Wednesday, February 04, 2009

No Mom, I Won't Friend You

It seems like everyone is on Facebook now. It's only a matter of time before my mom sends me a friend request. I'm going on record now to say I'm not going to accept it. I don't want my mom hanging out where all my friends are, especially when I feel like sailor-talking... or complaining about her (sorry mom).

Early on, I was willing to 'friend' anybody on Facebook - pretty much because I never used it. I didn't really care who was in there (which is my current approach to using Plaxo). Now that I'm actually using Facebook to keep in touch with my friends from high school, college and today, I'm starting to realize that a lot of my "friends" aren't really friends.

So what to do now? I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings by de-friending them. I've been de-friended a bunch (okay, only one time I can think of) and it stings a bit. But really, are you just trying to follow, friend or link to as many people as possible, or are you building quality relationships?

Here's my new plan for social networking...

Facebook - if you can answer "yes" to any of the following questions, I won't mind giving you a "poke" from time to time on Facebook:
  • Do you know the words to "Here's to the Breezes?"
  • Did you grow up in "The Home of the Red Onion?"
  • Have you ever heard me sing (try to sing) three sheets to the wind with a future American Idol finalist?
  • Did you ever date me, but don't hate me?
  • Am I married to you, or did you go to my wedding?
  • Do you know what happened that we're leaving in Vegas? Me neither.
  • Did you ever pot plants with me?
  • Do you know the names of any of my kids?
  • Do you know a story about me (or have a picture of me) that is your insurance against me telling that story about your (or showing that picture of you)?
  • Do you know whether or not I have a tattoo?
  • Or... are we friends?
Did you answer "yes" to any of these questions? If so, we're probably already connected through Facebook. Now it's not a requirement, but it's a good starting point - if we're not really friends, we shouldn't pretend we are.

LinkedIn - now LinkedIn is a different story. I think professional relationships at all levels are important, and that we're all interconnected in this smaller-than-it-seems world we work (and live in). So if we've ever met through work, have worked together in the past, or have exchanged business cards... and, we'd both like to talk again sometime, let's be connected through LinkedIn. I really know everyone of my LinkedIn contacts - and I don't get people who use other networks to brag about how many contacts they have. It's one thing to collect business cards, it's another to build meaningful relationships.

While I'm at it, here are some examples of LinkedIn requests I'm not going to accept (pulled from real examples):
  • "Can you forward my request to the CEO of this huge tech company? I know he's three degrees away from you, and you probably don't know him, but I'm sure he'd like to meet me." No.
  • "You're in the same group as me and we're from the same city. We should be contacts. Let's meet up sometime too. Oh, my name is..." No.
  • "I'm a networker, you're a networker, wouldn't you like to network together?" No.
  • "I know my LinkedIn says 500+, but I have over 5,000 contacts in TopLinked. Want to be 5,001? You should go over there too, so you can get credit for the contacts you have above 500." No.
Okay, so maybe I'm venting a bit here, but this is just lazy. LinkedIn is an incredible tool. I was an early adopter and have been blown away by the constant improvements. It's value - for me - is directly tied to the quality of my relationships through the system.

Plaxo, MySpace, Bebo, Friendster, etc. - I use Facebook for personal and LinkedIn for work, it's that simple. I'm on the other ones - including the social network my college created - but it's really just to refer people to the ones I use. Plaxo is great for reminding me of people's birthdays, or for inviting people to be my friend when I don't want it too, but it doesn't do anything beyond Facebook and LinkedIn for me.

Twitter - I follow anybody I find interesting. I hope the people following me find me interesting. I don't follow people just because they follow me, nor do I think that should be a requirement. I love Twitter, and I don't mind engaging in the conversation with anyone there. It's a fantastic tool for interaction - and I'm completely open to being contacted through there. Want to get to know each other first? Twitter is great for that. I'd love to have you follow me on Twitter.

Final thought: I'm not inferring that I'm sooo important that I need to segment my social networks. That's hardly the case. I'm just saying that I think that you sometimes need to have different strategies (and messages) for your audiences. My status updates in Twitter about a cool new Web application I discovered will be interesting to my followers there, but my friends in Facebook (true story) are going to wonder what the hell a "UI" is. Likewise, everyone doesn't want to hear about my trip to the zoo or see pictures of my kids playing in leaves.

Do you have any hard and fast rules for how you manage your various social networks? Are you completely open and transparent to all, or do you limit access to your personal life in networks like Facebook?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

My Favorite iPhone Apps

I'll admit, I was pretty skeptical about the iPhone when it came out. I can remember saying to myself, "There's no way it can do all that." Of course, this stems from my past disappointment - having been an early adopter of several smartphones (eh hem, Treo). This time around, I wasn't going to fall for it. Which actually worked out fine, since I didn't make a move until the iPhone 3G came out. While it was hard letting go of my Blackberry, I couldn't be happier with my decision.

The thing I like most about the iPhone is all the apps and its seamless integration with the App Store. Think about it - you decide you need a piece of software on your phone, you search for it through the App Store, download it and use it, no matter where you are. That's delivering on the promise of mobile computing.

So what are my favorite apps? In no particular order, I'm a fan of the following apps:
  • Shazam - the coolest app ever created. Ever hear a song and wonder who sings it? Shazam answers that questions using some crazy recognition technology beyond my comphrehension. I've been in the middle of a noisy bar, held up my phone with Shazam, and had it tell me what song was playing in the background. And talk about instant gratification, I can download it from iTunes (or Amazon) right then and there.
  • ToDo - the ToDo app is great as a standalone task manager, but it's integration with Toodledo made me decide to buy this one (at the time, Toodledo didn't have an iPhone app - now they do). I still like ToDo's UI better though. ToDo syncs flawlessly with Toodledo and I like using the two together. I've added ToDo to my menubar, so I've got it on each screen. I've also used Jott (voice recognition service) and the Toodledo integration point so I can add tasks to my to-do list using my voice - this comes in very handy during my long commute.
  • Facebook - FB's mobile sidekick for the iPhone is pretty decent. If you have a lot of friends, it does tend to load slowly, but overall it does what I expect it to do - let me interact with my friends while I'm out and about. Best feature of the iPhone Facebook app? Mobile upload of photos. Before the iPhone, I updated my Facebook page far less often. Of course, you can instant message through the iPhone app - which is a cool feature - I just haven't used that much.
  • LinkedIn - I'm a LinkedIn junkie. I use this business social network to keep up with a lot of my professional contacts. I really only use LinkedIn to search for bios before meetings or to update my status. If they incorporate their full feature set (messaging or answers for example) into a future edition, this would be a killer mobile app. I'll cut LinkedIn some slack, since they've been really aggressive about adding features to their core app over the past eight months.
  • Twitteriffic - I currently use the free version, but am thinking about upgrading (since I don't think you can RT with the free). I use Twitteriffic as my primary personal mobile Twitter client. It serves the purpose, but I know there are other options out there that folks like more.
  • TwitterFon - speaking of Twitter clients, I use TwitterFon for my work tweets (easier than logging in and out of one client). Since I've been using TwitterFon, I've liked the interface better - I also like the search feature, which isn't included for free in other clients.
  • Pandora - I stream Pandora in my car via the iPhone and it works great. If you like the Web version of Pandora, you'll love the iPhone app. I hear they're going to roll out ads to the iPhone app next, so that could knock it down a few points as my favorite - but it's still a great app. If you're not familar with Pandora, you can create channels based on an artist you like - and the software figures out other songs you may like based on qualities found in the music - this is referred to as the Music Genome Project.
  • Tick - Tick is the mobile sidekick to TickSpot, one of my favorite Web-based time management apps (and I've evaluated at least 50 of them over the course of the past couple of years). The design is plain and simple and easy to use - the pricing is very reasonable as well (I'm referring to the Web app - the mobile app is free). I use TickSpot to track time for my freelance work.
  • Yammer - I've just started using Yammer to collaborate with my startup team for a side project. It's a great place for all those random thoughts you want to share with co-workers - think of Twitter, but limited to people in your company (must have @yourcompanydomain email to participate). While I'm not sure if I'll keep using Yammer, the mobile app increases the chances - since it's easy for me to review what everyone is working on and update my status on-the-go.
  • Stanza - I read a lot. I always cart around a book or two in my car, so I can take advantage of downtime. As a gadget guy, I've been eyeing the Kindle for a while, but it's just not that sexy of a device in my opinion (not to mention the price $$$). While I think Amazon should just give them away, that's another issue for another time. I recently stumbled across Stanza, which basically gives you some Kindle-like functionality on the iPhone. You can download books for free through several sources, such as Project Gutenberg - or you can buy books through several sellers. I'm currently reading The Prince on the iPhone and it's a very cool little app.
  • Clock - the standard clock application on the iPhone deserves to be on this list for me. I uses it as my alarm clock, my reminder, my timer, and stopwatch. It's a simple little app, but a great value-add. Waking up to the Xylophone is much more pleasant than the air raid siren my old alarm clock sounded like.
  • LIVESTRONG - my favorite app so far this year, the LIVESTRONG app syncs up with The Daily Plate from It's a huge collaborative database of calorie information and exercises for tracking your health and fitness. This app is the single reason I've lasted in to February on my new year's resolution.
Apps I Wish I Had On My iPhone Right Now
  • Hulu - I wish I could watch Hulu on the iPhone right now. The good news is Adobe and Apple seem to be talking about supporting Flash, so maybe I'll get my wish later this year.
  • Slingbox - I'm also waiting for Slingbox to launch their iPhone version. When they do, I'll buy a Slingbox, it's that simple. For now, I'll have to live with watching snippets through the YouTube app.
  • Audible - I don't need this app, but it would be cool to have over-the-air downloading of my Audible library to the iPhone (so I don't have to manually sync). I'm sure they're working on this, so it's only a matter of time.
What Are Your Favorites iPhone Apps? I realize my list isn't that exciting. I didn't name a single game (300 Bowl, Flick Fishing, Penguin) or pointless apps (iFart Mobile, Hold On!), so take a minute and share some of your favorites in the comments.