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Showing posts from 2011

16Pics Automatic Photo Picker: Humans Do Better But Have Better Things to Do

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This week I've been testing a new website called 16pics that is designed to take the hard work out of choosing a selection of photos from an album. Once you have set up your account it is very simple to use. You just choose an album on your favorite photosharing site or on Facebook and it automatically chooses a suite of 16 photos that you can share with your friends.

Surprisingly the process takes less time to do than to describe. Assuming you already have your photo album on a photo sharing site the automatic selection takes literally a few seconds. If you are not happy with the choice you can select any of the 16 photos and manually replace it with a single click. For some features you don't even need a click -- just selecting an album from the list starts the selection process so there is no "proceed" button, a time-saving design feature I like.

When I tested it on a collection of 82 photos of Tanzania the initial choice was acceptable and easily tweaked to make…

Three Simple Ways to Make Video Event Streaming More Effective

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In the last two weeks I have seen a best-in-class example of a video streamed event -- LeWeb Paris 2011 -- and I have appeared myself in a conference professionally streamed from the IAE Graduate School of Management near Aix en Provence. I have also seen another example of an event that was streamed less successfully, probably because the streaming was improvised. I won't say who did it to spare them needless embarrassment  but I will explain how you can get acceptable results video streaming an event with no special equipment or skill.

All you need to stream an event is a computer, a webcam (preferably HD), a microphone, a reasonably fast connection and an account with a streaming service like ustream.com, but to get usable results there are three things that you have to get right.

1. GET THE MICROPHONE CLOSE TO THE SPEAKER.  Sound is more important than video because you can follow a speaker when the video is far from perfect but if you cannot hear what she is saying people wil…

Trading Influence for Equity, Wahooly Boosts Startups, Raises Ethical Questions

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[ 2 February 2012: Wahooly has started now. See note at Google Plus Wahooly Post ]

Perhaps one day people will run out of ideas for new Internet startups but I don't think that we are there yet. Alongside all the me-too photo sharing and social network sites there are some brilliant new concepts that remind me how creative people can be. Wahooly.com is one of these.

Wahooly is a new web service scheduled to roll out in January 2012 that effectively trades influence for equity in startups. Their business model is simple yet compelling: a startup approaches Wahooly and offers a small percentage of their equity in return for the support of influencers to get their business started.  This is an intriguing idea though there are some ethical complications, as we shall see later.

Let's just suppose you have a new video sharing service -- not a great idea, but this is just an example -- and you need a critical mass of early users.  You offer 5% of the equity to Wahooly which then sign…

Managing Across Cultures: Three Non-Obvious Problems to Watch For

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When you are managing people from other cultures you probably expect that they see things differently in some ways, but there are also many deep cultural differences that can cause unexpected problems. Here are three of the most common culture-related surprises I have encountered doing intercultural workshops, and what you can do about them.

1. HIERARCHY HEADACHES.  The world is divided into cultures where hierarchy is very important and those where it is not. Hierarchy enhancing cultures are actually in the majority, but whatever side you come from you are likely to have problems one day. Some effects of hierarchy are clearly visible -- like the way managers in hierarchical cultures distance themselves more from lower level employees -- but some effects are less obvious. If you are from a relatively flat hierarchy culture, for example, and you are managing people who are from a highly hierarchical society you will find that someone might do no work for a time either because you didn&…

How Brunel Built Bridges, Railways & Steamships Without Email

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How did Brunel build bridges and steamships without email, powerpoint and other modern communication tools, asks a recent question on Quora.com.  You don't have to go back so far; at the end of the 1960s NASA sent men to the moon and returned them safely to the earth with little more than slide rules, typewriters and carbon paper. But the question is interesting because when you think about it Brunel was perhaps better off not having email.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel was the Elon Musk of the 1800s, pioneering  modern railways and metal steamships that could cross the Atlantic. His list of achievements is more than impressive and he is rightly considered one of the greatest engineers who ever lived. Brunel lived in interesting times where he witnessed the development of the postal service and the electric telegraph but for most of his business communication he relied on paper messages hand carried by messengers -- just like people did until the 1980s.

Until email went mainstream busi…

How to Separate Work and Private Networking

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One of the questions that I often hear in networking workshops is how to separate private and work networks. This is a problem for anyone but especially for those who are transitioning from study to work and need to add a layer of professional networking on top of their existing friends-and-family networking. Whatever your situation here are five answers to the question..

1. THERE ISN'T A SINGLE ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION -- there are many different ways of doing it -- but you have to choose some kind of answer. The worst thing to do is just to let things happen because then it is usually bad things that happen. Worse still, things can happen and you are not even aware of it because something you say to one person puts off someone else and they never mention it.

2. IF YOU CHOOSE SEPARATE NETWORKS DO IT RIGHT. One solution is to keep Facebook for friends and family and LinkedIn for work. This sounds simple enough though in practice you need to be very careful. To stop work contacts di…

Why Gidsy's MarketPlace for Experiences Could Change Things

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With dozens of new websites coming every day, to impress me you either have to do something very original or do something very well. A startup called Gidsy has managed to do both.

Described as a "marketplace for experiences", Gidsy brings together people who are looking for interesting new experiences and people who have an activity to share with other people. You can, for example, book a place in a stop-motion animation workshop, a graffiti tour of the city, a bar crawl or even a trip in a Paternoster elevator -- the kind with no doors that never stop. Initially it is limited to Berlin and New York, but other cities will be added in future. With just two cities there is already enough content to show effectively how the idea works.

Gidsy is interesting for people who are looking for something new to try but it is equally interesting for people who have something to sell. When you are in Berlin you can probably find plenty of activities through the usual channels, but how c…

You Don't Like the Way You Look in Photos? Here Are Five Things to Try

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So you don't like the way you look in photos? You are not alone. Most people feel the same way -- and this includes some of the pin-ups and fashion icons you drool over. Just being in the majority isn't going to make it feel better so is there anything concretely you can do if you feel like this? Yes, it turns out that there are a few things you can try, and here are the top five in no particular order.

1. GET USED TO THE WAY YOU REALLY LOOK.  Most of the time you see yourself in a mirror, which flips the image left-to-right. This means that unless your face is perfectly symmetrical you really do look different in a photo. You can test this by flipping a photo left to right with Photoshop. Most likely you will like it better that way and everyone else will say it looks odd. But the real solution is to get used to seeing yourself the right way round. This doesn't mean smashing all the mirrors, but simply printing out a few photos and putting them where you can see them regu…

Involuntary Networking: Why First Street is Fascinating but Scary

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Most people are happy to share information about their relationships with other people through social networking sites, though in all normal cases this information is shared voluntarily. But a recent announcement by a Washington political publisher raises the possibility of someone, somewhere might one day assemble and share this kind of information without your knowledge and without your approval.

CQ Press is a political publisher that has for years published directories for congressional and federal staffs, relying on voluntary disclosures to collect information. Initially these directories were meant to provide only information on the present and then be discarded when each new edition came out.  One day someone at CQ realized the company was sitting on a mine of useful information and digitized all of the data from directories going back to the 1990s. Combined together, the content of these directories gave the company a completely new product -- the possibility to track relation…

Elegant Simplicity, Website Design and a Pilgrimage to Sundborn

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When Google rolled out their first search site in 1998 their website amazed everyone for its simplicity. At that time most websites seemed to strive for the chaotic jumble favored by portals like Yahoo, where the aim appeared to be to use every word, every font and every color that ever existed in the same page.

Sadly, though Google inspired many me-too search sites, most other websites continued the tradition of complexity, though perhaps with a little more elegance as website creators became more design-focused and less concerned with the underlying technology.

This year I was pleased to see the emergence of many new sites which moved clearly towards elegant simplicity where the complexity of the machinery in the website was hidden from view and the user interface a pleasure to see and to use. Websites like the Vox.io internet telephony service and the Zerply networking site are two examples I use regularly and are very easy on the eyes but clearly functional. There are plenty othe…

LinkedIn Etiquette: How to Approach People You Don't Know

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Every so often I get connection requests on LinkedIn from people I don't really know. Some users actually welcome any connection requests -- these are the "open networkers" -- but many people are like me and prefer to connect to people they know in some way. This does not mean I don't like to be contacted by new people, but I prefer to get to know them before I connect. This is not as hard as it sounds and here are some practical tips to help you do it the right way.

1. DON'T START WITH THE INVITATION. When I get a cold invite I will usually leave it on hold and initiate a dialog with the requester but not everyone is so patient. You will get better results if you first establish contact with someone and engage with them so that you are not such a stranger when you eventually invite them.

2. ENGAGE WITH THE PERSON THROUGH STATUS UPDATES, GROUP DISCUSSIONS, OTHER SITES. If you don't know a person already then you should engage with them first to get to know the…

How To Obtain Inactive Twitter Usernames

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Twitter usernames are given on a first come first served basis so unless you were quick to register your name and your brands -- as I suggested in this post -- it is quite likely that they have already been taken by someone else. What's more infuriating, though, is that very often they are taken by someone who apparently leaves the account inactive. This means that many people ask how can you obtain an inactive Twitter username?

If the name you want to obtain is your registered trademark then the process is very simple. You just fill in the Reporting a Trademark Issue form on the Twitter support website. This is the easiest case and the only one that is likely to get you a fast result at the time of writing. Because of this some people have considered even registering a trademark just to have the proof of ownership needed to make a claim. You can file a trademark application through the US Patent and Trademark Office website but this costs hundreds of dollars and does not guarant…

Cleaning Up Abandoned Pages in Social Media Ghost Towns

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After less than a decade of activity, the world of social media is littered with ghost towns that have not disappeared but practically nobody goes there anymore. Since they are not in the public eye many pages have been created and then forgotten. Maybe the community manager that started them has changed job, or maybe they were never official projects anyway.

But whatever the reason, there are now many abandoned pages for brands and promotions that are still there, untouched for several years. I was reminded of this thanks to the work of Badreddine Lehalali, one of my social media communication students at the IAE Graduate School of Management, near Aix en Provence (hint to recruiters: there are some seriously smart people here). He was studying the social media of sports drink companies and found two interesting relics: a Bebo page about the Powerade Never Give Up 2009 challenge, and an old Powerade Myspace page from the same era. Just in case they are taken down I have placed scree…

Three Non-Obvious Ways Culture Affects Email

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A few days ago I wrote about some less than obvious ways that culture can impact your meetings (Three Non-Obvious Issues in Multicultural Meetings). Since that was so popular here are three equally unexpected ways in which cultural differences can derail an email exchange.

RISKY REMINDERS. Depending on where you come from you might think that sending reminders is a sensible, practical idea, but this is far from universal. In some cultures you would be expected to send a message about something long in advance of the deadline and then to send a reminder later. If you don't send the reminder people might assume that you have changed their mind and that you no longer need what you asked for. In other cultures you should send a single message with your request and then wait. If you send a reminder it might be perceived as rudeness. How do you know what to do? One way is to look at what the other person usually does. Do they send reminders or just a single message? If in doubt ask some…

Ten Tips to Make Conference Calls More Productive

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Many people are frustrated by the amount of time that they have to spend in conference calls that are inefficient and unproductive. Avoiding these calls is one answer, but then you are out of the loop both for information and decision making. A much better strategy is to apply best practices and systematic preparation to make them faster, leaner, more effective. You can do this even if you are just participating, but the chair can contribute the most. Here's how:

FOR EVERYONE

1. CALL IN EARLY. One reason is that if everyone calls in before the scheduled time you can start on time, but even if the others come in later it makes it much easier for you to introduce yourself and get to know the others before the work starts. This is especially important if you are new to the group and don't know anyone yet.

2. PREPARE YOUR GOALS. Why are you on the call? What would you like to achieve? It is a good idea to think about what your goals are before the call starts. If you have a stake…

Three Non-Obvious Issues in Multicultural Meetings

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When you are planning a meeting with people from different cultures maybe you have already prepared by learning about the way people greet each other and other surface cultural differences. But chances are that your meeting might be derailed by some non-obvious cultural misunderstandings. Here are the top three problems I have seen in workshops and coaching people about intercultural business.

1. MEETINGS DON'T ALWAYS HAVE THE SAME SCOPE. This is probably the hardest intercultural issue for most people because they rarely if ever ask themselves what a meeting is for, yet this basic concept is the root of many conflicts. In the USA and some western European countries meetings are usually open forums where new ideas can be discussed -- even ones that have never been raised before -- and decisions are taken that will automatically be implemented later. There are significant variations to this approach in many other countries. In Japan, for example, decision making is by consensus rat…

Three Timesaving Tips for Email -- Five Minutes to Boost Your Productivity

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By following just three simple tips any email user can save time for themselves and everyone else, cutting the time you need to spend on mails and reducing stress. Anyone can learn this in five minutes.

1. PUT SOME MEANINGFUL CONTENT INTO SUBJECT. 
By far the easiest way to make your emails easier to find, understand and act on is to put the heart of the message into the message subject. This means that people will see it even when they are only looking at a list of pending messages. Let's suppose that a webinar has been scheduled, the subject "Webinar" would be almost useless. Much better to write "Networking webinar scheduled for 11 January". This simple trick means that people are much more likely to open your message and read it. In some cases they may not even need to open it. For example, if I send someone a link and they answer with a short mail with the subject "Thanks for the link" I don't need to open it. Months later if you need to look…

Choosing Pronounceable Brand Names: Learning from the Cuil Story

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Recently I wrote a detailed note about the process of discovering and selecting brand names that are search engine friendly -- Branding in the Age of Search Engines.  What this note did not cover was the issue of pronounceability  which is a problem so complex it would not fit into a single bullet point but is critically important for businesses.

When the Internet search site Cuil closed last month I was not surprised. I believe a number of factors contributed to this closure, but one of them is certainly the fact that they had to teach people how to pronounce their name. The founders explained that it should be pronounced like "kool", which they said was an Irish word meaning knowledge, though language experts disputed this.

You might think that making a pronounceable name is a no brainer, but there are actually several separate issues you need to think about, and Cuil got all three wrong.

1. CAN NATIVE SPEAKERS MISPRONOUNCE IT?   Unless you are not yourself a native speake…