Avatars, Gravatars, Blavatars and Babes

Susan Ellsworth

Susan Ellsworth

I am a huge fan of computing avatars.  An avatar—an image that represents you online—can be charming, educational, political or even slightly shocking. Traditionally, avatars on Internet forums are square and placed next to the user’s post. Some of the most creative avatars I’ve seen have appeared right on FaceBook. One of my friends uses a picture of a building in his home country as his avatar. The Charles M. Schulz Museum uses the delightful picture below of world-famous Snoopy and his friend Woodstock.

Snoopy_WoodstockThen there are gravatars. A gravatar is a Globally Recognized avatar. Upload it to your profile, and whenever you participate in a Gravatar-enabled site, your gravatar image automatically follows you there. Enter blavatars. WordPress, the platform this blog is created on, invented the word to refer to a graphic uploaded to a WordPress blog. The blavatar may serve as a favicon (a tiny favorite icon), and can show up in various ways. They may show up in a browser’s address bar or on browser tabs. All interesting. All attention-getters. All fun.

If you only use FaceBook to stay in touch with your far-flung family and not to conduct business, it’s quite acceptable to use a picture of a baby as your avatar, or as a part of your social media profile. However,  beware of using such a graphic if you are a representative of a major corporation not in the business of marketing products for babies. Recently someone with a picture of a baby in her profile invited me to connect in LinkedIn. I ignored the invitation to connect. Not only am I not in the market for products for babies. I have a hard time taking seriously anyone in a professionally-oriented site who then not only does not include a professional-looking headshot but who also hides behind a picture of a baby. Or was that person simply a babe in the woods? Was it a fake profile? I don’t know. I’m simply moving on. I suspect I am not alone. 

Say Pequod


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Once again, Please help me welcome Dan!

Dan Antion

Dan Antion

Normally, you see my smiling face in the upper left corner of this blog. However, my friend Dan Antion recently wrote the delightful blog below, which I believe you will enjoy! —- Susan Ellsworth

If we Can’t kill eMail, can we Please Fix It
by Dan Antion

During the last year or so, I listened to several speakers at content management and social media conferences suggest that business email will soon be a technology of the past. danantion_graphic

Judging by my inbox, and recognizing that people are still sending faxes, I think it’s safe to say that I will be getting email throughout what remains of my career. If that’s the case, I would appreciate it if the people who send me business email would take it upon themselves to improve the quality of the email that they send. If I thought everyone would give this topic the thought it deserves, and change their behavior accordingly, I’d stop writing after making the following statement:

Consider that regular business email, the stuff that I will read simply because you sent it, comes with an implied contract based on mutual respect. Then remember that once my respect for you has been earned, that you have to prevent me from losing it.

Since I get so much email, from so many sources, let me offer a few general guidelines to make those emails better:

Size matters.  I had a chemistry professor who required written lab reports but thought they should be factual. In warning against long explanations in lieu of facts – he used to say “remember, the longer the wronger!” It’s the same with email. A single paragraph business communication will be appreciated. A couple of paragraphs will be tolerated and a multi-page monologue will probably be ignored.

Don’t be a jerk.  This sounds like so much common sense, but it’s easy to look like a jerk in email. Unless you want to look like a jerk, reread your message before you click send. Think about whether what you wrote will be understood in the absence of facial expressions, tone of voice and that precious act of reaching out to touch my shoulder. By the way, if you don’t want to reread it because it’s so long, refer to the previous paragraph.

I have an inbox. After you send your email, continue not being a jerk by not calling me, texting me or visiting me to ask me: “Did you get the email I just sent?

Some subjects are better left out of the inbox. If you are dancing around a sensitive issue, delete the email, walk down to hall, or pick up the phone and make personal contact.

Stop crying wolf. Remember that I can sort my email by sender, so I can see if there are patterns in the email that you send. If 2/3’s of your subject lines include “Important” or “Must read” maybe you need to think about the way you organize, schedule and prioritize your work/day/life.

If you find yourself saying “this is good advice for most people, but it doesn’t work in my situation,” maybe you need to think a little harder about your situation and about the nature of email.

One subject – one thought. I know it’s not a text message, but email shouldn’t be a sermon and it absolutely shouldn’t be a lecture. If you have three complex points to make about a subject, schedule a meeting to discuss your thoughts.  This works better because I can communicate my boredom with my facial expression and I can point out when your first assumption is wrong and therefore you should stop blathering.

Email is not a presentation.  Forget the “tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them” mantra that is supposed to set you up to make a great speech.  Just tell me what you want me to know in short, grammatically correct sentences – preferably less than 5. If you are thinking about including graphics, drop the “s” – limit yourself to one graphic.

Note: I added this next rule in response to Microsoft’s addition of the Screen Clipping tool into Outlook.

Remain in media. If you are reading my document, reviewing my presentation or testing my spreadsheet, use the features built into Office on the Review Ribbon instead of artfully crafting a treasure map of arrows and text boxes for me to follow. This should also help you comply with the ‘one graphic’ rule.

Oh, one last thought, particularly if you are still clinging to the notion that you or your emails are somehow special and should be exempt from these rules: If I wouldn’t need to be in the room when you told somebody this critical information in person, please leave me off the CC line.


Say Pequod


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Beating the Social Media Bafflegab

Susan EllsworthI receive newsletters from a wide variety of organizations touting themselves as experts in social media. The ones I generally delete without reading include a title phrase like must read.  Recently, I received one that included in its preview text a suggestion that the organization producing the article completely understood a social media concept that I had never seen before (and have not seen anywhere since.) Furthermore, the teaser text suggested that what they were publishing was part of “best practices.”

Intrigued, I clicked to download the article. There was nothing new I had not seen before. Furthermore, it had been published back in 2009.  Really? Yes, really.

It’s time to look at criteria for credibility in social media.

Does the source cite actual statistical studies of its claims conducted by a completely independent source? Where is the online “Consumer Reports” aggregator of statistical studies reports in social media? A recent Google search for such a service came up pretty dry in that regard. If there actually are statistical studies included, who is the audience for whom the study was written? To put it differently, can you understand what is being said? Or are you looking at a lot of bafflegab intersperced with code words recently invented by (and defined by) the source?

While checking research is a daunting task, you can beat at least some of the bafflegab. There actually are some dictionaries and glossaries of social media terms. Here are some.

A-Z of social media. http://socialmedia.wikispaces.com/A-Z+of+social+media

Hubspot. http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/6126/The-Ultimate-Glossary-120-Social-Media-Marketing-Terms-Explained.aspx

Pam Dyer. “Social Media from A to Z: A Glossary”

Socialbrite. Social media glossary 

…and there are others that Google will serve up for you every day of the week. You can beat at least some of the bafflegab. Go for it!

Susan Ellsworth


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Spokeo gets an “Unlike”

Susan EllsworthA while back, a very good friend said
“Just because some website could be built doesn’t mean it should. TAKE NOTE: There is a site called spokeo.com that is a new online USA phone book w/ personal information: everything from pics you’ve posted on Facebook or web (depending on privacy settings), your approx credit score, home value, income, age.

Today most websites declare that they do not release your personal data without asking. Spokeo does just the opposite: It collects data about you from wherever it can find it, compiles it and offers it for sale at $4.95 a month if you sign up for three months or $3.95 a month if you sign up for six months. All without a word to you.

Thumbs Down

Here is how to get your personal data removed from SPOKEO.

Go to http://www.spokeo.com. (DO NOT LOG IN.) That’s for the people who want to sell your data.

Enter your first and last name in the dialog box below the word “spokeo” and above the “Not your grandma’s phone book” tagline. Click the green Search button.

A map of the United States will appear. To the left of the map, you will see a list of States in which people with your name appears.

Click on the appropriate State. (There may be several people with your name in your State.)

A list of cities and/or towns will appear. Click on the appropriate jurisdiction.

A listing showing your sex, approximate age, abbreviated home phone number, abbreviated eMail address, abbreviated current street address, city and State, a clickable list of family members, and a list of Marital Status, Occupation and Education with the clickable notation of “See Available Results” comes up.

Below that is a map showing the history of places you have lived. Further down is a map showing homes in your neighborhood and presumably their estimated worth.

Once you are confident that you are the person Spokeo has listed, look slightly above the website itself. You will see the website URL where your information is referred to. For example:

Capture the whole URL of your profile.
Go to http://www.spokeo.com/privacy

The PRIVACY page will come up. Scroll down.

Copy and paste the URL of your profile in the first dialog box.
Enter your eMail address in the second dialog box.
Enter the  captcha letters you see into the third dialog box.

You should receive an eMail from Spokeo to confirm that you want to have your listing removed.
To complete the removal process, click on the new URL (included in the eMail to you) or paste it into your browser.

Press [return] and you are done….but only if Spokeo had only one listing for you. If  Spokeo had more than one listing for you, you will have to repeat this process for each listing Spokeo has for you. Happy de-listing!

Get out of Spokeo

Susan Ellsworth


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Pequod Systems Posts: the Breast Cancer Series

Thank you for your FaceBook eMail, Garick.

Today’s news is that my last scheduled day of radiology is May 9, 2012.  After that, it will be a matter of a daily pill for the next five years. My radiologist MD says that the further I get away from my chemo experience, the more energy I will get back. We’ll see if I’m up to partying the weekend of May 12-13.

And of course, I will be getting my mammograms regularly and hoping that the breast cancer does not come back. The good news is that I discovered that not every mammogram has to be painful. The one I had at my hospital just prior to my lumpectomy, for example, was a bit uncomfortable but nowhere near as painful as the one I had at the facility my general practitioner had sent me to.  The challenge now is to educate my GP so he will understand that there is no correlation between the amount of pain one feels with a breast smashed between two plates and the quality of the mammogram.

As you know, it has not been easy to travel the road to cure my breast cancer and do what I can to function as the marketing partner of Pequod Systems. Especially with all the great new features and benefits that Nimble has been rolling out at the very time I have mostly not had the energy to talk with prospects intelligently. I mostly have had “chemo brain” as a result of the Taxotere in the chemo brew that I took in November, December and January.  I will have to explain to Richard and Todd that one does not contact a lead when one’s not-so-nimble brain is somewhere south of the border. Believe it or not, there actually are chemo-brain-like  residual effects from the Taxotere that do take time to disappear. I am sure they will understand.

What you don’t know is that I consequently had not paid attention to my workstation. Shortly after I learned that I had breast cancer, my hard drive had very nearly been filled with old files and plain old junk I really did not need. What’s almost worse,  the dust of the ages (not to mention cat fuzz) had penetrated my system and I suspect had been a purveyor of  static. So it was no wonder that every website (and Nimble!) I visited, I not only had the feeling I was slogging through tar, but also that my mouse would regularly stop working. Aargh.  (More about those cats in another note…) As you can imagine, I have been spending significant time moving some useless junk from my hard drive into the ozone, and my workstation has now been re-introduced to a can of air. The upside? I will not be adding more graphics without paying attention to how much disk space I have left.

One other detail…I really have less hair now than my picture shows. As a matter of fact, my managing partner has said I look like I have a military haircut. Yup, that’s the same guy who, in a moment of frustration, said that he was beginning to wonder if breast cancer is “a rite of passage.” He just knows many of the same folks that I do.

In the meantime, thanks for the intro to Google+ Hangouts. FaceBook will have to hustle.




To Skype and FaceBook Together…or Not

Recently I discovered a solid business reason for using Skype. A company from BanglaDesh and my company are collaborating on a project together, and Skype is a convenient, economical way we can stay in touch. As a FaceBook user, I was fascinated to see on my Skype page an option to “Connect your Facebook account to message your friends from Skype and see their News Feed.” And of course, the “Learn More” link only said “Enjoy the magic of video calls when you and your friends are logged in to Facebook. ”

As a partner in a systems integration company, I love it when apps come together and play nicely with each other. However, just yesterday I had extolled the benefits of LinkNotify. I had proclaimed that LinkNotify is a fast read, that it sends me an eMail three times a week with current links posted by friends and/or organizations I had “LIKED.”  As an example, I pointed out that Nimble had posted a FaceBook link to the the July 6 LA Times piece “Facebook details Skype-powered video calling, group chats” and how I had received a report on July 7 from LinkNotify. I had immediately returned to FaceBook to see a comment about starting a group to enable chatting. Earlier in the day, a friend from the Philippines had posted a link to the FaceBook announcement, so that made me twice as interested. A 10-second scan of the LinkNotify report had just saved me a 30-minute check of links posted by all my FaceBook friends. It all looked like so much FUN!

However, I had also said that I had killed off all my time-wasting FaceBook games and apps. Considering that LinkNotify is a business-oriented app that allows me to skim through the links my FaceBook friends have posted without my being slowed down by the posts about what they’re eating or watching on TV, I asked myself the obvious question:  Would SKYPE also do that for me? Not that I could see. So for now, unless my Nimble buddies can show me a good reason to the contrary, I think I’ll pass on the Skype-FaceBook integration opportunity. 


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Who are your FaceBook Friends?

Writing in All Things D on May 31, Liz Gannes wondered about friending in FaceBook.  Among her worries were that

“One of Facebook’s most fundamental flaws is its notion of friending. Relationships on Facebook don’t naturally expire as they do in the real world. To unfriend is drastic, used only in the direst of circumstances–like a bad breakup.

And the fact that people from so many parts of our lives are on Facebook elicits bland communication. You often don’t really know who you’re talking to, so you stop talking.”

That may be over-stating the case for “”while Facebook might be the hottest game in town, it’s still a pretty warped and inaccurate picture of what it means to have friends. ”

Consider in-person contacts you make, whether pursuing  business contacts or building relationships in small groups of large International organizations.  Or even connecting in interfaith activities. Now consider what attending a large family picnic such as a reunion is like.  In each instance, there will be people you meet and greet as people you have known for a very long time.  In each instance, you will have a different relationship with each person you talk with—or avoid. In each instance, there will be people to whom you say “We have simply got to stop not meeting like this.” And then you keep on not meeting them in person, for one reason or another.  Or there will be people you actually do connect with for a while—and then perhaps ignore until, for one reason or another, they come to your attention again.

It’s not that we  deliberately deceive anyone. It’s that life happens, and without mechanical prompting (such as with a scheduler) we all pay attention to different acquaintances at different times and for different reasons.  With schedulers, we remind ourselves to contact the people who we need to contact.

Her comment that “Relationships on Facebook don’t naturally expire as they do in the real world. To unfriend is drastic, used only in the direst of circumstances–like a bad breakup”  misses a reality.  It is not necessary to unfriend anyone you discover is not really all that interesting for any reason—business or personal. Simply not connecting with them right now gives one the option of re-connecting later on in a friendly way.

Liz, it’s all about our own goals and needs in the big city. The environment is different but the human behaviors are pretty much the same.


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Toastmasters Core Value vs Today’s Security Issues

I belong to an organization of about 260,000 members called Toastmasters International. Its core values include “integrity, dedication to excellence, service to the member, and respect for the individual. ” That’s pretty heady and idealistic stuff when you export it to countries where there is current  protest that respect for all individuals is not an ongoing part of political dialog. And there are calls for democracy.

My last blog noted that there were there was only one (1) Toastmasters club in Tunisia, one (1) club in Egypt,  no clubs in Libya, 60 clubs in Bahrain and no clubs in Syria. There are no clubs in Yemen, Pakistan or Afghanistan. There are people in each and every one of those countries that not only do not wish Americans well but also who are highly motivated to damage or destroy a part of American lifestyle that has facilitated the growth of democracy: the very high tech which a younger and more sophisticated generation in those countries has been using to bring about revolution.  And there are those who would use that technology against all things American.

The death of Osama bin Laden this past Sunday did not play in Islamabad the way it played in New York, Shanksville or Washington. There are Internet-enabled people in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan—and even in the USA—who are also motivated to do damage to users they do not even know. That does mean you and me.

So I looked at the single largest website I visit regularly and wondered what can be done that will make my connection with FaceBook more secure.  So here it is:

Go to Account/Account Settings/Account Security.
Click in the Secure Browsing (https) box.
You will be prompted for a computer name.
Create a short name and save your settings. You are done.

So fellow Toastmasters and friends, remember that just because the televised reports you watch in American mainstream media say that people in the streets of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen or other countries are looking for a more democratic way of life that does not necessarily mean democracy as you understand it…and does not necessarily mean all those folks are suddenly your friends.

Watching 24 x 7 x 365


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Nimble: Love that Revolutionary Leadership!

It’s finally happening!

A hosted fun, friendly Social Customer Relationship Management solution that a small business  can actually afford.  For those who just came into this virtual room, a quick note to explain SCRM. It’s not simply adding FaceBook, LinkedIn or other social networking services to traditional Customer Relationship Management.

In her February 23 blog, Ann All says that

In perhaps the best definition of SCRM I’ve seen yet,  [Bertrand] Duperrin  says SCRM shifts the focus from the “management” aspect of CRM to the “relationship” aspect….As Duperrin writes, it’s “moving from ‘buy my product, it’s the best’ to ‘How can I help you.’” And follow-up gets more emphasis in SCRM, sometimes with a dedicated customer care channel on social media or a “peer care” platform where customers can help each other.

So why am I so excited about the rollout of Nimble Contact? Back on April 11, 2009,   I had reported the results of my advocacy that GoldMine from FrontRange stop ignoring the reality of social networking as it applies to business development. And that FrontRange should begin development along those lines. The result?  Comments from well-known FrontRange GoldMine partner technical “experts” who said things like ” I don’t see how social networking fits into the realm of GoldMine. ” A recent Tweet from FrontRange indicated the company had just joined a LinkedIn cloud computing community.

Fast forward to February 2010. Who contacted us to let us know he had started the Nimble Contact revolution? None other than Jon Ferrara, who also had inspired and led the development of  the original GoldMine customer relationship management product that many small businesses had invested in.  We signed up for the Nimble Contact beta testing and development, and have been following the progress of Nimble Contact for a full year now.  By the time you read this blog, Nimble Contacta software solution for businesses that have chosen applications in the cloudwill have been rolled out.  Here is the demo Ferrera gave today.

Usually, you see the picture of the watchful eye at the end of my blogs. Today, I am happy to say that we are partnering with Nimble, and you will now see the Nimble logo not only here but also on our Nimble Partner Website and on our Pequod Systems website as well.

Welcome, Nimble Contact !


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GoldMine Premium Edition Spring Bundles!

Susan Ellsworth

FrontRange has recently announced the following GoldMine Premium Edition offers, which are good only through April 30th, 2010.

Small Business  Bundle Offer : For the small business who want to purchase three (3) user licenses of GoldMine Premium Edition.

A user can buy 3 licenses of GoldMine Premium Edition for $1,995 including new product upgrades for a period of one year.  This offer includes MS SQL 2008 Workgroup, but does not include Crystal Reports®. Renewals after the 1st year will be $695.  No FrontRange telephone support is included in this package. Telephone support will be the responsibility of the partner.

Starter Pack Promotional Bundle: For Company wishing to purchase 5 user licenses of GoldMine Premium Edition

Five (5) licenses of GoldMine Premium Edition for $2,995 including maintenance for one year.  This offer includes MS SQL 2008 Workgroup.


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