2010 in review

January 2, 2011 at 11:42 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
Tags: ,

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 3,000 times in 2010. That’s about 7 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 23 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 37 posts. There were 75 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 9mb. That’s about 1 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was April 7th with 32 views. The most popular post that day was OneNote in the Cloud.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were 74.125.155.132, mobilenoter.com, ifreestores.com, iheartonenote.com, and stumbleupon.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for onenote iphone, iam governance, one note iphone, motorola5200, and mobilenoter.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

OneNote in the Cloud September 2009
12 comments

2

OneNote, iPhone and Wi-Fi January 2010
8 comments

3

Send Back Pictures to OneNote January 2010

4

1st Impressions – IBM and IAM Governance August 2009
1 comment

5

OneNote to go … September 2009
2 comments

New Year’s Resolution

December 31, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Tags: ,

2010 has been a bit of a watershed for me and the new direction for my career has left me seriously short on time.  Sadly, one of the things that has suffered is the time I’ve devoted to this blog.  I’ve promised myself that I’m going to rectify this in 2011, by posting on this blog once a week throughout the year.

I know it won’t be easy, but it might be fun and it will be inspiring.  Therefore I’m promising to make use of The DailyPost, and the community of other bloggers with similar goals, to keep me going, including asking for help when I need it and encouraging others when I can.

If you already read my blog, I hope you’ll encourage me with comments and likes, and good will along the way.

Wishing you a peaceful and prosperous New Year,

Tom Mellor

Social Media and Me – It’s Good to Talk

July 7, 2010 at 12:17 am | Posted in Social Networks | 4 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s now just about a month since I started my new job. It’s been 10 years since the last time I was the newbie and I’d forgotten quite how hard it can be. It’s like joining a school part way through the term. Everyone else already has their friends, so you hop around on the edge of the group, desperately hoping to get noticed. Actually, a contact on Twitter introduced me to a current employee at the new company. They then passed my name (and Twitter account) on to others. So, on Day 1, I had at least a few people to turn to for advice.

Actually, my new employer is very supportive of social media. The corporate guidelines on use of these technologiess are often cited as an excellent model for others to follow. In my last blog post, I looked back on how I’ve used blogging as the heart of my marketing effort during my foray into the world of independent consulting. This time, I want to look at what I’ve learned about the art of creating and maintaining a network of contacts. After all, it’s of limited use creating interesting and thought-provoking content, if you can’t reach a pool of like-minded individuals who might like to read it.

Beating Dunbar’s Number

Dunbar’s Number is a well-known concept in anthropology, which states that an individual can only maintain strong stable relationships with around 150 people.  The number is held to be a function of the size of the neocortex, a theory tested by comparing the social groupings of other primates.  Some people claim that any group loses cohesion and eventually its identity when its size exceeds Dunbar’s number.   Others suggest that the rise of social networks allows us to comfortably exceed this limit.  Maybe it’s because the software tools to hand act as a “force multiplier”.  An alternative view, which I described in an earlier blog post, holds that social networks bring benefit through weak associations.  This view is eloquently described in “Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom” by Matthew Fraser and Soumitra Dutta.  So, how does this apply to me?  I’ve been slowly building my online network of contacts since 2005.  Let’s start by taking a look at each of the social networks I subscribe to and how they fit into my overall plan:

LinkedIn: Joined February 2005

This was my first foray into social networking, prompted by an invitation from a colleague.  I now have a network of around 250 contacts and for each of them I can claim that they’re people I’ve worked with (colleagues, business partners) or worked for (clients) over the years.  LinkedIn is by far the most valuable source of contacts.  In fact, my current job and another senior role that I declined at around the same time, both arose from LinkedIn.  I find the groups very helpful as a way of finding and contributing to “communities of interest”, keeping me in touch with what people are thinking in my particular specialisation.

Twitter: Joined March 2009

My original idea in joining Twitter was to see if it could be a useful way of staying in touch.  At the time I was a member of a small team all based in different countries and it was difficult to know where others were and what they were doing.  Our employer didn’t allow instant messaging on the corporate Blackberry (those were the days before I discovered iPhone).  Nowadays, I use Twitter far more to listen to others, all experts in fields peripheral to mine and occasionally to chip in with my ideas.  I also of course make use of its reach to notify new blog posts, articles and so on.


Plaxo: Joined April 2009

I was invited to join Plaxo by one of my LinkedIn colleagues.  I’ve never really explored it very much and only have a handful of contacts.  I don’t see any unique capabilities, so this would be a good candidate for culling.


XING: Joined April 2009

This is the same story as with Plaxo.  Xing is very popular in Germany and I was invited to join by a German colleague.  Again, I can’t find any unique proposition and I haven’t put much effort into building a contact base.


Naymz: Joined October 2009

Naymz is a a network for which I had high hopes.  While offering the same sort of capabilities as similar business-oriented social networks, it introduced two significant concepts.  The first is an effort to verify identity when you enrol.  Sadly, the main means of doing this is only available in the US.  The second is encouraging your contacts to rate their relationship with you against a number of simple questions.  From these responses, the site calculates a “reputation score”.  The responss you receive are weighted by the reputation scores of those you connect to.  This seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable objective, when you’re trying to locate someone to help with your business.  Naymz trawls your other contact lists and sends out invites.  After an initial flurry of interest, the site seems to have lost impetus.  In fact, a number of my contacts have left the site altogether.


Facebook: Joined April 2010

I always said that I wouldn’t join Facebook – it’s an age thing I suppose, being firmly placed in the middle of that thundering herd, labelled the Baby Boomers.  Eventually, I created an account and profile, in order to help someone out in connecting to Facebook from (I think) Tweetdeck.  Again, I’ve made not too much effort to add contacts, but I do find it helpful for keeping in touch with family and also friends from my running club.  There’s a little overlap with my business contacts, but largely I keep the two groups separated.


Google Buzz: Joined May 2010

This was my most recent foray.  Again, my curiosity was piqued when both Tweetdeck and ping.fm announced support.  However, having signed up, again it showed very little in the way of interesting functionality and – given that I’m not a GMail user – I found few people to follow.  I read the other day that Google are about to start again, building a new social network.  I can’t in all conscience blame them.

Across all these networks, I have a total network of something like 300 unique contacts, but frankly, most of the benefit comes from LinkedIn and (more recently) Twitter.  Do I really need to maintain so many networks?  There’s a significant amount of work involved in maintaining a consistent profile across all the platforms and in applying status updates to them all.  This latter can be to a degree automated, as I described earlier, using combinations of Twitterfeed (or Hootsuite) and ping.fm.  However, I’ve noticed a trend amongst my contacts to decrease the number of networks they frequent  as well as the number of contacts they retain on each:

  • Social media expert Joanne Jacobs announced on Twitter that she intended blocking followers who make no significant contribution to the discussion;
  • One of my Facebook contacts announced that he would be “culling” contacts from his friends list – again the reason he cited was a failure to engage;
  • I have noticed regular emails from the Naymz network, informing me that contacts have left my reputation network.  Investigation reveals that these contacts have in fact left the Naymz site altogether.
  • Social media wizard and fellow IBMer Andy Piper commented on Twitter that, while he supports the BCS plans for modernisation, he’s bitterly disappointed in the Society’s attempts to build a members’ network, without much of the functionality we expect in social networks and with no provision to integrate with other widely used platforms.

Protecting your Investment
It’s taken me 5 years and a lot of effort to build and refine my social network. As I’ve said above it has real, proven value to me, so why would I risk that investment? All that data is stored on other people’s servers, somewhere in the cloud. Since I don’t generally pay for this service, I’m surely not entitled to expect a service level beyond “best efforts” in the event of a disaster.

So how should I go about protecting this valuable asset? There are a number of services available, both paid and free, to backup one or more of your social network accounts. I’m currently trialling a free service from Backupify.  This allows me to schedule daily backups of (thus far) Twitter, Facebook and Flickr. I’d love to use this service for LinkedIn as well, but the site tells me that the authors have been refused access to the LinkedIn APIs. Why on earth do that? I raised a support ticket on LinkedIn asking them to co-operate with Backupify and received an answer that it would be considered of other users ask for the same thing. If you try Backupify and like it, then you know what to do.

One question that comes to mind is “what if I need to restore my data?”. It seems to me that this is always going to be a manual process. In the case of Twitter, there’s no way of re-inserting tweets into the public feed. So, Backupify collects all your Twitter data into a PDF report. If needed, you could then re-follow those you followed before and perhaps notify your followers of your new user name.

In my last post on this topic (for now, at least), I’ll look at reputation management and how to avoid to avoid a sense of doom when an interviewer says those awful words …

“We googled you.”

Postscript

While writing this post, I decided to preview what I’d done to check the layout. What I actually managed to do was to hit “publish”. No problem, I just trashed the post and started again. Unfortunately, WordPress had already sent the URL to Twitter. As a result, some people will have been rewarded with the notorious “Error 404” when they clicked on the link. This is because of the automatic “publicise to Twitter” widget. As a precaution, I’ve disabled the widget, so that Twitter and the other social networks will be updated through Twitterfeed and ping.fm after a short delay-enough to allow a change of mind. Once again, apologies for the annoying error. No excuses, it was all my fault!

Social Media and Me – Pause for Thought

June 18, 2010 at 11:42 pm | Posted in Social Networks | 4 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , ,

It seems scarcely possible that it’s a year since I made the decision to strike out on my own as an independent consultant. One of the first things that struck me was that I would need to find a way to replace all the information resources I’d become used to after nearly 10 years with a major software vendor. The next thing that struck me was that I’d better learn a bit about marketing – quickly! I remember asking my friend and colleague Simon Perry of Thinking String whose blogs I should be reading. His answer surprised me more than a little “You shouldn’t be reading blogs, you should be writing one.” It’s nearly a year ago that I took the first tentative step on this site, devoting my very first blog post to a description of how I would bend social media to meeting these two needs in my fledgling business.

So, one year on, as I pass another milestone in my career, it seems appropriate to look back on that strategy and to consider what I’ve learned – what worked and what didn’t; what’s coming along that might help and what I’d still like to see.

Clearly, a blog needed to be at the heart of my strategy, giving me a platform to showcase my skills and experience and to engage in discussions with experts in the field. After seeking advice from established bloggers, I settled on WordPress. I decide to have my blog hosted on wordpress.com, to give me the simplest possible start. Does it damage my “brand” because it’s not hosted within my domain? I honestly don’t know. What do you think?

One thing that doesn’t seem to have worked for me has been social bookmarking.  Watching the statistics on my WordPress blog, I noticed eventually, that I was getting traffic via sites like Digg and StumbleUpon.  This prompted me to look at whether I could encourage readers to tag a blog post they found interesting, by providing the buttons on the page, through AddThis .  This is where I started to run into the limitations of hosting my blog on wordpress.com.  Unlike the hosted version of WordPress, which has a plug-in to implement the AddThis menu, in the wordpress.com layout, I have to place it in the sidebar and I’m not convinced it works properly anyway.  In any event, since I added the button bar, I’ve seen no clicks to bookmark posts.  Is it because of the position of the toolbar or is it because no-one thinks the material worth bookmarking?  I don’t know.

The biggest problem I face with blogging – and I’m sure this is true for many bloggers – is actually writing the posts!  It’s not a matter of thinking of topics or deciding what to say, although that’s what I thought would be the limitation when I started.  Rather, it’s the time it takes to actually write the article, polish it into satisfactory style and grammar and assemble suitable graphics and links.  I tend to make my blog posts moderately long, compared to what seems to be the norm.   Writing 1,000 words to a standard that I’m happy with can take me 4-5 hours, even when I have a very clear idea of what I want to say.  Finding the time to do that is always a problem – especially recently, since I switched from self-employment back to a permanent role – and it’s fatal if I interrupt the writing before it’s finished.  This post sat untouched as a half-written draft for 2 weeks before I came back to finish it off.  I’m not sure what I can do about that, although one approach that looks promising is using the iPhone app for WordPress.  I wouldn’t want to mess around with formatting using an on-screen keyboard – my HTML’s just not that good.  However, if I can do the basic layout, add the graphics and some text, it’s certainly feasible to add body text offline through the iPhone and sync the changes back to WordPress.  That will make use of dead time while I’m travelling, which is one of the major pressures on my time recently.

I’ve also been trying to reuse the material I do write.  I started by publishing some posts at Ezine Articles (you’ll also find an index of them on my blog here).  Not very post is suited to this platform though.  There are automated mechanisms to allow blog posts to be sent direct to Ezine Articles, but the site only accepts articles subject to strict rules.  You’re only allowed 2 links in the article body and there’s no graphics, so any of my posts requires modification first.  However, it’s worth the effort, generating a significant number of views.  It was here that I learned another valuable lesson about content:  by splitting long posts into smaller, linked articles, you get more chances to attract readers and they’re more likely to stay, following through the set of articles.

The next thing I’d like to try builds on this, by offering the same content in multiple different formats:

  • Write a blog post and publish it here
  • Simplify and publish as one or more articles on Ezine Articles
  • Produce a slide show to summarise  the topic, add the article text as speaker notes and publish it to Slideshare
  • Add an audio narration of the speaker notes, convert to a video at authorSTREAM

I have a topic already – a slide deck I prepared for a job interview some months back. All I need to do is find the time to produce the additional formats and publish them.

Earlier this year, I wrote about how a comment by my friend and small business marketing coach Greg Spence led me to investigate how to use Google Alerts to search for news stories around your main key word phrases. Since I posted that article, I’ve gradually migrated all the RSS feeds for blogs that I follow and added Twitter searches for those keywords as well. I’ve already described how I rely on the “Feeds” iPhone app

to synchronise with Google Reader, allowing me to browse all those items offline and mark the few that are sufficiently interesting to follow-up on. It did eventually occur to me that other people might find the same things interesting – after all, if you follow me on Twitter or read my blog, we’ve got something in common, haven’t we? While investigating a problem between Twitterfeed and ping.fm, I discovered that I can use ping.fm to monitor for new additions to the “shared items” list in Google Reader and then post the link to my contacts on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

In my next post, I’ll look at the social networks I use to maintain my circle of contacts and how I notify those contacts of new content.

Have I Got News for You

February 15, 2010 at 11:32 pm | Posted in Research, Social Networks | 5 Comments
Tags: , , ,

(with apologies to the wickedly funny BBC panel game of the same name)

Meet Greg Spence.  Greg and I first met more than 25 years ago, when we worked together for a small, specialist engineering consultancy.  We worked on some early distributed database projects, using Oracle’s SQL*Link and SQL*Connect components and Greg went on to become the first Chairman of the Oracle UK Users Group.

We lost touch when Greg left the consultancy and it was only recently that I received a message through LinkedIn from him.  By this time, he had moved from technology into sales and marketing.  Currently, he helps small business owner to improve their sales and marketing results through the innovative and effective use of internet marketing.   If, like me, you’re intrigued by the use of social networking and blogs for marketing, I strongly recommend subscribing to Greg’s blog.

If you’ve been following my posts over the last few months, you’ll remember how my very first post described how I use RSS feeds into Microsoft Outlook to keep track of what’s happening and to populate Microsoft OneNote, ready for drafting new blog posts.  So, newly connected to Greg, I was interested to see a comment he posted, explaining how to use Google Alerts to search for news stories around your main key word phrases and how to forward that to Google Reader.  A little research showed that Google Reader is in fact a very easy way of aggregating these searches with RSS and Atom feeds from blogs and other static web pages.  All I needed to do was to create an account on Google.  Incidentally, this gives another opportunity to create a profile, linked to your blog, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on.  You can check out my Google profile here.

So far, so good – but you know me.  I have to find a way to integrate my iPhone into everything.  So, a little more research led me to the Unofficial Apple Website and an excellent review by Jason Clarke, comparing Byline and Feeds, both of which sync with Google Reader.  I settled quickly on Feeds:

With this new set-up, it’s simple to sync Feeds with my Google Reader account before leaving home, or whenever I find myself within free wi-fi coverage.  That leaves me with an offline copy of the latest news on my topics, for me to read on the iPhone while travelling.  The options menu allows me to very simply tweet anything that catches my eye or to email a page to a friend.

So, back to Greg.  This very useful tweak to my notification set-up encouraged me to investigate Greg’s blog and web site.  There, I found a very useful (and free!) 28 page report on Automated Marketing, which describes how to use content to drive your internet marketing efforts.  You can get an idea of how it all works from this pictorial overview:

I’d managed to work out a lot of this by trial and error over the last few months, but I found a number of things that are worthy of immediate attention, including:

  • Publishing slightly longer, factual articles at (for example) Ezine Articles;
  • Using Hootsuite and ping.fmto publish a snippet of comments on other blogs, together with a (shortened) url to those blogs.

I hope to persuade Greg to write a guest post for me in the near future, but for now, I thoroughly recommend that you download his report.

The Kindness of Strangers

December 1, 2009 at 10:00 am | Posted in Social Networks | 1 Comment
Tags: , , ,

 “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”.

(Blanche DuBois:  A Streetcar Named Desire) 

In their powerful analysis of the Web 2.0 phenomenon “Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom”, Matthew Fraser and Soumitra Dutta describe how social networking sites  allow us to maintain a loose but extensive network of our contacts and their contacts.  Our links to the members of this network are weak and generally dormant.  However, when we need advice or assistance, we turn to this network for help.  We’re all prepared to help out by providing information because, we reason, one day we too will need to call on the kindness of strangers.

 A recent Gartner webinar (Social Software: Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast) described how social networks can allow communities of interest to form, often bringing together like-minded people who might otherwise never met.  David Mellor (no relation) of Fairplace is a business mentor, helping people making the transition from employment to running their own business.  David used a LinkedIn group to build a community of interest among the people he has assisted.   I joined other members of this group recently at the Fairplace offices in London for an evening networking event .  One of our number, Christine Stedmann, gave a short presentation on her experiences in the first 12 months of setting up and running her business.  Christine, a former corporate & investment banking professional, is Managing Director of Zentime Living Ltd, an organisational lifestyle management & concierge company.   She maintains a blog to record her ideas and the lessons she’s learned in launching Zentime. 

 In the days following the event, I followed the discussions on the LinkedIn group, added my opinion, where appropriate, and of course added new contacts to my LinkedIn network.  It came as a surprise however to receive an email from Christine, inviting me to showcase Identigrate UK on her blog.  Will that guest post win me business?  I have no idea, but what I do know is this:  it’s connected me and my ideas to a whole new group of people, whom I would otherwise not have reached.

So, next time visit a social networking site, don’t just browse.  Join in the conversation.  If you’re reading a blog – even this one – add a comment.  Give your opinion, offer additional information, or even just offer some encouragement.  Answer questions on LinkedIn when you can.  Retweet interesting messages on Twitter.  Over time, that’s how your online credibility grows and that’s how, when you need help, you’ll experience the kindness of strangers.

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.