Saturday, December 04, 2004

Networking Principles?

What Networking Principles?

Joining Ryze or Ecademy or LinkedIn does not make you a networker. You become a networker because of the things you do. Doing things takes time. Sadly for most of us TIME is our most valuable resource: it's your LIFE we are talking about. What are you going to do with your life? Why should you spend part of your LIFE in an online social network?

Effective networking expands your understanding, your thinking skills and your life opportunities. That's something you might want. But online networking is new and there are lots of very unreal ideas about the way to network and the supposed benefits.

Networking Theories: We are new to online networking, and most of the theories about the best way to do it are problematic. I don't personally subscribe to the idea the that more contacts the better, I choose to choose my contacts. That said, I'm not overly particular, you can't tell what qualities new people bring, so an element of randomness does enter who I choose to have as a friend or contact. I do not expect to make any sales directly from my network activities. That may happen, but not because I focused on that outcome and expected it to happen. I do try to find and join expert groups. I'm not active in them all, I don't have the time. I've become a member of too many interest groups. That tends to waste too much of my time, although when I write my own letters to such groups it can be personally involving, intensely interesting, often educational and sometimes even useful.

A Suggested Networking Method

Establish a Personal Profile: This profile should be easy to read, and interesting. 50 keywords as recommended by Ecademy, may be useful on your homepage in Ryze too. Photographs certainly help but they shouldn't be too large. Strive to be professional, but also seek to be a real person with interests and passions.

Be a proactive reader and responder: Join groups, clubs or networks on topics that interest you. Read that mail, at least read the best of it. The very best should be printed, read critically and you should feel free to hi-light it and to write your own notes on it. You learn when you DO things. This is easy when people say things that you agree with. However, take time to identify articulate people who put a good case for opinions you don't feel comfortable with, and try to understand what they say and why they say it. Be critical of course: you are responsible for what you feed your brain.

Find Good People: You should make a point of identifying the people who write quality opinions. Visit their homepage's, leave them messages of appreciation, perhaps at a later stage make them contacts or friends. As appropriate exchange personal messages with these people. Choose to associate with quality people. Whatever you do, remember to be a person, an associate, a friend, and not a salesman.

Use the Network to Stimulate Your Thinking: You are now involved in a network of thinking proactive people who are directing you to certain topics of mutual interest. From your own knowledge and experience you have a new and unique reaction to that. Take the time to put your own view into writing. That exercise is valuable to you, it structures your own thinking. Send your view to the network. Because you are writing for others you will more effort into making your points clear. You will be stimulated to put forward your best effort. It matters not one bit if anyone responds or not, you have gained because you made the effort. If your letter attracts constructive feedback all the better. Over time people will come to recognise you for the type of input you give.

Help Others; Be Useful: As H. Dean Hua said, "Trust is a high form of capital." One of the best ways to generate trust is to listen to other people and to respond to their needs. Be a reliable person. Act in a reasonable and constructive way. Offer assistance where it's required. Do you have some expertise? Can you offer some of that knowledge to other people in an accessible way that doesn't cost you a fortune in time. For me, that's why I maintain this blog. I have another blog for business purposes. This blog is one of my public service efforts. Readership is good. Other people pass on the address to their friends.

Being Strategically Strong: I worked in a previous employment for most of two years before people began to know about me. Face to face networking takes time too. You don't build a reputation overnight.

So it is online. I've been on Ryze for 14 months. I have not made the best use of my time because I didn't know what to do. Slowly my efforts have become more effective. I try to do the things above. I'm a member of far fewer Ryze networks than I could join, about 30 (Limit 100) but I do visit them all at least once a month. I do create new topics and discussions on one network or another at least once a week. I respond to a letter or two at least once a day. In addition I try to maintain the Veech Innovation Network, and occasionally this blog.

Look at my Public Ryze Guestbook. The sort of comments people choose to write, are partly a response to my reputation, and partly a response to how I've treated them as individuals. Over a long period of time those comments start to mean something, not only to me but to other people. It's easy to get noticed. It's more important to get noticed for the right reasons.

Slowly, things have begun to happen that I couldn't plan for. People have begun to approach me, often just asking for help, but often at the same time making me a reciprocal offer of help, or suggesting an opportunity for me, so I might be even more useful. When people approach you, you have increased options, you can deal from a position of strength. That doesn't place you in a position of power, more in a position of responsibility. As H. Dean Hua said, "Trust is a high form of capital". Trust is hard to earn and easily destroyed.

You learn by what you DO. Use your contact with your network to do more things, read, respond, write, think, be useful to other people.

Be Patient. The cream rises to the top of the milk. You can see that on Ryze too, over 2-3 years the people with much to offer distinguish themselves.

Veech Innovation Network

Friday, December 03, 2004

Why Network?

Why Network?

Some of us are really dumb. I'm including myself in that group. I'm by nature or family indoctrination or childhood education one of the people who likes to join groups and to be an active member of those groups. For me the idea of the internet and listservers and chat rooms and social networking always made basic sense. But hundreds of hours online have not been productive in the way I imagined. As with many examples what happens on the internet is often confusing and counter intuitive.

20 years ago I was talking to a lawyer about the failure of my business to attract the right sort of clients. I was building my client base by door knocking, by face to face contact. That was working, but I was being invited to help mostly as a low cost accounting service, we were not dealing with the key issues of business structure, strategy and innovation. The lawyer said, "Are you approaching your clients, or do they approach you?" Of course I was approaching my clients. In his eyes that was a strategically weak position. When new clients approach you because you are the person many people recommend, you have a strategically strong position.

The value of networking is that over time you can develop a strategically strong position.

Networking Theories

Maximize Contacts: Many people involved in both face to face networking and in online networking believe that the numbers are important. When you first meet people, or when people first become known contacts, you can't tell if that will be helpful of not. This theory says, "since I can't choose the good or the bad contacts it's best just to accumulate as many contacts as possible. If one in 20 is likely to be "productive" in a business sense, then I'm better to have 10,000 contacts than 100 contacts.

Random Contacts: Thomas Power of Ecademy is very strong on the idea that "random contacts" have value. My expertise is in innovation. One of the realities of most innovations is an accident or a random event that allows the innovator to see what he or she couldn't see before. Even so, if you are planning to do something you try to make a plan and to act in a constructive and directed manner. Randomly casting about isn't likely to be most productive way to behave.

Making Sales: It seems so obvious that with a few million people online, that one should be able to "sell" things to these people. But in fact the power of online advertising and email marketing is weak. Not many of us have a product that has real value that we can effectively deliver "online". If your product can be more efficiently delivered locally and face to face, you probably have a competitor in the local market who is much better placed to make the sale than you can ever be. It's much easier to spam people and to offer products of zero or doubtful value to people than it is to offer products or services that have genuine value. "Free" has become a dirty word because it's been consistently misused on the internet. Despite the news to the contrary, online sales are not "taking off." Despite what you are told, "advertising online" is not a value proposition.

Expert Groups: One of the key reasons I have joined so many networks is to be part of many expert groups. In the early days of the Internet these groups were easy to access and very informative. Sadly These groups have become inactive or harder to access. Spam attacks killed the very useful Usenet system. Yahoo Groups were for a time very valuable, but lax security at Yahoo allowed the group mail addresses to be harvested by robots, and Yahoo groups members became the target of spam attacks. Today expert groups have largely become private. They are on university or government servers, or inside social networks like Ryze, or are perhaps operating as Yahoo Groups or Google Groups. These groups may not be available to the public. Many website's offer a bulletin board for user discussions, but these are usually poorly used.

Expert groups exist. Usually membership is free and open to peers, but unless you are a peer you are unlikely to know how to find and access that group. Peers openly and routinely share information and expertise with each other. But generally they charge other people for this sort of help, so if you arrive as a newbie, you will probably need to prove your status as a peer before you are accepted. You might be able join a list, but you become a member, when the existing members accept you as a serious voice. Most of the expert groups that were too public have gone silent.

Interest Groups: Many groups that look like expert groups are in fact mostly populated by wanabees. There may be peers of two types, the inexperienced and the experienced. Both groups tend to sit silent. The inexperienced not knowing what to say, and unwilling to expose themselves to adverse comment. The experienced looking to find and meet their real peers and not very interested otherwise. Most of these groups have limited amounts of mail and the quality of that mail is only fair to good. So how does that help? First it gives you a clear idea that the Internet is chest deep in newbies. When you get a letter that misunderstands an idea you know about, you can reply. Lift the quality of debate. Offer your own knowledge. In answering letters like this you often discover were your own growing knowledge lies. You don't learn much by mearly reading the posts of others. When you research and write your own post, you stand to learn a great deal. First you consolidate your own ideas, second you may get some feedback that will enlarge your thinking on that topic. Then you slowly establish your reputation among those who read the mail. Finally, you come to the attention of the few real experts in the group. When you are recognized as a peer you will be contacted by them. To succeed in networking you need to be proactive. Do things. Initiate activity. Take a stand.

Many people join social networks and make no progress as members. They simply don't know what to do. But H. Dean Hua, isn't like that. He joined Ryze and did all the right things. He was very active and built lots of contacts and an excellent reputation, but it didn't turn into immediate business. Here's what Dean wrote in December 2004.

When networking, don't expect too much
by H.Dean Hua

Regardless if you are networking online or offline, try not to expect too much from a meeting. Sometimes, you should just try to enjoy the journey before arriving at the destination itself. It's been said many times, but it takes time and trust to develop any sort of relationship with people. Trust is a high form of capital that many individuals don't have yet. But once you have gained it, you may well consider yourself to be very more ways than one.

That's my thought of the day.

Dean ~~ the financial quarterback

I understand what Dean is saying. I share that experience, but I've learnt so much, I can have no regrets. The problem is that what Dean and I have done takes too much time for too little result. So how can we network more wisely? More Tomorrow.

Veech Innovation Network

Thursday, October 14, 2004

First Steps on Ryze

Ryze is a very friendly and very effective social and business network. But most of the people who join don't go on to become participating members. Here are some really bad numbers that I want to change. These numbers are based on a small sample, but they are indicative of a problem new members have.

74 people join Ryze. 30 never join any networks and 30 more only join a few networks. Of the other 14 about half never generate more than 4 or 5 friends. Of the 74, only 8 became well established on Ryze. So I ask why? The simple answer is that it seems too hard. So I ask, Why?

One problem has become clear to me only after being active here for three years. When you first join you have some idea why joining Ryze might be useful. Then perhaps immediately you strike a barrier, something you've never done before. It seems too hard. So you do nothing. OR The reason you joined, maybe to sell your product, is made difficult on Ryze because the rules prevent (or at least limit) sending spam to people, and advertising AT them doesn't work either. If this is you: don't rush off too soon. There is much more here of value, far more valuable than all the sales you might make. The opportunity to discover new directions and a new life for yourself. That opportunity is real, but the discovery depends on what you do.

My research on the things successful people do comes up with these 4 simple things.

1. Complete your Ryze Page, simple plain text is OK, you don't need to write, HTML.
2. Join at least TEN networks and read enough of the mail to get to know some of the people who write.
3. Drop a personal message to some of these people or make entries in their Guestbook's. Tell them you like what they write.
4. Ask some of these people to become your friends.

There is nothing too hard about any of that. Join, show and interest in other people, tell them you are interested. Be an interesting real person yourself, let people see what interests you.

Complete your Ryze Page: I suggest you load a small picture of yourself, or of something you love. In addition in plain text write a few words about yourself and add half a dozen quotes that you like. Half a page is fine. Fill in the "Have" and "Wants" fields. Finally if you wish, and I suggest you do, make your guestbook public.

Join TEN Networks: Just put your interests into the search engine on the networks page. You'll soon find at least ten to join. In the beginning as you join the networks leave the mail notification turned on. Back in your mail system create a file for "Ryze Mail" and when the first letters begin to arrive make a filter to sent that mail directly to the "Ryze Mail" box, rather than into your own "In-box". Finally, one or two of the networks you have joined might turn out to be "high traffic networks". 20 or more letters a day for instance. Go to your Network Page, "Edit Networks" and turn off the mail from those high, traffic networks. (But remember to look in most days and see what mail is there.) Ten networks should be easy to manage. If you want to join more, by all means do so.

Read the Mail and Respond: Try to read at least some Ryze Mail every day. Of course you don't need to read it all. Try to find the interesting stuff. When you find something you really like, tell the author. Go to the author's guestbook, or leave a personal message. If you feel very confident you can even write to the network, but if you do that try to say something that adds to the debate. (Don't say something like, "I agree." That wastes far too much of the valuable time people never have enough of.)

Ask people to be your friend: It's simple really. First you get to know people in the networks. When you know them, it's no big deal to agree to be friends.

There in four simple easy to do steps is a "how to get started on Ryze" that everyone can do. I wish you well. Remember you join a business network like Ryze so that you can learn from other people. When you join a Ryze network, it's like taking up a position on a crossroad. You get to see all the passing traffic. That traffic allows you to learn. You can learn by just lurking, but you'll pay far more attention and be much more engaged if you begin to make posts yourself. Where learning is occurring there will be innovation, and that innovation is the key to your future. Make a start now, join some networks and find out what other people are saying.

The Innovation Network

Friday, September 17, 2004

Paid Membership On Ryze

Paid Membership On Ryze -

Ryze earns part of it's income from paid memberships. In my view the description of what's offered is not well considered. Ryze pretends there are several "benefits" that a not real for most people. However, there are real benefits. Ryze management is just confused (temporarily I hope) about what they are.

Gold membership of Ryze costs $9.95 per month. (Annual Gold membership for $99.95/yr) Many pay for the satisfaction of knowing that they are full participants in Ryze. It's expected that paid membership of Ryze will mostly interest business people and have a business purpose. By recently creating restrictions on the ability of Free Members see and contact each other, Ryze has made Gold Membership more important. Time will tell how that change will affect how Ryze develops. (Ecademy has restrictions like this too. That was one of the key reasons I focused most of my efforts on Ryze.)

Loading More Pictures: Gold members can load up to four extra pictures on their Ryze Homepage's. Can I make a plea here for small pictures. Too many pages have four or five large pictures which have not been compressed. If your page won't load in 20 or 30 seconds change the images.

Send Messages to Distant Members: Ryze says, "With a Gold membership, you can communicate with up to 25 distant members per month, people who are not within 2 friends of you and not in the same Networks as you." This is the new restriction posing as a benefit. However it's a fair call. If you needed to build a network and you can only invite 25 distant members a month, you can still contact a lot of people in a year. Considerately contacting new people takes time. You must choose your audience and write only to people who are likely to be interested. You can use pivot searching to find people who share interests.

"If you want, you can let any member communicate with you, without counting towards their communication limit." You should turn that option on, it doesn't help you, but it may help others.

Increase Your Ability to "See" and "Be Seen": Ryze says, "Web site URLs in profiles are now only visible if you're a Gold member or visiting a Gold member's page, or within 2 friends of the person." That means that if you are promoting a business, your business URL will not be visible to many "free members" unless you are a Gold or Platinum Member. In addition as a paying member you get to see almost all the content of any members page, including their business links and the networks they have joined. (But not their guestbook's if they are set to "friends Only".)

"Have your photo displayed in a large size (instead of tiny) next to your posts to the message boards, giving you better visibility and marketing" It's certainly true that recognition by your photograph is very useful. People are visual, they remember images.

Scan the List of Newest Members: Ryze says, "Save 4 hours each month using the Newest Members List -- Scan through mini-bios of the newest members all in one page without having to click through to each." This is a non-benefit pretending to have value. New members are not good material to network with. (They might be great to send spam too, but we're not doing that.) A few of those who join are new to Ryze but not really internet newbies. People like that will find materials like this Blog quite easily. They will very soon come to visit you. Trying to chase them isn't good use of your time. There are better things to do on Ryze.

New members on Ryze need mentors to help them get established. I suggest to Ryze that they establish a mentor programme for volunteer established members. A trade off. New Members are asked to choose a mentor, to be their "guide for a month". The person chosen gets a month's Gold Membership. Thousands of people join Ryze and never really get started. What a waste.

(Off Topic Note) Internet Newbies: Internet Newbies (About 80% of all Internet users in my view.) are unresponsive to realistic messages. They are newbies because they lack understanding and confidence. Any time you spend on them is 90% wasted. Please note that I believe training newbies is a very important task. This Blog is my response to that need. But I'm not going to hold every hand until each one develops the confidence to be independent. There is an enormous need to train newbies, but it costs a fortune in time and effort. I've met people with five years of internet experience who remain newbies. The main problem is that they won't "join" so they never get into a group where they might learn something. All learning is social. Newbies are human beings. They are probably engaged in some other social activity, that gives them pleasure. In the worst case they watch TV. They don't want to "join" or to be "trained" so they "resist" in every conceivable way. They will learn when they are "ready" and not before. Newbies have to turn themselves "on". Joining Ryze is a wonderful step in the right direction. But thousands of people join Ryze, partly set up a Ryze Homepage and then lose interest or get frightened off by fear of the unknown.

Your Own Network: Gold members can "Create a Network on Ryze, adding hundreds to your network and increasing your prominence and visibility" This is a real benefit, but most network leaders fail to build successful networks. Note the emphasis on "adding hundreds to your network". That will only happen if you know how to work with people. There is a great deal involved in being a successful network leader. Much of it is in the art of being useful to other people.

Success as a network leader involves choosing an interesting topic, setting fair rules for your network and creating yourself a large number of interesting posts while the membership slowly grows. You can use the pivot search process to identify people who might enjoy your network. As a Gold Member you can contact up to 25 such people every month and advise them about your network. Please do more than that. Be useful to these people, offer them something that helps.

There is a Ryze Network called Ryze Network Leaders and another one called The Virtual Handshake. All people leading networks should join both of those.

Writing in HTML: Ryze says, "Use of an HTML Editor, that lets you create your home page, message board posts, event descriptions, etc., without programming or installing software (it's in Flash)" I view this as a doubtful benefit. There are much better HTML editors available free. I usually suggest using the Composer function of the old Mozilla browser.
Warren Contreras suggests the Arachnophilia Editor which looks functional to me.
I've just discovered the joy of Mozilla's Firefox Browser, and you can add the CuneAform HTML Editor to it's toolbar.

You only need six or eight tags to write functional HTML text for letters to Ryze forums. Anyone can do it.

Face to Face Meetings: Ryze tell us to "Save $3+ at Ryze mixers and other featured events (easily covers at least half the cost of gold membership)" This is another doubtful benefit. You have to spend money to make the "saving" and there needs to be a programme of Ryze Mixers in your area. On the other hand people report excellent benefits from attending Ryze Mixers. Any social gathering is as good or as bad as it's organization. That depends entirely on the skills and abilities of the local organizer. If the leadership is good the mixers will be worthwhile.

Be a Person of Value: Ryze suggests that you should "Plan for productive networking at Mixers using the View Attendees Bio's. You get a summary of all attendees' backgrounds all in one page, without having to click through to each! So you can connect with the 5-10 most relevant people for you to network with at an event." This is another benefit in theory, that doesn't exist for most people. The emphasis here is on, "What can I get for me." The focus should be on, "What do I have to give the group?" Make yourself USEFUL to other people. Start by reading their Ryze Homepage's, take an interest in their posts to networks, listen to what they say. Be real to them.

Platinum membership

Ryze Platinum Membership costs $19.95 per month (Annual Platinum Membership $199.95)

"With a Platinum membership, you can: Enjoy all the benefits of a Ryze Gold membership, plus"
"Lead up to 3 Networks on Ryze, instead of just one, giving you more visibility and the ability to market to different groups with different focuses."
There is a huge amount of work to leading one successful network, let alone three. Leading three networks on different topics is likely to confuse people about your purpose.

I can see uses for multiple networks in a business framework. You can run an active public network, and run two related "private" networks for your "paying customers". Access to the main network is open to all. Access to the private networks is restricted, invitation only, and subject to your approval.

Plus; you can "Communicate with up to 35 distant members per month, people who are not within 2 friends of you and not in the same Networks as you." That's the ability to contact 10 additional distant members a month. Useful I guess, but if you are running three networks you'll probable never get the chance to use them.

Innovation Realities

The new restrictions on what you can see and who you can contact are I believe intended to drive up Gold Membership. I expect that after some people drop away, that effect will occur. Ryze needs a strong revenue model. If the network doesn't produce cash returns it will die. Ecademy tries to drive up revenue with advertising. Let's not use that model on Ryze.

[insert] Adrian Scott, Ryze Founder & CEO remarks in comment "1" below "The changes are designed to reduce spam and encourage thoughtful networking. The effects on Gold membership are unknown and a risk for Ryze, rather than a goal of these changes." There is access to the "Updated version: improving the quality and experience of business networking on Ryze" here. Thank you Adrian for the input. I don't mind being wrong, I just wish it didn't happen all the time. [/Insert]

In my view Ryze Platinum Membership, has been badly thought through. My expertise is in innovation. My knowledge tells me that all innovations are messy, and when large groups of people are involved bloody too. It's easy to be wise afterwards, very difficult looking forward.

None of us really know why Ryze works so well, and what small changes might enhance it or kill it. All our theories about that are simply ideas that we can't easily test. What will happen because guestbook's have become "Friends Only" areas for most people? We can't tell. Ryze hopes that people will use the guestbook's for chatty little personal notes I guess. Text Messaging via guestbook's perhaps. Maybe that will work. That's not what I see as the purpose of a guestbook.

There is enormous opportunity for Ryze and several other Social Networks to grow and prosper. These are early days. As our experience grows we begin to see new possibilities. We try to make changes that take us forward. We do something. We learn. Some of what we learn confounds our expectation. Why? We get some new ideas and we try again. Research Scientist, Andrew Wylie (He published in 1972 a paper on the discovery of apoptosis), described the innovation (discovery) process as like crawling down a blackened corridor on hands and knees looking for an exit. The problem is that you can find exits into rooms that have no real windows and only a single door, back into that black corridor. Trying to move forward with any innovation is like that. When you can "see" you are probably not making progress. When you are making progress you usually can't be sure if you're doing the right or the wrong thing. What you can be sure of, is that time teaches valuable lessons to those with eyes to see. We are all wiser with hindsight.

The latest changes to Ryze are interesting. Lessons will be learnt. Real innovations take a long time. Progress is made in many small steps, not always successful steps. It's important to conserve resources. Wrong moves and mistakes teach you how to succeed. So long as innovators maintain their resource base ( best ideas, people, customer base, leadership and cash) they can go forward to fight another day.

If innovation interests you see the Veech Innovation Network on Ryze.

John S Veitch
You may comment privately to John S Veitch using this form.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

How to Prosper On Ryze - Free Access

How to Prosper On Ryze - Free Access

Privacy: When you join the Ryze Business Network your page is marked "private" until you make it "public". This gives you time to organise your page and make it look interesting. Provide a small photograph, if not of yourself, then of something that you are interested in. Add some basic personal details, but don't include your real email address. Find half a dozen quotes you like and put them on the page. Make your page "public".

Your Ryze Name: You might also notice that almost everyone on Ryze, joins using their personal name, their real name. There are quite a number who choose a nickname, and a few who register under a business name. Using real names encourages trust. But it's possible that using a real name could cause you problems. How confident are you? How public is your real life? I've had lots of good things occur on Ryze because I use my real name. But I've also been abused by two people. (Called a "communist" and "Liberal moron" and a few similar things.) I'm a big boy, and things that are not true only hurt if you let them. Still there was a spat, I stepped up to the plate in defence of civil discussion and I got abused for it. That seldom happens on Ryze, but it's possible.

Who You Can Contact: Ryze says, "Basic level members can only communicate with people within 2 friends of them, or in the same networks as them." This means that there is encouragement for you to join many networks, or to develop a large lists of "friends". I personally think that works against building the best quality networks, but this emphasis on numbers is driven by commercial realities. Ryze is still learning how to make a great social success into a stable business.

Guestbooks: Ryze Guestbooks are "On". You have the option to turn your guestbook "Friends Only" or to turn it "Off". You can change your guestbook Preferences Setting. I suggest that you keep your guestbook public, but there might be good reasons why you would not want that. (You might for instance be the Prime Minister of some country. You need to lurk, but you don't want to be "public" and you of course don't use your real name.)

Scott Allen is one of the leading authorities on internet networking. Scott says, "I'm a big advocate of guestbooks, but I believe they're best used to promote the other person, not yourself. Thank them publicly for a favour they've done you, congratulate them on a recent success, provide a testimonial regarding their product or service, etc. Do them a service by calling public attention to something positive about them. And you look better in the process, too."

Public Guestbooks: When people visit your page they may leave a guestbook entry. In the beginning you might be "attacked" by a few foolish people trying to attract a newbie into their network marketing scheme. If you are not interested pay no attention. Delete the guestbook entry. When you visit a members Ryze page, you may have a chance of leaving a guestbook entry. If you have something interesting and positive to say, by all means make an entry. If your thoughts are negative, don't bother. It's a rare person who will appreciate an honest but critical remark. Save your efforts for things that are productive.

Join some networks: I suggest that in the beginning you join one high traffic network and six to ten low traffic networks. You can't tell which is which until you see the traffic flows. Join networks that are related to things that interest you. Use the filter on your email system to direct all the mail from Ryze Networks into a Ryze Network folder, this mail should not go into your inbox at all. If you have joined a high traffic network the mail messages from that network will be huge, maybe as many as 100 letters a day. Turn the message notification to that network off. Decide to visit that network every day, and be sure you do that. The other networks with low traffic will get mail in little bursts. There may be nothing for a week or so and then a little clutch of 4-10 letters. You need email notification for networks like that.

Ryze says, "The Networks section of home pages is only visible to members within 2 friends or who are both in the same Network." That means that one restriction on free members is the inability to see who's there, and to see all the information about the people who are there. This policy forces "free members" to join more networks if they want to extend their range of contacts. I think that leads to silly behaviours like joining networks you never visit and have little interest in.

Successful Lurking: Now you need to spend perhaps half an hour a day reading the mail on your networks. They call this reading behaviour "lurking" because although you are a member, and although you read the mail, none of members of the network know you are there. This is a learning time. You will lurk until you have the knowledge and the courage to change your status and to write something yourself. Most people can't imagine that they will do that. Please remember this idea for later use: As a reader of a list or network you are not fully engaged. Once you identify yourself and begin to write to a network your engagement with the group changes, and the benefits of membership begin to multiply. All learning is social, but to benefit you need to behave in a social way. You decide when to claim your full rights as a peer. That starts when you begin to offer your own viewpoint in a public forum.

Friends: One of the standard features of the social network scene is the identification of friends. As a new member, you may feel obliged to accept everyone who turns up as a "friend". You need not do that, just accept as "friends" those people you have developed a knowledge of, people who are known to you and who have a good reputation in your eyes. Choose your friends wisely. And choose wisely when you ask someone you know to be identified as your friend too. Current Ryze policy encourages people to add as many people as possible to their "friends List" which is entirely contrary to what I think a friends list should be. There is pressure for a second level of friends, perhaps, "People I know", but that option doesn't currently exist.

Contact Manager: On Ryze there is an option to place a record in your "Contact Manager" when you visit the homepage of any Ryze Member. This tool is poorly understood and poorly used. I suggest you establish a routine were you add to your contacts anyone you are likely to be interested in at some future time. You can edit the information in the Contact Manager. If you leave a guestbook entry or send a personal massage, you might choose to record the date in the Contact Manager. If you make an offer to someone, you might record the date and the type of offer made. There is a place for Phone Numbers. Email, URL:, Company, Company Address, Home:, Home Address, Category, Follow Up Date, Interests, and Notes plus a direct link to the persons Ryze Homepage. I've neglected this facility, but now I see that I can edit the record and that it's private to myself, I'll make more use of it.

Pivot and Advanced Searching:You can use the pivot search process to build a list of people who work in an industry, or to find out who lists photography as a hobby, or who shares my interest in innovation. If I'm looking for specific and uncommon expertise, this can be valuable. As a free member though, you will not be able to "see" all the people available because of the "two degrees" restriction.

Collecting "Knowledge" Data: There are several more things you need to do as a member of Ryze to get the best benefits. First of all look for ideas and opinions that inform your knowledge base; learn. I end up printing several pages a day of interesting material collected on Ryze. I cut and paste the best letters, or parts of them into my word processor, edit slightly to remove extra blank lines and extraneous address details, and print the resulting text. It's much more efficient to read papers than to read text on screen. (However it also costs much more. I run a laser printer.) The very best of these papers eventually get filed in a subject labeled vertical file.

People Data: Second, find people you identify as interesting and knowledgeable. Perhaps you might print part of the homepage's of those people, and keep that detail in a folder somewhere. Too little attention is given to finding good people. When you seek information on a topic you find something useful but specific. When you find a good person, he or she is likely to have sound ideas on hundreds of topics. Good people are the pure gold of networking. Of course you will do your best to be a "good person" in the eyes of other people. Ryze works because mostly that's what people are doing.

Network Data: When you visit the Ryze pages of people you admire, check-out the networks they have joined. Have they found something interesting that might interest you? Some of the Networks you originally joined will be run by people who have poor leadership skills. Leave. You don't have the time to waste. As a free member sometimes the network memberships of a person you are visiting won't be visible to you.

Writing to Networks: You can write to networks in plain text. Write only when you have something to say. Please avoid wasting the valuable time of other people, by posting two line "replies" that add nothing to the knowledge of the group. Form an opinion. Express your opinion. Quote from previous letters, but generally delete any previous text that's not part of the issue under discussion. You only become a full member of a network once you begin to post your own letters. When that happens your interest in the network will increase, and other people will learn that you are there, and who you are too.

Writing in HTML: This seems like an advanced skill to a newbie. If you need to, get a copy of the Mozilla Browser which has a WYSIWYG editor caller Mozilla Composer in it. You can make headings, bold text, change fonts, and create links all without any special skills to learn. You can view the source, and you can cut and paste the source into a Ryze page or a Ryze letter. It's a simple process. You'll soon learn how to make minor changes to the source code. One day you will find you don't need the WYSIWYG editor any more.

John S Veitch
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Social Networks like Ryze and Xing

Newbies Avoid Social Networks like Ryze and Xing

Newbies Avoid Social Networks like Ryze and Xing, they even avoid places like MySpace. They say that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. Likewise you can give people good advice but you can't make them understand it. Below I try to give you some excellent advice. You choose what to do.

There is so much that is new on the internet, much of it confusing to newbies. The news media is often seeking to promote fear of the internet, creating a negative attitude in the community and making many people reluctant to explore what the internet can really do. If you are connected socially with people who are not really internet literate, you will learn from them how to be like them, internet illiterate. All learning is social. Find the most skilled user group you can. Mix with them. They will teach you what you need to know.

To learn about life on the internet you You will probably need to change these settings, but the idea is to understand the need to mix with people who are strong internet users. You can find people like that on Ryze.

You'll only become a full citizen on the internet when you are a member of a group which contains people who have good skills. Social networks like Ryze and Xing offer that opportunity. Even so, most of the people who join such networks never learn to reap the benefits of their membership. If you just sign up, nothing will happen except that your space will be reserved. You need to participate to get any benefit, you need to become socially involved.

I'll talk about Ryze, because that's the network I know best. Xing has some nice features too, but it's even more complex and more difficult for newbies to cope with. Free membership of Xing is a bit restrictive. Free membership on Ryze lets you do a great deal more.

This rather long piece is more than busy people need. For a quicker way to get to the key things see "First Steps on Ryze" before you read this one.

Getting Started on Ryze

Your Basic Page Header: On Ryze when you join you get an opportunity to establish a home page, with some details about yourself. What your name is, your present occupation, the firm you work for, the university you attended, the city you live in, your goals and objectives. Without these basic details your page can't begin to function. Then you can add a photograph, the web address of your company, and if you have them, your personal web page and your personal blog address. These latter enhancements are useful but not essential parts of a Ryze page.

Privacy: Your first Ryze page is private and your guestbook is set "on" for public access. (You can change it to "Friends Only" but since you probably don't have any "friends" yet that means there is really no guestbook.) This permits a few foolish newbies on Ryze to spam your page. That might last about as week until your listing as a new member ends. You can delete those messages if you choose. Don't be put off, it won't last. Yes the big frightening world of public internet use does exist, but it's very safe on Ryze, trust me. More on this later.

Show that you are a real person: Within a few weeks of joining Ryze you should put some personal text into your Ryze page, perhaps adding some small photographs. Most people do this by choosing some quotes they like and they include a photo or two. An image of the city you live in, perhaps a family photograph and a pet photograph. Simple stuff. Sadly hundreds of people who join never have the confidence to do that. Their pages never become interesting to read. The message is clear, "I'm not an interesting person, please ignore me." They will get their wish.

Join some Networks: On Ryze there are hundreds of networks that you may join, most of which have a very low message load, but some of which get hundreds of messages a day. People can't know that when they join. Far too many people never join any networks. Some people join a large number, and turn off the email notices about postings. In both cases you are essentially not connected.

I suggest you join several networks. Make a list of your interests. In the Search Function on the Networks Page try each of your interests in turn. Join some of the networks that you find. Leave the mail option functioning. One or two of those groups are bound to have massive mail traffic. When you see that go back to the network page and turn mail from that network off. Make it part of your schedule to visit that network, once every day.

Don't let yourself be overwhelmed with 100 or more new letters suddenly arriving in your inbox. Use your mail filter to put all Ryze Network Mail into a Ryze Folder on your hard-drive. ( All mail from "Ryze Networks-Admin".)

If you've done that much you have set the foundation to be a successful member on Ryze. If you need help with any part of that, ask someone.

Try these networks where beginners questions are welcome HTML Helper The Virtual Handshake Networkers First Stop

John S Veitch
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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Social Networks - Relationships are Fundamental

Social Networks - Relationships are Fundamental

In the last six weeks two people who have lots of network contacts and loads of experience hit the rocks nose down when trying to manipulate their social networks. I will not disclose who these people are, but both of them are people I know and respect. Yet they both got it wrong. Why?

One of them believes in the power of numbers. In his view the function of a social network is to open as many potential gateways for meaningful messages as possible. He states clearly that there is great value in random connections, that trying to choose who you connect to is a mistake. In his view, "Just make as many connections as you can. One day that will begin to pay off." But nobody can sustain 2563 online "friends" in any meaningful way. They just become a target for network spam, which is exactly what happened. Many "friends" responded with anger about becoming targets for unwanted messages.

The other one believes as I do, that the quality of the connection is important. You should only invite into your close network people you know (online) fairly well, people you have been in contact with several times, and with whom views on several topics have been shared. That seems to be a safe, conservative and productive strategy. Yet the networker involved came to grief, be tried to quickly build a network by making an offer people couldn't refuse, "free stuff for his friends". But it backfired, traffic to the established list doubled, lots of new people who didn't know the culture of the list suddenly arrived, too many started posting "I'm new here messages". A large number if existing members saw the value for time contribution of the list fall, so they started to leave.

People with experience cannot be manipulated online. You can send a message to lots of people but the power of that message is weak. People are free to choose what they want to do. Click and I'm gone. Newbies are vulnerable, but because newbies don't connect to anything much they are relatively safe. (Protected by ignorance) It's people making the transition from Newbie to Advanced User who are at risk. Once again, you need to connect to people, that's how you learn, but take it slowly, link to people you "know", build quality into your "friends" network.

People in this inner circle of "friends" are unlikely ever to be your customers. They are "close" to you, so when they ask for help, you volunteer your time. They are "members" and as the advertisement for a certain credit card says, "membership has it's privileges." Think about your own family. You don't do business with them, you "help them out."

The people you do business with are more distant. They may know about you, or not. If they care to use the social network they can quickly find out about you. Your reputation is in your small list of "friends" and in your public letters, and in what people choose to say about you. If this is positive news, your reputation will bring you potential customers. But if this is to remain a business relationship, there will remain an arm's length contact with them. They have the freedom to choose someone else, and you should have that freedom too.

My business card has a representation of an atom on it. An atom is an assembly of electrical particles. Some of them are tightly bound, and some of them are weakly bound. It's the relationships between the particles that makes each type of atom distinctive. This is one illustration of a truth Jonas Salk (polio vaccine) taught me, "Relationships are fundamental." You can see that in your own family. You can see that in your business. You can see that in a place like Iraq.

Also see my business blog.
An Open Future

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Newbie's Don't Participate - Developing Your Own Mind

Newbie's Don't Participate - Developing Your Own Mind

On the internet, you learn first by exploring. But you learn best from other people, so joining lists, groups, social networks, using IRC or Instant Messenger is helpful. When you read what others say and share what they are doing, your own skills develop. Moreover you find people who you can contact directly when you need help.

Having the confidence to find other people and the groups they join is critical. If you don't have that confidence ask for help from someone who knows the internet well. You can find public groups at Yahoo, at Google and at Topica. Most of these groups are fairly inactive. On the other hand some are very well established with large memberships and lots of daily mail. Go to Yahoo, Google or Topica and do your own search. Some of the very best "professional" groups are not offered in that way. They may be hosted by a university or a community or professional association. You may need to contact your own professional association or your friends to find out about them. Membership may be restricted, but membership is usually free to those who qualify.

You build your own mind. What your read, and what you choose to be interested in slowly changes who you are and determines who you are becoming. It's simple really, what you choose to think about and what you choose to pay attention too becomes the future you. Choose wisely. You need to read more than you write. You need to write, even just for yourself, because the discipline of writing forces you to think clearly. You need to talk about your thinking both informally and if you can in a formal way. Each process is a step in building your own ability to think clearly about the things that interest you. You build your own expertise; or perhaps you neglect to build any expertise. It's entirely a choice you make.

A whole new stage in your on-line life when you choose to write your own letters to public lists, when you become active in a social network, or when you open your own web site. That's putting yourself out there. You may lack the confidence now, but one day you too will be helping to create content on the internet.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Newbie's Don't Participate - Find People

Newbie's Don't Participate - Your Own View Inline

If you are new to the internet you may be very content to use it like a big library and to download lots of "stuff". But this is just the first stage of learning about the internet, like a child learning first the crawl about the house and later to run about the house. That child mostly makes a mess rather than being able to maintain the house.

Too many people limit their internet use to a few personal email's and the occasional search engine question. This is a huge waste of an internet connection. If you ask me what the internet is good for I'll respond like this. "On the internet you'll find lots of people who share your view of the world that you never knew existed. You will have your views confirmed and reinforced. But you will also meet people who challenge your view, and from those people you can learn a lot. Even if you agree not to agree, your own understanding is improved when you can see things from another person's perspective. Your task is to find these people. Sadly most newbies have no idea about how to begin.

On the internet, you learn first by exploring. You learn best from other people, so joining lists, groups, social networks, using IRC or Instant Messenger is helpful. When you read what others say and share what they are doing, your own skills develop. Moreover you find people who you can contact directly when you need help. Today the development of social networks is making the task of finding the right people easier.

It's a whole new stage in your on-line life when you choose to write your own letters to lists, when you become active in a social network, or when you open your own web site. Now instead of using the internet you are taking the logical next step and building a little of it yourself.

Some people wonder if the content exists to support faster internet connections. I have no fear. I am building that content. You will also build content. When we are all internet literate, building content will be as natural as picking up a telephone. There will be no shortage of content to share.

Newbies tend not to participate online because they lack contacts with people. The internet is far more than access to a vast library. Even more importantly it's a connection to a wide group of people across the world who share things in common with you and who you have chosen to associate with. (Or perhaps they have chosen you.) It takes a bit of confidence to get started, but once you have begun there will be no desire to turn back.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Fear of the Unknown

Fear of the Unknown

For about a month earlier this year I had an Internet Use Survey running on Survey Monkey.

I made some phone calls to strangers to, to ask them if I could help in some way, and to suggest taking the survey. I got a shocked reaction when I suggested to the second lady I spoke to that I'd like to watch her using the internet. "There's no way I'd let anyone see me do that." was the response. I recognized the reaction immediately. That was exactly how the participants in an earlier door to door survey responded, late last year. All of them had this "no way" reaction at first. Most but not all by any means were happy to be subjects for the survey with a little persuasion. After 10 minutes together the fear of the unknown evaporated, the idea that this was some sort of examination disappeared.

During the first week of the Internet Use Survey I asked three groups with a high proportion of experts in them to do the Internet Use Survey. The Coaches Network at Ryze, the Christchurch Linux Users Group and the New Zealand WSIS Group. The results were interesting. Some people who considered themselves (self ranking) to be expert users, have characteristic use patterns that I believe belong to newbies. Some people who are relatively new, have use patterns that show good connections and a wide variety of activities that I'd equate with experienced users.

I didn't talk to any of these people. I may be judging unfairly. For instance I know well how enormously valuable a tool like Yahoo Instant Messenger can be. I have used it extensively, several hundred hours. But my current use is tiny. It's a wonderful tool, but it eats up the hours, and I simply don't have the time. I'd equate using Yahoo Instant Messenger with an experienced user, but I'm an experienced user who avoids using it.

Even among the expert users there were very few people on the social networks like Ryze. And NONE of the 39 people who responded were keeping a blog. Both those numbers are interesting, because I think in the next year we'll see more experienced users doing both those things.

The internet is a TWO WAY communication process. Every experienced user becomes a publisher of opinions. Newbies shudder at the thought. Fear of the internet is I think a worse fear than the fear of public speaking. But it is an un-necessary fear, when the time comes each of us has a need to speak out. When you do that easily and well, you'll know that you are a peer on the internet, a cybercitizen if you like.

The Internet Use Survey confirmed for me that very few people are competent internet users. People tend to do a small number of things they feel comfortable with. The best way to learn about lots of different tools and techniques is to join groups of other internet users. Sadly most newbies are unwilling to do that. Hence they remain newbies for months and months because the key process that would allow them to learn new things was never engaged.

If you have not yet done so, join the Ryze Business Network. It's free, and it's not too hard for even newbies to understand how to use the network. If you go to Yahoo Groups, search in areas of your personal interest. Find some groups to join. (Most groups have very low memberships and low mail rates. But a few groups generate lots of letters.) Try them and see. (As a new user you will need to register first.) It's probably too soon to start your own blog. If that interests you, there is an excellent network on Ryze that will help you. Of course you are now on Blogger. You could start here.

Information Literacy (For advanced Newbies)

While there has been much debate about the digital divide, that is not now a problem that concerns me. People who do not have computer access at least have practical access to real data in a real world. That is often superior to the pseudo-data based virtual world you and I can enter.

It's certainly true that the internet makes it possible to become more informed and better able to play an effective role in the world. It's not true that the internet is filled with unreliable data and is a poor source of information. The fear of teachers and librarians that the internet will pollute our information environment was merely a prejudice. For instance it's well known that since 1998, everybody who cared had much better well supported information about Iraq and the weapons of mass destruction, on the internet, than was carried by the established free press. Government and "official sources" proved to be the most unreliable.

Of course the ease of publication and the freedom individuals have to say what they choose on the internet does mean that there is a lot of poorly informed opinion expressed. Usually the poor quality of the source is obvious. Each of us is responsible for what we choose to pay attention too. "Garbage in garbage out", they say.

I'm indebted to NZ poet and author Kevin Ireland for this very clear insight. "All our knowing is a myth. We can never understand the past as it really was. Research based on science can produce facts, but we always interpret what those facts mean. We reinvent the past (or the present) to suit our own mind-set."

The problem that concerns me is our poor ability to understand data, and to incorporate good data into our understanding . I call this developing information literacy. Let me explain.

What is Information Literacy?

"Information literacy" is a requirement of all people who seek to live modern information rich lives. Information richness demands a set of essential skills from us all. These skills may be:

a) Each person having his or her own data. Your own life is your primary experience. Each of us should have notes, records and measurements based on that experience. Journals, diaries, bench notes, photographs, sketches, that can act as aids to our memories. You trust your own data. Having your own data is your filter against collecting a lot of rubbish from published sources. Your own data helps you to use suitable key words when you do internet searches.

b) Collected secondary data. We all need to collect resources: from the Internet, radio, books, television or in conversations and letters. The most interesting parts of that need to be filed or stored in some logical way. Access to these records is important. Most of the material in my journal is a collection of this sort of material. Sadly my journal is not indexed.

c) Understanding your belief filters. We all use filters to preselect what takes our interest and what we find is acceptable evidence or unacceptable evidence. Our filters make it possible to cope with the sea of data that flows around us. We choose to pay attention to only a tiny part of that. Sometimes we need to pay attention to things we would rather not know about.

d) Making space in our lives for uncertainty. It's very comforting to live in a world of certain knowledge. Positive thinking and some religious beliefs create this strong sense of certainty. It's a trap of choice. Once you choose to "know", then what you "know" forbids knowing something else. (You can't hold both a positive and negative charge at the same time.) We all need space in our lives for not knowing. Create a workspace in your mind for unresolved problems, leave room for doubt. Try to avoid rushing to close an argument too soon by filling in the gaps in our knowledge with inventions from our own imagination. The growing edges of our lives are the places where we maintain our doubt.

e) Making an effort occasionally to find the pattern. There are both complex ways to understand data and ways to simplify that understanding. English academic Gregory Bateson spoke about "finding the pattern that connects." Our data is disconnected, and understanding what the data offers becomes clear when we can see a pattern. The pattern is the key to turn raw data back into information. The data, the facts alone have no meaning. We create meaning when we decide what the data says. Reading material doesn't mean you "know it". Choosing what to "know" and integrating it with what you knew before is a task that takes time and effort.

f) To do something with the new ideas you are generating. We build our own minds. Mind building is an active process. On the internet I've done a lot of reading research to answer people who have made ignorant and unjustified statements. You never win the argument with people like this. Their position is entrenched and they are not motivated to do their own research. But they do provided me with motivation. So I learn new things. In writing a reply I structure what I've learnt and integrate it with my previous learning. The fact that only 14 people read the essay, that my challenger was unimpressed, and that nobody else was likely to take any real interest is of no matter.

When you are learning new things, do something with the knowledge. Write in your journal, put something in your blog, to talk to a friend about it, try to make a plan, develop a speech, or communicate what you are thinking to a group, maybe by email. Doing something practical is a good test. If your communication fails or the test breaks, go back to the beginning. Quite a bit needs to be known about any subject in order for anyone to use new understanding effectively. Educational specialists often speak about learning as though immediately after the lesson you can have full understanding. Often when you learn things, full understanding of what you know comes weeks, months, even years later.

g) This may lead to publication in some form. (In fact "f" is also a form of publication) Here the publication is more formal, more planned. An essay, a web page, a programme of action, maybe even a book. Or perhaps your own game, or music composition or artwork or designs or …… whatever creative activity you can imagine. Some skills in speaking and writing or in coding may increase your ability to be effective.

h) Appreciate that all our understanding is mythological. We cannot know the truth. We can only seek understanding. Our memories keep re-inventing the truth in a way that suits our own current mind-set and purpose. We build the truth we need for the moment. It helps us get by. I like the quote from American film-maker Waldo Salt. "To seek the truth you must first have lost it." That simple idea if the crux of Information Literacy. The journey begins when you understand that what you thought you knew is not longer valid, and that all truth is elusive.

The Journey

It matters not a scrap where you begin. Eventually everything is connected to everything else. There is no golden path. Begin with computers, family history, football, or aerospace engineering, it’s all one ball of wax, you can only start where you are. What interests you now? You will go on from there to a dozen other things once you develop the skills required. In fact the whole spectrum of lifelong learning depends exactly on these skills which I'm calling "information literacy"

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Internet Literacy

Newbies on the Net

When most people begin to use the internet they email a few friends, share some jokes and digital photographs and search on Google for some information about a hobby or interest. This done, they soon run out of motivation.

That's pretty much it, unless they are teenagers. Teenagers are into Instant Messaging in a big way, and perhaps into downloading lot of music. When you connect to the internet nothing essential in your life changes. The internet does not make you clever, it does not get you a job and it does not give you entry into some new cyber-age of wonderful opportunity. That need not be what happens, but for almost everyone, that is the truth of it.

Some people believe that broadband is the answer. When we get broadband into every home people will "get it", they will understand what the internet is good for. Nobody I know has broadband, or "imitation broadband" which is all you can get in NZ. There is among politicians and the business community a belief that broadband will make the internet "real" for people. I don't believe it. To use the internet well you need to become firstly internet literate, and secondly information literate.

My view is contrary to most of those who think they are experts in this area. The future of the internet doesn't depend on broadband being generally available. The future of the internet depends on people across the world making contact with each other, on sharing views and opinions and on learning to trust each other. Instant Messaging and email are fine for that. Bandwidth would make reliable voice connection possible. That's why the Telcos's don't want it to happen. All those lovely toll call revenues might melt away.

The internet gives each of us the opportunity to be actively engaged as citizens of the world. Do we want that for ourselves? Do you want to he broadly educated, with contacts in many countries, with a diverse range of interests and special skills? Do you want to become someone different with new opportunities and new potential? It will take hard work and effort, maybe over 10 years. Do you want that journey? Do you have any choice? Of course you do.

If you want it, it's there. Most people do not yet understand the opportunity. They ask, "what use is it?" Many people who have a glimpse of the potential don't have the courage to begin.

Internet Literacy

a) Skill enough to keep the computer and it's files in order. Knowing how to create folders and to save files. To be able to find files on your hard-drive. To download and install software from the internet.

b) Ability to use a web browser, changing window sizes, running many windows at once and navigating between windows. Knowing how to set up the browser's tool sets and tool bars in an efficient way.

c) Knowing how to use an email client easily and effectively. Setting up email folders and using filters to send mail to those folders. Maintaining address books. Joining lists and user groups, and effectively dealing with large volumes of moderate to low interest mail.

d) Confidence to type fairly quickly so that one can participate in real time networks. Instant messenger can offer personal or group services. Internet Relay Chat, or proprietory chat services are also available. This is time consuming, but it's a very effective way to communicate.

e) Confidence enough to write your own letters to groups and lists and online forums. Confidence enough to maintain some of your own web pages.

f) The ability to format text into a basic HTML page, and to publish a text with photographs. There are only about eight tags one needs to know. This is in fact a fairly simple task. There are editors to help you, but all the editors I know do too much and are difficult for beginners to use.

g) The ability to search for the things you need to know using several different search engines.

h) Beyond these basic skills you need to become Information Literate over the next ten years. While this "newbies" guide is aimed at people who need to become Internet Literate, the long term goal is Information Literacy.

Becoming internet literate should take you about six months. But I've met people who after five years can do very few of the basic tasks above. What a waste. This is the thing that really concerns me. But it doesn't seem to concern anyone else. The newbie in his or her home is not concerned. Suppliers of computers and software are not concerned. Politicians and civic leaders don't understand the problem. Schools and educators are not interested either. So I ask: Where are people going to learn their basic internet skills? The usual answer is; "It's all on the internet." That's true, but if you are not internet literate, what's on the internet is not available to you.

If you are yourself internet literate, who do you know who isn't? What can you do to bring them up to speed?

Saturday, August 28, 2004

What Can You Know?

What Can You Know?

I've been looking at my own research data on internet use. It's surprising to see people who describe themselves as experienced users who only ever use the Yahoo search engine, and who get email almost entirely from people who they have personally met.

So I ask, how can any of us know if we are or we are not "experienced users". In reality we cannot know. All of us are in some ways "experienced" and in many ways "inexperienced".

All any of us know is what we happen to know today. Is what you know a little or a lot? Each of us as an individual is poorly placed to have any idea about that. We learn about our skills or lack of them during interaction with other people. But too many people are not engaged in that interaction.

We learn from other people. To do that online you need to join in activities which give us that opportunity to exchange views with lots of other people. Yes, people we don't personally "know". But people we can discover and learn about. Once the best way to do that was to participate in Usenet Forums or to join Listservers or a Yahoo Group. Today the best way to link with lots of other people is to join a social network.

In New Zealand at the moment the people in the dominant culture are complaining about the privileges given to the NZ Maori, the indigenous culture. It occurs to me that there is online a dominant culture which I've become part of. Other people may not feel so "at home" online. When you are new to the internet, you may feel that this is a foreign place and that you are unsure of your place and your rights and your ability to be listened too. If you feel like that, I can help.

I can remember how afraid I was about participating in world wide forums. For me the first time was 10 years ago. I wrote a letter about dancing in New Zealand and sent it to a Usenet Group which was getting perhaps 30 letters a day. There were people on that network who I respected for their expertise. I was terrified that in my first post I might offend someone.

I posted. I waited. I checked my mail twice in the middle of the night. I waited. I checked my mail. I waited. Nothing.

I learnt slowly that people are not interested in "my opinion" they are only interested in their own opinions. What I had to say about New Zealand was of no particular interest. When people find their own opinions are disputed then are very interested. People defend their patch with passion. Too few are able renew their patch with new ideas and opinions. Even fewer have the confidence and the courage to redefine, enlarge and replant the territory they stand for. Most people deny themselves an open future. They choose to live in a self made fortress that is impervious to new ideas and contrary opinions.

It's hard, but try not to be like that. Make some room in your life for not knowing all the answers. Give yourself space in which to learn and develop.


Friday, August 27, 2004

Finding your own "HELP"

I'm disappointed with the help available in the Internet. If you put these words into Google - "beginner novice newbie internet" - You will gets lots of links. Some of them useful. You can't learn about the internet quickly. It will take you about 300 hours, 6 months if you work about 2 hours a day. You must give it some time, no effort no results.

Still using search engines is not a bad way to start. So do your own search but try three search engines that look at the Internet in different ways.

For instance try Google:
This search engine gives you a small number of pages that are "popular" based on the number of other pages that link to them. Often that works well.

I should add a note here about the use of "http://" Usually in a browser you omit this. "www." will open "Hyper-Text Transfer Protocol for you. The double slash indicates a base directory, like saying "this a new address starting here." If you are creating a link on a web page the full text "http://www." must be used.

This is a good time too to suggest that in typing addresses, email addresses, or file names you always use only lower case letters. (This is not the practice of some programming styles.) The http: protocol is case sensitive, and mixing upper and lower case letters causes errors. Upper and lower case does not affect email at all, but it's easier to be consistent.

Or you might look at Vivisimo which is a clustering search engine.

And Mooter is another search engine that tries to group results for you.

For specialist topics, Temona is suggested.

Take your time to read the material you find. Print the best items. Reading a printed document is much more efficient than reading on screen. It costs more of course, but you remember more, and you have the document to file away.

But don’t stop there, because the best way to learn stuff is from other people. So JOIN some groups, even if all you do for a while is sit in the background. I used to recommend joining groups at Yahoo, or getting onto specialist mailing lists. That might sill be good for you.

However I suggest you join either Ryze or Ecademy. Take the time to build your own homepage or profile there. Try to participate. Ask some questions. Once you get started you will soon know that the fear you may have now is un-necessary.


Thursday, August 26, 2004

One Hour a Week

A young man named Benjamin is in contact with me from Ghana. He is almost 30, single, works part time only making baskets I think. But he wants to get an education. To get on the internet he has to go to an Internet Cafe, and he can only afford about on hour once a week. What a handicap for a young man with ambition. However, maybe not as big a problem as some think. Here in New Zealand my experience is that most people who have internet connections in their homes only use the internet for 3-5 hours a week, and sometimes less. I'm as concerned for them as I am for Benjamin. When the internet first developed there was concern about the digital divide. Today I am much more concerned about the divide between those who have a big view about who they are and what is possible, a view getting bigger and stronger because of the internet, and those who have little idea what the internet is for. Too many people think it's great to use if you have a question to answer. You can use a search engine and get an answer. That may even be right, but not necessarily so. But that entirely misunderstands what the internet is best for. The internet does not replace the library. Access to the internet is not an education. People without connection to other people seldom have an questions to ask anyway. What the internet does BEST is connect people with people. You can find people who are like you. People who are like you, can find you, if you have your own web page, or public blog. It's in connection with other people across the world or across your city that the full benefit of the internet becomes obvious. Sadly most newbies realise this far too late. John