Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Get More from LinkedIn Connections with LinkedIn Maps

What is it?

InMaps is a tool provided by the team at LinkedIn Analytics which produces a map of your connections on LinkedIn - see here for more detailed information on what it is and how to use it.

How do you use it?

Just follow the instructions provided - you'll need to login to LinkedIn and give access to the InMaps application to access your LinkedIn data. Once the map has been built, you can zoom and pan to inspect your connections, and also assign labels to the colour coded groups. Click on any connection to highlight your shared connections.

Note that if you have a secure scripting environment, you'll need to allow scripts from both linkedinlabs.com and yahooapis.com

Why is it Useful?

Suppose you are looking for connections which might allow you to reach out to a company as a potential client. You can use LinkedIn to show you people within that company who are second or third level connections, which is very useful. However, if you have the fortunate situation where there are several routes in, it pays to know who is connected to who.

For example, looking at AliceCo, you see that there are two employees there who are second level connections, Bob and Claire. You are connected to Bob through David, and to Claire through Ellie and Frank.

Hence you might try to approach Bob via David, or Claire via Ellie or Frank. However, if you know that Ellie and Frank used to work together, that would be your preferred route in, as it has more "weight".

Mapping out your connections allows you to see these useful interconnections, most of which you'll know about, some of which you won't and these are the ones which can be useful. Looking at my map, three of the interconnections are surprises - I had no idea that the people concerned knew each other.


LinkedIn has an option to disallow access to your data from third party applications, however so far as I am aware, InMaps does not count as a third party application and so this setting should not cause any problems.

LinkedIn will always show shared connections, so setting your account to not show connections to anyone other than yourself also should not cause a problem.

The InMaps FAQ points out that the data used to prepare maps is only updated on Sundays, so you'll need to wait to see your new connections appear, I normally look at mine on Mondays to catch up.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Search Minus Your World?

There's been a lot of press, blog and Twitter coverage this week about the changes Google has made to its search offering - Search Plus Your World.

I spotted something recently on a Google search, annoying and perplexing, and which might affect the way in which I use Google search in the future. It could be that I've missed something really obvious, so someone please do let me know if I have. If I go to Google and search for "LinkedIn Updates" (as I did recently) I get a page of search results, as you might expect:

Now I might be quite pleased about this, as two of my blog posts show up on the first page of results. However, this is actually only happening because Google knows who I am. If I log out and repeat the search, my search results disappear:

Fair enough. However, why do I actually want to know that two posts on my own blog are relevant to the search query "LinkedIn Updates"? I did, after all, write them both, so it's a fair bet I know about them. My search doesn't really return 10 useful links, only 8, as I already know about the other two. Is there a limit on this - if not, I might get to a stage where half the results shown aren't news to me, which kind of defeats the object.

Looking at the Google search options, this doesn't appear related to the social search. I think. There seem to be more and more options to set up on Google these days.

Let's remember the reason why Google became so popular in the first place - it was quick, uncluttered, and allowed you to find out stuff you didn't know.

Somehow we need to get back to that. So it may be that Google Search becomes more useful when you're logged out. A kind of "Search Minus Your World".

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Keeping Control of your Inbox

For some time now I've implemented a very basic form of email management. The core component of this was a simple configuration change I made several years ago - I reduced the frequency at which my email client checks for new messages on the server. I did this because I found that I'd be in the middle of dealing with one email, when others would turn up, creating an inevitable distraction.

I found that a polling interval of around 15 minutes worked well, especially in a very busy environment. These days at my (more relaxed) home office I have it set to 5 minutes, but I've found a problem recently.

It's been caused by my phone. Having finally upgraded to a smart phone, I now get email notifications almost immediately, which has the effect of undoing my basic management. So every now and then, I'll consider switching off the phone email notifications, and rely on the PC. Like in the old days.

Here are some other ideas that can, either individually or in combination, help you to manage that inbox:

Filter by Receiving User Name

If you have your own domain, set up individual email addresses for each mailing list that you subscribe to. This allows you to do two things. Firstly, you can easily write incoming mail rules to process these messages - depending on how busy you are, you might want to route them immediately to another folder to look at later. Secondly, if one of the services you subscribe to has its mailing list hacked (as if that would ever happen) you'll know immediately which one it is - and can act accordingly by updating your filter rules to accept the message only if it is FROM who it is supposed to be from (get this information from a legitimate message).

This approach also comes in handy for dealing with messages from Twitter, or LinkedIn. If you've set your Twitter email address to be, for example, twitter@myco.com, you can write filter rules to process these directly into a folder to skim through later when you have more time. You might want to make an exception for direct messages though - just check the message subject for "has sent you a direct message on Twitter".

Filter by Sending User Name

You can filter either by the person sending, or the company they work for, based on your current priorities - for example, if you have a client project nearing a critical milestone, you could flag all incoming emails from that company as soon as they come in, so that they stand out on your screen.

Filter by Topic

This works in a similar way, but you do have to write rules based mainly on the subject line - which can be notoriously variable due to differing uses of wording, abbreviations, spelling, and mistypes.

Maintain Multiple "Outstanding" Folders for Different Projects

This is something I've been doing for quite some time, especially as I am often involved in voluntary projects for not-for-profit organisations - when emails come in relating to these whilst I'm in the middle of fee-paying work, it makes sense to defer them and store them all up for reading and acting on in one single session.
A dedicated folder is ideal for this, and naming them "0utstanding" rather than "Outstanding" i.e. with a zero rather than the letter O, keeps them at the top of my folder list.

Limit Your Use of the "Reply All" Button

As Eileen Brown points out in a recent blog post, Reply All emails make you less productive, so it's worth asking yourself each time you go to click that button if it's really something you want to do - how much will you be adding to your inbox by doing so?

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Embedding Blog Posts on your Web Pages

Recently I spent some time looking at how to embed a list of blog posts obtained via a feed URL into a static web page. I wanted to do this so that I could create a static landing page for my business which included not only an overview of the services offered, but also links into some regularly updated content from multiple sources.

A search on Google took me to a couple of interesting possibilities, but most of the links were out of date, there was one which hinted at a gadget (supplied by Google unsurprisingly) but that didn't lead anywhere, and others who had tried it had similar problems.

I also found a third party web site which would create the necessary Javascript and host it for you - you simply have to link the script in from your web page. However, this wasn't really what I wanted - you have to register on the site, whereas I was looking for code, in order to experiment and extend.

Finally I found the article Displaying RSS feeds easily using Google Ajax Feed API on the JavaScript Kit web site. This article covers the following:

  • Introduction to the Google Ajax Feed API
  • Detailed look at the underlying functions
  • General purpose script for displaying feeds

This proved to be exactly what I was looking for, and being a code solution rather than a third party service, there's scope to customise as required.