ISA: Data Procurement Workshop

One of the important takeaways from John Breslin’s recent article, Dealing with Information Overload, is that as we move further into the 21st Century in order to be able to cope with the rampant growth of data, all the services needed to manage it and make it useful will also have to grow at a relative rate.

This rapid creation of data is the most significant phenomena of modern times. (Just for argument’s sake I include Global Warming in that claim as it may be data modeling and prediction that will be what will help us survive and manage the changes.)

But this growth is largely built around innovations that allow for more of the same with less time cost and energy. More transistors on a chip using new materials and manufacturing processes, and so on. Moore’s Law predicts this fairly well.

However, the real quantum leaps in progress will come from new ways of accessing the data that we already have and are adding to daily. By re-collating information and applying it in ways that perhaps were totally unintended to what it was originally collected for we can expect significant new results and insights that can really inform change and development.

These leaps won’t be intentional but will be the inevitable consequence of using better information, more effectively, efficiently and profitably.

The first step is to connect the people who have the data and who want it to be useful and meaningful with the people who can do just that. The former, in this case, is the Irish Government and the latter are the members of the Irish Software Association (ISA.)

The second in a series of workshops organised under the chairmanship of Brendan O’ Reilly from the ISA’s Procurement Group will take place:

ISA Public Procurement workshop – Open Data – Technology in Search of a Problem?
 — IBEC 84/86 Lower Baggot St, Dublin from 11am until 2pm. 
Register via http://www.software.ie/events or contact: Patricia.Keogh@ibec.ie 01-6051582.

According to Brendan the series of workshops are in the context of, “A focused agenda. What we are always looking to do is improve our market share on behalf of the members with the government. That’s the purpose of the group.”

Over the last two years the members of the Procurement Group of the ISA have been meeting the technical architects or CIOs of various government agencies such as Revenue, Agriculture and Social Protection to discover what is at the top of their list of priorities.

Using this knowledge of what solutions government might wish to procure, Brendan says, “What we then do is run a workshop on each of those themes. It is about what might happen at some point in the future and the products which our members might build. The reason people should attend is for the opportunity to meet government buyers. It is getting people into the same room and talking to one another.”

Brendan is clear about the importance of this sector for software producers. “Data is a very valuable resource. There are various different agencies providing datasets which offer potential for people if they can join them together and add value. But it’s a lot of cost. You have got to invest quite a bit to be able to that and then you have to figure out recover that and monetize the opportunity around open data.

“There are very few people out there attempting to do it but that’s because there’s not enough knowledge out there about how to monetize it.”

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Dealing with Information Overload


Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

“…and he now took the fancy that he would like to have the telelectroscope and divert his mind with it. He had his wish. The connection was made with the international telephone-station, and day by day, and night by night, he called up one corner of the globe after another, and looked upon its life, and studied its strange sights, and spoke with its people, and realized that by grace of this marvelous instrument he was almost as free as the birds of the air, although a prisoner under lock and bars. He seldom spoke to me, and I never interrupted him when he was absorbed in his amusement. I sat in his parlor and read and smoked, and the nights were very quiet and reposefully sociable, and I found them pleasant. Now and then I would hear him say, “Give me Yedo”; next, “Give me Hong Kong”; next, “Give me Melbourne.” And I smoked on, and read in comfort, while he wandered about the remote underworld, where the sun was shining in the sky, and the people were at their daily work. Sometimes the talk that came from those far regions through the microphone attachment interested me, and I listened.”

The above text is an extract from a somewhat prescient article entitled “From the “London Times” of 1904” which was written by Mark Twain and published in 1898. In this story, Twain predicted a system that was eerily similar to the Internet and to the networking and chat sites we use today. The device used to connect with others was called a telectroscope, and it was enabled through an international telephone connection.

Some 66 years later on an edition of the BBC’s “Horizon” programme, Arthur C. Clarke spoke of virtual conferencing and communications systems, removing the need for physical presence to do one’s job:

“I am thinking of the incredible breakthrough which has been made possible by developments in communications, particularly the transistor and – above all – the communication satellite. These things will make possible a world in which we can be in instant contact with each other, wherever we may be; where we can contact our friends everywhere on earth even if we do not know their actual physical location. It will be possible, in that age, perhaps only 50 years from now, for a man to conduct his business from Tahiti or Bali just as well as he could from London. In fact, if it proved worthwhile, almost any executive skill, any administrative skill, even many physical skills could be made independent of distance. I am perfectly serious when I suggest that one day we may have brain surgeons in Edinburgh operating in patients in New Zealand. When that time comes, the whole world would have shrunk to a point and the traditional role of a city as the meeting place for man would have ceased to make any sense. In fact, men will no longer commute, they will communicate. They won’t have to travel distance any more; they’d only travel for pleasure.”

Now, of course, we have become familiar with just how real these predictions of online networking and communications have become. With 800 million active users at present, Facebook is on track to have 1 billion users during 2012 and over 250 million photos are currently uploaded to its service daily. On YouTube, 4 billion videos are watched every 24 hours. Twitter has 1 billion tweets posted each week and around half a million Twitter accounts are being created every day.

And, there are lots of other social media sites, blogs, microblogs, wikis, social bookmarking, curated news, etc. We are floating in a social ocean, but there are so many islands to visit, and too much stuff is being created to keep up with it all (see also “What is the Social Semantic Web and Why Do We Need It?“.)

Information overload is a pressing problem, and many of the pilot projects from the European Union’s FET (Future and Emerging Tech) programme, due to pitch for full status in mid-2012, are tackling this issue, both directly and indirectly:

IT Future of Medicine aims to bring together the masses of medical information created around a patient, by using analytical and clinical data from the patient to create an individualised model.

FuturICT is creating an observatory for studying the way our living planet works in a social dimension.

The Human Brain Project is building computer models to simulate the actual workings of the brain.

RoboCom aims to improve our quality of life, creating robots with perceptual and emotive capability: we can only hope that they will also help with incoming flows of information, telling us what is important to know right now.

Guardian Angels are zero-power sensing devices to assist us with health care, the environment, and more: again, bringing context to the information that is all around us.

There’s also a Graphene-related pilot. Here, at Technology Voice, we have previously covered Graphene, a material that will make computing devices run faster, replacing silicon in circuits to not only improve performance (by processing information more quickly) but create new applications.

Digital technologies have been woven throughout our daily lives to a level such that they have become another essential service, just like electricity or clean water. It costs to have these services, and wastage of resources is also important for the digital universe, but there is another aspect to keep in mind: the sheer volume of digital data being created every day.

More than a year ago, IDC published their “Digital Universe Study” in which they looked at the amount of digital information created and replicated in the world. They published some interesting observations:

  • 75% of our digital world is a copy (25% is unique).
  • In 2010, the amount of digital data was 1.2 zettabytes (1.2 trillion gigabytes). This is equivalent to a stack of DVDs stretching to the moon and back.
  • In 2020, this amount is predicted to grow to 35 zettabytes (35 trillion gigabytes). That’s a stack of DVDs reaching halfway to Mars!

Thankfully, those brainy researcher-types are also creating systems to help us to find the info we need: building new search and discovery tools; devising ways to add structure to unstructured content (see our article on Linked Data and the Semantic Web), including images, audio and video content; making new information management tools that incorporate notions of prioritisation, classification and automatic deletion; and implementing better methods for trust, privacy and accountability.

A new science – termed “data science” – has emerged, and companies like Facebook now have large teams of data scientists working on their “big data”. Finding meaning somewhere in these masses of data involves research into big data analytics, data mining, leveraging networked knowledge, the visualisation of results, etc.

Computing power is also worth thinking about in relation to this growing amount of data: both memory storage and processing speeds.

Current consumer-oriented memory storage drives can hold about 2 to 3 terabytes of data. Every 15 years, storage capacity roughly increases by a factor of 1,000. In a 2010 Scientific American piece, Paul Reber, a researcher at Northwestern University in the USA, estimated the storage of a human brain to be around 2,500 terabytes (other estimates vary this up or down by a factor of 1,000). If that is true, we would therefore require about a thousand consumer 2.5 terabyte drives to store the contents of a brain. Therefore it is not unreasonable to imagine we could store a brain’s capacity on a single “memory” drive by 2025 (if we could actually copy the data off of a brain somehow.)

In terms of processing capabilities, estimates for the brain are that it can carry out anywhere from 1016 flops (floating point operations per second, a measure of computer microprocessor speeds) to 1019 flops. Current supercomputers operate at about 2.5 x 1015 flops. Using Moore’s Law (which states that the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit doubles every two years), the theory is that we could have supercomputers capable of human brain speeds by 2025 (1019 flops.) By extending this to 2040, this grows to 5 x 1022 flops (equivalent to the aggregate processing speed of 5,000 brains.)

However, there are opposing trains of thought in relation to computers being able to emulate a human brain. Many say that the brain is much more than just storage and processing: consciousness is required. The Guardian recently reviewed a book that talks about exactly this issue: Bryan Appleyard’s “The Brain is Wider than the Sky.”

The futurist and founder of Singularity University, Ray Kurzweil, has said that in 2040, by his estimation, we will be able to upload the human brain to a computer, capturing “a person’s entire personality, memory, skills and history.” (See the full Kurzweil interview from 2009 in the Independent.) Why should this be a one-way transfer? Arthur C. Clarke also predicted in that same Horizon programme that we could upload to our brains, learning new skills and languages while we rest.

Whatever your opinion on the above, let us look forward to a future where the overload of information on today’s web will feel like a messy second-hand bookshop when compared to the orderly library of our personalised digital universe.

Thanks to Josephine for her help with this article.

Investigating Relationships with Social Network Analysis

A recent article entitled Revealing Economic Terrorists: a Slumlord Conspiracy told the story of how an advocacy group in Los Angeles, by their use of Social Network Analysis (SNA) software, was able to supply the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office with information which led to the investigation and conviction of key members of an organized gang.

These criminals, often members of the same family, engaged in a racket to retain and make money from property investment by avoiding their responsibility to conduct proper maintenance, ignoring housing regulations and neglecting to fix building code violations.

The initiative to go after the slumlords came from a non-profit in Los Angeles called Strategic Action for a Just Economy, (SAJE).

To help them get a picture of the lay of the land and establish how organizations and people were connected, SAJE bought a software program for Social Network Analysis called InFlow. This program was first developed in the late eighties by Valdis Krebs, Chief Scientist and Founder of Orgnet LLC.

SNA is a systematic method used to identify the relationships between individuals, groups, organizations, and any other item that can be seen to stand alone on its own account. These are called nodes. It can then show how these nodes are interrelated by the links that connect them.

According to Valdis, “A node is basically defined as an entity that interacts with other entities. Nodes are usually persons but we can have groups or organizations.”

Jacob Moreno helped found Social Network Analysis as a discipline in the 1930s. He developed the sociogram — a graphic representation of people and their relationships. On a piece of paper, people were depicted as points, and their connections drawn as lines.

But, explains Valdis, “As everything was done by hand, progress was slow. The relationship diagrams had to be drawn and the data points entered into matrices by hand.”

SNA had promise but it was unwieldy and time-consuming to use until the arrival of relatively easy access to computers and their processing power in the late sixties and seventies.

Combining the power of computers and the knowledge of how nodes in a network relate to each other came the possibility of being able to apply SNA concepts to all sorts of human organisations. This ranges from large businesses and their need for awareness for inefficiencies in their lines of communication to criminal gangs and the ability for law enforcement to identify conspirators and illicit cartels and take effective action against them.

In the slumlord case, SAJE, “Got the nodes by looking at the real estate ownership records. Their big ‘aha’ moment came when somebody said, ‘Did you know these two people are married?’ The buyer and seller were married. Another transaction went through a brother and sister — the sister had changed her name because she was married to someone else. So they started digging into the marriage records which were all available in the public system.”

SAJE had talked to the District Attorney’s office before, but once they showed them one of the first versions of the social network map showing how seemingly disparate owners were in fact related, officials became more interested in the activities of the slumlords.

But going after criminals is not the only useful function of SNA technology.

Valdis says that, “Most of our work is helping business people run their organizations more effectively. We look at who shares information. Who is a go-to person for advice and expertise.

“When we first talk to people we tell them we are offering them an X-ray or cat-scan of their organization that shows what goes underneath the surface — how things really get done.”

People are often surprised at what is revealed. “They see things they expected to see but they also see things they didn’t expect to see. They see problem areas they didn’t know they had and they also see some positive things they didn’t know they had.”

For instance; “They may see some long-term employees who are well-connected but they didn’t realize how well these people keep the information flowing in their organization. They had just thought they had been good employees that had been there a while but hadn’t realized how important they acted as key links.

“What we can do with this software is either show and hide either nodes and connections in the network. So, we can show that if Mary goes away now, look what happens to your network. Take her away and all of sudden the network either becomes disconnected or the paths from one person to another become much longer. The network becomes much less efficient with her gone.”

But it is not all about the technology, “What I tell people is that the technology is important. It is good to have a tool that allows you to easily do this and manage and model network relationships. But what is important is understanding the sociology.

“Technology and sociology go hand in hand. It is the same when we look at business organizations or criminal organizations — you have to know what’s a node, what are the relationships, what are you looking for. What kind of data do you have? Can you make any kind of decision from this data? What other data do you need?

“You have to understand what you are trying to do. Your sociological understanding of that situation drives you and the technology hopefully supports that need.”

Should you wish to to pursue rogue landlords or would just like to have a handy action template for discovering networks of wrongdoers than this guide How to Research a Slumlord serves as an excellent starting point.

It was prepared by Andrea Gibbons who worked at SAJE and used InFlow as part of the slumlord investigation.

LERO: Software Needs to Change

The world is in constant change as new requirements replace old demands. Software, like everything else has to adapt to its environment to avoid redundancy. The source cause of change can come in many forms. An organization has different needs for its products than when first compiled.

Repurposing can come around through the business processes of mergers and acquisitions. Or there is the need to adapt to new technologies like the Cloud if the software has to accommodate the need to transition to a web-based functionality.

There is also the case for providing for the software to change automatically to deal with harsh environments. This would be in areas such as aerospace where processes will have to change by themselves because there isn’t the luxury of time to go in and make changes.

Professor Mike Hinchey, Director of Lero: The Irish Software Engineering Research Centre, says that, “All our research is around the field of Evolving Critical Systems. What we are interested in is the fact that software has to change. We do the important background work that developers need to generate good quality software.”

“We are conducting research in the field of software engineering but we are also trying to be available as a resource to both Irish industry and multinationals who need help with software issues and software problems in various guises.”

Lero hasn’t been commercializing its own research to date but that is something that is on the cards for the future. At the moment, according to Mike, “We work with industry very much as partners.”

Lero recently announced that it has received funding for €16 million via Science Foundation Ireland which is to be matched by a contribution of €6.4 million from the commercial sector.

Mike explains further, “We have fifteen companies that have agreed to sign up with us for the next five years. They make commitments for financial contributions and contributions of their staff, equipment and software.

“They have problems they have to deal with and we have solutions. It is useful for us to demonstrate that our solutions work well in real-life and that it also solves a problem for industry.”

Lero achieves that, “Mostly by reducing the costs but also by giving them a better product, and usually, giving it to them faster.

“The money is to fund the work that we will do with these fifteen companies and will address a broad range of areas from how you develop software to how you insure that privacy is maintained.”

Safety is also a major issue and it is important to, “Ensure the quality of the software — If you put it into a critical application, obviously you don’t to kill people or destroy property. You need confidence that your software is working.

“Software needs to change and we want to do is change software for less cost than it would cost to replace it. But when we change it we want to know that it still works at least as well as it did before. Preferably, that it works better than it did before.”

This announcement of funding cooperation between government and industry reflects another part of Lero’s ambition, “We want to grow in our relevance to Ireland. We want to help companies develop better products and achieve their own goals of better software.”

The desired outcome being that, “Companies will be creating jobs and hiring people and that is going to lead to growth and, hopefully, prosperity for the entire country.”

StreamGlider with more bells and whistles, now free in the App Store

StreamGlider have announced that the full iPad version of StreamGlider is being released for free, replacing the earlier feature-limited version in the App Store. You can get this now from www.streamglider.com/download.

StreamGlider is a new way to distribute rich live multimedia interactive content on tablets. StreamGlider can be private-labeled and customized by licensees that want to distribute their own branded apps to their own customers. This is a major difference compared to apps like Flipboard and Pulse that hold content providers captive.

Here is a full feature list for StreamGlider for iPad:

General Overview

Renders many kinds of media for reading and viewing in a unified experience (text, video, photos, social media, RSS, APIs
Combines three viewing modes (grid newsreader, slideshow, media magazine) in a single app
Pulls content from the Web for local storage and display
Allows real-time content streaming
StreamGlider is designed for rich media – including built-in video support
Enables mashups of multiple feeds per stream
Powerful combinations of preset feeds and personalized feeds via user or keyword search are possible
Provides a browsable catalog of content feeds
Gesture control for content navigation, increasing stream size, prioritizing streams, mixing feeds, etc.
Innovative “lean forward” (gesture) and “lean back” (slideshow) modes of use
For iOS (iPad) currently; iPhone and Android versions later

Mode: Grid Newsreader

Operates as a multi-stream news ticker with content being fetched in real-time
Allows monitoring of content from multiple feeds in a visually-appealing way
Streams of content frames flow across the screen, and can come from multiple feeds, showing images, news items, videos, social media updates, and more
Pause streams for conventional newsreader mode
Play streams for real-time multi-stream news ticker
– Stream scrolling speed can be adjusted in settings
Streams can be shown in expanded view (title above each stream) or compact view (title to left of each stream)
Intuitive gesture-based interface
If something catches the eye, lean in and click on it to read the full item, share, etc.
– Tapping opens an item in preview mode, partially overlaying the newsreader
– Double tapping changes to slideshow mode
Status indicators can be turned on or off for items
– A color triangle means a new item has been fetched (five colors available)
– A grey dogear indicates an item has already been read
Each item has an icon or watermark to indicate the type of content (Facebook status update, Twitter tweet, RSS news item, Flickr photograph, YouTube video)
Launch a full-screen browser to see the original source page for any item
Optional setting that allows read items to be grayed out or removed
A stream of interest can be zoomed to double or triple height by unpinching Keep unpinching to change stream to fullscreen mode
A ‘shared streams’ button allows you to see streams that have been shared with you by other StreamGlider users
Suitable for use as an enterprise dashboard for employees, customers or partners
Ideal for use at events when projected / connected to a big screen
– Show multiple streams of tweets and photos from event participants, news updates, ads from sponsors

Mode: Slideshow

A lean-back mode that enables passive and ambient use cases
Supports live media streams
Leave it running on your desk and view interesting content as it refreshes constantly and ticks by
Use as a next-gen smart digital photo frame for image streams from Flickr, Facebook, etc.
Use at a point of sale or tradeshow booth
– Display real-time deals and offers, photos, product details, tweets, or news scrolling by in real time

Mode: Media Magazine

Each stream can be viewed in a media magazine or newspaper-type mode
– Therefore each magazine is generated from a stream of many feeds
Click the magazine icon up top to switch between this mode and the grid newsreader
Each magazine item can be scrolled through if it is longer than the display area
Tap on an item to preview the item
Navigate through streams using the panel on left
Swipe left and right to navigate through pages of the magazine

Streams Editor

Add streams composed of multiple feeds
Easy addition of feeds to streams by tapping a box to add a feed
Various ways to add feeds of content: select from featured sites; browse a directory of feeds; add presets for authenticated services (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Google Reader); search for content by user or keyword from popular platforms; add RSS URLs
Drag-and-drop cloning of feeds between multiple streams
Reorder streams
Create pages of grouped streams (e.g. for separate views of tech, fitness, entertainment)

Account Integration

Login with your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Google Reader accounts to auto fetch content from these popular services
Auto-generation of streams based on any or all of these services if desired
– For example, StreamGlider can pre-load your Google Reader feeds into streams

Social Sharing

Each item can be shared using Facebook, Twitter (tweet or retweet) and using email
More importantly, streams of curated content feeds can be easily shared with other StreamGlider users Simply tap on a stream title, enter the email of who you want to share it with

Private Labeling

Publishers can offer their own branded newsreaders for their content by private labeling of StreamGlider
Third parties can co-brand and redistribute versions of StreamGlider to their subscribers, pre-tuned to their content streams
For these organizations, this is a more cost effective way to provide their own branded apps
Publishers can log in to the StreamGlider server to manage their pre-tuned streams, the directory of feeds available to users, and featured sites

A Cut Out And Keep Social Media Plan for a Non-Profit

A daughter of a good friend of mine attends the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (LACES) — A public school that has a particularly fine educational track record.

However, due to the difficult financial situation of the State of California funding for some of the school’s programs are either being squeezed or are ceasing. While recognizing the need for cutbacks, concerned parents feel the cutting of the study group programs, in particular, are unfair and could possibly damage the educational prospects of their children.

The parents, working together, made this short campaign video, Help LACES Fight Budget Cuts

Wanting to take further steps to get the message out, especially on social media channels, my friend contacted us at Technology Voice (TechVo) to see if we could help.

We should say at this point that we are not social media experts in any guise nor do we aspire to being so.

However, since we have had a lot of dealings with people, technology and issues involved in the social media field we have become somewhat familiar with the area and its practices.

At TechVo we have conducted social media campaigns on our own account and have also commissioned an in depth social media analysis of our own online profile.

With that in mind we wrote back with a few suggestions to help them get started.

The following is an edited (for clarity and privacy) version of the tip guide that we provided.

This article is aimed at the complete beginner with the idea of getting them up and running as quickly as possible.

Each group or person’s campaign will have its own aims and constraints. Hopefully, by reading the material and implementing what is appropriate to their needs the new user of these tools will be able to configure and shape a useful and effective campaign of their own.

But before we start, let’s just deal with a commonly held misapprehension.

Going Viral

Producing a video to with the specific aim for it to ‘go viral’ is an ill-advised strategy for getting your message out. It is about as useful a plan as buying lottery tickets is for accruing wealth. Very few videos go viral and a major reason is because there are so many of them.

On the YouTube faq page this is their answer to the question, “How many videos are on YouTube?”

48 hours of video are uploaded every minute, resulting in nearly 8 years of content uploaded every day.”

In YouTube’s own list of “Most Watched Videos of 2011” the only common factor seems to be randomness and unpredictability — which for our purposes is not very useful.

With years of video footage being uploaded every day it is clearly going to be hard to be stand out in a unique and compelling way.

I say this to just to clear the working space of unhelpful ideas and misguided ambitions.

But what can be done, extremely effectively, is to run a targeted campaign to a clearly defined audience.

You don’t hear so much about this sort of strategy because, as you will see, it needs time, focus and good organizational skills to keep track of all the balls in the air. The ability and willingness to make a consistent effort is an absolute prerequisite.

The Video

Choose the title carefully: A clever title might be cute but a more descriptive one that people can either guess or remember easily, will make the video that much easier to find when people search for it online.

For the school’s funding campaign, we suggested; “Save Math Study Group at LACES” and “LACES Needs Funding for Math Study Group” or that they use some combination along those lines.

(The title the parents committee eventually decided on was: “Help LACES Fight Budget Cuts” which is very workable in this context.)

Video Length: Between one minute and one and a half minutes is ideal. Unless the footage is something very special, two minutes is pretty much the outer limit for holding people’s attention in this format. One exception is an interview where ideas need extra time to be laid out and discussed.

To keep the campaign video short and punchy it is important that the story it tells should just make one major point. Only include other elements if they contribute to reinforcing that point.

If you have more than one major point to get across you can always make another short. punchy video with another undiluted message.

You will then need to open accounts on the following platforms:

You will have to put the video up on to:

Youtube — It is best to do one upload to YouTube rather than posting the video on each individual platform. The YouTube video links and embed codes can be inserted into your social media pages simply by copying and pasting them.

This method gives you a better count on how many views the video had and you only have to make edits or changes in one place.

A website — For the purposes of this article a home site isn’t really necessary but it is usual and something people expect to see. It can be useful to act as a holding place for various materials and a place to put a call to action. The problem is that websites just don’t have anything like the connectedness that the major social network platforms have.

Connecting is what a social media campaign is all about.

OK, Deep breath, here we go.

Google

Since you are going to be setting up YouTube and Google+ accounts later on it is probably best to get a gmail account.

You will have to use your real name or run the risk of Google blocking your account.

The gmail account you provides an easy bridge between your YouTube and Google+ accounts, in addition, of course, to being able to handle email.

Google+

Once you have set up the gmail account you will be taken to the gmail homepage.

In the selection bar at the top on the extreme left click on ‘+You.’

That will take you to your Google+ personal set-up page.

Link the video and add your text to this page.

Before you start adding people to your ‘circle’ set up the brand page first.

https://plus.google.com/pages/create

With the Circles of networks on Google+ it is not obvious until the Circles are populated how they work and much easier for you to simply do rather than me describe.

It is best to just have everything public from the start. You can lash down your privacy controls later once you get the hang of it.

The first key tactic to implement on all the networks is to get the invites out, to get the people in, and get the conversation and exchanges of information going as quickly as possible. In any campaign velocity and momentum are the keys.

YouTube

In the dropdown menu reached by clicking on ‘More’ in the selection bar click on Youtube.

Link the video and add your text to the description box.

Thumbnails:Go to settings. Once the video has processed you will eventually see in the thumbnails section three images to choose from. Hopefully, YouTube will have grabbed the opening title image but quite often it doesn’t.

YouTube captures thumbnail images from the video to allow a still image to be displayed if the video hasn’t been started. But it doesn’t allow you to do this with any degree of accuracy. What they do is offer you an automated, pre-selected choice of thumbnails.

There is no workaround for this except to delete the video and reload a new version hoping Google will select a more appropriate set of three thumbnails. It’s a pain.

(Unless the thumbnail is completely blurred or totally misrepresentative, it is not something to spend that much time over. They are transient images in people’s attention space and aren’t viewed the same way as the cover of a book or a cinema poster. Both of which are specifically designed to be noticed.)

Underneath the video on you tube you will see a link and a dropdown box called ’embed.’

Copy and paste the links to your Google plus account and your Google brand page.

Pages: Once the brand page have the videos and blurb up (are ‘populated’) then send out invites to as many people as you can think of who would appreciate hearing from you would possibly like to support your cause.

Using a Page is far more preferable than using your personal page. People Liking your Page have no access to your personal updates or your friends details and this helps to maintain your privacy.

With both Facebook Pages a Google+ Pages, the key thing is to keep updating and not to let them languish. That means encouraging the other participants in the campaign to leave comments, updates and click on the likes.

Communication: A good policy is to ban email altogether for those involved. Have all communications come through the social platform. If needed, there are ways to send messages privately.

The amount of activity matters a lot. So the more you can interact with other people on the sites and the more you do to keep the page alive the better.

Facebook

Despite the order of construction that we have laid out for building your social media campaign using popular platforms there can be no argument, at least for the present, that Facebook should be the hub of all your activities.

It is probably the place where you will get the most activity and spend the most time.

This is my Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tom-Murphy/136274716385273?sk=wall

As you can see it takes in feeds from where I am elsewhere on the web. I rarely update it directly. I don’t really need it now as people can either subscribe to my public statuses or view my public timeline. But in the old days it was a way to reduce noise on my personal newsfeed.

A Facebook Page has to belong to someone. And that someone has to have a Facebook account. If you are the lead in the endeavour then you can either create it from your account or delegate the ownership to else. Others can join as administrators once it is setup.

Facebook > Home> (Left hand column, below FAVOURITES and LISTS) PAGES > In the dropdown box that you need to roll the curser over) MORE> (New page) Click on “Create a Page> Click on “Cause or Community”

This is the Facebook page for “Friends of Laces.” Please feel free to give them a like or support them in any other way you can.

Enter text about what you are trying to achieve in the ‘about’ section.
Link the video from YouTube.
.

The first goal is to get 25 people ‘Liking’ the page.
With 25 ‘Likes’ the page can have its own title which is really important for search. Vital in fact.

NB: Don’t be deterred. Like a lot of computery things it is easier and quicker to do it rather than read about it.

Following these instruction and getting the page up should take about 15 minutes.

There are other settings and so on that can be configured but getting the page up but getting the 25 first subscribers is the immediate goal.

Time for a cup of tea.

Linkedin

Now this one is a grind and to be effective you are going to need the help of other people.

If you don’t have an account then set one up. It is important to fill it in as fully as possible. The search engines will discount accounts with incomplete profile entries.

Once you have your account you will see a search box in the top right with a dropdown box labelled ‘people.’ If you click on that and select ‘groups’ you can then search for groups whose members maybe interested in your cause.

But first create your own group. Select ‘Groups’ which is 4th from left on the same bar as search box. Select ‘create groups’ and your away.

Again, invite as many people as you can to the group and make sure everybody understands to cross post between all three platforms.

Now the hard bit. Using the search find all the other likely groups that would want to know about your cause. Once you have a list of likely candidates assign people in your group to each join one or two of these other groups so they can post updates into that group and if needs be engage in debate.

Don’t Spam

Be human and treat other people like humans. Civil and appropriate conduct is as important online as it is offline. Also, spamming is counter-productive. You want people to join with you so that you might achieve your aims. Alienating them at the very outset isn’t going to help you in any way.

Linkedin doesn’t take too long to set up but finding groups and joining them is time consuming. A get together with laptops for coffee and assigning key groups to particular members of the team might be the best way to share the load.

Warning: If you join all the relevant groups and try to manage them yourself you will not have a life — at all.

Because users interests are so conveniently grouped on Linkedin it is possible (if you behave appropriately) to get some very good responses but because of the time involved in getting to know people and the dynamics of individual groups it is the slowest of all the platforms for upscaling engagement.

Twitter

The name that goes with @ symbol needs to be short. The word length, although not included in the composition of your own tweet is counted when retweeted.

Make sure there is as much relevant information in the bio as possible.

Twitter is very dynamic and an account for a cause or a campaign has to be actively managed. One very good tool to help with this is Buffer. It allows you to schedule your tweets thus freeing up for other activities.

Scheduling your tweets is key. If we didn’t get our first tweet out for TechVo by 09:30 we missed the morning window for maximum reach in our timezone as people had checked their email and had drunk their coffee by then and were now settled into work.

With just a bit of brainwork and some trial and error you will be able to work out the times that are best to tweet out at depending who you want to reach.

The timing for messages to parents at the school gate may differ from reaching public officials who maybe locked in meetings at the end of the school day.

Tweets should be short and to the point and if possible have a link but always a hashtag.

For any campaign every tweet you send should have a hashtag, ‘#.’ Like the Twitter name it should to be brief. #ntp12 would work for something that we might want to do this year.

What the hashtag does is aggregate the results for a given term. Putting a hashtag in front of a word or combination of words and letters ensures that when people use that hashtag on Twitter they only get the results for updates that include that tag. It reduces ambiguity in results and cleans up the noise somewhat.

Go to the Twitter search engine and enter a common word like sugar and have a look at the results. Then type in #sugar and see the difference.

Although, you have to use an email address to set up Twitter you can use any name that is available for the handle.

Have all friends in your circles and on Facebook follow you.

Setting Twitter up is probably the easiest and quickest of all three.

The Twitter home site is not the greatest to use. Tweetdeck is a very popular Twitter manager. I don’t care for it that much. However, the official Twitter app is particularly good for mobile devices.

These four platforms are your priority and should be up and running before you spend time registering with other services.

Setting them all up should be either a morning’s or afternoon’s work.

The key thing to remember is that online campaigns, like any other campaigns, are not passive activities. While the platforms allow you to reach people in ways not possible before, they are not hands off, automatic processes.

They don’t do your thinking for you, they don’t do your strategizing for you. They don’t work out your tactics for you. They are just tools that need skill and care in implementation much like any other tool.

Basic workflow:

  • Create Google account using gmail
  • Create YouTube account
  • Upload video to YouTube
  • Fill in description
  • Choose Thumbnail from settings
  • Create Google+ account
  • Copy YouTube link into Google+ account plus description
  • Copy YouTube link into Google Page account plus description
  • Invite people to Google Page
  • Create Facebook Page
  • Link in YouTube video plus description
  • Invite people to Facebook Page
  • Create Linkedin account
  • Copy YouTube link into account
  • Create group
  • Copy YouTube link into group
  • Invite people to join
  • Get help finding relevant groups
  • Assign people to post, update and engage in those groups
  • Create Twitter account
  • Craft bio
  • Follow as many relevant people as you can. (Tweet out to your community for suggestions.)

This is neither a definitive approach nor the only approach but simply a way to get people started on a social media campaign. If you think there other, better ways of doing this then let us know.

Irish Software Association: TechBrew for Tech Leaders

This Thursday, at 7pm, at 4 Dame Street, Dublin, another in a series of meetups takes place where leaders and decision-makers from the digital technology sector can get together to network as well as share experiences and ideas.

TechBrew is an initiative run by the Irish Software Association (ISA) whose Chair, Karl Flannery, we spoke to in a recent article.

The organizer of TechBrew is John Caulfield, Solutions Director at Oracle Corporation and a member of the executive council of the ISA.

There are a plethora of networking events and meetups taking place across Ireland as well as across the globe. Despite being able to connect more easily than ever before via online communication platforms these gatherings reflect a real need for people to get together and have face to face conversations.

Against this background of offline, real world, social activity we asked John what he and the ISA were setting out to try and achieve with TechBrew.

“What we are trying to do is create an environment where people can meet the right types of people.

“TechBrew is different from other meet-up events. It focuses on the leadership issues of software companies. We don’t delve into the technicalities of Java versus dot.net or anything like that. We tend to focus on topics that are going to be relevant to the managers of tech companies.

“We are focused on management issues and things that are particularly in the startup area.”

There are two main ideas that lie behind the TechBrew concept:

One is to try and build the community of the software industry in the Ireland. That includes Irish Software Association members and non-members.

The other is to get people talking to each other and realizing who else is out there in the community.

Although everyone is welcome John notes from the event registration details that, “The kind of people who turn up tend to be founders, CEOs, managing directors and so on.”

But TechBrew is designed to be more than just people randomly bumping into other people and hoping sparks of magic might fly. According to John, “It’s really trying to figure out who the kinds of people that you would like to get to know who are at your stage of the company life-cycle and what value the might be able to add in terms of learning.

“Experienced entrepreneurs will tell you that they have a network.

“If they have a commercial issue that they are concerned about or a pricing issue they’ll have two or three guys they can go to and bounce it around with them.”

Every event has it’s own theme and this week’s one is, ‘Partnering.’

John points out the importance of this issue, “Companies have the opportunity to develop their market through partners. There are a lot of pros and cons to that. It’s a big decision to decide to hand a certain amount of control of marketing and sales and even your development to partners.”

In order to keep the event focused and productive there is a clear format to the evening. “The way we have structured it is that we do it on a Thursday evening. We do it at seven o’ clock. We do it when people are on the way home. We do it over a beer. We get three people in who can talk about a particular topic.

“They, quite literally, stand up on a bar stool for five to ten minutes. There are no slides.

“We don’t do any sales pitches. We don’t invite guest speakers from a marketing organization or anything like that.

“It is very much in the community networking style. When they do their five minutes they take questions and answers and typically what happens is that they get surrounded by people afterwards.”

Apart from enjoying the sight of speakers balancing precariously while holding forth from atop a barstool John says there other good reasons why people should attend.

“People who are the leaders in their software companies should come to TechBrew to meet other people who are leaders in theirs. To share their experience and more importantly for them, to learn from other people’s experience.

“Finally, people should come along to build their network and build contacts that are going to be of value to them and who can assist them.”