As I skip through my online life, I am reminded that so many of us see the world as being divided into online and offlinepersonae.
There are many folks who separate the two, and may even do so successfully. Online friends are online. Offline friends are off, although emails are exchanged, and there may be a Facebook friendship there or an exchange of tweets. But that’s it, right?
But then there’s the moment when a Facebook friend introduces you to another, and it’s for some purpose or another, such as playing Scrabble. Or a LinkedIn connection who you’ve never actually seen – just some networking friend of a friend – suggests coffee.
And suddenly the worlds begin to collide.
Who’s online? Who’s off? Does it matter? Should they be separate? Were they ever?
A Confrontation in a Dark Alley
And what about trolls? What are the differences between their online and offline personae? The person who is nasty to you online, do they really behave that way face to face? I’ve got my doubts, but hey, you never know. Maybe they really do have a misshapen nose, from all of the times its been broken by someone they’ve insulted.
A Hug in Person
But most of the time, there is little difference between the online and the offline world. At least, that’s been my observation, when I have met people and have had occasion to hug them in person. Sure, online we have some time to reflect on what we’re going to say. And we can ignore and unfriend and step away from the keyboard. Real life, offline, doesn’t really work that way. But a lot really is similar, and I can attest that it’s a blast to meet people who you’ve never seen before. I have honestly never had a bad experience.
Normal precautions, of course, should be taken. Don’t meet in some unknown, private place. Don’t leave without someone knowing where you’re going. Get information as you can before departing. Don’t be stupid.
But go out and meet ’em. Meetings, gatherings, conventions, whatever you want to call them, they bring online people even closer. It’s a lot harder to flame someone if you know them.
Oh, and I can practically guarantee – once you’ve heard someone speak, you’ll hear their posts in their voice from then on.
GoodEReader reports in 2014 that Wattpad, the giant free stories platform, is entering the digital publishing business.
In early May of 2014, it was reported that Wattpad had decided to e-publish two of its most famous stories. My Wattpad Love has over 19 million reads. A Proscriptive Relationship has over 30 million reads on Wattpad.
To provide some perspective, it should be noted that Stephen King has sold a total of 350 million books, but this is spread over 49 works, giving him an average of a little over 7 million sales apiece. Of course sales and free reads on a website aren’t the same thing, but these sheer numbers are still rather impressive.
But can free readers be converted to paying customers? Just as importantly, Wattpad is a social site. People click, visit, vote up and add stories to their virtual libraries. But how much of that is due to the quality of the prose? Is some of it due to the writer’s personality and following on the site?
Of course that is the case, but the question is, how much? Context, as Avinash Kaushik wrote, is queen. But how can context be accurately (at least as accurately as possible) determined here?
Millions of clicks are difficult to ignore, but what is the best way to weed out sympathy clicks, friendly clicks, clicks made in error and the like? And that does not take into consideration whether any of these people will convert to a paying model. Why buy these cows, when the milk has been provided for free (and in an easy to digest package, too, I might add) for so long?
But even a one percent conversion rate will turn heads.
Move over traditional publishers. The shelf just got more crowded.
of job applications. Beyond networking, education and research, there are just sometimes some forms to fill out. I have filled out – I have no idea how many. And they come as a bit of their own special Dantean circle.
#10 – Keeping the Company’s Identity a Secret
I get that there are legitimate reasons for keeping quiet about company identities. They might not want to tip off competitors that there’s an opening. Or maybe they don’t want the person currently in the job to know that they are being replaced. I recognize this. I get it. But it’s also a bit of serious unevenness. You know who I am. You get to look up all sorts of stuff on me. Yet I don’t get to do anything even remotely like that where you’re concerned. Where’s the fairness in that?
#9 – Multiple Job Postings, While at the Same Time Penalizing Job Seekers for Multiple Submissions
This goes along with the previous one. When you don’t tell me who you are, and you post the same job on, say, Monster and Dice, how, exactly, am I supposed to prevent a possible double submission? What happens when you also distribute this opening to a half a dozen recruiters? Yep – I end up with multiple submissions. And guess who gets blamed for that? Hint – it’s not the prospective employer.
#8 – You Make Me Fill Out a Form Even As I Give You My Resume
I know that you have laid off your entire clerical staff, and you likely did so in 2003 or earlier. I am also well aware that you are looking to get my resume into a pigeonhole pattern so that it can be readily compared to others that are in the same pigeonhole pattern. Because taking 25 seconds to scan my resume with your eyes is just too much time.
Okay, perhaps that wasn’t very nice, but every career counselor I have ever known has said to spend hours and hours and make it a mondo-perfect document. But the reality is that resumes are barely glanced at. Hence, rather than creating exciting visual presentations (unless you’re in the arts), the focus is on key words. And I’m fine with larding my resume up with key words (unfortunately, BTW, this also means adding misspelled keywords).
I also get how badly you want uniformity. But – surprise! There’s software that will do this! So, instead of making me jump through this particular hoop, could you invest in a system such as that? The beauty of your software doing that, rather than me doing it manually, is that you can also do some filtering. Buy yourself a good system, and you’ll get a lot more done.
#7 – S…l…o…w Sites
I know, I know. The server is down. No one’s been able to fix it since Employee X left three months ago. Whatevs. But in the meantime, I am supposed to be putting my best foot forward (and all the time, I might add. I’ve had employment counselors who’ve essentially told me to look sharp every time I leave the house, as I never know if I’ll be seeing a potential employer. Evidently this includes grocery shopping and running 5K races. Silliness). But you aren’t. You want me to apply and not get frustrated while doing so? Then fix your site.
#6 – Ignoring the Fact that I Will Not Relocate
If it’s available, I always (always!) check the box that says that I will not relocate. And I will not. There is no coaxing me. There are no perks to sending me to Minneapolis (or wherever). I ain’t goin’. And it is all over all of my applications, profiles, etc.
Yet I am still called by recruiters who tell me about some awesome, kick-bun opportunity and everything sounds wonderful and then, oh by the way, where is it? And it’s in Plano, Texas. I live in Boston. That’s a helluva commute, don’t you think? This is so basic, it should be like a standard production of Romeo & Juliet. Shouldn’t the only people who audition for the role of Juliet be, I dunno, female?
I recognize that your job is to get a person into an opening at some company. I further understand that there are people who will change their minds with enough incentives. I also know that there are folks who rent apartments briefly. But really – at the very least – be up front, immediately – with the location, and stop wasting both of our times.
#5 – Vagueness
Oh, man. You can’t be bothered to say anything about the position? Then how the hell can you honestly expect to get the right people in? I know that, a lot of the time, HR is the one writing the job description. But, truly (and this goes quadruple for large organizations), the job description should be a part of the company’s overall records. And so when HR (or whoever) writes up the job description, they should pull the basic framework of it from their records. And said records should be updated, perhaps every year, with things like new software versions and anything else that’s fairly major that might have changed.
Case in point. I (usually) work in data analysis. And this should have a basic description, which should include the system(s) being used, the version(s) of software and the general day-to-day activities. Is the opening more report creating, or report running? Will I train people in how to read it? Will I perform analysis in order to help senior management interpret it? Or am I supposed to just churn out whatever the system spits out? Of course, the upside to all of this is, I get to have ready-made questions in the event of an interview.
#4 – Requiring Salary Expectations Way Too Early in the Process
I have seen, on several occasions, vague job descriptions that require some form of salary expectation mentioned up front. I get that you’re attempting to weed people out early, and waste less time. I get that, and I do appreciate it. But this is so early, it’s not funny. Plus, if I don’t know who you are, I have few ways of figuring out whether my # is anywhere near jibing with yours. Plus I change my expectations, depending upon what, exactly, you want me to do. The application stage is a lousy time to ask about money – on both ends.
#3 – Requiring Me to Waste Time Updating Preexisting Information Manually
A rather large employer in my area (Boston) uses a resume management system which has both a resume piece and a manual piece. I filled out the manual piece in – no lie – 2008. It remains that way, even as I provide an updated resume. What to do? Do I erase the entire shebang, and just send in the resume? Do I update? Something else? It provides a distorted picture of where I’ve been. Make up your mind – resume or manual entry. Or, better yet, just take my resume. I suppose this is the corollary to #8.
#2 – No LinkedIn Functionality
While I suppose this is not strictly necessary, it’s awfully nice to have. And, in particular, if you’re advertising the job itself on LinkedIn, why can’t I just apply by connecting you to my profile there?
#1 – Security to Beat Fort Knox
Of course, I want to maintain my own security. I certainly don’t want anyone else to be able to mess with my profile. But why, oh why, must it be required that I change my password every other month, to some wacky combo of letters, numbers, special characters and, I dunno, cuneiform?
I swear, the security on some of these apps is more complicated and Byzantine than I have for my bank account!
Huh, maybe I should just change banks. Harvey’s Money-o-Rama might no longer be cutting it.
Two Dishonorable Mentions
A – Seemingly Endless Questions
Apparently, you do not trust me enough to self-select out of the running because I don’t know Software version infinity plus one or whatever. But, really, folks! Save something for the interview! Because I guarantee you, you will not get every single thing answered beforehand.
B – Interviewing Too Many People
Screen on the phone. Screen with your resume software. Screen with your keyword searches. Screen with your well-written job description. Screen with your HR people calling. Screen with your published salary range. Screen with a little social media investigating. And then your interview process can be for 1 – 5 people who can do the job. And decide amongst them based upon the intangibles.
Yet I have been in interview situations where there were a good twenty people up for one position! Sheesh! You are wasting everybody’s time. And, frankly, behavior like this makes me wonder about you as a company, and about you as a manager. Do you always hem and haw like this? Do you know naught of efficiency?
Don’t worry, I’ve got good things to say about the job search process. And I’ll post them next time. But for right now, these are the real stinkers. Got any you’d like to share?
Sue Jenkins’s Web Design All-in-One for Dummies is a decent resource for improving your website and even for starting your own web development business. It’s chockful of ideas but one glaring omission was a CD. It would have made some sense and improved matters considerably if some of the concepts could have been shown not only on the page but also on a computer screen. There were references to the Dummies website but that’s only semi-helpful as urls can sometimes change (or be taken down altogether).
But that’s a fairly small quibble.
The book spends a lot of time talking about the web development business, and gives tips on how to deal with clients. This is all well and good but does not work for someone such as myself who is building a site for my own purposes but not as an entrée into a new career. Furthermore, there is something of an overreliance on Dreamweaver. For amateur web designers not interested in forking over nearly $400 for the software, those sections of the book were also eminently skippable.
Plus it helps a great deal if you already know some html and css. These are both explained but not in depth.
However, these caveats aside, the book is a helpful resource. Interesting tips abound, such as how to make a plain printing stylesheet for a page that needs separate printer formatting, such as a resume. There is even a small section on SEO but it does not cover everything that can be done. For that I would recommend Michael Fleischner‘s book.
While this book is somewhat more advanced than a beginning web development work, it struck me as being intermediate in scope — good for a lot of things, but perhaps a bit incomplete. For more advanced techniques and ideas, I’d recommend looking for works on not only design but also on usability. But this is a great place to start.
We often can get caught up in the excitement of the moment and create a contest without truly thinking through the ramifications. Don’t simply grab your rules from someone else’s site (how do you know they’re vetted or enforceable at all?). Don’t do this cheaply. Don’t do it without forethought. Keep your head.
Hilfer outlines eight mistakes that social media managers can and do make.
Forgetting the Rules. All contest creators should work directly with their company’s Legal Department to draft a vetted set of rules, and not simply lift them from other contests. In fact, involving the Legal Department from the very beginning is always a good idea.
Running an illegal lottery. When games or contests change from judging of skill, and instead become ruled and decided by chance, they can essentially be converted to lotteries. This was evidently one of the FTC’s biggest complaints in 2012 and so is at issue. Beyond lotteries, know where gambling is illegal. Even if it’s perfectly legal where your company is, you might still have trouble if the game can’t fly where your contestant lives (see #6, below).
Trading “likes” or “tweets” for sweepstakes entries. As Hilfer writes, “(t)he FTC has made it clear that offering sweepstakes entries in exchange for mentions in social media creates a material connection between the promotion sponsor and the consumer. The onus falls on the brand, and to some extent its agencies, to ensure that consumer’s testimonials disclose that such a material connection exists.”
Choosing winners without performing adequate (or any) background checks. Do YOU want the Westboro Baptist Church to claim your prize? And for the Twitterati to know that? I didn’t think so.
Ignoring intellectual property and other third party rights. Brands need to remember to obtain releases before posting photographs and videos. Those releases need to be obtained not only from the artist, but also from anybody in those videos and photos. Check licenses and permissions. Not all Creative Commons licenses are created equal.
Ignoring global risk. You do realize that, even if your widget store is only in Vermont, that some of your contestants might be in Istanbul, right? Laws differ. Make sure you’re covered. The Legal Department is your best friend in this area. Remember them? Yes, keep them involved from start to finish and you can avoid some of these headaches. You can, potentially, avoid some of these issues by requiring that all contestants be American or from Vermont, etc. Even so, it pays to have the Legal Department look into it, at least to assure that your hypothetical Vermonter contestants really are from there.
Attaching to a poorly managed charity or cause. Brands may have an altruistic desire to help out after a disaster, and that is laudable. But regulators are watching, and caution is always advised, even before the dust settles. The NY Attorney General’s Office offers best practices. For example, in the case of the Boston Marathon bombing, a number of charities sprung up, seemingly overnight. Plus there were victims with Kickstarters and the like, who needed cash on hand to pay medical expenses. Mayor Thomas Menino‘s office had the foresight to create the One Fund, which was a place for funds to go. That charity took responsibility and that means it could (and probably is, potentially) a target for lawsuits. But better that than a fly by night operation where you can’t contact anyone to get your money back.
Forgetting to clear trade promotions. Can your contestants come from inside your organization? What happens if they trash your reputation with their contest entry? Set clear and well-defined rules, as challenges to those rules can give you one massive headache.
Much like everything else, social media needs to be balanced. Too much, and you’ll alienate your readers. Too little, and they’ll wonder if you’re still alive.
I’ll confine my comments to just blogging, Facebook and Twitter. Of course there are other outlets, but let’s just look at those three.
During the 2012 Christmas season here in Boston, the oldies station began broadcasting all-day Christmas music early. How early? It was, if I am recalling correctly, before Veterans’ Day. Egad, it was awful. And then of course other radio stations began their regular broadcast of holiday music. It was very hard to get away from it all.
Now, lots of these songs are lovely. This is not me slamming religion – don’t misunderstand me. Rather, it was just … c’mon already! It was way too much!
It was not festive. It was annoying. And the same can be said of social media. If you’re a small outlet, a tiny company, a Mom and Pop operation, the truth is, you don’t need to be constantly tweeting and Facebooking.
Reasons why you shouldn’t overdo it
You’ll oversaturate the people you’re trying to endear, and they’ll turn off to your message.
You’ll burn out.
You’ll run out of things to say.
It continually amuses me when people say something like, “I have a blog.” And they’ll post
their link and it turns out that the last time they updated was 13 months ago, or more, or they’ve never updated. Or it’s a Twitter stream with three tweets, and the account is over a year old. Or it’s a Facebook page with nearly nothing on it.
Given the number of abandoned accounts, and the number of deceased persons’ accounts on Facebook and the like, followers might be wondering – have you gone to the great computer room in the sky?
Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Underdo It
Your readers are going to leave you, big time. They may be loyal but today’s audiences are also pretty fickle. You’re no longer shiny and new. They are gone.
An abandoned account can still be found by Google, and the information is out of date. It can sometimes end up making you look worse than not having a social media presence at all.
You are, essentially, showing that you no longer care about your subject matter. So why should anyone read what you write at all, if even you don’t believe in it?
It’s rather Zen, I suppose, to seek a balance here.
But how do you get it?
The easiest way is to consider the people who you follow where you just love their updates. They don’t seem forced, they don’t seem rushed, and they seem to come in, just at the right time.
etc. Instead, consider your friends, colleagues, and neighbors, even if it’s people who aren’t making (or trying to make) a career out of social media.
Look at their Facebook walls and their Twitter streams and their blogs. What is it about those outlets that grabs you?
By the way, recognize that a person might be really good at one form of balance, but not at another. That’s not unexpected, as these are all rather different forms of media.
Reasons Why You Should Strike a Balance
Posting too much at the beginning can lead directly to posting pretty much nothing later on, so spread things out over time, and you can avoid both issues simultaneously.
If you’re really inspired and have a lot to say, that’s great! But unless it’s time-sensitive, use the scheduling features of programs like SocialOomph and HootSuite. Or try Facebook’s own post scheduling feature. WordPress and Blogger both allow you to save drafts and schedule them to publish when you want them to.
Spreading the wealth over time will assure your readers that you’re not just some flash in the pan. It will also assure them that you’re still among the living.
Too many posts means that many of them get lost in the shuffle. Too few means that they can loom large, and maybe seem more important than you think they should be. Spread the wealth, and you can avoid both problems.
One more thing. While Tweeting, Facebooking, etc. should be mindful, it’s also supposed to be kinda fun. Overdoing it means that you’re probably spending too much time online. Underdoing it probably means that it no longer interests you that much.
Consider what either of those scenarios means to you.
You find a new site. You look around. And you think – this looks like a place I might like. And so you take the plunge and you register.
And it doesn’t really matter if it’s Twitter, or Facebook or Able2know. If it’s big enough, it scrolls and leaps by so fast that you can barely get your arms around it. And in the beginning, that can be incredibly exciting.
But after a while, it’s a bit too much. So if you want to hang around and have a more meaningful interactive experience than complaining about the weather, you end up finding yourself some sort of an enclave. I’ve covered this before, actually.
You find your niche, whatever it is. And you start spending time with people. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, be it playing fantasy sports, or comparing notes as new mothers, or trading rumors about the next season of Doctor Who. What matters is, you’ve found your peeps.
And that’s when it can get kind of complicated.
Transitioning to the In-Person Experience
My husband and I recently met a fellow we have know for a few years from online. He was passing through Boston on his way home from Maine. And one thing he mentioned was – my online friends and my offline friends are pretty well-integrated. I like that.
After all, consider some of my closest friends who I didn’t meet online. Most of them either attended school with me at some stage or another, or they worked with me. In some fashion or another, we hit it off. But the same is true of the cyber world, is it not? You meet someone, and you hit it off with them, and you thereby become friends. No great mystery there. The only remarkable thing is that the lines are being forever blurred between people we met physically first, and people we physically met later, if at all.
With cyber friendships – as with all friendships – there can be loss. And as we go along online, we all know that it is going to happen sooner or later. A voice will be stilled, a timeline no longer updated. We may or may not know the correct or full name. We may never have heard that person so much as speak on a video or on the telephone. Yet we feel a sense of loss just the same.
I have found that, as this has happened on Able2know (and it has happened several times now, a function of both the size of the site and its skew in the direction of more elder demographics), people have wanted to rally around. It is not necessarily a formal obituary type of posting or topic. It can be a topic that’s more like a wake in its layout, verbiage and intent. There is no real template for this. You just go with what works. And recognize that there are people who grieve in their own ways. There may even be hostility (“You were never kind to him until it was too late!”) or one-upmanship (“I got to meet her in person!”).
The new If I Die app allows for a final status update once three people (you choose them) confirm to the service that you’ve shuffled the mortal coil off to Buffalo. It almost seems like a video will, where the rich uncle leaves everything to his parakeet and, while the cameras are rolling, also tells the assembled family that they’re all wastrels.
But it’s not just that. It’s also – look at the data that’s out there. What sort of a legacy are we leaving for future generations?
A tour through Facebook reveals an awful lot of appreciation for cute cats who can’t spell, George Takei and political soundbite memes. And if future generations only look at that (and that might happen, as it could very well be the only thing that survives long enough and is complete enough), they might feel we are rather shallow people indeed. But if they dig into communities, I think they’ll see a rather different picture. A picture of real caring. Of reasoned and impassioned debate. Of rabid fandom. Of people who help each other by answering questions or offering advice on things like repairing a fan belt on a ’68 Buick or ridding a computer of spyware. And of some fall on the floor humor as well.
What footprints and fingerprints will you leave behind? What digital fossils will await future archaeologists’ discovery? What will the people of 3012 think of us?
Robot Building for Beginners by David Cook is, as to be expected, a beginner’s guide to building a small working robot. In this case, the robot’s body is mainly constructed from a sandwich container, so the robot is named Sandwich. Its intended usage is to follow a line. I purchased and read this book in an effort to understand more about my colleagues and work at my employer, Neuron Robotics. I was not disappointed.
In order to get Sandwich constructed, Cook walks the reader through various aspects of not only robot building and design, but also basic electrical engineering concepts. While the book is certainly no substitute for even one semester of Electrical Engineering, it does help to bring some understanding to a layman like me (in the interests of full disclosure, I majored in Philosophy in college, but my father and father-in-law are both engineers, and my husband is an engineering draftsman. I have heard some of these terms before). Terms like multimeter, capacitance and resistance are explained fairly well, and in a lively and engaging style that never talks down to the reader.
Cook’s good humor extends to a section showcasing equipment that he’s fried by making various mistakes. He makes it clear: be safety-conscious and budget-conscious (he provides specifics and current pricing for most of the items used and referred to) but recognize that, sometimes, stuff is just going to happen. You’ll break or burn things, or just not get them right the first time. Shrug it off and move on — it’s all a part of the learning experience.
The book is large and difficult to digest except in small bites. It is intended as a step by step guide to Sandwich’s construction, but I think a better usage — in particular for laymen who are reading the book but not actually building the ‘bot — is as a reference and resource guide.
It almost makes me want to try soldering again — but I’ll have to fight my coworkers to get to the soldering station.
The device that is used to access Facebook and the speed of its connection”
EdgeRank has less importance than it had, but it’s not quite gone from the mix. It consists of –
“Affinity: The closeness of the relationship between the user and the content/source
Weight: The action that was taken on the content
Decay: The freshness of the content”
Dyer lays out four steps.
Optimize Facebook content. Test what’s working, and what isn’t. What are people clicking on? And are they clicking through to your site? Look at Google Analytics for your site, and determine which content is the source for your Facebook-generated traffic.
Create incentives for sharing content. Whether that’s offers, contents, or just can-you-believe-this types of posts, create the kind of content that people want to spread to their peers.
Work a multi-network campaign strategy. Use hashtags; they show up in all sorts of places, and not necessarily on Facebook. Put your hashtag in all of your promotions, e. g. blogs, television commercials, literature, etc.
Track data, and act on it accordingly! What’s happening with your links? Where is your audience coming from? Dovetailing with step #1, be the company that knows where your traffic is really coming from. Know where your audience is clicking.
1. Title Your Post – Place asterisks at the beginning and end of your first sentence of text to make it bold, treating it like a blog post title.
2. Introduce Your Post – Offer a short précis of the subject, as if you were writing a newspaper article.
3. Ask Questions – Encourage engagement by asking questions, either in the body of the piece or at its end.
4. Include an Image – If you’ve got great images, share them as full images.
5. Mention Influencers – When appropriate, mention key influencers in your post. For example, I mentioned Allton as he is the original author of the work and deserves full and proper credit.
6. Include 2 – 3 Hashtags – Google+ will add two or three hashtags, but it will copy the ones you provide, so give the program the right hashtags.
Plus three extras –
7. Share to your Blog Notification Circle – This is not for you to spam everyone and anyone. Instead, as Allton recommends, set up a Blog Notification circle where you specifically ask people if they want to be notified of your new posts, and then only add them to that circle if they respond that they are opting in.
8. Respond to Comments – Once you’ve shared your post, take the time to respond to people who take the time to comment and engage you. Show appreciation, answer questions, and demonstrate your expertise.
BONUS: Include a Pin It Link – There is great synergy that can come from having a strong Pinterest presence alongside Google+.
Want more tips on how to use Google+? Go straight to the source!