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22 posts from May 2007

Questions to ask an employer about that "perfect" job in social media or as a community manager

By way of Chris Brogan, I learned of Jeremiah Owyang's post, which in turn was actually a response to James Durbin's post (got all that?  If that last sentence made sense to you, you might just be a great candidate for a social media position!) titled "List of Social Media Interview Questions" which is James' list of questions that a job candidate should ask of an employer when interviewing for a "social media consultant" or "community manager" role. 

As more companies look to hire people to work in this space, both James and Jeremiah do raise excellent questions that candidates should ask - and that employers should be ready to answer.  Great stuff!

A key to me is that the role is allowed to, and indeed is expected to, evolve and expand into new tools and services, since new services are basically coming out daily in large numbers.

Switching back to moderating comments - anyone else having problems with TypePad requiring multiple CAPTCHAs and previews?

FYI, effective right now I'm turning OFF the CAPTCHA requirement for posting comments and very unfortunately switching back to requiring comment moderation.  I just tried posting a comment to one of my own posts and found that TypePad kept requiring me to re-enter a CAPTCHA - endlessly.  I did it about 8 times before I just said "enough is enough" and went into the TypePad control panel and switched back to moderation.  I first heard of this issue when a comment was left on an earlier post last week and I've commented successfully since then... but this was the first time I'd seen the issue myself.  I'll file a help request with TypePad to report the issue, but in the meantime thought I would raise the issue here.  (And now comments will get through, but of course won't be published until I approve them tomorrow.)

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Facebook... as an "application platform"? (and a collection of links on the topic)

For those of us using (or experimenting with) Facebook, the information shown in the image to the right (click for a larger image[1]) is become rather routine.  Yes, indeed:

Facebook users are going crazy adding "applications" to their profiles!

Applications?  Huh?  In Facebook? It's "just a social networking site", right?  So what's with the apps?

Well, it's pretty clear that Facebook has much grander aspirations (see all the links below). Although it was only mentioned briefly in a post to the Facebook blog last Friday, the "Facebook Platform" is now out with full documentation of the APIs and a range of applications already out there (you can also take the "Platform tour").  While people have been building apps for Facebook for quite some time, the big launch was last Friday and this weekend. (This CNN/Fortune story, "Facebook's plan to hook up the world" is probably a good place to start.)

Primarily, the applications seem to allow you to either:

  1. add content to your "Profile" page inside of Facebook (as I have done with "Elsewhere on the Internet", an app that lets you easily add external links to your profile); or
  2. interact with some external service (as I have done with the Twitter app, which essentially embeds your Twitter home page inside of Facebook and also puts your latest entry on your Facebook profile)

This alone makes it quite interesting as a way to integrate and distribute applications, but the more intriguing aspect of the "Platform" is that applications have access to the "News Feed" that appears on your own Facebook home page and appears in a similar fashion to your Facebook "friends".  There's two elements here of interest:

  1. Viral distribution - As I note in the image above, whenever a friend installs a new application, you learn about it from your News Feed and can easily click the link to see what the app is.  I've done this myself already numerous times, and I've also noticed friends installing an app that I installed in the day or so after I've done so (perhaps because they saw the fact that I installed it in their News Feed).  This provides a fantastic "word-of-mouth" type of distribution of apps and introduces you to apps you might not have heard of. [2]
  2. Direct access to the News Feed - Whenever someone posts from the Twitter app inside of Facebook, I see it in my News Feed.  Thus, the News Feed becomes the merger of all the other Facebook items plus the items from the Facebook application.  Now, there are some limits as to the number of times an app can access your feed (so that you don't get flooded), but it's definitely an interesting development.

I think that I will no doubt be writing a great amount more about this Facebook Platform over the coming while.  I still have a great concern about the "walled garden" aspect of Facebook and I agree with Jeff Jarvis about the need for the platform to ideally be far more open.  But this is certainly an interesting step in the evolution of the site - and it will be quite fascinating to see what emerges.

While I will write more, in the meantime, let me point to some of the articles in the great mass of coverage (or even more here) that I found more interesting (Note, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced all this at Facebook's "F8" conference last week and some coverage is calling the Facebook platform "F8"):

[1] And yes, that grey line is me using the "spraypaint" in Windows Pain to obscure an entry that is not relevant!

[2] For instance, I just learned from my News Feed that one of my friends in the hockey-mad world of Ottawa, Canada, just added the "Go Sens Go!" application - although to understand what that is, you would need to understand that here at the end of May when the rest of North America is enjoying the warmth of Spring and Summer, those folks up in Ottawa are still obsessing about a bunch of men sliding around on ice!

Eliminating podcast advertisements (and making "Podshow Suck Less") - Christopher Penn provides a script to do so

What does someone do when they can't stand the advertisements at the beginning of some podcasts?  Why, they come up with a script to remove those advertisements, of course!  Given that one of the reasons for podcasting's success, in my opinion, is the large number of people seeking an alternative to the constant bombardment of ads on commercial radio, it is to be expected that some people would seek ways to get rid of the ads that are now appearing in some podcasts.

This does,however, present a bit of a dilemma.  Many in the emerging world of podcasting are seeking ways to make a living though podcasts... to "monetize" their shows (oh, how the linguist in me abhors that word!)... and turning to advertisements is one logical step, assuming the community of listeners will stand for it.  PodShow has been one of the main folks out there experimenting with how to monetize podcasts - and it's been interesting to watch their experiments. But here you have some folks seeking a way to strip out those ads.  What's next?  Do we get a TiVo-like MP3 player that can automatically detect and move past ads in podcasts?

It's a fair warning, though, to people looking at how to market into podcasts that maybe advertisements aren't necessarily the way to go - at least with the population listening to podcasts these days. (That may change, of course, as more people move into listening to podcasts that are drawn to podcasts primarily for content rather than a dissatisfaction with the way things are today on commercial radio.)

P.S. The irony, of course, ist that the specific ad that Christopher Penn and others in NE Podcasting were seeking to remove is a ad for the "Help Podshow Suck Less" campaign that is effectively Podshow's effort to involve people in customer satisfaction surveys, etc. to make the network better.

Google's "Web History" lets you search your searches and history: there's a catch, of course, involving privacy...

 Being a user of Google products, I was naturally curious when I saw a link on one of the various Google product screens (Gmail, I think) saying that I could look at my "web history".  Indeed, Google has rolled out a new app, named, in the very simplistic Google style, "Web History".  You can see the login screen to the right along with the various statements about what it can do:

  • "View and manage your web activity" - you can search across the full text of pages you've visited. You can also remove pages from your web history.
  • "Get the search results most relevant to you" - using the data in your web history, Google can personalize the results to the most relevant sites.
  • "Follow interesting trends in your web activity" - what are the sites you visit the most and when do you visit them?

This last one, while a bit Big Brother-ish, is actually kind of intriguing to me.  The whole package is, really.  I mean, if you remember seeing a web page but you didn't bookmark it, wouldn't it be great to search back through all the pages you went to in order to find that page?

Of course, there naturally is  a catch. As shown in the image on the left, this really only gives you the full capability when you install and enable the Google Toolbar. Now, the toolbar itself sounds not too bad... you can search various sites, have better searches, easily blog or email web pages - or bookmark them (using Google Bookmarks, which would like to be my bookmark service, a role currently filled for me by In fact the latest toolbar for Firefox has a whole host of goodies.

On one level, the toolbar could be a great thing that allows you to maximize your usage of Google's applications.  Perhaps many of you are already running it. Part of me is curious to run it for the PageRank display alone.

But recall this... I'm a "security guy" with a relatively high degree of paranoia about privacy and disclosure of information, even in aggregate form.  I know that Google has a lengthy Toolbar privacy policy, but part of me does worry about the usage of my browsing data.  From their policy:

  • We process your requests in order to operate the Google Toolbar. For example, by knowing which web page you are viewing, the PageRank feature of Google Toolbar can show you Google's ranking of that web page. Likewise, by processing the text on a web page, SpellCheck can offer spelling suggestions and AutoLink can provide useful links to information.
  • In addition, we use log information about aggregate Toolbar usage to improve the quality of Toolbar and other Google services.

So by using the Toolbar with its Advanced Features (which are some of the more interesting) you are basically consenting to let Google monitor everything you view on the web.  Of course they "log information about aggregate Toolbar usage" because it is a phenomenal way for them to understand the browsing habits of web users.  I would, too, if I could convince enough people to install a toolbar like this into their browser window.  In fact, there are a lot of unethical companies out there who try to install these type of browser add-ons, but in the security industry we generally call those "spyware".  And I guess that's my dilemma - is the Google Toolbar "spyware" or is a tool to help us be more productive in our web searches?  Is the difference really only one of perspective?  In many ways, it comes down to:

Do you trust Google and their "Do No Evil" mantra?

Overall, I personally do generally trust Google... I know enough people there to know they are very serious about privacy and safeguarding information.  But do I trust them enough to install the Google Toolbar?   I don't know...

Do you trust Google?  Have you installed the Google Toolbar?  Have you used the Web History function yet?  What do you like best about it?

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Melcrum's Communicators' Network makes its debut - another social network for communications professionals

Today I was invited by someone I know, Judy Gombita, to join Melcrum's new "Communicators' Network".  Needing a brief mental break from something rather intense that I was working on, I decided to check it out, especially after having heard Neville Hobson talk about this upcoming site on mutiple FIR episodes.  I will candidly admit to a bit of "new social networking site fatigue" these days and for that reason had not yet even joined the MyRagan social networking site established by Ragan Communications and the topic of much recent discussion within the PR section of the blogosphere.  It's not that I don't think sites like these aren't good ideas... despite my writing about "Walled Gardens" of social networking, I do see value in separate sites for different communities.  It's just that with Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter as well as my own blogs and all my various IM clients, I am personally already pretty darn networked (and yes, I have a MySpace page, too, but I don't use it really) and I'm not really looking for more ways to connect to people. 

In any event, I needed a brief break so I decided to try it out.  The site was originally announced back in early May, and had some further details announced later as it entered beta testing, but appears to only be really available today for others to try it out. 

The initial account creation process was very straightforward and had an easy "wizard" kind of feel to it.  The end result was a "profile page" (note the customized URL - and also note that I haven't filled out all the fields so some are blank) that, well, looked a lot like the profile pages on most of the other social networking sites.  In looking around, the site looks like it could potentially be quite useful for communicators... if it builds the requisite mass of people involved.

Overall, definitely an interesting site to explore further.

Now, I do realize that the site was only made publicly available today, and that there will be the inevitable startup issues. I do appreciate the work involved with launching a site like this, and really only had a few nits to pick:

1. Difficult to find your contacts - if you click on the image above-right, you'll get a larger version of the image that shows the top menu bar.  What you don't see anywhere is "Contacts" and I spent a few minutes trying to figure out how I got to my list of contacts until I eventually figured out that I had to go to "My Home" and see the contacts there. If you look at any of the other social networking sites, though, you'll see that typically there is a "My Contacts" (LinkedIn), "Address Book"(Xing) or "Friends"(Facebook) link in the top nav bar that gets you quickly to your list of contacts.  Now, maybe I missed this, but I couldn't find it on the site.

2. No way to personalize contact request messages - Once I figured out where my Contacts were, I naturally wanted to add someone like, oh, Neville.  So I went to his page, clicked "Add as Contact" and then was asked to confirm that I did want to add him.  I did so and then received the message that "Your contact is pending".  Outside of the grammatical issue that I would think this should be "Your contact request is pending", the larger issue to me is that there is no way to personalize that contact request.  Now obviously I know Neville from FIR, but there may be other people to whom I want to sent a request to add them as a contact who don't know me.  I would like to explain to them why I would like to add them as a friend.  Most all the other major social networking sites and IM services let you add this kind of personalized messages.

3. Only one IM listing allowed - Speaking of IM services, in your profile you are only allowed to show one IM service (or at least, I couldn't see how to show more than one).  That's great but (with the walled gardens of IM) most of us are on several services and so it does little good to show only one if the person looking primarily uses another.

4. The "My Blogs" area only shows blog entries written there - Let's face it, anyone who has seen the nav bar on the top of any of my blogs knows this... I don't need anywhere else to blog! I think it's excellent that Melcrum provides a platform for blogging because I know there are a great number of communicators out there who haven't yet started blogging and this may give them an easy and painless way to do so.  I am definitely not one of those folks, though.  For me, I just want to import the feed from my appropriate blog into the site and have it show up there for people who find me through that site.  I can import a feed from an external blog, but it only so far shows up on my "blog" page internally - at least that I could see.

Now, obviously, this all may change as the Melcrum folks work on the site and improve it as it moves out of beta usage into a wider public usage.  In my initial inquiries to date, they were very responsive to points I raised.

I ran out of time to really explore further (my break was just that... a brief break) but I'll keep checking it out to see how it evolves.  I think the real question for both this site and the MyRagan site is whether or not they can really provide enough value to communicators for them to spend some of their precious time inside of those sites. 

Time will tell, and it's all an interesting experiment in social networking... what works best?  building smaller sections within larger communities/sites (like Facebook, LinkedIn)?  or building separate focused communities/sites?   My fatigued self who is already in too many sites thinks it may be the former, but I'm certainly open to the possibility that it may be the latter.  Anyway, kudos to the Melcrum team for bringing out what looks to be a strong contender.

USA Today mentions Twitter...

From Dave Troy, I learned today that USA Today mentioned Twitter (and Dave's own Twittervision).  The significance of this, of course, is really in the massive free distibution of USA Today to hotel chains across the USA.  Will be interesting to see if there is any measurable growth in Twitter.  Maybe, maybe not... on the one hand it may not be the right crowd to be interested, but on the other hand I've often saved articles I've found reading USA Today in some hotel.

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Ghost blogging - Sallie Goetsch provides the (updated) perspective of a ghost writer/blogger

After my post yesterday on ghost blogging, there have been a number of thoughtful responses that I'd like to write about... but I simply have no time to do so today. 

I do, though, want to point folks to Sallie Goetsch's outstanding post, "Ghostwriting Does NOT Preclude Authenticity".  Sallie is a ghost writer by trade and discloses here that she is also a ghost blogger and talks a good bit about that.  She and several others (including Kirrily Robert who left a comment on my previous post) have all pointed out that there can be value in having an editor help someone improve their writing (and I don't disagree).  While she suggests that there are better strategies than ghost blogging, she suggests that ghostwriting does not mean it can't be "authentic".  She concludes:

Ghostwriting at its best preserves the author’s authentic voice while it translates it into a new medium. And that should be true whatever form the writing takes: books, speeches, and yes, even blogs

It's a very thoughtful piece and definitely worth a read. (As is Terry Fallis' comment and Sallie's response.)

I'll comment on other responses probably tomorrow.

P.S. I say it is Sallie's "updated" perspective because she pointed out to me in a reply that her original post on ghost-blogging to which I linked yesterday was actually well over a year old since it was posted in February 2006!

Technorati does a design refresh - but seems to lose the easy "tag" search in the process (and I'll miss that!)

Congrats to the Technorati team on their new site design!  Overall it's a nice "refresh" of their design.  Of particular note, I like their new simple search interface,, which is very simple and clean and shown in the image on right.  (And as an old-time UNIX/Linux guy who likes short commands,  can I just say that I appreciate the shortened subdomain of "s".)

Dave Sifry's post has much more info but there's one item I'll pull out that is a mixed change for me:

First, we've eliminated search silos on Technorati. In the past, you had to know the difference between keyword search, tag search and blog directory search in order to make use of the full power of our site. No more. Starting today, we now provide you a simplified experience. Simply indicate what's of interest to you and we'll assemble the freshest, hottest, most current social media from across the Live Web - Blogs, posts, photos, videos, podcasts, events, and more.

But what if I want the search silos?

Specifically, what if I want to search for posts tagged with a given tag?  Yes, that's still available on the Advanced Search page and yes, I can create a URL like and use that... but I guess you can count me as one who liked the aspect of the old interface where you could choose to just search on tags.


Well, searching on posts by tag represents a richer way to search for me.  Searching for a string in blog posts pulls up all sorts of things (and can be very difficult to sort through if you are searching for a generic text string), but searching for a tag gets into the author's intent.  The author did more than just write about something, they tagged it to indicate that it had some relevance to that category.

It also, quite frankly, provided a way to separate out the absolutely clueless newbie bloggers from those who have a clue about blogging and applying meta-information to their entries.  Tags are not perfect... spammers certainly tag their entries with all sorts of irrelevant tags which pollute search results... but they are one additional way to aid us in sorting through the huge volume of information posted to the blogosphere.

So I use tag searches all the time, and it was easy to just go to, enter in text and change the option box to a tag search.  Now, that option seems to be gone and I have to either do one more click to the Advanced Search (easy to bookmark and use from my systems, but not as quick when I'm elsewhere and need some info) or construct the appropriate URLs.

Technorati team, for those of us who love tag searches, how about giving us a "" that will let us search by tag?

Other than that, the refresh looks quite nice - kudos to the team for making it happen.

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Shel & Neville's "How to Do Everything with Podcasting" book nearing its launch date..

For a bit now, I've been meaning to post here that Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson's new book "How to Do Everything with Podcasting" is now nearing its launch.  Last week both Shel and Neville posted about it, but with travelling I wasn't doing much blogging and added it to my (long) queue of things to write about.   If you are not aware of Shel and Neville, they are the duo behind the "For Immediate Release" (FIR) podcast that comes out twice weekly on "the intersection of public relations and technology". I've been providing commentary into FIR for now most of two years as a "weekly correspondent" and both Shel and Neville have become good friends over the time.  I've not seen their book yet (since it's not available until June 15th) but knowing them both, I expect it to be both high quality and extremely useful.  I'm definitely looking forward to seeing it... kudos to them both for putting the time and energy into making it a reality!