Can you be wired and well-mannered?

We attended a conference last week in Orlando that centered on ubiquitous computing -- basically, the idea that the next generation of technology will be built upon devices you typically carry with you. (Here's the story that Bridget wrote about it.) We saw technology that use phones to test air quality around you, record medical information or even help maintain a long-distance relationship. Organizers call it the ``post desktop'' model of human and computer interaction.

That got us thinking about how attached we are already to our cellphones and how badly we behave. We're so obsessed with informing and checking in with the rest of the world that we forget about the people right in front of us.

You don't have to convince us about how great technology is -- but as Poked columnists, we also we want to do our part to remember the importance of balancing that with the way we treat others.

Bridget realized this during the conference while we were at dinner -- so much so, that when I said something funny, she asked permission to immediately share it with her brother, via text. Before you say how lame this sounds, think about the last time you've had an impulse to do the same.

It goes beyond manners at the dinner table. Why we have lost the ability to be patient about sharing information? And at what expense are we doing this? Those who text while driving are risking lives -- we'll admit that we've sneaked in a quick reply or read a text behind the wheel, and we're not proud of it.

Don't assume that our standards of behavior have fallen so far that people don't care if you're flipping through your e-mails during a meeting or checking fantasy football stats while you're waiting for dinner to be served.

So this week we're proposing a call to action to reform this atrocious behavior and giving you a challenge to put down the phone.

Before sitting down to dinner, put your ringer to silent and don't glance at it at the table.

And especially ignore that phone in the car. If it's too hard to resist the urge to text someone back, stick the phone in the trunk.

Try to see if you can make it for one week, and let us know how it goes. We'll let you know how well this experiment goes for us. Hopefully we can all try to train ourselves to be have better manners -- and sense -- while wired.

Oh, and if you're curious about the conference, check out this video I did with Bridget about it:

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Listen before you type

People tell us all the time that they want to get started on sites like Twitter, but they don't know what to say -- or do.

So here's some advice for them, as well as to others already immersed in the world of social media: Use your ears.

That's the one thing that stood out when I spoke with Peter Shankman recently. He's a New York advertising and marketing executive who runs one of the few organizations that has made money from social media. Shankman likes to say he thinks social media isn't a broadcast platform. It's not just a way for you to shout, or scream your opinions to the world; it's a two-way street that involves engaging people. There's a reason we use the word interactive.

That's a lesson many people who use social media probably don't do frequently enough. But it's also essential for people who are just getting started.

"The first thing people have to do when they get on social media is to listen,'' he said. "The concept of talking will come next.''

That's what Shankman did when he started a site called Help a Reporter Out (, which connects reporters to sources. Within a year, it went from a Facebook group to a company that made $1 million in advertising revenue, Shankman told a group of local public relations executives.

It helps to think of social media as the process of listening then talking, then doing more listening.

For example: You're a small-business owner who has thought about opening a Twitter account. Sign up. Fill out the profile, making sure you've added an appropriate photo.

At this point, most people start hawking: Buy my product! Visit my store! Instead, start following people with similar interests. When you find something that deserves repeating, retweet the message. Join in on conversations and offer valuable commentary.

Use it as a platform to showcase your expertise -- not just to push out links to your business. And, make sure you're asking your customers or clients what they want.

People are increasingly getting their information from social media networks. That's why you want to be part of the conversation, and why it's so important to be engaging while you're there.

Here's more of my interview with Peter:

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Peter Shankman shares some social media tips

Marketing and advertising executive Peter Shankman, founder of Help a Reporter Out ( was in town recently for a local Public Relations Society of America conference. I interviewed him for the Miami Herald Business Show, a weekly web show that I do for - if you didn't see it, check it out here.

I did a few Poked extra interviews with Peter for you guys - first off, here's Peter's thoughts about his netiquette pet peeve (Bridget and I are going to write about this in our column this week):

We also talked about where he sees the future of social networking going. Specifically, I asked him about the next two years and what kind of evolution we'll see:

What do you think?

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LinkedIn glitch won't let you customize invites

Update: When I logged in to check today, the problem has been fixed.

I was at an AAJA conference last week. As to be expected, I came home with a pile of business cards. I was trying to be organized about connecting with people quickly, so sat down at the end of the work day to start adding connections to my LinkedIn network.

Linkedin logo Bridget and I always talk about how we like to personalize our invitations that we send out - to remind folks where we met them, and also to further the connection.

To my dismay, when I started sending out messages, the system immediately defaulted to the standard, somewhat lame "I'd like to add you to my professional network" message as soon as I selected how I knew the contact - it didn't let me customize my message.

I contacted the folks at LinkedIn, so said they're aware of the bug and working to fix it. In the meantime, if you're sending out messages out there, be warned that what you're stuck with is the standard default message.

I'll update this as soon as they fix it.

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Facebook for work? It's getting harder to keep business out of your personal network.

If Facebook users were a country, it would have the same amount of people as Indonesia, the world's fifth-most populous country.

So it seems we've reached a point where you shouldn't be creeped out when acquaintances from the business world want to "friend'' you.

Think of it as the modern-day (and recession-friendly) equivalent of a business lunch: They're just getting to know you better because they want to do business with you.

That's because they are sensing what a recent social media study by Anderson Analytics documented: Facebookers are the most loyal social networkers compared to Twitter, MySpace or LinkedIn.

When asked which network they found the most valuable, 75 percent of the 5,000 users surveyed said Facebook.

Tom H.C. Anderson, managing partner at Anderson Analytics, said some business users felt like they got better networking value from Facebook because that's where they got better tidbits of personal information, compared to say, LinkedIn, where it's harder to display your personality.

For example, if you see an executive posted photos of a recent Disney World trip and you were also just there, "it gives you something to talk about in a job interview,'' he said.

That makes it more of a challenge to balance a private social networking life with business interests. We're learning this as we go. Bridget relies heavily on privacy settings that accept a lot of people but limit what they can see.

Niala is still trying to keep Facebook as primarily personal. So although her profile is still open to anyone sending a message, she's turned off "add as a friend'' request to help keep the volume down.

Tell us how you deal with the balance issue -- e-mail us at or post a comment below.

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Think before you make a recommendation on LinkedIn

For most people, the biggest initial roadblock to writing a LinkedIn recommendation is the energy and effort it requires.

But before you sit down to write a few breezy paragraphs about a colleague or employee, think about this: Does your company have a policy against it?

The world of professional recommendations, especially for those on the job hunt, became meaningless long ago because of fear of lawsuits. Basically, most places will simply confirm only that someone worked for the company -- they're not allowed to say anything more for fear of being sued.

For example, here at The Miami Herald, the company has a policy that says managers aren't allowed to write any type of recommendation -- virtual or not -- for an employee.

While our company's policy specifically mentions social networking sites like LinkedIn, local attorney Joan Canny said the safe thing is to assume that if your company has a policy about recommendations, the same principles apply when it comes to even a casual reference online.

"Don't expect your employer to be sympathetic because it's a social network,'' said Canny, a labor and employment lawyer with the Miami office of Morgan Lewis & Bockius.

Because an electronic reference lives online, it actually lasts longer and may have greater effect than a letter or a phone call, she points out.

Of course, this only applies to a negative reference -- or especially to someone who you are leery of recommending. Canny thinks you're opening yourself up to potential legal problems if you knowingly write a positive recommendation for someone you know has done something wrong.

We checked with several labor lawyers, who all had different opinions as to how seriously you should take an online recommendation. But all agreed on this: Ultimately, whatever is written reflects on you, too.

If you're on the other side and are looking to spruce up your page with a few kind words, why not ask your colleagues instead of your boss? Sending a request to bosses may put your supervisor in an awkward situation.

Recommend a question we should answer! Send us an e-mail at or post a comment below.

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Self-imposing limits on social networking sites

Everyone's always talking these days about doing less with more -- or really, doing several people's jobs at once because so many others have been laid off. That does make workplace productivity more of an issue. Which brings me to a site I came across recently that can help monitor how much time you spend on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter. It's a Mozilla Firefox plug-in called Leechblock -- and if you worry you waste too much time online -- this might work for you.

Here's how the developer himself described it: "LeechBlock is a simple productivity tool designed to block those time-wasting sites that can suck the life out of your working day. All you need to do is specify which sites to block and when to block them."


It really is that simple. You can specify, in sets, which sites you want to block - you can set a time limit (say, no more than 10 minutes every hour) or block access to the site for a set period of time (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday). Either way, it will block you out of the site after you reached that period.

I installed it a week ago to test it out. So far, it seems to be working fine. I'm not at my desk that much during the day, but I imagine this is a perfect way to police yourself if you are -- or if you're just curious exactly how much time you're spending on various web sites.

I'm curious to hear from other folks out there if they use this or other tools to minimize time spent online -- and maximize productivity --  during the day.

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How to use social media to rule the world

The folks at South Florida American Marketing Association invited to me to their meeting today with speaker Peter Shankman, founder of Help A Reporter Out, a web site dedicated to linking people to journalists looking for sources. His other life is as a marketing and social consultant.

SkyDiverSpeaks1 Personally, I'm indebted to Peter (also known as @skydiver on Twitter) for telling a roomful of PR folks that that the best way to reach reporters is to be brief and be good. In that spirit, here's a recap of his talk today, which was a great introduction for people who may not know much about social media, as well as some insight for folks who are already pretty familiar with this world.

His basic point was social media is just a tool like any other -- just because you have it doesn't mean you'll be good at using it unless you learn how to use it. Learning social media isn't just about pushing out information -- it's about using it to listen to others. Here are a few of his principles, which are really applicable not just to business people but everyone using social media:

   TRANSPARENCY: The world we live in now basically requires this. Shankman made a point of saying companies, people, whoever is in charge of a Facebook page, Twitter account, or whatever social media you are using, needs to be honest about who's in charge. In other words, if you have the summer intern in charge of sending out tweets for the company, you should say so.

If you try to hide something, especially online, he points out there's always some 15-year-old kid out there who is dying to prove you wrong.

RELEVANCE: Given the information overflow out there, be as relevant as possible. Make sure you make an effort to find out what people want and how they want it. Our standards for customer service and relationships are so low these days, it's not hard to exceed people's expectations.

BREVITY: Shankman said the attention span these days of teenagers is about 140-characters, or 2.7 seconds. We're all inundated with information, so don't just be good -- be brief about it.

TOP OF THE MIND: Given all of this, it's important to remember to do things that keep yourself engaged with other people. He estimates that people really stay connected with just about 3 percent of their entire social network. If you make a point to listen, be relevant, smart and brief, you can stay connected to folks.

For me, his talk all came down to this: People today who are the best at using and sharing information will rule the world. And so many more people have a shot at that these days using social media to do it.

p.s. Thanks to @fsutoby, otherwise known as Tilson Communication's Toby Srebnik, for the picture of Peter.

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Social Networking: Tool or Nightmare?

That's the title of a panel Bridget and I are moderating tomorrow night for the local group of WITI, Women In Witi_logo Technology International, in Fort Lauderdale. For more information, click here.

But in the meantime, just curious: what does your boss (or company) think about this question? Do they approve of your social networking, and encourage it at work, or are you banned from Facebook and the like in your office?

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LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman on social networking, Part II

As promised, yesterday I posted some videos of Reid Hoffman talking about what he thinks about some netiquette issues, the future of social networking and how he handles the volume of his emails (although I must admit, he didn't respond to the one I sent him, so maybe he's not following his own advice!).

Here's some other things he said that I wrote about in today's newspaper column:

I didn't expect to walk into an interview with LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman and have him hand me his actual business card -- after all, Hoffman helped start the social networking site that lets working professionals connect virtually.

For the record, he had business cards because he was at a conference in Miami Beach called Endeavor Entrepreneurs, which brought together people from developing countries.

Usually in this space, Bridget and I provide tips for people on how to deal with their coworkers online. But since we had an expert in town, we thought it should be our turn to ask for advice.

Not surprisingly, Hoffman thinks working professionals who haven't yet should ''dive right in'' to social media sites -- not just LinkedIn, but Facebook, Twitter and the like.

''I think the reason it's critical is because if you look at it, every individual now is essentially their small business, and a little bit of an entrepreneur themselves,'' said Hoffman, who founded LinkedIn after running business development for PayPal.

The Silicon Valley veteran has helped finance sites like Facebook, Flickr and Technorati, and sits on the boards of Six Apart, Mozilla and most recently, Zynga, the online social gaming company.

With that in mind, I sat down to pick Hoffman's brain. In keeping with the spirit of our column, we spoke about his netiquette peeves, but also about what to do on LinkedIn at different life stages, and his thoughts about Web 3.0.

Q: Do you have something that people do online that drives you crazy?

A: I would say the primary thing, from a LinkedIn standpoint, is communicate to people you know. Don't send invitations to people you don't know. When I get them, I ignore them or sometimes hit ''I don't know them'' because this is meant to be a vehicle for setting up relationships with people you know.

If are thoughtful in how they write the invitation, I reply to let them know how the system should work, which is that I connect with people I know and have some basis of trust with.

Whenever you're writing to someone you don't know, make sure you understand why they should be interested. It's all interaction and an exchange, so be clear about what's valuable for them in interacting with you.

Q: Would you give different advice to a 20-year-old vs. a 40-year-old on what to do on LinkedIn?

A: When you're 20, frequently people think, ''I don't know what my professional network is.'' But you do. You have your family, friends who have recently graduated who are in the workforce, professors, people you've met in summer internships -- that's what your professional network looks like. When you're 40, it's not just that but colleagues and former colleagues, people you've met at conferences that you've bonded with.

Q: Where do you see the future, in terms of Web 3.0; what's the next step?

A: Silicon Valley's always mad after the future, the phrase Web 3.0 has been kicked around a lot. I don't know that it has coherent meaning -- people have used it to mean video, software platforms and building applications, to mean mobile. I actually think we're still in the midst of Web 2.0.

I have a specific definition: when millions of people participate with their real identities and their real network. LinkedIn is one, Facebook is one, blogging can be another. How do you build these really powerful applications that change how are you live in this world, here? That's one of the really interesting problems and opportunities. I think there are things happening in Web 2.0 that haven't even gotten attention today. I think the game is just beginning.

I was surprised at the firm stance he took about LinkedIn being about how people should really know each other -- and emboldened by the fact that he actually uses the "I don't know this person" button when a stranger tries to connect with me, because I've been pretty chicken to use it. But I guess there's a reason why that button is there -- because Reid  was probably behind creating it! Does anyone else out there use this button frequently, or do you just ignore them by archiving them?

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