LinkedIn Job Hunting

Before social networking applications exploded online, I used my personal data assistant. When the first Palm Pilot came out I began tracking my network. Everyone that was a part of my life eventually found his or her way into my contacts list. And when I entered someone in the address book, I used the note field to capture key thoughts about the individual (e.g., when and where I met them, a notable fact about them or their interests, family members, etc.). Later as a consultant I kept track of what company they were at and the project details so that I could easily search for them in the future (I’m terrible with remembering names, but can for some reason remember the facts in the Note field).
Today, I use LinkedIn to keep track of my professional network. I’ve found it to be a powerful tool to keep abreast of where people are working and what they’ve done in their career. It’s also great for uncovering relationships you may not be aware of. Yet, it still misses some of the key items I think are essential to becoming a truly useful tool to support the memory.
1.) Ability to link to folks you don’t want to
2.) Relationship mapping
3.) Notes
Ability to link to folks you don’t want to…
While I have a lot of people linked to me, I am very diligent about protecting the integrity of my network. Myspace became a disaster in my mind when everyone started collecting friends as a hobby versus really showing their network. Facebook has been better about not becoming the same, but eventually when the purpose is to be cool and popular, people start collecting. My goals with LinkedIn have been to only include people I feel I know well and would be comfortable acting as a reference. This however leaves a number of folks off my list, and thus LinkedIn becomes only part of the story, and my contacts list remains the master. It’s not that I know that many people I don’t like, but there are always folks that you are more of an acquaintance to and would not feel comfortable asking them to be a character reference to you and vice a versa. So, having the ability to keep track of these folks on your list, but differentiate them as not being “linked”, would be great.
Relationship mapping
With this more limited link, I’d want to keep track of what my relationship is with them. In sales and consulting, it’s important to be able to quickly understand a social network in a company. There are many formal methodologies for mapping these networks to identify whom the influencers are and whom they influence. With these you can identify who you need to focus your relationship building. Having this feature would be great to keep track of your whole network, but imagine if it was all exposed. I think LinkedIn could setup a continuum in their linking that better illustrates the relationship. Part of this exists when you say whether or not they were a colleague, friend or college friend for example, but wouldn’t it be great if you could also just indicate that they were an acquaintance or someone that you “know well”. I think this would also inspire us to focus more on our network and improving the relationships we have, as there would be an incentive to improving our relationship map with others.
And finally, I want to keep track of the little details that help me remember why I’m linked to this person in the first place. Recently in my job searching, I found that there was a person in my network that had a lot of connections at a company I’d like to work at, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out who this lady was. She was in my network, so I must know her well enough to trust her, but nothing was coming to mind. Worse yet, when I searched my contacts and my whole computer I had no mention of this person’s name. Finally, after going through her whole network to look for a pattern of how I may know her it dawned on me that she changed her name with marriage! If only I had the note field and could have just read my note entered when we met. The good news is that LinkedIn has added this feature in the “Address Book” functionality that is in beta. This should be made more accessible though and brought to the front. Or, even better would be to have Plaxo like functionality that could import and sync all my contacts notes.
In my current job hunting efforts I have found ones network to be the only successful way of getting the interviews at the places you truly want to be a part of. People like to hire people they know or that are recommended by people they trust. That’s human nature. LinkedIn does a great job of facilitating this, but with some additional key features, could become even more powerful to all of us. It may even improve how we all nurture our network.

Location Based Guides Disappoint

Today I was walking back from Golden Gate Cycles where I had dropped off my motorcycle to get a new windshield added. [Yes, I could probably do it myself, but who wants to chance having it fly off while cruising down a freeway?!] It was morning and I hadn’t yet eaten breakfast. I was looking for a simple café to grab my traditional bagel breakfast with a coffee. At long last, a great reason to use the iPhone’s location aware applications!
Standing twenty feet in front of Alexandria Café, and next to a sidewalk billboard, I couldn’t get it to pull up on any of the map based applications. As I sat down to have my breakfast I decided to add it to Yelp and comment on the place. I first went to the Yelp application, but was surprised that it was nothing more than a one way data stream. They haven’t yet included the ability for people to comment on the go. Seems odd given that’s the point of Yelp.
After the café, I walked home. About midway I decided to test the experience again. This time I attempted the use case of someone wanting to find a good lunch restaurant near them. I figured this would work better. I first opened Where, which aggregates a few of these services. But, Where was difficult to use as I couldn’t zoom in on the map and it wasn’t finding me very quickly. I then tried Limbo, one that I think is organized well with it’s fast search of restaurants, bars and shopping places near you. Yet, when I clicked on Restaurants, of the thousands it said it found, all were “1/4 mile” away and none were places that I could visually read their storefront sign. Yelp? No, missed most of the places. Everything wanted to drag me through a long list and was slow to really understanding where I was.
I understand that many of these applications are trying to quickly position themselves with consumers to gain a “first mover” advantage. I think this is the wrong approach. If someone doesn’t like the application, they’re going to delete it and not be inclined to use it again. If you wait, till you really have a good offering, you’re still going to be able to gain share of users as the product will speak for itself and through viral marketing everyone will switch when yours is available.
Where, Loopt, Yelp, Whrrl, Limbo, etc. (iPhone applications) are all far from where they need to be in order to real excite people and provide the service we’ve been dreaming about. These applications need to do a better job of loading the location information (too many times it pulls up where I was yesterday) and need to tailor the content. This isn’t the web on my PC where I will forgive long lists of non-tailored businesses because I can more easily sort and filter them away. This is my mobile phone, I’m hungry and I’m on a sidewalk!

A Better Restaurant and Entertainment Guide

I think I work too much, or something, because it seems most of my ideas originate from needing to be able to orchestrate something quickly and last minute. Or, I’m just a big procrastinator.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m really disappointed with the current restaurant and entertainment guides out there. They just haven’t evolved from a basic database of items with attributes. To really make a great Yahoo! Local or better Citysearch, you have to move away from what fields go in the database tables and start thinking about the user experience first.
Here’s an example use case that illustrates the struggle one has with existing guides (try to go online and solve this riddle quickly):
You have a friend that just called you up and said they’re in town for business and would like to get together for dinner. They’re a close friend and someone you’d like to entertain and show a good time in your city, of which they’ve never been to and are really excited to see. Oh, and they’ve only got a couple of days and one evening with you.
Now, let’s say you want to pick out a restaurant that highlights something unique about your city or has some form of entertainment. How do you find that in a list of cuisines or restaurants by neighborhood?!
Bring on the wizards! The design needs to include a wizard type questionnaire, something that guides you through options and then returns a succinct list of places that match your criteria. Oh, and it should be accessible from your computer or mobile phone. It could start out with basic options (like the Limbo iPhone app): Dining, Event, Shopping, Outdoor Activity, and Indoor Activity. From here, you’d drill down into more specificity that would ultimately bring back the short list of places.
Returning to the use case, we’d start by selecting Dining. From there, it might offer the next options such as: Intimate, Lively, Entertaining, Quick, and Culinary Delight. Let’s say you want to have it be entertaining. The next menu may ask: Live Music, Dancing, Theatre, and Participatory. From here, if you choose participatory it may include a place that has belly dancing, or a restaurant with a comedy show where you become part of the act. Ultimately restaurants could be listed under multiple options if appropriate.
Now, you have some great options, but which one do you go with? At this point, if it’s done right you’ve made it pretty easy, but I’d take it a step further. Let’s integrate with OpenTable and have location based service utilized. Meaning, tell me what has a table for when I can make it and is closest to my friend’s hotel!
To take it just a bit further, let’s say you chose Intimate. The next screen would then ask: black tie, sport coat, nice shirt, outerwear, T-shirt, no shirt. I’m sure your imagination can plug in different restaurants that fit the different attire. Speaking of attire, what a great way to start if the person doesn’t have anything in mind!
I’d include a “no idea” start button that skipped the first menu of Dining, Shopping, Events, etc. and just ask a simple question. What will you be wearing? Then offer the same menu. An example break down for T-shirt might bring up bowling. It would also need to specify when at the end to determine whether to include items with advance purchase requirements.
If anyone wants to give me the budget to put this together, I’d love to!

SMS Promotions on Merchandise Advertising

On a recent trip in Milan, McDonalds had a game going on where you registered via SMS. Using SMS to connect with customers is quite common in Europe and Asia, but still in its infancy here in the US. When looking at it though, it sparked the idea that SMS could really change the way merchandise promotions functioned. The simplest example would be the Coke rewards program. How much simpler would it be if they had a short code and all you had to do was send an SMS to their short code with the number on the bottom of the bottle cap. There system would then recognize your phone number, register you if you haven’t yet and track your points. I bet many more people would participate if they didn’t have to keep track of those bottle caps until they were near a computer!
My favorite merchandise promotion is McDonald’s Monopoly game. Since I was a kid I loved collecting the game pieces and hoping that I’d win one of the big prizes. I never did though, but still enjoyed it each year. Now that I have much cooler toys that use the Internet, I’d like to see a virtual version of the game where each game piece could be registered online or via SMS. This way, I wouldn’t have to keep track of the pieces.
The possibilities are endless and the customer connection is intimate. Provided you were exceptional about how you used and protected your customer’s mobile phone number, I think a lot of people would participate. The trick with all of this will be integrity. You need to state your rules right up front (like how many times you’ll contact the person if they give up their number and send a message to you). After that, you have a two way dialogue you’d never have had.

Office Lunch Aggregator with PayPal Billing

On one of my last projects, one of my managers that regularly gathered lunch orders, proposed the idea of a simple online site to do the job. There are a number of restaurant delivery services in different cities, but none of them that I am aware of offer an aggregation service for work colleagues that includes split check billing.
The idea would be to have integration with a number of different restaurants that provided take-out lunches. The system would then have one person choose the location for the day and then allow a group of colleagues to go to the site and pick their order. They would then be able to pay for their portion via PayPal or something easy for the pick-up person to be able to pay the bill (or have it automatically paid) and get the food.
The simplest way to integrate this service with restaurants would be to have online orders simply faxed to the destination, aggregate the funds from each colleague and transfer them to the person doing the pick-up. More fancy integrations could include automatic payment to the restaurant and automatic insertion of the order to their systems. With an open platform, this could be really awesome.
For now, we’ll all continue to collect cash in the office.
Author’s Note: As part of all my blog entries I try to provide a lot of links to relevant reference material related to the entry. I typically do this research after I’ve written the entry. In this case, I was impressed to find Lunch Prodigy. Now they just need to add billing capabilities!

Remote Desktop Support for Mobile Phones

With the increasing use of smartphones, many users are simply overwhelmed by their features. I’d like to see the ability to access a mobile phone similar to how current remote desktop applications work. I think it would be great if the mobile company or manufacturer of the phone could simply connect to the phone directly and help the customer resolve their issue. This idea may be way before it’s time and need, but it originally came to me when I wished my father knew how to use the SMS application on his mobile phone. I wanted to be able to remotely show him on the phone by having me navigate online and have his phone menus change in front of him. Additionally, with all the enterprise customers out there, I think IT help desks would appreciate being able to remotely take control of a Blackberry or iPhone to investigate an issue (I spent several hours and multiple days with a support person in India trying to troubleshoot a synchronization issue with my last Blackberry and the Blackberry Enterprise Server integration with my companies email servers.

Cupid iPhone App

With all the social networking applications being built for the recently launched iPhone 2.0 software, I’ve noticed that my favorite idea of tech flirting still hasn’t really been approached. I suppose Dodgeball comes close, but not taking full advantage of location based services.
I’d like to see a simple application that is location aware and keeps a profile of me and my interests. Imagine being in a park and the Cupid app pings you to let you know someone else is in the park that has similar interests and is interested in meeting new people. You could immediately connect these two people, allow them to have some anonymous flirting on their mobile phone using SMS or some kind of chat app, then connect them up if they’re interested.
Imagine the possibilities, you could do a “missed connection” feature where Cupid pings you, but you didn’t take the ping because you were busy or not interested at the time. You could follow up later and ping the person with a “missed connection” that would tell them you were both at X location on Y date and time, your profiles matched, but it was a missed connection.
You could share profiles with each other before flirting, during or after. You could even monetize this by charging for the connection. It would need a great online application to complement the mobile app, filling all the traditional features of, etc.
eHarmony has spent a lot of money trying to figure out the algorithm of love. I wonder if what we do and where we go would be a better indicator than a survey. This app could keep track of these things along with our Yelp ratings, Netflix favorites and even our Amazon recommendations.
I’m sure it’s in development or coming soon… Let me know if you’ve seen anything like this.
Some interesting approaches:

Add to iPod Playlists On-The-Go

I have too much music on my iPod! It’s impossible to figure out what to listen to. Recently I have started building play lists that fit a particular mood (e.g., “fun vacuuming songs”, “rainy day smooth”). But, it’s a pain. It takes forever going through my library and listening to all my songs long enough to determine what list to assign them to. What I’d really like is to be able to just turn on shuffle and when a song jumps out as something I’d like to add to a play list, I could do it. It could work similar to how you build an On-The-Go play list, but would allow you to assign to one already existing.

In Line at Apple Store for iPhone 3G

DSC03847.jpgAbout half past midnight I left my house to head to the Apple store on Stockton Street in San Francisco. I had on multiple layers of clothing and my motorcycle leather jacket, stocking cap, gloves and a back-pack filled with more layers and even a towel. I was as prepared for sleeping on a sidewalk as I figured I would need to be. I’ve been known to be able to sleep anywhere, so I figured I didn’t need any fancy tarps, tents, blankets or other creature comforts I was sure would be on display in the line.
DSC03840.jpgWhen I got to the Apple Store there were about thirty people already in line. I had heard that the first person started out Wednesday evening. It was a fairly quiet group of mostly geeks and artists (inclusive of Apple developers). The ratio of boys to girls was unfortunately very high (come on girls get into tech!). I walked to the last place and just stood there. I had no idea what to do now that I was actually in line. Now, many people are thinking, “this guy is nuts waiting in line outside in a city to buy a phone.” I even wondered to myself if I was maybe crossing some imaginary line between the already obsessed Apple enthusiasts and well, part of the cult of Apple. I figured it was going to be a great adventure to say the least, a first person experience of where society comes together for a single moment to celebrate innovation. To be honest, the first hour was pretty boring.
I think I was expecting some kind of secret hand shake to be passed down to me. Wasn’t I now part of a new tribe? I sat down and took a nap. I couldn’t sleep long though, there seemed to be a buzz building. There was no reason. Nothing had changed and only a few more people had joined the line behind me. It was now around 2am. There was a difference though. We had all been waiting there bored. Then it occurred to people that we were all a part of something bigger than ourselves or the individuals we may be standing in line with. Then, the mix. DSC03833.jpgA guy came over with his laptop asking for a MG. He pinged a few of us in line, but none of us was who he was looking for. By the way I saw him glancing back at his computer, I assumed he had made a connection with someone in line, online. He had. A couple people up from me was MG. The two connected live and a whole group began to mix into conversation. The line was starting to interact. I’m sure the folks at the front had their moments already, but the tail was starting to wag. We were now a group. Occasionally, someone would need to run to the bathroom or grab coffee from the 24-hour Starbucks. When they went to go, they’d just turn to their neighbor and ask, “will you watch my stuff?” It was an instant nod and the bond of trust amongst the line increased. There were laptops, cell phones, music players, back-packs, blankets, tents, and even a dog. Everything was safe. Everyone was together.
DSC03848.jpgI happened to be one person away from the guy “holding a place” for an editor from PC Magazine (he was paid $250) and one behind MG from VentureBeat. By 4am the line was now to the end of the block and creeping around the corner. A few folks kept joining the tribe every twenty minutes or so. At one point an SUV pulled up and a whole group got out, set up a giant tent and then went and parked the car. Amongst all the tech, the greatest was seeing the basics of passing time still included, such as reading a book and playing DSC03853.jpgcards. The news crews starting showing up in the early morning, still before sunrise. They’d walk up and down the line interviewing the “die hards”. Application developers were also there pitching their new applications on handbills or demoing them in some instances (Pandora cofounder was walking the line I believe – Pandora is awesome). The excitement kept growing. By 5am no one was even trying to sleep. We were all anxiously awaiting 8am. We were now a part of something. As the sun began to rise, more and more people showed up. We broke a hundred before dawn, but by the time it was day light the line stretched around the block, thicker, stronger and buzzing.

Apple Store Doors Prior to 8:00 AM

8:00:00 AM Pacific Standard Time
DSC03856.jpgSecurity was at the doors, even the police had arrived. Everyone was up on their feet, stuff picked up, and all moved forward about twenty feet. We bunched up. We had been waiting for this moment. We all watched the clock intensely for about twenty five minutes prior. There were film crews from the news stations and photographers everywhere. The doors were opened and thirty people were invited in. First it was about a half of a dozen quickly allowed in, then as we all blinked and wondered if we had really seen anyone enter, the rest of the first group were allowed through the giant glass doors. It had begun. As I was 34th in line I was now at the front of the door lined up to be in the second group (we had all heard they were letting in 30 at a time as folks were still online with their laptops and iPhones reading about what the other experiences were from the East Coast onward. Nothing happened for a while. We could see the first group in line up the stairs. No one came out. We all calmed ourselves by reminding everyone that it was going to take about 15 minutes to get one person through the process. It was 8:06. It felt like it was 9. DSC03871.jpgFinally, the guy that was first in line, came busting out the door all fired up. He was upset because nothing was working and he still didn’t have an iPhone. He had been apparently told that he had to move his tent or the police were going to confiscate it, so he was allowed to come back outside. As he did he was mobbed by the media and went off on a tyrant. He was really peeved. The media ate it up. I was surrounded by cameras, journalists and #1. We just wanted our iPhone 3G. The guy next to me had an original iPhone with a bit of juice left. He said the stock was starting to really slip. I knew it was bad. We heard the servers had crashed and that everything had come to a grinding halt. I knew what happened. Too many transactions all happening at once on systems that weren’t ready for this volume. I’d been in that situation before. I was very happy to not be in the call center fighting this time, but was hopeful that the IT folks would figure out a solution quick. After a while, the first iPhone activated walked out the door. He wasn’t first in line, but his worked first. Slowly a few would come out at a time and eventually, the second group was allowed in the door.
My Turn
When I walked into the Apple store my group was greeted by tons of Apple employees in blue and orange t-shirts clapping and cheering as we ascended the stairs to the second floor. We felt like heros. It was amazing. All smiles….until you got to someone with mobile terminal to ring you up. It seemed like everyone was having problems. My experience was miserable. DSC03877.jpgWhen it was my turn I debated quickly, “white, black, white, black, white, black, … which one do I want”. I choose black. As the employee started the transaction, it quickly failed. She couldn’t get me setup. Nothing worked. She wasn’t sure why either. I had heard from some others before me that there were problems with people that had corporate discounts, not corporate accounts mind you, but just discounted person accounts. As it turns out, Apple and AT&T didn’t setup Apples point of sale system to handle customers that had a corporate discount. What?! That has to be most customers out there! I was distressed to say the least. I was tired, dirty and felt like a two year old having all their toys suddenly destroyed. I was really upset. I slept over night for this. I was a part of this. I was a part of the group. I couldn’t walk out without an iPhone 3G. Multiple people tried to help. Everyone said it was impossible and that only AT&T could do my transaction. I refused to believe it. I was so upset. But, I knowing how these systems worked, I knew that if they didn’t build it to support that transaction, there wasn’t anything I could do. The only option they offered was to get a new phone number (I was an existing AT&T customer). That wasn’t an option.
I left the store, head bowed, and quickly passed the media before I could get grabbed. About twenty paces toward home I remembered that the AT&T store was just a couple blocks away. “Maybe there aren’t many people in line there,” I thought to myself. I began heading toward their store. When I got there, there was of course a long line that had gone down the block and was three or four wide. And, right as I got there, I heard them say they were running out of phones (it was about 9:30am). I decided I’d try to pull the sympathy card and grabbed one of the guys outside that was helping to manage the line. I explained my story and told him that Apple had sent me over here. He was confused and pretty sure they should have been able to activate me. He took my number and went into the store. I waited about five or ten minutes before he came back out. He said everything with my account was fine and that I was eligible for the upgrade. He also was now very confident that Apple could do the transaction and had discussed this with the store manager. Unfortunately, the store manage made the decision that he or she couldn’t let me get one there as I wasn’t part of their line. The guy asked if I thought I could get back into the Apple store. I said yes and asked if he’d give me his phone number to have someone from Apple call when they got stuck with the transaction. He did and I ran off back to the Apple store.
I got into the store after explaining my story and the lady managing the door connected me with one of the managers in the store. I believe his name was Dilon. This guy was amazing. He told me very candidly that he was sure they couldn’t do the transaction, but since I had this AT&T guys number he’d let me into the store and we’d try anyway. I wasn’t sure who to believe at this point, but wanted to try again. Dilon called Cliff from the AT&T store (on a new iPhone 3G – white). They talked for a bit and then came to the conclusion that Apple in fact could not handle my account. But, while talking, one of them had the idea to dump my corporate discount and then try to do it. (Dilon had already tried to inspire Cliff to pull one aside for me at the AT&T store, but that didn’t work). I nodded my head yes in agreement that I was fine having them take off the discount. I figured if it can come off, it can go back on later. Dilon put me on with Cliff as he worked to remove my corporate discount and I got to talk on a live, new, white iPhone 3G. My AT&T account was quickly updated and the first girl that tried to ring me up saw I was back in the store. I caught her up on the story and she went and grabbed someone with a point of sale device so that I could try it. (Apple folks were amazing – patient, empathetic, sincere, passionate) At this point I had a few Apple employees standing around me hoping it would go through. Everyone wanted it to work. We went through the steps…it prompted for me to pick a SMS package…it worked! High fives all around. I was so excited. I was the brand new owner of a WHITE (changed my mind after seeing Dilon’s) iPhone 3G. Of course it wasn’t activated. It was about 10:03am (asked the time) and I still had to “activate” the phone. This process was also supposedly taking a long time. The Apple store was sending most people home to do it, but had lined up all the laptops downstairs to activate phones for those that wanted to hang around and try. Dilon wanted me to try as he wanted to personally ensure that my phone was working. I was game for it too! We went downstairs and he connected me with one of the groups of employees helping people activate. Basically this was the process of connecting the iPhone to a computer with iTunes up and running, waiting for it to time out, unplugging it and then plugging it back in. I did this many times for almost an hour and finally was going to give up. On the last attempt, as I was asking what to expect when I got home so I was prepared, I pulled off the plug and it suddenly activated. SMS messages started coming through and I was live! This was exciting. I thanked everyone for helping me out and now walked out of the store, head held high, bag in hand and a big smile across my face. I felt famous. I was an iPhone owner. As I left the store a guy from CNET was there on his laptop keeping a live blog of what was happening. I briefly told him my story and how awesome the Apple employees were and took off. It was 10:48am.
My iPhone 3G review.

Netflix Recommended By

Often I’m in a conversation with a group of people that leads to movies. It always amazes me how many people remember great detail about movies they’ve seen (e.g., the titles, actors, directors). Having a Netflix account, if I hear about something interesting or strongly recommended I make a note in my phone to add it to my queue later or get online right then and add it. Having done this several times with odd results, I would like to know who recommended the odd or sometimes disturbing movie to me (author note: my father typically is the culprit). Netflix should add a little comment field so that someone could keep track of who recommended the movie. It’s great when another Netflix friend does it online through the site, but often these recommendations come the old fashion way.