The One Behavior You Need to Adopt on LinkedIn

Change the default LinkedIn message when you send someone a connection notice. Make it personal.

LinkedIn has its own personality that many people interpret to mean that you should have a professional relationship to the people you connect to on LinkedIn. Personally, I’m happy to connect if you’re a real person.

But, if I don’t know who you are, or recognize your name, I’m going to decline the invitation.

I highly recommend, even if you know the person well, change that intro message. Make the person feel like you want to connect with them.

And, if it’s someone you don’t know, introduce yourself. Have manners.

I’m happy to connect with strangers, but not if I have no idea who they are and they can’t take their time to make a proper introduction.

Top Two Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a Blog

Are you starting a blog? Not sure where to start, but want to get a couple of basics right so you maximize your investment and minimize future angst? Read on for two simple and inexpensive tips to avoid two top mistakes people make when getting starting blogging. These tips apply both to hobby and professional bloggers equally.

Giving away your “trademark”. I still don’t understand why anyone uses another domain for their blog. Go ahead, setup a free blog1 at WordPress.com or Tumblr.com, but please splurge for hooking in your own domain name. Why? Many reasons, but the short of it is that as you build your blog your “search reputation” gets associate with your URL. If your blog is myblog.wordpress.com, then your search rankings go along with that domain. If you decide to move to myblog.com in the future, it’s difficult/expensive (at best). This is a problem you can avoid with a simple $15/year investment up front.

Giving away the benefits that blogging brings to your search relevance. Fresh content and cross-linking are two great ways to improve search relevance for your site. A blog offers a great way to keep content fresh, and join the conversation. When you split your blog from your website, you split the benefits of blogging from it as well. I’ve seen many people/companies with the following on their business card:

URL: http://mysite.com
Blog: http://myblog.wordpress.com

Your blog should be your website. WordPress provides a very easy way to create pages and integrate all sorts of functionality… in fact, even if you weren’t blogging, WordPress is a great platform for building a website. Please keep the two together, and you make sure that your visitors have a single integrated experience to the services/products you offer and that search engines treat you kindly.

  1. Remember, you get what you pay for, but it’s a good enough place to start []

BuddyPress 1.5 is Coming! (It’s Very Exciting)

Had the opportunity to hear 1st hand from Boone Georges about the exciting BuddyPress 1.5 update. Wanted to share my thoughts and notes as an update to a post I wrote (one of my most popular ever) earlier this year comparing BuddyPress and Drupal Commons.

In short, it’s really exciting for 3 reasons (Boone had more):

  1. About 800 closed tickets
  2. No more overwhelming debug messages
  3. Awesome new theme you’d be proud to use as is
Let me interpret what I saw, and what I think it means. This stuff is even more important:
  1. BuddyPress 1.5 is cleaned up for developers. My interpretation: now we’ll start to see some innovation around BuddyPress
  2. BuddyPress 1.5 is committed to being a well-behaved WordPress citizen. All those debug messages, and more… fixed. Now it’s even easier to use in a real-world situation which means people like me can go whole hog without feeling like we’ll have a lot of annoying work on the back end.
  3. The BuddyPress team is taking themselves seriously, and committing to a longer term roadmap and release schedule. Maybe I’ve inferred this, but if it’s true, it means we can depend more on BuddyPress growing with the times, and that’s the most amazing news of all!

From here on, you’re getting my raw notes from Boone’s presentation. In no particular order.

BuddyBar is now integrated with the WP Admin Bar. I think it’s so important to be well-behaved in the WordPress world, and I’m glad to see more consistency here.

The settings page is available right from the start, and doesn’t do all the behind-the-scenes stuff that left you wondering if the install was all going to be OK. I’ve installed the beta since the other night, and I’ll say it’s really easy to get going.

By the way, Boone shared a best practice for implementing… no need to turn everything on right at front. Start simple – maybe with just user profiles and an activity stream. Let your users/community get familiar with that behavior before introducing them to the overwhelming full feature set that BuddyPress offers.

Custom profile fields have been overhauled making them easier to use. The fields are still stored in custom tables and hopefully in the next release everything will move to custom post types.

BuddyPress pages are now real pages and therefore work just like any others. Want to default your home page to your site’s activity stream. Just pick it on the settings page. Want to change menus and where they link. Works so easily with the new WordPress menu system and these “regular” pages you won’t believe it.

As I mentioned above, the default theme has been totally redone. It’s pretty. Personally, I think this is really important because often users are put off by ugly technology that works great. Even when we say “we’re just getting started, don’t look at how ugly it is for now.” Personally, I like love Headway’s drag-and-drop theme framework (and they’re coming out with some new awesomeness on their own – check out their 3.0 videos). Headway has a BuddyPress plugin to make integration and theme creation much easier. (Headway also works with Gravity Forms very easily, which also works with BuddyPress extended profile information… you can see where I’m going with this, right? It’s like the gold standard of cool.)

Lots of changes to the core to make it easier for developers. Enough said. I can’t wait to see the innovation this enables.

Full PHP documentation and inline documented code for all refactored stuff. Along with commitments to keep BuddyPress updated regularly, there’s also the goal of going back and (slowly) updating the documentation for existing stuff as well, so this will improve even more over time.

Standards support is much stronger.

Another best practice Boone shared to help avoid sign-up spam. Change the page-slug for your register page (so that it’s not register). Duh, good idea!

A final best practice… the Friends bit in a small community doesn’t really add value. All friending does is let you add friends to your activity stream. In a small community, where everyone is watching everything, you can turn this part off without losing much functionality.

(August 22, 2011) A final note. For those looking to move from an earlier version, I found this list of plug-ins that have been (and are being) tested for BuddyPress v1.5 compatibility. It seems the community has committed to testing every single plugin for compatibility. Awesome.

(August 26, 2011) And, wpnyc.org has posted video of Boone’s BuddyPress 1.5 presentation on the community site.

On the Evolution of the Enterprise “App”

I’m talking about APPliance, what kind of apps are you talking about?

I can’t help but think that appliances provide the same value proposition to companies that apps do for consumers.

Appliances…

  1. simplify functionality,
  2. enable innovation within a specific context, and
  3. give people (I hate the word “users”) the control they need over their specific environment in order to make sense of the ocean of capabilities available in the broader technology landscape.

Want to know what I’m talking about… head over to your local bookstore and read John Jantsch’s forward to Ken Yarmosh’s book AppSavvy . In it he writes about how he took freely available podcast content from his website, created a $2.99 app, and people bought it. They paid extra for free content because (he surmises) that it gave people the control they valued over the content.

Maybe (I don’t believe so, but let’s say) you could do everything without an appliance that you could do with… however, with an appliance you literally drop it in and go. You don’t get that convenience with pure software. You get “well, you could do that with the software if you set it up as follows…”.

By the way, the inspiration for this post was a long conversation I had with some folks at Solace Systems yesterday and today’s IBM Netezza press release which I believe is a sign of things to come in the broader market. Netezza is an IBM analytics appliance. Remember DataPower? They’re an IBM appliance for service/SOA/API compliance & security. Oracle acquired Sun and is trying to figure it out, and I bet HP could do it if they fixed their management problems, and Apple TV is nothing more than a consumer appliance – there’s nothing you can do with Apple TV you can’t do with a computer.

The #1 Proof that Windows is More Expensive than Linux is…

Just look at the pricing of hosting vendors.

This is the free market at work. Not every pricing model is cost-plus. Some pricing is supply-and-demand driven. However, we can reasonably assume that in a very competitive market where there’s a customer-grab happening, pricing would reflect costs because there’s not much supply-and-demand history.

In any case, I’m doing some research on cloud offerings and came across Rackspace’s cloud pricing when I had this thought. Check it out. Linux is 75% cheaper than Windows. I believe that’s probably a reasonable benchmark, regardless of it’s accuracy.

If you want to read more about the state of cloud hosting, check out Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, also posted on Rackspace’s site. It’s a good quick read.

By the way, another insight to the market.

Gartner most heavily weighs “execution” in their evaluation of cloud vendors… though admits that this market is noted for the current rapid evolution of services and offerings.

I wonder if “execution” is the most important factor in a rapidly evolving market. Perhaps completeness of vision is? You might execute best, but if you’re executing the wrong thing, it’s going to take you longer to get there. If you’re vision is right, you’ll maintain market leadership, and learn to execute along with your customers.

Remember, you don’t have to be 10x as smart as the person next to you to impress them. You just need to be a little smarter than they are, and they probably can’t tell how much smarter you actually are. These vendors don’t need to execute perfectly… just good enough to ensure that their customers succeed – and then provide maximum innovation and vision to give their customers the simplest growth path to the future at the most efficient price point (like Amazon AWS seems to be doing).

9 Apps = iCloud

I find it fascinating to see the comparison between Apple and Google (and others), and try to understand how to bring these lessons into my own work.

When Apple launches something, it seems to go after the “end-to-end” experience. They seem less interested in building generic “platforms” than others, in particular Google and Amazon.

Though perhaps comparing different products (refraining from saying “apples to oranges”)… the other week, when Google announced their Wallet platform, it’s just that. At the time I wrote about the “end to end experience” others, in particular retail banks, might build on top of Google Wallet to deliver an end-to-end experience.

Apple and Google both seem to be going after consumer markets, and I really believe Google would be more successful over the short term if they helped others build the end-t0-end experience (minimizing the “technology” and maximizing the “consumer value”) as part of their platform roll-out.

Apple’s not waiting for people to use their cloud to innovate… I’ve no doubt that will come and there will be some great innovation. They’ve defined the cloud as 9 specific applications, and then delivered on the end-to-end experience. It’s not everything to everyone, but it’s everything to someone. It’s their beach-head, and I’ve not doubt we’ll see more Apple apps be added to those 9 over time.

With regards to the enterprise market though, say Amazon Web Services, I think Google’s strategy of building a platform is more appropriate and then partnering for the end-t0-end experience. Enterprise success is about getting anchor accounts, and building out solutions around that success. I think success in that case then drives partnerships, perhaps appliances or gateways, that make the cloud misty. Meaning, the customer may not even realize the cloud is there. For example, forget “buying Amazon’s cloud”, a customer might instead buy “enterprise backup to the cloud” which in turn validates the cloud, and creates a leveraged model for driving customer adoption indirectly.

These sorts of relationships are important, and over a relatively short period of time will help get traction on the underlying platform. However, I think that in the enterprise market the platform provider needs to engage directly with the customer around the platform, and bringing a platform to market is more valuable than a solution at first. As the platform matures, then engage with partners who can deliver an end-to-end solution experience to their “niche” markets.

 

2 Ways for Retail Banking Innovation to Capture Profitable Customers and Reduce Customer Churn

A part of yesterday’s big news was the Google Wallet Near Field Communication (NFC) mobile payment service. Knowing it was coming, and being passionate about personal finance and the abysmal retail banking experience (in part due to a total lack of innovation), I’ve been wondering if I’d use an e-wallet.

And, more importantly, if I were a bank, what would I do with an e-wallet/mobile-wallet service? [Read more...]

APM is, By Definition, an Integration Problem

I’ve been thinking (again) about Application Performance Management over the last two weeks as I begin some new customer work. For obvious reasons, I’ve got a lot to say on the subject and I’m just trying to get sorted and create a publishing schedule on the topic.

I would like to leave you with a thought though that popped into my head last night with respect to the space.

[Read more...]

Page Numbers in E-Books? Simple, right?! Apparently Not.

Disclosure: I’m an Apple fan. And, though I have frustrations across all their products, there is also something about the “Apple Experience” that I believe in. It’s a level of attention detail; details focused on the non-technical user that matter. They seem to have a way of creating a very natural experience with technology that most other companies can’t match.

By the way, Tivo’s another company that has this ability to hit the human experience. I remember when I first went to movies after getting my Tivo and reflexively trying to rewind the movie (in the theater) 30s so that I could catch what was said. In the years since then, I still notice how poor alternative products compare even now, to those early Tivo products.

To the point…

I was really excited when Amazon announced (and subsequently delivered) page numbers on ebooks. I’m a math guy, and I like to count things. I also had a hard time enjoying starting a new book when I had no idea how long of a read I was to expect.

Page numbers! Simple, right? Apparently not. [Read more...]

15 Easy Ways to Shift the Odds in Your Favor

I have this observation that people often do two things to win a game (and by game, I mean succeed at a project, launch a new business, improve a skill, and so on). They’ll either look for that one thing they think will get them to the end game, or they’ll over-complicate things and dismiss tips that seem too simple, as if simple meant they wouldn’t be effective enough. [Read more...]