Ration your Opinion

One of the most valuable passages I read this year is this: “I don’t need to provide my opinion on every subject.”

It’s OK to simply listen. Most times, my opinion isn’t going to change minds. In fact, it seldom does.

Next time you read something on social media that makes you angry, ask yourself, “Do I need to engage? or “What do I hope to accomplish by engaging with this person?”

Not everyone has earned the right to hear your opinion. Share it with those who will respect you, no matter where you come down on a subject.

How To Keep From Getting Dooced

Is your casual persona on a collision course with your professional persona? Before blogs, Facebook and Twitter the rules were straight forward: Keep your personal life tucked away at home and put on your professional hat when clocked in at the office. 

But the casual and professional are on a collision course, and the fallout to your career can be substantial if not managed properly.


When I started my blog back in 1999, few friends, coworkers or relatives knew it existed. In fact, I had to explain to them what a blog was, and most told me they already kept a journal and couldn’t imagine putting it online for everyone to read. Funny how many of those same people are now on Blogger telling everyone the gory details of their baby’s last diaper change or visit to the fertility clinic. 

It’s only been the last couple of years that coworkers, friends and family have started to read my blog. It still feels strange when someone approaches me at church and says, “Hey, I liked your blog last Saturday”. I’d like to say I haven’t changed how I write and what topics I cover but that wouldn’t be honest. I’ve had to install a stronger filter to ensure I don’t damage friendships or get dooced.

With the proliferation of social media sites like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter, getting your thoughts out to an audience is easier than ever. But it can also lead to many awkward situations.

For example, should you accept Facebook friend invites from employees who report to you? Should you invite your manager to be your friend? What about former direct reports you had to let go? 

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I can tell you what’s worked for me through trial and error. 

Facebook and Twitter are easier to manage because it’s simple to block someone on Facebook or switch your Twitter account to private. 

If you only want approved friends to see your Facebook profile, login to your account. Then go to Settings/Privacy/Profile and set your Profile to “Only Friends”. By default, everyone can see your Profile. 

There are times it might be handy to block someone from seeing anything about you. Start by making sure you’ve not added them as a friend. If you have, go to their profile, scroll down the page until you see “Remove from Friends” on the left side of the page. Once that’s done you should see a link to “Report/Block this Person” to click on.

When you unfriend or block someone, they are not notified of your actions. You just stop showing up on their News Feed. Nice work Facebook!

In Twitter, you block people by logging into your profile and then going to the profile page of the person you want to block. On the right hand side of the page, under Action, click “block *name*. Or you can take your Twitter account private by going to Settings. Under the Account tab, check the “Protect my tweets” box near bottom of page. I block a number of spammers and porn purveyors.

Although these options are available, I tend not to block people unless they harass me. If you feel strange about accepting a friend request from a coworker or boss, don’t do it. I listen to my gut and tend to error on the side of acceptance because I assume most people are intelligent enough to separate their personal life from the professional.

But there are many valid reasons for taking precautions. Here are a few that would raise a red flag for me:

  1. Your company lacks a blogging policy – tells me the brass in charge probably don’t read many blogs and don’t see the value of having a policy in place. Having a blogging policy at least tells you someone in charge has thought about it. If your company doesn’t have a blogging policy, volunteer to help write one. Wouldn’t you rather have input on the subject than have HR or legal write it for you? At the very least, it gives you the opportunity to teach executives about blogs and social media.
  2. Your boss doesn’t read blogs – a big red flag. She may overreact to something that seems fair game to you. If she reads blogs, she may understand the casual nature and appreciate your creative outlet.
  3. Your boss has a Facebook and/or Twitter account but does not participate – This may indicate she uses those accounts to lurk. As I rule, I do not accept friend invites from people who don’t contribute to the conversation. It’s a two-way street and why add them if they don’t contribute?
  4. Your company bans access to sites such as Gmail, Facebook, or Twitter – Some companies monitor their employee’s internet usage down the sites they can visit. In such a case, I’d steer clear of work related topics on my blog and take all precautions on Facebook and Twitter.
  5. You can’t run a program without approval from IT– Do they ban MSN Messenger or Firefox or iTunes? If so, beware. You work for a company that wants full control of your online time, and they probably won’t appreciate your Facebook status update complaining about the printer jam.

On the flip side, you should be encouraged if someone in upper management maintains a blog. Companies such as 37 Signals, Sun Microsystems, and Zappos are examples of companies who have managers who blog and encourage their employees to do so. If your CEO maintains an active blog, you’re looking golden!

If in doubt, ask around your company to get a sense of the landscape. You might be surprised to find out how many of your coworkers have blogs. Doesn’t hurt to ask your manager if she reads blogs. She may suggest a good one you’ve overlooked. Just don’t jump in and assume nobody cares. Believe me, if you write something that gets their attention in bad way, they will care greatly.

But your blog may benefit your career as well. One time I interviewed for a position, and HR asked for a writing sample. I gave them the URL to my blog and eventually got the job.

Much of this is common sense. You should take the pulse of your company and determine how to proceed if you want to participate in social media and/or get your thoughts out there on a blog. Unless you take your blog private, assume your friends, coworkers and boss read it. All it takes is one lapse in judgment and you could torch your job. Of course, you could always write anonymously like Mini Microsoft. But that doesn’t interest me.

I view my blog as an asset. There’s a lot more about the real me there than any resume can convey. If someone reads my blog and decides I’m not a good fit for their company, I’ve saved myself a lot of time. I feel lucky to work for a company that doesn’t ban Facebook, Twitter or discourage blogging. I helped my boss start a blog and that gave me the opportunity to talk openly about the subject.

How do you handle such decisions? Do you add coworkers to Facebook and follow them back on Twitter? I’m interested to hear if you merge the personal and profession or attempt to keep them separate.

Facebook’s Zuckerberg on 60 Minutes

Mark Zuckerberg, the 23 year old founder and CEO of Facebook, was interviewed for 60 minutes tonight by Leslie Stahl. Zuckerberg was quite defensive at times and clearly doesn’t feel very comfortable in front of the camera, although he did provide some interesting bits of information, especially when it came to Stahl’s privacy questions surrounding Beacon which is Facebook’s new, highly controversial advertising platform. Zuckerberg freely admits that Beacon needs more work but made it clear that Facebook won’t survive unless it works when he says,

“There has to be ads either way because we have to make money, I mean, we have 400 employees….and have to support all that and make a profit”.

 screen_2008-01-13 21.23.49

My favorite quote of the interview came during one of the few light moments of the interview when Stahl asked Zuckerberg why his Facebook profile lists “Harvard alum” when he left school before graduating. Zuckerberg responds, “There’s no setting for drop out”.

As I watched the interview I couldn’t help but wonder how he compared to the young Bill Gates back when Bill was brash, inexperienced and obviously very bright. As Gates leaves Microsoft, could we be watching the next software mogul move into position?

It will be interesting to watch over the next few years. You can watch most of the interview here.

One problem with Mahalo: Dead Links

I was checking out the page at Mahalo for “Best Computer Speakers” and was interested in the Logitech models.

To see one of the problems Jason and his team are going to run up against, go to the Best Computer Speakers page and click on the link to Logitech Z-10. Or see the screen cap below.

Sure, this happens with Google, Yahoo and Live. But you don’t expect this to happen with a human powered search engine. The challenge to keep the pages current could prove to be as difficult as creating them in the first place.

I’ve noticed similar problems with Squidoo. There must be some type of link checking these companies can employ. Many people will give Google the benefit of the doubt. But it doesn’t feel right to encounter dead links at services that tout themselves above the general clutter of search.

It will be interesting to see how Mahalo handles dead or moved links. I can only imagine it’s a nightmare to keep up with, but it needs to be addressed as this isn’t the first time I’ve come access this.

screen_2007-11-18 21.53.05

Slacker Desktop Radio

I wrote about Slacker radio a while back and how much I enjoyed the ability to listen to a number of excellent radio stations at work. Back then my only complaint was that the service was browser based which meant that occasionally I’d close a window and bring the music to a halt.

Well today I noticed that Slacker has released a stand-alone application called the Slacker Desktop Radio. It looks nearly identical to the web version but is able to be minimized. I’ve been using it all day and find it well designed, stable and packed full of great music. I like the options better than those found in iTunes.

I still listen to my favorite playlists of MP3s but Slacker is a great way to find new music or listen to songs that are not in your collection. Highly recommended. You can download it here.

The October issue of Maximum PC names Slacker one of the best 15 web apps – “Forget Last.fm. Never mind Pandora. Don’t even think about iTunes. If you want the ultimate in fully customizable Internet radio, get your slackin’ ass over to Slacker.com…”

Here is the full sized version of Slacker Desktop


Here is the mini version


The nifty IE Tab for Firefox

As much as I enjoy Firefox, there are times when I need to run Internet Explorer such as running Windows Update or retrieving email over Outlook Web Access.

Instead of firing up IE, I can run IE inside of Firefox with a nifty little add-on called IE Tab. Once installed I tell IE Tab which sites to launch in IE. See screen below.






One thing to keep in mind, if you have other add-ons such as Mouse Gestures installed (my favorite Firefox add-on) they will not work in IE Tab. This isn’t a big deal, but I used to add MSNBC to IE Tab until I realized my gestures wouldn’t work.

Here is Windows Update running under Firefox using IE Tab. Without IE Tab this would not be possible.


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Firefox Frustrations

I’m a huge fan of Firefox and have been since it came out a few years ago. I’m very much hooked on the numerous add-ons that are available such as mouse gestures that I can’t browse without.

But lately, Firefox has been very unstable and I’m not sure why. One of the ad-ons I have installed called IE Tab opens up IE in a Firefox tab. This is helpful for visiting sites such as MSNBC or Outlook web access. But one problem I’ve had for a while is that Firefox will shut down when I try to reply to an email using Outlook web access. This might be a problem with IE Tab although it happens even when I disable it and use Firefox to view my email.

And lately, I’ve been getting a lot more error messages like the one below when I browse the web. What initially was an inconvenience is turning into a pain in the butt.


I can’t imagine going back to IE as my primary browser but I might unless the old Firefox stability returns.

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