It's a lot of little brushes that paints the big picture

And for Google+, short blog posts…

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While I glance at every little social system I happen across, very few get a second look. Are they easy to post to? How are other people’s posts going to be shown to me? Do I have to work in a limited interface that requires me multiple clicks and taps to get to ‘more information’? Is there anyone else using the service that I’m interested in seeing posts from. And, is it enough different from what I’m already using to require me to take on another place to stop by and keep track of.

As I have mentioned here before, I use social networks to keep up on things around the world. I only follow or friend or circle a quantity of people which that particular system will allow me to actually see what is being posted by others. When Twitter was new, I had few friends on the system so I was in the public feed a lot… it’s impossible to get much more than a disconnected snippet about anything unless it’s a global issue that everyone is talking about. I prefer groups in the 300 range that has few enough to actually make it through the last few hours of posts but enough that there is always something new. Too few and you go through blanks in time.

With that self imposed limitation, it means that I use each social network to fill a different personal need. For Facebook, it’s all about co-worker friends from my years at Thomson Reuters and friends from the 80’s that have re-connected. The 80’s friends only have a few things to say where local happenings are the bulk of those posts. The co-worker ‘friends’ are a great group to throw ideas at, share fun finds, joke with and chuckle at a common evil. It will be ‘interesting’ when Timeline goes public so we can see if we can make any sense of the string of posts from the last 5 or 6 years.

Twitter is all about the Business side of Gary. Very few personal posts, since the group I follow are more towards the entrepreneurial mind set. I post up links to articles I found that others of like similar motivations might enjoy as well links to the many posts I have made across assorted blogs. The idea is to have a finger on the creative Business folks around the world to put together posts from several people and make decisions from trends and mind set. You don’t have to be a government spy office these days to put together comments from a variety of key individuals on Twitter to see changes coming.

Instagram, the photo sharing social network, has amongst the smallest group of people I follow. The photos are from people in different areas, it amazes me the wonders of areas I had no idea existed. I also follow people that have like and polar opposite photo styles as mine. I see the photos sweep by and it opens my eyes to new possibilities for photo opportunities all around me. I stay away from the ‘major’ players and the politically motivated image posts. Major players these days are posting from their collection so nothing is from today or yesterday and they post non-stop. I would rather see a grainy image of a man on a bike in China from this morning commute than a perfectly balanced image of a famous church reflecting off a fountain’s lower water. I do have an appreciation for the effort to make that beautiful image, that doesn’t happen to be why I’m on Instagram. I share out images that I have taken with my iPhone and tinkered with to bring out the message while staying true to it being a snapshot in time.

There are a few less popular social offerings that I joined and posted to. They are not key industry players like the chosen few I work with daily, but still get my attention. For example PicPlz… another photo sharing network. ‘Another’ as in one of many options outside of the Instagram giant. Not quite sure why I still post there, the images being posted by others are dropping in quality of subject and heading more towards individuals presenting a half dozen snaps of their faces and then nothing more. It doesn’t help having the folks that created it say they don’t know what to do with the service going forward… do you risk committing your time to a service that has a near potential of just being turned off as has been the case with many other social attempts.

Now comes Google+, what to do there? Such an overwhelming force, tied into so many other Google ‘tools’ I use on an occasion, it is nearly impossible to ignore. My first toe in the water was to join up with photographers. The idea being that the images would be more robust than the snapshot world of my other photo sharing options. But, the feeds very quickly filled up with professionals posting up multiple images an hour from their portfolio. Are they just bragging or looking for people to hire them for their photography abilities? Then, I shifted a bit towards adding circles of people I enjoy on Twitters. They were great on Twitter for bits of information, on Google+ their posts go long enough to come across as a sales pitch.

Friends from Facebook on Google+ never post anything as the system has more of a ‘public’ feeling. There are a few speakers and authors that are proving to be interesting. Their posts are generally about an event they are at and their personal feelings on what was being presented. On the surface, thus far, no agenda has jumped out of their posts. With that in mind, I went back to my photographer circle and cut it down to people that are doing things like ‘city photo walks’ as well more ‘people on the street’.

The question I have for myself has been what do I post on Google+? Looking at what I enjoy on the service and the provided features, I’m leaning towards one to two paragraph ‘mini’ blog posts. Not really ‘blog’ posts, I’m using that term to say they are opinions posts that go on longer than a flash sentence but don’t drag on like this bit did. The challenge will be to stay true to what I have to say. The words on the page can be viewed by the masses, including future employers and customers. How will they react to Gary Being Gary, in a paragraph. Will I soften my apple box standing bark if I’m faced with the text appearing years from now from a potential client search on me? I’ll give it a try… it isn’t like Google will keep my typed words forever…

The cold hard facts about customer support… as I see them

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I am your customer, I’m calling you.

First, listen to my problem, make sure I understand you care. Ask questions to make sure you have all the facts.

Do not state I did something wrong. If you feel I am in error, help me understand that without making me feel embarrassed. If you feel your company may be at fault, do not open with an apology. Tell me how you will solve my problem.

If you do not have an answer right now, tell me what your next actions will be. Explain when you will be calling me back… you, your the one that answered the phone. Let me know that if we don’t connect, you will leave a voice mail but encourage me to call you back if we don’t connect. Let me know the number to call and the reference information.

Then, do what you promised.

Do not offer me a discount, do not offer to do something for free. Just help me get my problem solved without any more effort on my side. If you discount, your telling me that I overpaid when I first paid for your service. You don’t believe in the value of your products. If I ask you for a discount, find out who in your company is offering the discount. Due to their actions, there may be the word out in the world that people can get your product for free just by complaining.

Use the above as the starting point.

To repeat – make every attempt to solve my problem instead of turning to discounting. You answered the phone or read my email about my issue, your now a sales person. You represent the business I called and control if I will come back and buy again. In the age of online social media, a miss step spreads around quickly. How do I feel if I read how someone got your products for free, yet I paid $50? Next time; I will go somewhere else to buy a ‘better’ product, wait for a coupon to buy at a discount or complain online to get you to give me your product for free. Well, me and everyone I know, everyone else that pays full price are not smart with their money. If you create this world for your company, you can expect to get some time off when the business starts cutting positions as they try to understand why sales are down.

I lost a good friend, I wonder who he was…

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Everyone has heard the saying and seen the cartoon where you don’t know who your being social with on the Internet, it could be the family dog.

This has been true since the original threaded chats on the Internet started. People will change who they are in the physical world to explore a different life path on the Internet. There are some folks doing it to do harm to others, some are hiding from family/friends and others can do it quite by accident. The accidental misrepresentation is just someone who is posting without realizing how others are viewing their comments, reaching a different conclusion around who they are dealing with than reality.

The new social solutions available to share for fun or profit include a lot more possibilities than just text. People share their words, images, videos, links to other people’s words and so on… new options come out all the time. Someone has to make a pretty strong effort, or not post anything but text, to ‘be someone else’ online. On most the big name sharing systems, it is easy enough to check out tagging on an image to see if it really taken by the author or at least where they claim it to be. While not many socialites will take the time to do this extra step, the information is there to see if the image was true to the provider or one grabbed from somewhere else.

For the sharing crowd that is just having fun, the options bring many people from all corners of the world to exchange thoughts and experiences.

A common thread across all of the well known social sites is they allow people to follow or track your posts. There is a variety of ‘allowing’, ‘blocking’, and ‘limiting’ made available to provide some level of controls over who a person’s friends are online. If the step to hide this information isn’t turned on, other Internet users are able to see how many people are following or being followed by each member of the system.

These numbers can be very small and well managed to just what a user is able to view and respond to. All the way up to huge qualities of people who follow everyone. A post submitted into a crowd of those big number groups have a very low chance of being seen/read. It also results in people sharing the same link over and over again since it is impossible to watch all of the activity across thousands or even millions of viewers. The desire to have the following/viewing quantity being very high drives a different face users have on social sites. The normal is becoming the desire to post things that everyone will like.

Other than a couple specialized social networks, the quantity over quality game is played on all of the major services. I call it a ‘game’ since following more than a person can possibly view posts from is a way to get more followers in return. Some do it for their marketing ideas, others think of the followers as ‘friends’. Everyone would love to have friends everywhere around the world, but can any of those friends actually quote anything you said?

Many people feel that anything over a couple hundred of Social friends are too many to follow. A couple exceptions to this is following a lot of people that only post once a week… not very social are they? Then, there are folks like my niece that has over 500 friends, because she follows all the folks in her High School graduating class. You have to believe she chooses which posts she pays attention to, changing from day to day depending on what the happening event of the day is.

Enter, my ‘friend’. He has traveled the many places I have which he took pictures of and shared on Instagram. He commented on my pictures and responds when I comment on his. He even has a Laberdoodle with the same name as our Bichon. His name? No clue. As quickly as the friendship started, it ended. He decided he didn’t like the crowds that followed that where following so many other people. The comments that included a request to follow them. I don’t share the path he took or removing his images and account. Maybe he will return and look me up, would like to have my friend back, whoever he may be. Guess our families and dogs may never meet in person… why should I expect differently, it’s a virtual social world.

Thoughts for the Small Business Owner, Both Online and Physical Locations

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In the early 80’s, a company hired me to turn around a couple of their locations that were not profitable. And, as they where starting to franchise their services, train those new franchisees. One document included in the new hire packet opened with a lesson called “The smiling customer”. The story is about a person visiting a business that has employees spending their time chatting amongst themselves. Employees that are short and coming across scripted and impersonal. The customer continues to smile through it all, not complaining so the owner doesn’t ‘see’ the disappointed customer. The story ends with the customer getting the last laugh as the business owner spends and spends on coupons trying to get customers in the door. A small business must be 1% better at 100 things, mind the small things as they add up.

When it comes to marketing, there are two areas I always push. Think at least three months in the future and be where you shouldn’t me. There will always be marketing of you and your business that you need to do just-in-time, like keeping daily tweets going out. I’m talking more about holiday and seasonal promotions. Almost no print media think beyond the next month unless your buying a year long campaign so they wont come to you until the month before. That little amount of notice wont give you time to ramp up to get a full impact of your dollars spent. A plan is a good thing. Get a calendar, look ahead, then count backward for when things need to happen so everything is in place on the selected promotion day.

Do this even before you open your doors for the first time. Get involved with what is going on around your area, get the word out that your coming. Show up at events and talk with people. Get them connecting you to the business your opening early on. When you open, hopefully you will be too busy to start making friends in the area so get ahead of it.

Shifting from brick locations to online product sales –

When Apple launched the iTunes App Store, predictably, the developers we were working with for Newton and Palm software thought there was no longer a need for marketing.

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More efficient team meetings – Getting results while keeping it short

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I am guilty of every bad action I mention here and am being open minded to my own thinking below that won’t be comfortable at first but will produce results… which will make my life better. Want to try and be more productive with your day too?

We have a few issues these days with conference room meetings.

Everyone shows up with their notebooks so they can multi task

Everyone has meetings right before/after which means they are generally late showing up and would rather do the meeting as a dial in from their office.

Speakers are trying to keep meetings fluid and gather ideas brought up

Depending on the office and people’s responsibility, there will be an occasional person in a meeting that is working across projects. Expect them to have an eye on their notebook. Others need to stop thinking about their social media posts and start getting engaged!

Admittedly, there are meetings that have to happen as dial ins for people in other city, states and countries. These guidelines apply for them too, but it will be harder for them to stick to the rules since they don’t have peer pressure in the room.

I have seen people’s ideas of allowance coins or points of importance for being able to call meetings. I have also seen where upper management wants extensive minute-by-minute meeting plans to make sure the meeting was well thought out. I do not agree with wrapping meetings in a blanket of negativity or limits. I do agree that meetings need to be thought through and encouraged. A well run meeting produces more results than a 50 email thread. A meeting needs to be a presentation that requires others to understand or give an opinion.

My ‘meetings’ thoughts here are ideas pulled from a couple different groups I have observed, into a single possible solution.

What is important is getting to the point, on time, and having everyone involved. The person who is calling the meeting should know where they want to get to by the end. Presentations are easier to set a starting/ending while discussions are more open ended to what makes it a success. Discussions need a clear statement up front why people are being asked for their time.

PowerPoints for the discussion should only be sent out in advance if it is expected that people will have to prepare in advance. History shows us that sending presentation materials in advance of a meeting leads to attendees printing or a desire to follow along on their own devices, usually jumping ahead and disrupting the flow.

Meetings need to have good notes taken for everyone’s later reference. It should not be expected that the speaker will keep the meeting moving along if they have to take notes. Attendees should not be expected to take notes, they should feel comfortable they will have a copy of what was discussed right after the meeting. There may be some attendees that insist they be able to electronically annotate their own copy of the documents. The meeting notes can be tweaked over a few meetings to make those attendees more comfortable with the after-meeting deliverable so they won’t have to take their own notes ongoing. As well, some note takers will self correct as they find they are not as engaged in the discussion as the rest of their peers in the room.

Hard to do if people are involved in multiple projects, but where possible, have open time before/after meetings so attendees have time to mentally prep going in and out of meetings. As well, it is easier to arrive in meetings on time if everyone isn’t rushed from room to room. This can cut down on the personal chatter at the beginning of the meetings since they got that out of the way on the trip to the meeting room.

Many people are reading this saying “Yea, don’t we wish”. Until you make an attempt, it will never become a reality. Someone has to step up, why not it be you?! As your meetings become the ones that get things accomplished, others will follow.

 

Working in the office of tomorrow

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I didn’t call this the “office of the future” since this is closer than some may imagine.

I have mentioned a speech many years ago the way we will interface with computers in the future. It appears that that “future” is just around the corner.

A few observations first. When working from home, how many times do you find that you step away from your desk and work in the kitchen standing up? Maybe not the kitchen, I’m really talking about the action of working standing up many offices are starting to offer their employees the ability to raise their desks to work standing. More on this later.

Apple pulled a patent a short while after the introduction of the Touch. It involved on screen actions, like shortcuts, that would replace mechanical buttons. Many have attempted this with a “mouse” arrow like screen icon to mimic the mouse interaction, this is a fail. The OS needs to step beyond how we interact with our computers now.

This week, the “Lion” OS, newest version of OSX, was released from Apple. It presents a different interaction with the computer where there is no scroll bars and actions are representative of the physical world. You do not scroll down a page, instead you move the page up to view what is off the screen below. If you have an iPad, you are used to most of the actions. Except, they took it one step further, finger action shortcuts. If you want to get to a ‘launcher’ of software on your computer, place three fingers and your thumb on the trackpad, open slightly then pinch like your picking something up. With this action on the desktop computer, you have removed the need to use keyboard shortcuts or click on a applications folder. Like anything new, there are negatives for some people, they don’t want to take their hands off the keyboard to do multi finger trackpad actions.

Let’s take a big jump here, but not a leap. What do you need your keyboard for? Typing long documents of course. Why do you need long documents? If you believe the many books and what appears to be Apple direction with their Apple brand software, you can tell a story with little text and a few images. As a challenge to myself, watch here in the near future for a representation of this post with fewer words…

If you were only needing to do a few descriptive words amongst images on a page, do you still need a full hardware keyboard? You could tap out a few words with a on-screen keyboard. You can do flow charts, spreadsheets, short documents and presentations with just the software keyboard. Long documents, legal come to mind, will still need a physical keyboard otherwise too much time is spent fixing mis-typing. With on-screen gestures supported on a tablet, navigation is possible without a mouse too.

So, the office of tomorrow, iPads on sturdy stands. A tall stool is available, and a few keyboards can be checked out for special circumstances. No more cube or flat desks for papers. To make this work, you will need to be using the currently available cloud storage and across device document sharing. The full multi finger navigation isn’t on the iPad with iOS4, but could show up late this year with iOS5.

This is actually being typed on an iPad on a plane. As it approaches the maximum length you would want to produce with this set up, I will part out how the world will work with conference room meetings using this iPad on a stand approach in another post. Yes, people can write more/longer documents on an iPad, I’m only representing that for an full office with this set up you would want to think through how best to keep documents shorter for maximum human creativity and output.

Update: five minutes after posting, I was hit with a few questions. While Minority Report like big screen full arm gestures will happen, the interface isn’t there yet. If doing it will mean a pointer on the screen like a mouse, that is not success. And, voice recognition is getting pretty good these days, but your not going to have 10 people working in an office all talking out loud.