Connect Twitter to Socialcast [how to]

Yammer and Socialcast are two services that provide Twitter-like capabilities based on corporate email addresses. The idea is that you can communicate in short messages that are accessible only to individuals within your organization. Using groups, you can reproduce your organization’s workforce structure and augment communication methods like email, phone, and chat.

The advantage to these services is that colleagues within an organization can converse asynchronously and share ideas that, if shared publicly on Twitter, could result in a loss of intellectual capital or business opportunities.

I currently use various hashtags to repost from Twitter to Facebook (#fb), LinkedIn (#in), and Yammer (#yam). In this way, I can post to multiple platforms, depending on which circles I want to share content. I haven’t determined the appreciable differences between the two platforms, but to adequately test Socialcast, I needed to find a way to connect my Twitter account.

I was surprised not to find instructions on the Socialtext site. It took a bit of searching, but I came upon a post on getsatisfaction which provided some bare-bones instructions. Based on those instructions, I created this detailed tutorial.

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Is anybody reading this? Tweak your WordPress home page to get better traffic data. [Part 2 of 2]

This is part two of a two-part series on improving WordPress blog traffic statistics. In Part 1 I explained how to set the RSS feed settings to drive users from an RSS reader to your site. In Part 2, I explain how to use the “more” tag in WordPress to drive users from your home page to the specific post.

Many WordPress blogs are set up to show a few to dozens of full posts on the blog’s home page.  This seemingly makes it easier for readers to read the last several posts without adding another “click” to dig deeper into the site.

But if a user scans through the posts, reading some and ignoring others, there is no way to indicate which posts he found useful. By tweaking your WordPress home page, you can dramatically improve your website traffic statistics.

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Is anybody reading this? Tweak WordPress RSS settings to get better traffic data. [Part 1 of 2]

This is part one of a two-part series on improving WordPress blog traffic statistics.

If you blog for any reason beyond self-reflection (i.e., talking to yourself), you’re probably interested in how many readers you get. You may be a professional blogger looking to gather data to garner sponsors or advertisers or you may blog on a social enterprise platform and are looking to “demonstrate an ROI” for your blogging efforts (these are the folks I work with). Either way, one simple tweak of the WordPress subscription (RSS) settings can dramatically improve your website traffic statistics.

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Social media blackout at Harrisburg U? Bad idea…

Some ideas are just plain bad.

According to Inside Higher Ed, the provost of Harrisburg University of Science and Technology (in Harrisburg, PA) is pulling the plug on popular social media sites for one week at his college. This “experiment” – I use the term loosely as he has no control or defined parameters – is intended to find out…what, exactly?

For a school centered around technology and at which social media is wholeheartedly embraced and used, this seems like an odd activity to pursue. In addition, the provost chose to block the following sites: Facebook, AIM, Twitter, and Myspace. In addition, he has ordered the collaborative functionality of the internal learning management system to be disabled.

W.T.H.? (what the heck?)

I’m by no means alone in my confusion about this story. A writer at Crunchgear offers these observations on why this study is doomed to fail:

  • Smartphones. “ Provost surely recognizes that much of the social web is accessible via smartphone, and text messages have largely replaced instant messenger applications”
  • Filter failure. “…blocking all social access…isn’t really even possible except by eliminating internet access altogether.”

In addition, I’ve come up with just a few more reasons to abandon this useless study:

  • Ethics. How often do you hear of experiments where the “test subjects” do not give their consent?
  • Out of touch. Why choose those social networks? If recent surveys are any indication, kids don’t use Twitter, Facebook is rapidly becoming passé, and MySpace is basically moot. And AIM? Really?!
  • Productivity. By disabling the Moodle learning management system, the Provost is taking away effective work tools…and during the beginning of the semester when communication and organization is most needed!
  • Disrupting business. You can bet that at a technology-centric college, there are more than a few students who have thriving online businesses. Businesses that probably rely on social media engagement. This “experiment” could negatively impact real-world moneymaking.

What am I missing here? Is there some redemptive aspect of this idea? What other “studies” have you come across that seem to completely miss the mark?

Lost & found: silver screen gems rediscovered

Two recent NPR stories caught my attention for how they speak to a pervasive problem plaguing organizations like mine: loss of organizational history.

One story is about “Bruce,” the name given to the three giant fake sharks used in the movie Jaws. After the filming concluded, all three models were lost and most likely destroyed. After all, you can’t keep every movie prop for sentimental reasons, right? Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and so, years later, the efforts of a determined journalist finally paid off. After coordinating tips from a dedicated Jaws fan community, a fourth shark made from the same mold as the movie models was found in a California auto yard. Used as a prop at the Universal Studios Theme Park in Hollywood, this 25-foot-long behemoth was sorely weathered. But Jaws fans can finally rejoice that a key piece of Americana has been found.

A similar story revealed that 75 silent films were recovered from the New Zealand Film Archive. One such film is a 1927 feature called Upstream by four-time Oscar-winning director John Ford. These early American movies were sent to remote areas of the globe late in their lifecycle. The physical films degraded quickly and, since they were shipped in heavy metal cans, distributors in the States thought it financially wise to abandon them rather than pay to ship them back. However, projectionists and collectors thankfully protected them until they found their way to the vaults of the New Zealand national archive.

Both of these stories are examples where the value of something – films and film props – wasn’t realized until years after they were lost. And, while I can understand how financial limitations prevented preserving a giant shark and dozens of classic films, the same doesn’t apply to expert knowledge and experience. These types of “artifacts” are easy to preserve, especially with the availability of social enterprise tools like blogs.

So I have two questions for you

Can you think of a project or area of expertise you worked on years ago that has since been lost because the knowledge wasn’t captured properly?

What can you do – today – to prevent repeating this mistake?

An introduction to the “21st Century Web”

A while back, I asked for help identifying what web sites would be ideal for someone who had missed key advances on the Internet for the past several years. As a social software trainer, I teach a class designed to encapsulate the “latest and greatest” on the web in order to lay the groundwork for students to understand the nature of our social enterprise tools. It’s my goal to help them “get” how these tools can empower them and increase their productivity both professionally and personally.

I recently published a Google Doc as a guide to the websites we cover in the class and includes ideas for experimenting with each one. Since the class is only three hours long – and focused on those tools that have counterparts in our social enterprise suite – some of the sites (like the ones under “Media sharing”) are only mentioned.

Please view the list of “21st Century Websites” and let me know what you think. Alternatively, you can download the full PDF or 2-page condensed PDF versions.

What critical sites are we missing?

What other activities would you suggest we add to the “Try this” column?

Please feel free to reuse or redistribute this resource as you see fit!

Being the “hands on the keyboard” for your mentor

In an enlightening conversation I had yesterday, a senior leader where I work said that as we continue to face the likelihood of losing a large percentage of our workforce to retirement in the next few years, the organization has essentially three options to prevent hemorrhaging knowledge:

  1. Capture their knowledge (in a usable format) before they leave.
  2. Enable effective mentoring relationships that allow their knowledge to be transferred to the next generation.
  3. Hire them back as consultants.

As the conversation continued, I found myself ruminating on these options. Obviously, the first option is my personal goal and the goal of my team: to teach the workforce how and why to use social enterprise knowledge sharing tools – like wikis and blogs – to pull tacit knowledge out of the minds of people and aggregate it in a searchable and linkable format.

But the second option, while worthwhile, seems a bit shortsighted. After all, passing knowledge and insights from one generation to the next is important, but only delays dealing with the core problem: working in isolation.

I think an effective solution is to integrate (enforce?) knowledge capture within a mentoring program. This would mean providing the technology, training, and time for the mentee to be the “hands on the keyboard” for his mentor. Following each mentoring session, the mentee would either add to a wiki page or publish a blog post with what they learned from her mentor.

Would you be willing to pitch this idea to your mentoring folks?

Which is the biggest obstacle to adopting such a strategy, knowing how to do it, being willing to do it, or having the time to do it?

Best web apps for Internet Neophytes? [your help needed!]

Picture this: You’re in a room filled with very smart, very talented, very knowledgeable individuals. You’re teaching them about the latest in Enteprise 2.0 tools – wikis, blogs, RSS, social bookmarking, social networking. You’re explaining the advent of “Web 2.0,” the rise of the prosumer, and how all these tools have changed the way people interact and the way we capture and retrieve knowledge. You get head nods, some skeptical looks, and some glassy-eyed individuals who, as you get into the technical how-to of the first tool asks…

“What’s a URL?”

Oh, OK, so you’re not familiar with web technology (that’s over a decade old)… I can explain that…

“Exactly what does a ‘web browser’ do?”

Hmm, now I’m getting a bit worried. You’re not familiar with what a web browser is? OK, deep breaths, we’ll get through this together...

“What’s a right-click?”

<groan> Uh-oh. Better step back and take this a little more s-l-o-w-l-y.

That’s the position I was in recently. Working with obviously smart folks who had been so consumed by their areas of of expertise (or management), that the world of technology had passed them going 100MPH. For some, that happened five years ago, for others, ten. These are folks who still think one wrong keystroke is going to crash their computer, that computers are “scary” and fragile, and hard to use. These is the digital immigrant crowd which is a far cry from the four digital natives I come home to (ages 8 mos to 6 yrs) who, in a matter of minutes, learned how to use my iPod Touch as well as me.

I’ve watched as the browser has become the key (or only) “application” you need to launch, as more applications move to the web, and as user interfaces for these various systems becomes more intuitive, friendly, and consistent. But I’ve been watching. The students in my classes haven’t.

And so it was with relief when the lightbulb went off that I needed to create an 3 hour introductory hands-on web workshop to help students become familiar with what many of those reading this post would consider mainstream or even passe. This would help them understand the nature and capabilities of the collaborative tools on the intranet.

Because the very nature of the Web is that of an ebb and flow, deciding which sites to highlight is difficult and has changed frequently in the short time I’ve taught the class. So I need your input…

What are the absolute, essential, can-not-miss web sites/applications you feel an “Internet N00b” should be familiar with? I’m not talking the latest-and-greatest (though services like Google’s Buzz could be considered). Below, I’ve listed the ones we currently teach to, but I encourage you to critique this list in the comments.

Social and Collaborative Web Sites for the Internet Neophyte

  • Gmail. Arguably, the most popular and best email service on the web.
    • Key points: ISP-independent email address; integration with other Google Apps (one account, many sites); lightweight
  • Google Maps. Once a rival to Mapquest, has become the de facto standard for getting directions.
    • Key points: Free maps, integrated with Android mobile operating system, allows users to add photos, create custom maps, and recommend changes.
  • Google Docs. Online creation and storage of common files. Don’t worry, we’re just getting warmed up with this Google fan-boy love.
    • Key points: Creating sharable documents, spreadsheets, and presentations; work collaboratively with other authors; create web-based forms that feed data in Excel-exportable spreadsheets.
  • Wikipedia. Accuracy arguments notwithstanding, this pinnacle of crowdsourcing is still enviable.
    • Key points: Anyone can edit, uses MediaWiki which is open sourced, grew bigger and faster than its predecessor Nupedia.
  • Flickr. The go-to photo sharing site for many.
    • Key points: Anyone can upload photos; tags link photos with similar photos; users can subscribe to get updates from users or albums.
  • YouTube. Like Flickr, but for videos…
    • Key points: Similar to Flickr, anyone can upload; tags help you find similar videos; users can subscribe to other users, tags, channels; videos can be embedded in blog posts.
  • Google Reader. The power of RSS and subscribing to web content so it “comes to you.”
    • Key points: So much new content, RSS helps you filter and “dial in” the information you want to get; integrated with Google Translate, which automatically translates web sites in foreign languages.
  • Twitter. Still the king of microblogging/messaging.
    • Key points: Used to transmit links, thoughts, “lifestreaming”; unlike Facebook, Twitter is asymmetrical; can use GPS location data; integrated with Google Translate to convert “tweets” into your language; URL shorteners are handy, but you need to exercise caution lest a rogue user (or hacked account) links to a malware site.
  • Facebook. The monster of social networking sites for the US, despite changing privacy settings recently and removing…privacy.
    • Key points: A quick way to connect and maintain “weak ties”; set your privacy settings appropriately; be careful of what you share and who you friend.
  • Delicious. Store all your web bookmarks on a web site instead of inside your browser.
    • Key points: Allows you to access from work, home, anywhere!; tags provide more flexibility than folders; tags provide for maximum discovery; use RSS to keep track of all new bookmarks saved by  another user or saved to a tag.

Your turn! Which of these should I dump or replace and which ones need to go on the agenda?

A memory-catching pensieve for Muggles

My wife and I had the pleasure of watching Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince the other day. We were disappointed by a couple of the previous films in the series, but this latest installment on DVD redeemed the franchise for us.

During the movie, Harry has the opportunity once again to use a pensieve to peek into the memories of Albus Dumbledore, his mentor and the longstanding headmaster of the Hogwarts school. If you’re not familiar with the Potter world of magic, the Potter wiki aptly describes it thusly:

The Pensieve is an object used to review memories. It has the appearance of a shallow stone basin, into which are carved runes and strange symbols. It is filled with a silvery substance that appears to be a cloud-like liquid/gas; the collected memories of people who have siphoned their recollections into it. Memories can then be viewed from a third-person point of view.

Seeing Harry experience Dumbledore’s memories made me wish for the ability to chronicle and review my own memories weeks, months, and years into the future and be able to share them with others.

Then it hit me: I do have this capability… and you’re looking at it!

My blogs, both personal and professional – combined with my Facebook and Twitter posts – form what is essentially my own pensieve. I can search back through thoughts, experiences, and resources (that I’ve linked to) with relative ease. I can also share my posts with others, allowing them to peek into my thoughts whenever the need arises. While not nearly as easy to create (to deposit a memory into the pensieve requires a flick of a wand whereas writing even a post as short as this requires a non-insignificant amount of time.

In addition to retrieval, however, the pensieve is often used by Dumbledore to “relieve the mind when it becomes cluttered with information.” (Wikipedia entry). I subscribe to the Getting Things Done (free resources) approach to productivity created by David Allen. One of Allen’s key tenets is to write tasks down rather than trying to keep them in your head. This frees up your mental space for working on problems rather than trying to remember what you needed to do next. I use tweets and draft blog posts towards this purpose: to capture my thoughts in a searchable record before I forget them.

Some may argue that a two-dimensional written record is not the same as an immersive 3D world where you can review details about a memory (that you might not even have noticed the first time around), and you’d be right. But until we can download our memories – perhaps even by using a fiber optic braid like the Na’vi – social media is a much better repository than my own faulty synapses for recalling my memories.

Two faces of SharePoint [clarification]

In my last post, I stated why I think SharePoint should not be considered “enterprise 2.0.” I specifically did not say it should never be used, just that it should not be considered the foundation platform upon which a transformational collaborative tool suite (and culture-shifting initiative) is built. However, some colleagues of mine educated me on the difference between SharePoint and “SharePoint.”

Which of the following sites would you guess was built with SharePoint?

forgemil

forge.mil (DoD version of SourceForge)

dell-ideastorm

Dell Computer's Ideastorm

accenture

Accenture consulting

If my sources are correct, all of these sites are built on Microsoft’s SharePoint.

The difference is that SharePoint is used to refer to both the out-of-the-box implementation that many organizations deploy and a highly customizable content management system that can be made to do almost anything. The out-of-the-box version is the one Microsoft tends to sell as the panacea to all collaboration needs. It is typically deployed on an intranet and offered as a way for teams to quickly create a site to share documents and create conversations. Often, they can also create sub-sites with unique levels of access control.

It’s not fair to compare these two. One of the goals of social software – web 2.0 and it’s cousin enterprise 2.0 – is to put content creation and distribution in the hands of the masses (leveraging the “wisdom of crowds”). In an organizational context, this ability (or perhaps even responsibility) should be distributed to the widest possible audience.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, SharePoint is inherently designed to restrict who can participate and contribute in a site. And my observations of the functional limitations of the typical SharePoint site still stand. Designing a custom SharePoint site requires a level of technical expertise that is rare even within the realms of technologists. On the other hand, creating wiki pages (with whatever wiki software you choose) or setting up a WordPress-MU (multiuser) blog gives you complete control within the range of what the tool can do. Better yet, these platforms are designed to be open by default and users can easily create interlinkages between them.