Monday, May 31, 2010

WebCom Part 3

The third speaker in the rapid-fire keynotes was Adele McAlear with Death and Digital Legacy.

That presentation was definitely nowhere near as much fun as any of the other ones, simply due top the morbid topic. It is a brand new domain - what do you with all the electronic assets when their owner (producer, creator) dies? Who has the rights to decide what happens, and how are the service providers handling it?

First, Adele showed us the breadth of our "online footprint". From email accounts to flickr uploads, blogs, tweets, WOW characters... Each service provider may have different policies for dealing with a deceased person's account, but in reality, only Facebook has a stated policy. And what about paid subscription services? When a person dies, the credit card they used to maintain that service is cancelled, and unless a survivor has access to the account, they can't change the credit card on file (I wonder what happens in the cases where the service have "gift subscriptions", such as "buy Person a pro account"). The survivor can't gain access to the account because it is tied to an email account, to which, in all likelihood, they do not have access.

So what solutions do we have, if we want to leave something behind, if not for ourselves, for our friends, fans, followers?

First, we should make a list of our digital assets. What accounts we have, and how we'd like them to be preserved after death. For example, we may want blogs to be preserved or archived, but we may think that our twitter account history is just not worth the effort. We should make sure that our family knows about our online accounts, too, so they know what to expect.

Then we appoint a digital executor. This is someone with whom we will have discussed the matter, and who will be responsible for our digital legacy. This does not have to be same person who will execute our will. Then, we create an email account exclusively for this purpose, and set it up as a "backup email account" for our regular email account. This way, when the executor wants to take over our main email account, they only have to request a password reset be sent to the backup email account. The password to the backup email account should be kept with our will. From there, the executor will be able to gain access to other accounts by requesting a password reset.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

WebCom Part 2

Sean Power, Communilytics

Communilytics, is the analysis of how specific information flow through online communities. In his presentation, Sean encouraged us to look a the numbers at a deeper level than simple page-views or the number of followers. But before we can mount a successful campaign, we have to decide what we want the accomplish with that campain: make more money, gain attention/recognition, or improve our reputation. How deeply we want to get involved in the community we're targeting (whether we want to search, join, moderate or run it) will affect which tools and technologies to use. There are 8 social platforms(group/mailing list, forum, real-time chat, social network, blog, wiki, ), with different dynamics, and each can be addressed at different levels of implication. The metrics, then, will depend on the tools used. Each business is different, we know best what's right for our business.

He also brought up the AARRR model by Dave McClure: Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral, Revenue.

He then gave some examples of how information flows through communities. When one person posts a tweet, their followers see it, But if it's a tweet of interest, the recipients may want to let their followers know about it, and re-tweet it. The reach of a message, then is the followers, those who receive the message as a retweet, and those who receive the retweet retweeted, etc. But some people may cross cross social platform - they may put a tweet on Facebook, or send it through email.

This presentation is where I also found out the format definition of "going viral". That's when the average number a person tells the message to is greater than one. (So on average, everyone who gets this message will forward it).

To get a wide reach, sometimes the best way is to find a few seeds who, because of their respectability and following, will insure a wide, receptive audience for the message. The sites Twinfluence, tweetreach and TwitterAnalyer can help find out the reach of tweeter user and messages.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

WebCom Montreal

I was lucky enough to find out about this event a few days before the fact. I only participated in the free portion: 5 presentations of 15-20 minutes about different aspects of Web 2.0 and social networks.

Here are some notes and thoughts about the presentations:

Chris Heuer, Serve the Market

Originally, organisations served their community: the blacksmith, milkman, general store were all there to serve the needs of the community. The market has now shifted to products. Many still provide a service, but this isn't how we view the market anymore; but we should. He pointed out that how we chose to interact with organisations is through "filters" that become thiner with trust; the more flow, information flow, the deeper the relation, and the more likely people will buy.

Serving the market is leadership, not management

and the parting quesiton,

is profit the only purpose of business? or are we able to transcend our current thinking?

This was a great start. I felt like screaming "Yes!! that's right!!" on many occasions. I think we most certainly can work in a market focusing first on the service we want to render, and that money is not the goal in itself. Of course, we wont be able to provide this service if we don't make enough money, so of course money is important, but all too often, we use money as a measure of our success, and that's a false indicator. The positive impact we have on our community can be in the form of the product or service rendered, but it can also be in terms of providing employment, and spreading a little bit of happiness to clients, employees, and to every member of the community.

Next: Sean Power, Applied Communilytics In a Nutshell

Thursday, May 20, 2010


For most software developers, programming is more than just a way to earn money. What puts a smile on our faces as we think about upcoming tasks? What makes us think about the current problem when we wait in line, while we're driving, or as we fall asleep? Sure, we do it because it has to be done, but often there are much more personal reasons. Where does the satisfaction come from? We are all different, and different things make us tic, but all the cases fit in 3 categories: personal, interpersonal, and global. The fun is in figure out who we are based on what's important to us


  • Feeling smart: This is a very good feeling, whether it's because we've beat the machine into submission, or because we've found a whole new way to use an old tool. It doesn't mean outsmarting another person, but lining up ideas in a productive way
  • Aesthetics: Coming up with a beautiful, elegant design. Simplifying something complicated. Making all the parts fit nicely
  • Achievement: Going beyond our abilities, taking it one step further
  • Learning: New tools, new ways of thinking. We prefer learning things that change how we thinking about the problem. The more ways we can shape our minds around an issue, the more likely we can come up with an elegant solution; or a solution at all.
  • The big "DONE" stamp: when we get to say something is done, out the door, complete. Sometimes we have to compromise - we'd like to tweak this a bit more, or refactor that, but like an artist, talent isn't only knowing how a piece can be made better, but also knowing when to stop.
  • Glory: well, okay, that's pushing it a bit, but the recognition of others, whether our peers, customers, or the whole wide world is a very powerful motivation.

We are often seen as solitary workers, but in truth, our job cannot be done totally alone. We value good relations with our coworkers, mentors, employer, and clients.

  • Coworkers: we often need to rely on others, whether to show us what they've done, to discuss an idea, or do share the workload. Good relations with them come from listening to ideas, asking question, and pointing out issues in a respectful manner. It works even better when we can be friends with our coworkers, and spend time together outside the work environment, but that's not necessary.
  • Relations with the employer can be very productive when we know what's expected of us, what the boundaries are, and when we know we can meet our targets. We much prefer having some freedom in how we attain these objectives, and when we have input in setting the targets. When employees are asked to set the target themselves, they tend to shoot for higher accomplishment, and they are more likely to reach them. This is true not only for software developers, but in pretty much any field.
  • Clients (in a consulting or customization setting) are also part of the interpersonal aspect of a developer's life. Some of us hate talking to the client, but for others, knowing the person who will use the product, knowing how they will use it and why, can help us propose solutions they may not have thought of. It may require us to think differently, to use a different language so we can truly connect with the client in terms they understand, but that just keeps our minds nimble.

For some of us, the greater good is what drives our actions. We can make a difference by the work we do, whether it's through software that favors sustainability, the people we're helping, teaching/education we support, the time our software will save thousands of people, the list goes on. We all have causes we support, some more ardently than others, and when our work allows us to promote them, or help them along, we derive even more satisfaction from our efforts. We build a legacy, even if it's all too often anonymously.

Clearly, money is not the only reason we develop software. If it were, there would be no Open Source movement.

We all feel the pull of these motivations differently. For some, doing good for goodness's sake is plenty; others want recognition. I'm generally motivated mostly by the personal and interpersonal aspects of the work. I value the recognition of my peers more than that of the population at large.

What motivates you?