Why limiting employees’ online presence is a big mistake in journalism and elsewhere

Recently Forrester Research decided on an unfortunate, shortsighted policy. Forrester analysts can no longer can their own personally branded research blogs. They’re allowed to run their own blogs about their personal life or topics unrelated to their work at Forrester. But all their blogging on work-related topics must be done in blogs that are owned by Forrester.

Forrester’s rationale for this, according to VP Josh Bernoff, is that “Forrester is an intellectual property company, and the opinions of our analysts are our product.”

Which IMHO is the equivalent of saying “If you work for us, we reserve the right to own your brain and your social/professional network and reputation.”

Here’s why that’s a bad idea all the way around — not just for research, consulting, and IP companies, but for news organizations and journalists, too… Continue reading

Wrestling with Scribd’s fullscreen display

I’ve been using the document-sharing service Scribd to embed documents in posts for various projects. but sometimes the “fullscreen” feature doesn’t work with the embedded document. I’m trying to troubleshoot this. So as a test I’m embedded a Scribd document here, to see if fullscreen works:

1 5 2010 Concurrent Meeting of the Oakland Redevelopment Agency City Council 10-01-05 Meeting Agenda

…OK, just viewed this post in Firefox for Mac and the fullscreen function does work here. But on another site I publish on, which is a complex Drupal site, it’s not working.

Have other Scribd users experienced similar display problems when embedding documents on Drupal sites? Got any solutions?

How Facebook Apps Can Compromise Your Privacy, & How to Fix (Maybe)

I never liked Facebook, and I still don’t, which is why I don’t use it much. My main gripe has always been its badly designed interface which always leaves me confused about where to look and what to do.

But now I have an even bigger gripe about Facebook: How it compromises your privacy via its application programming interface (API).

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Making Twitter Lists more useful with filtering

Choose
Sometimes you don’t want EVERYTHING, just what you want. (Image by ervega via Flickr)

Today Twitter has begin a broad rollout of a new feature, Twitter Lists. The feature had been available only to a select group of beta users, but product manager Nick Kallen tweeted yesterday,Currently, 25% of all users have Lists.” I don’t have access to Lists yet, but I expect it’s coming soon.

The point of Twitter lists is relevant discovery: It’s an easy way to find and follow Twitter users you might not otherwise know about, but would be interested in. However, you might not be interested in everything (or even most things) a given Twitter user in a list has to say. This is more likely if you’re more interest in topics than people. In this case, Twitter lists might deliver more noise than signal.

But I think if you use a good tool like Tweetdeck for accessing Twitter (rather than just the Twitter site, which has always sucked for usability), you can combine Twitter Lists with filtering to end up with something very useful indeed, especially for staying abreast of news or topics… Continue reading

Google Wave: I want it because I hate e-mail

I have come to loathe e-mail. Well, at least for coordination (like setting meetings) or collaboration (like working together on projects) or tasks (like answering people’s questions) or ongoing conversations (like discussion groups). I quickly get overwhelmed by all those separate messages, each of which requires a surprising amount of thought to place it in context and figure out what I’m supposed to DO with it.

It makes my brain hurt.

This video from EpipheoStudios.com nails exactly why I hate e-mail, and how Google Wave is trying to solve the problems of e-mail.

YouTube – What is Google Wave?.

I don’t know whether Google Wave will actually solve these problems. But dammit, at least they’re trying to tackle the problem. And they have the development power and user base to stand a chance of pulling it off.

A friend has sent me an invite. I haven’t received it yet. But when I do, I’ll give it a try. UPDATE: I just got my Google Wave invitation today! I’ll get a chance to play with it over the weekend. I expect it to be rough. (OK, everyone who’s whining about it: rough is what “alpha testing” is all about!) And hopefully I’ll start to glimpse an end to the e-mail madness.

AP’s iPhone App: White Elephant

White Elephant: A possession entailing great expense out of proportion to its usefulness or value to the owner. (Random House Dictionary)

Today, AP debuted its AP Stylebook iPhone app.

According to the press release. “AP Stylebook fans have been asking for a mobile application so they can have style guidance wherever they go. Journalists never know when they will need to run out the door to chase a story, so as long as they have an iPhone in their pockets when they go, the Stylebook can go with them.”

…Which indicates the strategy here: The AP Stylebook iphone app is basically an app as e-book. Which almost explains its exhorbitant price: $28.99.

Yep, that’s right: $28.99 for an iPhone app. Seriously.

Beyond displaying the text of the AP Stylebook 2009, this app adds a little extra functionality: “The 2009 AP Stylebook app features searchable listings for the main, sports, business and punctuation sections, along with the ability to add custom entries and personalized notes on AP listings. Stylebook app users are able to mark any entry as a favorite for easy access.”

…In other words, similar with what you could do with this book on a Kindle. Only AP doesn’t offer a Kindle edition of the Stylebook.

AP does offer online Stylebook subscriptions: $25/year for an individual, with cheaper bulk pricing available for organizations. Which means that the iPhone app is more costly than an online subscription. So why wouldn’t iPhone users buy an online subscription instead and access it through the mobile Safari browser?

Here’s another thing baffles me: Why sell an app that’s basically a standalone e-book? Why not offer a free app with some free content/service that also can allow paying subscribers to log in from their phone and have a mobile-optimized experience? It seems to me that AP is reinventing the wheel with this app, missing obvious opportunities to grow its Stylebook market, and positioning this product poorly through ludicrous pricing.

It gets worse… but it could get better too…

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Mac Contacts weirdness following Time Machine restore

One of the strange new entries polluting my address book. Click image for full-size version.

One of the strange new entries polluting my address book. Click image for full-size version.

Something weird is happening with my contacts list on my mac laptop and iPhone.

Background: Last week, my Macbook Pro’s hard drive crashed during a Snow Leopard install. The Apple Store replaced my drive, installed Snow Leopard, and told me to restore my data from my Time Machine backup. But Snow Leopard wouldn’t let me specify the correct Time Machine backup to restore from, so I had to bring it back to the Apple Store a total of three times (including my staying in the store for over seven hours to make sure my repair was handled correctly) to get them to restore my data. Yeah, the ordeal sucked, and deeply shook my confidence in Apple technology. Here are my tips to avoid a similar crisis.

What’s weird now: After this, my mac’s address book (“contacts” app on the iPhone) contained dozens of duplicate entries. I was able to merge these via the Card –> Look for Duplicates command on my laptop’s address book.

BUT…  I’ve discovered that dozens of new entries (maybe more than 100) have been mysteriously and inexplicably added to my database! Each of these are random collections of 10 or so e-mail addresses. (See picture) As far as I can tell, I have to delete these manually.

WTF? Has anyone else seen this happen? I’m hoping this is just some weird artifact from the grueling restore process, and that after I clean up the random e-mail entries the problem will go away. But it’s just weird…

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Thinking of updating your mac to Snow Leopard? Do this FIRST!

While I’m here on my 3rd Apple Store visit in as many days to try to recover from a disaster triggered by my attempt to upgrade my Mac to the Snow Leopard OS X, here are some tips that might save other Mac users similar pain and frustration.

1. Back up your entire machine onto TWO EXTERNAL DRIVES. It’s a good idea to run Time Machine backup as often as possible. But when you’re running the risk of having to hand over your mac AND your backup drive to a technician (which is always the case when attempting a significant operating system update), it’s a good idea to have a separate copy of your backup in your own possession.

2. Verify the condition of your hard drive. Apple is marketing Snow Leopard chiefly as a way to enhance performance. However, if your hard drive is developing problems (as mine apparently was), that will impair performance. Installing Snow Leopard won’t fix HD problems, and it may even cause your drive to fail during installation (as mine did)

So Verify your disk using your Mac’s Disk Utility before you upgrade. That can indicate HD problems. It’s not a perfect predictor of problems, but it’s at least some help. Had I thought to do this, I might not have lost 3 workdays and be freezing my ass off in an over-air conditioned Apple Store right now.

If your disk verification process indicates problems, and if you’re experiencing decreasing performance, it’s probably a safer bet to get your HD replaced and data restored correctly BEFORE attempting to upgrade your operating system. If you have to go to the Apple Store to do this, make sure they put in the work order that you do NOT want the OS upgraded yet.

3. Check your warranty coverage. I purchased Apple Care when I bought my mac a couple of years ago, and it’s still in effect. So Apple replaced my HD for free. I’m not sure whether the warranty covers drives that are having problems (rather than have already failed), but it’s worth asking about.

4. Line up a backup computer. If, like me, you work or life could get seriously screwed if you lose your computer for a few days or more, make sure you have handy access to a functional backup machine BEFORE doing a significant system update. Load it up with all the software & data you’ll need to do what you need to do, and test it.

Personally, I’m getting a Linux netbook ASAP.

5. Check your ProCare staus. ProCare is Apple’s preferred service program. It costs about $100/yr, and it’s worth it if you depend in your Mac. If you need a speedy repair, make sure you have current ProCare coverage. You van buy it on the spot at the Apple Store if you need it.

6. Don’t leave the Apple Store without your computer the way you need it. If your OS X update goes dreadfully wrong (as mine did), required them to wipe your drive, have the Apple Store staff restore your operating system and data from your Time Machine backup. Don’t do all of that yourself.

My experience shows that this installation/restore process is trickier than Apple claims. It’s surprisingly easy for the Time Machine restoration to not work right with a freshly installed OS. Make them do everything you need do your machine is up and running. Bring this blog post with you if they balk, and stick to your guns.

This means bringing your external HD with your current Time Machine backup to the Apple Store with you, of course. And before you leave, sync your iPhone and make sure it works. My iPhone sync is not yet working, so I’m staying put in this store for now.

7. Check the “Lemon Law” in your state. The details if this federal consumer protection law are defined by each state. In many states, including CA, lemon laws cover not just vehicles but also consumer products. This may give you recourse if you get screwed by Apple on mac-related issues, like a disastrous OS update you paid for.

Also have the phone number of the local Better Business Bureau handy, and be willing to file a complaint if necessary.

8. Don’t attempt a major system update a couple of weeks after having knee surgery. I’m just saying, it makes everything that much more difficult, aggravating, and risky.