Monday, September 6, 2010

Interesting new search engine

Over the week-end, I played with Blekko a new search engine currently in beta. The company has opened the kimono last week to John Battelle ( and TechCrunch ( so I feel like it is ok to describe what I saw. The company has also received significant funding from USVP and CMEA ( as VentureBeat mentioned.

The site is still in its early stage but the idea behind Blekko is very original and makes perfect sense: limit your search to a number of predefined websites that you are interested in and trust. For instance, you are a start-up looking for funding and you could be interested to understand what the Venture Industry thinks specifically about your industry and which General Partner, within the Venture Industry, is following your specific industry. Right now, you would have to go through 10s of Google Pages to get all the VC and angel’s interesting blogs. Blekko does the job for you, they have identified 146 VC blogs and created a slashtag (/Blekko/VC) that you can now use to do your search and only see the results from those 146 blogs. There are probably more than 146 VC blogs but the most important ones are there.

For instance, if you type social CRM /Blekko/VC, you will get 9 results from 4 VC Blogs: Eldorado Ventures, Jeff Nolan who is not a VC any longer but was General Partner at SAP Ventures, Fred Wilson at Union Square (interesting blog on family CRM), Dave McClure (mentioning an article from Jeremiah Owyang). This would lead me to believe that the trend has not caught up yet with the VC industry. Note also that Blekko is an early search engine so there may be more results coming.

Another interesting feature from Blekko is to be able to share slashtags. I have created three of them (pcases3/philippetechblog, pcases3/socialcrm, pcases3/vcblog) that you can search for and use as you want. I started with all the industry pundits for each category and added blekko’s own slashtag for techblog and VC blog. You can search for them and use one of my slashtags to do a search or more interestingly, you could build your own slashtag, embed mine into yours and get more results for your searches.

To use Blekko, you can request an invite on the site ( or ask me as I have ten invites that I could use.

In addition to the fact that I find this company interesting with a lot of potential usage for power search users as well as more general searches down the road once the more general slashtags are established, the concepts that the company is using leveraging crowd sourcing for keyword search are very close to the concepts we are using to build our own service to manage contacts so stay tune when we will release our beta product.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A week in Provence

As most of you know by now, I am French and I have to admit, it feels good especially when I am coming back from a week of vacation in my beloved Provence having spent my time talking about what we are going to do for dinner, cooking dinner and then eating dinner with the extended Family. The great piece of news was my Dad with whom I was demonstrating Spoke’s new product decided to install it.

I have taken the liberty to attach a picture of my parent’s place and you could have seen me playing with my IPad in one of those armchairs close the swimming pool if I had not taken the picture.

During this vacation, I got visited by a friend who asked me a very peculiar but also very French question: what do you think the American Entrepreneurs could learn from us European Entrepreneurs? I was a bit taken aback as I spent my time over the years explaining to European Entrepreneurs the best practices we had in the Silicon Valley and was tempted to say that we know it all having witnessed during my tenure in Silicon Valley the emergence of Google, EBay, Facebook and Yahoo… but I also felt it was a very fair question that needed some thinking before moving to something else.

One first thought is that Entrepreneurs in Europe are winning against all odds. The regulatory environment is not conducive and companies have little access to funds at each step of the way from early investment such as Angel Investing and Venture Capital to strong and healthy Financial Markets for technology companies.

A second thought is that for a technology company to be successful in Europe, it has to think international right from the beginning. Companies like Talend, MySQL, TrollTech have been successful because they were international at heart and Entrepreneurs such as Bertrand Diard or Bernard Liautaud were not worried to travel extensively and then even made the decision to move to the US.

One last thought is that Entrepreneurs in Europe recognize how important government and local authorities are for the initial success of their companies and have learned how to leverage them successfully. The initial strategic choice of Clean Technology by Germany and Denmark created innovation and successful ventures in the Wind and Solar Industry. Government, local authorities encourage innovation and enable job creation by providing funding to companies. From Grants and loans to equity investment, Local governments use the entire palette of funding possibilities, an example being OpenBravo, a leader in the Open Source ERP space, which was originally seeded by the Government of Navarre in Spain with significant amount of funding before getting funded by more traditional Venture Capitalists.

Random Spoke profile: Dana TraBue

Monday, August 23, 2010

I'm a Girl Geek

I don't often think about the fact that I am the sole women in our development group. As a girl geek, I'm just accustomed to spending my days whiteboarding about Hadoop and Elastic Search with a team of guys. Over my entire career, that has pretty much been the case. It wasn't until I attended the Yahoo! Girl Geek Dinner that I recognized how isolating it is to be a woman in engineering and development. Prior to this dinner, I could not have named one other woman I knew who can jam out CSS and HTML or install Wordpress. Shocking.

The GGD was such a refreshing but also strangely odd event. I was so impressed to see demonstrations of YUI and YQL and many more of the rockin' developer tools from Yahoo!. Even Hadoop which is a central point of development here at Spoke right now was the focus in the "Innovation at Scale" presentation by SVP of Global Service Engineering for Yahoo!, Cheryl Ainoa. Every single presentation and demonstration was done by seasoned female technologists. Wow. Awe-struck is an understatement for how I reacted to this group of over 400 women who are all geeks like me.

So, the strangely odd feelings came when I started talking and asking questions of these women. It was an intangible feeling and one that I hadn't fully realized until I sat down to write this. It was odd to be talking to women. It was odd to have another woman explain a new technology to me. It was odd to NOT be the smarty-pants girl geek in the room. I was so accustomed to being the odd-woman out in these discussions that I had a strange feeling of not being so special anymore...

...whatever. That feeling wasn't as special as the girl-power feeling I had wearing my "Code Like a Girl" t-shirt into work the next day. Thanks to those impressive women, I was able to rap with much more knowledge on our latest undertaking with Hadoop.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Every Thursday myself, or another member of the engineering team, head over to the Curry Up Now truck to pick up some food for the office. (Maybe not every Thursday, we'll be there as long as Gazillion isn't having a company BBQ forcing us to go without our weekly tradition).

What is Curry Up Now, do you ask? It is food truck that travels around the San Francisco Bay Area serving up incredibly delicious, spicy, and creative Indian-fusion and Indian cuisine. They regularly serve both a deconstructed samosa (think a regular samosa turned inside out) and a tikka masala burrito with either chicken or paneer. Other items on the menu rotate on a regular basis. For instance, today I'm having the aloo parantha quesadilla, a potato stuffed flatbread filled with beef (or paneer or chicken), onions, cheese, and hot sauce.

Speaking of hot sauce, there is no hot sauce hotter than theirs. When we first starting going to Curry Up Now in April of this year, everybody wanted their chicken tikka masala burritos spicy. We were in for a surprise, it was en fuego! Slowly but surely the number of requests for spicy dwindled to just two of us, myself included. I really enjoy very spicy food when it is balanced well with other flavors and I think that Curry Up Now does a great job of this.

Enough of this blogging, time to eat!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pest Control + UI (Who Knew?)

Ok, we've finally updated our homepage. Sorry to Christine and the other bald guy who were always featured there, but it was time for you to go. Oh, and it's also time to say goodbye to the cityscape and the 4-fingered muppet-like characters littered throughout the site. It's not that we don't like you or appreciate your time on our site. It was just finally time for us to focus on what our product is really about - helping you manage your direct connections...

PS: Oh, and beware as we are still eradicating the 4-fingered muppet-ish guys from the nooks and crannies of our site. Shoot me a comment if you have a sighting.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Progress on privacy

When I took on the role as Spoke’s CEO, I committed that Privacy would be front and center to everything we do. At the time, I received touching and sometimes angry messages from some of you who were disappointed by Spoke’s perceived attitude towards privacy and the previous responsiveness to users’ request. While we can’t change what has been done in the past, we are committed to do what’s right in the future.

Working with our Privacy advisors, we conducted, at the time, an audit of Spoke’s practices and zeroed in on four major enhancement:

  1. People could not remove their public profile without registering;

  2. People who had registered could not cancel their registration;

  3. People had difficulty correcting their company profiles or personal profiles; and

  4. More importantly, our customer support was overwhelmed and was dealing with massive amount of users’ requests asking us to perform actions manually.

I committed to fixing those issues, and I am glad to report that we have released features (to fix those problems) ahead of schedule and, since June 1st, the majority of our users are taking advantage of the automated features we released. Additionally, we are now processing all manual requests in less than 48 hours, and finally have caught up with our customer support backlog. TRUSTe is also very satisfied with our efforts, and BBB has upgraded our site from F to B. We’re thrilled with the validation of our improvements, and continue to work very hard to get our BBB rating further elevated to an A- or an A.

Obviously, we are constantly reviewing our methods for collection, processing and disseminating information to make them even better, and we have many other features that we intend to release in the next few months (for example, ability to claim multiple profiles, highlight non co-workers on a person profile, etc.), so stay tuned and do not hesitate to reach out if you sense that we are not addressing issues timely enough.

We will post our Privacy Product Roadmap on Uservoice so you can comment on the features we want to develop. We want to deliver the privacy features that are users want to see, so please let us know what’s most important to you.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The curious case of Spoke Software:

Today, I was exchanging emails with a Friend Venture Capitalist for whom I have a lot of respect for and verbatim here is what he wrote: “I generally tend to avoid start-ups that are getting long in the tooth, but would be happy to take a look at the executive summary if things have changed under your astute leadership.” As I didn’t know the expression “long in the tooth”, I went to check it on the dictionary, and it is usually used in the case of a horse because unlike humans’, horses’ teeth continue to grow with age so that you can make an estimate of a horse’s age by examining them. Of course, long in the tooth means old or very old.

Born in 2002, Spoke is indeed old and its teeth have probably grown a lot in the day and age of the Internet and can appear passé but I also feel that these observations don’t give justice to my daily experience in the office and working with the Spoke team. The reason is that I see them experiencing with new things: for instance, we are now implementing the latest and greatest technologies available: implementing Hadoop to process data and evaluating tools like Cassandra for scalable data storage and Solr or ElasticSearch for search. I also see on the business side our self service support team crunching through a backlog of 16,000 support requests in less than two months and our marketing team working really hard to implement our new vision. Yet, if I except Sherry Willhoite and myself, all have been there for more than four years and could be tired but they are energetic, engaged and dedicated. All virtues usually associated with youth.

In fact, when I see them, I can’t stop but thinking about “the curious case of Benjamin Button”, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. For those who have not read the book or seen the movie, this is the story of Benjamin Button who was born old and lives his life starting old and dying being a baby. Linda Silverstein described Benjamin’s state of mind very well: “Born at the most scorned of all ages, Benjamin never developed the arrogance of beautiful youth. Never really expecting anything, he enjoys everything. Always willing to try, he experiences things when those less prejudiced let him in. Age and physical appearance are curiosities to him because he knows that they herald his end, not his beginning.  Thus two central tenets of our lives are sent packing here — we are how we look and we are our age. Neither is true for Benjamin Button and they need not be the only truth in our lives either.  On the ship, somebody tells him: “Age don’t matter here- only can you do the work”.

Last Monday, during our company meeting, somebody asked how we felt about ourselves, the answer was that they found themselves being a collaborative team dedicated to innovation and focused on building a great product that a lot of people are going to use. Yes, indeed, this is the “Curious case of Spoke Software” that is developing right now right in front of my eyes.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

On Social Networks and Privacy

At the end of the first day at SugarCon, I attended a very interesting panel led by Martin Schneider composed by very reputable expert in the social CRM field including Esteban Kolski and Jeremiah Owyang. The first question Martin asked was “who owns the data?” and there was different views at play here: Esteban was of the mind that the data belongs to the company who created a campaign whereas Jeremiah made the point that it was more of a contractual issue and that the data could belong also to the social network.

As I was thinking and listening, it became clear that the panel was talking about an interaction between a client/prospect and a merchant on a social network. For the panel the two contenders to own this data were either the merchant or the social network but nobody brought the point of view of the client. Jeremiah discarded the issue as being part of the term of service between the Social Network and the users of this social network. Alright, this makes sense but do I really have an understanding of what I am being asked when I am making this decision at the time of joining a site?

In order to put my mind around this subject, I imagined myself being in a mall with a friend shopping. The owner of the mall would be tracking what I am doing and the content of my discussion with my friend and sell this information to the merchant with a certain level of abstraction (I am not Philippe, xxx years old but I would be male, x, ….) An ad would then appear to me on a screen as I am passing by with deals targeted to me.

Now, the question is given the choice, would I go to this mall? Or to another mall that doesn’t monitor all my behaviors? I guess I would want to go the other mall and when I think about the discount from the stores in order to accept to be followed is in the 50% or more. Why is that? Well, the reason is simple, despite the fact that ads shown on screens would not be intrusive, I don’t want all my actions to be monitored while I am shopping and if I had the choice, I would probably go shopping somewhere else.

In the same vein, City, State and Federal could set up an infrastructure to monitor everything we do on the street or on public location and then sell our data to merchants. The results of the proceeds would be an income for those institutions and offset some of our taxes. Again, would I vote for a measure such as this one on a ballot, probably not!! I guess I would rather pay tax than have my privacy invaded.

So why am I accepting it on the Internet? And why am not asking some rewards? I think there are mainly three reasons:

1) In a real life, I would see the microphone and camera following me everywhere; this would be in my face all the time reminding me that I am followed. On the internet, I don’t see the thousand of computers making relevance of my clicks so I don’t think about it;

2) The ads on the sites or outside are part of the background so they attract me only if I am interested but are not really visible otherwise so it is not really an annoyance;

3) There is ultimate value in sharing information with friends and knowing how they felt about a restaurant or a group. Knowing it will enable me to have a better experience and will enable me to engage with my friends better and more frequently.

Because there is value, it is less annoying and it doesn’t affect me that much, I guess I should be OK with the business model and should let me be tracked in order to have access to the service. Even though this is a fair argument, I still don’t buy it. First, I don’t know the value of what I am giving away. In real life and faced with monitoring devices, it seems like a lot of value and I am not willing to trade it and, on the Internet, the same goods doesn’t appear to have the same value. So the way to gather the information would have an impact on the value of the information. This is not quite right. Second, I don’t have the option of not participating; All my friends are on social networks and if want to search the Internet, the only available option is using an advertising based search engine. Third, I am dependent on the institution that I have entrusted my data with. The more data and the more network effect, the more difficult it is going to be for me to switch if privacy policy changes.

At the end of the day, what I think would be fair is for companies like Google and Facebook to give us more transparency on their business model and should relinquish some control over the use of our data. I see four major venues that those institutions could leverage:

1) More visibility: Sites should help us understand at a more granular what they track. I would be very interested to see when Google tracks my email or myself which keywords I am assigned to. I would like to know the type of revenue an institution generate from that data; the obvious one is the ads I am seeing anytime I show up but there may be others;

2) More control: Sites could offer control in many ways. The most obvious is to let me remove information that I don’t want to be shared. Then, there could be an independent body from the core business that provides check and balance and is the ultimate decision maker on Privacy Policy;

3) More choice: I know this has been tried before and with not much success but Facebook and Google should offer paying version of their service so that if I don’t want to share my data anymore, I can switch to a different model and still leverage the service I contributed to create;

4) More insurance: if a security/privacy breach occurs with my data, the entity that is spreading my data should at the end bears the risk if one of the network partners fail to abide with the privacy policy embodied with my data.

As Mark Zuckerberg pointed out, we are witnessing the emergence of a new world, which is social by nature. In order to fully benefit from it, new rules needs to be established and the old paradigm such as complete opt-in may be old thinking and not adapted to this new world. Fortunately, if social networks enable one-to-one marketing, they should also help us to address more granularly our privacy needs and “a one size fits all” model like the one taken by Facebook now may also be part of the old thinking. So let's think creatively and come up with solutions that enable us to leverage the opportunity while recognizing that we are human being entitled to some rights including on Privacy.

Access direct contact information for millions of business people in Spoke

Spoke is dedicated helping members initiate relationships with business people to form better alliances and strong businesses. One of the key elements of establishing new relationships is doing so within the confines of trust and ethics. That’s why Spoke has a well-defined privacy policy that guarantees that at no time will Spoke display, sell, or give away any direct contact information without a member’s consent.

Spoke does offer several ways to reach over 60 million businesspeople using features such as:
Corporate contact information (such as a headquarters address and phone number)
Outlook integration

We’ve heard time and again from you, our members, that you want direct contact information for people found in Spoke, but because of our privacy policy we were unable to supplement our rich profile data with direct contact information.

Today we are excited to announce a new feature that bridges the chasm between our privacy policy and our members’ requests. Now you can access direct contact information for anyone in Spoke using the Jigsaw integration.

Jigsaw is a directory of business contacts including direct contact information such as some one’s business email address, direct dial extension, business mailing address, and position within the company and you have direct access to get this information from Spoke.

To download this information, look just below a person’s profile for the words ‘Purchase Contact’. If you see this, then you can now download direct contact information from Spoke.

For more information on how this process works, visit the Jigsaw FAQs.

So what are you waiting for? Go download some direct contact information from Spoke and initiate the connections you need to grow your network!

Philippe Cases
President, CEO

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The… Better???

Spoke is upgrading its algorithm and will be re-processing its entire dataset, starting April 17th and running through May 2nd.

This process is going to make search results cleaner by reducing duplicate profiles and by adding deep relationship data for members. We anticipate it is going to last two weeks, during which time members will not have access to validation dates, or dates that information about a person was last updated in Spoke. We apologize for any inconveniences this may cause our members, as we know many of you rely on validation information to send emails or build targeted lists of contacts.

As this necessary process runs its course, you will begin to see those validation dates return with a substantially higher degree of accuracy, culminating in the addition of highly accurate communication and relationship statistics for those of you using the Spoke Toolbar, context revealers, and grouping tools.

Stay tuned to the Spoke Insider Blog for updates on this process.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Is Online Reputation Dead?

On Sunday, online reputation became the subject of a big debate on the Internet following a blog posted by Mike Arrington on TechCrunch ( The basic argument is that, after privacy, reputation is dead so we should get along with it and adjust our behavior because our legal system allows it. This argument spurred a multitude of responses on other blogs such this thoughtful response from Fred Wilson (, in which he mentions another blog post that I also found quite interesting (

What I find scary about the trend highlighted by Mike Arrington is the potential impact that this behavior may have in terms of lack of creativity and a drive to compliance. According to Mike Arrington, the threat to our reputation will come from people who are close to us, members of our families, friends, or people we end up meeting at a party. If we follow his advice, nothing we will try will be hidden and our level of intimacy will be reduced to very little if any, which is to me even worse than losing reputation. If there is no intimacy anymore, people will be far more worried about trying new things. If we can’t experiment anymore including being drunk with friends without facing the risk of having an indelible black mark on the Internet, we just won’t try anymore or enough and if we don’t try, our personal development will suffer.

I don’t buy the fact that people will learn not to care. This is wishful thinking at best. In a competitive world, recruiters will choose the safer choice and the person with the drunk picture will be disadvantaged.
If we don’t have intimacy and we are faced with the pressure to comply, this is starting to look like a very Orwellian world with the crowd as Big Brother. Scary!!!

On my side, I see more people self regulating them, hence those type of businesses being short lived. And if they don’t, I am hoping that regulators will chime in to adjust the legal system to make this world a better place.

Spoke has an active role to play here and offers a unique opportunity for many people to have another chance to manage their reputation by controlling a page showing up on the first pages of Google. This is not easy to do and has been obtained over time and because of the sheer size of pages we manage. The majority of our members understand it as the ratio between people who are maintaining their profile public versus people who want to remove is 9 to 1. Still, we are very adamant about doing the right thing and offer people to remove them when they want to on a self service basis. On our next blog, we will show some interesting examples of Spoke profile.

Philippe Cases

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Social aides for social times...

Breaking down your network to understand its nature is no easy feat. Even the best “networkers” labor over their relationships to identify opportunities for those with whom they communicate.  Studies show there is even a nexus point between effectively maintaining relationships within one’s network and the size of that network.

These studies, most commonly know as Dunbar's number, point to an maximum network volume around 150 contacts. This means that a person is capable of managing up to 150 relationships within their lives before their ability to maintain those relationships begins to deteriorate.

For those of us who grew up without cell phones or computers this number may even seem pretty large. But imagine how this trend has changed over the past few decades.  Factor in cell phones, email, social networks and instant messaging and most of us know immediately that our networks expand well beyond 150 people.

Wanting to know more about the nature of Spoke members’ networks, we sent out a short survey asking them to tell us about theirs. What we heard back was very interesting, so we wanted to share some of those results with you:

* 79% of the respondents have more than 100 contacts in their network
* Over half of the respondents have more than 500 contacts in their network
* 1/3 of respondents estimate they are missing 50% or more of the contact information for their network
* Instant Message is the preferred mode of contact for networks of 0-10, for 11-25 its phone, for 26-500 it’s email and for 500+ its social networks
* 55% of respondents have a client-based tool from an online professional network

These statistics point to the theory that our ability to support relationships is being expanded through the use of social aides. And just as is expected without the aid of technology, the data points to the theory that the smaller the network, the more direct communication is shared between those in the network – hence the smaller the group with whom you communicate, the more direct access the social aide must provide to its users.  For example, colleagues may need immediate information in small bits, so a tool like an Instant Messager is most appropriate, while tools like Social Networks become more effective at keeping up with your network when it grows beyond the Dunbar number of 150 contacts.

Of those surveyed, most have what can be considered as a large network and over half have one that is 3 times the size of Dunbar’s number.  Of those surveyed, 55% say they downloaded some type of client-based tool from an online professional network. That means they have some type of widget, toolbar, or offline tool offered by the professional network to help the member get more benefit from the network.

Put all this data together and you get a case for the need of social aides to reach beyond our natural abilities to maintain our networks while still be effective.  The market shows people understand this opportunity because they are using these tools and more are being developed every day. The question is, which is the best tool for the right job?


Philippe Cases

CEO, Spoke

Monday, February 22, 2010

Kevin takes the ultimate step to manage his online identity...

Two Fridays ago as I was ready to leave for President’s day weekend, somebody knocked on our door. It was a man named Kevin. Kevin is an engineer working at a card processing company and he was upset that we had not removed his profile from the site given multiple requests. Furthermore, he was complaining that there was no way for him to remove himself technically from the site. Kevin is a young tech-savvy guy and I thought that if he had trouble removing himself from the site, then so would most everyone else. So I decided to sit down with him and open my computer to go over our self-service removal process to understand once and for all what the issues are.

To set the stage for what action was actually taken during the meeting and to demonstrate what every member of Spoke has the ability to do, here is a quick step by step of what we did:

1. Searched for his name in the Spoke website
2. Found his Spoke Profile and clicked on it
3. Click on the words “this is me” on the left side under the photo
4. On the registration page, located the “suppress your profile” link on the right and clicked on it. (Kevin didn’t see this removal link so we will make some changes to make it more visible)
5. Completed the suppression process to confirm his identity and officially suppress his profile.

After completing this process, Kevin asked me several other questions about what information is accessible in Spoke because he just wasn’t clear on that subject. Past experiences with identity theft have given Kevin a keen eye for privacy concerns related to information management and he wanted to be sure that his information was safe and that someone could not cause him harm by using Spoke. I explained Spoke's Information Privacy Policy and Kevin left reassured that his information was safe and his profile would no longer be visible in Spoke.

Some people ask why they have to register for Spoke to have their profile suppressed. Actually, you don’t have to.  However, given the nature of our business, it’s conceivable that someone would attempt to set up false profiles or to attempt to take control of a specific profile for malicious purposes.  Since anyone can set up a free ISP email account, we require you to be able to verify your identity using a corporate email address.

We are more than happy to help remove profiles from Spoke. Our intentions are not to keep somebody who doesn’t want to be on Spoke, on Spoke no matter what. Our commitment is to remove you as fast as we can. The fastest way is through our self-removal process that Kevin and I went through. It provides instantaneous removal from the site and then a couple of days to several weeks to get a specific profile removed from Google.

Talking to the team last week about my discussion with Kevin, it’s clear we still faces issues regarding the removal process. Our commitment to you is that:

1) We will keep reemphasizing this self-service process on the site, on our FAQs or on the blog; this is our preferred way and if you don’t find the current self-service feature easy enough, just let us know and we will adjust accordingly

2) We will continue sending instructional emails within 48 business hours to people who want themselves removed; if people don’t receive their emails, it may be because these emails are either caught in a spam filter at the mail box level or at the ISP level. We are working diligently to make sure that we are not blacklisted and currently we are not on any lists.

3) Some people may want to reach us directly over the phone and have their profile removed this way. We are in the process of evaluating how we can do this given the nature of our small team while still providing service to our members. Several options are being researched and you should stay tuned to the blog for future developments on this topic. If you choose this course for suppressing your profile, please be patient as this manual process takes much longer than the self-service approach.

Philippe Cases
CEO, Spoke

P.S.- Don't forget about the "If only I had Spoke... " contest.  There are only a few days left to get your shot at winning $100 - CASH!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Where do I know you from?

Today’s technology, from social networking to smart mobile devices, is changing the way business is conducted. Now you, as a businessperson, have access to more information and more ways to connect to others than ever before. It’s an exciting time to be a professional with so many ways to develop new relationships and to manage the ones you already have. You can search these networks to connect with other professionals who have similar backgrounds, interests, or customer profiles and then download their contact info to your smart phone. What an exciting time! But with exciting times come challenging questions.

With this explosion of contacts comes a strong feeling of amnesia. How often do you look at a social profile and think to yourself, "I'm friends with this person on this network, but I don't really recall how I know them or why we are friends on this network - or others for that matter."  Most of us can associate a few people in our contact universe with this  thought, but do you know exactly how many you do?  And for the ones you do recall, how many times did you try to reach them and realize that you don’t have their correct contact information?

I think you would agree that it’s great that you have so many people with whom you build relationships. But at what threshold does the effect of social overload kick in? When does more become too much? And, more importantly, when does too much begin to have a negative affect on your ability to manage and grow your network?

Current research being performed on the subject by Robin Dunbar, a famous British Anthropologist, has theorized this problem.  He believed that an individual can stay in touch and maintain a relationship with a maximum of 150 individuals (Dunbar’s number) at a time.  This number has been very well publicized by Malcom Gladwell in his book “The Tipping Point”.  Dunbar even added that for a group of this size to remain updated, an individual would have to spend 42% of his time cultivating relationships. Of course, they are other bigger numbers floating around like the Bernard-Killworth number which suggests a higher number of 290 individuals at a time.

While those numbers widely differ, it is fairly clear that there are many limiting factors to this number including relative neocortex size (the part of the mammal brain involved in higher functions such as sensory perception, generation of motor commands, spatial reasoning, conscious thought and language) and the time we can spend maintaining those relationships.  Of course, with the emergence of social networks and new means of communications such as Twitter, this maximum number of active connections may increase as relevant, updated information is delivered to your fingertips without leaving the office and the time it takes to maintain a connection using these new means of communication have decreased significantly.  To answer this question of the impact of technology on social behavior, Dunbar is re-actualizing his study using Facebook as the field study. It won’t be long before we know with results being released in 2010.

Even with all these theoretical studies, these are all questions that maintain a subjective perspective and differ for everyone. Over the up coming weeks we will begin to address these questions and how professionals can take strides to get a handle on these challenges. Check back every week for updates on how you can tackle this issue.

Also, don’t forget about Spoke’s “If only I had Spoke…” contest. You could win $100!

Philippe Cases

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tell us a story and you could win $100 from Spoke...

With Spoke you can find the business contacts you need to grow your business, re-connect with ones you’ve forgotten about and manage how you communicate with them. What could be better than that? How about getting paid $100 for knowing why you needed Spoke in the first place?

Spoke is excited to announce our “If only I had Spoke...” contest. What is it all about and how do I win the $100 you may ask? Great questions! It’s simple. We want to know about a time in your professional life when you were unsuccessful at securing a new business relationship and you forgot you knew someone that could have helped. Have one of the best stories and you win!

We’ve all been there. A sales deal, a partnership, a contract or anything that drives your business’ growth was on the table and it wasn’t looking good. After the fact you realized there was someone you met long ago (either a former colleague, acquaintance, someone you met at a conference, a friend of the family, etc.) that you forgot about, but could have helped you to secure the new business relationship. You know, that point when we all do the proverbial slap to our foreheads and let out a loud D’Oh! Well, we want to hear about that story.

Spoke will select the best four stories submitted and will award one first place prize of $100 and three runner-up prizes of $50 as per the contest rules and regulations (see below).

So what are you waiting for? Tell us why you use Spoke and you’ll be on your way to a cool C-note in your pocket!

Contest Rules & Regulations:
1. You must follow @spokesoftware throughout the duration of the contest.
2. Submit your story by leaving a comment on the blog or by sending email to If you leave your story on the blog, please make sure to use the same email address you used for Spoke registration for the post account (e.g. not in the post, but in the field that asks for your email address). Otherwise we won’t be able to identify you.
3. You agree that Spoke may publish your story (whether you are a winner or not).
4. Contest ends on February 28, 2010 or until the contest has 25 participants, whichever occurs later.
5. Winners will be notified via email by March 16, 2009.
6. You may only win one first place prize per year and up to 3 runner-up prizes per year.
7. There is one first place prize of $100 and three runner-up prizes of $50.
8. If there are any problems or disputes, Spoke Software is the final arbiter and has the ultimate discretion over awarding the prizes and may award the prizes to any of the participants of the contest.
8. By participating, you agree to have your Twitter name published as the winner on Twitter and on this web site.
9. Winners must provide a mailing address within the United States in order to receive the prize.
10. Allow 4-8 weeks for delivery of the prize. Prizes will only be delivered to addresses within the United States.
11. You must reside within the United States of America to participate in the contest.
12. Contests are void where prohibited.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Spoke may be performing slower than normal...

This week Spoke began experiencing intermittent periods of exponential search volume causing our search engine to overload resulting in slowed search response times or, occasionally, searches failing. We are investigating the root cause of the issue and have taken precautionary steps to balance the search load so that the impact of these spikes to members will be minimized.

We know that these spikes are occurring during peak business hours, usually around the time both the east and west coasts get their days started. If you happen to experience a period of latent slowness, we encourage you to try using Spoke during other times of the day when these spikes are far less likely to occur.

As always we are working diligently to give you tools to aid in growing your network and managing your relationships. We appreciate any feedback you may be able to provide about this specific issue through our support department or about Spoke in feature improvement through our product feedback channel.

We thank you for your patience and will keep you updated about this issue as more information becomes available.

On a brighter note, make sure to check the blog next week for details about a cash-prize contest...

Monday, February 1, 2010

The next decade of Spoke - one is silver and the other gold...

Welcome 2010!

At Spoke we’re excited about what’s coming in 2010 and we want to fill you in on what we’ve been up to so you can take advantage of some great new tools coming your way this year.

2009 was a year of growth for Spoke. We took on several large initiatives aimed at improving our overall service and positioning ourselves, and our member-base, for dramatic growth in 2010. Like for many of us in our own lives, 2009 was a year of tough decisions for Spoke. Decisions on the future direction of Spoke and how to bring more value to our members. Decisions on how to bring more value to Spoke members. Decisions on how to deliver a service that can scale to those goals. And decisions on how to give our members a voice in that process.

To our long-time members it may have appeared that our momentum slowed somewhat in 2009, but know that we have been working hard behind the scenes to tackle these touch decisions and come back to 2010 recharged and ready to race forward to bringing you a world class application for managing your networking.

In 2009 Spoke Achieved:
More ways to manage information in Spoke
1) Remove profile without registering
2) Correct company information

More ways to give us your feedback...
1) Uservoice - giving members a voice in new feature development
2) Spoke Insider Blog - giving members the latest info from Spoke
3) Twitter - follow Spoke using your favorite social media tools

More ways to scale Spoke and provide better information...
1) Moved to cloud computing system – makes scaling really easy!
2) Re-engineered our de-duplification process
3) Dramatically reduced duplicate profiles and wrongly merged profiles

While members may have only noticed the changes from the first two sections mentioned above, the real gold lies in the infrastructure work in the last section. Unfortunately, the process was more resource intensive than we had originally planned. Fortunately we glad to let you know that the hard work for those initiatives is behind us and we are currently reprocessing our entire data set. What this means for you, the Spoke member, is that you are going to see the accuracy of our data improve by an order of magnitude in 2010.

In the first quarter of 2010 Spoke you’ll also see a whole new set of tools for revitalizing your professional relationships. Think about the people you know but for which you don't have the current contact information or the people you have even forgotten they exist. Spoke will bring a new and improved “Toolbar” to the table that will let you access those contacts and help you decide whether you want to rejuvenate your relationship for the purpose of what you are doing now.

It’s going to be an exciting year but we don’t want to give away too much of the cow just yet. So, to help you start to grasp what exactly is coming, we’re implementing a few things to help out:

First, is this blog. You’re already reading it, great! Just remember to check back form time-to-time as we’ll be releasing information about what is coming and how it will impact your professional lives.

Second, is a Spoke contest on Twitter. I can’t say too much about that now, but the details will be available through @spokesoftware on Twitter shortly. So go follow Spoke on Twitter so you can find out about the contest.

In conclusion, I would like to extend a thank you to our members for sticking with us through a “growth-spurt” year as we prepare to take Spoke to the next level and make leveraging your known, and unknown, network easier. We know the last few years have been rough times for everyone and we appreciate your patronage as we look forward to rewarding your loyalty with our hard work in 2010!

Philippe  Cases