Friday, March 25, 2011

mobile madness on the north shore

Ever on the lookout for an opportunity to interact with humans instead of my laptop, I've been meaning to check out the North Shore Web Geeks monthly meetup for a few months now.  What better way to spend a snowy evening in March? After all, 'tis the season for March Madness. In this case, March Mobile Madness!

the crowd networking before the talk

 The group met at The Port Tavern in Newburyport (right next door to Taffy's -- great NBPT breakfast spot). Working from home, I don't often meet others of my kind, so the first thing that struck me was "these are my people."

The crowd was about evenly divided along male/female lines -- more like the real techie world than the media's image of the techie world. Yes folks, there is a world in which both men and women wear Drupal T-shirts :-) The age breakdown seemed to be mostly Gen X with many Millennials and one or two Boomers. Not that I asked people their ages, I guessed by appearance so it's possible that the few I thought were Booomers were actually Xers who had lived hard. :-)

techie conversation was buzzing
It was great to hear what people are working on and share thoughts about the challenges of developing content for mobile.

The turnout was excellent. Who knew that there was so much "web" development going on in Essex and Rockingham (NH)counties?

It was challenging to photograph the event in a crowded and dark room, even with my semi-decent camera. When I mentioned this to one of attendees who was taking photos with her iPhone, she told me that a reporter from the Boston Globe attended the last meetup and had a professional photographer with the right camera gear. Later, I checked out the article online, but there were no pix. I did notice that the Globe article also commented on the gender balance. Guess it must be newsworthy.

Dan Katcher about to begin his talk
 Dan Katcher of Rocket Farm Studios gave a talk titled Why You Should Give a $@#%! about Mobile.  So why should you give a bleep about mobile? It's the second coming of the web. I love the term "second coming" instead of Web 3.0. (Sorry Tim, but major versioning of the web ends at 2.0). BTW, I loved being able to discuss such things with people who know the difference between the Internet and the Web.

Look at that spike in Android handset sales!
 Dan's slides were packed with excellent infographics covering nine different statistics about trends in mobile devices, OSes, and apps. A few specific things really struck me.

Thing 1: Android share of mobile OS is just shooting up like crazy. Symbian declining, Blackberry peaking. Dan predicted: "Android will pass Symbian in 2014."

This infographic really brought home the dramatic increase in Android sales.

growth in mobile data consumption
 Thing 2: Mobile data consumption is growing and growing and it's mostly video with a small amount of VoIP.

The purple in the infographic is video.

This dovetails nicely with the statistic that actual phone calls are only about 32% of what people use mobile handsets for.  I wish someone would compare mobile use of VoIP with non-mobile VoIP, but that's a whole 'nother discussion.

Digression: I've always wondered why the Pew study of Internet and American Life Generations 2010  apparently didn't even ask about VoIP usage as a thing consumers do with the Internet.

I like it when I am full of questions when a presentation ends. The group moved downstairs to the main bar area for the questions, networking, discussion etc., but alas, I had to leave early and did not get to schmooze as much as I wanted to.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mass Innovation Night at NERD (#MIN24)

Microsoft NERD was crazy busy last night with Mass Innovation Night overlapping with Xconomy Mobile Madness. Wow, that was a huge crowd.  I didn't get to talk with all of the innovators this time, but I did get to chat with VoKnow, Touchbase, Hello Ladies, and Luminaire Coffee. And then there were the mini-whoopie pies from The Chococoa Bakery. I loved the espresso-filled one.

Crowd enjoying the food

Mini whoopie pies

Another cool feature of this month's event was that all the exhibitors had QR codes on their booths, which automatically sent out a tweet. Alas, I don't have a smartphone yet and my iPod Touch doesn't have a camera, so I wasn't able to try it out.

Conversation Media talking about Touchbase -- with cool megaphone

Conversation Media had the best prop, a megaphone.  Their TouchBase family geo-location service helps parents know where their children are and involves the kids in improving family communication too.

Luminaire Coffee demonstrating their coffee brewer to @Krushtown from Blogcastr
Coffee lover that I am, I had a great time tasting fresh-brewed coffee and talking with Luminaire Coffee about their technology for delivering hot water for coffee at just the the right temperature and flow rate. This is the perfect solution for those new "pour-over" coffee bars trying to compete with Starbucks' Clover machine. Luminaire had the second best prop, an old fashioned tea kettle -- their biggest competitor in the hot water space. And I ran into @Krushtown from Blogcastr at the Luminaire booth. You can check out his live blog from #MIN24 here. He got a good picture of the Luminaire machine.
#MIN24 came right on the heels of International Women's Day, so it was great to see Hello Ladies there. I had a great conversation with Liz about Women's History Month, women's salaries, and feminisim. In the immortal words from Bread and Roses "The rising of the women means the rising of us all".

With the presentations about to start, I didn't have much time to chat with the guys from VoKnow about their personalized real-time audio magazine, but I did manage to get a photo. Fortunately, they were one of the presenters, so I got the skinny from the presentation. This is definitely wicked cool.
Crowd listening to the presentations
Other presentations I enjoyed were Mobinett's Plug  interactive mobile networking platform for linking online social networking to the real face to face world and Chipalizer functional verification software for semiconductors.

In the Experts Corner, I connected with Anna Goldsmith from The Hired Pens, Amy Hafensteiner from Winter Wyman, and, of course, Christine Sierra from Carlton PR and Marketing. Amy and Christine posed for my traditional "Experts Looking Expert" shot.

Experts looking expert
As if all that weren't enough, I ran into former co-worker Kevin Wiant of Spar Networks who was there for Xconomy Mobile Madness. We had a great time catching each other up on our respective corners of the telecom world and news of other former Boston Technology colleagues. It was great to connect with Kevin again.

But wait, there's more. The feminist theme re-emerged while talking with Dianne Williams, mobile educator, techie geek, feminist, and archaeologist.  We talked and talked about what it takes to engage young women in engineering and science, how things are now for women vs. how they were when we were growing up, what's cool about geeking out over engineering and taking stuff apart to see how it works, and so on. Dianne told me about a documentary she saw on International Women's Day, Left on Pearl. That's now on my must see list.

Quite a night.

Note to self: attend more events that feature both mini whoopie pies and feminists. :-)

Monday, March 7, 2011

part two: spring cleaning your facebook profile

When selecting a tool to help you clean  up your Facebook profile, it might help to know what prospective employers are looking for and how the tool can help with that. As I described in part one, the socioclean tool scanned text for words it deems inappropriate such as references to sex, alcohol/drugs, aggression, and profanity.

The survey listed the following as reasons that the 18% of employers who hired someone based on their profile used:
  • Profile provided a good feel for the candidate's personality and fit within the organization
  • Profile supported candidate's professional qualifications
  • Candidate was creative
  • Candidate showed solid communication skills
  • Candidate was well-rounded
  • Other people posted good references about the candidate
  • Candidate received awards and accolades
They also listed the following as reasons that the 35% of employers who said the candidate's profile caused them not to hire him/her used:
  • Candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs or information
  • Candidate posted content about them drinking or using drugs
  • Candidate bad-mouthed their previous employer, co-workers or clients
  • Candidate showed poor communication skills
  • Candidate made discriminatory comments
  • Candidate lied about qualifications
  • Candidate shared confidential information from previous employer
Of the negative criteria listed, the socioclean tool definitely targets drinking and drugs, can find discriminatory references if you use racial epithets, and might be able to find bad-mouthing of previous employers if you used profanity or aggressive words. You'll have to police your photographs, your communication skills, and your violations of confidentiality/non-compete agreements yourself.

The positive criteria are more abstract. A tool can't scan for how well your profile presents your personality, your communication skills, or well-roundedness.

The main thing I gleaned from the list of positives, was that employers are looking on Facebook for things that are usually posted on LinkedIn. The action I took on this point was simple, and not aided by a tool (although maybe I should develop one for this). I added my employment history to my Facebook profile and made sure it matched my LinkedIn profile. My LinkedIn profile supports the professional qualifications I list on my resume. The Facebook profile doesn't really have a section for recommendations and references or for awards and accolades. I'm not sure where the employers found that information, unless those were the minority who looked on LinkedIn.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

part 1: spring cleaning your facebook profile?

Forty-five percent of employers reported in a 2009 Harris Interactive survey for CareerBuilder that they use social networking sites to research job candidates, with Facebook edging out LinkedIn as the number one social networking site that they check. Ever since those results came out back in August of 2009, there have been many blog posts, presentations, advice columns, and so on advising you to watch what you post, clean up your profile, and cultivate your personal brand. This has also led to a boom in new apps for scrubbing your online reputation. The latest one getting buzz on is socioclean.

My Facebook privacy settings are all set to Friends Only, but with all the advice swirling around us about what things to say or not say on Facebook, Twitter, or blogs many people have gotten quite anxious, including me. Therefore, I signed up with socioclean and ran the app over my Facebook profile recently.

I am very cautious with my postings on Facebook, lately even avoiding references to being sick or tired, never mind sex, drugs, or rock and roll. OK, so I do mention rock and roll once in a great while. Anyway, those who know me in real life know that I don't smoke or drink and am in a long term committed relationship with my partner. I'm pretty boring that way. You probably wouldn't want to invite me to your wild parties. Imagine my surprise when socioclean found stuff that it claimed I needed to clean up.

The tool basically scans wall posts, status messages, photos, and groups for words they deem inappropriate. There is no semantic analysis. If the word appears, it's flagged regardless of context.  The results are displayed as a pie chart showing areas of concern and bar charts showing the count of searched words in each category.  Clicking on the bar chart gets you to the report showing each searched word that showed up, the complete text, the date, the category, and who created it along with a link to view the offending post. Then you have an option to set the tool to ignore either the word or the instance of the word. Therefore, if something is OK in context, you click ignore instance.

So, the cause of my surprise? Every one of my posts about the Moby Dick marathon reading was tagged as a sexual reference, giving me a percentage of sexual references that earned me a grade of D. If that wasn't humorous enough, a post about the workers removing the ice dam on my roof making banging noises was also tagged sexual and a reference to a glue gun was tagged as aggression. Funniest of all, though, was the puzzling tagging of two references to an article about a night heron rookery in the ornithological journal The Auk as alcohol/drug references. Why? The author was named Waldo Bailey. By the time I excluded every reference to Moby Dick, a few references to airplanes and fishing boats, the glue gun reference, and a friend's comment that a photo was too damn cute, I was left with one genuine alcohol reference to be removed: a tweet about a presentation on locally brewed beers that I heard at Ignite Boston. Hmm, the tool knew enough to exclude Ignite as an aggression reference but not glue gun? Anyway, I deleted the post about the beer presentation, and ran the tool again. I got an A. Clean as a Whistle.

Overall, I don't think the tool was that helpful. I did just as much work reviewing posts as I would have if I had just gone over all my posts manually. The number of false alarms was irritating. I'm still scratching my head about Waldo Bailey. There are a lot of people named Bailey who are not famous Irish beverages.

Semantic issues aside, there are still problems with this tool. It does not take into account your privacy settings, so it sees everything. Therefore, it does not give you a true picture of what an employer or prospective employer would see, assuming Facebook's privacy settings actually work. Socioclean pitches it as a tool that you can use to police yourself.   However, what if an employer had your Facebook password? That's not so far-fetched given the recent stories about government agencies requesting prospective employees to turn over their Facebook passwords. If the prospective employer runs the tool and only looks at the graphs, you could lose out on a job because you read Moby Dick or articles by ornithologists named Bailey.

Maybe the real question is not about how offensive your Facebook profile is, but how not to let the constraints of a Puritanical culture in the age of Facebook's philosophy of radical openness stifle genuine human expression.