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    Buzz and the need to figure it all out instantly

    Unless you were offline or asleep for the last few days by now you surely have heard, read about, or even tried Google Buzz, the latest entrant into the collaboration/social networking space.

    What is remarkable, and I think ultimately depressing is the almost instantaneous rush by tech news sites, pundits, bloggers, and even individuals to make grand and sweeping conclusions and pronouncements on the utility and potential of the Buzz technology literally within hours of its release and with certainly only the tiniest set of experiences and samples to work from.

    The Lohan Corollary

    Don't get me wrong, of course it is natural and expected to have a quick reaction or gut feeling about a technology after some initial testing, but it seems almost paparazzi-like the way we seem to have to race our reasoned analysis on to our blogs and sites.  I call it the Lohan Corollary. It's like the launch of Google Buzz is akin Lindsay Lohan walking out of a club at 3 AM bombed out of her mind and whoever gets the first picture up wins the game.

    Let's be clear, Lindsay will pull the same stunt again later this week, and Google Buzz will be around for a while.  We can acually take some time to test, experiment, and think before passing judgment.

    We're spoiled

    It could be that we are all just too spoiled and cynical in general, and particularly when it comes to the most popular platforms.

    Twitter rolls out a new feature or two and there is an online uproar if it is not deployed exactly like a few popular users/pundits would have liked.  God forbid Facebook makes any change at all (and granted they have made some questionable moves) and immediately there are a flurry of blog posts, tweets, retweets etc. denouncing and complaining.  LinkedIn gets bashed sometimes for being LinkedIn.

    Google launches more FREE technologies like Wave and Buzz and we moan and complain that they tools are (pick one or more) too confusing, too slow, not intuitive, a distraction, not EXACTLY what we would have done.  I have even seen folks complain that the new (did I mention FREE) Google Buzz is clogging up their (FREE) Gmail inboxes.

    Get over it

    I get it, many of us have come to rely on these tools, Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, etc. as an essential component in our professional and personal lives.  We expect and demand that they function up to our expectations and to an acceptable and reasonable standard. 

    We put up with ads all over Gmail and Facebook that help fund the continued FREE use of these platforms, that many of us use for our own commercial purposes.  There is a tradeoff for sure, we get the capability and enormous potential of the technologies, and the owners get to make money.  It is working for both parties. Sometimes the owners of these platforms will exercise their rights as owners and make changes, add features, and roll out entirely new products and just like any other consumer decision we make in life we can choose to 'buy-in' or opt-out. 

    But can we at least try to make that decision with less whining and complaining?

    I am leaving with this video, it is a little old but tells a great story about our collective cynicism.

    Have an amazing weekend everyone!

    Update - when I started writing this post, most of the commentary I had seen about Buzz was neutral to negative, in the space of about 24hrs the tone and opinion of many of the newer pieces was much more positive in nature.  Go figure, actually taking an entire day to consider and experiment actually seemed to make a difference.


    What Do They See?

    NOTE: This guest post is by the great Ben Eubanks of UpstartHR.  Take it away, Ben.

    Let's start with a visualization, shall we? A prospective applicant stops by your career site. They try to search for a job, but they can't find out how. They finally see the little button to search, but when they get to the next page, there doesn't seem to be a way to apply for the position. Disgusted, the applicant turns away from your site and files you away as a "don't even try to apply" in their mind. You've been discarded before you were even in the running.


    Is that fair? Is it your fault that they were unable to find out how to apply to your job postings? Well, it may not be, but with a new Google tool, you may be able to see that problem and correct it before other candidates end up the same way.
    Google Browser Size is a new tool cooked up by Google's amazing engineers. If you go to this site and plug in your site's URL, you can check how much of your site people can see on their browsers. How does this affect you? Well, if the majority of people can't see how to apply, there's a good chance they won't apply.
    Check out the Browser Size tool and test it on your own site. You may be surprised at what you find out. When I looked at my own site, I saw that about 50% of my visitors don't see all the way across my site horizontally. I could be missing some feed subscriptions from those people simply because they can't see my button.



    To compare that same issue with Steve's site, you can see that more than 80% of his visitors can see his subscription button without having to scroll. I'd be willing to bet that his subscription rate is higher than mine simply on that measure alone. Plus, more than 90% get a glimpse of his HR Happy Hour logo right off the bat. How's that for promoting the show?

    In the post on the Google blog, one of the project engineers talked about how they discovered the problem through their own Google Earth download page. Although a large number of people were visiting the page, there was a significant difference in the number of hits on that page and the number of software downloads. They tested the site with the Browser Size tool and saw that about 10% of people couldn't see the button to download the program.
    Ten percent doesn't sound like much, but if your organization gets 1000 hits on your career page per day, that's 100 people who never even apply (assuming they had planned to). Are you sure you want to be turning them away before you get a chance to see their qualifications?
    Ben Eubanks is an HR professional from Huntsville, AL. He lives much of his life online. Don't believe it? Catch him on LinkedIn, Twitter, RocketHR, or via email. His blog, UpstartHR, is about many things, including HR, leadership, and zombies.



    Google Sidewiki for HR

    Since so many new tools and technologies emerge, seemingly every day, it can be hard for HR Professionals to keep up with all the new developments.  A question I get asked often is which of these flashy new tools might have real utility in the workplace, and which might better be considered as consumer oriented solutions.

    Sometimes a new tool or enhancement to an existing tool is created that on the surface does not have obvious workforce related implications, but with some thought, and perhaps creativity, can be leveraged in an effective way.

    One of these tools is the Google Sidewiki.  Introduced about two weeks ago, Sidewiki allows anyone that installs the latest version of Google Toolbar, the ability to add comments to any web page.

    Once installed, Sidewiki appears as a browser sidebar, where you can view, add, or comment on entries made about that web page.

    This video from Google gives a quick overview of the tool:

    Thinking about the potential HR and workforce uses of an 'always on' commenting and feedback tool for any web page:

    Candidate communication - Carry on discussions, offer links to more resources, and provide a bit more of a 'personal' experience to your corporate jobs pages. If nothing else, monitor the Sidewiki entries that may already be on your jobs pages.  It is not too far a reach to think that a disgruntled candidate may start using the Sidewiki capability to indicate any frustration or displeasure they have with the application process, or your company in general. If HR is the new marketing, then part of the duty is to keep an eye on what is being said about the brand.

    Employee feedback - Chances are your HR and Benefits related information sits on your employee intranet, changes only about once per year, and is read only on an 'have-to' basis by your employees. Sidewiki can be a mechanism to inject a bit of interaction and interest to normally dull pages and content. If you operate in the kind of environment where getting changes made to your HR intranet requires forms filled out in triplicate and taking the IT manager to lunch, then leveraging a free, and no-IT necessary tool like Sidewiki may make sense.

    Integration from 'static' web sites to social networks - Sidewiki can become a component of your integrated strategy in communicating your messages in social networks.  Sidewiki entries can be easily shared to Twitter, Facebook, and Blogger blogs, and help you achieve some consistency and reach in your message. In fact, as soon as this post is published, I will add a Sidewiki entry to the page and share it out on Twitter. If you see the Tweet and link to the entry, please let me know what you think of the tool and the process of sharing information in that manner.

    Impetus to add social elements to HR/Recruiting sites - The aspect of Sidewiki that HR and Communications departments have to understand, is that it in 'on' whether you want it to be or not.  Even if your 'Working Here' page does not have a forum, integrated chat room, or even a simply 'contact us' e-mail address, candidates, current employees, past employees, heck anyone can add Sidewiki entries to your page. Since Sidewiki entries are largely out of your control (Google decides what is offensive and what entries are the most relevant, not you), you may want to finally join the cool kids and incorporate more and better mechanisms to engage employees and candidates that you can control somewhat.

    To try out Google Sidewiki go to google.com/sidewiki to load the new Google Toolbar for Firefox and Internet Explorer that contains the new Sidewiki button.

    Can you see any other, perhaps more meaningful uses of Sidewiki for HR?


    A Great Big Blog Bundle

    I am an absolute slacker in keeping up the blogroll on this site.

    But, I am constantly finding and adding blogs to my subscriptions in Google Reader.  So while the 'links' on this site may list 10 or so blogs, I probably subscribe to 100 HR and Recruiting related blogs in Reader.

    Thankfully, Google Reader now has an easy way to package feeds into a 'bundle' that can be easily shared in Reader, as well as emailed, or embedded in a blog or website.

    This is also a great way to get co-workers, friends, or students started on reading blogs by creating for them an easy way to subscribe to a large number of blogs all at once.

    The process is incredibly easy. 

    1. In Google Reader, simply click on the link in the left sidebar titled 'Browse for Stuff'

    2. Over on the right side of the screen click the 'Create a Bundle' button

    3. Add a Title and Description for the Bundle

    4. Then drag and drop feeds from your subscription pane over into the Bundle box, you can select individual feeds, or entire folders

    5. When finished check 'Add to my Shared Items' to share this bundle inside Google Reader, then click 'Save'

    6. Once saved, you can now share the bundle outside of Reader via e-mail, embedding, sharing the link directly, or via an OPML file.

    7. To embed the file in your own blog, click the 'Create a Bundle Clip' link, then grab the embed code to copy/paste to your blog or website

    Here is a Blog Bundle I set up from the Guests and Callers of the HR Happy Hour Show - Episode 10:

    Anyone can now click on the 'Subscribe' link in the clip to be taken to Google Reader to subscribe to the bundle.

    I have also set up a 'Great Big HR Blog Bundle' of all the HR Blogs in my Reader that can be found by clicking the 'Blogroll' link on the top of this site.  Now any time I add a new feed to the bundle in Reader, this site will also be automatically updated.

    Feed Bundles are a great little feature in Reader and I hope you found this little tutorial helpful.


    Shareflow - A new tool for collaboration

    So by now unless you have been under a rock for the last two months you have heard about Google Wave, the upcoming tool from Google that promises to radically change the way people collaborate by merging or mashing up content (web pages, images, documents, social networking, etc.).

    But Google Wave is several months away from launch, and if you are anxious to get a feel for a Wave-like experience, perhaps you should give Shareflow a try.

    What is it?

    Shareflow is a tool for collecting updates from team members and organizing them in a live stream, called a 'Flow' that similar to a Twitter stream or a Facebook page. Short updates, links, or attached files most typically sent via email are the types of updates that will be captured in a Flow.

    These Flows can be shared to unlimited participants by using a simple 'Invite' link, and once the new user follows the extremely simple registration process they can get straight to collaborating on the Flow.

    Also, since offering an alternative to email collaboration is a prime use case of Shareflow, each flow has a unique email address that Flow participants can use to forward or copy emails right in to the Flow.


    What's so cool about it?

    But where the tool shows its strength, and earns is comparisons with Wave, is when multiple participants in the Flow are collaborating in real-time. Keeping the flow open and 'live' so to speak lets you share information and comments with the other members of the flow in a neat, seamless manner.

    Folks can scroll down the Flow to see how information or concepts were developed.  While it does not offer the dynamic 'replay' capability that is promised in Google Wave, this ability to collect and make available the history of a stream is far superior to a typical email centric work process.


    The embedded Google Maps capability is really neat, simply type in an address, an the Flow auto-generates a Google Map on the spot.  Additionally, Sharefow provides RSS feeds of each flow, enabling easy subscription to flow changes and additions in a feed reader and sends an optional daily e-mail digest to Flow participants. Finally, in a really cool feature, Shareflow enables drag and drop from your computer right into the Flow, simply highlight some content with your mouse, and drag it into the Flow and it automatically creates a new 'item' in the Flow.

    Who can use this

    I see a few obvious use cases for Shareflow; a group of students collaborating on a research project could set up a Flow for all members to share articles, links, and other content as part of the data gathering process.  People trying to organize or plan an event could leverage the platform in this manner as well. Since the Flow 'owner' can invite anyone to participate in the flow, project teams can easily collaborate with customers, prospects, or contractors on projects, without having to grant access to all of their flows to external users. Even an individual gathering ideas for a blog post or article could easily set up a flow to capture notes, ideas, etc in a really easy, lightweight manner. Really any time a give and take, or a simple exchange of ideas and comments needs to happen, a Flow might be a great solution.

    How do I get started?

    Go to www.getshareflow.com and register. Shareflow offers a free plan that allows 5 active flows and up to 25MB of storage, and from there you can upgrade to paid plans ranging from $20-$80 monthly that both increase the number of flows you can create and upgrade the file storage limits.

    I encourage you to give Shareflow a try, if nothing else to get yourself just a taste of what working with Google Wave might be like in the future.

    Note : Thanks to Ben Eubanks from the UpstartHR blog who helped me do some testing and provided some good feedback on Shareflow.