Saturday, March 23, 2013

5 steps to a healthy web presence

Web PresenceWith my contact lists in order, I took a look at my web presence and social networks today.  It was pretty horrible, outdated information, broken links, missed messages.  Fortunately, the mess hasn’t spilled over to the search engines, which still return valid business and personal links for me.  But given the general entropy of new information displacing old, it seemed like time for spring cleaning.

Especially since it’s snowing a blizzard outside.

Philosophically, I favor a simple top-down approach to managing a web presence.

1- Separate up two simple and consistent information sites.

One site contains static information: a personal page (“web-CV”) that describes me.  This is established once and updated occasionally.

The other contains narrative information: a personal blog, tumblr, or twitter stream that follows my life.  This has little static information but is updated frequently.

Each references the other, backed by a consistent strap line, contact information, photo, and personal description.  That helps people to recognize that they’ve found the right person and creates a reinforcing resonance within the search engines.

Get these right, with good headers and tag so that they re machine- as well as user-friendly.

2-  Establish a consistent identity on a few key social networks.

The ‘big three’ are Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+: I use the first exclusively for personal friends and family; the second for Business and Professional contacts.

I keep a high wall between the two, with appropriate contact lists  and privacy settings.  Personal contacts are limited to people I know, like, and trust (less than Dunbar’s Number in total) and I keep a pretty regular, open dialog with them.  Business contacts range much more widely (five times as many) but receive much less information, much less often.

Google+ is shaping up to be a tool that syncs other networks: Plaxo and Orkut both link closely with it, and it holds my contacts and calendar for shared company access.  I suspect that Google+ will become more important over time.

I use consistent login names, so the URLs are predictable (and I put them back into my static web page).  Google+ is the only outlier: they don’t allow users to establish custom URLs, so it’s best to redirect trough an simple service like

3-  Direct feeds into dedicated timelines, not onto status updates.

Narrative sources like twitter, tumblr, and RSS-blogs can produce a lot of updates that overwhelm the status lines in Newsfeeds in the Big 3.  So I set up pages on Google+ (using HootSuite as an intermediary), on Facebook (using RSS Graffiti), and a relay to Twitter (directly from Blogger) to receive blog feeds. 

Make sure that your narrative sources have easily accessible RSS feeds that can be connected to Aggregators (NetVibes) and Readers (FlipBoard, Currents, and  Despite predictions that Google’s retirement of Reader means the death of RSS, there will always be a Need for Feeds, and those hooks should be kept technically current.

4- Connect secondary static feeds through apps.

I link in specialty sites, mainly a photo archive (Flickr) and travel recommendations (TripAdvisor) through their dedicated spaces in Profile pages in the Big 3, and linked back into my personal static page and personal blog margins.  I also flag up blog posts through Twitterfeed and make sure that my RSS feed is active for the aggregators.

When I register with social aggregation service,  I pull text and links from the primary sources so that people are always directed back to locations that I know and maintain.  This keeps things simple for sites like the Knowledge Transfer network (they need a bio), InterNations (they want interests) or Expat Blog (they need a description).

5-  Finally, trim the fat.

There’s no harm in canceling my profile at paces that I tried but never visit any more.   I don’t need to be everywhere to be found, I just need to have a strong profile at some key sites where referrals and search engines can find me. 

So, Xing is deleted, Naymz is next, others to go as I find them.

My own web presence is still a bit of “Don’t-do-as-I-do” until I finish following my own advice.  One company site is down, two are out of date, and my main personal site needs an hour’s work.

Another week, though, and it will all be gleaming and humming.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Tijd voor TEFAF

The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) has returned to Maastricht; it’s always a fun (and expensive) outing to get a glimpse of the works hidden in private collections.  Many are works by major artists that surface briefly to change hands (Dufy, Picasso, Matisse, and Chagall are always well-represented).

The show is huge, filling the MECC and requiring at least half a day to walk though.  It attracts a international group of buyers, mostly very well dressed older men accompanied by stylish younger women.  Ponytails and jackets-over-jeans are the affectation of choice for the trendiest.

Security was much tighter this year, I was searched on the way out to see if I’d secreted a souvenir in my shoulder bag. I expected the “no-pictures” rule to be more strongly enforced as well, but it’s still widely flaunted.  So I enjoy taking time to look at the works, compose some photographs, and study the prices, (mostly well into five or six figures).

The modern works were less daring this year: fewer sculptures and collages, less provocative works overall.  Several good photo-realist paintings and sculptures were scattered about, more figurative/naked figures than I remember from past shows.  Still, it was nice to find a wall of Munch and the occasional Wolf Kahn pastel among the overpriced line drawings.


Classical Dutch works, black with yellow-orange highlights, filled one section: they are starting to grow on me.  The detail, the way people are always dwarfed by buildings, and the everyday scenes from centuries ago, were worth lingering over, as were some of the porcelain figurines.


The special show highlighted drawings on paper: lots of wonderful sketches and studies including 25 works by van Gogh that are rarely displayed.  The portrait collection was interesting after seeing the Manet show; there was a real deficit of watercolors throughout, though.


I always love the brass and  mechanical instruments and clocks: it makes me wonder what would constitute a valid collection.   Things of a type, of a time, of a sequence?  Or do really good collectors juxtapose objects that complement one another, or highlight a special space?  Or is it just getting something, everything, before someone else does?

More pictures, as always, at my Flickr site

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Finalizing my contact list

Contact listsWell, it’s finally finished.

At Christmas, I resolved that I would get my contact list sorted out.  The problems started when I linked Plaxo to my Windows Live account; the two resonated off of one another and created over 3000 entries from the original 700.  I had to disconnect all of the social network syncs, the start with “A”, correcting, weeding, and merging all of the contacts in Windows Live.

I use LinkedIn as my business network, so I sent  invitations to everyone as I went along, hoping that if they kept their information up to date, then my address book would be too.  Auto-magically.

I estimated a one-month job: t took three.

But last night I finished , ending up with around 1000 unique contacts.   I exported the result, then moved the whole set over to Google Mail, where there are better tools for cleaning the list.  I auto-removed duplicates, then cautiously merged in data from Skype, Facebook (the F2G app works great), and Plaxo, watching for trouble.

But the seams held and the data blossomed into usable points conencting all across my social/business grid.

  • LinkedIn claims to have found 325 more links than I did  and sent requests.  I hope that I didn’t end up spamming a lot of business associates.
  • Goggle+ is starting to grow itself, the People tab has spontaneously populated on my Nexus.
  • is tracking as well; Windows 8 should be improved.
  • I’m still looking for how to get Skype synced into the flow.
  • Then there’s Twitter…

Contact linksIt’s all pretty much how I hoped it would be.

The next task is to deal with the pile of business cards stacked on my desk.  I’ve looked at card scanners, but they cost 100’s of euros and I already have a scanner.  After a bit of searching and experimenting, I settled on the ABBYY Business Card Reader: it’s a 25 euro software app that takes a scanned image of up to 12 business cards and OCR's them to create vCard or CSV output.  It’s not perfect, but for the price it’s fast and pretty accurate.  I did 50 cards this evening and they slipped up into the contact list very easily.

With all of this coming to life, I’m finding that it simplifies other tasks.

Last night, I was reading an article about urban archaeologists on the Nexus.  I remembered a recent conversation with a friend who studied archaeology in college, but hadn’t been able to find a job in that field.  I hit Share, entered a few letters in his name, added a sentence to say ‘hi, and  it was off to him, in about a minute. 

Very cool.

The usual disclaimer: I select and purchase everything I use: nobody has asked me or compensated me to write about their products

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Naar Maastricht

Finally time to head back to the Netherlands: a cascade of business meetings and a flood of travel have kept me away for longer than usual.  I grabbed an early flight the day after the Board meeting armed with tax records receipts and Dutch lessons.

Stansted airport, outside London, is rapidly becoming the least passenger-friendly airport I visit.  They now charge 2 gbp for the express drop-off: this is a fee simply to pull up to the airport and jump out of the car!  (2.70 buys you Short Term Parking as an alternative)

Ticketing and bad drop-of lies are long and surly; security hold passengers away from putting their belongings into the x-ray bins until called forward, pointlessly slowing the checks.  There’s no wifi in the wait area, no charging stations, no way forward until called upon to run 15 minutes out to the gate at ten minutes before departure.  There is invariably only one customs agent to check a long line of non-British visitors.

Maastricht worked better; I got through passport control and out to the curb in time to meet the bus into town without a half-hour’s wait.  The Netherlands is *cold*, the snow started falling almost immediately, then changed to a penetrating sleet.  My fingers froze the first time out on the bike: I’ve pulled gloves back out of the closet.  The wind howls along the Maas like it used to off the lake in Chicago.

I’ve jumped straight back into daily Dutch lessons along with the work and end-of-year tax prep.  Vocabulary is good; pronunciation not so durable. 

I remember a still life drawing class where we were given a small block of wood to outline.  I held it tipped and drew the edge.  It was very hard: no matter what I did, I drew a different angle than what I could see.  It was as though the muscles weren’t connected to my eyes.  It’s the same thing when reading: I see the word, hear the way a native would say it.  But my mouth doesn’t make the right shapes, so Leuk comes out somewhere between look and lake.

I’ve reconnected with a bunch of friends, so the Maastricht SSBsocial schedule is full for a few days while I find out what everyone’s been up to.  I just hope that the weather improves by the weekend.

‘something like this…

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tuesday’s thoughts on business

10k hoursMalcolm Gladwell (Outliers) notes that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in a field, abut five years of on-the-job experience.

If the pace of economic change accelerates to where workers are forced to change jobs faster than that, wouldn’t it lead to both a progressive loss of expertise and a complete breakdown in retraining?


startup rolesA friend / mentor observed last week that all startups go through a similar crisis before they get to market.   Founders start out with a dream, a division of labor, and commitment to shared decision-making.  This gets formalized in the founding documents.

As investors enter, they want control in exchange for money.  As the product nears market, the organization expands and professional management is brought in.  As lunch approaches, the stakes get much higher, stressing the decision-making,

As a result, quarrel develop over decisions, roles, and control.  Passive founders try to retain shares; active ones want to retain influence.  The crisis comes when the founding document has to be rewritten to give the company a professional structure.

Both of my startups hit that crisis, and it’s painful.  I’m not sure how to anticipate and smooth it: it seems to be a natural adolescence.


imgresI’m used to calling investors and leaving messages: we’re at the end of ski season and many take extended holidays to catch the late snow.

Recently, though, the same thing is happening with my vendors and contractors.  I’m starting to feel like everyone skis: I may be the only one still riding the trains at 10 pm, working.


startup-failure-post-mortem-top-reasonsAnd, lest you think it’s just me, having a bad day, an analysis of 32 failed startups shows that co-founder disharmony is “one of the most fatal issues for a company.


Entrep busWhile waiting for the bus the other day, I wondered how I should be thinking about it.   On the one hand, I sacrifice and save to give the company as much money, as much time, as possible to succeed: riding the bus is an evolutionary step towards the eventual beachfront mansion.

On the other hand, success comes more slowly than one hopes for, and there will always be pressures on money and time: riding the bus could be a permanent condition for the vast majority of entrepreneurs.


MultilingualismAnd, on the positive side, the FT suggests that businesses should “Hire more multilingual employees, because these employees can communicate better, have better intercultural sensitivity, are better at co-operating, negotiating, compromising… they can also think more efficiently.”

Outstanding!  I’m headed to Maastricht in the morning….7 am flight from Stansted.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday’s child

Nursary school

This was posted (to Facebook, of course) by my best friend from when I was growing up in Lakewood, Ohio.  It was taken in 1959, when I was all of 5 years old.

‘Third from the upper left, in case you need a pointer.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Landmark: the London photography show

Sometimes the smaller galleries have the more interesting exhibitions.   Last mouth, the Wellcome Museum had a thoughtful project exploring how societies confront death through their artworks art.  And this month, I recommend Landmark: The Fields of Photography at Somerset House, London.

The curators have arranged the works by 70 leading photographers into a half-dozen theme areas, most dealing with the environment and man’s impact on it.  It fills the East and South wings with big, lush images that take at least an hour to really absorb.

Burtynsky - Uneasy BeautyI was draw in by the destructive landscapes of Edward Burtynsky, left, but quickly discovered a number of new favorites.


From the Series

Peter Bialobrzski’s pictures focused on China and the way that urban construction is overwhelming rural settings. The contrasts in exposure and color were really striking. 


nadav kander 2Nadav Kander’s photographs were similarly revealing of the overwhelming gap between civil projects and the people who live among them.



Aside: A good book for getting insight into the uneasy coexistence between ecology and development in China, putting narrative behind these pictures, is the Guardian’s Jonathan Watts’ When a Billion Chinese Jump.  I’m about half way through – it reinforces my concerns after having visited.

Daniel Beltra’s ethereal Brazil #3, left, and Florian Joye’s Dreamlands, right, were also striking.

Para, Brazil. February 11, 2012. Peninsula of rainforest in the Tapajas River south of Santarem Brazil. Photo by Daniel Beltra for Greenpeace Florian Joye Bawadi - Dreamlands

The exhibit runs through the end of April.