LinkedIn and Facebook on Outlook -- Time saver or time waster?

If you use LinkedIn and Facebook as a main tool for managing your business contacts, you're going to love the news Microsoft came out with last week. But if social networks distract you at work and hurt your productivity, then let's hope your tech staff doesn't install updates to Outlook on your computer.

Microsoft is beta testing a new feature it calls the Outlook Social Connector. It'll eventually sync information from LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace into Outlook. Right now, it only works with LinkedIn.

It also keeps you up to speed on what your contacts are doing on those networks. For example, let's say you have to e-mail Judy. When you type Judy's e-mail address in the To field, a window below the e-mail shows everything Judy has been up to on the networks. If Judy changes her contact information on LinkedIn, your contact info for her in Outlook will automatically update -- helping to make sure you always have the most recent information. And imagine how much time is saved by adding LinkedIn contacts to your Outlook, letting you expand your network while never leaving your e-mail program.

But imagine how much time will be wasted.

Social networking is addictive -- especially Facebook. What starts out as a simple e-mail could mushroom into spending 10 minutes watching a Star Wars spoof video someone posted. E-mail is an efficient workplace productivity tool; adding goofy status messages could muck it up.

It'll be interesting to see how many workplaces add this upgrade. It's already hard enough to keep away from social networking during work hours. Yet so many of us use social networks to manage our professional contacts. Outlook's changes are just exacerbating our society's struggle with keeping our professional and personal lives separate online.

The upgrade also means we'll be need to be more careful than ever over what information we make public on these networks. Because now, people you e-mail -- like your company CEO -- could see your relationship status changed, or the results to the quiz you took during work hours.

There's no word yet on when it will release the version that lets you sync Facebook and MySpace. To give it a whirl, go to office.com to download the beta of Outlook 2010. Then download the Outlook Social Connector (which also works on Outlook version 2007 or 2003). Finally, download LinkedIn for Outlook at linkedin.com/outlook.

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What some very smart ninth graders can teach us about technology

A few months back, Bridget and I tried an experiment in being "wired and well-mannered.'' For a week, we made an effort to put our mobile phone behavior on hold if there were people actually in front of us.

MHZNovaHigh And, we sort of forgot about it. That is, until last week, when we encountered some ninth-graders in Brenda Amador's English class at Nova High School in Davie. (Thanks to Nova student Carly Gourley for taking this picture of the class!) They're reading 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, and as part of it, have given up all technology for a week. Amador said she's been doing the experiment for three years now. The goal, she said, is to "recognize the intrusiveness of technology and that it can create social misfits."

Amador's no Luddite; she uses her iPhone in class to help teach. But the veteran teacher said she's also noticed that as more students text instead of talk they have a harder time making conversation -- even looking adults in the eye.

Ninth-grader Marlee Abbott said she realized that she had a hard time communicating ``beyond 160 characters.''

As a run-up to the week without technology, Abbott and her classmates had to track how much they use their mobile phones, computers and other devices. Some realized they sent anywhere from 50 to 200 text messages a day -- and that they had friendships based entirely on texting, but when they actually were face to face with these people, they had nothing to say.

What they've learned so far: If you're instant messaging or texting someone, they can't tell if they have your full attention. (The recipient could be playing solitaire, one student pointed out, and they'd never know.) Conversations, they told us, are hard because they require focusing on the person in front of you and having to listen and respond -- rather than being able to have time to craft the perfect typed response. They love technology, but they're thinking that moderation is the key. Which Bridget and I thought were fairly astute observations that should be shared with adults, too.

One note for parents: It's not the best netiquette role modeling when you tell your kids not to text at the dinner table, but you bring your Blackberry. There are some work emergencies that can't be avoided -- but trust us, your teenagers can tell the difference.

Anything you think parents and/or teenagers should know about being wired and well-mannered?

Finally - Bridget and I did an interview about this topic on WLRN this morning. If you missed it, here it is:

Poked 1984 - WLRN Miami Herald News


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How have your social networking habits changed?

A year ago, Bridget and I set out on a mission to help two kinds of people: Those who get social media and those who don't.

We've been poking and prodding you (and each other) for a year now to behave better not only on sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but also on the devices we use that keep us constantly wired.

We used data from Compete.com to compare those three sites' traffic over the past year since we began writing this column.

Facebook--twitter-linked Facebook topped the trio, with growth of more than 200 percent in average unique monthly visitors. (Facebook itself releases data on the number of active users, which it estimates at 300 million, which, if it were a country, would be the world's fourth largest.)


Twitter was next -- much smaller -- at 23.5 million, but with exponential growth of 660 percent. LinkedIn clocked in last at 15 million, and a still-respectable 85 percent growth rate.

All of this shows that our entire communications culture is continuing to evolve rapidly. Networks are converging faster, with Facebook incorporating Twitter-like features onto its site, and more applications are being created to blur the lines between networks for the sake of saving time.

Case in point: I don't even go directly to Facebook's site that often anymore, because all of my Facebook friends' news feeds show up through Tweetdeck, a Twitter application she uses.

And people aren't just sharing news and information via these networks -- they're increasingly making real-life connections there -- especially during work hours.

So where this is all going?

We don't know. What we do know is that social media clearly isn't a fad that's going away, and we want to make sure that people think about how they act online.

Our advice until then is the same we've had when we first started: Think before you post, tweet or tag. When in doubt, use common sense: Treat others the way you would want to be treated. And don't get too mad at people who offend or commit faux pas, because we're all still getting used to the current networks -- until next week, when a new one pops up.

How have your social media habits changed over the past year?

I've been looking forward to this for 364 days

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Wired and Well-Mannered, Day 3

Just an update to let you know how the experiment is going: Bridget and I did a segment with our radio partners at WLRN-Miami Herald News that aired this morning:

Poked on WLRN

Anyways, as soon as it aired, of course, my cell phone started going off. I couldn't bear to put my phone in the trunk as I had previously suggested, but I had stuck it in my purse, instead of keeping it out, to avoid texting temptation. Since I was at a light, and in the car by myself, I did answer the phone. Is that cheating to talk on the phone?

Lots of colleagues and folks on Twitter are talking about the experiment. If you're doing it, let us know how it's going?

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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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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."

Leechblock

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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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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Feel like your identity has been hijacked online?

Another Tuesday, another column. I got this question from someone who attended a social networking workshop I did recently for people who are soon to be out of work. She was concerned about her image online, especially since she's soon to be out actively in the job market:

We talk about online image control quite a bit, the primary test being to Google your name and see what comes up.

But what if you don't like what you see? And even worse, what if it's not even you?

One Poked reader e-mailed us, worrying about a case of mistaken identity online. The reader had a common Hispanic name, and when she Googled herself, the third link was another person's Facebook account. It had the same name as her -- and a profile picture of a woman dancing on a stripper pole.

Needless to say, not a good image for potential employers -- at least, not for most jobs.

Thankfully, people switch Facebook pictures. Within a few days, the pole profile picture had been replaced.

You can't control other people's Facebook images. But take heart because there are a few things you can do to make your online search results as good as possible.

LinkedIn has a powerful pull in search-engine results. That means if you have a LinkedIn account, that profile will appear higher in a Google name search. But you need to have an active, complete profile and at least a few connections to improve your chances of keeping that site prominent in search results.

Facebook and other sites like VisualCV and Twitter that are popular also seem to weigh in heavier than smaller websites.

So here's the key: Bulk up your online presence by creating profiles on well-known sites. But you must be active on these sites for them to show up.

Finally, here's another practical way to distance yourself from others who share your name. Put up a picture on your LinkedIn profile so it will be clear who you are. And make sure when you're sending out your résumé, either a hard copy or online, that you provide a link to that profile.


What about you? Do you have any tips for how you have managed this issue?

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Is your online profile an embarrassment?


A new web survey by yasni.com  (which describes itself as a source for searching for people and "reputation management") says that many people say don't want people they look up to - or report to -  seeing their online profiles.

Embarrassed_chimpanzee copy The company says it surveyed thousands with this result: 53 percent said they would feel "embarrassed" if their boss, teacher or parent viewed the contents of what they've posted on their social profiles.

According to Yasni's PR folks, they surveyed about 2,000 people online to get these results. What I thought was even more significant is another survey the site did of 950 HR and business managers.

Almost a third of them said they used social networking sites to gather background information on possible recruits. And a quarter of them said they actually turned down job candidates based on what they found.

Need more convincing about keeping up your image online?

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Should your company limit what you can post on Facebook?

Bridget and I thought with all the furor over Facebook's terms of service over the past few weeks, it raises a few other work-related questions about what people are posting online.

So here's what we wrote about in our column in today's paper:

We think the reason it caused such a furor was because people were finally coming to terms with the fact that information posted online doesn't just disappear when it drops out of news feeds -- it actually can be a permanent thing.

Enter Douglas E. Winter, who heads the Electronic Discovery Unit for the law firm Bryan Cave.

The Washington, D.C., lawyer wants people who use social networks like Facebook and Twitter to know that their posts may not only be permanent, they can also be used against you in legal proceedings.

He sees a couple of ways employees get themselves into trouble on social networks.

The first involves people who are saying things they shouldn't about co-workers. Lawsuits, including sexual harassment cases, can consider statements on social networks as evidence.

''Most social networking online between employees is similar to what they used to call the conversation around the water cooler,'' Winter said. ``People usually say things in front of a water cooler that they wouldn't say to a boss.''

He suggests thinking of anything you write on a social network like publishing information rather than just talking to friends -- and assume what you write will be forwarded to others.

Companies should also have discussions with workers about what can and cannot be shared online.

Everyone knows that when your work is involved in a lawsuit, any personal computers, e-mails or cellphones used for work can become part of the investigation. And the same could be said about work information shared over social networks, depending on the situation.

''There is a tremendous amount of individual responsibility that's being called for,'' Winter said.

So we wondered: are companies actually communicating with workers about this? Does your company have a policy? Should they have one?

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