Monday, June 28, 2010

Social Media in a Disaster

I love social media. Make no mistake about it. However, one of the greatest examples of the limitations of social media is the use of these networks during a disaster. There are some glaring shortcomings when using social media to get your message out to the public.

Limited Audience

The biggest challenge to using social media to push information to the public is that not everybody is on facebook, twitter, myspace, or whatever network you choose. There are some people who live long productive lives without bothering with social networks. There are a bunch more who check their networks on occasion rather than daily. The vast majority are simply on a different network. You can't reach that many people.

Access During a Disaster

Modern living is highly dependent on electricity. In the event of a destructive hurricane, earthquake, or other event that knocks out power indefinitely, it is likely that many people will be unable to receive disaster updates. After all, batteries don't last forever. Even if you have a laptop you can plug into your vehicle for power, how will you get Internet when power is out? Theoretically, if you are in a disaster area, you are the most in need of information rather than people safely outside the area, right?

Limited Sphere of Influence

Not everybody has a million friends on social media. Plenty of people are content to have a few dozen friends. Even then, it's just a few dozen friends, which may not include the Press.

How Social Media Can Help In Disasters

Social media is most useful when people rebroadcast updates to their own circles of friends prior to a disaster. Obviously, this only works when you know a disaster is coming, like a hurricane or giant meteor. This way, people are able to inform their friends and family with the latest. Let's repeat that it does not reach everybody; but, you can always use the telephone too.

Another way that social media can help with a disaster is by organizing aid to the affected area afterwards. There is limited use for social media for people at the scene. Recovery efforts require manpower and resources, neither of which travels through the Internet. However, those organizing a response are able to connect and make things happen to bring both to the affected area.

That brings me to the final thought on the use of social media. It is all good and well that you want to raise awareness. Sadly, today's populace wants to be told what to do and how to do it. We are slowly evolving to a nanny state where we look to others for direction. Awareness is not good enough. Your social media message should include instructions. Ask people to donate. Instruct people to evacuate. Let people know that you have space at your shelter. Tell people to stock up on supplies. Social media falls short in that it typically consists of "raising awareness". Put some action items in your social media campaign. Don't forget to instruct your audience to share that knowledge and instructions with their neighbors. Like political campaigns, disaster preparation and response depends highly on fieldwork. Connect and mobilize.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

You're Self-Employed Even If You Have a Job

I was reading a brief blog post by Seth Godin in which he states that you're already self-employed. This is something that I have understood for many years, even when I succumb to my own insecurities by getting a 9 to 5 job. Given today's economy, it may have occurred to many people that there is no job security. Therefore, as an employee of somebody else, it is incumbent upon you to always be on the lookout and have your resume ready for action.

Why You Must Go

Employers only really need a few star players on their team. Either you are the star player or you are there as a fringe benefit to the star player. The concept to take away is that the vast majority of us are merely adequate at our jobs; we are there to give the star performers some breathing room to achieve great things. In tough economic times, the star player is needed more than ever; and, given limited resources, it makes you expendable.

Another reason you must go is cashflow. Businesses are not there to provide jobs; they are there to profit. Many things are possible when companies profit: stockholder dividends, charitable donations, sponsorships, and, yes, jobs. Jobs are a consequence of profit. Without profit, there can't be jobs; because, YOU, my friend will not tolerate working for free. On the flip side of that, keeping you on with the company during slow economic times means the company is at risk of going under. If this keeps up long enough, that means that everybody in the company, including you, will eventually be out looking for jobs. Expecting a job during a slow business cycle is akin to getting money for simply showing up.

Even After All That

Even after having said all that, it is conceivable that you can have a long career and move up the corporate ladder. That just means that you are a star player and the company made extra efforts to keep you on the team. Even so, as a star player, you could have had any job you wanted at other companies. This is quite the opposite of the average employee who has no job safety; the average Joe is self-employed through no fault of his own. The star player is self-employed if he wishes to make something of himself. If you're a real badass, your employer will bend over backwards to keep you on board. This is precisely why you are self-employed; you can leverage better deals when offers from other companies come in.

You're Better Off Being Self-Employed Anyway

I'm not saying that you should run off and file your DBA today. You can be self-employed in mindset. Simply knowing that you perform some output and receive some income in exchange. Your employers are interchangeable in your personal economic engine. Employer A's dollars are just as green as Employer B's. Being willing to fire your boss is very empowering because it frees you up to find bigger and better opportunities. Furthermore, if you are still able and willing to work, you don't really need a 9 to 5 job; you can usually generate some income on your own. You don't need to keep a job that simply isn't performing to your standards; fire it. It's not personal; it's business.

How Self-Employed Fare Well

Many of my freelance friends have had an economic boom during these days of layoffs and downsizing. It's not that there isn't work that needs to be done; rather, companies can't afford to pay steady paychecks for occasional jobs that require their skills. So, they offered to do contract work for their old jobs. This freed them up to do contract work for other companies too. Rather than rely on one source of income, they have multiple sources that can sustain them.

Get a Leg Up On the Next Economic Boom

As a freelancer, you interview for jobs every day. When the jobs come back, you'll have much better practice than those who were waiting for full employment. I think part of that comfort comes with the knowledge that you don't really need the job; you have work regardless. Not only will you be more comfortable with interviewing, you will still have relevant industry knowledge from continuing to do the work while your competition remained jobless. Simply having the mindset that you are self-employed, and the willingness to walk the talk if necessary, can go a long way in raising your confidence and making you more resilient than your co-workers.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Why I Think Google Wave Has No Storage Limit

This blog post is written on Google Wave. RSS readers click here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Best is the Enemy of Google Wave

You can read this blog post on Google Wave here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Google Wave for Domain Groups

This probably applies to a few of you who have decided to move your Intranet to Google Apps. You can set up Google Wave for your domain so that you can use your email address as your Google Wave login and even set up groups. The best example I can give is if you have as your company domain. If your address is, you can Wave with other users using that email address.

If you have signed up with Google Wave in the past, you know that whatever email address you use gets a user name and appended to it. You might even get a Google user account created for you. Not so with Google Apps accounts.

The really cool part about having a Google Apps domain account is that your admin can create groups. So, let's say that you create as a group within the company. You can then add as a contact within your Wave. This connects you to the entire team without having to add everybody individually. This is similar to the connection between Google Wave and Google Groups. Very handy.

The Google Wave Blog has a post on Waving with Groups that can lead you in the right direction. Just remember that Wave treats domain groups just like email groups.

Monday, June 14, 2010

T-Mobile myTouch 3G to Receive Android 2.2 Update

Blog post written on a Google Wave. Click to read and interact.

Google Wave for Government Work

This blog post is written in Google Wave.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Where Google Wave Can Go Wrong and You Can Make It Right

This blog post contains a Google Wave.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Project Management With Google Wave and Unawave

There is a Google Wave extension that has finally made the use of Wave for project management somewhat feasible. Unawave is a service that allows you to create projects, milestones, and tasks within the Google Wave ecosystem. Unawave automates keeping track of details in your project. You even get a dashboard Wave so that you can oversee the whole thing at a glance.

Google Wave is now just over one year old. While many of us geek types ooohhed and aaahhed over the new things that Wave could do, when first announced, we were disappointed with how flat Wave fell on its face due to low adoption. Much of this was caused by the relatively few numbers of invitations available. It's not surprising that using Wave for managing projects was simply undoable. There would always be somebody who could not get in. Even if they did, they were confused by Wave itself.

That has changed now that Google Wave has opened up to everybody. In my current experience, I am starting to see greater adoption of the service; I'm also pushing it on others so that they are at least familiar with it. I intend to use Unawave for managing my personal and work projects.

The advantages of using Wave are that you can add other people to a discussion, you can have private conversations, you avoid emails crossing in the ether, and most importantly, there has been no mention of file storage limits, which most project management services charge a premium to use.

Unawave is still relatively new. It is also another layer of complexity on top of the complexity of Google Wave itself. However, it does lend some structure to the chaos. I'm hoping that the structure from Unawave is sufficient to mask the mess that Wave can become. In other words, it keeps individual Waves on task rather than turn into the series of rabbit hole discussions that typically result.

Obviously, there are shortcomings to using Unawave and Wave. The lack of mobile clients means that you must have your computer nearby at all times to use the services. Another disadvantage is that they can be damned confusing to anybody who has never used project management software before, and who gets confused with basic email.

When Wave was first announced, one of the first questions asked was, "what problem does Wave solve?"

The answer has always been the need for more efficient collaboration. The wide range of uses of Wave ensured that it could never solve any one problem. Adding Unawave, however, at least gives users a path to follow for collaboration, which Wave could always do natively anyway. Think of Unawave as training wheels for Wave. Over time, you may find that you can stay on task on your own.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Giving Up on Multitasking

I am giving up on multi-tasking. If you know me, you have probably seen me doing all kinds of magic on the computer with mutiple browser windows, browser tabs, applications, and messaging all fired-up to switch from one task to another in an instant.

There is an increasing amount of evidence that human beings are very lousy at multitasking. Yes, we may be doing two or three things at once; but in the long-run, it takes us longer to accomplish these things in parallel than it would have taken us to do them in series. So, if saving time is your goal, then multitasking is one of the the last things you should do.

Not only do you take longer to accomplish tasks when switching back and forth, you also do a worse job than if you had focused on one task.

Having a smartphone is great. It allows me to do many of the same things that I would normally do at a computer. As a matter of fact, I check more email and other messages on my phone than at the computer. However, I have started to question the value of knowing when email comes in. So, I started with turning off audio notifications. This alone saved a lot of time as I'm not checking the phone with every ding. However, I still check more frequently than necessary because there is a visual notification. I'm going to turn that off next and only check messages when I choose to check rather than when they come in. That includes text messages. No more interruptions except phone calls, which I don't get many of.

Also from now on, only one window open on my desktop at a time. This is a bit tricky and will probably be violated when writing, which invariably requires reading other references. Having multiple applications running leads one to compulsively switch amongst them for no good reason.

Social media is another time eater. I think I can batch my interactions rather than constantly checking or being notified what others are doing.

Finally, working without a plan has to stop. One of the reasons why I am a vicious multitasker is because of a lack of forethought. There is that saying that if you believe in nothing, you'll fall for anything. Similarly, if you don't have a plan on what to do with your time, you'll do anything and everything. Having a plan in place should keep me focused on the work that needs to get done.

I am on the fence about turning off my phone or the ringer when I'm working. Interruptions are another variant of multitasking. The damage is done from having to switch from one task to another, which interruptions cause. For now, I do not get too many phone calls; however, that may change as I choke off other channels for people to communicate with me.

What do you think? Will it work?