Engineer mobile connectivity security social networking

McAfee quarterly threats report Q3 – a worthwhile read

Tinterweb is a wonderful place full of  great things that can change our lives. Of course we all know it is also full of pitfalls, dangers, threats, hazards, risks, problems, exposure, troubles and perils 1.

I have just discovered the McAfee quarterly “Threats Report” . If you haven’t read it you need to rectify the situation. It is an amazing compendium of the threats to which we are exposed when we reach out into the land of the hypertext transfer protocol.

For the convenience of the busy reader I have selected some extracts for your delight.

  • In Q2 the Android mobile operating system became the most “popular” platform for new malware.
  • By Q3 Android has become the exclusive platform for all new mobile malware.

Look out that your phone doesn’t start texting premium rate numbers or broadcasting your personal data or even, as is the case with Android/NickiSpy.A and Android/GoldenEagle.A, start recording your telephone conversations. Don’t give any banking information over the phone will you. The malware stays on your phone for an extended period of time to make sure it catches the right phone conversation!

I’m not a worrier but I have started to think more about protecting myself and my family when communicating. There are some security solutions on the market and I will give them a go over the next few weeks and report back.

The McAfee report has tons of interesting stuff in it – Botnet growth by region, Social Media threats, new “bad reputation” URLs per day (hits 40,000 some days!!!). There are currently over a quarter of a million Active Malicious URLs. The report even tells you the going rate for Crimeware tools – $1,500 for Linux exploit tool LinuQ (with private exploit) – if you are unfamiliar with this don’t ask – it’s a need to know job and I don’t know.

I encourage you to read the report to which I link again here.

1 My thanks to Roget’s Thesaurus for this contribution

charitable Cloud End User social networking

World record attempt – Most comments on an online news story in 24 hours #comment24

To get 2012 off to a racing start we will be having a bit of fun on and aiming for a world record for “Most comments on an online news story in 24 hours”

This is a genuine Guinness World Records category in which the current record stands at 100,000. That’s just over one comment a second. Should be easy huh? 🙂

The attempt begins at 6am GMT on Thursday 5th January 2012 and ends 24 hours later. It would be nice to think that we could smash the existing record by a country mile. Someone mentioned 1million comments – why not?

Between now and then the blog is moving to a high availability, high performance platform, details of which will be made available in a blog post on Tuesday 3rd January.

In the meantime there is much spreading of the word to do to make this a great success.  You will be kept up to speed with any relevant news regarding the world record either on the blog, Twitter (#comment24), Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn (actually all of the above).

We will also be letting you know in advance the type of content that will be in the post for the record attempt so that you can get your thinking hats on in advance for your own comment.

It would be great if you could spread the word on this by “liking”,” Linking”, “sharing” “tweeting” or just telling your friends by good old fashioned “word of mouth”. also has a page on Facebook where you can find out more and a Facebook event here.

Hope you can help  🙂


Cloud Engineer Regs social networking

The impact of digital technologies on the mind – House of Lords style

Over my toast this morning I was flicking through last week’s Hansard, as you do. Yaaawn I hear you say. Come now say I. Buried deep in this mountain of sleep inducing text can be found valuable nuggets of information worthy of dissemination to the wider audience. I am here to serve.

On 5th December the House of Lords held a short debate, introduced by Baroness Greenfield, on the impact of digital technologies on the mind. Beginning with the factoid that a recent survey in the USA found that over half of teenagers aged 13 to 17 spend more than 30 hours a week, outside school, using computers and other web-connected devices the Baroness asked three questions:

Business gaming internet Net ofcom social networking UC voip

The Demographics of Communications

TV watching in decline amongst younger demographicIt’s a bit of a dank dismal day here in the shires and I have the office aircon on “heat”. Don’t get me wrong I don’t mind this weather – it reminds me of my childhood and in particular of wet Sunday afternoons spent watching the black and white cowboy film on BBC2, maybe playing a game of Monopoly and then the excitement of Songs of Praise with Harry Secombe after tea. The highlight of the day was the comedy on Radio 4 at 6.30 or 7pm.

I’m not sure why I’ve “gone nostalgic” all of a sudden especially when those Sunday afternoons were really boring and often used to lead to rows amongst us kids.

These days our kids still argue despite having an incredible range of things to do on a Sunday. After the F1 there’s the XBox and, well more Xbox. Then there’s the Xbox!

Reality is that other than the Simpsons the kids only watch TV when one of their parents decides

Business events social networking xmas tweetup 2011

The premier internet industry Christmas tweetup is back bigger and better than ever.

Last year we were in the Platform Bar of the Betjeman Arms.  In 2011 we are staying with a railway station theme but are moving inside to the Booking Office Bar of the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel.  This is a seriously cool watering hole and a far more sensible use of the space than the selling of train tickets.

This is no ordinary tweetup. Dress code is in keeping with the 5 star hotel surroundings and the drinks are sophisticated. If past performance is anything to go by the tweetup is the party to be at this Christmas.

Try your hand at a cocktail mixed by Nick Strangeway – Master Mixologist. The former World Mixologist of the Year as voted for by experts at Tales of the Cocktail industry event & famous for his work with leading establishments Hix and Hawksmoor, Nick is London’s leading cocktail expert.

The 2012 tweetup is sponsored by a set of extremely generous friends including Timico, Newnet, Powernet, RTP Solutions, Sangoma, Fortinet, Provu , BT and Genband.

If you haven’t been the Booking Office Bar is situated just across the platform from last year’s bash. The St Pancras Renaissance Hotel was voted the Number One Hotel in the UK in The Sunday Times Magazine’s 2011 Top 100 Hotels in the World.

I look forward to catching up with you on the night. Numbers are limited so click here to sign up. You will need the password @trefbash to register. Hope you can make it. The date is Thursday 8th December from 5pm onwards.  Get there early.

photos courtesy of St Pancras Renaissance Hotel.

Apps Business Cloud social networking

Customer Service Twitter Style

albelli customer serviceLast night my wife was trying to upload some photos to to generate a hardcopy album. She  wanted to take advantage  an offer from the Daily Telegraph that ran out at midnight.

The uploading did take some time but I guess the albelli servers were busy because of the promo deadline. Fair  enough. Shortly after 11pm she tried to complete the order but the discount that came with the offer no longer seemed to apply. One unhappy wife pulled the plug on the deal.

I tweeted this and had a response from a follower who had the same problem. It looks as if the set up on the server had the offer timing out at 11pm instead of midnight. Not good but mistakes do happen.

This morning I got a response from @albelli_UK with apologies for the problem and asking for more details.  By 9.40am they had sorted it out and my wife is now very happy with their service.

This is a great example of how Twitter can be used as a customer service tool.  Albelli has turned the situation from having negative PR to positive one and won over a customer. Note they will still have to offer a competitively priced service – my wife can very easily find out what the competition is up to on the wild wild web 🙂

PS yes this is the same telegraph that was hit by a DNS hack last night – as far as I can see the problem is still there at 11am on Monday morning.

End User Regs social networking

We must take care not to destroy the civil liberties we value when considering a response to the riots

We live, always, in interesting times. The global finance system is in crisis, again. There have been riots on the streets, again, with courts working through the night to process the cases of criminals caught breaking, stealing, committing acts of arson, violence, disturbing the peace, assault and grievous bodily harm.

It is natural to react strongly against this and I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone particularly busting a gut to defend the perpetrators. A petition has been started asking that anyone found involved in these illegal activities be deprived of their benefits.

Social media seems to have played a part in the organisation of these riots as does BlackBerry Messenger and the Prime Minister in his speech to the commons today said:

Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill. And when people are using social media for violence we need to stop them. So we are working with the Police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.

This is great in principle but of course not as easy to implement. Also how do we know in advance that they are plotting violence? Do we monitor everybody’s social networks one on the off chance that someone is plotting to do wrong?

For what the PM is asking for there is a parallel in the world of mobile communications. During times of emergency the cellular network can be switched off for everyone except the Emergency Services.  This is down to the need to keep the low call carrying capacity network open for priority communications rather than a desire to stop miscreants using the service.

The situation is slightly different as regards social networking and we have to take great care that we don’t overreact. Twitter, for example, was being used to channel help just as much as BBM may have been used to coordinate the riots. Moreover the fact that these people are communicating using social media tools is likely to be a means to actually tracking them down and arresting them. People have already started being reported for telling friends on Facebook what they have been up to.

There are other parallels concerning internet technologies and the desire of government to control them – website blocking and filtering for example. Where do you draw the line and who decides when a website should be blocked? It has to be a judge. The same applies when considering situations of social unrest as we have just been seeing.

On balance I suggest that we must take great care when considering the application of control over social networks that the PM is calling for.

Note that at the time of writing the HM Government e-petition site has crashed and you get the following message:

End User social networking

Hanging out with the boys on Google+ @ruskin147 @Billt @jeffjarvis

Tried a couple of impromptu hangouts on Google+ over the weekend. The first was one hosted by BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones and was prompted by one of his tweets.

This, my first hangout, was seriously easy to join. Because it was my first I had to download a Chrome plug-in but this happened in the time it took me to move from the noisy TV room to the quiet serenity of the conservatory, a place far more suited to a video conference.

The photo shows the hangout with RC-J (@ruskin147), @billt and @jeffjarvis. The only difficulty was deciding who would be the next person to talk as all 4 of use are fairly verbose individuals but this seemed to happen easily enough.

hangout screenshot courtesy of @ruskin147

I attempted another hangout with @superglaze later using my mobile phone but the google+ plug-in for Android is either understandably not as complete as the website or not yet as easy to navigate.

Google+ is easy to access from gmailGoogle+ is an attempt to steal Facebook thunder. It is late to the game and although it is still very much early days I can already see ways where it would be far more useful to me than Facebook.

Firstly it is easily accessible from gmail, which I always have open on one of my screens. Also it isn’t difficult to see Webex style collaboration being added to the functionality in future. I can already share documents in Google Docs and have side conversations using Instant Messaging.

I have also disabled email notifications for most of my social media activity to cut down on clutter but Google+ notifications appear discretely on my gmail screen which is far more acceptable.Google+ notifications arrive discretely in your main gmail screen

It’s a no brainer for personal use and certainly out competes Skype for the small business. I’m not yet sure whether it would fit with control and compliance requirements for larger businesses although Google Docs has some high profile advocates such as the Daily Telegraph Group.

Seeing as I was there I took a bit more of a look round my Google Docs account. I can now rent 20GB of cloud storage a year for $35. I have never considered doing it before but actually may change my mind. I would probably want more than 20GB but as a backup to my external hard drive for family photos sounds like a reasonable cost.

Although it is early days for this new platform I get the feeling in my waters that Google+ will become the Facebook for grown ups. I seldom use Facebook now (ok,  ok I know I’m not really a grown up) other than for keeping in touch with the kids.

Facebook has announced that it will be making a big announcement on Wednesday – apparently around offering an embedded Skype service. Microsoft owns Skype and a chunk of Facebook. It doesn’t take a big leap of the imagination to see Microsoft buying the rest of Facebook (v expensive mind) as part of its hitherto not so successful march into the cloud. It would also give Microsoft a better chance of succeeding in the mobile space as integration with a Facebook based online platform would give it more of an equivalence to Google and could potentially drive far more consumers to using Windows Phone 7 on Nokia – whenever that comes out.

This is about big business with very big bets on the table.  Exciting times and for most of us whilst we aren’t the ones placing all the bets it is easy to feel part of the game because all this technology touches us. I certainly feel as if I am catching the wave.

End User social networking

Initial thoughts on Google+

Received an invite to Google + yesterday (many thanks to James Fairweather). Initial thoughts are that it could have potential.  The homepage format is not too dissimilar to Facebook but it seems to be easier to find contacts and the Circles feature looks as if I might be able to easily filter who gets what information. I have already deleted one circle though as I don’t think I can manage too many.

Slight cautionary note and that is when you sign up to the mobile version it assumes by default that you want to upload every photo taken on your phone and allow access to your location. The former could work out very expensive and the latter I am uncomfortable with.  I unchecked both boxes.

Not going to say much more at this point as invitations are still switched off and I think I need more than three contacts on Google+ to have an informed view as to how good a platform it is.  Also if hardly anyone else is on it then I wouldn’t want to be seen to be gloating (well probably not) to those who aren’t.

End User social networking

Is #Google+ going to be the answer to my social media management problems?

The Twitter stream started up this morning with a favoured few people talking about their initial reactions to Google+. This is the new Facebook competitor from Google. I am not on the Google+ trials. There is a modicum of envy in this post but not too much.

I want to play with Google+ as a new toy. Something that will allow me to drop into conversation “Oh haven’t you got it yet? I’ll see if I can get you an invite” 🙂

However there is also an element of trepidation.  “Oh no not another social networking platform”.

Clearly Google wants a competitor to Facebook that will stop any erosion of marketing money away from its own coffers. Not so far back it tried Google Wave, the new email experience. As I recall it was meant to be a step in the Facebook direction. That product was far too clunky and I dropped it very quickly. I don’t know anyone that uses it now.

The initial comments from the cognoscenti (ie those give trial accounts) seem favourable but notwithstanding this  I truly hope that it will be easy to populate a friends list.  I spent a long time tracking down old friends on Facebook and the idea of having to rebuild the list on a new platform seems daunting to the point of not wanting to do it.  Somehow though I can’t see Facebook just letting Google extract a whole data set in order to make it easier for them to compete.

My networked life is now partitioned thus:

  • Twitter is my main means of communication – to the extent that my next batch of business cards will only read “@tref”. It’s all anyone should need to find me.
  • Facebook is constrained to people I actually know and in truth I now only use it to keep in touch with my kids
  • LinkedIn – I have changed my views on LinkedIn. This site has evolved and I can see that it could be quite a useful business tool.  I don’t use it much and in fact I don’t see why a super platform that allowed me to have a single list of friends but enables me to partition them into work and play should not be possible. Might Google+ be this? Don’t know yet but it would get around the need to have too many sites to manage.

Otherwise the other communications methods available to me are Microsoft Exchange email for work and gmail for (play!?”).  My phone integrates both these platforms including contacts. It can also do the same for Facebook and LinkedIn. I already find multiple address book entries an issue though. Using a single social networking platform would get around this.

So there you go.  I want Google+ to be Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn all in one giving me a single platform to manage everything including my emails.

Who thinks this is what Google+ is going to be? I guess we will find out soon enough. You can put a request to be a trialist here.


End User social networking surveillance & privacy

My personal guidelines for following people on Twitter

I have been using Twitter for over three years now. Although there seems to be a huge industry and ecosystem building up around the platform I view it all simply as

  1. an alternative to a newspaper (I often hear news first on Twitter) and
  2. a social networking tool – basically what it says on the tin.

Whilst there is no real science as to how I go about using Twitter I have surprised myself and evolved a few rules of thumb to help manage my timeline.

By and large I only follow people, not businesses – usually characterised by “we are having an offer on left handed widgets this week” or similar. This is not a hard rule because there are some businesses there that I take an interest in – competitors and suppliers typically. It might also be a business local to where I live. Sometimes these factors outweigh the fact that their tweets might not be that interesting.

I also typically don’t follow people who are clearly trying to sell me something; “marketing experts”, “financial services experts” or people offering “advice to business”. Usually the timelines of these twitter accounts have one way selling advice/messages. I have sometimes taken a gamble here and found that I made a mistake (eg timeline gets filled with advice, often repeats) and subsequently unfollowed that person. Usually they unfollow me back very soon after. This isn’t a personal thing.

Basically I feel it is a two way street. Normal people that I can have normal conversations with are ok. So if someone follows me who is a “normal person” I follow them back after taking a look at their tweets. I often come across people I follow through specific hashtags (eg #deappg, #deact or #digitalbritain). Birds of a feather and all that.

I sometimes follow people who then don’t follow me back. This is ok – I have taken to following people who’s judgement / comments I am interested in. I don’t look for reciprocity though it is nice if they do follow back.

I tend not to follow celebrities. Usually they have enough followers anyway and are unlikely to be particularly interested in engaging with me.

I recently started to look to see who was unfollowing me, largely to try and understand whether I was annoying people (I’m a great believer in live and let live – life is too short to go round being an irritant). The vast majority are the businesses and “experts” who I haven’t followed back recently – a result really. No harm done.

Sometimes normal people unfollow me. This does make you think a bit but actually in real life you don’t make friends with everyone you know – some people just don’t gell. It’s normal and it must be said that not everyone can cope with the stream of drivel that sometimes comes out of @tref. My Twitter stream is just an extension of my personality – like it or lump it.

It’s a simple philosophy. I am here to engage and to learn and to have fun and occasionally to promote my blog posts and my business. That’s all folks.

End User social networking

Man flings bling in farewell to 4sq – renounces location based networking

I, Trefor Davies, being of sound mind and disposition, hereby declare that I have deleted the Foursquare app from my Samsung Galaxy S2 and intend to take no further active role with said location based social media platform.

This act, performed arguably whilst I was on a roll – ranking 4th amongst my contemporaries and rising in the 4sq table, is done to save my sanity and that of my children and to free up a significant portion of my weekend, recently dedicated to “checking in” at every location I thought I could get away with without being blamed for “rapid fire checkins”.

There are a number of reasons for this highly public (visible to everyone on the planet with an internet connection) position statement.

  • Firstly I found myself stopping the car outside places just in order to be able to check in. This even extended to taking detours to places that I had not previously checked in to in order to get bonus points for new locations.
  • Secondly I found myself more and more regularly checking in to places only to find messages telling me I was lying (your phone doesn’t think it is anywhere near said place). This happened a few times over the weekend including Sunday afternoon when I was sat in the snug of The Strugglers pub on Westgate in Lincoln (I am mayor of The Strugglers – not as difficult a feat as it might sound as you only need to have visited somewhere twice to achieve this status). My efforts to “play” were being undermined by the unreliability of either the 4sq platform or its relationship with the mobile networks.
  • Thirdly my kids were starting to get annoyed & were playing the neglectful parent card, the little rascals.

I started the 4sq journey to see where it would take me. My conclusion is that it is too oriented in favour of the venue. There is nothing , beyond the dubious kudos of being mayor, provided in return for checking in. I see some venues offering a free desert, or half price coffee etc for the mayor. Achieving mayoral status in many places means going there every day – the competition is the daily commuter stopping at a coffee shop to pick up his or her caffeine fix. It is not for the faint hearted.

As the market mature and (if) usage increases this may change but for me for now it ain’t working.

So days out with the kids are now restored to being days out with the kids. I am returning my mayoral trappings (ie bling) and reveal that the following places are up for grabs:

Lincoln Rugby Club, Lincoln Cathedral (probably the hardest one to let go – what a catch), The Bailgate Methodist Church (check-ins whilst picking up from scouts), Whisby Nature Reserve, The Morning Star, Fenella Beach, Peel Breakwater, The Grove (all 3 done whilst on holiday in the Isle of Man), The Strugglers, Newark Beacon, Timico, Super Hand Car Wash, Activities Away and The Eastgate Tennis Club.

I was on the verge of a few more mayorships after last weekend but someone else can have them too. Farewell Foursquare, farewell.

Business social networking

Andrew North walks tall but who is the mayor of Timico?

It’s Friday afternoon. The weekend beckons and with it the barbecue, beer and a total chillout.  With that in mind this is a totally gratuitous blog post. Andrew North is our star Director of Account Development.  He is very good at his job which is why in the picture he walks tall amongst the giants that are his staff.

It may not be clear from the photo that the rugby ball is signed by yours truly:) I have a different one at home that is signed by former Wales rugby giant  Scott Quinnell. I paid bit more for it than the one I signed.

Just to make life interesting I have decided to give away a Timico mug to the first person who can tell me who is the mayor of Timico on Foursquare 1.

Andrew North walks tall amongst giants

Btw I’ve just realised that apart from Andrew there are 8 of them in this photo.  Just enough to form a scrum. From left to right are Jess, Simon, Sophie, Emma, Kirsty, Andrew, Clare, Kate and Gemma. They make a great team.

1I’m sorry but this competition is not open to Timico staff or contractors or any of their relatives (etc)

End User social networking

The Train – an unfolding drama starring Twitter @EmmaFirth @JamesFirth #swt and a cast of characters

Last night I was chatting to a friend on Twitter and suddenly found myself watching a real life drama unfold. Emma Firth The leadinglady was EmmaFirth, journalist with the Daily Telegraph and also heavily pregnant. Her husband JamesFirth played the part of the 7th Cavalry and the cast of characters included #swt (South West Trains) and other Twitter users too many to mention.

The tweets below represent an abbreviated history of the story in which dozens of commuter trains were stranded for hours with no apparent plan to rescue them. In the end some of them, including our pregnant heroine, broke out of their carriage and made a daring and adventurous dash down the railway line to safety in the arms of her man.

This incident has today made major headlines on the BBC and I present for you below the action as it James Firthhappened on Twitter. Some of the tweets are absent but you can easily follow the story line.

The curtains open and we find EmmaFirth in a crowded railway carriage somewhere outside Woking:

EmmaFirth Bloody stupid trains. Been stuck outside woking for 40 mins on second delay of evening. Grr

tref @EmmaFirth oh dear. You need to relax – try some breathing exercises etc.

EmmaFirth Now 50 mins not moving. At least cavalry of @jamesfirth charging to woking on his ford focus on off chance i ever get to station!

tref @EmmaFirth @jamesfirth If I strain my ears I can hear the bugle sound the cavalry charge

EmmaFirth @tref sods law says his charger breaks down. I’m so going for pizza if that happens!

End User social networking

Lincoln – jewel in a sea of tweets #BBCLincolnshire @thelincolnite

sundial on Lincoln Cathedral's South Face represents the "old order"

Lincoln, for those billions1 of you that have never been, is a beautiful romano-medieval backwater towards the right hand middle bit of England, on the way to Skegness.

During the middle ages it was an important financial centre but the bridge across the river Trent at Newark put paid to that as all the traffic shifted eighteen miles to the West. It’s the same old story – people head West to where the money is.

In recent times the good citizens of Lincoln have tried to rectify that centuries old mistake and have built a high speed dual carriageway connecting them with Newark. Also we now have a fine new University that is attracting both money and talent into the heart of the city.

It can truly be said that today Lincoln is a gem set in the rich agricultural heartland that is the county of Lincolnshire. This gem, however is not one content to sit still, to bask in the glare of the flash of the tourist cameras. Lincoln wants to shine out beyond its natural boundaries of river, sea and Great North Road (A1).

Lincoln is now on the digital map and even has a list of top ten local Twitter users (for 2011). This list, which was assembled by the LINCOLNITE, represents a collection of the finest thought leaders2 the city has to offer and despite the author’s claims to the contrary, must surely be an authoritative and conclusive voice on this subject.

Please take some time to ponder on this list and to absorb its undoubted wisdom3

1 I realise the billions bit might give the wrong impression regarding visitor numbers to this blog.  Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Russian and French versions of the site due soon – I’m just waiting for that multi-million pound sponsorship deal.

2 In this case for thought “leaders” read “people who waste considerable amounts of their lives online – the idle Twitterati”

3 I come in at a modest fifth place which of course I am delighted with – just high enough to be noticed but not so high as to give the impression that I spend all my time on Twitter 🙂

Business internet online safety security social networking

Consumerisation of the workplace – part 2 #TREF @EmpireAve

This morning I joined Empire Avenue and got the ticker symbol TREF – v important I’m sure you agree. I did it because people I interact with on Twitter have done so and being a sheep I followed. I hooked my Empire Avenue account up with Linked In, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and then bought 100 shares in eBay.

Whether this was a sensible thing to do I know not – the account hook-ups not the eBay purchase which I don’t care about either way. I am really trusting the application.

After a bit of a browse I decided not to waste any more time and left. TREF was secured. At this point the responsiveness my wireless keyboard and mouse began to slow down significantly and I was hit with anti virus messages on my screen. Uhoh.

To cut a long story short thanks to Michael our IT guy I eventually got rid of the screen and am running full system scans using AVG and malwarebytes.

The last time I picked up a virus it wiped me out for a week and we had to rebuild my machine. That was the week I really road tested the iPad and found it deficient. So this time you can imagine what was going on in my mind. I can’t afford to be without a PC for any length of time.

I write all this because I am also currently thinking about device security

End User mobile connectivity social networking

Location – Foursquare, the Isle of Man and Apple #deappg

harbour lights in Douglas IoM

Last week as the Isle of Man Steam Packet ferry approached Douglas harbour I “checked in” on Foursquare to a location called the “Sea Terminal”. I also uploaded a lovely picture of the watery reflections of the multicolour harbour lights. Beautiful it was.

Then as I got into the car to drive off the ferry I received a text message telling me I had just run up £17.02 (ex VAT) on data roaming charges. Ooo! That was before I had even set foot on the Isle of Man. The notion that I might leave data roaming switched on for the week was out of the question.

I was fortunate in having free WiFi where I was staying. I did however occasionally switch on roaming in order to check in at various Foursquare locations and am now proud to announce that I am Mayor of Peel Breakwater, Fenella Beach and The Grove.

Uhuh! So what do I hear?

End User social networking

Nokia 97 twitter bot retweets negative Nokia PR

twitter screenshot from @tref showing careless retweet

Amusingly the post I wrote this morning, which basically said that people I knew were by and large moving away from Nokia to Android or Apple, was retweeted by a bot from an account called @luv_nokia_n97. I don’t know if this is an official Nokia twitter account but it certainly shows that there is a lot to consider when treading the social networking path.

Clearly the post was not checked out and brands need to either be careful how they implement such “tools” or how they police others’ use of their name on the internet.

PS I’ve left the Nokia N97 name in the post title again – I’m not averse to some free retweeting 🙂

End User social networking

Quorsum Quora? – first experiences

The trendy ubergeeks amongst you will have heard of Quora. Most will not.

The Google meta description suggests that “Quora is a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it.”

According to Wikipedia “Quora is an online knowledge market, founded in June 2009, launched in private beta in December 2009, and made available to the public on June 21, 2010. Quora aggregates questions and answers to many topics and allows users to collaborate on them. Quora was co-founded by Adam D’Angelo (Facebook’s former CTO) and Charlie Cheever. In March, 2010 Quora received funding from Benchmark Capital, valuing the start-up at a rumored $86 million.”

The site is used by a number of high profile techies and there was a flurry of activity on my twitter stream a week or two ago that drew it to my attention.

The nature of these things is that you have to get in early to bag a good username – tref, for example, so I did. You can look me up.

I also tried asking a question. It took me several attempts to get the question in a format that Quora would accept.

My question was “How doth the friendly crocodile improve his shining tail?” The 19th Century grammar was unacceptable to Quora so after a number of attempts to understand the issue I negotiated replacing doth” with “does”. Not as good in its dumbed down form I’m sure you will agree but at least it doesn’t lose the basic tenor of the question.

It wasn’t long before someone came up with the right answer to the question – which is part of a Lewis Carrol poem.

Yesterday I got an email from Quora admin:

“This question is possibly more appropriate for a dedicated poetry website. It currently does not fit within the Quora policy and guidelines. Please modify. See Quora Question Policies & Guidelines: What are the guidelines for questions on Quora?”

Rather than compromise the fundamental philosophical nature of the question (at least in my mysterious mind) I decided to delete it. Turns out I couldn’t or at least I couldn’t within the amount of time I was prepared to spend finding out how to do it

I left Quora a note telling them this and suggesting that I was happy for them to do it on my behalf. They have now changed the question to

What did Lewis Carrol mean by “How doth the friendly crocodile improve it’s shining tail?”

I doubt that Lewis Carrol meant anything by it.

I guess my point is that I have probably wasted about an hour of my time with Quora. Quora hasn’t been the best of experiences though I imagine it has enough high profile supporters to keep hyping it for a while and I wish them luck.

This reinforces my belief that there are so many new things happening all the time that it is virtually impossible to keep on top of them all. It is better to wait and see which ones get established.

Hmm – that way I might miss out on the good username though…

PS one wonders how scalable Quora is? I realise that my question didn’t necessarily fit within the spirit of what the platform is trying to achieve but if it gets scale it won’t be practical for a Quora admin to police each question for appropriateness. There is a flag that allows users to question questions but whether this will be good enough only time will tell.

End User social networking

social media – have you got your uniform yet? #twitter #facebook #linkedin #blog


I’ve been involved at first hand in a couple of revolutions. The first was VoIP which took 10 – 15 years to develop into full scale engagement. The second is social networking which has covered the same ground in about 3 years.

Today I went to a social networking master class conducted by Pirate Glenn @lesanto. People attended because this revolution is happening so quickly. Today felt like a WW1 recruiting session with volunteers standing in line to take up arms. Everyone needs to know where they fit in – it is unpatriotic not to be seen in uniform.

The biggest challenge for businesses is that social networking represents a totally new discipline to embrace. It covers sales, marketing, customer service, tech support, PR and more I’m sure. There may be some overlap in this list but it gives you an idea of the scope.

I’m not about to expound on how each of these disciplines should use social media but one of the problems for a business is deciding exactly how to go about it. This is new territory.

The skills required can be learned and in most cases will have to be because there aren’t many people around that might be called social media experts – witness the fact that Tesco is willing to pay £60k for someone with the right experience.

Most businesses can’t afford to take on more people just to handle social media. They have to reuse existing staff that are already working on something else.

For example a marketing department might have a team of people working on print media production. It takes a serious decision to change the way you work to stop doing one activity in order to concentrate on another but diverting resource from print media to social networking might be one of these.

I picked an easy one there – print media is on the way out but the same issue applies to other areas. Customer service for example. Big businesses are already known for the amount of effort they put in to engaging with customers using twitter. Dell supposedly had 50 people on their virtual social media team.

It’s all very well for a giant multinational but if you are a small business doing this from scratch there has to be an element of faith involved – you will be betting some of your scarce resource on the effort.

I think I’m going to explore this a bit more. If anyone wants to come along to a “workshop” I’ll happily host one and provide refreshments. Drop me a line or leave a comment. I think we can aim for a February get together. Look out a date/announcement next week.

Exit to the sound of “Two Tribes  – Frankie Goes To Hollywood”…

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blog

Apps End User social networking

Facebook use at work on the increase

Our tech support teams tell me that there is increasingly a trend for business customers to call in and ask for Facebook to be blocked in their offices.

I wondered whether there were any stats showing how much Facebook use there is in the workplace but there don’t seem to be any – not that I can find anyway.

It does pose the question as to what level of freedom is acceptable in respect of the use of social networking tools at work. There are arguments both for and against which have been well debated elsewhere.

End User social networking

best use for Ping is on the golf course

When I was a lad I used to sit around listening to music, chewing the fat with my pals. Nowadays I hardly listen to any music other than on the rare occasional night in on my own with a steak and a bottle of red wine.

It may be a generational thing but I don’t actually have time for it. I don’t often watch TV so in the evenings I am on my laptop doing whatever I am doing. Most of the time music would break my concentration so I don’t have it on.

I use twitter a lot in the evenings. That’s instead of Facebook which I now only dip into every now and again. Sometimes I note that people I follow on twitter are listening to music. @jobsworth for example commutes into London and often tells us what he is listening to.

So when Apple announced a new TV service and Ping, a new social network based around music I found it difficult to get excited.

datacentre End User internet social networking

@tref on Twitter…Two Years, Ten Weeks, Two Days and Counting

I joined twitter 802 days ago on 17th May 2008. Since then as @tref on Twitter I have sent 2,623 tweets, an average of just over three a day. Not too bad for anyone who thinks I spend too long on the site.

In June, according to twitter COO Dick Costolo twitter had 190 million users, growing by 300 thousand a day. These users were generating 65million tweets a day – that’s enough for twitter to be building its own brand new datacentre to handle all the traffic.

Business internet social networking

Online instant poll results for #leadersdebate Guardian Times and Telegraph

Interesting to flit round the various online poll results for some of the newspapers, taken 15 minutes after the end of the debate:

                                        Guardian         Telegraph           Times

Gordon Brown                28.5%           16%                        15%

Nick Clegg                        62.1%            38%                     59.9%

David Cameron                 9.4%           47%                       25.1%

I think I will wait for an independent poll –  the above are somewhat partisan.

Interesting to watch technology in action though.  I followed the debate on line with SkyNews and with Twitter.

End User internet security social networking

Facebook messages bringing a link to a website with a virus – look out

Just seen a wall post on Facebook from a friend warning of a virus being sent out from his account.  Next minute I got a Direct Message from him with a link in it. Fortunately I had just seen his warning and was able to delete it. 

This is going to be a problem I can see. I wonder what can be done about it?

End User social networking

Facebook – the golf club of the internet

How is Facebook a business tool?  It is interesting to understand how people use it at work especially considering that businesses do get concerned about staff wasting time.  I have in the past defriended someone because they seemed to do nothing but talk about their car whilst working from home.

A quick snapshot this morning of status updates by my friends show:

MD of a wireless networking company
someone I used to play rugby with
VoIP Technical Authority from one of the worlds leading communications electronics manufacturer
international product manager for cellular handset manufacturer
renowned ISP consultant
university PhD student
international tech journalist
UK Member of Parliament
international cricket website
rugby playing prison warder
gateway presales engineer
MD of international telco startup
product manager for mobile network
global voip and social networking guru
owner of a social media startup
networking engineer
rural broadband activist

It doesn’t matter what the nature of the conversation is between my Facebook friends. It is rarely to do with specific business issues.  The point is it is just a hugely productive tool because it builds up an ecosystem of contacts that makes it easy for me to talk business with them another time, and not on Facebook. It is the internet version of a round of golf.

End User social networking

Facebook now defacto site concerning school closures

Following this morning’s post regarding the use of Facebook to announce school closures due to bad weather a huge proportion of the UK’s scholastic community has taken my advice.

There is now a group on Facebook called “Its far too dangerouse for colleges and schools to be open on the 6/1/2010 “, currently with 31,795 fans, and it can only have been created today!  Of course the poor spelling in the name this group is clear evidence that the schools need to stay open tomorrow – even longer than normal perhaps.  They can all huddle together in the English teacher’s form room and larn 🙂

Good luck to them – anyone for a snowball fight?

End User social networking

Facebook is the latest tool for announcing school closures

Friend Lindsey Annison commented today on Facebook that both her kids’ schools were shut today due to heavy snow. Their websites , however, had fallen over and were not accessible to view the announcements. 

It didn’t stop the kids finding out though as the news spread like wildfire on Facebook and via SMS. Seems to me that every school should have a Facebook Group controlled by the staff even if it is just an intranet/forum. It would grow content far more quickly than a traditional school website (if there is such a thing) that depends on the good offices of an enthusiastic member of staff to maintain and update.

Last year my wife, who is a supply teacher, struggled for an hour through the snow to a school only to receive a text message announcing its closure just as she got there! She doesn’t use Facebook though :-).

Readers living outside the UK will perhaps struggle to understand these problems – this country grinds to a halt the minute the first snowflake hits the pavement. Two snowflakes almost constitutes a snowstorm and kids all over get ready to build snowmen.   Most schools in Lincolnshire are open today, much to the extreme disappointment of the Davies clan.

End User internet social networking

Internet, the Christmas Number 1 and Climate Change

Those of you in the UK watching the Christmas Number 1 music chart battle between the X Factor winner Joe McElderry and Rage Against The Machine may or may not have realised they were watching the power of the internet in action.

Hundreds of thousands of people signed up to various Facebook Groups supporting Rage Against The Machine and have been hugely proactive in getting people to buy their song to keep the X Factor out of the top slot. My son Tom for example was regularly posting on the subject. There were active strategy decisions going on to discuss optimum methods of hitting number 1. How many times to buy the song from where? This is teenagers spending their (parents’ hard earned) pocket money.

Of course this is a fairly frivolous and trivial use of the internet. A bit of fun. It did strike me though that there were other far more deserving causes that could hugely benefit. Global warming for example. The world’s politicians appear to have been letting their voters down at the Climate Change Talks in Copenahagen, regardless of what spin we might be getting from them after the event.

I even thought about starting a Facebook Group on the subject. Then it occurred to me that there might already be one so I took a look. There already is one.

These are the results of a Facebook search for “Rage Against the Machine” followed by those for “Climate Change”

You can see for yourself which is the most popular.

rage against the machine – RATM 466,612 fans
Rage Against The Xfactor 326 fans
YES…Jedward has gone!-lets get rage against the machine no.1 😀 326,991 members
Rage Against The Machine 49,165 members

Slow Climate Change 55,599 members
COP15 – Climate Change – JOIN AND INVITE ALL 49,826 members
Climate Change 1,634 members
Climate Change 407 fans

The biggest challenge I think is how to get the Facebook Generation tuned into issues such as climate change so that they can make politicians sit up and listen.

PS I didn’t buy either of the singles myself. I imagine we have enough copies around hte house now though for me to legitimately have one if I chose to 🙂

End User internet social networking

Village shop to reopen – read all about it!

As usage of the internet grows it has of course totally changed the way people interact. It seems as if I sometimes don’t see my seventeen year old, Tom for days on end but it doesn’t stop me communication with him. We just chat on Facebook.

The image this portrays is of online addicts (of which I confess I am one) buried in their PCs for hours on end ignoring everyone else in the house.

This might well be an unfortunate by product of the internet age. I do however think that this is a phase we are just going through. As technology improves it will give us more control over our lives and allow us to start living again.

This is very much likely to be the case in what might today be called a dormitory village. Most people in these places commute long distances, buy their groceries from superstores on their way home (or online) and village life becomes an impoverished cousin of its glorious social past.

In the future the internet will take away the need for these people to commute, for at least some of the time. The efficiencies that will come will give people time to physically reconnect with others in their local environment and village life will come again. Maybe the village shop and Post Office will reopen!?

In the meantime I have to clean my rose tinted spectacles, get back to my 16 hour day and someone somewhere needs to get around to putting fibre into that village.

PS Tom does occasionally update his photo on Facebook so I do keep up with what he looks like as well. Kids change so quickly don’t they? 🙂