Do You Have A Credible Digital Footprint?

Do You Have A Credible Digital Footprint?


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If you're raising a terrifying cyborg then apparently a butterfly clip stops them hitting the start button. Seems like a vaguely dangerous hack to me. But what do I know? I just flee from them in terror, I don't raise them.

In retail strategy there is the notion called minimum credible range.

For example, should you wish to say that you stock Italian food you would need to have pasta, passata, oregano, etc. You can’t just put a pair of women’s ski gloves on a side table and say you have a ‘womenswear section’.

When it comes to your own digital life a similar principle applies.

However, in the case of Italian food it effectively codified about a century ago around unification. (Pasta was out with Mussolini and the Futurists then came back in but that’s probably the biggest change.)

To maintain credibility your digital footprint requires an annual assessment.

And I know what you’re thinking:

But Gordon, I’m a teacher/viticulturalist/mother/professional assassin/secretary general of the UN. I don’t really need all this crap as much as you do with your ridiculous job in a fake industry.

Which may be true but are you too old to ‘not get’ something? You ready to throw in that towel to the ‘kids these days’?

Because take it from me and the behavioural studies I read in my ridiculous job… once you skip one digital communication iteration you are off the ride. For good.

In my hometown I have a high school friend with a PhD in mathematics. She never joined Facebook. And now doesn’t have a smartphone, barely uses email, has no idea what’s going on with her friends all over the world, misses wedding invites and so on. She’s 29. From an actuarial perspective she has a quite a few more decades of digital development to live through. That’s simply too early to get off the ride.

When I asked her whether she thought the future was going to be more or less digital she looked aghast. Then I twisted the knife a bit by asking if she felt comfortable being completely ignorant of a world her baby is about to start engaging in within a couple of years. (Not being mean… I do actually really think she should be aware of the risk that entails.)

In the coming years will your contact with essential services, with retail businesses, with personal finance companies, with your children’s schools, with medical services become more or less digital?

Just before graduating high school, this brother and sister duo raised a robot army and enslaved the human race. They divided the planet up into hemispheres, Solomon-style and ruled for decades.

Don’t ever get off the ride.

You don’t have to drop out of your whole life and follow the ride around the country like a weird carnie but you shouldn’t get off it.

Hence minimum credible digital footprint.

Every time this post occurred to me something big happened in the digital world, causing a reboot.

Crazy!

So we’re just going to go through a random list of products and behaviours and see if we can’t trace the outline of a foot by the end of this post.

Mobile

Mobile is one of those technologies that became invisible really quickly.

It went from ‘expensive and sporadically useful’ to ‘ubiquitous and invisible’ in a bit over a decade.

This isn’t your father’s internet. Here’s what the awesome Jason Calacanis has to say about Apple’s inevitable m-commerce product:

When Apple releases this product — and they will — it will spur massive ecommerce and consumption on a global basis. 

If iPhones did just 10% of the revenue of movie tickets sold in the U.S. via this method, it would be $1.2B of the $10.17B spent in 2011 on tickets. 

That’s a billion in pure profit. 

Remember, Visa and American Express still get their take and they still handle all the billing. Apple is just charging a convenience tax that would be well worth it to internet brands and retailers. 

The biggest hurdle in buying movie tickets on your phone is trying to type the characters it takes to enter your name, expiration date, security code, credit card number and zip code.

If iPhones accounted for 1% of restaurant sales, that would be $6B of the $604B spent in 2011. 

Again, pure profit. What if they get 2%+ of restaurant sales — that seems possible to me? $15M in pure profit.

Profit.

And last year, for the first time, more mobile devices were sold globally than PCs. The web will be majority mobile in about eighteen months.

So I’m going to suggest you buy something on your smartphone in the next few days. No need to waste money, buy something you were planning on purchasing anyway. Not an app. I mean transact. Buy something that actually exists in meatspace.

I’m also going to suggest you have a public recommendation service. Outside Europe I will freely recommend a competitor product but inside I would strongly suggest you shop local as network effects are key to usability with products like these. (The European option, my employer, is much larger here and growing faster.)

Blogging and publishing

What’s exciting is that in the next three years we will witness the culmination of a 600 year journey toward a lossless, perfect idea-distribution technology. It might not immediately look like that to our elderly eyes but that’s because, at the moment, the losers are writing our history.

That being said, the economics have fundamentally changed. In 2008, my sister, who works in global finance, said “there will never be as many bankers as there was in 2007.” The industry permanently changed. That’s what’s happening here.

Read this excellent piece of advice for food bloggers and apply it on a macro level.

From a credible digital footprint perspective, you still need your authentic voice to be “found” online. The challenge is just how much voice you feel like putting up there. And unless you particularly feel like regularly writing -in the creative, artistic pursuit sense- then I’d suggest something like tumblr. And if you have a blog that you rarely update I’d suggest tumblr then too. It’s a fast, easy way to build an audience around an idea.

But if you know that you’re never going to get rich or famous from blogging and you’re still retarded enough to want to do it then go for your life and know that I love you very much.

Twitter

Twitter still benefits from its asymmetric contact relationships. Let me explain… much as I’d like to, I can’t dial down certain voices in G+. It’s binary. It’s either circle or not. I could put them in a circle called ‘check infrequently’ but I want them in a specific occult circle, just dialled down a bit. Twitter and its API partners give you supreme flexibility in people you follow yet ignore, people who follow you whom you ignore, people you want to hear more of… and so on. It has more levers for the high-level social media whore.

Also, it has a widely distributed API which means you can log-in to other services with this rather than Facebook or Google which may or may not insist on your real name.

Twitter is better for and at breaking news and I think it’s comparative ease of use on mobile handsets versus both Facebook and G+ means it will maintain that advantage. Also, if you attend as many conferences as I do then hashtags are essential.

I still say you need twitter, if only for API log-ins. Although I expect some fun new features soon which could turn it from a microblog into a medi-blog. Specifically its Posterous acquisition. I’ve been using it since 2008. I prefer it to tumblr because it indexes better and doesn’t suffer from the MySpace blight of so many fuck-awful themes. If you use twitter expect Posterous functionality to be rolled out soon.

Retail

90% of my grocery shopping is online. It’s saved me thousands. 80% of last Christmas’s gifts were purchased online.

I watch my friends waste their Saturday afternoons trawling up and down Oxford Street -the busiest shopping district in the world- with pity. They hate doing it as well but its like swimming… a lack of understanding leads to a lack of confidence leads to unhappy outcomes.

So if you’re still a bit at sea with online retail then set yourself a monthly percentage spend target. set a percentage target for online shopping. Then when Christmas comes round again you’ll be primed to capitalise on the shift from daily deals toward coupon-ecommerce.

G+

The class quickly overwhelmed the hapless Verizon rep and incinerated him with nothing but the power of their combined thoughts.

Communities are weird. They’re inherently unpredictable in the first few months.

G+, for instance, appears to be organising around niches like a typepad from the future (find me) rather than weak/strong temporal connections the way Facebook does.

It hasn’t released its API which is annoying and, despite the protestations of their European VP of social a few weeks ago…. decidedly anti-social.

At the moment it’s playing a very 2002 game where it’s happy to let you play on Facebook within G+ but absolutely won’t let you contemplate a reverse path.

But you know what?

Think of it like paying protection money to the mafia. You have to do it or you’ll be invisible. Even if it doesn’t really do anything.

Here are some tips. on doing G+ right. Unfortunately the free book is gone. Apologies but this post is a few days late. (Got distracted with ranting about the drought I’m currently sheltering from in a pub because the hail is too large to walk home in.)

I got a copy. It’s quite good. Much better than Guy’s last book. Worth it if you’ve been meaning to sit yourself down and just get really fucking good at G+ one of these days.

Chrome

Full confession. I think I actually hate chrome. Like… I’m using it right now but this means I have to restart my computer at least twice a day. Despite its promises, it’s not any more stable than its competitors and most of its extensions are useless. Silverbird is vastly inferior to twitterfox, for instance. And if you solve my twitter need you have a customer for life.

Paranoid Gordon thinks this is because Google only wants you to use G+ so it makes all competitors just that little bit too hard to use. See above WRT protection money. Firefox has got less and less love since Chrome launched and take it from someone who knows quite a few Googlers who arrived in the company via acquisition, that is very deliberate.

Also have you noticed that both Reader and Blogger are now in the ‘More’ dropdown rather than broken out along the top nav bar? And G+ is the first option in said nav bar? Do you think that’s because they want you to perform both your ‘catch up’ and ‘personal publishing’ behaviours inside G+? (Note also that ‘video’ has been replaced by ‘YouTube’. Suck it, Vimeo.)

Seemingly no one will agree with me on Chrome’s shitness. My partner insists the restarts are somehow my fault. Chrome isn’t some saviour of the internet it’s just a goddamn browser! In the words of Will Ferrell “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills here“.

However, your future success in literally everything from finding a mate to having a successful career to staying relevant in your kids’ lives as they age comes down to findability.

And Google has already demonstrated that it’s going to bend the rules in its favour to force you to use their tech. They rebuilt Barad-Dûr in slow motion in front of us -we all saw it coming- but it’s built now and until someone tears it down we have to submit to its diktats.

So use Chrome. And G+. And claim your business on Google Places. And use Gmail. (Gmail is actually the best mail product. Before you freak out, I’m not saying delete your hotmail/yahoomail just phase it out. Takes about six weeks before you can check it every three months. Also conducting business via any email account except gmail makes you look unprofessional. This is about credibility not preference, remember?)

Doesn’t mean we won’t betray them the second that we can feasibly do so. But, for now… the future depends on findability and, at the moment, the word is dictionarily synonymous with Google.

Pinterest

Now the third most popular social network. (Twitter took half the time Facebook took to get to 100m. Pinterest was the fastest site to ever make it to ten million unique monthly visits. There is nothing inherent in the virality of the products here. It’s just network effects doing what they do. How long do you think the next one will take?)

Seems to me Pinterest has two business problems: a product built on copyright violation and how it will make money without selling ads beside said copyright violations.

It also has one huge risk: Eventually Facebook will steal its core functionality and -just like it did to Twitter- make it part of its currently undeveloped photo featureset (*cough* instagram *cough*) and that will be the end of its point of difference.

Pinterest doesn’t fit my current digital life because I’m just not that transactional. Yes, I shop online but I don’t covet online. Any fun things worth sharing already have their outlet. So until it adds something I give a shit about Imma pass.

But if you’re in the business of selling shit online then you need to be all up in Pinterest.

Check out this little factlet:

In Q2 2011 Pinterest.com represented 1.2% of social media revenue for e-commerce sites. It now represents 17.4% and is quickly gaining on Facebook. (That shift from 1.2% to 17.4% is based on measurements we made across 40 of our client sites — most of which are top 500 internet retailers.) We project Pinterest will be responsible for 40% of social media e-commerce transactions by end of Q2 2012, reducing Facebook’s share to slightly under 60% from 86% a year ago.

Pinterest is your new e-shop window. Move fast and you can capitalise on this. Blink and you’re lost in the crowd. (There are also opportunities here if you would like to be a ‘taste maker’ in a particular niche. Find an uncrowded one, start a tumblr with the same name and get pinning!)

Keep your eye in

Always be fiddling with at least one thing that’s possibly going to take off. It’s a good way to learn how the people who will eventually define your engagement with the world around you are thinking. It helps you think new. Which I’m irrationally certain staves off physical obsolescence.

And most of the interesting things are happening in app space these days. I like:

  • Cinemagram: your instagram replacement, hipsters!
  • Platter: brand new so still a bit shit but promising for food lovers out there. (I’m gordonwhite. Find me.)

Most magically interesting

Weavrs are servitors brought to e-life. It’s been years since I created a servitor but were I to do so today, I’d incorporate a Weavr. (I actually prefer the name Weavr to servitor anyway. Let’s start calling ‘em that instead.)

Read this then look at this then read this.

Then just for the fuck of it, somebody please create accounts for every Goetic demon.

A credible digital footprint

Orright. Let’s stitch:

  • Gmail as your master email account. Use it for the following services:
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Chrome
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Also a smartphone with which you can access this Google account
Optional:
  • Either Tumblr or WordPress depending on writerly interest.
  • Pinterest if you trade online or wish to be a taste maker.

And finally… have one URL where your entire footprint can be easily located. Mine is technically my muggle blog. But check out what London’s hottest in every sense of the word (I would do terrible things to those boys) food outfit has for the ‘heel’ of their digital footprint. A few years ago this would have been called a ‘placeholder page’ and would have come with some apologies and the weak promise of building a better website soon. Now it’s no longer a placeholder, now it’s a pointer. There’s a lesson here. One that can be put into effect right now.

So may I suggest -regardless of your long term plans- you tie all your services together under an about.me account with the name you wish to be known as in a hypothetical work environment? Just for your own psychological peace of mind?

At the very least you’ll save on business cards.

 

15 Comments

Add yours
  1. 1
    Andrew B. Watt

    Interesting. I signed up for an about.me account, http://about.me/ABWatt

    I agree with you about the importance of building a digital footprint, but I also think it’s important to build a digital skill set at the same time. I make flyers and posters and videos for my school now. They may be crap, but I make them because I have the skills to do so. Most of my professional colleagues don’t. Who takes all the candid shots around school? I do. Because no one else takes the time to pull out their cameras to document what’s happening. As a result, my skills get better, however gradually, and other folks’ skills languish.

    At the same time, it’s bringing me into contact with the “losers write history” phenomenon you describe. How could it not? All those ninety+ videos of history themes and discussions on my YouTube account get far more commentary from Indians and Chinese and Pakistani visitors than from my own students — and they’re critical of what I’m presenting, because it differs from their own historical sense of events. Which is to say, the textbook I’m using as the base of my teaching in class is wrong, and getting more wrong all the time…

    We live in interesting times.
    Andrew B. Watt´s last blog post ..Taiji Day 46: Slow Down

  2. 2
    Gordon

    @Andrew this is definitely a contender for best comment ever.

    I agree with you on the importance of building a digital skillset but if you read between the lines that’s what I’m sneakily trying to get people to do -buying meatspace things on their mobile, etc- without them getting too grumpy at me… which is something a magical community has a tendency to do. (Cantankerousness is one of the many reasons I love them.)

    Keep doing the videos. We are moving into a world where you can contend for the crown of King Of All Teaching Everywhere if you feel like it.

    And if you don’t… how awesome to be able to say “yeah I turned down that crown. I’m pretty busy with my pottery. It’s not big.” :)

  3. 3
    Lance Foster

    I just signed up too, on your recommendation, Gordon: http://about.me/lancemfoster

    I’ve been underemployed for about 6 years now, and after that long, and me being old and tired anymore, tired of a lot of stuff (I will be 52 in June), my desires have receded along with my funds. It is interesting.

    Like Andrew, I just focus on learning stuff. Not to make mo’ money, money and all the BS that goes with it just pisses me off. But because I don’t want my brain to vegetate any sooner than it has to. I am learning new digital stuff (I teach two of my courses online, first through Blackboard and now through Moodle, as well as learning how to integrate Camtasia). As you can see my my various sites at http://about.me/lancemfoster I hope around and learn about different digital venues. Chrome is ok, it gets around the bugs of Safari, esp. on YouTube (Firefox is ok too). I don’t buy much stuff because I am under the poverty line, and all my money pretty much all goes to rent, utilities and food. Some months I don’t get paid at all (gaps between semesters) and I have to live off savings. My 4-yr old iMac desktop and this internet connection is my survival kit.

    But I am not just focusing on learning about digital stuff, though the venue is often digital. I am teaching myself guitar through YouTube, I learn about magic from you and your compatriots, I am wildcrafting and guerilla gardening, I am learning Mandarin, learning sacred geometry and numbers (Michell and Schneider), doing some art, teaching, and catching up on reading I have neglected for decades (Epictetus and Plato).

    Basically except for darting out to teach painting or drawing a couple of times a week and getting food, or visiting dad, or sisters’ families, I am becoming a hermit and contemplative.

    I don’t have ambition, not as most would define it. My career days are over. Even if I could get a fulltime job (I’ve tried for 6 years, and have finally given up)…I don’t believe the narratives you have to in order to do it. I’m done. I get by, making soup and bread and tea. I feel death coming before my time (no health care here), and I don’t want to waste it on the rat race and the worm-eaten and moldy carrot they hold out to keep you believing.

  4. 5
    solxyz

    I dont have a facebook account or cellphone and Im one of the happiest people I know. If people are in my town, Im not too worried about what theyre doing.

  5. 6
    Kate

    For purposes of advancing in a career, I see your point. But personally… I already feel like I spend too much time online, and I don’t do FB or Twitter or G+ or any social networking sites. I don’t have a cell phone either, because I don’t actually want to be reachable at any time, or have an automatic distraction in my pocket at all times (not to mention, I have better things to spend my limited money on).

    In all of this “keeping up with technology”, where is the time for being present, and still, and quiet, and part of the world around us? What about shopping locally instead of online, and supporting our communities? What about spending actual face time with friends and family, rather than clicking a button on the computer? (And if they can’t be bothered to connect by phone or email or mail, then I guess I’m not really that important to them.)

    I realize I must seem awfully old-fashioned (at the age of 34!!), and maybe the world will indeed pass me by this way, but I don’t see a compelling reason I’d want to be part of that world anyway. To my mind, the internet should be a tool for learning and fostering real-life activities (as Lance described), but in most cases it just seems to be a huge time suck and distraction from anything meaningful.

    Obviously it’s working for you, but I am not convinced it’s improving most people’s lives, just complicating and isolating them.

  6. 7
    Lonnie

    Interesting post, Gordon.

    I’m immersed in the Digital world, and there are still things you listed I don’t use. Well, Pinterest and Chrome.

    I’m in agreement with you about Facebook eventually taking over the function of Pinterest. Facebook has almost replaced Tumblr. My news feed features a lot of the same picture posts on either site.

    I still use Firefox. It’s clean, easy, and never failed me. I like it’s outsider feel. Chrome is shit. I’m not using anything just because Google made it …well, not true. I did join G+ because a friend convinced me it’s a must for authors/bloggers. I’m still unconvinced it won’t go the same direction Buzz did. Out. We shall see.

    This post also served me two important reminders.

    First, you’re making me feel lazy as a writer. I have a growing body of incomplete work in my drafts at the moment. Nothing new in a week.

    Second, I haven’t (done now) updated my about.me page in a couple years. I think the last time I looked at it was when they offered the business cards through moo.

    Nice insights as always, Gordon.
    Lonnie´s last blog post ..How Do You Say What You Do?

  7. 8
    jonquil

    My situation is similar to Lances’. I, also, realize that working outside fulltime isn’t going to happen. My drive to acquire just to acquire is pretty much zilch (I do admit to the occasional bout of book & fabric stashing). That doesn’t meant that I don’t keep busy…I’m watching my 3 young grandchildren. Their world is going to be far into the digital age & I intend to do my best to keep up! (still don’t understand what a Weavr is) I get three-quarters of the way & then get
    lost…but that’s what YouTube is for ;) Having Multiple Chemical Sensitivities has pretty much limited my socializing & shopping to online, but, Kate, I don’t have a problem with being present as needs dictate.

  8. 9
    Satyr Magos

    Interesting thoughts. I know I’m behind the times, digitally, and will probably always be so. Fortunately, in terms of my industry (academia), this still puts me ahead of many colleges and peers. That said, I do have half the services you mention and did take your advice and got an about.me for my meatspace name. (Given how many treaties on ancient magic and religion start with an obligatory rant on how the author is too savvy and modern to actually believe in any of this, it’s kind of a necessity.)

    For what it’s worth, though, I also hate chrome. It fails to load about half the time, the “streamlined” interface is actually just bare-bones, it can’t figure out where page breaks go when attempting to print, and as you say: it suspiciously reduces the functionality of any Google competitors. I try it again every time I hear about at new version coming out because people tell me how awesome it is, but …. I remain underwhelmed.
    Satyr Magos´s last blog post ..Shaman: My Uncomfortable Relationship With a Problematic Word

  9. 10
    Deb

    1. I am assisting in raising one of these terrifying creatures and at 13 months, she can hit the barn on the iPad to see the animal inside and pop balloons on the screen. I make sure to be nice to her as she will be my cybernetic overlord one day. (p.s. thank you for that nanny link, I really needed it that day. In the U.S. nannying doesn’t have the same cache as it does abroad, at least in the ‘burbs so I start to feel like a transient unmotivated bad worker bee until I read that and watch super nanny and then I feel good about it again).

    2. I hate Chrome too, my heart belongs to Firefox but they couldn’t keep up! Chrome doesn’t crash for me and I’m a terrible user with ninety billion tabs and all so . . .sadly I have to side with James that you’re probably using ten billion tabs and killing it, perhaps out of (understandable) spite because it’s not Firefox.

    3. Google + gives me a headache (for the reasons you mentioned) which is why I don’t play with it much.

    4. You’re completely right about Pinterest, once I have a chance to take pictures to update my Etsy (ugh, bane of my fucking existance), I’m going to utilize it. Hopefully sometime this week now that I’ve switched from ‘Quil to Claritin and am starting to feel human again (fucking plants repro’ing).

    5. You also made my day with including my blog change where you did. <3 <3 <3

    6. I'm going to admit something shameful – I don't have a smartphone yet. But my carrier is making it exponentally harder not to have one so . . .that's just a matter of time. I can only do so much change at once!!! It will just be so much more expensive because I know myself. I'll "need" Spotify Premium and god knows what else through there. But I was sufficiently shamed by your post to bite the bullet just now and price out a Droid that's on sale and has 4G and is made for dummies and to harrange a Verizon employee with all my questions and I read the reviews (low battery life seems to be the big complaint but whatever, I charge every night already and I'll get a car adapter). Then I priced out accessories. Now I just have to convince Jow (who's a complete luddite – I'm the savvy techno dork of the two of us and most of my knowledge is admin trouble shooting/admin programs based with some html/css and beginner web site building but I know HMTL way better than CSS and I don't like CSS so that's a hurdle and I'm pretty decent with Photoshop). I'm thinking I'm going to leap even if he doesn't because it's getting ridic.
    Deb´s last blog post ..Testing

  10. 11
    Mr Black

    I’ve had my about.me for abit now. I enjoyed it because I found the simplicity of it even better than having my own domain.

    It’s social networking and having your own digital business card.

    P.S: They’ve just released an IOS app for about.me – pretty cool.
    Mr Black´s last blog post ..Lawsuit over a “Haunted House”

  11. 12
    Elle

    Firefox for Mac has much better Google integration. Anytime I want to search Google I have a built-in Google search field in the corner of my browser! What’s up with Chrome not having that feature? Yeesh.
    Elle´s last blog post ..Becoming Wiser: Entry #1

  12. 15
    Tim Horan

    Bah humbug! This post from two years ago made my old man mind realise that I had gotten off the ride. The Gordon of (near) yesteryear has painfully reminded me that I may not be able to continue in this fashion, being responsible for both 8 and 13 year old offspring.

    Well look what you’ve done and made me do – http://about.me/tim.horan

    Now get off my lawn!

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