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 (http://techcrunch.com/2010/03/28/reputation-is-dead-its-time-to-overlook-our-indiscretions/). 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 (http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2010/03/how-to-defend-your-reputation.html), in which he mentions another blog post that I also found quite interesting (http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2010/02/own-your-online-brand.html).

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