One of the things I always struggle with as a project manager is how to communicate availability. If I’m using a corporate email system like Exchange, it is extremely easy to set up calendars to be shared, and everybody using that system has the ability to at least see your free/busy status which helps in setting up meetings.But when you’re dealing with a disparate group, who don’t have access to the same information, figuring out meetings can be difficult. I manage some of this complexity with tools like Plaxo and MobileMe, which allow you to keep calendars in synch across a variety of calendar systems, including Google, Yahoo and even the local calendar application.

This doesn’t solve the problem of how to check on availability however. What I’ve always found most effective inside the corporate firewall is to make my calendar public, and to ask my team members to share their calendars as well. This allows me not only to quickly schedule meetings, but gives me insight into what sorts of meetings my team is scheduling, and how they are managing their time.

So, on the outside of the firewall, I have started using Google Groups and Google Calendar to acheive some of the same effect. First I set up a Google Group to give me an alias for the team. It also gives us some basic collaboration tools, web access to messages, and a place share files. Then I set up a Google Calendar with the same name as the Group. There’s no requirement to do this, but it’s convenient to have a calendar where you can put group events, and keeping the name consistent makes life easier.

Once you have a group calendar created, it will show up in your calendars list along with any other calendars you have created. If you added the group email alias to the sharing list during creation, then everybody in your group will have been notified that they have access to the calendar. Alternatively you could simply email all of the individuals in the group.

Once you have the members in the group, you can share your calendar with them by using the “Share Calendar” by choosing it from the menu that pops up when you click on the little inverted triangle next to your calendar (in this case I’m sharing my personal calendar, you would do the same for the group calendar):

Share Calendar menu item

Once you choose this option, you will be taken to the “Share this Calendar” tab of the settings for that calendar:

sharethiscalendar.png

First thing that I do is to make sure the “Make this calendar public” check box is ticked, this allows your calendar to be seen by others. You can also set the “Share only my free/busy information (Hide details)” tick mark if you want to hide the specifics of your calendar.  Once that is done, everybody can see my calendar.

Even if you don’t make your calendar public, you can send an invitation to share your calendar, by typing in an email address. So to notify your group that they can access your calendar, you can either invite them individually, or type in the email address of the group.

They should then get a nice invite from Google Groups that tells them your calendar is available, and can add it to their “Other Calendars” list.

other calendars

The calendars in this list get added to your calendar with different colors, so at a glance you can see what events go with which calendar. You can toggle which calendar events display by clicking on the name of each calendar (when the background is white, the events are not show). Below is a shot of my calendar with the group and Laura’s calendar showing:

calendar display

As you can see, Laura chose to share only her free/busy time, so all I see is that she’s busy between 5 and 6:30

The last step is to ask for access to your team member’s calendars. To do this you click on the “Add” link at the bottom of the “Other Calendars”.

addafriend.png

This takes you to the screen where you enter the email address of the person that you’d like to ask for access to their calendar. If the address isn’t a GMail address, it will also prompt you to invite them.

enteremail.png invitefriend.png

Once they have accepted, you will have access to their calendar, and it will appear in your “Other Calendars” list (as Laura’s does in mine).

Because the group and calendar are not integrated, you will have to add any new members (or change or delete) in both places, but in essence this gives you access to what you need to help make meeting scheduling easier.

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I think a lot about how negative thinking affects the world, even more so recently with all of the depressing news reports.

Take the example of a financial advisor telling people to cut back on their weekly coffee in order to put more money into their savings as a hedge against hard times. A well intentioned attempt to educate people on being fiscally responsible.

But there’s no thought to the down side of this act: When everybody stops going to their local coffee place, the coffee place goes out of business, leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom and gloom. What if instead that report recommended you go meet a friend at that same coffee shop? The coffee shop stays in business, and people are socializing, networking and creating new opportunities that definitely will not be discovered by staying home.

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I recently ran across a post by Michelle Hancock on LinkedIn and noticed that she had her email address showing right below her name. I sent her a LinkedIn message asking her how she did that, and she kindly replied that I could call her and she’d walk me through the process.

As it turns out, all she did was to append the email address to the end of the field for her last name.

So here’s the walk through:

  1. Go to your LinkedIn profile. You get there by clicking on the “profile” link on the right hand side from LinkedIn
    Step 1
  2. You should see your profile as it exists now and some links to edit, choose the one next to your name.
    profile selected
  3. You’ll be prompted to log in again (I think they do this for security reasons).
    login screen
  4. Once you get the edit form, tab to the last name.
    update form
  5. Go to the end of your last name, add a space or two, and then type your email address (or phone or whatever other info you want to show up there).
  6. Click save, and your new profile will display with the additional info attached
    profile selected

The down side to this is the same as the up side: now everybody has your email address, so if you’re worried about SPAM bots, you may want to put a space in there, or type it out as “me AT mydomain.com”.

And that’s all there is to it – now you have your email address where anybody can find it.

Note: Walt Feigenson tells me that this may be against the LinkedIn Terms and Conditions, and that you should only put the email in your profile. I haven’t verified this yet, but when I do I will update this post again with my findings.

Recently I’ve been noticing that ad content is being served up much more dynamically than I’d expect. When I’m looking at the menu on TiVO, or surfing Facebook, there are always little ads displayed that don’t immediately catch my attention. In fact most of the time, the ad doesn’t even register until I’ve clicked something and am waiting for the next page to load.

So, as the page disappears, I notice that the ad is something I’m interested in. On some sites, I can simply hit the back button and the ad will still be there, but on a lot of others (Facebook for example), the ad gets replaced with something else. So now instead of the “Virtual Cycling” ad that piqued my attention, I see an ad for Phoenix University.

It always seemed to me that if I hit the back button, I should see exactly the same page that was just displayed, since after all the browser just rendered it, so shouldn’t it be able to just redisplay the previous rendering? The problem is that the actual way pages are rendered causes this. The ads are actually links that point to dynamic content, so when the page rerenders, the content is rendered again, which in the case of Facebook means I lose my ad.

Seems to me that they could take advantage of the session to understand that I’ve just hit the back button, and redisplay the same ads again, just in case that’s why I hit it. The current approach is losing click-through revenue for Facebook (at least from me for my “Virtual Cycling” example).

TiVO has something similar: they display little ads in the menu system. One liners like “sign up for a Visa” or “see Lost previews”. The same thing happens there, by the time I realize the line said something interesting, I’m on to the next screen. Luckily with TiVO, these choices actually cycle, so all I have to do is go back and forth a few times to see all of the current ad lines, so eventually I can get back to the one that piqued my interest.

I was talking with the recruiter who got me my job at Quovera (formerly Millenia Vision) about why she has the text “{LION}” after her name. She explained to me that it’s an acronym that is for people who practice “open” networking.

I did some searching, and found this site at http://www.themetanetwork/ which appears to be the basis of the LinkedIn Open Networking Community, and signed up.  There was a form to fill out that told about my current networking level on LinkedIn, and finally I got told that I’d go through an approval process.

Once I got the approval email, I was asked to complete my profile. Interestingly the profile on this site has forms for all sorts of other networking profile sites in additon to the ones I’ve seen before (and mentioned in prior posts to this blog). So I’ve filled that in as best I can, and we’ll see …

There are just way too many places on the web that try to help you with networking for any of them to be very valuable. LinkedIn seems to have kept a solid focus and finally seems to have a high penetration after all these years. If only it could keep my address book up to date ….

I just ran across a great post (actually a friend posted the link on Facebook) on social networking called “The Ultimate Social Media Etiquette Handbook” by Tamar Weinberg that gives you lots of good ideas on the do’s and don’ts of social networking. Highly recommended for newbies like me trying to figure this stuff out.

A couple of days back, I solved a problem I was having with Plaxo. For a few weeks, I was unable to connect to any of the Plaxo web servers from any of my home machines.

Being a fairly knowledgeable network person, I spent hours trying to diagnose the problem. I could get to all other web sites, but not to anything in the plaxo.com domain. Worse, I could resolve, ping and traceroute looked fine.

First I thought it might be something caused by Plaxo being bought by Comcast. Comcast had just recently been in the news for blocking traffic to keep bandwidth available, so I figured it wasn’t inconceivable that somebody made a mistake in a firewall somewhere that was blocking traffic between them and AT&T.

I sent an email to Plaxo to ask them if their site was up, and called AT&T to see if we could diagnose the problem. AT&T as usual was very nice (and annoying) and started me out with the normal insane steps:

  1. Turn off your firewall
  2. Clear your cache
  3. Turn off your router

After getting past all the annoying stuff, I got to their level 2 support, and then to the 2Wire support to see if they could find anything with my router that might be causing this. Naturally they found nothing, and everything looked OK.

So I escalated with Plaxo, calling them on the phone to see if there was anything they could do. There were emails and phone calls back in forth that never solved the problem:

  • First call I was told that there was a problem with one of their servers, and that it would be working the next day (not).
  • Another call I was told they had found the problem in their web server, and it would be fixed shortly
  • I got numerous emails telling me to uninstall the Plaxo software and log in again, which of course didn’t work since I couldn’t even get to the web site.
  • I had numerous emails diagnosing the problem as a Mac issue, or a PC issue, which again it wasn’t since it was happening on the Mac, iPhone and PC (and the iPhone doesn’t even have a Plaxo client).

Finally at some point, I got a support guy who told me that my IP address was indeed blocked at their server. Now we’re getting somewhere. But no, it still doesn’t work.

Luckily for me this guy is good, so he tells me that there was an old version of the Plaxo client for Mac that their servers were detecting as a bot attack, so if I uninstall that everything should be golden. I do, and lo and behold I can get to Plaxo again …

So it appears that Plaxo can be incompatible with itself …

I wonder how many people are blocked with the same problem right now.

Recently I’ve entered the world of using the web for self marketing.

I saw a very interesting talk by Walter Feigenson at the last CPC Job Connections meeting about marketing yourself using the web.

I already had a LinkedIn profile, and had my resume on a couple different places, but his talk convinced me that I ought to do some more. So I did the following:

  1. Set up Google reader so I can see all the web changes in one place.
  2. Built a profile on Naymz (http://www.naymz.com), unclear on exactly what this one does.
  3. Ziki (http://www.ziki.com) – Signed up, but never got the validation email. This is supposed to be a job finding service.
  4. Spokeo (http://www.spokeo.com) – Signed up – not clear on what this site does beyond search for names.
  5. Ziggs (http://www.ziggs.com) – Signed up and built profile, this one looks interesting.

Just signing up for these things takes time, getting them to be consistent seems like it will be a pain. It reminds me of posting your resume to all of the job search sites. Not too bad the first time, but then going back to update is going to be hard.

Next thing I did was to add cross links from as many different places as I could to my web site (http://www.accuweaver.com). This is supposed to help with the ranking on the search engines, since the search engines use the assumption that if a lot of sites link to you, you must be important.

I also cleaned up my LinkedIn profile, added links, and added my company to the Companies part of LinkedIn.Then after all of this, I got hit again with the suggestion that I should set up a Facebook profile. Walt had mentioned it, but it took hearing it a few more times for me to act.  It still seems a bit smarmy, and unlikely to be useful as a business networking tool, but we’ll see.

Next: Making sure I’m posted on a huge list of sites I got from Valerie Colber