Targeting Communications

We have so many choices for communication that it’s easy for us to communicate in the wrong way, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Strange GrafitiI doubt I’m unique in the variety of places that I interact. When I write something I try to think about the different groups that I’m wanting to communicate with and to hone my message to fit that group.

At a high level the groups fit a bit like this:

  • Twitter: This is quite a broad constituency, but it’s mainly the people that I work with. I tend not to write about personal things because of this. I do send updates about my blog to twitter, but they generally fit with that constituency as well. Twitter is my primary update location, if I’m going to update my status anywhere it will be on twitter. I have been trying to tone down the volume a bit recently.
  • Linkedin: Although I’m quite active on Linkedin I don’t write very much. I mainly use it to keep in contact with where colleagues and former colleagues are up to. I could send automatic updates from twitter and other places here, but I don’t.
  • Facebook: Nearly all of my interactions on Facebook are personal ones. There are some colleagues who I have as friends but mostly my interactions are with people outside work. As well as updating and commenting I’m also likely to use Facebook for instant messaging and messaging communications with those who I know use Facebook. I also send my twitter updates to Facebook.
  • Google+: Well, next too nothing really, I feel like I’m still keeping a watching brief. I sometimes post a link to my blog. Most of the people in my circles are work people. Google+ has not really taken off with my outside work friends.
  • Email: I use email all day every day but try to keep the communications as tightly targeted as possible. Most of the time I avoid reply-to-all, but occasionally get caught out, and try to reduce the distribution list rather than grow it.
  • Blogs: I run two blogs because I write about different things. This one is mostly about things that I’m thinking about from day to day, I’m not very targeted in what I write, but people seem to accept that. The blessings blog is about, well, blessings. A few people read avidly, but most people find information via search (>65% of my visitors are new each month).
  • Skype: Skype plays a minor part on my communication regime. It’s sometimes get used for instant messaging communications and sometimes for video interactions with the family.

I think that’s most of it, but if you want to know more my is a reasonable place to keep up to speed with what I’m contributing to.

I wondered whether other saw things in a similar way so I’ve talked to a number of people and many of them seem to be seeing themselves having similar persona to these.

With these broad collections in mind I’ll target different places based on what it is I am writing.

I also make assessments on the length of what it is I am going to write. This isn’t very elaborate, most of the time it’s a simple question – short or long? If it’s short I’ll try and constrain it down to the 140 characters of twitter, if it’s long it goes here on this blog. That is, unless it’s really one-to-one communication and that’s what I use email for, still. I don’t see that we have a suitable alternative to email for this type of communication just yet.

Communication is such an important thing that we do I think it’s vitally important that we do our best to communicate in the best possible way.

I seem to have written a lot about communications recently:

Privacy and Attention Dimensions: Groups

"If you want to control privacy and attention – just put them in a group" seems to be the answer that most of the socials media (and other) sites are moving towards.

Visiting Vernon StumpyEach of them has a subtly, or even dramatically, different way of implementing groups, but fundamentally they are all trying to do the same thing.

The basic philosophy is that we can put people into different buckets and the bucket is then linked to different levels of privacy and attention.

The main reason for the buckets is that they provide a way of simplifying the administration of the system.

In most instances the group configuration that most people use is quite simple. Flickr, for instance, doesn’t even let you create your own groups, it gives you three – contacts, contacts that are friends, contacts that are family – that’s it. People need to fit into one of these buckets if you are going to control what pictures people can see. Google+ has circles which are nicely animated, but basically do the same thing. You can have as many Circles as you like, and you can put people into those circles in order to control what people see and what you see about people. Twitter’s notion of a group is the list, but they only help attention management, they don’t do anything for privacy.

There are a number of challenges with this situation.

The first challenge is the most obvious issue – there is no way to manage groups across the various services. If I want a family bucket on Flickr and Facebook I need to create it, and administer a group on Facebook and another group on Flickr. If you really wanted to get organised about the groups that you use you would spend a significant amount of time administering all of them.

Another challenge, and the most fundamental one, is that socially a group is quite a fluid thing, and the fluid has different densities. My example here is an event with a group of friends. The group for the event starts off as the group of friends who are invited. The group related to the event doesn’t stay like that though, as people choose whether they are coming, or not, the group changes, but it doesn’t change in the same way for everyone. Some people who are not attending may still want to be told about the group as the event occurs, others don’t want to know anything. If we are running the event for the group of friends we will know the difference between the people to keep in the loop, and the people to leave out. The members of the group have changed, but so has the type of connection that people have with the group.

Groups might help us in administration terms, but I don’t think that groups really give us what we need.

Also see: Privacy and Attention Dimensions

Do I really look like Eddie Murphy?

I was doing some playing around on Google Image search today and noticed that you can drag an image up to the search box and use that as your search term.

The results are a list of places where the image can be found and also a ‘Visually Similar Image’.

The ‘Visually Similar Images’ for this picture of me:


Are as follows:


An interesting set of images – Eddie Murphy, Stephen Elop and a computer rendered image?

On another image of me the results included Jack Nicholson?

The IT Vendor – Pen League Table

I’ve been travelling a lot over the last few weeks visiting many IT vendors. One of the things that most of these vendors decided that we needed was a pen. Leaving aside the irony that IT vendors want to give us pens it was interesting to notice the difference in the pens that we were supplied with.

Do the pens say something about the companies? I’ll let you decide on that point.

Starting from the top of the picture:

IT Pens League


The only pen to come in a pouch. A very professional pen meant for serious people. An enterprise pen.

This is a heavy pen (but not the heaviest) which is going to be solid and reliable. It’s also the only pen with a lid meaning that is sits very nicely in the hand and is quite well balanced.

As for colour – it’s nearly black, so it’s conservative even in it’s colouring.

Writing Stars: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

In complete contrast to the Cisco pen, the pen is an incredibly cheap pen.

The pen I was given is actually broken. The reason it is the only pen pictured with the nib showing is that it won’t go back in and it has a crack down one side.

This pen did come in a kind of a sleeve, but it was really just a plastic wrapper. The side of the pen shows the logo, which is, of course, the name and the web site address.

Colouring – it’s silver and red which I take to be bold but not really funky or cool. It’s corporate, but not really corporate.

Writing Stars: ⭐


This is the only pen in the set to have a logo, a company name and a web site address. Perhaps this says more about Eucalyptus as a young organisation than anything else.

It’s a nicely weighted pen, on the light side, but with a good grip.

The pen itself is a Smokey black, but it writes blue. It might just be me, but there is something wrong about a pen that is coloured black, but writes blue.

It writes well and starts from the off, not requiring any warming up.

Writing Stars: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐


This is easily the heaviest pen in the set. I wouldn’t want to write with it for long, my fingers would drop off. It’s a proper metal pen and you definitely know if you drop it on the desk, actually the whole office knows if you drop it on the desk.

This time it’s a blue colour pen – that writes black (What are you guys trying to do to me?) Having said that, the blue does appear to be the standard VMware blue that they use in all of their material so works as a branding tool.

It writes well enough, but for such a heavy pen there is no grip to step it sliding around your fingers.

This pen also rattles a bit, I really dislike pens that rattle as I write.

Writing Stars: ⭐ ⭐


Not sure quite what to say about this pen. There’s no logo on it, or any writing. It came with a notebook with the company name on it. I’m not sure whether putting the name, or logo, or web site address on the pen was too expensive for this relatively new organisation, but it’s certainly an opportunity missed.

I have hundreds of this type of pen and quite like them. The only think I don’t like about them is that I have a habit of twisting the clips off the top of them and it’s almost impossible to twist it back on.

It’s silvery see-through with a black grip. Not much to say really.

Writing Stars: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐


I did have a couple of the Google pens in different colours. One of the things about having children is that pens quickly get appropriated to other purposes. On the colour front, as you’d expect, the pens were all in the colours from the Google logo.

No need to put a web site address on this pen.

It’s a perfectly adequate, functional, plastic, writing implement. The grip is good and it’s a good size for my hands.

A green pen that writes blue, but somehow I can cope with that more than a black pen that writes blue or vice versa.

The kids regarded this as the cool new pen to take into school.

Writing Stars: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐


We did go and see Microsoft, but they didn’t give us a pen – they gave us a drinks bottle.

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