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The Risk of Starting Your Tweet with @name

This is so obvious, yet little known – and although Mark Suster warned us all, I keep on falling in this trap.  Just today as I wanted to announce yet another great post by Mark, I tweeted this:

@msuster discusses how the Ice Age is thawing for Venture Capital

Big mistake.  Had I written “great discussion by @msuster”, a lot more people would have seen it. Why?

Read on to find out

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If You Start Your Tweet with @name, Few Will See It

This is so obvious, yet little known – and although Mark Suster warned us all right here at CloudAve, I keep on falling in the trap.  Just today as I wanted to announce yet another great post by Mark, I tweeted this:

@msuster discusses how the Ice Age is thawing for Venture Capital

Big mistake.  Had I written “great discussion by @msuster”, a lot more people would have seen it. Why?   I’ll just quote the key chapter from Mark’s original tutorial:

This is important … If you send somebody a message and you START it with an @name then the only people who will see your message are people who follow you and people who follow the person you replied to.  Most people don’t seem to know this.  For example, if you follow me but not @deblanda an I send her a message starting with an @ then you won’t see it at all.  Anyone who follows both of us will see the message.  If you precede the message by anything, even a dash and a space like, “- @deblanda nice to see you” then everybody will see it.

When does this come into play?  Sometimes I’ll see people who want to make people aware of a blog posting.  They’ll say “@msuster provides great insight into VC valuation discussions – see http://bit.ly/C5t6O” .  They might have 2,000 followers.  I have 1,200.  Only the small subset who follow both of us, say 100, will see the message.

So if you’re really responding to somebody and you don’t want all your followers to see it (but you don’t necessarily want to send a private message via DM or you can’t because they don’t follow you) then start with an @.  Otherwise make sure it has text in front of it.

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Mileage Calculator a Life-Saver @ Tax Time

What tax-time, you may ask.  It’s April 15th, at least in the US. Wrong:  Anyone can get an automatic 6-month extension, which means the real tax deadline is October 15th… closing in on me … ahhhh. No, I am not a procrastinator,  my tax forms are always almost done by April 15th and I pay my dues, but there is this one ugly thing I hate to do every year: calculating business mileage deduction.

The IRS requires proper documentation and I do have it .. well, almost: it’s in my electronic calendar, with dates, locations, purpose of meeting..etc, except for one thing: the actual mileage.   So every year the ugly process that takes several hour is:

  • export my calendar entries to csv format
  • massage them in a spreadsheet (fill missing data, delete non-business ones..etc)
  • manually look up trip mileage for every single line using Google Maps
  • plug in mileage, let spreadsheet calculate claimable $ amount.

It takes several hours, is the only reason why I wait till the last minute and then some.  But this year, it just dawned on me: this is so bad, someone must have come up with a way to automate the process (and if not, I’ll find a developer). That’s basically the mantra of Web 2.0: whatever your (productivity) problem is, likely millions share it, so someone must have come up with the solution.

In this case the magic comes from a very simple site: Mileage Calculator. It does not look like a fashionable app, in fact it does not look like an application at all – you might think it’s just a blog post writing about the real thing.  That’s because it was not created with the mindset of bringing it to market:

It was created by Ade Olonoh who used Google Calendar heavily to track meetings, but neglected to record his mileage for tax purposes. Sure, it would’ve taken him less time to figure out the mileage than create this tool, but that wouldn’t have been any fun.

So yes, it lacks the bells and whistles, pastel colors and rounded corners.  Here’s the one-and-only entry screen:

Yes, no more list, export /import, data lookup:  Mileage Calculator will look up your trips from Google Calendar, fetch the mileage information from Google Maps, presents you with a list and total, then finally saves it as a CSV file to be used in a spreadsheet.   Simple, yet a life-saver – a free one.

Now, after all the praise, let’s be a bit critical: what would it take to turn this into a product?  Fix two weaknesses:

  • It’s not particularly smart parsing address data: i.e. it does not understand “Moscone Center, 747 Howard St, San Francisco, CA‎”, it has to be strictly in the format of “747 Howard St, San Francisco, CA‎”
  • The ugly UI

With those two fixes Mileage Calculator could become a nifty little service, or perhaps a feature that SaaS accounting and tax providers might want to pick up.  In the meantime, it’s a useful little productivity tool.

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve)

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SAP and Zoho Come Together

At least on screen… Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu delivers his keynote @ NASSCOM, and what’s the background?  SAP Business ByDesign.

 

Business ByDesign: probably the best All-in-One SaaS suite NOT (quite) on the market today. smile_omg

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Forbes Gaffe: Prints Private Chat Between AP Reporters. How to Correct Online Publications.

The Forbes Gaffe

Ok, now that I got your attention with the title, this is about more than Forbes’ Royal Gaffe. But first things first: Forbes mistakenly printed a “story”, (update: original deleted, see saved copy) which isn’t a story but private chat between two AP reporters, and should not have been published at all (hat tip: Mathew Ingram):

Associated Press

Swiss arrest Polanski on US request in sex case

Associated Press, 09.27.09, 10:41 AM EDT

i checked already, and so did zurich. they say the question is irrelevant. he answered me with the quote i used, about we knew when he was coming this time. he’s been here many times in the past, we think.

thx brad. aptn is aware, but unfortunately won’t make it in time, but is hoping to catch tail end.

i’m pushing out another writethru with some more background details before press conference.

no surprise, new york is really hot on this.

they particularly want to know why now. (has he never set foot in switzerland before?) sheila, theorizes that’s because they’re under intense pressure over ubs and want to throw the U.S. a bone, but can yo ucheck with justice department sources there?

is frank around too, or are you alone?

u can tell aptn press conf 1700 (15 gmt) in bern at the parliament

i’ll watch it live on internet

Clearly, somebody at Forbes / AP must be sleeping, since the “article” is still online after a full day – but let’s assume they will wake up and remove it, so I’ve  saved it on Zoho Viewer.  But let’s use this opportunity to discuss something more important.

Airbrushing Online Articles After the Fact

I borrowed that title from Jeff Nolan who discusses the case of The Washington Post materially changing an article after the fact, without notification:

It’s one thing to correct references or relevant facts but to materially change entire sections of an article is alarming and undermines the central argument that newspapers themselves make about why they are essential systems of record for society.

The record of an event is only changing as the timeline plays out and new facts and arguments emerge, which may serve to invalidate previous reporting and in that case should be noted as new content, not airbrushing of already published content. At the very least a record of corrections should append each online story when necessary rather than flagrant material editing of content done “under the cover of darkness”.

Newspapers must recognize that the public trust they cherish is at risk whenever they rewrite an article that is already published online.

I fully agree with Jeff, in fact, let’s just extend it to any form of online publication, including blogs.  For minor changes we can always use there is always good old strikethrough. Of course if you do it a lot your text becomes unreadable, so for more changes, the right approach is to indicate the change and list the previous version of the story.

But wait!  We already have the technology to automate this!  Wikis are known for full version control and trackability, any Wikipedia reader can follow how much-edited article took shape by clicking on previous releases.  The WordPress editor has for a while offered rolling back to previous releases – but that’s just for the blog author.

Here’s a simple proposal:

Make version control available to readers. I don’t mean the tiny edits while you shape up your thoughts.  There should be a check-mark for “major edit”, and if you click it, it should cause a “Previous releases of this story” link to appear in a prominent place, at the top or bottom of each article.

This would go a long mile toward improving blogs’ credibility (and yes, newspapers can do it, too).   Oh, and just to clarify: I’m discussing content change here.  The Forbes story is different, it was a mistake, and I fully agree it should be removed when (if) Forbes / AP wakes up. (Update: they did.)

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How to Prune Twitter Spammers if Your Account is Compromised

I’ve just received one of those “Hey, I just added you to my Mafia family. You should accept my…” crap-spam-junk invitations on Twitter. Normally these come from accounts I don’t recognize, and I either ignore or block them.  But this time it came from a gray-haired, well-respected industry analysts – I just could not imagine him getting involved.  When I contacted him he told me he himself received 75 Mafia invitations – but the fact that I received it in his name suggests his account got compromised.

He had already changed his Twitter password, yet the hijackers kept on using his account.  That reminded me to share this: changing your password is no longer sufficient to regain control.  I don’t pretent to be a security expert (which we have a few over @ CloudAve), but since more and more Twitter apps are “doing the right thing” and use OAuth authentication, those connections stay valid even after a password change.  So here’s what you should do: go to http://twitter.com/account/connections and check out all the applications listed there.

You may be surprised… the stupid lil’ thing you had checked out and decided you did not like after 5 minutes still sits there, fully authorized.  So do yourself a favor, prune the list.  Whatever you don’t recognize, or no longer want, click “revoke access” – it’s that simple.

(Note: The image above does not depict “bad guys”. it’s a screen shot of my account and I don’ have any – or so I hope.)

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Apple is Just as Sneaky as Microsoft, Dumping Software on Your Computer

Here we go again: Ed Bott points out how outrageous it is for Apple to install so-called “updates” to the iPhone Configuration Utility on a Windows computer that does not have this software installed, in fact one that has never had an iPhone or iPod connected to.

He is right, this is obviously not an update, but installing new, and in his case obviously unnecessarily software.   It’s also not the first time, I described my  similar experience early last year. Back then I also wrote:

Apple fans are a religious cult who came in hordes to defend Holy Apple. (before you chastise me, just look at how often I point to Apple as a better choice, without becoming blindly faithful)

And boy, did I prove right on that …

Read more here.

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Apple is Just as Sneaky as Microsoft, Dumping Software on Your Computer

Here we go again: Ed Bott points out how outrageous it is for Apple to install so-called “updates” to the iPhone Configuration Utility on a Windows computer that does not have this software installed, in fact one that has never had an iPhone or iPod connected to.

He is right, this is obviously not an update, but installing new, and in his case obviously unnecessarily software.   It’s also not the first time, I wrote about a similar experience early last year:

  • the same update program has been trying to install iTunes on a Windows machine where I don’t have it, don’t need it forever, despite unselecting it every single time
  • the update runs because I do have Quicktime installed, and Quicktime itself is as aggressive as it gets, re-installing itself in the XP systray no matter how many times you remove it.

Back then I also wrote:

Apple fans are a religious cult who came in hordes to defend Holy Apple. (before you chastise me, just look at how often I point to Apple as a better choice, without becoming blindly faithful)

And boy, did I prove right on that .. Ed Bott barely finished his post, when the first Apple-defender appeared, accusing him of being just a bit to picky when it comes to Apple:

I’m sorry Ed but I think you’re getting a little carried away here. I have no problem with any software maker – operating system or otherwise – letting me know that updates are available.

Wow.. really?   How about getting dozens (hundreds?) of software update proposals a day?  there must be hudreds of thousands of software title out there, why not recommend all?  Steven Hodson appears to have given his consent:

How is the utility suppose to get your consent if it doesn’t run in the first place. Perhaps the problem here is really one of wording. Would it make a difference Ed if it was called “Software Notification Service”?

No, it would not make a difference.  An update is an update.  To software already installed on my computer by choice.  My choice, not some manufacturer’s.  Anything else is unethical intrusion.

And before the Apple-camp declares was on me: I am not exactly a Microsoft-fanboy, in fact I will admit an anti-Microsoft bias for all the lost productivity due to their half-done software.  The very un-scientific method of talking to friends suggests Apple owners are more satisfied with their computers, gadgets, software and the company as a whole. Here’s a telling quote from CrunchGear:

Apple could require you to give this device three drops of blood every morning in order to satisfy the demonic hell-beast soul trapped inside it and we would, gladly.

Wow.  Well, give your blood if you like, but don’t be blind: abuse is abuse, no matter whether it comes from Redmond or Cupertino.

Related posts:

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Your Honor, You’re Clueless. (Judge Orders Google to Shut Down Email Account)

Rocky Mountain Bank might as well be called Royal Sc***up Bank.  An employee emailed loan documentation to the wrong email address.  Bad, but not unseen mistake. However, he also mistakenly attached documents that should not have been sent to anyone in the first place:

The attachment contained confidential information on 1,325 individual and business customers that included their names, addresses, tax identification or Social Security numbers and loan information.

After unsuccessful attempts at contacting the recipient, the Bank asked Google to reveal the account holder’s identity, only to learn Google will not do so without a court order (as per Privacy rules).

On Wednesday U.S. District Court Judge James Ware in California issued an order that requires Google to reveal the user’s identity.  But he did not stop there: he also ordered Google to inactivate the Gmail account in question.  Let’s just say at this point nobody knows if the account is even active (the owner did not respond to bank emails).  It could be dormant, a black hole where all the mistakenly sent bank documents disappeared.

Or it could be a real live email account, one that the owner’s every day life, business depends on.  Losing one’s email account is a serious disruption.

“It’s outrageous that the bank asked for this, and it’s outrageous that the court granted it,” says John Morris, general counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology. “What right does the bank have and go suspend the email account of a completely innocent person?”

I wonder if the judge realized what he just did.  You see, I meet people day by day in good old-fashioned professions whose life does not depend on email access.  To them email is still a once-a-week affair to communicate with remote friends and relatives. Sadly, most physicians fall in this category.  Oh, and I knew a high-tech VP who had his email printed by his assistant…   Perhaps His Honor belongs in this group, too, and really had no clue about the harsh consequences of shutting down one’s email unknown?

By the way, what exactly is being protected by killing that email account?  If the account owner intended to use the information in any way, it could have been downloaded by now.

But most likely, it’s just an innocent and busy person with heavy email traffic (like yours truly), who sometimes does not get to open unsolicited email from unknown persons for days or weeks.

20th century justice in action – again.

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Twitter Valued at $1B? Peanuts! 37Signals Worth $100B!

37signals is now a $100 billion dollar company, according to a group of investors who have agreed to purchase 0.000000001% of the company in exchange for $1.

Founder Jason Fried informed his employees about the new deal at a recent company-wide meeting. The financing round was led by Yardstick Capital and Institutionalized Venture Partners.

In order to increase the value of the company, 37signals has decided to stop generating revenues. “When it comes to valuation, making money is a real obstacle. Our profitability has been a real drag on our valuation,” said Mr. Fried. “Once you have profits, it’s impossible to just make stuff up. That’s why we’re switching to a ‘freeconomics’ model. We’ll give away everything for free and let the market speculate about how much money we could make if we wanted to make money. That way, the sky’s the limit!”

Hilarious… but I’m not quoting the whole thing, this already stretches the limits of Fair Use, so go ahead and read the original.

Update:  I think $37B would have been more appropriate valuation, but I understand Jason does not want to leave small change on the table