Thursday, February 23, 2012

Focus on Spoke privacy

Spoke Privacy is a major concern of mine. Ever since I took over as CEO, this has been one of our main efforts and will still remain over time. I have also to command my team who has been very involved to make this effort a reality. The last of their effort was the release of the new site. With this new site, we have had since the launch more than 40,000 edits as well more than 1,000 appreciations on our Homepage with little to no marketing effort. These results are very encouraging: it proves that our privacy model works and that the mechanisms are in place for the very people who are not comfortable with our privacy model. This has been made possible for few reasons:

1) We are an open company to any type of feedbacks. We have a privacy policy, a topic page, as well as our Getsatisfaction forums. Each of them has different goals and objectives. Our privacy policy is of course our main document. It encapsulates our commitment to you as a user when you are entrusting us with your data. Our spoke topic page describes the issue we have had and, as for any topic page, if you believe we have missed something, you can edit this page by adding documents or even related documents that you believe are relevant to Spoke Privacy Policy. On our Getsatisfaction forum, you can ask us questions and engage in a discussion in real time with our team;

2) Our privacy policy is a living document: Privacy is not set in stone and will evolve over time and we need to adapt our documents to the standards of privacy as they evolve; we rely on you, the users, as well as our own research to advance it over time to the best standard in the Industry;

3) Privacy is not only about a document. It is an attitude and a series of processes that we are constantly refining to make them more efficient;

4) Lastly, every company has privacy challenges: and, to say the contrary, would not believable. At Spoke, we have identified few that we are focused on and we are conscious that we should not drop the ball on them.

 Most of the privacy challenges come from what we do: we are a Publisher of business information. That is indeed what we do, we are a publisher of business information about industry topics, companies and people. We believe that there is inherent social value in having a profile listed with all the relevant information about somebody so that people get to the right information at the right time. We also believe that a community based approach is important so that information is always fresh and objective.

This said, our approach is not without privacy challenges that we need to tackle:
1) Person on whom the profile is being published may not want a profile on the Internet. Since the launch on January 6th, we had 500 removal requests for 3.5 million monthly unique visitors. In this case, we have removed profiles in less than 48 hours per our privacy policy requirement. 48 hours is our first commitment but we will make sure that we do better over time;

2) The information posted may be inaccurate. This is true for few reasons. We have aggregated information over time from many sources and this information may be either outdated or in few instances incorrect. If you find information like this, you have two options and we have seen people using both, the first one is to edit the information yourself and the second one is to let us know which information is incorrect and we will update it ourselves. We are seeing people copying and pasting a resume where all the information is corrected in the summary and our editorial team will take this information and make it correct;

3) Least but not last, anybody, even anonymously, can update the information and that, of course, raises eyebrows as people are worried about spam and slandering. For this, we have built a robust moderation system and every pieces of information is being evaluated, every IPs is also being evaluated constantly as well. With that information, we identify quickly bad information providers and we can ban them from the system if needs be.

 We don’t believe we know everything and the world is changing and the privacy requirements as well. We are also very eager to understand your point of view and understand what needs to get done in addition to what we are doing now. And we are at your disposal if you feel that we are missing issues or if you feel that we should address those issues outlined above in a different way.

Philippe Cases

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Win an iPod or iPad on Spoke -- EXTENDED to Friday!

Announcing the first-ever SPOKE-A-THON:  a challenge to our already-stellar users to push the limits of creativity (oh, and the winners get Apple products!) by creating the best new pages on and submitting them for entry.  We select the 5 best pages, whose authors will win an iPod Shuffle!  And if you submit 3 winning entries …. you'll get an iPad 2! That's right, an I-P-A-D 2!!  Even more important, we will promote the winners (and any winning topics pages) on our homepage, where we get 100,000+ views per month -- that's some serious exposure!

The Rules are simple: Create a new person, company, or topic page on (hint to those of you reading closely -- we really like topics, though any well-done page stands a good chance).  Start by going to and clicking "Add a New ____".  Create a page on anything you like, and submit it using our online form here.

Entries will be judged on 3 criteria:

Completeness:  Use the flexibility of the page.  Fill as many fields as you can to build a better page and improve your chances -- this means adding videos, links, great descriptions, and more (depending on page type).

Usefulness:  Will your page be informative to the rest of the Spoke audience? Does it contain boring everyday information; or is there unique and actionable insight that isn't common to most people.

Creativity:  Of course, a contest like this wouldn't be complete without a little flair -- so feel free to post the unexpected -- links that give unique context, videos that tell a cool story -- it can only help your entry!

The contest window is only 1 week long so don't wait to get going. You may submit multiple entries.  And I know what you're thinking -- "didn't Spoke just launch last month, and so wouldn't the competitive pool be pretty small?"

Yep.  Probably.  Maybe you can run the numbers on your iPad.

Again, there are a few requirements, so read the Official Entry form here.  Some examples to get your wheels turning (don't worry, these aren't eligible):

1)   Utility Grade Solar
2)   Steve Jobs
3)   AtHomeNet
4)   Job Search Over 40

Click here to get started

Best of Luck!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Time to reflect and notable links

Since January 6th 2012, when we launched our new site, we have seen just shy of 30,000 edits (about 10,000 edits per week) and about 1,000 new pages (new persons, new companies or new topics). Needless to say that all those edits went through our moderation system and we have been able to fairly quickly understand what people do and don’t do on the site. With three weeks gone by, it is time to start drawing some early conclusions. We have some good news and, of course, we still have things we need to work on.

On the good news side, we are getting more edits than we thought we would get. Even in our wildest dreams, we didn’t think we would have that much to start with.

Our moderation system is handling the load very well with less than 3 hours per day spent on it. About 2/3 of anonymous edits and 90% of the one contributed by registered users are being accepted. This is higher than what we expected and spam is reasonable even though we are seeing it on the rise. We have let few issues pass by but those were caught very quickly by the community and we were able to correct the mistakes very quickly so the feedback loop is also working very well. We have now a lot of great ideas on how to make the moderation system even more efficient and we will let you know about those ideas as we are implementing them.

On what we need to work on, even though people get it, we still have more work to do to get to the 95% accuracy that we want to have for both anonymous and registered users’ contributions:

1) We are going to provide guidelines on each page to let you know what you should or shouldn’t do at each page.

2) We are also going to make enhancements to the UI to make things even more intuitive than they are now.

As part of this blog, I want to reemphasize the notable links/achievement/milestone feature. I really enjoyed this feature when we built it because it enables to create free space for people to come up with creative ideas. So let me answer very quickly few questions about notable links:

What are notable links? Notable links are links that you deem relevant to a profile and you feel are going to enrich user understanding of the profile he is viewing. For a sales person, it could be a deal that has been closed, for an investment banker, it could be a press announcement on a deal he has worked on. For a real estate agent, a listing that he is currently working on, for a recruiter, a press announcement on a successful search or a search he is working on.

What is the difference between notable links and milestones/achievements? At the base level, these are sections that allow you to add a link that points to something else on the internet. To add a level of specificity, Milestones/activities are links that point to a news article about a major event in the history of a company. For example, if a company partners with another company and this comprises significant milestone for the company, a member would want to point to an article that talks about the partnership, and use the drop-down box to note that this is a 'Partnership' Milestone.
In contrast, a Notable Link is more flexible. It can be a news article link that provides interesting context to the profile page, but it could also be something other than a news link, for example a profile on another site, or another website altogether,….

Why are there already links on the page which are not accurate? The links that show on a page you are editing may not be accurate. They are in fact the results of a search made using Microsoft Bing on the title of the page so some links may be correct but others won’t be as is the case for results of a regular search. Within Spoke, you can remove the links that are not yours and keep the ones that are yours so that you show only the curated results for a specific page. You can also add links with the link finder or copy paste links that you found on the Internet.

Social profiles (Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Wikipedia by extension) should not be part of notable links as they have their own place in the general info section. YouTube, Quora, Google+ etc.. are all acceptable.

What should I do if the page is not the main subject of the link or press release but I do deem the link relevant to the page? Should I still link to the profile? Yes, you can… I can link Matt Maurer (our community manager)’s page to his favorite rock band but, if I do that, I need to give some context in the title and let people know why I added this link. When you attach a link, Spoke is going to automatically prefill the header with the description of the URL and you can edit the title to tailor to the page you are editing. So in our prior example, the link title would be “Matt’s favorite rock band” posted by “Philippe Cases”. See on my profile how I customize the links on achievement and recognition or notable links (

What should I do if I don’t have any notable links about the page I am editing? This sometimes happens especially for small companies or people with a smaller web presence but it should not deter you to find interesting content related to the page you are writing about: a product that the company is working, a technology that they have worked on and, if it is a person, some information about his hobbies…..

Why should I bother? Adding links is important because it enables you to customize the page, this is really where you can make your pages shine and show narratives for the pages you are working on. The richer the links, the more information people will get from the page. Our best pages have time spent on page above 5 minutes so the more quality content you provide, the more people will spend time on your pages.

Adding a link to a page is also important because it is an easy place where you can store and organize all the links about a topic and keep coming back to find the links that were meaningful to you.

If you need more help, please check our video: or contact us at

Philippe Cases, CEO