Thoughts from Web Directions 2008

On Thursday and Friday last week I attended Web Directions South 2008, my first web only conference in a while. Overall it was a good event, but like most conferences there were some up & downs. Probably the biggest two downs were the opening Key Note and the lack of coffee on arrival on Friday morning. The biggest ups were Mark Pesce’s closing Key Note and David Peterson’s Semantic web for distributed social networks presentation, followed closely by August de los Reyes from Microsoft.

So did I get an ROI for my $1,500 investment (conference fees, airfare and miscellaneous expenses)?

Yes, in several areas a few of them are:

  • I got to meet a large number of people face to face for the first time after communicating online with them for so long.
  • I meet a large number of new people, I tried to average 5-10 new people per day.
  • Mark Pesce’s talk, as always, was inspiring.
  • David Peterson renewed my hope that FOAF and the Semantic will infact become a reality.
  • Laurel Papworth reinforced that yes social media can make money.
  • Surface computing is cool!
  • Data visualisation done well is also cool!
  • There is lots of cool tech stuff going on in Melbourne, just not sure why I had to go to Sydney to find it.
  • I learnt a fair bit on presentaion style, what works and what really doesn’t.
  • Connections with several people that might turn into paying business, which is great.
  • Finally there are a lot of books I need to read.
The telling fact is will I come back next year. Probably yes.

This week in Sydney

Arrived in Sydney late Monday evening for a very busy week, lots of meetings, attending Web Directions, Port 80, AussieTUB, presenting at a user group on Change Management and sitting on a panel for the NSW Knowledge Management forum discussing the value of social media and networking for business.

During Web Directions I might live blog the sessions just not decided at this stage if there will be value for my readers. If I don’t live blog it I will cover the event on Twitter.

For the talk on Change Management I am trying to new presentation style, even got myself one of those fancy remote presentation clicker things, and to make things more interesting the talk is to a group of HR professionals, who should be by all accounts experts!

My talk is a summary of the 1 day workshop I have put together on Change Management taking the audience through the need for change management and a structured approach for implementation. The slides will go up on SlideShare afterwards if you want to have a look at them.

Startup camp Melbourne

Following the success of Startup Camp in Sydney, it’s on its way to Melbourne 3-5 October.

What is startup camp?

It’s a get together of people from different disciplines that have an interest in startups and do a complete startup in one weekend. From coming up with the idea and making a business plan to pitching, design and development and marketing.

I am helping the guys organise the event and right now we are full, 30 people registered, and have a waiting list of about 6 people. Unfortunately at this stage we do not have a venue, but we are working on it!

We are also looking for sponsorship in the form of food and drink, if you know anyone who could help on this front that would be great.

Twitter SMS delivery

Over the last couple of weeks I have been working on a couple of small side projects, one of which is a services to get your Direct Messages and @Replies sent directly to your mobile phone via SMS, Tweet2SMS. Basically this is to replace the service that Twitter shutdown about 3 weeks ago for users outside of the US, Canada, UK & India.

The service has been running in a private beta for a couple of weeks and earlier this week I opened the beta up to anyone who wants to register. You still need to request an invite code, but they are distributed automatically based on service volume every hour.

Some of the features are:

  • Sends you an SMS when you receive a Direct Message via Twitter
  • Sends you an SMS when someone mentions you on Twitter using the @Reply syntax
  • Ability to set custom times when you want both Direct Messages and @Replies sent to your phone
  • Ability to snooze your whole account for a specified period, for when you are in that very important meeting
  • Ability to control your account by sending a Direct Message to @tweet2sms:
    • Account On – Turns your account on. Optional parameter for the number of hours you want your account on or the word Today which turns the account on until 3am the following day.
    • Account Off – Turns your account off, which means you will no longer receive any messages
    • Track On – Turns tracking of @Replies to your user name on, a word of warning if you are popular you will run out of SMS credits quickly. Optional parameter for the number of hours you want your account on or the word Today which turns the account on until 3am the following day.
    • Track Off – Turns tracking off, you get the idea.
    • Sleep 30 – Sleeps all SMS notices for 30 minutes
    • Sleep 60 – Sleeps all SMS notices for 60 minutes
    • Sleep 90 – Sleeps all SMS notices for 90 minutes
    • Sleep 120 – Sleeps all SMS notices for 120 minutes
    • Sleep Off – Cancels a previously requested sleep command
    • Help – Lets you know what you can do
  • All SMS messages are sent with a reminder as to how many credits you have left on your account
If you are a Twitter users and need an SMS service go try it out.

Quoted in the AFR

A couple of weeks ago I spoke to Beverley Head a freelance journalist about recruitment and web 2.0. Today the Australian Financial Review launched their IT Innovations special report with Beverley’s article quoting me. While the article is primarily about KPMG’s virtual career fair that kicks off later this month, I do end up with two paragraphs, not bad really and she mentioned Inspecht which is the best part. Unfortunately AFR run a subscription only online model so you can view the article on the AFR website, only if you have a subscription, I went & bought a physical paper to read it.

Oh and for those interested yes I did research Beverley online before agreeing to speak with her.

Glassdoor expands internationally

Over the last few weeks Glassdoor has been expanding its reach into international locations, to the point that over 40% of their traffic now comes from outside of the US. The top 10 countries are:

  1. United States
  2. Canada
  3. United Kingdom
  4. India
  5. Australia
  6. France
  7. Germany
  8. Ireland
  9. China
  10. Japan

Australia is ranked 5th on the list with more Australian organisation being listed every day. I took a run through the top 10 BRW organisations to see who was listed, all were but not all have reviews.

If you work for an Australian company join up and add your thoughts.

As part of the global expansion you can now review salaries by country and in local currency making Glassdoor a great research tool for job seekers. For example looking to work at Telstra, Google in AustraliaIBM in Australia, or Deloitte’s?

I wonder how long it will take for Australian job boards to provide links directly to the company reviews? Certainly for referral tools such as 2Vouch and Hoojano it would be an important feature to help referrers understand the reputation of the company they are referring people to.

eRecruitment systems and your employer brand

Today while conducting some research I found what looks on the surface as a bug within PageUp’s PageUp People application, but turns out is not. (For international readers PageUp is the leading eRecruitment vendor in Australia.)

I was reviewing the Optus careers web site and went to review a listing of jobs and I opened the third job listed within the IT group, one for a Business Intelligence Architect.

To my great surprise this is what I saw, begin reading the text:

On the surface this is very strange, what is a role for Virgin Mobile doing on the Optus careers site. Now after a bit more digging I found out the Virgin Mobile is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Optus, which sort of explains things. But then again it does not.

Both companies have very strong brands so to me this seems to mix up the employer brand and will possibly confuse candidates and reduce both organisations employee value proposition (EVP).  Earlier this year Virgin Mobile’s director of HR Angela Foskett was interviewed by Human Capital Magazine and was quoted:

Human Capital: Virgin has such a successful consumer brand – has this translated to your employer brand?

Angela Foskett: Absolutely. The consumer and employer brand are directly linked. People’s perceptions are very much the reality when they come in so there isn’t a massive culture shock. In most cases it’s better than people expected.

Basically the two mirror each other and the culture and environment are the key focus to retaining that connection. We’re fortunate in that any brand research that we do can be used from a people perspective and from an internal brand perspective as well. It’s about the external brand and how that feeds back into organisational behaviour and how that feeds into individual behaviour.

A bit further on she said

HC: What benefits have you seen from a strong brand? Does it help with attraction of candidates?
AF: We recognise we’re not for everybody – that’s fine. The strength of the brand means we do get a lot of expressions of interest whether it’s ad-hoc or tied to an actual ad. People are really engaged in the ads we do write and they’re motivated by that. We’ve got a very successful referral program as well, and I guess our challenge is to ensure the cultural fit continues alongside our recruitment philosophy. When we have technical roles where we require a certain skills set they can be hard to fill because we don’t compromise on that cultural fit. It’s 60% about cultural fit and 40% about technical ability with the belief that we can upskill people.

To me it is a very strange method of keeping a strong brand, not confusing candidates and making sure you are attracting the right cultural fit.

Google Chrome is the new hype

It has been speculated for a long time that Google was going to enter the browser market, well on Sept 2nd they did with the launch of Chrome. Now there is lots written by the tech community on the launch about the pro’s and con’s of the new browser so I am just going to plot some of my thoughts.

My first thought is on browser support, Chrome adds yet another browser for developers to support. Well sort of. Google have built Chrome based on the WebKit, which is the rendering engine that Apple uses for Safari. So basically if your site works on Safari it will work with Chrome. But does your site work on Safari? I would suspect there are many a smaller organisation (& probably a few big ones as well) who have only built their site to support IE, and maybe Firefox. A quick review of the major job boards in Australia should that Seek, CareerOne & MyCareer all work ok. On the corporate side of things PageUp, Taleo and NGA sites all seem to hold up as well.

My next point is around privacy. Chrome allows user to browser without leaving a history on their personal desktop by using Incognito mode. But what is more interesting is the collection of data by Google. While they say it is only statistics but I have had reports, unconfirmed, that the URL you are browsing is sent back to Google to help the Googlebot know what to index.

Thoughts from my initial usage (2 hours worth):

  • It is reasonably fast
  • Clean user interface
  • I like the new tab browsing approach
  • Each new tab has a dashboard of frequently used sites, very nice
  • Love the ability to save sites as application shortcuts on the desktop, makes a browser application more like a regular desktop application
  • For developers the Inspect element allows you to view the underlying source code associated with the selected element
  • I spent 15 minutes trying to work out how to spell check a field on a page, I guess not all the UI is easy

I will be using Chrome as my primary browser for the next week and will then decide if I should go back to Firefox. Will Chrome over take Firefox, Safari, Opera and Internet Explorer, like most things only time will tell.


Great places to work in Australia

I missed the launch last year by the Great Place to Work Institute opened their doors downunder. Spearheading by Chris Taylor and Trish Dagg two organisational development types out of Western Australian university.

In mid-August they release their first list for Australia called “Best Companies to Work for in Australia“, no real surprise there. Although the top 8 in the list might surprise you:

  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
  2. Dow Corning
  3. Google
  4. McDonald’s
  5. Morgan Stanley
  6. NetApp
  7. Russell Investments
  8. SEEK Limited

There is no reference on the site as to how a company gets selected to participate in the process other than they “work with a respected Media Partner”, I guess is it was News Corp’s The Australian as the results were published there. However to make it on the list selection is primarily based on employees’ responses to a survey and then an evaluation of submitted content by the company.

I am trying to get further information on the complete list.

2Vouch for your friends and get paid


Launching their public beta today, September 1, is Australia’s newest social recruiting service called 2Vouch. (Disclosure: I have done some work for 2Vouch.) Having been in private alpha testing over the last month or so the Melbourne based company is for the first time allowing the public access to their service. The best way to describe the tool is really to quote 2Vouch General Manager Jeremy Samuel:

2Vouch is a social recruiting system that pays professionals $1,400-$2,800 when they make referrals someone who gets hired. For companies, it is free to advertise. They only pay when they place someone through the system and we offer a 110% money back guarantee if the person doesn’t work out. 

The service is fundamentally similar to Hoojano which I spoke about back in February this year, with a few differences. Both basically rely on the refer a friend approach to filling roles.

Employee referral programs are a very common approach used by many organisations and research has shown they are the lowest cost source for hiring in today’s marketplace, even lower than using job boards! In certain industries within the US best in class companies hire over 46% of employees through referral programs.

Cost is not the only benefit research by Professor Emilio Castilla from MIT Sloan School of Management found that employees recruited through employee referral programs can have a higher performance over employees recruited through other means. But back to the tool.

One of the biggest differences between Hoojano and 2Vouch are how they match jobs, although both would say otherwise. Where as Hoojano requires the member to actively review their contacts to find matches 2Vouch uses their Job Genie™ to email the member when possible jobs that match their contacts are available.

Payment is only made on placement, not to advertise so there is no harm for recruiters and employers giving the tool a test run. Further 2Vouch is offering a 110% refund for recruiters and employers if they hire someone through the tool and they do not work out. While this might sound impressive I think 2Vouch will keep their money as research has shown internationally that placements made through referrals are of far higher quality than regular placements.

Members get referral payments, ranging from AU$1,400 – AU$2,800 once someone has been successfully hired. These payments can be made to the members PayPal account or donated to charity.

2Vouch are ranked #26 in the Ross Dawson’s BRW Top 100 Web Applications, original development was completed by Ben Barren and his team from FeedCorp and have recently become part of the Pollenizer gang, Australia leading startup management garage, to create a very compelling tool for the Australian market.

A final note, and a plug, as part of my work with Inspecht we have a research report available on building a business case for using referrals in hiring.