Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Michael on TV

Pretty lame to post this a couple of weeks late, but I've been busy, then I was on vacation, then I was busy again, then I forgot... you know the drill. Anyways, I was interviewed on CBC television for a story on internet privacy. Here's a link (thanks, Frank): lab logoSticking with TV Fame, Episode 140 of The Lab With Leo Laporte on G4 Tech TV in Canada includes me doing a segment with Leo, talking about designing and building applications in the era of social networking. That interview will be made available on The Lab website after it airs on television.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, October 26, 2007

Is the world normal?

Last week, 24Hrs Newspaper published a story about Kinzin's Facebook plugin Are You Normal? in their print and online magazine (see the great photo on the left, by Rob Kruyt, that accompanied the article). In the article, I'm quoted as saying that we've reached 90,000 people around the world. Thanks to the power of the network effect, as of this writing we've already passed 220,000 (from 184 countries!) and still going strong.

The point of this post is not to toot my own horn (at least, not only to do that :-), but to mention for your interest that the next set of survey questions we publish will be written in part by our user base. We've had questions submitted from Finland, Spain, Greece, Australia, and the UK so far. I'm very excited about this in particular. As with many things, when we're talking about what's "normal", what we choose to measure is often as interesting as the results.

I'll keep you posted as things progress...

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Extending and enhancing an existing network

Here's a comment to my previous blog post. It seems important enough to promote it to a post of it's own. Personally, I walked away from the McCrae Alumni weekend very impressed. Here's a group of people who have built a (human) network that transcends the institution that initialized it. Below is an example of the group's internal discussion. Good suggestions, and thanks for letting me be a part of the unfolding dialogue.
Hey thanks for buying the power assited bike Michael.

I think I asked a question about effective practices that each McRae alum could engage in immediately: (1) on existing social networks like Linkedin, Facebook and MySpace, and (2) what are the most effective ways we can project our power as a network, i.e., what are some good examples of other successful networks of people who have projected power?

A couple of answers that occurred to me:
RE: effective practices on existing social networks ...
  • we need to be consistent in the name we use for our program. Because "the Program" has changed names some call it McRae, other APMCP, others Cap. Consistent name and tags would make our profiles and comments easier to find,
  • be a good follower. Charles Caldwell introduce many of us McRae folks to Linked in within a year of its founding, most of us didn't take it seriously. Many still have not spend a lot of time moving their contacts in. I didn't spend anytime on Linkedin until I noticed that a guy who is at least 5 years older than me and commands millions (maybe billions) of investment funds and put $50-million into our project in China had 80 contacts there. For example, if someone opens McRae Facebook group ... join, comment ... it take seconds.
  • do business with fellow alum, refer them for jobs, collaborate, coinvest, help your fellow lobsters out of the pot (Canadians usually spend thier time pulling each other back into the pot! who said pot?),
  • practical recoms for the alum website - expand the profiles, add some mapping/geotagging, let each person add photos and attach business plans/documents to share to their profiles, add RSS feeds for each profile and the whole site so that when anyone contributes content the network gets the intel,
  • I wonder if now is the right stage for philanthropy efforts. Sure if a fellow alum is running for a cause by all means, but if we are raising $20,000 as a group for something, should we be reinvesting directly in the network (improve website, hire someone to write a report on where the alum network goes from here, particularly if Cap is out of the picture completely).
Good introductory presentation on the changes that are effecting everyone.
You're welcome. Thanks for letting me be a small part of it!

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, August 27, 2007

How to organize yourselves

This last weekend (August 23rd), I was speaking to Alumni of the McCrae Institute of International Management about the social shifts taking place today as a result of the Internet. "Groups of people can organize quickly and efficiently and make their voices heard," I said. "The locus of control is shifting from corporations to people, with powerful implications for politics, marketing, product development." In response, I got the obvious question: "how?" Recognizing that I took the answer to that question for granted a little, here is a short treatise on the ways groups of people (such as the McCrae Alumni) can make finding each other and getting together a little bit easier. In the end, you'll need to have a motivated, passionate, and involved group of people to get anything done, of course. That problem hasn't been solved with technology, at least not yet ;-).
  • Get involved in the Blogosphere. Create your own blog (typepad is good, so is wordpress. I use blogger). Find others who share your interest who blog, and comment on their blogs. Link to their blogs from your blog. Blog about their blogs. Strike up conversations. Talking, linking, and generally letting people know what you're about and that you want to connect is how it all begins.
  • Get set up on LinkedIn. Make sure you fill out the "additional information" section at the bottom of your profile with relevant details of your interests and affiliations, and make sure your "contact settings" encourage people to contact you. Actively search for contacts, and invite people you know.
  • Find your friends on Facebook. I'm a little more wary of Facebook's privacy policy and terms of service, but if you're careful about not revealing non-essential information you should be fine. When you're filling in your profile information, don't forget to put information in the other tabs (to the right of the "basic" tab) that will make it easier for people to search for you.
  • Create or join a private or public discussion group. You can use Yahoo! Groups, Google groups, or Ning. Try to use them more than point-to-point communications like email and IM. These days, I like Pownce. ...and I hear Jumpnote is going to totally kick butt when it comes out of alpha.
  • Most importantly, follow your passion: find out where people are already gathering and add your voice.
Hey Blogosphere: any other keen suggestions for a motivated and savvy, but loosely knit, group of people who are hoping to get more organized?

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

My first online social networking application (1982)

It was 1982, and I was calling into a music video show called "Soundproof" (1979-1983... big love out Buzz E. Miller and Dave Toddington!) on the North Shore Community Cable Channel. Ring. Ring. Ring. I was hoping to request Shrink's "Paranoid" (anybody?), and I was waiting for the phone to pick up. They didn't even have IVR to pick up and put you on hold, so we'd call and let it ring while we watched videos. One day, I was sitting on the couch at 1 AM, with the phone to my ear and I realized I could hear voices in between the rings. "Hello?" I said. To my surprise, somebody responded.
Dozens of us would call the request line and chat in between the rings. Can you imagine? "Oh yeah, I'm (ring) totally into Wall of (ring) Voodoo. 'Callbox' is the (ring) best song ever!"
Check out the article on page 8 of this old UBC student paper.
Warning: Some bad language in this video!

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, July 30, 2007

How do you say Peer-to-peer in Mandarin?

One more update on P2P lending: here is a Chinese P2P lending project called PPDAI. It turns out that most lending in China (not much of a surprise) is P2P (the old-school, IRL type), usually between relatives. Most Chinese don't have access to bank financing, apparently. This could be amazing to watch: 1.3 Billion peers... wow.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Update: More on bypassing the Banks

I posted earlier on a peer-to-peer lending project called CommunityLend (love the logo, by the way), which is still as yet unlaunched. Here's another interesting angle: a facebook plugin. Using existing social networks to make (presumably better-trusted) connections between lenders and borrowers. LendingClub has this to say for themselves:
Now that Lending Club is available to Facebook members, person-to-person lending on Facebook is finally possible. “Chip wants to pay off his crazy 18% credit cards; can you chip in $100? You’ll get $110 next year, and even better, you’ll know you helped him out and you may also earn a seat at his debt-free celebration dinner.” Your real friends will even validate the purpose of your loan, and strengthen your desire to live up to it.
And more formally:
Lending Club is an online lending community where people can borrow and lend money, bypass the banks, and get better rates. By working together, members can borrow money more easily and at a better rate than they would get from a bank, or invest in a portfolio of loans at higher rates than those served by savings accounts or CDs. A proprietary technology called LendingMatch™ helps match lenders with borrowers using connections established through social networks, associations and online communities, and build diversified portfolios based on lender preferences.
Their blog has some interesting content discussing P2P lending, and financial advice more generally for the Facebook set. Some articles are quite interesting, including this one on loan pricing. LendingClub is currently open to Facebook users, and plans to expand beyond (presumably to other social networks) soon.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


In Turning the Generational Dial, Carol Orsborn (who works at Fleishman-Hillard, along with my good friend Jennifer Torney) makes the case that the generations that follow the Baby Boomers will be the first in all of history "not (to) have grown into adulthood anticipating the marginalized, invisible, powerless future boomers once expected to have—but rather, the promise of lifelong vitality, relevant entertainment and the thriving careers at midlife and beyond that boomers pioneered." This, I find very interesting. I've heard it said that the web is for the young, that youthful early adopters (alone) are driving the new generation of applications we're seeing on the web. I don't believe it. I heard something at the Web 2.0 Expo regarding the demographics of users of the instructables website. I can't for the life of me, find a link anywhere to it on the internet. If anyone can find something, please let me know. Instructables is a site where people post plans for projects that people can build themselves. The interesting tidbit was that Instructables users fall into two categories: posters and readers. Posters tend to be older (over 35) and readers tend to be younger (under 35). What's interesting about that is how obvious it is. Older people passing their knowledge and skills onto younger people. How... human. One of the things the web 2.1 may give us is better access to an increasingly web-savvy older generation with more energy and more things to share than ever before. Maybe, I'm starting to get a sense of why I should care about the Wikia search engine project... Google lets you search what's on the web, but how do you search somebody's life experiences? That's what I want. Anybody working on that?

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kinzin beta update

It wasn't the worst I've seen, but I think it's fair to say that the Kinzin launch wasn't as smooth as we wanted. Anyway, Paul's team is working fast and furious (quickly and furiously?) to get the holes patched and loops closed. In retrospect, I would say the Mother's day promotion was too ambitious for the first release. Still, we're getting more signups every day, so despite my own perception of the warts and flaws, there are people out there who are adopting and using Kinzin (a big "thank you" to any of you that might be listening). The next phase is going to focus on closing the loop on publishing and inviting, to make it more fun to create using Kinzin, and more obviously valuable to visit.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, April 19, 2007

All together now (all together now)!

The great people that I work with at Uniserve (hello Paul, Kate (Trgovac), Dethe, Joanna, Kate (Inglis), Vince) have launched a great new product. It's called Kinzin, and it's a site where people can create many small, overlapping, family-centric social networks. It's very cool, and the launch promotion right now is a free high-end custom photobook for a Mom in your family if you sign up and create a family space. It's kind of in a public beta phase, and it would be excellent if you would sign up and try it out. With families getting spread out geographically and bigger age gaps between generations, there are very few truly shared family spaces, where families can share and nurture their micro-cultures. Kinzin is an attempt to give people the tools to create those spaces for themselves. It's just the beginning, too - there are all sorts of cool things coming down the pipe. Check it out!

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, March 29, 2007


(source: Springwise) CommunityLend is "an online community where people lend money directly to other people. (...)You can set your own rates, payback periods and meet some cool people along the way..." I love the sound of this, and I'm very glad it's made its way to Canada. Peer-to-peer lending "banks" been launched in Holland and Germany and, it seems, with some success. In the Netherlands, Guus Drijver, founder of the unfortunately named Boober, says: "Boober doesn't work with hidden costs and is completely transparent. We don't sponsor yacht races or soccer teams, and don't have expensive headquarters or pay thousands of people high salaries." Amen, brother. In "the next few months", CommunityLend will be launching what the are calling a "test phase" where you can "set up profiles, manage loans, bid on auctions and create groups without using real money". I can hardly wait.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Socially Networking

Visualization of a Community
Originally uploaded by DC Rob.
According to an article in the NY Times, to follow up on their purchase of Five Across, Cisco is purchasing It looks like they think that "social" networking with and among customers will become a standard part of corporate infrastructure. Fancy that. Marc Andreesen says this: "The idea that Cisco is going to be a force in social networking is about as plausible as Ning being a force in optical switches."

messy times
Originally uploaded by el frijole.
I'm not sure if I would go that far, given Cisco's resources, but his point has some validity. There's not a lot of ordinary people in the circles that Cisco typically runs in. Still, it looks to me that they've recognized that the networks that really matter to most companies are made of people, not machines. Good for them. Interesting times...

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Canuck Love in the Blogosphere

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Canadian Bloggers of Note (the Z-list)