Tag: social networks

Startup 2.0 on again this year in Barcelona

This year’s Startup 2.0, a European competition for Web 2.0 startups, was launched the other day.

Submissions are accepted for blogs, wikis, social networks or any other website which makes a high use of Web 2.0 components, such as tags, RSS, collaboration or Ajax. Companies and people from any European country willing to present their projects just have to submit them.

Entries are judged not only the quality of the website but also the business model and the creativity of their video presentation. Internet users and a jury will select 10 projects to be presented in Barcelona on May 21st, where they will compete for online advertising and infrastructure prizes for their project. Last year’s winners won 5 days advertising on the front page of TechCrunch.com as far as I recall amongst other prizes.

The contest is organized by Alianzo and La Caixa bank as a non-profit initiative, supported by Microsoft and Sun Microsystems and sponsored by 22@Barcelona.

I am one of the 10 jury members who will be judging the entries along with Martín Varsavsky, Loic Le Meur, Daniel Waterhouse, Ouriel Ohayon, Nicole Simon, Bernardo Hernández, Luca Conti and Yaron Orenstein.

If you want your startup to be entered for this competition, register on the site before April 30th.

Data Portability

With the rising interest in, and use of Social Networks (FaceBook, Plaxo et al) there is growing unease in what those sites are doing with your data, never mind the inconvenience of uploading all your data every time you join a new site.

Enter Dataportability.org a site whose philosophy is:

As users, our identity, photos, videos and other forms of personal data should be discoverable by, and shared between our chosen (and trusted) tools or vendors. We need a DHCP for Identity.

An eminently laudable aim. See more about their aims on this quick video.

http://www.vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=610179&server=www.vimeo.com&fullscreen=1&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=
DataPortability – Connect, Control, Share, Remix from Smashcut Media on Vimeo.

The video was put together by Michael Pick and I came across it via Marjolein Hoekstra.

Update: Marshall Kirkpatrick has posted about this video now on Read Write Web.

Does Plaxo flood your inbox with connection requests?

Plaxo started life as a place to hold your contact information online.

That was quite handy and they allowed synchronising from your Mac or PC so your contact data were always held safe in the cloud.

More recently Plaxo added a feature called Pulse. Pulse allows you to tell it where you publish photos, blog posts, bookmarks etc. and it creates a lifestream, a la Facebook which it publishes to your Pulse network.

All sounds nice, right?

Sure, however, for some reason, and I don’t know why, of all the social networks I have joined (and I have joined a few!) Pulse seems to generate the most emails. The emails typically have the subject line “[someone I have never heard of] has added you as a business connection”

On Facebook and Xing, the other two social networks I frequent most, I occasionally get connection requests from people I don’t know. But not very often, and usually a bit of digging will show how they are connected to me.

However, on Plaxo I get waaay too many of these business connections and I have no idea where they are coming from.

Is this just me or are others finding Plaxo also generates too many connection requests from strangers?

Are Microsoft trying to sucker the competition?

The Wall Street Journal has a piece today claiming that Microsoft are thinking of investing in FaceBook. TechMeme is buzzing with the news.

According to the WSJ article

Microsoft could purchase a stake of up to 5% in the closely held startup, at a cost in the range of $300 million to $500 million

This would value FaceBook at between $6bn and $10bn which seems high when FaceBook expects to have a profit of $30m on revenue of $150m this year, but what do I know?

I don’t suppose there is any possibility that Microsoft are trying to sucker Yahoo! or Google to jump the gun and throw a bucketload of money into FaceBook?

Should employers be blocking access to Facebook?

I was speaking to journalist Dermot Corrigan the other morning about Facebook.

He was writing an article for yesterday’s Sunday Business Post on how companies have started blocking access to Facebook for their employees. This is presumably on the back of articles like the one in the Telegraph recently which claimed that:

More than two thirds of employers are banning or restricting the use of Facebook and similar sites over fears that staff are wasting time on them when they should be working

This is an unmitigated load of cobblers frankly, and raises a number of issues, namely:

  • If I’m an employer, I either trust my employees, or I don’t trust them. If I trust my employees, there is no need to block sites like Facebook. If I don’t trust my employees, blocking Facebook is the least of my problems!
  • If I am an employer I have a responsibility to monitor my employees’ productivity. If it has demonstrably dropped as a direct result of using sites like Facebook then my first step should be to review my firm’s Internet Usage policy. We DO have an Internet Usage policy, don’t we?
  • The vast majority of employees are responsible and hard-working. If they spend an hour someday on Facebook or a similar site, they will make that hour up during lunch by staying late, or by taking work home with them
  • Speaking of taking work home, as an employer have I ever impinged on my employees time outside of work hours? If so, I can hardly complain if they bring some of their personal life to work!

But, instead of thinking negatively about it, how about turning it around and asking is there a potential benefit from having employees on FaceBook? Absolutely there is.

One asset any employee brings to his/her employer is their network. Conversations in networks result (directly or indirectly) to sales leads, which, if handled properly, result in sales.

Networks build profile and trust which should again bring about an increase in sales.

Networks also help fill vacancies and networks can be leveraged to get answers to difficult questions, reducing time spent on problem solving.

The main asset a company has is its employees. By exposing employees to their peers on channels like Facebook (and blogs, podcasts, etc.) companies get to show just how good their staff are. And if the staff are impressive, the company consequently as their employer, looks good too.

Companies who block sites like Facebook do so out of fear and ignorance – these are the same companies who blocked employee access to email early on, and who blocked access to the web when it started to become popular; for the same reasons now being given for blocking social networking sites.

Eventually these companies will realise that they are losing out and will quietly roll back the ban. However, I suspect that the longer they leave it, the more likely they are to lose their best employees to more progressive companies who allow open access to social networking sites.

SAP's global Social Media survey

Shel Israel has been asked by SAP to do a global survey on Social Media. Shel emailed me a personalised list of questions as part of the survey process.

Following on from Hugh’s inspired example, I am also going to answer Shel’s questions through my blog.

Hey Shel,

thanks for considering me for this project. I’m deeply honoured to be included.

Here we go:

1. You were among the first Irish bloggers to build international relationships. How has this impacted you and your career?
Shel, this has had a tremendous consequences for my career. It has raised my profile internationally and as a direct result, I have received speaking invitations and consulting gigs from all over Europe. In the last number of weeks, for example, I have been to Las Vegas, Bilbao, Copenhagen and Madrid.

And all this international recognition has also translated into increased credibility (and therefore more business) at home.

2. Describe the evolution to date of social media in Ireland. What tools came in when and what tools do you see being the strongest moving forward?
Social Media uptake still has a long way to go in Ireland before it becomes common in the workplace, for example. LinkedIn is probably the Social Networking business tool with the greatest penetration here. And most users of LinkedIn here would probably not be familiar with the expression Social Networking.

Facebook is making some inroads into this space recently but still has a ways to go.

Other tools like blogs, podcasts and wikis are starting to receive attention from the business community but more from the perspective of a marketing tool. There is not enough talk about using social media behind the firewall for facilitating/improving internal company communications.


3. Have many Irish businesses adopted social media tools? If not, why do you suppose not. If yes, how are they using them?

As I mentioned above, the uptake is poor enough. The majority of users of Social Media software tends to be amongst the technology companies for obvious reasons.

The main reasons for the poor uptake, so far, are a combination of a lack of understanding of the benefits which accrue from Social Media, in company inertia, and time poverty!

Social media arose out of the downturn of the tech industry in the early 00’s. Many very clever people had time to invest in learning/writing new Social Media apps. Now that the economy is booming once more, people have less time to spend on investigating new business practices.


4. Is broadband still the formidable barrier that it was when we last talked? Do you see a workaround coming?

The rollout of broadband in Ireland is still quite poor in terms of speed and penetration compared to the rest of the OECD but the situation has improved somewhat in the last couple of years. Mobile broadband is starting to take off with O2 offering 3mb HSDPA for €30 per month. This offering is supposed to ramp up to 14.4mb in the next 12 months. This is going to put serious pressure on the DSL offerings who are currently offering 3mb for €40 per month.

5. How much of Irish social media is work related?
The vast majority of Social Media consumption in Ireland is non-work related (think YouTube, Bebo, MySpace, etc.). And a lot of the work-related uses of Social Media are for personal profile building as opposed to corporate brand management.

Having said that, as more young people make it into the workforce, Social Media tools are leaking into the workplace as frustrated employees deploy them to work around the strictures of more traditional Intranets.

6. What social media trends do you see moving forward?

  1. Increased opening of APIs (and therefore mashups of functionality)
  2. Increased deployment of Social Media tools on corporate Intranets
  3. Increased rollout of ERP applications capable of publishing events as RSS feeds and the requisite client apps necessary to consume them

7. Do you see any way that social impact is changing Irish impact with EU or the US? Why or why not?
Situated at the Western edge of Europe and being primarily an English-speaking country, Ireland has always looked to the UK and US as markets of choice ahead of our EU partner countries. The higher usage of Social Media in the US means that it will be easier to network (and therefore learn of/create business opportunities) with US based companies over and above their EU counterparts.

8. What social, business and tech trends do you see emerging?

  • Radical transparency -> Meritocracy
  • Improved products and improved customer service
  • Increased focus by companies on brand management
  • More adoption of open standards by companies leading to greater buy-in from consumers

9. Can you give me a couple of brief case studies of Irish business using social media in interesting or successful ways?
Unfortunately Shel, I’m only aware of one case study done on Irish business using social media in interesting or successful ways. However also check out:

  • Murphys Ice Cream and Bubble Brothers – two small Irish companies in the food and drink sector using blogs to promote their business.
  • it@cork – a not-for-profit, IT professionals networking organisation which uses blogs and podcasts to promote the organisation and its events and conferences
  • CIX – CIX is documenting the building of one of the most energy efficient data centres in the world on its site (which is running on blog software).

[Disclosure – I am a director of CIX and am chair of the it@cork conference committee]

10. Additional comments.
As I dashed this off, all of the above is likely to be wildly inaccurate or missing key bits that I overlooked. Please feel free to correct me/expand on my observations/meanderings in the comments of this post or better yet, in a post in your own blog. Shel has said that he will be delighted to get as many insights into this as possible.

UPDATED: Post updated to add a link to Aonach’s case study on WordPress

LinkedIn to open api – are they too late?

I wrote a post last week mentioning Facebook’s open api and contrasting it to LinkedIn and today I read that LinkedIn CEO, Reid Hoffman has said that LinkedIn will be opening their api to developers in the next nine months.

This is a necessary move on LinkedIn’s part as they are seeing their users desert their platform and move en masse to Facebook.

Nine months though guys? Come on, surely you can get something together before then. What kind of lead will Facebook have achieved in that time?

Facebook review

Facebook seems to be new cool Social Networking toy of choice.

It is a cool app, it has to be said, with the ability to easily create networks and groups of like-minded individuals.

More than that, it has an api which allows 3rd parties to create apps which hook into it easily. Tripadvisor have developed a “Cities I have visited” app which simply allows you to add in the names of places you have visited and it plots them on a map! Sounds simple but it is curiously addictive and similarly for the iRead app (books you have read and can review), iLike for music, Twitter and there’s even a Marketplace (for items for sale, rent, Jobs, etc.).

The social networking aspect is like LinkedIn‘s but  with the advantage that you get to see a photo of the person you are linking to if they have uploaded one. This is always handy if you are browsing one of your contact’s list of friends and you recognise a face but wouldn’t have remembered the name!

Also handy is the ‘river of news‘ information flow from your friends as they update their profiles, their apps, or their Friends list.

There are one or two things which could be improved in Facebook –

1. As Jon Udell pointed out this morning, it always annoys me that when adding a new Friend, there is no ‘Met Online’ option . Consequently I find myself clicking the Skip this Step button and

2. The email from Facebook is painfully slow. If I check the Requests page, I often see requests to connect from people I know who I haven’t added as friends yet. I add them and two to three days later, I receive an email telling me that that friend wants to connect and I should check the Requests page!

Facebook is rapidly becoming the Social Networking tool of choice for professionals – rapidly catching up on (if it hasn’t already overtaken) LinkedIn and Xing. It has a far richer user experience than either LinkedIn or Xing and it has the advantage of being free whereas full functionality in LinkedIn or Xing requires payment.

There is a reason I rarely use Xing

Xing is the new name of what was openbc – it is a business networking site analogous to LinkedIn but with a more European focus.

It should be useful for me then. I should be using it all the time. I don’t. I use it extremely rarely.

Why? It has one of the most anal login reminder systems I have yet come across. I can never remember the random password assigned to my account so I have to go through a series of emails with the site to get a new random password. Why does it take more than one email to do this? And why not include info in the emails on how to change your password on the site?

Come on guys, this is not rocket science. Other sites have solved this issue.

Make your login procedures easier and people might start using you more.

As it is, I’m off back to LinkedIn.