Professional Networking

aug 31, 2010 in Technology

One of my most popular talks, and a favorite of mine to give, is “You started an open source project, now what?” It aims to give advice on how to attract developers and others to your project, and how to chase them away – a practical hints and tips session with real world examples. This morning while going through my LinkedIn inbox I realized there is a variant on this topic but then specific to professional networking.

Previously I wrote about the professional networking environment in Rochester and I’ll use some of the organizations to illustrate my points.

Whether your networking opportunity today is online (eg LinkedIn or Plaxo) or in person (eg a Digital Rochester gathering) the first step is to be prepared.

For an in-person event come with business cards an practice answers to questions you can predict: what do you do? what are you looking for?

It’s very easy and cheap these days to have cards printed. There’s really no excuse to be without. When we meet I will try to remember your name, really, I will try. Having your card makes it much, much more likely that the next day I will remember you and send you an invite to connect on LinkedIn. I will certainly not remember your email address. It also helps me network on your behalf. At a Digital Rochester gathering I spoke to a person looking for a software developer with particular skills. That same evening I run into a friend with those skills. Neither had a business card. You know, you’re making this hard for me!

At a conference last year in San Jose, CA I met up with two ex-Sun colleagues. One started a new venture, the other was still looking. She and I trying to help the person still searching:
“What are you looking for?”, we asked.
“Oh anything really,” he responded.
“Yeah, but what in particular do you what to do?”, we tried again.
“Anything. If you look at my last couple of jobs at Sun and Apple I never had a clearly described job and did whatever needed doing.”

The above conversation also happens a lot in open source software projects: “Where do you need help?” asks a newcomer, “anywhere, pick any area you like” answers the project leader. This is miscommunication. In the San Jose conversation our friend tried to be helpful to us by not bounding his interest. The result of course is the opposite: he’s not giving us anything to go on. You need to make choices.

Now, one can also be too abrupt. At an August Group event someone came up to me; we don’t know each other and almost the first question was “are you hiring?” I was not so my answer was “no” and the conversation, such as it was, ended. An opportunity lost. I may not be hiring but maybe I know who is or maybe I’ll be hiring in the future. But I don’t know who you are or what you’re looking for. First, start a conversation. Don’t throw your elevator pitch at me right away but start with a question. Once we’re talking either I will ask you what you’re looking for or there will be a natural moment to perform your 20 seconds sales pitch.

For online networking it is equally important to be prepared and to observe of some of the same points. I’ll stick with LinkedIn in my argument. Make sure there’s at least some professional background info in your profile: what have you done, where have you been? And, if you set email or phone as preferred means of contact then make sure an email address or phone number is in your profile…

LinkedIn is a fantastic tool to reconnect with old colleagues, friends from school or university as well as making new connections. When I receive an invite to connect on LinkedIn from someone I may have worked with in the past then it greatly helps if you put a little context in the message rather than LinkedIn’s default “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” If you were my boss for seven years then you don’t need to elaborate how we know each other. In all likelihood I do remember. But if we knew each other only casually or we worked on a (short) project quite a while ago then personalizing the invite and giving me some context really helps. Don’t make me hunt for it. Give me an impression that you value re-establishing our relation by investing a little more time than the three mouse clicks to send out the plain vanilla invite.

And your LinkedIn profile should have a good picture of you. When I am searching to reconnect it can help me decide your profile is the right John Smith I’m looking for. And, when we meet in person for the first time it helps us recognize each other at Starbucks, the Bagel Bin, Spin Caffe or wherever our favorite coffee spot is.

Share with me your hints and tips regarding successful networking.

Fragmentation, Android, Facebook, Crowdsourcing news roundup

mei 11, 2010 in Technology

wpid-crowdsourcing-2010-05-11-09-22.jpgMy pre-breakfast news and blog browsing stumbled over a couple of developing trends. Here is a rundown and my thoughts on them.

Fragmentation, Linux, Android
Matt Asay writes “Fragmenting Linux is not the way to beat Apple.”
In this commentary piece Matt draws a comparison between today’s mobile Linux environment and the Unix wars of the 80-ies, and argues that Motorola, Google, HP, Intel, Nokia and others should look at the Linux server playbook. There companies like Red Hat, Canonical, Texas Instruments, IBM and Oracle are “working furiously to build a great core and then competing in the packaging, hardware, etc.”

Matt points out that the fragmentation could resolve itself and see Android dominating the market. Which wouldn’t be dissimilar to those Unix wars from which AIX, Solaris and HP-UX emerged as the main market players (albeit in that case fighting over a shrinking market share against Windows NT).

I agree with Matt that one wonders how many operating system variants these smart phone and other mobile devices really need. Seems like a lot of engineering investment that now can’t be used to compete against iPhone or Blackberry or Windows Mobile.

There is a difference though between the server market and the mobile market that is important here. On the server side each of the companies has direct access to the customer: the stack is already owned. The fight in the mobile market, especially since the introduction of the iPhone, is about who has access to the consumer and who owns the stack. For many years the manufacturers had to be content with a provider role to the likes of AT&T, Verizon, Vodafone who owned the relationship with the consumers, the users of the devices. Each of these companies are since working to own more of the software and hardware stack to gain leverage versus the service providers in who can access the consumer: and thus the need to each to have their own OS.

Brian Prentice’s blog entry is wonderful if only for its title: “Android – The best laid open source plans of mice and Google.”
He raises very interesting points on how recent patent saber rattling will impact IP risk assessment in open source projects, how their communities are organized and operate. It deserves a separate blog entry in response. I think though that the likes of Black Duck Software are, ehh, intrigued by the developments.

Android fragmentation really seems the coffee corner discussion topic of the day with more blog writing by Fabrizio Capobianco and GigaOM.

Facebook has its own share of press spotlight with senators writing them letters. The topic of this attention: their continuing changing management of users’ privacy.

While I am a heavy user of Facebook and I like how it helps me stay in touch with friends, I am a bit tired of the seemingly weekly changes to the privacy policy. The Like button, the ads’ access to my profile, the sharing of my content with other applications and websites. Every week there appears to be a need to go in to my account settings and making sure I still like what others can find out about me.

Perhaps what irks me the most is that most of these changes are opt-out instead of opt-in. As a community manager myself, I strongly believe you should not expose your inhabitants this way.

The Technically Incorrect blog explores that “delete facebook account” is becoming a top search on Google.

This leads me to the last topic of this post. Social Times posted a great interview with Chelsa Bocci of Kiva where she talks about the value of Facebook and crowdsourcing to the charity. I am a great fan of Kiva and how it allows me to lend support directly to people of my choosing.

By providing direct access to the loan profiles volunteers help edit, review and translate together with the launch of lending teams greatly increases Kiva’s reach from its 40 or so employees.

Chelsa characterizes Kiva as social investment and thus social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter are valuable. However, she alos notes that Facebook and Twitter have greatly improved the brand awareness but that is not yet clear if these social tools have increased the number of lenders. In other words it is hard to establish a conversion rate.

And with respect to our previous topic she also touches on the flip-side of Facebook’s Like-button changes: it’s value to organizations like Kiva.

Growing RJUG

okt 28, 2008 in Technology

Met with Tom and Rob yesterday evening at Timothy Patrick’s – an Irish pub, appropriate no? – to brainstorm on how to grow the Rochester Java User Group. How to get on average a larger turnout at the meetings, how to attract more members.

Over the last year or so we did manage to attract quite good speakers – James Gosling, Ted Leung, Neal Gafter, Brain Leonard and others. But the size of the audience could have been better for these speakers and topics. So we’re going to try a number of things to see if we can change this.

One approach is to broaden how we reach out and connect to the membership. Currently the main avenue is the web site and the mailing list. We’re going to try some of the social networking places like LinkedIn and Twitter to give potential interested developers more ways to find us and to communicate with us. The mailing list is mainly one directional, a LinkedIn group gives the possibility for a member to start discussions. And the web site could do with a refresh.

Getting good speakers is one thing, making sure speakers cover topics that match the local interest is at least as important. To that end we’re going to hook up with local companies doing Java development and talk to them about what value RJUG could provide to their developers. In this vein, we do get regular participation from RIT (one or two of the professors, a few students) but not much if any from UfoR (maybe because the meeting is at RIT?), and so an action item for me to go talk to the faculty there.

In addition to learning about new Java technologies the user group is seen as a place for networking. While our meetings aren’t specifically geared towards that, we do have a social aspect attached to each meeting: those interested go to McGregor’s (aka Conference Room M) afterwards just ti chat. Something we don’t really advertise in the meeting announcements (ie you have to have been to a meeting to know about it).

During the summer months it is always hard to get people into a conference room in the evening. Thus far this meant we don’t have meetings then because of the very low turn out. Perhaps during that time of year we solely focus on the networking aspect at a nice beet garden and forego the formal part.

In good silicon valley style we decided that we need a logo and a t-shirt. Now, Duke was open sourced under a BSD license, so no hurdles to our creative skills!

Social network here, there and everywhere

okt 20, 2008 in Life

dashboard21.jpgHow the world has progressed from mailing lists and bulletin board systems. Where is Compuserve?

I continue to find “social networking” fascinating. I put the term between quotes; it is not as if humans weren’t socially networking before the founding of MySpace or Facebook. All these nodes in the world wide web do underwrite that humans are social animals first. The success of the telephone a century ago, the ringtone explosion, Japanese teenagers sending each other grainy photographs on their mobile phones and so on.

Social networking intrigues me both personally and professionally. I live in Rochester, NY but most of my family and many of my friends are elsewhere – personal web sites, Facebook friends, twitter updates all help staying in touch with each other and so over a distance of thousands of miles and six time zones I still know that Gero is stuck in a 3 1/2 hour traffic jam due to a truck accident. I have to say though that much of my family is disappointedly cyberspace-inactive. Professionally it helps maintaining connections with peers in the industry while we all move positions, change jobs – and it adds to a manager’s ability to stay aware of the professional well-being of remote colleagues (Facebook status updates can give interesting hints on a colleague’s gearing up for a job change). In my usage I try to separate LinkedIn contacts and Facebook friends between professional, work-related and personal respectively although the line is rather blurry.

Facebook, MySpace, Twitter are all so successful also because they feed into the narcissistic tendencies of many of us allowing us, encouraging us to twirl our experiences, our virtues onto the world. I happily do. Yesterday I went on a bike ride. Before the ride I twitter that I am about to do this and I twitter upon return. The pictures from the ride need to be uploaded to my .Mac gallery, to Flickr, to Facebook and I need to write about the ride on this blog. The stats recorded by my bicycle computer are uploaded to BikeJournal. If I read something interesting on cycling or social networking then I need to bookmark that to And in between I need to worry about my Technorati authority (only 2, what’s up with that?). All this easily takes much more time than the bike ride itself.

Am I profiling myself enough? How much would my personal brand gain if I also joined Friendster, Friendfeed, Plaxo, Livejournal? Heard the other day that World of Warcraft is becoming Golf of this millennium – the place where business deals get done. I never played golf so maybe I have a shortcut here?

At the same time email is still a key communication tool. With the 11066 unread emails I have as of this writing, keeping up with all the twitter messages, facebook status updates, flickr discussions etc etc how do you stay abreast of that deluge of information? How do you know what to pay attention to and when? How to avoid being interrupted by each incoming email during writing a paper or software? Last week I unfollowed someone because he was just twittering too much.

An MIT project now implemented at MovableType, Action Streams, can be useful. Action Streams allow you to aggregate and share your actions and profiles around the web in one place. Maybe that can optimize my “post ride”-workflow?Ambient information devices then help you assess the state of information waiting for you. There is the Chumby – love to get a few of those. There’s the glowing orb. The cute rabbit by Nabaztag.

For now I am starting in a cheap and simple way. Our Mac Mini is supposed to be our media server but actually spends a lot of its time on my desk. By keeping it in Dashboard mode I can have occasional glances at stock quotes, the weather, San Francisco web cams, IP addresses on our home network, Dutch headlines, Facebook and twitter updates, and a world clock.

Twitter fun

okt 15, 2008 in Life

My favorite app? Twitterrific
Want to see who is twittering on a particular subject?
Want to get suggestions for people to follow on twitter?
Want to follow one of the Mars rovers?
Want to make sure a plant in New York City has enough water?
If twitter had existed in the late 80-ies, early 90-ies then the web may never have happened and the scientists at CERN may have used twitter to check if the coffee was brewing…
One of your twitter friends talking too much?
Who twitters the most?
Connecting twitter to facebook?
Connecting twitter to your wordpress blog?
Teach your Chumby to twitter?
Easily check how many followers someone has?
Love, hare, think, believe, feel, wish?
Traffic and transit delays?
Need a personal assistant?
Anybody twittering in your neighborhood?
Connect to your Google Calendar?
Must follow Apple on twitter?
Addicted to Heroes? or
Want to hear a secret, or tell one?
An admirer of His Pastafied Diety?
Ehh, The While House?
What’s the weather like in Toronto?
Twitter protecting the home?
See in real time where tweets are sent from?
What’s the traffic like on the M5?
The telephone book for twitters?
Keep track of your favorite cat?
Which of your friends know each other?
Be alerted when someone stops following you?
The 2008 Twitties winners?
Dutch news?
Can’t do without tweets in Second Life?

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