[REVIEW] Grouped: How Small Groups of Friends Are the Key to Influence on the Social Web

Grouped: How Small Groups of Friends Are the Key to Influence on the Social WebGrouped: How Small Groups of Friends Are the Key to Influence on the Social Web by Paul Adams
My rating: ★★★★★

Great little book giving an overview of a wide array of research on social networks and how information passes through them. Though near the end it gets a little too evangelical for permission marketing IMHO, I think it is a great starting point for learning about the social aspects of building web products today. Many of the cases in the book might be familiar to you if you read a lot of new business books, or books on decision-making and/or popular psychology. Adams does a good job highlighting these cases and tying them together for the web entrepreneur.

I listened to the audiobook which was a quick and easy listen. I am going to pick up a text version so I can explore the footnotes.

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[REVIEW] Grouped: How Small Groups of Friends Are the Key to Influence on the Social Web

Getting customers in the enterprise

Today at #LeanCoffeeKL we had a great discussion about how to acquire customers when your target market is the Enterprise, rather than the general public like a more traditional startup. During the discussion I came up with three models that I would like to propose for discussion:

1. Traditional B2C startup: You make your product, and distribute directly to Users, some or all of which are paying. This direct-to-market model is quite new due to the internet as the ultimate software distribution mechanism.

2. Traditional B2B: The people who will use your software are not necessarily the ones doing the purchasing. Adoption of software in the enterprise is traditionally top down, decreed by a complex interaction between various internal stakeholders like IT departments, management, purchasing, etc. It is up to the developer to suss out the right person(s) to talk to in order to even get their software in the hands of Users. Furthermore, this inhibits Lean methodologies for incremental innovation based on an MVP.

3. Consumerization of Enterprise: This is a recent trend in enterprise, a bottom up model where workers on the front lines discover and use their own solutions. Users then convince the hierarchy above them to adopt a technology either by asking their managers and IT depts for it, or by those upper levels noticing the improvement of efficiency. This is another kind of adoption first strategy.

Off the shelf technology is becoming more prevalent in the enterprise, and forward-thinking organizations are taking advantage of this. Depending on what kind of company your B2B startup is trying to sell to, doing an end run around traditional organizational barriers to gain internal adoption might be a good (if long term) strategy. The next question is: how do we achieve this end run?

If you like thinking about this kind of stuff and are in the Okanagan area, I highly recommend checking out the #LeanCoffee group in Kelowna.

Replacing Flickr

Chad on www.flickr.com

Yahoo’s lack of innovation is one thing, but what really drives me bonkers about Flickr is the terrible video support. Maybe 1 in 10 of my video uploads are successful. I take a lot of short vids on my iPhone and even on my 60D I think they should be viewed within context, alongside the still photos that were taken at the same time. Isn’t that the whole point of having video capability on your digital camera? To enhance the still photo viewing experience with sound and motion? The video problem became so frustrating that I have begun the hunt for a Flickr replacement.

My ideal photo/video sharing site would have the following features:

  • upload videos
  • marking of photos as private
  • uploading from iOS devices
  • activity stream (see below)
  • BONUS: custom domain name

I do not use Flickr as a portfolio site. Flickr fills two roles for me:

  1. Photoblogging: Anytime I attend an event, or even see something interesting while walking around, I shoot and post it to Flickr, oftentimes straight from my iPhone. This is why I like Flickr’s default view of all photos in descending order. It is an activity stream, like a blog. I do enough of this that I don’t want to flood my blog with photos.
  2. Private photo sharing for friends and family: I use the heck out of Flickr Guest Passes. They are great because you don’t have to ask someone to join Flickr to view the private photos, plus they get to see the private photos in context alongside the non-private ones. The only negative for using Flickr to share pics privately is that it sucks for downloading photos, something that MobileMe made quite easy.

I used to use MobileMe for private sharing and Flickr for public sharing, but once I discovered Guest Passes I was able to consolidate my photo uploading. Any replacement should not require me to significantly increase the number of steps in my workflow. Furthermore, splitting off my private photo sharing to another service also is a step backward since I want my friends and family to be able to see my public photos as well.

Over the past three weeks I have spent time with SmugMug, Zenfolio, 500px, ZangZing and Google+. Below are my judgements of each.


The 799lbs gorilla in the photo sharing space. More directed towards pros than casual sharers like myself, SM seems to be eating a lot of Flickr’s lunch lately. Uploading video is smooth and their iOS app is serviceable. Using a custom domain is dead easy and SmugMug offers extensive customization. However, it has an overly complex organization scheme (eg. categories > galleries) and is too dependent on albums. This impacts their privacy options as you cannot mark individual photos for friends/family and have to do so at the album level. It also means that there is no general Activity Stream equivalent. I was able to figure out a workaround using their brilliant Smart Albums to simulate an activity stream. If only their Recent Updates module could filter out photos based on keywords, then things would be simpler. Two other complaints I have are the terrible URL schemes and of course the terrible UI. If I am going to use a tool nearly every day, I want to enjoy using it. That said, SmugMug is a strong contender to replace Flickr.


Zenfolio has been eating a bit of SmugMug’s lunch recently, mostly due to its relative simplicity. It has a much better UI, but still feels like Windows XP. Zenfolio also offers custom domains. Customization isn’t as extensive, but you can get sites to look decent. It just takes some work to make sure your site doesn’t look like it has been hit with the ugly stick. Like SmugMug, Zenfolio is dependent on folder structure. The Collections feature is nice though, and I might be able to leverage that to make a public Activity Stream. Zenfolio does have an iOS app, but I didn’t bother trying it. Zenfolio is definitely less of a pain to setup than SmugMug, but I think it would be too much of a pain on a day to day basis, at least in the way that I want to use it.


The main thing 500px has got going for it is UX. It is beautiful. And the Stories feature combined with Flow allows me to photoblog and flexibly create albums as necessary. However, with no privacy features, video uploads or way to upload from my iPhone, 500px is out of the running. Excellent for a straight portfolio site though.


Here is another site with a beautiful interface. I really enjoy using this product, but once again, no video sharing and no iPhone app make it a non-starter for me. Also, the uploader requires Flash, which is a major #WTF in this day and age.


I actually thought I might give Google Plus a try. Here is a product that is optimized for sharing to specific individuals, groups, or the public at large. They do have an iOS app, crappy as it is. The Activity Stream functionality is there. Videos are no problem; and it is being hyped as a new community for Flickr refugees and photogs at large. Maybe I am doing it wrong, and need to spend more time with it, but Plus doesn’t seem satisfying. I think the issue is accessibility. Flickr and other services have a gallery or RSS or other ways to passively view photos. Plus is very album centric. And since most of the people I am sharing with are not on Plus,
it seems I am forced to email everyone for each photo I upload. Moreover, like I’ve mentioned above, I don’t really want to flood Google Plus stream with photos. Even though I update my Flickr feed all the time, I don’t expect people to look at it every day. It should be accessible to the period browse though. Google Plus deserves more exploring I think.

And the winner is…

The result is I think overall, indecision. There is no clear winner. Photo sharing is obviously an area with tons of opportunity for innovation judging by all the alternatives out there. If I was of a mind, I would try and tackle this problem myself. Anyone out there want to tackle this problem with me? 😉

After looking at the competition, overall it seems that Flickr satisfies most of my needs. Despite Flickr’s shortcomings, I am already well invested into it. Furthermore, the Flickr Community (something that I have not talked about) still has a ton of inertia. It is not worth abandoning just yet. It has been 4 years since Flickr introduced video. Is my hope that they will fix it futile? Rather than searching for an alternative to jump to, maybe I should put my energy into petitioning Flickr to solve their video problems.

If you have any suggestions or recommendations for photo/video sharing that you think I should look at, please get in touch.

Tawara-ya: Famous ryokan in Kyoto.

As it was our last day in Japan, we spent the day running around town. My wife got a massage at a place right near Tawara-ya, the ryokan that Steve used to stay at as mentioned in the Isaacson biography. I had a few minutes and a camera so I thought I would do a bit of light stalking. Can’t believe it took til my last day to stop by this place.

Family complete #achievementunlocked

This is where it all started. Above is my completed family of four, standing in front of the college dorm where I met my wife in 1999. As we only have a couple days left in Japan, we decided to take a photo. Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate and it was pouring down, so we weren’t exactly able to pose a bunch and take lots of shots. In fact, we only took one. The result is less than perfect, but it is a pretty good representation of family life: haphazard, slap-dash, but smiling the whole time.

In two days the four of us will be boarding three planes and landing in Canada’s Okanagan Valley next Tuesday. My wife and first daughter have been in Japan for six months. I have been here for three months. My second daughter has been with us for two and a half. Needless to say, it has been eventful. Soon new chapter will begin.

Over the past twelve years my wife and I have moved back and forth between Canada and Japan on average once every two years. As we have now completed our family, this next chapter of our lives will be focused on building a foundation. That means trying to stay in the same place, building a community, creating a healthy and loving environment for our kids to grow up in. So, for the next while, it is goodbye to Japan.

I still have a few months left on my paternity leave, and am looking forward to getting a few things done after returning to Canada. For example:

  • continuing Lining Things Up
  • building some more Rails apps
  • rethinking my wardrobe
  • improving my career
  • getting a vasectomy (・・;)

Helping my wife and daughters re-integrate themselves into a Canadian lifestyle tops the list though. Also, getting healthy. I gained about 10 kilos during this pregnancy and am going to try and lose it by dieting, running and training. I got a Wi-Fi Body Scale for Xmas, and a Nike Fuel Band is in my future. My wife wants to do yoga together, which I am all for.

As always, there is lots to do. But my view on life is different than it was in the past. My new keywords are “long view” and “life-editing”. I know I can’t do everything I want to on a whim. But I am perfectly satisfied with that. Enjoying my time with my family is the cake. Everything else is icing.

Paternity Leave Lessons Learned (in Japanese)

Next month an article of mine will be published in an Osaka-based newsletter. The article is based on a blog post from a few years ago: End of paternity leave and a lesson on negative support. It is all in Japanese (edited by my lovely wife), but for those interested, click on the more link below:











 日本はカナダに比べて、こんなにすばらしい制度があるのに育児休業を利用している男性はわずか 1.23%です。(「平成二〇年度雇用均等基本調査」)

 私はカナダの制度にいろいろな不満を感じるのに、2010年のカナダにおける男性の育児休業利用率はなんと30%(Labour Force Survey. 2010. Statistics Canada.)でした。だが、これには事情があります。ケベック州が独自に2006年に育児休業の特別制度をつくりました。この育児休業制度は父親専用で母親は参加できません。 五週間、完全に有給で父親は育児休業がとれます。それでケベック州における育児休業男性利用率が爆発的に増加しました、現在はなんと77.6%です。ケベック州外でも、育児休業男性利用率は増加しています。2001年で全国的に育児休業を利用している父親はわずか3%でしたが、現在はケベック州外でも11%となりました。


 次に育児休業をとって感じたことを紹介したいと思います。専業主夫の経験のお陰で理解できたことがたくさんあります。この学びを他の新米パパと共有したいと思っています。それは育児休業がとれるかどうかに関わらずです。具体的には以下に書いた、expectation management(期待値管理)についてですが、夫婦のチームワーク、コミュニケーション、プランニング、持久力とサポートにも深くつながっている話だと思います。








育児のお口伝 其の二


expectation management(期待値管理)