j.j. toothman

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The big (and only?) opportunity for Google+

We’re a couple weeks into the life of Google+.  Yes, it has been fun to be part of a social network as it is born and learns to take its first steps.  The hangouts feature is definitely uber-compelling and the circles interface is kinda neat.  But other than that how much has Google+ really differentiated itself from Facebook.

By the way, if the above paragraph means little to you, it probably means that you have yet to try out Google+. Everything you wanted to know about Google+ (so far) can be found in this Mashable post.

What I think about Google+ is that by the end of 2013, we won’t be talking about it anymore and the tumbleweeds will be rolling in.  One of the big things I’ve heard people say about Google+ is that it provides a Facebook “do-over” for those Facebook users that ruined their social graphs by friending too many people, or worse, friending a lot of strangers.  But I think people like that are in the minority of Facebook’s 700 million users.  Furthermore, I think the majority of Facebook users shudder at the thought of having to recreate their networks on something like Google+. 

But there is a place Google+ can be an easy, uncontested slam dunk.  That’s as internal social network for enterprises making use of Google Apps. The number of people craving a Facebook for the workplace is massive.  People want to utilize social network mechanics as tools for working together and getting stuff done.  And while there have been plenty of attempts to provide this from companies such as Microsoft, Jive, and Salesforce, Google is in a position to simply turn Google+ on as part of its Google Apps offering and provide the solution with very little barrier to adoption.  I’m telling you, it would be an instant success.

I’m certainly not alone in desiring Google+ be included as a Google Apps feature and fortunately, Google appears to be hearing the pleas and taking action.

2010 Social Media for Government Conference in Chicago

I’ll be the first to admit that I had my expectations set at a fairly nominal level for Advanced Learning Institute’s latest Social Media for Government event in Chicago this past week.  But it was really a wonderful time.  The smaller size of the event (approximately 50 people) really gave me a chance to make some deep connections with most of the attendees.  Additional ALI did a great job of adding value by facilitating networking time by organizing lunch and dinner outings.  The location didn’t hurt either.  Being across the John Hancock Building, 2 blocks from Michigan Ave and 4 blocks from the lakefront provided easy access to social fun.  Hillary Hartley and I actually rented bikes, rode along the lake, onto the Riverwalk, into the Frank Gehry infused Millennial Park to soak in an evening of Indian music and dancing in the park. 


Regarding the conference content, there was some great presentations and case studies shared

The city of Geneva, Illinois shared a true participatory government example in explaining how a Facebook Fan Page for Geneva, Illinois started by a high school junior … on his own time … became adopted by the city and established as the official Facebook Fan Page for the city.  Truly inspiring stuff.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin shined light on a court ruling about how access to Facebook profile pages of a government official is not required.1 Essentially, that means that government officials with Facebook profiles can still choose who to connect with on Facebook.  And that means, that social media jerks can still be left on the outside. 

“Social scientists.”  A term used by John Ohab – the man behind Armed With Science – to describe the type of person that social media practicers are:  one part web-savvy technologist and one part communications expert.  I like that term and imagine myself making use of it in the future.

But many challenges and unanswered questions remain. Including the typical ones surrounding culture change (or lack of) to embrace these new tools.  While everyone in the room understood how the risks of social media tools are no different than the risks faced by organizations when introducing email and telephones into their operations, evidence of how to properly make that case so that stakeholders grasp the message remains an ongoing exercise of experimentation

In fact, I was stunned by the number of people – who were sent to this conference with the task and action item to develop tactical strategies of social media use in their organizations – face blockers in their workplace preventing them from using these tools.  That’s right.  Access to sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube is blocked at the firewall level.    Craaaaaazy.

My presentation was a case study of the Ames Spotlight blog project I worked on in 2007.  Within that case study, I discussed how open source solutions and community practices are tools in efforts of social media adoption within government institutions.  While my presentation wasn’t designed to stand on its own (its mostly a slideshow of photos) it is embedded below.


  1. I searched the interwebs for a link about this, but haven’t found one.  I’ll be following with the presenter to see if there is something on the web to point to. 

True Stories From Social Media

This tweet from Ryan Kuder reminded me that it’s time to tell a recent story of reconnecting and discovery.

It started back around March, probably.  I started following Chris Perkett (@missusP on Twitter). I’m not exactly 100% sure how it started, but it was probably due to a reply that Aaron Strout (who I had met at SXSW) tweeted her way about the Red Sox.  I’m pretty much a sucker for any kind Red Sox chatter, online or offline, so anyone talking Red Sox on Twitter is someone I’m going to start following. 

My virtual friendship with Chris evolved from there. Reading and commenting on a blog post or two that she wrote, a nice exchange about what Superman and/or Clark Kent would be tweeting if they were online, friending each other on Facebook…you know how it goes.  One day you’re exchanging tweets, a week later you’re sharing pictures of your kids with each other.

I’ve yet to ask Chris about how the next set of events were initiated.  Holding out because I’m traveling to Boston in September and hoping to hear the story in person at that time. But a couple weeks ago I received a Facebook new friend notification in my email inbox.  Turn out it was from Chris’s husband and it said:

Hi JJ, I see that you’ve connected with my wife and her PR firm…small world since we graduated from GHS together in ’89…hope all is well”

Yup, turns out @missusP is married to Rich Perkett, who I went to school with in Glastonbury, Connecticut and graduated from Glastonbury High School with in 1989.  It was that same year Rich and I got into a police chase while trying to perform some silly senior prank and only escaped Johnny Law by hiding motionless in the woods for about a half hour.  At least, that’s sort of how I remember the story. 

  Glastonbury HS, Glastonbury, CT

So yeah, small world huh?  OK, that’s just the first part of the story. 

Second part of the story starts with Rich’s Facebook profile and discovering that there’s a network setup for Glastonbury High School.  Who knew there was high school networks in Facebook? Certainly not me.  So I start navigating through the pages looking to connect with some forgotten friends only to see the name of another person who I recently met at SXSW. Who at the time, I had no idea I went to high school with.  Who just happened to graduate GHS in 1990, a year after Rich and I did.  The Queen of Twitter herself, Laura Fitton, aka Pistachio on Twitter is a fellow GHS graduate.  

Laura, I remember meeting you in Austin, but sorry…no idea if we crossed paths in Glastonbury.  Who knows?  Maybe we were in a class together.  Maybe we were on the same U.N. Club bus trip to New York City (that club was all about getting out of school for a day to go to NYC, right?).  Or maybe there was a boring Glastonbury Saturday night that we were all in the McDonald’s parking lot looking for stuff to do.  I know Rich and I spent more time than we would care to admit in that lot doing absolutely nothing.

We’re all starting to have similar stories of reconnecting.  As much as I’m enjoying making friends in far away places like Bucharest and Tokyo, the emergent possibilities of reconnecting with social media tools like Facebook and Twitter are equally, if not more, satisfying. 

It has me thinking of Rob Gordon in High Fidelity.  If Rob had Facebook and went to find the members of the “all-time, top-five most memorable breakups” group, he wouldn’t have to use the phonebook to find Charlie Nicholson.

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