Unethical use of customer database/LinkedIN?

Am I too sensitive?….(as we say in Australia, somewhat crudely – “drink some concrete Princess and harden the f*ck up!” 😉    – see correspondence below …

The CEO of a company whose software product I signed up for as a user, recently contacted me with a LinkedIN request, and the only place he could have got my contact details from was his customer database. Do you think this is OK or not?

My concern is, regardless of the fact it was LinkedIN or that the person was the CEO, I have received a personal contact from what should be a confidential customer database.

I guess this pisses me off more because my personal strategy with LinkedIN is 90% of the time to only network with people that I have actually physically met.

This is not a small company, and I don’t like the implication behind the reply.

Or maybe I should find that concrete!

On September 29, 2012 12:15 AM, <CEO> wrote:
Alan,I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn

I’m presuming that you have contacted me on LinkedIN as a new <PRODUCT> customer, since I don’t know how you would have found my details otherwise.Don’t you think it’s a little unethical to leverage your customer database for your personal contacts on LinkedIN?

Just a thought

<CEO> has sent you a message.
Date: 10/02/2012
Subject: Re: RE: Invitation to Connect
Hi Alan, LinkedIN is for business contacts, I am doing business with my customers so I don’t know how it could be construed otherwise. The contacts I have made give me valuable feedback regarding our services, if someone does not want to be connected they can easily ignore the request.If you are wondering, I am the owner of my company. If I wasn’t, then you would have a point.

As a customer myself of many services, I can tell you there have been many times I wish I could reach out to the CEO of a company. Feel free to do that with me with any concerns.


The Silicon Beach

I attend a Sydney startup group named Silicon Beach.  An apt name for the New Australian Economy?

Think about it…

  • Mining boom runs out – what is Australia going to do next?! (the “Dutch Disease“)
  • National Broadband network kicks in – connecting the whole country with a vast fibre optic network
  • Tony Simonsen, CEO of Equinix, in an article in the Australian Financial Review this week says “..I really believe the NBN is going to promote [and enable] small business and start-up ventures staying in regional areas”
  • Australia is a pretty big place, with a low population, and is really quite a nice place to live!

How about an influx of startups, tempted away from the Valley and other hubs, to enjoy state-of-the-art infrastructure in Australia, top weather, the best sharks (and not talking about the Venture Capitalists) and a choice of where to base yourselves for an awesome alternative lifestyle to the usual tech crowd.

Amazon drops in a cloud data centre into Alice Springs in the centre of Australia, buried underground with cooling systems driven by huge solar panels in one of the sunniest places on Earth.

Boosted by tax revenues, the Australian Government invests in entrepreneurial startup businesses with various incentive schemes, and lowers Australian company tax. Knock-on effect of stimulating the economy – building local infrastructure to support these distributed tech communities – and making Australia a more attractive hub in which to base regional businesses.

Planes get faster. The great Australian trade-off – seeing your homeland once every two years if you’re lucky – is less of an issue.

Roll on NBN, the New Australian Economy  – The Great Silicon Beach!


Is it just me, or do they all want it sir?

Collaboration, Chatter. I’m not convinced now that Confluence is the right tool to facilitate a research blog and cross-company discussion forums in a simple to use and understandable manner.

Reviewing Yammer, which embarassingly a Board member suggested months ago as something worth looking at as a social media tool to which I replied “already in hand”.

One day in to the trial and it looks…. fun. Freebie version, Facebook/Twitter style interface. Easy to set up groups (private, public, external), load up attachments, hash tags, mentions etc. etc. Web interface, desktop client, mobile device applications. All good.

BUT… also procuring multiple other technologies right now, which all seem to overlap but not quite do the same thing…

  • Enterprise video conferencing solution (reviewing Polycom 9000 – sounds very HAL) connecting our boardrooms and seminar rooms across the country – obviously hugely expensive custom peice of kit, but offering desktop client software which offers Brady-Bunch point-to-point video conferencing across the bridge.
  •  Unified Communications through a voice over IP play across the company. All carriers I’m looking at have their own UC custom clients, sitting on the desktop and all offer IM/presence capabilities.
  • Microsoft Office Communicator … again, IM/presence etc. and without detailed review, will of course be completely integrated into the Exchange environment, and offers enterprise document collaboration.

So what’s the deal? Yammer client on the desktop, Office Communicator, UC phone client, VC client, each with it’s own IM interface etc. How bloody confusing is that?

Let’s go back to smoke signals.

Social Convergence

That’s it. I’m bloody leaving Twitter. Seriously, am I missing something? It’s the lack of convergence.

I’ve two Twitter accounts, a professional account, updates on this page on the right. This is a public account (anyone can follow, and read status updates) whereby I also follow remotely interesting business luminaries. My updates are of a professional nature, with flow-through to my LinkedIN status (although this seems a bit shonky to me).

That’s all good.

Private use. As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve unblocked access to all social media/personal email accounts across my organisation (except for me!). Why except for me? Because I’m bloody addicted.

I use Facebook like a diary. I used to keep a paper diary (how quaint!) for many years, and have this stored in an attic somewhere in a property back in Scotland, for one of my tenants to come across and bribe me big time with. It’s a silly wee autobiographical document that I can giggle and drool along to in my twilight years.

I’ve found a plug-in for Firefox that downloads and archives your Facebook pages, which you can punt to DVD (or cloud probably for posterity for eternity). Again same principle, autobiographical record to keep myself occupied in the nursing home, and pass on to my gen-y*2 grandchildren to load up on their Quantum qPads  to nano-search and graph all the rude words that Grandpa used.

I don’t really say what I mean in any depth on Facebook though, plus I’ve got my security locked down big time.

There are friends and “friends”. I’m only friends with people I’ve at least met, and with, for example, past business colleagues I’ve socialised with (weekday beers, never family) the golden Limited Profile comes into play, excluding everything other than status updates. And of course not on the public timeline. And as mentioned my status updates are … not quite what I’d write in a personal diary. For the really juicy stuff, cryptic status updates designed more as prompters for myself to try and remember what was really going on whilst reclining in the DunLiving Rest Home.

Despite all these measures I’m sure I’ve missed something, which is the inevitable. I shan’t be going into politics then.

But it’s addictive. And timeconsuming. Despite linking my personal Twitter account (of course there’s two) to my Facebook status updates, you then have to monitor your Twitter account. And respond to responses there too. I really really don’t have the time or the effort to go with two different social media streams of consciousness… I’ve got MySpace, Friendster, Bebo etc. etc. all pointing to my Facebook account for convergence (which is the bigtime selling point for smart devices such as my beloved iPhone – why would anyone by an iTouch/iPod nowadays?).

I am no longer a private twat.

Social Perks At Skool

Recently had the interesting exercise of refreshing my company’s IT Use Policy, which I’m confident will make me quite the raconteur at parties from now on.

This is the kind of catch all schenanigans that one signs as part of the contract pact when joining a company, though shalt abide etc. But it is important as a broad catch all to dodgy activity.

But how does one define dodgy or kosher activities?

In addition to the broad IT Use Policy – generally “principals of IT Usage” – i.e. stuff IT can’t enforce and control, we also have an “IT Controls Policy” – stuff we can enforce – USB lockdowns, Admin rights lockdown etc. etc.

I put together a proposal for this detail to the Exec around this, expecting an instant ratification. Who wants to read some fine print from the IT guy?

Surprised the Cheeses concerned went through said policies with a fine toothed comb, and surprised but understanding that they suggested site blocking by our proxy server be relaxed big time to give all staff access to social media and email sites. On speaking to revenue-earning staff in most of our offices, I’d previously allowed access to the skool networking site LinkedIN, as a valuable professional networking tool, both with peers and clients. Was this a step too far?

Thinking about this, I’m confident that this will work for us. The majority of our revenue-earning business is from commission based wealth generators – any time they’re not mucking around on MySpace is opportunity cost for paying for the yacht, and my modest salary.

We are also not a behemoth of an organisation – line management can monitor and enforce “reasonable personal use” on salaried operational staff to make this work. Presuming said line management isn’t spending years on Facebook (or blogs for that matter! ;o)  ) themselves.

Main driver behind this is that for an organisation of our scale, it will work for us, we’re all grown ups, and we’ll treat it as a differentiator and staff perk, giving some trust and empowerment to the employees.

Utopian dream? Naive management? We’ll see…

I personally am voluntarily requesting a professional intervention by my IT guys by specifically not allowing me access to these sites. I’ll get my fix at home, man.

Worst case scenario!


Just had a call from a Board Member asking about a corporate iP<insert device here> application.

I’m about to put in place some new policies to enable implementation of Activesync & Outlook Web Access, and hence able to connect “cool sh*t” to the corporate network. The corporate grapevine is clearly alive and well, and like MacRumors or The Smoking Gun, the news has clearly been leaked to the scavenging besuited office wolves.

 The fish kettle and worm can are fully opened at this stage.

Let me sell you an app...

Now, the argument for the prevalence of new mobile technologies and the new business trend of “bring your own”, with associated service difficulties, opens up whole new areas of, quite frankly, IT pain.

With influential dabblers scratching the surface of possibility, where do you stop? iPhone app, screen-optimised iPad app, Android app, Windows 7 mobile app? Sod it, touchscreen designed HTML7/Flash Gordon/Web5.0 thought controlled iMind app?

Who writes these? Who maintains these as new firmware/OS updates come out? Who keeps an eye on the latest form factors to define how the app needs to be updated or rewritten for new form factors or OS? etc. etc.

And finally I suppose which of course is of least importance, what does the application actually do other than splash the corporate logo on an app store somewhere.

In addition to running a business.

Another round of jealously visiting funky offices filled with emo developers and Playstation 3’s, whilst bound up in my formal corporate uniform.

Watch this space.

Collaboration and Cultural Change

… or introducing Web2.0 collaborative tools to a geographically, departmentally, culturally disparate organisation, with extremely limited exposure to any “new” technologies.

This should be fun. Rolling out a collaborative Enterprise2.0 tool Atlassian Confluence to an organisation. It’s kind of build the framework, put up a whiteboard with basic instructions (and links to the plethora of web resources), light the touchpaper and stand back.

It’s really a binary gamble – either a collosal failure (albeit a relatively cheap one) or a huge culture changing, paradigm shifting success, encouraging information sharing, true collaboration, discussion forums, generating new communication channels between different parts of the business, generating a healthy bit of competition with different offices trying to outdo each other on their homepages!

Watch this space (for the wreckage!).