A blog about social, economic and spiritual networking

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Does your Blog Tagline Reveal Something "Touchy-Feely" About You?

I was reading a post by Peter Caputa, titled, Refining the Pitch. He references a post by Dan Sherman who blogs in Feelings Closes the Sale:

Make your name known apart from what you sell, associating it with something good, and it'll eventually help you down the road when it comes time for someone to buy from you. I challenge you to figure out a way to do that in your own situation.

Dan changed his blog's tagline based on reading a book he read a few years ago. Dan says,

"I've always been of the opinion that facts are good when leading up to the sale, but feelings are what closes it. If you already have won over their feelings (they feel good about you) then you're sale is closed if the person needs/wants the product."

Dan feels his blog's tagline now reveals more about him as a credible, trustworthy person, rather than just the "facts". I'm not sure it quite does THAT, but it certainly is a lot LONGER and better than just "Biz Ideas", which is what it used to be.

My tagline, "A blog about social, economic and spiritual networking" tells people what's interesting to me at the moment, and represents a convergence of ideas and memes that I want to share.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

petfrog - Network/Software/Entertainment Convergence - and Braille???

Jon Lebkowsky blogging for SmartMobs, posted about petfrog, a new device that slices and dices among other things according to the press release:

"Introducing the petfrog, the “Integrated Fusion Device” of the future. The petfrog is the first wireless communication and computing concept with a totally integrated hardware, software, and content user-interface. It is a personal computer, PDA, Digital Media player, camera, karaoke machine, and more. All functionality converges into one seamless, human-minded experience platform, which results in an “all-in-one gadget” that has both professional and personal uses."


Since I'm putting together my Christmas 2004 list early, I'd also like an Alva MPO for my blind daughter(s), because it "combines an accessible GSM cell phone with SMS, organizer, and essential [braille] notetaker [and display] functionality, the MPO is the first personal wireless device of its kind for visually impaired individuals".

Alva MPO

But then, what I really want is for everything to be on my wristwatch so I don't need any more bulky pockets! Oh, and a Google "friends and family" IPO allocation, so I can pay for all these toys.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Blogging al fresco

Today, I am blogging al fresco, submitting this post from a Cosi restaurant at 13th and K St. in Washington, D.C.

I'm using my iPAQ 3955 with a SanDisk wifi card and subscription access from Boingo.

I've never posted on the road like this. In a few days, I'm going to try to post from my new Nokia 6600 phone, hopefully with photos and even video. We'll see.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Familiar Strangers and “Location-Aware” Social Networking

It’s curious to me that, due to rapid technological advancements, our capacity for social networking is expanding beyond our space and time limitations. Joe McCarthy in his recent post entitled Familiar Strangers in India, reflects on a story he heard on NPR Sunday Edition called, Life in India: Dawn on Parsee Gulli.

Joe points to similarities in the story on a project he worked on at Intel, Familiar Strangers, which was based on ground-breaking work on the subject by Stanley Milgram in 1972. In Intel's project, they designed a wearable, wireless radio beacon to capture and extend the "familiar stranger" relationships, based on the MicaDot2 Mote, a predecessor to Smart Dust. Though there are lots of privacy concerns using this technology, it's just a matter of time before these types of devices become commonplace.

The integration of "location-aware" and short-range wireless technologies such as Bluetooth, and online, real-time access to information about one's social network (like LinkedIn or Orkut) and familiar strangers, will enable all kinds of interaction between people, from entertainment, such as digital street game, to impromptu business meetings. Intel's Jabberwocky software for MIDP 2.0-compatible phones with Java J2ME support, enables familiar strangers to recognize each other when chance encounters occur. Services such as Dodgeball allows for your current location to be announced to your "friends" and "friends of friends" that happen to be nearby, as long as you live in the 10 cities currently supported by Dodgeball.

Sean Savage writes about his project, Encounter Bubbles, which aims to graphical visualize one's encounters with people and places over time.

All of these ideas and projects are converging, adding new social, spatial and time dimensions to how conversations occur and relationships develop.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Your Yahoo! Mail service has been improved

You have to love Yahoo!. Exactly 54 seconds after my Google GMail invitation arrived in my Yahoo SPAM folder, I got an email in my Main Yahoo Inbox titled: Your Yahoo! Mail service has been improved.

The new, improved service on Yahoo provides 100MB of storage for free and an option to upgrade to Yahoo! Mail Plus with "virtually unlimited storage" of up to 2GB for $19.99 year.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and in the competitive marketplace, the consumer truly does win out. Hmmm, its almost like there is some invisible hand guiding this! Hilarious.

I thought it was "curious" that Yahoo! automatically put my GMail invitation in the SPAM folder. I guess they could have forwarded it to "/dev/null". But now that I have found the invitation, I can choose to use either service, or both. Either way, I now have more email capacity than I had yesterday, and probably more than I will ever need. But that's what we said when we didn't think we'd ever be able to use more than 640K on a PC, or more than 5MB hard disk drive, or 10GB on an iPod.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Google Hat Trick: Blogger/GMail/Orkut

Okay, so now I have accomplished the Google Hat Trick that I blogged about a few days ago!

I now have: 1) Blogger blog and, thanks to people who visit my blog, I have successfully been invited into 2) GMail and 3) Orkut.

Now, what to do with them?

Orkut looks to be a bit like Ryze, though I keep getting errors and spurious session timeouts. Seems to be a lot more "beta" than the other networking services. Or maybe its just a busy day.

More later...

Curing and Preventing Blindness in Children

I'm passionate about curing pediatric blindness in the world. My wife and I have adopted three daughters from developing countries who were born blind, through no fault of their own.

Our middle daughter, Jesse, was born with a condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity, or ROP. There are over 1.6 million blind children in the world, many who are blind due to ROP.

The tragedy is that almost all of cases of ROP in children can be cured, prevented, or corrected, if diagnosed early enough and treated with the latest technological measures.

Premature babies, preemies, are at most risk for ROP. But most of these babies are born in developing countries, countries who have improved their hospitals and medical personnel to keep these babies alive in their neo-natal care units, but not advanced enough to screen these little ones for ROP and to treat it if found.

ROP is essentially a detachment of the retina due to improper growth of retinal tissue and blood vessels. Proper retinal development requires 40 weeks in utero and in the absence of environmental oxygen. Babies born too early don't get that retinal development time under the proper conditions.

Many pediatric ophthalmologists including Dr. Michael Trese and ROPARD.org are battling ROP and actively engaged in clinical research to eliminate this disease, especially in premature infants. Over the last few years, they have developed innovative new procedures that have been very successful, but more needs to be done. They need our help. They need financial resources to expand the research. You can find out more by visiting ROPARD.org.

I’m hoping and praying that hundreds of young aspiring medical students all over the world will select pediatric ophthalmology as their specialty, with a goal of changing the world through the eyes of the next generation of children over the next twenty years.

To help and treat children who are already blind, visit Christian Blind Mission International, who, since 1908, has been helping the blind in developing countries of the world. CBMI is asking for specific help: An exam for a premature child at risk for ROP is $110 in Peru. Laser treatment for a child with ROP is Peru is $215 per child. If you can help, please visit their web page at http://www.cbmiusa.org.

As CBMI founder, Ernst Jakob Christoffel, stated:

“I walked with a friend once from Pera Street in Constantinople down to Galata Bridge, a distance that can be covered in 15 minutes. When we reached the bridge, I asked my friend how many blind people he had seen. He looked at me amazed and replied: ‘None’. I had seen twelve … In order to see the blind, you need to have open eyes, otherwise the world of the sightless remains hidden. God has opened my eyes.”

Hopefully, God will open your eyes, too.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Web Invasion Tour (WIT) and the Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP)

Peter Caputa is at it again with his Web Invasion Tour. Having been one of his selected victims, I mean selections, a few weeks ago, he has been asking me and some other bloggers to help in the tour. Since I just finished reading Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software by Steven Johnson, I am thinking about the ant perspective of things a lot lately, I thought that Peter's approach was much like Marco Dorigo's ant colony experiments in trying to solve the Traveling Salesman Problem.

One of Marco's papers, The Ant System: Optimization by a colony of cooperating agents, has the following abstract:
An analogy with the way ant colonies function has suggested the definition of a new computational paradigm, which we call Ant System. We propose it as a viable new approach to stochastic combinatorial optimization. The main characteristics of this model are positive feedback, distributed computation, and the use of a constructive greedy heuristic. Positive feedback accounts for rapid discovery of good solutions, distributed computation avoids premature convergence, and the greedy heuristic helps find acceptable solutions in the early stages of the search process. We apply the proposed methodology to the classical Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP), and report simulation results.

Peter's approach to selecting a number of weblogs, leaving positive comments and linking to them where appropriate is WIT's method of developing a pheromone trail which can be picked up by others. His approach by recruiting me and a number of others is similar to having lots of worker ants who go out foraging for food, continually adapting behavior by following the successful marked trails of those who have successfully found it. The pheromone trail of the WIT, that is made up of positive feedback, comments and links, will attract other ants (blog readers) to find them as well.

With the growth of blogs being tracked by Technorati being added at the rate of 12,000 a day, (thanks to Joe McCarthy for finding that post), how can anyone find promising good blogs among the chaff of mediocre blogs out there. Maybe we should consider the ant...

Consider the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, which having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer, and gathers her provision in the harvest. Proverbs 6:6

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Online Advertising Convergence

Peter Caputa says this: What's missing from ad networks like google and overture? The publisher has no say. Give them say." He had found this post: The Publisher/Advertiser/Audience Relationship where Steve from Think Tank 23 says this about a post by John Battelle:

Right off the bat, I think Battelle is off the mark in suggesting that an advertiser's fit with a publication's audience is somehow a function of the advertiser's relationship with the audience itself. Despite how many MBAs are earning their corporate tenure by spawning crap like that in industry journals, it's still crap. (No offense intended to you other, industrious, truth-speaking MBAs, of course.)

The advertiser has a relationship with the publisher. The publisher has a relationship with the audience. It's the role of the publisher to mediate ("mediate"--look at the root) the relationship between the other two.

I've been "out" of the Internet ad biz for 3 1/2 years now and I have not opined publicly about the biz until now. Six years ago, I started an Internet ad business (network) focused on publishers. I was a web publisher with a family of community websites and needed ad revenue. I easily found thousands of other publishers with great affinity sites who would join in on my venture. I understood that publishers create an environment of content and community for web users, who consume content on those pages. Advertisers, usually agencies, represent companies who sell products or services. So, essentially there are four communities of stakeholders in delivering a successful ad impression. The (1)user, who chooses the (2)site he is visiting by an (3)agency who thinks a site is appropriate for a (4)company's advertisement for its product or service.

The keyword advertising programs such as AdSense or Overture replace the "site" for "keywords", removing the site publisher from the equation and taking the majority of the publisher's cut. I developed other selection criteria and network dynamics related to the user, such as geographical location or personal ad preferences in order to reach the millions of geographical advertisers represented by local newspapers and yellow pages.

Traditional advertising placement is driven by advertisers, because they have money. As content specific ad management technology is pushed down to the page level, and with XML and RSS we are almost there, there will be a trend towards specific advertising based on site content (the publisher has a say) down to the page, or article level. With aggregated news readers, P2P web applications, and profile "awareness" from programs such as Technorati, Blogger profiles, or social network software profiles, advertising convergence can reach all the way down to the user in a "smart" way.

The mistake that many of the Internet ad companies make is that they think that it is about the ad, site placement, or its technology. They are giving their client advertisers what they want, not what they need. When advertising is "chosen" and "allowed" by the users, such as in Google's new GMail service, we'll see a major reformation in the online advertising business. But I'm not holding my breath.

Optimizing The Value ??? of Your Social Network

David Teten, in Balancing strength of relationships and number of relationships says this:

You can spend all of your time with your close friends and family (Strong ties with those people, but a low Number of relationships), or spread yourself thin across a wide number of people (high Number, low Strength). However, maintaining both high Strength and high Number is physically impossible. How do you optimize the value of your network? How can you find the proper balance between Strength and Number?

The way to optimize the value of your network is to determine the necessary level of Strength required to accomplish your goals, and then maximize Number at that level. For example, if you are selling investment banking or strategic consulting services, you need a high Strength level for someone to buy your services. These are big-ticket items which require a high level of trust in their provider. Your Number will likely be small. Ideally, you have a small Number of close relationships with senior executives who are in a position to buy these services.

I see a number of variables worth considering a bit closer. I would argue that the value of your personal "extended" aggregate network, beyond your "first degree" relationships, is much greater that of the sum of the "value" of your "first degree" strong and weak ties. In fact, you can have a large number of "Strong" ties in family and friends, and have a pathetically weak extended network due to its homophily and lack of distance.

And since I'm currently reading Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software by Steven Johnson, I'm trying to look at things these days from the "ant colony" point of view, instead of from the "ant" point of view. From the "ant" perspective, I cannot possibly perceive the true value of the colony. As an ant, I would have limited insight into my actions and relationships, as I would not have the proper scope. My only "clues" to actions are what other ants are doing around me at the given time guided by pheromones, and how often I come into direct contact with other ants. From the "colony" perspective, I can see the clusters of active ants performing duties for the good of the colony, even though there is no central control guiding the individual actions of the ants.

I have seen some people hesitant to "connect" to people as a "time management" issue. It seems that some people try to limit the size of their "first-degree" network, because they perceive that they don't have the time to manage additional relationships or a larger network of relationships. Or maybe they're holding out for the "pristine" network, one that is of the utmost in quality. It may be that this "pre-emptive pruning" may cause more harm than good, especially when it comes to developing new relationships or strengthening relationships with weaker ties. The truth is that network growth, and its inherent value, occurs at the "edges" and can explode with only an incremental individual time management requirement. On the other hand, refusing a relationship has a potential "negative" impact on the value of your network, especially if you have overlapping relationships.

The beauty of social network software such as LinkedIn, is that it allows you to explore a vast and growing network for new opportunities, not just for "business", but for broadening and strengthening relationships. One of my first connections in LinkedIn now works for Nokia Ventures, and connected me indirectly with a previously unknown vast cluster of Finns! Now I know that if I'm ever stuck in Helsinki, I won't be alone.

I agree with David that you can optimize the value of your "first-degree" network through strategic planning and time management. But that can be accomplished with a Palm or other contact management software. People have been doing that for years. The emerging revolution in social networking software is now the realization and activation of the "yet to be determined" value of an extended network, a personal network that can't be controlled or crafted by any single member. As tools are developed to mine these growing networks for contact optimization, the value to individual members who are "tuned in" will wax apparent.

A problem for some, is that people have to close deals TODAY, and can't wait for the value in these powerful networks to emerge. But, like the worker ant who forages for food or buries his comrades, one might get caught up into the day-to-day routine of life and miss the relational opportunity of a lifetime.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Ok, So Now I'd Like a GMail Account...

So, I was over at Pejmanesque and some kind-hearted soul invited him to get a GMail account. Congratulations to Pej!

Greg Narain of Social Twister is hyping the GMail accounts over on Stowe Boyd's Get Real column.

Alright, you'd think that the second most connected person (at least in LinkedIn ;-)) in Washington, DC would have gotten an invite already, but nooooooo... We Washingtonians are always a bit behind, technological "have-nots", if you will. We're on a 6PM EDT "news cycle", while the left coast (at 3PM) is still surfing, or biking, or climbing, or blogging, or marrying each other. I bet 98% of people with those coveted GMail IDs are in the "valley".

I'd like to get one the normal way, without having to give up a first-born child, or have to bid on one of the 3,027 GMail accounts on Ebay; that seems so "20th century". I'm already on Blogger. With invites on GMail and Orkut, I'd have a hat trick!

So, if you can, please invite me. I promise I'll be nice to you!

Traffic Pattern on LinkedIn Reveals Significant "Biz" Use vs. "Pleasure"

I was checking out the traffic patterns on Alexa for LinkedIn, Friendster, and Orkut and found something interesting.

Notice the spikes during the business week (Monday to Friday) versus the weekends. I've noticed this anecdotally in my daily search for new Metro DC LinkedIn users. During the week, my local Metro DC LinkedIn network typically grows between 200-250 new members a day, but on the weekends its usually only 15-25 per day.

Though the chart for Orkut seems to have this "weekend dip" as well, its not nearly as pronounced as the LinkedIn variance. The Alexa chart for Friendster is even more telling. Note the tickmark for the start of June, which was the end of the Memorial Day holiday. LinkedIn has NO traffic to speak of, and Friendster has a lot.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Emergence by Steven Johnson

This week, I'm reading Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software by Steven Johnson. Though it's a couple of years old, I thought it would be a nice follow-on read to Steven Strogatz' Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order which I read a few weeks ago during the start of the Cicada invasion to the Metro DC area. I've also added Steven Johnson's blog to my blogrolling list.

Johnson's description of the life of an ant colony and the development of cities and neighborhoods are apt metaphors for the development of social networks. I have been looking at these networks in a macro view and his perspective of ant colonies has helped me hone that view.

An Oldy Moldy Virtual Community Article

I was just querying Google to find out who was linking to me and found this old article from May 1998, SpiderWare Weaves Virtual Community Web Sites. Funny how a 6-year old topic can come around full circle. I'm obviously still a huge proponent of virtual communities, though this time, I'm relying on OPNS, "Other People's Network Software", such as LinkedIn.

Here's the text of the article:
May 4, 1998 - Reston, Virginia-based SpiderWare recently launched several virtual community sites. They cater to specific affinity groups ranging from Oracle and NT users to cigar afficionados and doll collectors. The sites feature discussion groups, member link pages, classified ads, online bookstores and shopping. Visit SpiderWare for a listing of the virtual communities.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Jesus and the Twelve "Strong Social Ties" (Apostles)

Obviously, Jesus Christ has built the largest "social network" on the planet, incorporating almost 2 billion people. I find it interesting that this network started with four fishermen (Matthew 4:18-22), a tax collector (Matthew 9:9) and other tradesmen, a limited network of a few "strong" local social ties. He focused their efforts on the "lost sheep" of the house of Israel and not the Gentiles (Matthew 10:5,6), purposefully keeping an initial small, yet strong social network.

M. S. Granovetter’s classic work, “The strength of weak ties”, published in American Journal of Sociology 78, (1973), exemplified the importance of “weak” social ties in finding a job. Jesus uses “weak” ties, as well as “strong” ties to build His Kingdom.

Jesus developed strong social bonds with these twelve men, and arguably closer bonds with the Zebedee brothers, James and John, over the course of three and a half years.

After His death and resurrection, Jesus told them that they would be developing a social network far beyond Jerusalem, one that would extend to the "uttermost parts of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

But in the early days, the spread of Christianity and its social network was limited to Jews. The apostles did not try to proselytize Gentiles for nearly 10 years after His death and resurrection. It was Cornelius from Caesaria, who was part of an Italian regiment, who was the first "non-Jew" to be converted to Christianity. The apostle Peter was summoned to meet up with Cornelius and his household through a number of God-inspired visions.

But Peter was not responsible for the broad geographical growth of the social network we now know as Christianity. Peter and the Jerusalem church had selected Stephen, a faithful young man, to wait tables and serve the widows in the church (Acts 6:1-5). Stephen would be considered a "weak tie" to Jesus and to Peter. Stephen was persecuted and stoned to death for his faith in Christ (Acts 7:54-58). His body was laid at the feet of another young man, Saul of Tarsus (Acts 7:58), clearly another "weak tie".

Jesus appeared to Saul in a vision on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:4) and it was a converted Saul, who became the apostle Paul, after meeting up with Ananias, who was called to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth and to the Gentile nations (Acts 9:15).

So, through a series of "weak ties", the message and faith of Christianity began an explosive trek throughout the known world, primarily through the efforts of the uber social networker, the Apostle Paul.

Ronald Reagan and Blogging

I'm sure Ronald Reagan never knew anything about blogging. His progressing battle with Alzheimer's left him unaware of anything around him, including his closest relationships.

Ronald Reagan was the first President I didn't vote for. In the 1980 election, I voted for Libertarian Ed Clark. But Ronald Reagan's support for NASA and the space program drew me out of a career path in finance and investments to one of technology and innovation, and for that I am grateful. He also led me to study political conservatism in a different light, and showed me that his faith in God and personal relationship with Him was something real.

In my lifetime, I've never seen another Republican or President of the stature of Ronald Reagan. He is held in such esteem that people, even today, are called "Reagan Democrats", and are courted as a block.

I imagine that most bloggers, especially those (the majority) who are younger than I, don’t have a great recollection of this giant of a man. He was a true leader, full of integrity, passion, love of God, and love of country.

He stared down evil and oppression in the world, and defeated it, and made people proud to be called an American. Seems that most people today would prefer to be called “globalists”, or worse yet, “friends of the French”.

I remember growing up in Florida in the 60's when sirens would blare out and we would have to climb under our grade school desks because a bomb might have been launched at us from nearby communist Cuba. We have Ronald Reagan to thank that our kids don’t have to do that any more.

Ronald Reagan changed my life in many ways, and I'm honored to blog about him today.

Friday, June 04, 2004

I Hate the New York Times

I was browsing a blog about blogging over at confessions of an arts graduate and ran across this link to a New York Times article. Whatever you do, DON'T CLICK IT! I was prompted for my New York Times userid and password, which I reluctantly set up a year or two ago, the last time one of their drivelling posts piqued my interest. Of course, I had forgotten my userid and password, so I had to wait several minutes, like 15, probably for them to find a labor union-approved computer operator who could hit "enter" to release my information to me. When the information finally arrived in my inbox, I had to click through and create a new password. Once I did that, they sent me to the "breaking news" page, with the requisite advertising, and not the page I wanted to read.

When I finally retraced back through my browser history to get to the link of the article I wanted to read, I clicked on it and was presented with, you guessed it, more advertising and the first 50 totally worthless words of the article, with an e-commerce shopping cart to buy it and other archived articles. Give me a break! This article has only been out a week, it's not like it should be "archived" in Fort Knox and held for ransom.

I know that they think that "content" is "king". But I'm here to tell you that my "network" is "king", "customers" are "king", "readers" are "king". I won't pay them to read their article, but I won't charge them to read mine.

I can't wait to publish the IP address from my usage log of the New York Times person or persons who will read this post. If you are that person, you might as well leave a comment, oh, and $2.95.

In the end, a parochial approach to public content will be totally ignored by the masses, and proven commercially unviable due to lack of demand.

Until that finally happens, New York Times, YOU'RE FIRED!