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21 posts from April 2007

LinkedIn removes the email address requirement for new connections - will we all now be spammed by connection invites?

UPDATE 4 May 07:It turns out there is now a setting in your LinkedIn account where you can return to requiring an email address.

So will we all now be spammed (more than before) by LinkedIn connection requests? 

I've been a LinkedIn user since about 2004 or so and have found it quite useful, primarily to stay in touch with friends and former colleagues as we all change and evolve over time.  But one of the things that I personally liked about LinkedIn was the fact that in order to add someone as a connection, you had to know that person's email address.  A simple thing, yet one way to increasing the level of trust within the LinkedIn network and preventing a degree of spam.  You couldn't just add anyone - you had to at least know their email address.

Now there were problems, naturally.  Those of us who publicly post an email address on blogs, websites, etc., have always been subject to people we don't know who would send LinkedIn connection invitations.  Also a certain class of LinkedIn users who really focused on estabilishing the most connections simply put their email address in their publicly visibile LinkedIn profile name, thus allowing anyone to defeat the email address requirement and request a connection.    And certainly I found myself frustrated by finding ex-colleagues in LinkedIn, but having no current email address to easily use to connect with them.

The more "pure" LinkedIn approach to the latter issue would simply be to send a connection request to the ex-colleague by way of one of your connections.  I actually did this in several cases and it generally worked fine.  But this really only worked if the person you were using as the relay was a frequent LinkedIn user and would pass along the request with some degree of speed. Otherwise, it might take some time - or never get there (as two of mine never did). 

LinkedIn also attempted to make this easier with their "Introductions" feature, where you could send an "Introduction" directly to someone without knowing their address or using someone as a relay.  As a (free) basic user you got 5 of these "Introductions" that you could use at any one time - or you could upgrade (as shown on right) to get more Introductions.  I also did use this service as a way to connect to an ex-colleague and it worked fine.

However, while LinkedIn had this requirement to establish a connection, competitor Xing (formerly OpenBC) did not... and then of course Facebook and MySpace do not, either.   With a zillion new social networking services seeming to be announced each week, I suppose it was inevitable that this email address requirement would come to be seen as a barrier and was perhaps impacting LinkedIn's take-up rate.

In any event, the email address requirement seems to be completely gone today.

Maybe it's a glitch, but just this morning I accepted a LinkedIn invitation and, as I often do, browsed the person's connections to see if I knew anyone.  I did, and so I viewed the profiles and clicked on the "add this person as a connection" link that appeared on screen after the text "Do you know this person?"  I did this three times.

It was only then that I realized that I had never provided any email addresses.  My invitations just went off.  Thinking it was an error, I looked up two ex-colleagues whose email addresses I no longer have and sent them invitations.  Same thing.  No email address required.

On the one hand, I don't mind the change since it does make it easier to connect with people - and all the other services don't impose that requirement.  But the other part of me says... uh, oh... now anyone inside of LinkedIn can send me a connection invite without doing any work to find my address - will I now be spammed by more people that I don't know?

We'll see... if you are a LinkedIn user, odds are that if this is true you'll probably be seeing more connection invitations!

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Light blogging ahead for the remainder of the week...

It's a school vacation week here in my part of the USA and I'm planning to be offline for the remainder of the week.  Getting outside with my family... going on some day trips, doing some landscaping and otherwise enjoying the beautiful weather we are having right now.  I expect to be back posting here on Monday, April 30th.  See you then.

My Blue Box podcast crosses over the 100,000 download mark

My Blue Box podcast on VoIP security hit a fun little milestone today... it crossed over 100,000 downloads this morning.

It still rather boggles my mind that for such a VERY niche subject (and running 45 minutes on average) we've got an overall average of 1,350 downloads per show (and more like 1,700 on recent shows) and according to Feedburner we're now up around 1,100 subscribers to the RSS feed.  It certainly demonstrates to me the power of the podcasting medium to reach niche audiences.

The stats geeks among you may be interested in the bottom half of my post where I talk a bit about the stats.  It's particularly interesting to me that while with recent shows the podcatcher vs direct download stat is about 60-70% podcatcher, the *overall* stats give a slight edge (52%) to direct downloads.  My thought is that this is primarily due to either or both:

  1. Listeners going back and listening to older episodes (frightening, but very true!); and
  2. People finding episodes through searching for various terms (the beauty of detailed show notes). 

In both cases, they are probably listening directly either via an actual download or through the flash player on the web site.

As I state there, I have to give a huge thanks to the community of listeners we've developed.  I also have to say thanks to Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson over at For Immediate Release who continue to let me play in their sandbox as a weekly correspondent and apply what I learn there to Blue Box and other projects.

Distracted by a double-u (W)... (a.k.a. when fonts detract from your message)

Very early this morning, when I was awake but the rest of the household was not, I was reading an excellent book on a topic I'm very passionate about when all of a sudden I found myself drawn to a drop cap with the thought:

Wow!  What a beautiful "W"!

Like the image accompanying this blog post (which comes from the Wikipedia entry about "W"), the capital W that was the drop cap looked like two "V" letters with their lines crossed. There was actually a bit more separation in the two middle ascenders. The upper serifs had a break in them such that it really looked like an "X" with branches on either side. It was quite beautifully done.

So much so that I lost track of what I was reading and started hunting around for other "W" characters in other font sizes and locations (including the front cover).  The uppercase ones all had the split serif while the lowercase one looked much more like a traditional "w" character.  I went on from there to look at the other characters to see if there were any other exemplary characters.  (There weren't, although it was a nice typeface - no colophon to know what the precise typeface was, unfortunately.)

A few minutes later I returned to the text trying to remember where I was and what I had been reading. 

While the distraction was really only for a few minutes and would probably be limited to an extreme few[1], it was a poignant reminder to me of the power that fonts/typefaces can have both to make our material beautiful... but also to distract from the message.  And why it is so incredibly important to choose the typeface(s) you use so very carefully.

[1] Now, granted, odds are that in this particular case, probably very, very, VERY few people would have been distracted.  It happens that I taught electronic publishing for about 5 years back in the 1990's and still continue to have a fascination with many aspects of typography, so I have an interest in and appreciation for well-done typefaces.

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Microsoft: When simply having an IM conversation becomes a tool to raise money for nonprofits... is this for real?

We've all undoubtedly seen the chain-letter email messages that circulate around telling you that by forwarding the email you will make money or receive gifts and most people with half a clue understand that this kind of thing is pretty much impossible.  So it was with a whole lot of skepticism that I first greeted Microsoft's "i'm" campaign because the premise is: for every IM conversation you have with Windows Live Messenger, we'll donate some money to the nonprofit of your choice (from among nine choices).  To me, it sounded just a wee bit fishy.   

Read more over on my Disruptive Telephony blog...  (well, it sort of fit on either blog, so I chose to post it there and link from over here) 

Technorati tags: , , , , , and the knee-jerk action of reciprocal "friend adding" - are people just looking for "friends"?

Yesterday I received the standard email that Twitter users get telling me that someone named "felch" had added me as a friend and indicating that I could follow the link (now dead but worked yesterday) to add the person back as a friend.  Not having a clue who it was, I naturally followed the link and, as I twittered, found that this person had added 7812 friends!  Huh?   Why would you do this?  How could you realistically follow updates from some 8000 people?

I became a bit more suspicious because there was no personal information there about whoever "felch" was and there were only 4 updates with one or two words that were basically trivial or meaningless. Unable to see any reason whatsoever to add this person as a "friend" so that I would wind up following their updates, I didn't add them...

But at least 929 people did!

That's the number of "followers" the account had when I noted it yesterday.  I have no idea how many followers the account ultimately had. I was hoping to catch a screenshot to include here, but that account is no longer there... either removed by Twitter admins or, I suppose, removed by the person who created it. (My bet is on the admins, but you never know.)  Why did someone do it?  Was it an experiment to test how many people would blindly add friends?  Was there some other SEO purpose?  Or was someone just bored and looking for something to play around with?

And what about those 900 people - why did they just add someone who: a) they did not know; b) provided no information about themself; and c) seemed to have nothing to offer so far?

Now I suppose I should put it in perspective... at the time I noticed, 6,883 Twitter users had not added "felch" to their friend list.  Of course some may not have yet seen the email and perhaps did later. But if we take those numbers as they were, it amounts to about 12% of the people "felch" added doing a reciprocal add of "felch".  So the vast majority did not (at the time I noticed)... but 12% did.


Is it because of the natural sense of reciprocity?  (i.e. if you are so kind as to be a follower of me then I should be a follower of you)   Is it because people are still experimenting with Twitter and so are just adding people who add them?  Is it because people saw no harm in adding someone else to the list of people they follow?  Is it perhaps because it was very obvious that "felch" was new to Twitter and so there was an assumption that he/she might soon start posting real information?  Is is because people just want to have more "friends"? Why?

For my part, I only have a limited amount of "attention" that I can give to things and with so may things clamoring for my attention I am very picky about the amount of "attention clutter" around me.  If you look at my twitter page, there is an assymetry of attention there...  I currently follow 59 people and (for whatever reason) have 93 followers.  For some reason, I didn't add 34  people.  Now it could be that the email telling me they added me is still in my queue.  It may be that I went to their page, found that I don't know them, and just didn't seen any updates of interest to merit adding them at that time.  It may be that when the email came I was just grumpy and not feeling like adding anyone. I don't know. 

What I do know is that I hardly have time to scan all the other information coming at me in so many ways.  If anything, I am constantly trying to reduce and streamline my information flows to make them more efficient and useful.  So before I do something that is going go take away some attention, such as adding a Twitter friend or adding a RSS feed to my reader, I do give it some thought.  Is it really going to help/amuse/inform me?  Or do I know the person?

But it would seem that some percentage of people just click "add" when offered Twitter friendship.  Why?

Reading Jeff Pulver's account makes me want to try

Okay, I admit, there's something about reading Jeff Pulver's account of he and Chris Brogan trying out yesterday that just for whatever reason makes me want to try it out...  perhaps next time I'm at a conference (like VON Europe in about 2 months). I think I'd want to do a session with a partner, though, so that it wasn't just a talking head...  hmmmm....

Microsoft rolls out "Silverlight" to compete with Adobe Flash... can it succeed with Flash's huge installed base?

Yesterday Alec Saunders' "Silverlight vs. Flash: the battle for the platform" was where I first learned that Microsoft was officially releasing "Silverlight", the product previously known as "Windows Presentation Framework/Everywhere (WPF/E)" (and yes, I'll agree that "Silverlight" rolls off the tongue a bit better than "WPF/E".... (although not quite as easily as "Flash" but perhaps all the good one-syllable words have been taken)).  The press release shows some pretty impressive support (but you would expect that) and it's definitely great to see Microsoft also providing a version for Mac OSX as well as the other browsers of Firefox and Safari.  To quote official materials:

Microsoft Silverlight will enable content providers to deliver media experiences and rich interactive applications that incorporate media, graphics, animation, and much, much more with full application functionality on both Windows and Mac platforms and inside IE, Firefox and Safari. Silverlight users will also enjoy compatibility with the broad ecosystem of Windows Media (VC-1) enabled tools and solutions, including existing and upcoming IIS and Windows Streaming Media server technologies.

Microsoft blogger Tim Sneath provides more details which definitely sound interesting.... I need to investigate XAML more personally, but I like a lot of what I read there.  The ways in which video are to be supported are also intriguing to me.   As hinted here and other places, there will be more announcements at Microsoft's upcoming (and sold out) MIX conference April 30th.  There has obviously been a ton of blogging about this since the announcement, but here are some links I found of interest:

With, as Alec says, Adobe Flash already installed on 84% of desktops, how good are Microsoft's chances of success?  Flash has been out there for many years now, has a very strong developer community and has a great number of tools to help in Flash creation.

Despite that, I have to say that Microsoft's chances are probably quite strong, for several reasons:

  1. Microsoft has an incredibly strong developer community, and looks to be integrating this Silverlight into its development tools, including the .Net framework.
  2. Microsoft has incredible desktop and browser penetration (which leads to #1).
  3. They are making this available for other browsers and for MacOS X with apparently the identical capabilities.
  4. They are stating support for
  5. They are being very open and transparent about all that they are doing.

To this last point, I would reference Tim Sneath's followup post about feedback to the Silverlight announcement, where he talks about the fact that he's left intact all the blog comments and addresses several points directly and ends with this:

Our success or failure with Silverlight is contingent on whether we satisfy developers like yourselves - time will tell how we do, but I hope that you'll at least give us a chance to earn your trust.

Kudos to Tim for the openness and honesty and yes, they'll have to earn our trust, but at least in the mind of this writer (who has a very strong Linux and open source background) they are certainly off to a good start.  Let's see what comes next...

P.S. And yes, Adobe also announced their Media Player to further increast the battle between the two companies.. but I'll take a look at that separately in another post at some point. And yes, it would have been great if MS also announced a version of Silverlight for Linux desktops, too (which Adobe does have)... but, hey, I do give them credit for providing a Mac version and also supporting other browsers.

ecademy - joining yet another business-focused social networking site (and doing so because of a Skype public chat)

Today my friend and fellow blogger Alec Saunders invited me to join ecademy.  I hesitated and almost just deleted it.  I've been a LinkedIn user for something like 3 years.  I've had a Xing (OpenBC) account for about that long as well, although I don't use it as much.  I've recently joined Facebook and I still have an Orkut account floating around from when it first launched in 2004.  There's probably a few others out there that I joined at some point and have now forgotten about.

Why do I need yet another membership in yet another social networking site?

If anything, I need fewer and to just focus my networking there. So my inclination was to simply decline the invitation (well, just delete the email). 

So what stopped me?  Why did I actually click the link and join ecademy?

Basically, because of a Skype public chat.  Well, two Skype public chats really.   Ever since Skype rolled out the beta for Skype 3.0 back in November or so, there have been a number of us who have remained logged in as participants in a public group chat that Jaanus Kase started up from the Share Skype blog and then a second public chat started up by Phil Wolff over at Skype Journal. These chats are "persistent" in the sense that you basically never leave them unless you click the "Leave" button or are ejected by the host. (Jaanus occasionally "cleans up" his chatroom by ejecting people who haven't been participating, primarily because there's a limit of 100 participants and its usually at the max with others looking to come in.)  Discussion goes in spurts, sometimes without any discussion for days... and then a whole flare up.  I read it every now and then and contribute from time to time... it's just a background thing that actually winds up providing some great info for my main line of work (VoIP).

So what was that got to do with ecademy?  Well, one of the other participants in both chats since those early days is a gent named Julian Bond, who is... well... the CTO of ecademy!  (Gee, I've noticed a number of CTO-ish types in these public chats... might have a wee bit to do with being charged with evaluating emerging technology....)

So just as I was about to delete Alec's invite, my brain thought "Hmmmm.... isn't that the site that Julian Bond is involved with?  Maybe I should check it out.  Hmmmm."

In the end, it so often does come down to recommendations from "people you know".

Will I stay there?  Or will I check it out for a bit and then just go back to using the other sites?  I don't know... time will tell.

In the meantime, if you are an ecademy user (and I know you) feel free to add me as a connection.   I'd also love to hear why you use ecademy versus the various other ones out there.

Google to add PowerPoint/presentation capability... but will it work when you are presenting offline?

You knew it had to come. Google already had documents and spreadsheets-  the remaining major office category was, of course... presentations.  And so yes, sure enough, here comes word from Google that they'll be adding presentation cababilities this summer through the recent acquisition of a company called Tonic Systems.

As a huge user of PowerPoint, I'll certainly be curious to check it out.  From a collaboration point-of-view, I could certainly see the benefit.  It also makes it rather easy to get your presentation to the conference staff or display it, i.e. no need to plug in your laptop to the display, just pull up a web browser and login.

However, I think about the fact that very often when I am presenting I am either:

  • At a conference in a room/facility with NO Internet access.
  • At a conference in a room/facility with crappy/overloaded Internet access.
  • At a customer location presenting behind a corporate firewall - and not always with Internet access.

In all of those places, you really need an offline version.  Perhaps Google will provide a way to export to PowerPoint or PDF.

For public presentations I could certainly see the utility.  Many of my own presentations include proprietary info, though, and so I wonder what the security of the system will be... will companies feel comfortable putting their data up into Google's servers?

It will also be curious to see if Google just puts it up as a presentation tool or whether they will include social networking aspects like those in SlideShare.

Anyway, it's interesting to hear about... I look forward to seeing it whenever it comes out this year.  Meanwhile, I'm still waiting to see what Google does with JotSpot, which is annoyingly still undergoing "integration" with Google.