July 21, 2009
Interview with Mums in Control magazine – out this summer. MIC is a fast growing network of mums in business or mumpreneurs. A fast-growing phenomenon I am part of, and keen to support. Not sure about the “in control” bit, but hopefully in balance more often than not.
Mothers are increasingly fed up with jobs that do not allow them to spend enough time with their children. So instead, they are starting their own businesses. The number of women working for themselves has leapt by nearly 20% since 2000, according to official figures, and now tops a million.
And an opinion poll commissioned by the government shows that the most significant factor in the increase is a desire among women for a better balance between work and family life.”
From BBC News
Clarification: my services extend beyond online social networking. See here for more.
Making Social Networks Your Business…
The social web changes the marketing game by making it participative. LIBBY DAVY, inspirational social web expert, artist and mother, offers insight into becoming SMART (specific, measurable, achieveable, realistic and timely) when marketing your business.
Read this article carefully, it’s the new holy grail for all aspiring mumpreneurs…
An Australian communications and PR specialist with an engaging smile, Libby Davy now lives with her technology-savvy husband, young daughter and dog, in Brighton, West Sussex. She’s a web champion with a social conscience, who is hugely enthusiastic about the way women use the internet today. “We are natural social animals,” she explains, “Women love to communicate, to collaborate, to create connections. The internet’s our natural home.”
A few years ago, terms like ‘googling’ and ‘surfing’ may have felt alien, but today we all do these things with the same ease as hanging out the washing. The web’s become invaluable and not just for doing the supermarket shopping. We’re also communicating with old friends and ex-colleagues and keeping an eye on our kids through the social websites they use, like Bebo and Facebook, too. Oh! and of course some of us are using it for dating, as well. Even so, are we really taking full advantage of the internet’s social dimension to support our business needs? Libby shakes her head; clearly thinks not.
She and her husband run a technology company called, Nodestone, which combines middleware development (her husband’s bit and a techy term you don’t need to understand) with a social networking consultancy (the bit we are interested in). Through it, Libby runs workshops to explain how the web is a social network that enables you to do far more than keep in touch with your mates. Whilst traditional media can still be useful for promoting your business, the web is SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely). Libby encourages us to, “Try not to fear the jargon. There are a few new terms worth understanding, as they will give you confidence to harness all the values the web has to offer.”
She points me to her website for some clear advice. It tells me that “vast numbers of people are using blogs, social networks, photo and video sharing sites as important marketing and engagement tools.” Libby explains further, “Building your buzz in these spaces is a good way to find your market. Getting the right bloggers to write about your activities (blog outreach) is also a good way to reach interested people.”
These activities will help build traffic to your business’s website. This is critical if you want to raise your search rankings. (e.g when someone keys your business type into google or Yahoo search your company to come up towards the top of the results). Libby explains that to achieve this, “exchange links with relevant blogs and other sites, and remember that a personal request works best. A good way to start is by commenting on other blogs that are writing about your topics. It’s also a good idea to have a blog as part of your site; it’s an easy way to keep the content fresh and the site alive.”
You can use social networks to build a list of ‘friends’ who you can message in a similar way to email and so promote your website. Social networks also have a viral aspect where people sign-up to your cause because they’ve seen it appear in a friend’s newsfeed or on their profile. You can make it easy to sign up by adding links to your Facebook, Myspace, Bebo or other social networking profiles on to your website homepage.
“Social networks work best when you put a lot of time into them, sending messages, responding to friend requests, commenting on other people’s profiles,” Libby warns. “But the results can be really worthwhile. They are informal social spaces, so the more personal and friendly you can be, the better. People in social networks will tend to ignore corporate communications.”
She advises that you think carefully about who you are trying to attract using social networking sites, in some societies they are mostly used by a younger audience, however they are increasingly gaining popularity with different communities.
Twitter is the most recent term on everyone’s lips, since Barack Obama used it so successfully for his presidential campaign.
“It’s hard to describe Twitter well,” laughs Libby, “Except as a mixture of micro-blogging (160 characters per entry as in mobile phone text messages) and social networking. It works across the web and with mobile phones and feels ‘live’.”
People are using Twitter to share interesting content, especially to respond to things that are happening at that moment or to share snippets of and links to interesting articles and blog posts.
I ask her how you can you see if all your social marketing is working?
“A simple tool you can use for free is Google Alerts,” she says. “You can set this up through going to the main google website and specifying which key words you want it to alert you about when they are used on a website. Google Alerts then emails you when these keywords are mentioned in online media and blogs.”
“The mantra of online marketing is ‘measure everything’. For your site, the main tool will probably be Google Analytics, it’s free and provides a lot of detail on your website statistics; who’s using your site, where they are coming from to reach your site and what they are looking at. For your social networks you’ll largely be relying on the stats you can get from them, such as number of friends, number of comments, and number of video views. The web promises what traditional PR & marketing never could – the possibility of measuring engagement.”
The social web changes the whole marketing game by making it participative. You don’t just want to get people interested, you want to get them involved. Encourage people to bookmark your site in social bookmarking services like Delicious and always encourage friends and supporters of your initiative to and encourage your friends to promote your cause.”
With this Libby takes a breath. “There’s so much more to say,” she laughs, “but perhaps this is enough for one day. “
10 new web terms your business should know….
A blog is a website where entries are made in journal style and displayed in a reverse time order. Blogs often provide commentary or news on a particular subject; some function as more personal online diaries. Blog software (eg. Wordpress) is often used to build websites for organisations now, as it is easy and free to use.
Syndication means that anyone can subscribe to your blog and receive automatic notification that it has been updated. It uses RSS feeds.
Really Simple Syndication is a technology that allows Internet users to receive ongoing, constantly updated information from many sources through a simple reader or aggregator (eg. Google Reader). This is supplied through an “RSS feed” that users can subscribe to.
A feed aggregator, also known as a feed reader, news reader or simply as an aggregator, is client software or a Web application which aggregates syndicated web content such as news headlines, blogs, podcasts, and vlogs in a single location for easy viewing.
The ability to save and categorise a personal collection of bookmarks through services such as Delicious and share them with others. Users may also take bookmarks saved by others and add them to their own collection, as well as to subscribe to the lists of others.
A group of websites with a common theme, built in a loop, allowing a surfer easy access to subsequent sites in the ring by clicking on links. There are thousands of web rings around in all sorts of categories and issues.
A broad class of websites and services that allow you to connect with friends, family, and colleagues online, as well as meet people with similar interests or hobbies. Popular examples include MySpace, Facebook, Linked In. Even photo sharing websites like Flickr have become places for social networking through shared interests.
Online Media Storage
Websites that allow you to store, share and view a range of media such as digital photographs (see Flickr), audio files like podcasts, video (see YouTube).
Weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly roundups of blogs on a particular issue or topic.
Note: things have already moved on, and this would not still be my essential list of terms.
March 25, 2009
Here are the slides from my talk this evening at Twitter Dev Nest. It was great fun writing and delivering this talk, and thanks for the great feedback in person and over Twitter.
February 28, 2009
Via YouTube, via Twitter, via WordPress… to you.
Participation culture, creativity & social change – by Prof David Gauntlett (Age: 37), Professor of Media and Communications, at University of Westminster, UK.
Reduce carbon emissions by 90% by 2030 (or sooner)? How are we going to do that!!? David Gauntlett says, through encouraging more creativity in education and everyday life.
By moving from a “sit back and be told culture” (ie. school) to a “making and doing / connection” culture (assisted by web 2.0 participation and mass creativity).
Richard Sennett’s wonderful book The Craftsman is also referenced.
I’m with them all the way…
But will we have the guts to offer our Bea (8) the South Down’s Learning Centre rather than mainstream factory-style high school, or maybe the local high is not as bad as it might seem…
Ahh – the personal and the political. But back to packing… we’ve got some carbon to burn (sigh). Train next time…
More from David Gauntlett here and here.
February 3, 2009
Let the world change you and you can change the world.
(Deje el mundo cambiarle y usted puede cambiar el mundo.)
– Che Guevara
In this post, I (Graeme) will talk a bit about my past, and how that rather neatly scaffolds the future. How the world has changed me and how that helps me move on to change the world. This is part storytelling, part announcement.
First, the announcement:
I’m going to start intentionally focussing most of my blog postings here at Nodestone on CO2 and carbon calculators, carbon footprints, carbon pricing and offsets, and most importantly, social measurement and reporting to help reduce our CO2 production.
Note: Libby is still going to be posting on authenticity in blogging, social media, education etc, making it accessible for all — those topics that she’s working on out in the world.
Why blog about this stuff?
Because this is what I’m working on, as a consultant, architect and developer, bringing systems engineering, web tools and social media to bear on CO2 measurement and reporting.
And now the story:
I grew up a son of big oil. My parents met while both working for BP. My Dad, Don Sutherland, was Operations Superintendent for the BP Oil Refinery in Kwinana, Western Australia. He was, as I understand, responsible for the day to day operations of the place. We’d probably call that role COO these days. He had hundreds of people working under him to keep things safe and running smoothly. No easy job. Refining oil is a high-pressure, high-temperature, dangerous process that you have to get right, or Things Go Boom.
So, the family was, as we might say now, in the Energy business.
Fast forward to 1999.
I started using my skills as a systems engineer and software developer to build tools for energy management, in particular lighting automation for very large buildings Buildings like 60 story office blocks and massive stadiums. Lots of lights, massive energy use and energy costs, so managing the lighting to bring the energy usage down is a very good thing, and makes the sort of work I was doing quite valuable. We sold that product to a major control systems maker, and then I worked to refine that product for some years as their business grew. Energy was getting more expensive, and the return on investment kept improving. That product is now installed all over the place in massive public buildings (eg. Sydney Opera House, Wembley Stadium), saving energy day after day.
Amongst all of that, my partner Libby and I put a lot of effort into bringing the issues of sustainability and particularly sustainable business to the fore via the Sustainable Business Network we formed in 1999. We were a bit early there, the popular consciousness hadn’t really grok’d climate change at that point, but we met and talked with a lot of people who had understood sustainability and gained a lot of insight into what is was all about.
We moved back to the UK in 2006. And after spending a bit of time pricing derivatives in investment banking land (very useful when it comes to carbon pricing), I was back in energy conservation and reporting again, and have spent the last 18 months developing social tools for groups to measure and report together to cement behaviour change. And building more energy management tools. And building carbon and ROI calculators. I’ve been speaking at Barcamp about resilience, building a local solar-powered internet as an exercise in using less energy.
So, it seems like now is the time to take CO2 measurement and reporting to the next level. Let’s make it social. We’re entering a world where the amount we use does matter, we accept that. Fortunately we have the communications tools to make us more aware of what we are using. That supports resource conservation and, ultimately, could help turn the tide on climate change. The big goal is to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050. That’s been legislated. Which means businesses and households are going to have to get used to measuring, reporting on, and using less energy.
It all sounds do-able to me. Let’s make it happen.
January 11, 2009
If you haven’t checked it out yet, have a good look at Message in-a-Box “A toolkit for communicating your cause”.
It’s relevant to anyone that needs to communicate in life and work.
When Nodestone was commissioned by the Tactical Tech Collective earlier in the year to help bring it together, I faced a somewhat overwhelming task as you might imagine when you see it.
What is it? A rather large online resource for learning how to communicate better, to put it simply.
More specifically, it’s an international educational platform for people in NGOs and campaigning organisations that demonstrates how to use low-tech and high-tech tools and tactics to work on some of the hardest issues of our times.
We show you how to think strategically (about goals, resources and time) and then know which tools and tactics (eg. images / print / audio / video / internet / mobiles and media) to choose to get your message across.
Here’s how Tactical Tech describe it:
“…a set of strategic guides to using communications tools for social change, together with a suite of open source tools to get you making your own media. The toolkit is designed for small and medium-sized NGOs, advocates, and citizen journalists to help them create and distribute content for their advocacy efforts while exploring the constantly evolving world of campaigning and communications.”
The feedback has been excellent around the world. A much needed resource.
Here’s an example of how it works:
This section helps you find out how others have used images effectively and creatively. It helps you learn how to find, create, edit, share great images, with an emphasis on photographs, comics, maps and simple animated images.
Images add impact to stories, blog posts, websites, posters,brochures, email campaigns – whatever campaigning channels and tools you are using.
What do you need?
Essential: ideas, creativity, imagination, a strategy.
Extra: people to help, internet access, mobile phone and/or a camera (digital or other), source books/comics/cartoons collected from anywhere or commissioned.
Having worked in communications as a consultant, writer, activism and educator for (gosh!) over 20 years, it was a dream to be able to put these threads of life to good use. To make something practical and tangible.
Message-in-a-Box is about the power of PR being brought to the people who have historically had least access to it. Things were all explained in the simplest possible terms with examples and free software downloads. From human rights abuses to clean water – NGOs on little or no budget obviously need education and support. It’s an egalitarian Aussie’s delight.
In London, Botswana or Mumbai, Message-in-a-Box is now available for free, 24/7. A print version with DVD software is also being distributed. It’s actually a good resource for anyone a clear (hopefully) perspective on getting your message across.
Along the way we got to massage the words and ideas of some great folk like Becky Faith, Dr Dan McQuillan and Heleana Quartey. Hopefully to first incarnation is already being put to some good use.
Once thing I’m hoping Tactical Tech do soon is to improve collaboration and “stickiness” on the site. Feedback, registration etc… Also the use of images and stills, sound and video clips to make the resource more visual and interactive – to practice what we preach!
Over the years we have increasingly worked on projects that pass positive screens for social / eco accountability. Put another way… that feel good. Like:
- widgets for TrickleStar and the BBC
- social carbon measurement for Global Action Plan
- edu-marketing for the Guerrand Hermes Foundation for Peace
- teaching blogging to communities and companies
- setting up The Big Love Gift Guide
- running a massive campaign for TV Turn Off Week.
But as long as you aren’t arms dealers, we can usually find or create some positive values in just about any project. Get in touch if you want to know how Nodestone can help you feel good about your work.
October 9, 2008
The Future of Web Apps spent thursday afternoon in that pleasant reality that is the most positive future. What I mean by that was we were all buying into business as usual — there’s a rich VC market waiting to snap up and fund innovations and we all have a shot at being rich, well, any time now.
But before I get into that, here’s a review of this afternoon’s sessions:
I missed most of Alvin Woon’s presentation, but took away this, badly paraphrased: You can do user centered design with users that domn’t know what they want. If users have never had it before, the can’t know what they want. There’s something wise and hopeless in there. Mostly a cry for iterating to solutions. Building something new is learning, for all involved. The learning journey is the key here.
XMPP and PubSub
Blaine Cook was back on the stage talking about XMPP and PubSub as a way out of endless wasted polling of site A by site B looking for, say twitter updates. It sounds great. I’m a huge fan of XMPP as a mechamism for handling the more complex connection cases than simple HTTP. Good stuff. I asked a question about the requirement of the server, now, to have to manage potentially millions of subscriptions. Blaine says it will be no worse than current, but I’m still left feeling that my app that is PubSub aware is going to be having to keep some sort of state for the potential millions of connections. I’m not sure about this, just a feeling. I’m dying to do some XMPP experimentation soon, maybe with secret project BrightLunch or something.
Dave Recordon from Six Apart did some nice work on stage, putting the case for open standards, like OpenId, OAuth, microformats etc as the essential next steps in blowing the social web wide open to all. Thanks Dave, it made sense and was a compelling case for all the pen tech that you and yours been working on.
Objective J and Cappucino
Thanks Francisco. Interesting. Not sure I want or need Cappucino, though. Unless I was quickly making a desktop app for the web, but not sure I want to replace a desktop app with a web app just because I can. Sorry, but it all felt a bit 4GLly to me. “We’ll solve all your problems for you, etc….”
The Pitch Competition
Are we noticing what is going on out in the real world? The pitch comp felt a bit weird. I’m sure I saw the panel talk down at a solid business model that might work now and encourage the pitcher to go for some model of giving it all away for free for a bit. Maybe they were right, but I’m getting the feeling that we’re in a bit of an unreal bubble. The economy and banks are in trouble, and we’re still going on like there’s a lot of hot VC cash for your ideas. Is that true? Or are we living in a cute little bubble for the next couple of days.
A great day all around, though. Thanks Carsonified people, and especially Mike for the handwritten note on the postcard attached to my badge. And as the train pulls into Brighton, I’m ready to do it all again tomorrow,
October 9, 2008
I’m at the Future of Web Apps conference today and tomorrow in London. Here are a few summary notes from this morning.
Note: this gets pretty technical in places.
The mornings’s theme seems to have been about operations and development isuses.
Kevin Rose, from Digg, talked about Digg and the new Digg recommendations. I’ve done lots of work in this area with our Recommendation Ventures web services, so it was really interesting to hear Digg’s experiences. A few points:
- When Digg added recommendations, they saw a 4 times increase in the number of people ‘friending’ other people, and a 40% increase in diggs (votes on news stories). This goes along with the conventional wisdom regarding recommendations — they help keep visitors on your site longer and encourage interaction.
- Digg generates recommendations by clustering around keywords in their existing taxonomy. This generates better recommendations, by allowing a person to have differing interests, and generating and blending speciific recommendations for for those topic areas. I suspect the do the clustering/bucketting to make the calculations less expensive, too.
- Digg have built custome graph stuff in Python to generate recommendations. Nice to hear the Python namecheck there.
Edwin Aoki from AOL talked fairly generally about the Web Application Ecosystem.. A few points:
- Web apps have probably suffered from the release of a lot of device development kits this year: iPhone, Android, more Flash development. So, a step back into putting programs on devices rather than developing apps to run on all devices.
- Basically, end user consumers don’t care about open web standard and that. They just want ot do stuff in usable apps.
- Web Services are important for building the fundamental services for creating enduring value, rather than another website. (I think I got the point of that comment…)
Languages and Scaling and Operations
I guess every tech conference has to have a session to poke fun at programming languages. Jokes cast at Ruby, PHP, Python and Perl by Joe Stump (Digg) and Blaine Cook (ex-Twitter). But some important points as well:
- languages don’t scale. Scaling is something else, comes from actual systems architecture. (Therefore, who cares what language is used, keep developers happy)
- Web Apps need to be able to scale horizontally onto lots of small cheap boxes. Architect this in from the beginning to avoid pain later, but don’t sweat it too much.
- Capacity management matters.
- Use message queues. Defer tasks into the background if you can. This is essential when systems grow, and add lots of flexibility.
- Use caches such as memcache, but do it intelligently: cache invalidation is often a hard problem to solve. Easy to add to the cache, harder to keep it consistent.
- Look out for herd-effects on cache invalidation: All servers then go and re-fetch data at once. Stagger invalidation times across servers.
Matt Biddulph from Dopplr talked about using message queues. Interesting stuff. Basically, this is all about moving server processes into queues, so you can have one or more worker save servers to handle less-time-critical parts of the application in the background.
A few notes:
- Queues make life easy because:
- Easy to add and remove slaves, which means easy scaling
- Improve application performance by delaying things that don’t matter now to lower priority background processing
- Easy performance monitoring .. look at the queues
- “Enterprise Integration Patterns by Hohpe, Woolf et al.” is worth reading.
October 3, 2008
Back in my dark old days as a corporate PR consultant, we had a room full of poor sods somewhere in the bowels of the machine, cutting out column cms from dead-trees-pages. Why? So we could justify our exorbitant fees and monitor our clients reputations. It was also so we could respond to a debate or manage an “issue”.
In some ways, nothing’s really changed. That is still going on, but many people would say the real action is now happening online. And the best thing is, I don’t have to feel sorry for the Google search spiders having to crawl through the myriad pages to retrieve what I want. It’s what they love best!
Here’s a helpful piece from E-Consultancy about how to monitor opinions, articles, conversations relevant to you and your organisation – without paying a brass razoo (in most cases).
Before you get cracking (because you know it’s time) – here’s a quick Nodestone guide to getting sorted.
1. Know what your goals are
- Do you just want to know what being said about you online, or are you planning to enter the conversation (and if you are not sure, best you be reading up on the power of web 2.0, blogging and the social web. See our presentation here for a start.
- How far do you want to go and what resources do you have to manage your responses?
2. What key words are most relevant to you
- Various spellings and shortened versions of your company, major projects/products and names of key people
- Major stakeholders (eg. legislators, major customers/shareholders, funding partners).
- The sector that you are in
- Other key words, eg topics you would scan for when reading a newspaper
3. How are you planning to circulate and act on what you find?
- If there is a live debate on a blog or in a forum about your key topics, what will you do? Who will be ready and able to respond to misinformation or genuine criticism?
- If there is a chance to offer a positive follow-up story to an influential blogger or mainstream journalist, who and how will (you) act?
- If there is a positive story about your project/organisation – what will you do? Who will you share it with?
- If there is an interesting story written, how can you use it in your own communications?
- Will you carefully subscribe to certain blogs or newsfeeds and read them?
Welcome to the great conversation of “us”. In some ways it’s never been easier. If you do nothing more than have a play with Google Alerts – you will learn a lot.
If you want to discuss a proper strategy about media monitoring and reputation management, give me a tinkle. We’ld love to help you improve your communications. It might be as simple as a short chat and a sign post to send you off in the right direction.
September 16, 2008
We did a car boot sale on the weekend.. and amongst the pile of books that we keep trying to sell but never do was one I bought a couple of years ago. The topic of that book was how to price various kinds of exotic derivative contracts, as used in a range of complex ways to buy, sell, spread and mitigate risk and make loads on money for investment bankers.
Derivatives start out as nice simple ideas, but before you know it, things get very complex. And if you trade lots of derivatives with lots of other parties, you end coupled to your trading parties in lots of weird ways.
So, what started out as a possibly sensible risk management exercise becomes so complex and you end up so tied to everybody else’s success that you’ve got a Lehman-sized problem.
The trouble here is:
Complexity: it gets too hard for humans to understand what is going on. Everybody kind of pretends they do, but nobody really does.
Coupling: it gets very hard to work out how to untangle the knot of relationships you’ve created.
Trouble. So the investment bank solution was to create more and varied derivatives to cover all of that, making it worse. Pass the coke and let’s do some business.
What has this got to do with the social web? Lots.
If we layer API on top of API, and couple all our social web services together without a lot of thought about systems architecture we run the risk of making something complex, over-coupled, and utterly unstable.
And when we start building businesses on top of all of that, things get risky for those businesses indeed. And if we start relying on complex, over coupled web services, what happens when something’s business model fails and it goes into the deadpool. Could the whole lot fall over and be hard to get working again?
So, I’m thinking we need to start thinking about the discipline of social systems architecture, where we manage and look at the interconnected web as we do large distributed systems, taking note of single points of failure, instability, reliability, complexity and coupling.
Sure, we can integrate lots of social web stuff, but we need to keep a systems engineering mind while doing it. Otherwise it is a bit like running your billion dollar derivative contracts out of an Excel spreadsheet.
September 8, 2008
There’s been a bunch of speculation as to just why Google has taken on the browser market with Chrome. Everybody has a good idea as to why. Now it is my turn. And while I’m at it, I want to give a quick review of the features of Chrome and why they might be important. We don’t get a new browser to play with every day of the week, and this one is different.
Okay, so what is Chrome all about? Why?
My take is this: The important features are not in the UI. Chrome usually refers to pretty UI stuff that isn’t important. Google’s being ironic here. Chrome looks ok but is nothing startling or beautiful. It is low key. Few menus, calm UI features. As if the served page matters more than the browser. Yup.
Basically, Chrome is the first browser that is designed from the ground up to serve web applications fast and seamlessly. Engineering-led Google has built something to serve Gmail, Google reader, Gears, and other web apps without getting in the way. In fact, accelerating these applications and all other web applications to make them snappy.
Strategy: Raising the Bar and Elevating Best Practice
Oh, and it has to nicely unnerve Microsoft. Always a good thing.
Chrome is fast and tidy and usable, and that’s using it on a Mac using Parallels to run it under Windows XP. Can’t wait to see a native OS X version. It ought to fly. Best feature for me, apart from the Internals, is the ability to turn any web app into a single-window application. We’ve been messing with this in OS X a bit and it is a nice idea, but Chrome makes it easy.
Neat little browser. But don’t forget the real chrome is on the inside.