At the Epicenter of Influence

In the dark recesses of the social media mind (our collective or hive mind) lies the desire to be heard. Not just heard, but to be considered important and our words meaningful. Klout calls this “influence”. Is this real influence? Are you able to change someone else’s thoughts or buying patterns with a couple tweets or Facebook posts?

Over the weekend I had a couple Twitter conversations about Klout with @marketingm8 and @WishaDeal. Granted a sampling of 2 people is hardly scientific or authoritative but I still think it is somewhat representative of what people are thinking (I’d love you hear your thoughts in the comments below or by tweeting @lanevance). Especially after last weeks Klout algorithm change there seems to be a lot of skepticism that “influence” is real yet there is still a lot of interest in the concept and service.

The Influence of Spreading Yourself Thin

Previously Klout explained your score was based on which of your social networks you were most active or influential in. All other networks you connected were just gravy. Now it seems they expect those with influence to be active on a majority of the services they monitor. I don’t know about you, but my experience shows unless I can make my social media circles my focus during the day (forgetting about the day job) this is not realistic. Not only that, but if you are working all these different services how can you keep up with all the activity and still provide meaningful content? I know some are doing it but I suspect these are the people earning their living from social media and thus are able to make their day job keeping up.

The Influence of Peer Pressure

Are you susceptible to peer pressure? Most reasonable adults would probably like to think they have evolved past the petty days of high school and have been able to lay those social influences aside. In social media I believe there are 2 dominant forms of peer pressure. Replication and reciprocity.

Yes, I have a blog (yes, you are reading it right now). Does that make me influential about Blogging? I don’t think so, in fact I don’t write about blogging and most of my tweets are not really about blogging either. However, most of the recent +K I have received recently have been for Blogging. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that people in the Socialverse have seen enough value in what I deliver to even consider giving me one of their +K’s.

When I receive a +K on a topic that is one of the top 3 topics (Blogging being number 1 now due to the +Ks) I wonder how much of that is influenced by seeing I am considered knowledgable in a topic. How does peer pressure, or seeing what Klout and others believe, affect the selection process? Are people just replicating what they see, or is it their true belief that I have influenced them in this topic? This isn’t bad, it’s just easy. If others believe this influence it must be true, right?

Secondly, the current dynamics of social media typically demands reciprocity because no one wants to look like an ass and not follow someone back or give a +K in exchange for a kind deed. Personally, I have been torn on the whole return-follow thing and am generally selective to avoid spammers and the like but because of that I also see how we tend to feel like a good deed has to be returned to keep the social wheels turning but when I leave a +K I really don’t expect one in return. Do you?

The Influence of Faith

Faith gives credence to a lot of things. It’s just how our mind works. Even if you believe in nothing, you have faith that nothing is true. By playing in to the Klout game you are giving Klout influence. Collectively we make our “influence” real by believing the Klout algorithm is representative of what we all hold true about what each of us is saying in social media. Do you have faith in the accuracy of the new Klout algorithm? Or the scoring system of other services? Is it, or has it ever, been representative of your real world influence? Can it be?

The Business of Influence

So, is this influence you hold real? In some ways, maybe. But in most, probably not. In general I think this influence is real for the few rather than the many. But, and this is a big but, Klout needs all of us to buy in to their influence because they are a business. They have gamified their service in many ways to ensure we are all hooked and want to do better. How does this benefit them? They need us to want to do better so we keep coming back and so they can continue to collect data on their flock of millions (us) and continue to offer Perks which advertisers pay handsomely to target based on our influence. Only this isn’t influence, it is what we are interested in based on content matches in our social streams. For Klout, influence is our drug of choice and we need it and crave more.

The Influence of Activity

In some ways I think activity is being confused for influence. Last week I set about to test this on Klout via my blog post “The Chupacabra Effect” and a lot of tweets discussing the chupacabra.Klout has yet to update the topics they consider me influential about but I am betting I will be quite the expert in the next few days. Just because I mention the word and have others discuss it with me in no way means I am influential about this topic. The few questions I have been asked about chupacabras have been answered via a quick Google search. In that regard, I am as influential about chupacabras as Google is.

I’m sure most of you also have been considered influential on a topic because of a random word in a tweet or some other innocent comment that means little to your influence. I used to be influential about Rodents because of some Mickey Mouse comments and someone I tweeted with told me they have been influential about Osaka because of a single tweet and yet another (@BrandInfluence) in Giants (not the football team he explained).

The Influence Dichotomy

This crossroads is interesting to say the least. Decision makers have concluded there is something to Klout and the score really matters, or so we believe. However, it seems some (many? most?) users don’t believe this “influence” is real. Or did we simply lose our faith when the rules changed? Honestly, I don’t know. I still like the idea of Klout, see the potential value in it, but I’m also very unsure of it’s relevance and accuracy. Is this social proof? Or just a company trying to make a few bucks by developing our faith in their gospel?

Conclusion

First, I really didn’t mean to come off negative about Klout. Or to tell you it is good or evil. Like most things in life it has the potential be to be both. My purpose here is not to convince you one way or the other of the legitimacy of Klout or similar services. At the end of the day, regardless of your views on social influence, just remember Klout is not scoring you out of the kindness of their heart. There is big money in play, just not necessarily for you. If it’s meaningful to you, then use it. However, don’t let it rule your thought or decision making process. Be you, not what a service says you are. If you can manage that, then your real world influence will grow regardless of what an arbitrary number says about you. You are epicenter of your influence.

Thoughts? Please let me know in the comments!

Image Credits: Social Circles – aafromaa, Peanut Butter – Dr Stephen Dann, Peer Pressure – Hannah Nino, Prayer – CHRIS230***, Money – xianrendujia, Running Dog – GlacierTim

The Chupacabra Ate My Klout Score

I sat cowering in my office chair this afternoon as I witnessed the carnage. The horror was unspeakable, yet I could not manage to look away. It took all I had not to scream in terror as the beast ripped, clawed, bit and chewed at the Klout score I had worked so hard to build over the past few months.

Had it not been for my previous encounter with the loathsome chupacabra I may not have survived this encounter. The damage to my psyche might have been too great. Luckily, I learned some powerful magic to help ward off the mighty beast:

  1. You are missing out on the fun of social media if you are only doing it to raise an ethereal number that is as mythical as the fearsome chupacabra.
  2. Number 1 above does not count if you are having fun while trying to prove your “influence”

Clearly there was a devestating attack today coordinated by the hoard of chupacabra that lay in the shadows of our mere mortal vision. Who knew they were so intelligent to be able to pull off this strike on the Twitter users of the world, desimating Klout scores in their wake.

Countless folks are but a shell of their former selves due to this tragedy. Fearful they may not find that job in social media they long for after 20 points were torn from the flesh of their Klout score. Or further terrified they may have somehow lost real, true influence in this crazy world we live in. Little do they realize those hiring or engaging them would have also been targeted with laser precision by this devastating blow from our common enemy (yes, the chupacabra)!

Take to heart the great words of FDR, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” and the chupacabra. Let Klout be your guidepost but not your gospel. You’re in this game for the wrong reasons if your sole purpose is to get a good grade. Put good content and meaningful (fun) interaction ahead of worrying about how each tweet will impact your magic number. Don’t let that number define you and how you socialize or you may once again lose another pint of blood or two when the chupacabra comes hunting for you (again).

How was your Klout score impacted by today’s algorithm change? How do you feel about it?

Update: While driving in to work this morning it dawned on me that this is likely not the last algorithm change we will see from Klout. In all seriousness (chupacabras aside) I believe it will become as common for Klout to change their scoring as it is for Google to modify how they rank websites. Just as SEO experts (and spammers) have learned to game the Google algorithms, so have many of us in the social media circles. You learn what works to improve your score and you keep doing it.

Does that really make you any more influential? People you engage with will continue to engage with you because of the value you bring them, not because of what your Klout score is. What do you think?

Photo Credit: anaxolotl

The Chupacabra Effect

I had fallen in to the trap of taking Klout topics and influence too seriously.

Earlier this week I was honored to receive +K for Blogging from @ginidietrich. After exchanging a couple tweets she told me she picked Blogging when she couldn’t find anything funny like Bacon or the like in my list of influential topics.

First, I realized there are likely a number of people out there that will +K the goofy topics that Klout believes you are influential about simply to highlight the absurd and to have fun with social media. (Gasp! We shouldn’t be having fun, right? Real reputations are on the line here!)

Second, I had to admit to Gini that I had been hiding the topic “Rodents” on the Klout website because I thought it detracted from my professional image. I was a little surprised that Gini was eager to +K that topic if I unhid it. Sadly, that topic disappeared when I tried. Apparently I had lost my influence. Sad, for sure. Tears were shed.

After explaining how I had earned “influence” in the Rodents topic I immediately engaged in discussing mice, rats, squirrels, raccoons, and opossums to regain my influence. Taking Klout too seriously had to be corrected.

After thinking about it for a short time I realized I was about to miss out on an amazing chance. Why settle for Rodents when I could attempt to own “influence” in any category I desired. This was certainly an opportunity I had to take advantage of!

After careful consideration I decided I wanted to be authoritative in Klout for the chupacabra!

I knew from my experience with rodents that it does not take much to make Klout believe you have influence in a certain topic. I earned Rodents from a couple @ replies with another Twitter user discussing Mickey Mouse. Now Klout has modified their algorithms quite a bit since that time. Not knowing what it would take to claim influence in chupacabra I immediately started mentioning the creature (mythical or otherwise) in tweets and replies.  Over the past 24 hours I have managed to work in references with 5 different tweeps. Is that enough? I don’t know, but I’m not going to stop now! I must apologize in advance for any confusion I create with my friends and followers as I continue this journey of exploration. I only hope it will help us all better understand how you become influential and to have some fun with the concept of influence.

My Klout topics updated 2 days ago so I imagine it will be next week before I see another. Rest assured I will publish another blog post as soon as I see a refresh. Keep your fingers crossed for me. If you’re so inclined you can tweet me (@lanevance) questions or comments as long as you expect to get an answer that somehow relates back to the chupacabra thus proving my influence.

Do you have “influence” in an odd category on Klout? Have you hidden that topic or have you proudly owned it? I want to hear your experience in the comments below!

Photo Credits: liquidnight for photo of flyer and s myers for photo of painting.

7 Ways to Change Your View When Using Screen

In a previous post I detailed the basic usage of GNU Screen. Below I will cover how to customize screen to make it easier to use and more convenient for you. This really is the meat of what @cgranier and I discussed via Twitter.

If you’ve used screen at all you know out-of-the-box it can be a bit plain and quirky. In fact, it’s virtually impossible to distinguish a screen virtual terminal from your standard SSH or terminal window. Not to worry because there is plenty of power under the hood of GNU Screen to make it work for you!

Not a Linux user? That’s fine, keep reading! Since Mac OSX is based on FreeBSD (a Linux cousin) GHU Screen will work for you as well! And if you run Windows but SSH to Linux or Mac servers you can still use screen once connected to protect your sessions should you lose Internet connectivity.

What does this really do for me? Screen allows you close your terminal window and resume your session without starting over. I typically will start a screen session at home so when I get to the office I can reattach to that session and pickup where I left off without losing any work or forgetting where I was or what I was doing. Similarly, many admins use screen to start work and then let a co-worker attach to the session so they can pickup where you left off.

So, how can you customize how screen behaves for you? Here are 7 ways to improve your screen experience:

  1. When you first start screen it is not uncommon to see a copyright notice. If you use screen a lot this can get quite annoying. You can easily turn this message off by adding the following:
    startup_message off
    
  2. Ensure your work does not get interrupted should the remote system try to “beep” at you. Over screen this would give you a visual message that we can do without:
    vbell off
    
  3. Defaults on various servers may differ, so you want to be sure your screen session does not terminated if you lose your connection with:
    autodetach on
    
  4. There are some shell apps like less and vi that can cause your display to become unreadable through screen. This option will help keep your session usable:
    altscreen on
    
  5. By default screen will only give you 100 lines of scroll buffer as history. I like to be able to see a LOT of data that may have scrolled off my display, especially if reviewing log files or the like. I get 100,000 lines of scrollback buffer with:
    defscrollback 100000
    
  6. Out of the box, screen will not allow you to scroll back through your buffer, once data leaves your viewable screen the data is gone. As you can tell above this does not sit well with me so I use this to allow the scrolling I expect to see:
    termcapinfo xterm* ti@:te@
    
  7. Lastly, I want to know with certainty that I am using a screen session and get usable information at the same time. This will add a bar to the bottom line of your session with machine hostname, system load info, date, and time:
    hardstatus on
    hardstatus alwayslastline
    hardstatus string "%{.bW}%-w%{.rW}%n %t%{-}%+w %=%{..G} %H %{..Y} [%{r}%l%{w}] %m/%d/%Y %C%A "
    

Put it all together for a great finished product. SSH to your server and in your home directory add a file named .screenrc and paste the full set of options to the file and save it.

startup_message off # Prevent the screen copyright info from displaying
vbell off # Disable the visual bell
autodetach on # Make sure set to 'on' so session is not terminated upon hangup
altscreen on # Helps keep display usable after some shell apps exit (like less and vi)
defscrollback 100000 # Get more than the standard 100 lines

termcapinfo xterm* ti@:te@ # Disable alternate text butter so scroll works in cat, vi, etc.

# Enable and define what our status line will look like
hardstatus on
hardstatus alwayslastline
hardstatus string "%{.bW}%-w%{.rW}%n %t%{-}%+w %=%{..G} %H %{..Y} [%{r}%l%{w}] %m/%d/%Y %C%A "

The next time you launch a new virtual terminal with screen you will see the difference:

A GNU Screen shellClick to embiggen.

Do you use screen or love another tool that makes your life easier? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Image Credit: Samuraijohnny

Are You Monitoring Your Children’s Use of Social Media?

Like it or not, the reality of children today is that they are going to be on social media.

When my daughters first asked me if they could have a Facebook account I flat out denied their request. Over time I saw that many of their friends were indeed using the social platform to share with each other and communicate.I thought long and hard about allowing them to use social media and realized:

  1. Just as it is professionally important for me to be involved in social media, it is similarly important for children to understand and adapt to social media as it will only become more important in the day-to-day lives of human beings as technology advances.
  2. There are still a lot of bad people out in the world but keeping my children off social media will not necessarily make them any safer (nor less safe). I must teach them the dangers and set ground rules that they must follow.
  3. Knowing we humans tend to not make the best decisions regardless of age and experience I knew I needed to keep tabs on what they were doing online. Social media has the capacity to amplify bad decisions, as well as good, and leave a permanent record which could haunt your child for years to come.

When I first allowed them to create their Facebook accounts I set the following rules:

  1. I must always know what their password is for any social media account.
  2. I must always be a “friend”. As they get older I may not want to remain fully aware of everything they do with their lives but for now the rules stands.
  3. They may not “friend” any adult that is not a family member without my approval. I don’t believe they need to know what their best friend’s parents were doing at some unknown persons party last weekend. Just TMI (Too Much Information) for them at their age.

These rules worked but did I really know what they were doing online? In July, as a member of bzzagent.com, I was given the opportunity to try the service from TrueCare free for 3 months. As I near the end of this trial I would like to share with you some of my thoughts and experiences.

TrueCare is able to monitor activities on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Bebo and MySpace. My oldest children have accounts on Facebook and YouTube so I added their accounts. For Facebook you have to allow TrueCare to be installed as an app on the accounts you want to mention and on YouTube you just login via oAuth to allow TrueCare access to the YouTube accounts. To configure these accounts you MUST know you child’s username and password for each social network you are going to monitor.

Basically, the service monitors comments posted by your child and their “friends” looking for specific keywords like hash, party, sex, etc. By default the keyword list contains common slang words kids use and you have the ability to add your own keywords to the watch list in case you want to be alerted to something specific.

The service will also send you an email alert when your child friends an adult on one of their social networks. This one can be a little misleading as all kids under the age of 13 that have an account on Facebook or the like have misreported their date of birth to get around age restrictions. If you are a parent of such a child you likely are already aware of this but depending on by how much their friend misreported their age you may see false reports of friending an adult. If you know your kid’s friends you can easily tell this is the case but others may require a bit of investigation.

My kids are still a bit young to be getting in to too much trouble but I do see the value in keeping an eye on them in the future and also knowing who they are communicating with.

No service is perfect but it can certainly make your life easier if the price is right. Some of the pros and cons of TrueCare that I have seen are:

PROs:

  • Warn of keyword content that may indicate inappropriate activity.
  • Warning of adult friends that connect with your children.
  • Numerous educational resources and articles on their website.

CONs:

  • Since service is keyword based you will get false positive emails. However, I would rather get one too many emails than one too few.
  • If your child revokes access to the application you will have to re-auth or re-install the application on the social media site. TrueCare will alert you if it can no longer monitor a service.

I know there are some out there that view this as a form of spying on your kids. I see it quite differently. I know many parents that monitor by logging in to their child’s accounts and read every word their child and their friends type. To me, this is far more invasive than using a service that will point out potential threats. I explained this to my children so they knew I was monitoring. They still have the freedom to express themselves but also know they can be held accountable for their actions.

As a parent, I believe it is my responsibility to take such steps to protect my children and teach them how the world works. This is a new virtual world we live in now. Everything is changing on a daily basis and we need to be as prepared as possible to help guide them through their childhood. To that end, I am going to continue to use TrueCare as a paying subscriber to act as my early warning system that something might need some attention and investigation.

For a limited time, you can get 60 days of TrueCare service free. This is not a referral link and I get no benefit if you chose to try the service or subscribe.

Do you monitor your children’s online activities? If so, how? Would you consider using a service like TrueCare? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Image: 2002ttorry

Secure Your Social Reputation

Money can be replaced easily and is often insured. Too bad the same cannot be said for repairing your reputation and credibility. Both of which can be absolutely destroyed in a matter of seconds with no direct action of your own! You must be extremely careful in today’s socially savvy world with the power and reach of the Internet or your inaction can ruin you.

You need only look as far as a Google News search for “twitter hacked” to see numerous references to Twitter accounts being hacked and false or malicious tweets being sent. Two recent prime examples are:

  • @foxnewspolitics reporting the assassination of President Obama
  • @nbcnews tweeted Ground Zero had been attacked by terrorists

Granted, you may not have the same exposure that a major media outlet or other celebrities would but that is no reason to be any less careful. You must actually be more careful since you have less influence to regain your credibility. To be taken seriously you must take steps to protect yourself. Secure your social and online services at least as much as you would your personal financial information and bank accounts.

How are your accounts typically compromised?

  • A virus, trojan, or malware on your computer captures your username and password as you type for anything you login to and sends that data to the hackers responsible for that malware.
  • The same malware can access your web browsers password manager and send all usernames and passwords to the hackers along with their related websites.
  • You are using a weak password that can be commonly found in the dictionary and the hacker tries many password combinations until they are able to login. This is called a “brute force” attack.
  • Hackers setup a phishing web site that looks just like Twitter or Facebook and via email or pop-ups they trick you in to going to their version of your favorite site and logging in thus providing them with your username and password.
  • You gave your password to a friend, coworker or venfor and you didn’t change your password when they no longer needed access to your profile.
  • You write your passwords down on a piece of paper that you leave laying on your desk or attached to your monitor.

How can you protect yourself? I’m so glad you asked!

  1. Pay for a good anti-virus/anti-malware application. Install it and keep it up to date. In this instance, free is not always better. Trust me on this one!
  2. Make sure your computers Operating System (Windows, OS X, Linux, etc.) are set to automatically download and install security updates to prevent hackers from taking advantage of known security holes.
  3. Use a good password manager like LastPass to help you keep track of your passwords for websites so you don’t have to write them down on paper or keep a file on your computer. The real magic in LastPass is that the passwords are encrypted and unlike default browser password managers the data cannot be read and sent off to the hackers. Additionally, if you need to give someone access to a password you share the password with them via LastPass so they can login automatically to a website. When you change the password in your LastPass they will automatically get the update and you can stop sharing a login with them at any time.
  4. Use secure passwords for EVERYTHING. Especially your social media services like Twitter, your email, and your blog. Use a website like Secure Passwords to help you generate strong and secure passwords that are not likely to be guessed or brute forced. I prefer to use the tool to generate a password of random letters, numbers, and special characters.
  5. Ideally you will never need to give your password to anyone but if you do you must be sure to change the password as soon as that person no longer needs access or if you suspect or know their system has been compromised. You can only control the security of your own system and should always consider any third party to be a risk.
  6. Avoid using the same password for more than one service at all costs. If one of your accounts is compromised you don’t want all your services hacked as well! This is especially true if you use the same password for all your Twitter related services as a smart attacker will try your username and password on other services they know you use.

Most importantly of all, don’t pick and choose which guidelines you want to use. Follow them all to the best of your ability to secure your accounts, your business, and your future.

Do you follow any other guidelines or use other tools that help you keep your online profiles secure? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!