping groups in need of security and privacy, while mixing in content and connectivity and interaction . . .

So we proceed while the larger social networking battle continues, and the results will be interesting. One thing's for sure, though . . .I don't have time not to have time.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

All for one and one for all

In my post regarding Networking, online networking, audio networking, and direct networking, I described networking, ultimately, as the action of building one's network of friends and acquaintances. If networking doesn't require action, what does it need? I mention that in this context because I am loathe to try to harness the wind. I am also disinclined to limit my network to just one site. This view, however, promises to make life very challenging unless technology catches up (fast) with vision . . .

At present, there is a presence of some kind for the Cop Connection Network on 1) The CCN site, 2) LinkedIn, 3) Facebook, 4) Myspace, and 5) Google groups (and the Facebook and MySpace Groups have a link to the Introductory video). In the near future, I will add 6) MSN, and 7) Yahoo, and will then begin prioritizing a strategy for evaluating the need/benefit of a presence on sites like Xing and Xanga and Bebo and others (I'll gladly accept recommendations, by the way :-). The essential reason for this decision is that I think at some point we use these sites due to habit and preference. Ultimately, there promises to be simple-to-use software that will allow cross-platform postings and updates. I believe it will be soon (about the time that managing an umbrella network like CCN becomes unworkable) that a useful interface will allow us to do cross-platform communication (maybe a translator widget :-). There's more later on this solution, but first let's examine networking in policing.

In the context of networking with those involved in policing, I have learned a few things. For the most part, cops like to be social, but they also like their privacy. Anyone who has ever read any pre-1990 Joseph Wambaugh books can attest to both of these claims, but I want to explore a bit more. The challenge of encouraging many in the field to do any sort of online networking can be tough.

I'm not sure, though, whether the effort that it takes to do online networking is the problem, or whether it is the perceived lack of privacy provided by these networks. By privacy, I am actually referring to a combination of 1) not wanting anyone else to "know my business" and 2) not wanting those who I don't affirmatively share "my business" with to have access to it. The first can be overcome with time - as we get to know people (and their "business"), we tend to share more of us with them. The second is more difficult to explain.

I spent some time working in the area of Crime Prevention, a field that has now become a very lucrative (for others) calling. The focus of crime prevention consultation, as we practiced it, was finding the balance between security and convenience. It was not unlike the method we use to choose a password for our techno-presence. Most have figured out that choosing no password, or one that replicated our username, is the easiest (more convenient) way. But there are people in this world who have the desire to cause us harm (physically, financially, or otherwise) and those people are smart enough to try those easy (convenient) passwords in order to get to our stuff.

So the experts recommend that we use a strong, tough to guess (security) password, one similar to the combination of your initials and 6-digit date of birth shuffled in with those of your wife, mother, and twenty of your closest neighbors. None of us could remember a password like that, so we would be required to write it down, thereby exposing ourselves to those wishing to do us harm that have access to where we stored the password. Consequently, we come up with something that is easy to remember (convenience) but hard to guess (security). In my case, I would intersperse numbers that looked like letters into a fairly long word that I could easily remember -- like razzledazzle (or R@zz13D@zz13, in encoded form).

Feel free to Google that - you can use it as your own password, too if you want . . . I never have.

Note that this method looks remarkably similar to the cyberspeak seen on todays walls and text messages. I'm thinking the criminals of tomorrow are learning their code language today . . .

If that makes sense to you . . . Here's the follow up. Many cops feel the same as I do. We like convenience, but we need the perception of security. It may be that no online site has real security, but at this point in time, the open concept just doesn't seem to work well.

Consequently, this network -- the Cop Connection Network -- will need to exist in more than one location -- like air, our thoughts, and (of course) God. It cannot be limited to one location, as this constriction could cause the network to fail (or at least be more limited than needed).

There may be good news on the horizon, and some of it may be right here, right now. There are indication that we already have a form of hub for our social networks available so we can take the time used to log in to all our networks and apply it elsewhere -- check out what Gmail (or any E-mail Account) can do, with these step-by-step directions on how to:

  • use Gmail to post to social networks
  • track your friends and their replies using Gmail
  • build a "lifebase" inside Gmail that maintains a record of your various friends/connections
  • use Gmail to prioritize the right friends and weed out the ones you want to un-friend
In this post, Steve Rubel provides examples for using Gmail to collect Facebook and Twitter posts. It appears solutions for other social network sites won't be too far behind.

Meanwhile, Jay Deragon is providing a glimpse at the (apparently) not-so-distant future, when he notes the forthcoming emergence of a user centric social web portal in which we can manage all out activity -- like a social dashboard. Jay has apparently seen a demonstration of this capability, so stay tuned.

What do you think?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Online (Social) Networking - What does it really mean?

I've realized that many of us are experiencing a terminology challenge as we explore the online social networking world. There are some who use the term social networking to identify the action of building one's network, whether in the real or virtual world. Others limit their use of the term to those actions where they are adding and cultivating their relationships with friends and acquaintences they have officially connected to in an online social networking site. And others distinguish between the connections made for business and pleasure. (a service of Tech Target) defines social networking as "the practice of expanding the number of one's business and/or social contacts by making connections through individuals." They note that the "unparalleled potential of the Internet" serves as a major catalyst, and that the social networking sites serve to "help people make contacts that would be good for them to know, but that they would be unlikely to have met otherwise." See

PC Mag has no such definition for the action, but they do define the result. A social network is an "association of people drawn together by family, work or hobby." They note that the term was first coined by professor J. A. Barnes in the 1950s, who defined the size of a social network as a group of about 100 to 150 people. PC Mag also notes that social networking sites compete for attention much like the first Web portals when the Internet exploded onto the scene in the mid-1990s.

That's why I think the network-without-walls concept is needed. Perhaps it's too trusting in the advances of technology, but if a network is constrained by competition, doesn't that sort of defeat the purpose (and fly in the face of the underlying purpose of free enterprise)? My thought is that a network (before the "unparalleled potential of the Internet") was not limited to one household, city, profession, website, or even language, and it should not be so limited now. A network should be comprised of a variety of people of multiple ages, races, experiences, skills, callings, locations, and passions. Otherwise, the plain-vanilla flavor of the old-school corporate "build it how you want it, not how they'll use it" mentality that still plagues the likes of IBM, General Motors, and the government officials in a variety of locations, will take over the social networks and we'll all be back to square one.

So what do we do with these definitional challenges? As I've stated before, I am convinced of the power of online (social) networking, but we have to be able to use a term that all can relate to.

Thus, I propose we refer to the action of building one's network of friends and acquaintenances, whether for personal or professional reasons, as networking. I also suggest that when we refer to the action of building one's network of friends and acquaintenances, whether for personal or professional reasons, in the online environment, we call it online networking. And, I propose that we refer to the action of building one's network of friends and acquaintenances, whether for personal or professional reasons, in a voice-only exchange (whether on a traditional phone call or any number of digital connections like VOIP) as audio networking. And, if we are engaging in communication with other individuals where we can see their expressions and actions (like in a video conference or face-to-face encounter), I propose that we refer to that action of building one's network of friends and acquaintenances, whether for personal or professional reasons, as direct networking.

What do you think?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Declaration of Social Neworking Independence (User Declaration of Independence)

Monday, October 01, 2007 - We, the people of social networks, should declare our Independence from social networking platforms for personal and professional gain. We declare the emergence of The Relationship Economy based on individual freedom for collective gains from value given. We, the people, see our world as an abundance of opportunity to create increased value for our networks throughout our world.

When in the Course of Human events it becomes necessary for one people to stand for the bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of technology, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which compel them to the opportunity of gain from their efforts which are gains for others.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all networking platforms are created equal, that they are endowed by their creators with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Economic gains.

That to secure these rights, Networks are instituted among individuals, deriving their just powers from the consent of the networking platform technologies, — That whenever any Form of a Networking Platform becomes limiting of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to expand it, and to institute new A Networking Platform Declaration, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to enhance their Life, Liberty and Economic gains.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Networking Platforms long established should not be changed for irrational limiting causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to follow, while following is sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the platforms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of usage and lack of user focus, pursuing invariably the economic gains for platform operators evinces a design to reduce the economic gains for those that produce the platform value, it is our right, it is our duty, to enlighten such platforms and their users, and to provide new models for ours and their future security. — Such has been the patient following of users of networking platforms; and such is now the necessity which constrains us to alter the former models of networking platform thinking.

The history of the present Networking Platforms is a history of repeated business models that prescribe to scarcity thinking and top down hierarchies, all having as the direct goal the establishment of an absolute use of we the peoples efforts, contributions and content that drives the economic value of a networking platform. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

1. Networking Platforms make money off the time and contributions of we the people.
2. Networking Platforms are not thinking abundantly for the accommodation of a larger market of people, instead they assume existing users will continue to provide content and increase the size of networking platform by inviting others to join and do so without compensation.
3. Networking Platforms are creating silos which steals the very productivity of we the people as individuals.
4. Networking Platforms are not listening to We the people who create much of their value.
5. While there is an abundance of networking platforms there is a scarcity of time for we the people to maintain our contributions across multiple platforms.

We, therefore, the Representatives of Link To Your World, in consensus, appealing to the individuals using networking platforms worldwide for the rectitude of our collective intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of Our World, solemnly publish and declare, That these united individuals are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent Individuals, that we are Absolved from all Allegiance to any one networking platform, and that we are entitled to unite and create new thinking that expands the very nature of “social networking” to include increased gains from those that create the very value of “networks”.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our individuality, our voice, our efforts and our honor to help one another improve our world through creative development of our own networking platforms where we the people share economic gains with our technological, advertising and content partners.

We the people declare our independence from any one networking platform and unite our world through the development of our own individual networking platform for the cause of The Relationship Economy. The Human Network is being born.

If you agree with this Declaration please declare your support by digital response and agreement. Your support can be facilitated by voting your position using the posted poll and digital signature with your vote, name and email will suffice. Visit Link to Your World to do this.

That's my digital response. What do you think?


Friday, September 28, 2007

Are we networking for social purposes, or socializing for networking purposes?

Social Networking is not a website, it's not a technology, and it's not a lifestyle. It's life. It's how we exist and interface with those around us. It may use websites like The Cop Connection Network, MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Bebo, and Link To Your World. It may include traditional (this year anyway) technology like desktops from Gateway, Dell and HP (didn't they used to make printers?), and laptops from IBM/Lenovo, Apple, or Toshiba. It may include pocket or palm devices with the latest Microsoft (or Palm) operating system, and even smart-phones with who knows what makes them work.

Social Networking may include regular meetings like those at BNI and LeTip. It might be strengthened by relationships between people from Borneo and Hong Kong, and Denmark and the UAE. It may involve text messages, emails, wikis, or even snail mail correspondence.

But at the end of the day, social networking is about people, and our relationships with them.

Here are the rules as I understand them.

1) Social Networking must be transparent, or as transparent as possible.
I don't think a network should be limited to one site, as I believe a real network extends far beyond a site, or sites for that matter. As an example, if you and I corresponded before MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and we were both in correspondence with others in our field, I am sure that you would have met people who knew me and vice-versa. We develop ties with people that strengthen when we see how we are connected and look for other ways to be connected.

Adam Ostrow found 15 really useful ways you can already utilize the open authentication system. I've noted them, and explored a few, but I'm just not "there" yet. I don't have the faith and trust in everyone in the world and those who collaborate on the software that provides this open framework. I like to meet people, share ideas, brainstorm, solve the world's problems, and talk about fun places to go and fun things to do, but . . . Between OpenID and the murmurings coming from the likes of Google, Microsoft, and Just Search For Me, I am convinced that we are only months away from a manageable profile that inserts anywhere we want, and I think we should be able to take our baggage with us. I, for one, am tired of copying and pasting "about me" from one site to the next.

2) A few strong connections are better than lots of weak ones.
Mark Kerrigan recently wrote about the "currency" of the future -- the number and quality of the relationships a person has. He noted there was value not in knowing a lot of people, but in having quality relationships - if they are properly maintained. Note the role of the connector in my previous post -- that's the key. Having many connections can be a strategy, but we should be as transparent as the network above and be clear to people that we have standards (and tell them what they are). So, how strong are your strongest connections? It's a safe bet that they don't all know each other, but they all have something in common -- their relationship with you! I suggest you let that "be enough," and trust that if each of us builds a few solid connections, all of our connections will be strengthened.

3) You can't want it more than they do.
Adding connections to your database can be an exhilarating experience, but when it comes down to show time, what can we do for each other? If you ask me to share my expertise and I spend time providing you some insight, can I expect you to do something with what I provide? If the answer is no, then what have we accomplished? There was apparently a communication error, but as a result I have wasted valuable time. We need to make sure we understand requests in our relationships, and convey the level of desire and commitment we have before asking someone else to provide something we have no need for.

4) It should cost you before (and more than) it costs them.
Since networking is about building relationships, this is crucial, and may be reminiscent of something your Mom said to your Dad after two weeks of marriage. It's never 50%-50%, it's 100%-100%. The solution if the other person slips below 100% is for you to remain steady, as there will be a time for reciprocity in the future - whether you plan it or not. The best way to get is to give without expectation. Here's the analogy. If we were somewhere together with others for a couple days, and I asked you for a dollar for the soda machine, would you hesitate handing a $1 bill over? Most would not. Would you expect it back? Maybe, but the value is relatively low (like a dime in my childhood). If you had a similar circumstance and "borrowed" a dollar and also did not give it back, then what? As this happens more and more, we realize that it wasn't hard to earn the dollar or hand it off to someone with little expectation of return. But we are never short a "borrowed" dollar, are we? What goes around does come around, eh? Now relationships are better than soda, and they are worth more than a dollar, but they will only work when we give -- unconditionally. That's how relationships work . . . At least that's what my wife tells me :-)

5) Mistakes can be forgiven, backstabbing should be punished.
This rule was designed to cover any misunderstandings. If I am not clear when I ask you something and you mistake what I am saying, there is no chance that what you do for me will meet my expectations. But isn't that the norm, rather than the exception? Mistakes happen! If, on the other hand, you offer something to gain my trust and then sell it to the highest bidder, that's backstabbing. At that point, it's pretty irrelevant whether you know it's a mistake . . . it is. You are blacklisted, the trust is gone, and if you get a Christmas card from me I assure you it was a mistake.

6) The existence of a network is not limited by time and space, but by vision and commitment.
Social networks are a powerful foundation from which to develop group identity and cohesion. Social networks are often examined in the context of the small world phenomenon – everyone in the world is accessible through a "short chain of social acquaintances" (Milgram, S., 1967, as cited in Finin, et al., 2005, p. 422). For a social network to be relevant, it needs to be about something, it needs to have a purpose, but many social networks have limited practical use (Downes, 2005). To avoid such limitations, the suggestion here is to use whichever social network you already use. There's has structure, subscribers, and relationships, and you are not simply re-inventing the wheel -- it's round, and it rolls, why reinvent it? By capitalizing on the existence of our pre-defined social networks, we can catalyze the expansion of our larger network, gaining access to the social networks of others, where there are already established connections, which can be cultivated and developed for the betterment of all.

But, in this context, I still wonder whether we are networking for social purposes, or socializing for networking purposes . . . My understanding of the "social" part of the Cop Connection Network means that every police officer, sheriff's deputy, corrections officer, jailer, probation and parole officer, security guard, and anyone in a related field around the planet (and other planets if they have an Internet connection) is linked to one another someway, somehow. In the current application, that's just theory, but . . . Don't you think there are golf games, racquetball tournaments, shooting matches, parties, car clubs, and other activities going on between them?

The same connections we make on earth can be strengthened when thinking in another plane.

My understanding of the "network" part of the Cop Connection Network means that a parole officer in Michigan on LinkedIn could request an introduction to a police officer in Brazil via InMail, that travels via a Corrections Officer on Facebook (Mobile) in Sweden, who emails the message to a jailer in New Zealand he met on MySpace, who calls his retired friend in Arizona using jaxtr or Grand Central who sends an SMS text message using Skype to the guy in Brazil . . . in under an hour.

Yes, I realize this is a different approach. No, I do not understand how to monetize, googlize and all that stuff. I do, however, understand that we ought not build constraints in where none exist, especially when we are in a place where no one has expertise. Note the video in the previous post -- that was Malcolm Gladwell talking about a guy (Howard Moskowitz, a psycho-physicist) who told big-money corporations that their perspective, vision, and paradigms were out of whack -- and they (ultimately) paid him to do so! If you have no plan to check out the short video, here's a quick summary. Dr Moskowitz taught us first that consumers don’t know what they want. Second, he provided people the opportunity to choose the products that suit them, not settle for products they can learn to like. And third, he revolutionized the food industry by showing them how to make individuals happy without trying to please everyone.

My vision is not to replace or even compete with the linkages that are already formed. I do hope to strengthen them, though. If you have a full profile at LinkedIn and I have one at Facebook, is there any good reason why we would have to complete yet another to make contact in that forum? I think just a name and email would be adequate, at most, with a note that says "for more information, see" And, for those in the field who don't have a place (or would like another) where their profile is available for review, they can complete one at

I am not trying to build a social club, I'm aiming for a social cloud. :-)


Downes, S. (2005). Semantic networks and social networks. The Learning Organization, 12(5), 411-417.

Finin, T., Ding, L., Zhou, L. & Joshi, A. (2005). Social networking on the semantic web. The Learning Organization, 12(5), 418-435.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What is your CQ? (Connection Quotient)

Your Connection Quotient is the ability you have to grasp the importance of connections, and the understanding you have of your role in making those connections. In the context of social networking, the Connection Quotient is the crux of the social equation that provides you with powerful connections, or leaves you with relationships that have very little meaning. The Connection Quotient can be applied to an individual or a group of individuals. It often determines (or at least can serve as a predictor of) success.

An individual's Connection Quotient depends first on whether they understand the importance of human connections. Grab any Sociology 101 textbook from Amazon and you will quickly see why these connections are important. But do we understand our role in making connections? Have you ever met someone but could not figure out what about them interested you enough to stay in touch? Then, days, weeks, or years later, you found something in common?

We don't depend on our connections alone for success in our endeavors. We depend on those we know and who they know, as well. Our social networks may appear to form by accident, but they are really the result of a concerted (though perhaps uncoordinated) effort by many interconnected people. But why are they uncoordinated? What possibilities could result from coordinating these activities? I think the possibilities are endless, but first we must understand our role in the process.

I read a very enlightening book a while back. Even if you have read it, I encourage you to take a second look. It describes our roles in our social network, whether we intentionally engage in our network or not. If nothing else, it will let you know why others around you do what they do . . .

The book is The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell. Don't stop, even if you just finished reading for the Nth time (which you should)
-- step away from the back arrow or the X in the upper right corner of your screen . . ..

This is not a complete review -- it's focused (and short).

It's about the Connectors in your world . . .

Gladwell identified three primary roles in social networks (he referred to them as social epidemics, but we know what he meant :-).

Connectors: These have wide social circles. They are the "hubs" of the human social network.

Mavens: These are knowledgeable people, who are in touch with their surroundings (and ours).

Salesmen: These are charismatic people with excellent negotiation and persuasion skills. They provide "soft" influence rather than force when inspiring others to do things.

You may already know which you are, but do take a moment and read on. If you are not a Connector, please take the time to understand who that you know is. Connectors are an integral part of your social network, and knowing who they are and how they operate is critical.

So what makes someone a Connector? Obviously, a Connector knows a lot of people. Connectors seem to know everyone. Connectors bring people together. Connectors meet a wide variety of people. Connectors often have more friends and acquaintances, not just because they are more sociable, but because they are more willing to cultivate and maintain these relationships.

Connectors are:

* Specialists in people
* Have a knack for turning friends and acquaintances into connections.
* Manage to occupy many different worlds at the same time -- thereby bringing them together.
* Social glue: they provide a link for us to the rest of the world.

Gladwell provided a short test you can take to see if you are a connector. Visit his site [right-click, open in new window] and see if you qualify! Send the link to others you know to help them understand their role in your network! (send them a link to this post, too!)

There's more on the Tipping Point at Business Week. This is a must read (or re-read) book if you really want to understand why social networking is changing how everything is done!

What do you think?


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Are cops social? Can they network?

I've been drawn to the social networking buzz, mostly because I think it's what we do naturally as humans. As an introvert (I am [right-click, open in new window] iStJ) I'm not necessarily an ultra-social creature, but I do appreciate a good conversation in between my 'deep' reflections. I have also seen and experienced the power of social networking for the social feature (especially in Facebook, which I much prefer to MySpace) and I have seen and experienced the power of the networking part with the LinkedIn site (which is my most favorite, but I think there should be walls for users to post on). The industry is evolving, and there's already been a huge amount of growth, but are we in the shakeout? MySpace, with 70 million-plus U.S. visitors, making it the largest social network, and Facebook, with 30-million-plus U.S. users, are the McDonalds and Burger King in this business. See Business Week. But there's room for more growth, and a redefining of the landscape, in record time.

But where's the profitability? Many of the regular MySpace and Facebook users are young, with limited incomes, and they aren't paying a dime for access, but they are spending lots of homework time online . . . teenage visitors spend an average 331 minutes on MySpace while Facebook gets 74 minutes with each visitor. I think the difference is due to the annoyingly-long load time because of all the 30 mb pictures and obnoxiously loud songs that blast out of my speakers before I can locate the off button(s), but my father would have said that if there were sites like these when I was a teenager.

Even as we examine the time teens spend on each site, we learn that these sites (and others) may be using the synergy effect that makes fast food restaurants populate all four corners at busy intersections (and Interstate exits). More time is spent on each when users are drawn to both, according to Jason Lee Miller's article in WebProNews.

A variety of big guns are adding networking features to their sites and online destinations, including Viacom (VIA) and eBay (EBAY), letting users create profiles, connect with others who share their interests, and socialize. Many people are using the term "social Web," rather than Web 2.0, to refer to these social-enabled sites. (I wonder of O'Reilly coined and copyrighted that term , too :-) There's more at Business Week.

I am personally a huge fan of the developing concept of Open ID (and related technologies - see TechNewsWorld), as I think we should be able to take our baggage with us and I have tired of copying and pasting "about me" from one to the next. I noticed, however, that my Big Three profiles (LinkedIn, Facebook, and MySpace) are subtly different, as are my networks in those areas . . .

Check for yourself:

I do think that we can be too open, and I am trying to determine just how much is appropriate to share.

But in the grand scheme of things, it's not what I think about social networking that counts, is it? I am smart enough to realize that my contribution to society is a direct reflection of 1) what I have to say, and 2) how large my sphere of influence is. So I defer to larger beings for their opinion. To my knowledge, God has yet to publicly weigh in on the current phenomenon (though he does have the largest group of friends - ever). Until I hear from Him, I'll keep an eye on the big guns in the corporate world. Here are some I am looking at:

There is some (fairly serious) talk that indicates Google is seriously into social networking - see ZNet. Farber and Dignan reported on Google’s venture into the collecting and distributing of social graph data, starting with Google’s social network - Orkut and iGoogle, and expanding to Gmail, Google Talk and other services. That's my pick for the winner in this adventure, just so you know, but I believe there will be at least 6 months between now and relative usability.

O'Hear has posted some discussions regarding this social graph system, which would enable every social networking (or related) site to be able to use existing public information about the social connections that a user has already made online. Can you imagine a time when you wake up to check your personal assistant and are offered a list of those with whom you should check out networking opportunities? I am excited about the introduction of technology that offers me a list of those whom I should offer a connection based on my previous preferences (think Amazon Recommends meets Open networking with RSS on steroids).

Check out Time magazine for their list of 25 Sites we can't live without. I think most of these are, for the most part, convenience providers . . . aggregators of otherwise obtainable information . . . and for now, the only sites on my short list are Google, Facebook, and YouTube . . . in that order. Check the list yourself, on Time.

But all in all, we are streamlining social networking (or at least hoping to), and many communities that haven't previously been excited about this "new" option are being offered their own walled community. There are social networks for doctors, advertisers, real estate agents, lawyers, and even federal spies. For a sampling of them, see Information Week.

And in case you don't think social networks are mainstream yet . . .Tim O'Reilly has written on social networking etiquette: the proper use of invitations - here, and the US military has found a use for social networks as a framework for understanding insurgencies (Reed, 2007)

And from - Charlotte,NC,USA
Most respondents considered social networking websites useful business tools.

  • 25 percent of respondents said yes, but that their company doesn't use them enough.

  • 19 percent were Undecided,

  • 19 percent voted "no, we already have enough ways to contact people and for them to contact us"

  • 17 percent said they use social networking sites as a business tool regularly

  • 7 percent said they use them for business, but that employees need to be monitored to be sure they are using them for company, not personal, business.

. . . and yes, I realize that only totals 87% . . . I'm thinking the others said work was not a social atmosphere and refused to discuss it. Actually, yes, for other reasons, and no, for other reasons, both received three percent of the vote, while one percent of the respondents did not know what a social networking site was - right!.

So what's next? Never mind the business model. Disregard the opportunity for revenue-generating activity. Imagine for a moment that there's no financial reward in the future. Is there a benefit - personally or professionally, for those in the criminal justice professions to engage in social networking activities?

I think so. I'm not quite sure of all the benefits, but I do know this. Police officers, corrections officers, those in probation and parole, and yes, even lawyers are naturally social creatures, and there's little each can do operating in a vacuum. If we surveyed 100 of these professionals, I think we would find that their job often becomes easier when they really get to know someone with whom they are working. And, I am confident that most have experienced the power of asking a trusted friend for assistance and receiving so much more.

But what will be the rules? Are cops and corrections people already on the social networking sites? Sure they are, but are they using them like everyone else (socially), or are they actually networking? That's the question of the week!

Reed, Brian (2007, Summer). A Social network approach to understanding an insurgency. Parameters, p. 19. Available at

Friday, September 21, 2007

Professional social networking - or is there more to it?

So I'm talking to a bunch of cops and I ask, "how many of you have a MySpace account?

About 25% said they did, but for investigative (or other nameless) reasons only. I asked if they thought there was some value to networking in policework (we were at a conference), and they looked at me like my nose was on upside-down. Of course networking is valuable in policework - like it is in every other "business" that depends on at least one other person to do business. And no, I didn't bother asking whether they had Facebook, or Bebo, or Xing, or . . .

That got me to wondering why more cops don't use social networking sites for their networking. It's not like the business cards that get passed around at conferences every year are ever organized. Don't for a moment think that if you meet someone at a conference or even a professional meeting tomorrow, you'll remember who they are and where they work in 6 months when you need to make contact with someone in that department. So why isn't it being done or done better?

I think there needs to be a reason -- beyond making contacts -- for us to take the time to follow through with the networking. In the regular world of policing, that reason is usually an investigation. Contacting someone from another department about a case you need information on includes the dreaded and hesitant phone call that starts out with an introduction and ends with a request for inconvenience.

That's not much unlike a cold call, so as you can imagine many are not real excited about making that call. Ultimately, though, there is some communication in the middle where those communicating find common ground and some trust is established. They informally compare lists of friends from various sections or departments and find they both like certain people and despise others. At that point, a connection is made and business can be conducted.

So . . . why wouldn't social networking work in this scenario? The trust factor is already built when we find out there are mutual acquaintances. The contact has been made when we realize we have a common interest. And, the framework has been laid when we . . . communicate!

Social networks were built for communication. Though some may enter false information about themselves (to protect their identities) as reported on Marketing VOX, for the most part we get honest with our posts, and downright personal with our private messages. Some are even using Snapvine, an online voice player, to add and receive voice messages directly on their personal pages. We as humans have the need to communicate, and it appears we will use a variety of mediums to do so. Check out Jay Deragon's post on how conversations are facilitated by social networks.

Speaking of communication, have you seen Jangl yet? There are lots of applications for Jangl (and similar solutions), including the saving of long distance and the relative privacy afforded by having someone click on an unidentified link to call you rather than using your direct phone number. Jangl has lots of uses in the social networking applications, and more in the rest of the world.

I'm finding a lot of usefulness for programs that initially seem to take a long time to set up but show their worth in the long term. I just got off the phone with a mortgage specialist who had a telemarketer call (it's OK, there's a relationship already with my bank) to ask if I wanted to look at the rates. Though I usually shun telemarketers and banks who don't have the patience to wait for me to respond to their traditional marketing methods, with the Fed's recent drop of the interest rates, I figured I could have that conversation while multi-tasking. I had a pleasant, not pushy, conversation with Ana, and told her that 1) if I decided to refi and 2) it was with her bank, I would 3) contact her first. I'm thinking about inviting her to join my social network . . .

[UPDATE: per my request, Ana emailed me her contact information. She's on LinkedIn. I've sent an invite . . .]

[UPDATE 2: We're connected, if you want to meet a hard-working mortgage specialist, check out my connections on LinkedIn]

By the way, I got that call while reading a blog on social networking . . . and learned so much more than I was prepared for. If you think you understand social networking, check out this overview from Jay Deragon.

What do you think?