February 3, 2009
We are all enjoying reading “YES! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion” by leading academics Goldstein and Cialdini with Martin making it pacy and very readable. Even Bea (8) snaffled it to swot up, priding herself on the ability to convince her parents of just about anything.
What I’m liking about the book, other than the credibility of its empirically based contents, is its ethics.
Reviews say “earnest and honest… Jedi-like… perfectly pitched for smart business people…charmingly practical.”
I’ll be quoting from it often.
“Constructive tools that help build authentic [there's that word again] relationships with others, highlight the genuine strengths of one’s message, initiative or product, and ultimately create outcomes that are in the best interests of all parties.
“When these tools are instead used unethically as weapons, however – for example, by dishonestly or artificially importing the principles of social influence into situations in which they don’t naturally exist – the short-term gains will almost invariably be followed by long-term losses… the long-term reputational consequences are dire when such dishonesty is eventually discovered.”
In a post-Cluetrain world where the blogosphere and online consumer ’sharing’ can bring down the biggest or the smallest bullshit artistes, the time has never been more ripe for telling it straight – and well.
The Science of Persuasion is a great read to help you do so. I am not surprised it made it into Britain’s most prestigious award for science writing from the Royal Society.
Let’s hope Bea wields her new-found knowledge with kindness and wisdom! Let’s hope we all do… with carrots not sticks.
COMPETITION FOR NODESTONE READERS
Examples please people… let’s start adding up the real-life situations of positive persuasion, and the costs of unethical propaganda… A copy of Naked Conversations by Scoble and Israel or Yes! for the best entries (with links to case studies ideally) in the comments section.
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.
July 21, 2008
These slides from the training session for the Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce last week. Let me know if you want us to come to your event or run a bespoke event or Masterclass.
More details on our Social Media for Good course soon (looks like next date will be Oct 3 in Brighton).
Covers a bit of an introduction to social media and blogging, plus some questions to get you thinking about your own context, opportunities and challenges.
Some good thinking in the room and animated conversations. Quite a few organisations ready to get blogging and exploring integrated social media in more depth.
A few of you made pledges are you walked out the door about your goals and intentions, so let me know how you get on!
Thanks to all for your warm feedback and to those who helped make it a positive event, especially Lorraine Bell (BCP), Tania “Radiance” Fullerton (Brighton Steiner School) and Fay McDonald.
February 14, 2008
As a part of my work for Global Action Plan’s EcoTeams project, I’ve been building reporting tools to predict household heating energy consumption into the future from some measured readings. This post is all about how to predict energy consumption based on a process of degree day adjustment.
(NB — what follows is a bit technical..)
Degree-day figures quantify how hot or cold the weather has been as a single index number for the region and month (or week). They allow you to account properly for the effect of weather on energy consumption.
Projecting energy consumption for heating forwards involves some calculations — you need to consider changes in the outside temperature, and what impact that is going to have on the energy required for heating inside your building or home. When it is getting colder each month, the amount of heating and energy used for heating goes up. And when summer approaches (we hope) that the outside temperature goes up, and the requirement for heating drops away.
Each year, the weather is different, so the degree day values for each month or week change.
The meaning of degree day values
So, what do these degree-day numbers measure and how are they calculated? I’ll explain a bit.
There’s an assumption used here, that if the outside temperature is 15.5C, the building will be able to warm itself without needing to use energy for heating. Buildings are warmed by people, by heat from the sun, by the heat from equipment in the building among other things to bring the outside temperature up to a reasonable internal temperature.
A degree day is then calculated using the 15.5 degree value as follows:
degree day = 15.5 – outside_temperature * days
A weekly degree day value sets days above to 7, while for a month, it is set to the length of the month in days.
So, the degree day value is bigger when it is colder, and the degree day value is proportional to the energy required to heat the building to a normal comfortable temperature. This gives us the information we need to predict future energy consumption, or compare enery consumptions in different months even though the outside temperature was different.
Say we wanted to work out our energy consumption for Nov 2007 compared with Oct 2007.
Let’s say in Oct 2007 we used 500 kWh heating the house. And in Nov 2008 we used 680 kWh heating the house. We were trying to reduce our energy consumption by turning down the boiler. Did we succeed?
So, we get the degree days values for South-East England:
Oct 2007: 166
Nov 2007: 248
Okay, we can immediately see that November was a lot colder than October, as you’d expect. So we’d expect our energy consumption to go up a lot. But let’s do the calculation:
energy_used_oct / dd_oct * dd_nov = predicted_use_nov
500 kWh / 168 * 248 = 738 kWh
So 738 kWh is our predicted energy use for heating adjusted for the relative warmth of the two months.
But we actually used only 680 kWh, so that means we’ve saved a fair bit by turning down the boiler.
So, using the degree days values we can make these calculations, and end up making much more reasonable comparisons between months than if we just take the raw kWh values. Very useful.
You can find some historical degree day data from the Carbon Trust (PDF doc) .
October 16, 2007
These are my top sources for doing good and fancy things with Wordpress. I mean the wordpress dot org host-yourself version, not the free Wordpress dot com hosted version.
If starting out of for quite complex issues, the best place to begin is the Codex at codex.wordpress.org which seems to have documentation for almost every circumstance.
For example, to find out about how to host or arrange multiple wordpress blogs in many combinations, the codex entry for Installing Multiple Blogs has a great set of links to downloads and hacks of various sorts.
Really, I just end up referring to the codex mostly. But, the codex has gaps and the Wordpress support forums are often useful too.
At the end of the day, too, there’s nothing too scary going on under the hood so those with PHP experience will have no problem find out what is going on.
March 22, 2006
[Note: this article was originally written with a focus on the small business website but it equally applies to all websites for organisations. If you are working on an web presence for a large organisation, all these points still apply.]
People ask me about websites all the time. Mostly they are passionate small-business people that want some sort of presence on the Internet. These people don’t want to end up with a big designed website that is all corporate. And these sort of sites are expensive, of course, and we’ve all begun to realise that they don’t tend to work for you if they go and project an image of you that is bigger than you are.
The big ‘corporate’ website is something that isn’t really them, like a coat a couple of sizes too large that weighs at the shoulders and has overlong sleeves that get in the way of your hands.
But small business people need a web presence. So, what is appropriate and what works?
Well, I’d say there are seven keys to ending up with a usable, useful, comfortable website for an individual or passionate small business person. The things your website needs to be are:
- A web presence that reflects authentically the business or person that it is represents. It gives a real feeling of who it is describing and does it accurately. It doesn’t misrepresent or inflate or sell too hard. It conveys a true voice of the business or individual. I can’t stress how important being authentic is. It makes you comfortable with your web presences, which means you can write stuff on your own website and when potential customers read the site or search for the site, they find somebody that feels right to them. You get your kind of customers this way, and you waste less time with people who don’t get you or your way of doing things. If you do nothing else, be authentic!
- Any website needs to be current and relevant to now. It needs to convey that you and/or your business are alive and well and doing things. A dead, out-of-date site reflects badly on you and works against you. I tend to take a lot of notice of how old a site is when I’m choosing suppliers etc. Maybe I’m more picky than most, but hey,
- It needs to describe what you do in enough detail that potential customers can find you and can understand how you are different. Being descriptive is important for search engines as well, and I’ll write more about that later. This is more than keywords. This really describing what you do.
- Like a good piece of writing, the site needs to engage the reader. If it can catch a reader and get them to be interested enough to get in touch, join in, or forward your web address to a friend, you’ve got something that works. Think about storytelling. I’ll talk more about making a website engaging in a later post.
- Easy for you to update
- It may sounds obvious, but, seriously, this is the one that really makes a difference. If you can easily change your own site without calling or e-mailing somebody else, then you can keep things up to date, you can write what you want to write when you want to write it.
- Changing and Growing
- The web went through a phase of static websites that were used by companies as brochures. Lots of that kind of web design grew from print-based design. However, these days web users and search engines really like change and growth. Why? The more content you add about what you do, the better the search engines will be able to direct searches to you. Keep adding stuff. It gives a sense of time, of history, of something ongoing.
- Links from other websites help people find you from other relevant sites. These links are also used by search engines to work out how important or well-regarded your site is. So, what you are looking for here are links in context: links that come from partners or customers or others that also talk about what you do. Links exchanges and ‘cheating’ tend to work against you really, so stick to authentic links from others in context.
I’ll talk more about this in some more posts later. This dense enough for a beginning.
In the meantime, start thinking about this:
How can I build a website without a lot of effort, as a part of the rest of my business processes or a part of my creative process? See if you can imagine a way to make writing and updating you site part of your existing process.
And remember the keys:
1. Authentic, 2. Up-to-date, 3. Descriptive, 4. Engaging, 5. Easy for you to update, 6. Changing and Growing, 7. Linked