April 30, 2013


no public accessTheir network. Their rules.
Your network. Your rules.

You can join many social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. They are often free in exchange for your privacy. That's a high price. Your activities are tracked and you may be shown ads. We routinely accept those trade-offs. There is another option to consider.

You already have your own network. What are you doing to nurture it? A newsletter isn’t the answer. How can members of your network get in contact with one another? How can you help each other?

Public vs private

A public network has advantages and we are part of many. A private network has even more advantages if it is yours.

Why run your own?

Your network may prove to be your most valuable asset if filled with quality people who can interact with each other.

The Hassle

Building and nurturing a community takes resources. The biggest cost is your time investment. If you like calculating an ROI, you may be disappointed in the short term.

When you build community, you are building an asset which grows in value with time. A local community can meet in person but still needs a way to stay in touch. An online community have a mechanism for staying in touch and is not restricted by geography.

community for TRUST AND YOUMeetup

Meetup is an effective way running local events with face to face meetings. I started a group for Goodyear Toastmasters in 2011 and like the platform. It works very well if you want strangers to join your group. There are no ads because you pay a monthly fee. However, members get emails from Meetup to announce other groups that fit their interests.

I started a new group this month. I won’t give the link because I’m in the process of shutting it down. Strangers joined even though I wanted initial members to be people I personally knew. Within days, I realized that I did not want strangers in the group at this time.

Meetup is intended for in-person gatherings. I also saw that an online community would offer more flexibility via options like web meetings. Face-to-face meetings can take place later.

To help with the costs, I wanted a mechanism to charge a monthly membership fee. Meetup does not seem to do the billing automatically and I don’t want to be in the collections game.


You can have a private LinkedIn Group. That’s appealing because many of the people I would want in my community are already on LinkedIn.

However, LinkedIn keeps changing (not always for the better)
There are other limitations. There are ads and data about members gets collected. There is no community calendar. I wanted more privacy and a way to keep outsiders from knowing who is a member. Also, I wanted to give access to people I might not accept as a LinkedIn connection. Finally, there is no way to charge for membership.

Google+ Communities

Google+ keeps improving and communities are another option with reasonable controls. However, you need a Google account to join and Google gets to collect even more data about you. That affects the privacy of members.

There is currently no way to charge for access but you can have video Hangouts.


Facebook is an option but I have trouble trusting them and did not explore in detail.

Sanctum for TRUST AND YOU

Since I couldn’t find a suitable solution, I decided to create my own private social network on Ning 3.0: Sanctum for TRUST AND YOU. This community is designed for people who dream of a world in which we trust each other by default. Naive? Perhaps but we can take steps to achieve a reality at least within small communities.

Here are the features of the Sanctum:
  • private (no access for search engines)
  • approval process (want quality members)
  • no advertising or data mining (instead a membership fee: currently $5/month or $50/year)
  • no blatant self promotion (though ideal if members do business with each other)
  • well-featured (full set of possible options)
The Sanctum is where I am going to focus my online activities. That means less time on their networks under their rules. If you’re interested, you’re welcome to apply to join the community.


PS Do you see a private community in your future?

April 23, 2013


Workbook  cover - How To Earn Public Trust by Promod SharmaI’ve been planning to write a book on trust and perhaps others. I even have multi-page outlines and thousands of words written. But I’ve stalled. Maybe you have too?

Writing a book is a time-consuming process with  unclear results. You get to say you're an author but is that enough anymore?

Instead, consider writing a workbook that goes into a nice binder and gets used in a workshop you deliver.


You probably bought books you haven’t read. Contrast that with a workbook. You’re forced to read portions during the workshop. You’re encouraged to complete exercises and often participate in group discussions. The personalization makes the workbook yours. You’ve personalized it. You have a reason to keep it (even if you don’t refer to it as often as you planned).


If a book typically sells for $10 or $20, yours will too. It doesn’t matter how brilliant, well-expressed or life changing your ideas. Put that same content into a binder and now you have training. Your workbook can now sell for hundreds as part of your exclusive workshop.


click to readA “proper” book seems to run about 200 pages. An amateur’s book run might run 100 or less and have more white space to mask the paucity of content.

If your goal is to say you wrote a book, you save time if you make it short. You can then write more books. (If you don’t care about trust, you can pretend you’ve written Speaking Of Success with Ken Blanchard, Jack Canfield and Stephen Covey.)

Readers expect results from a workbook. They want quality without fluff. Shorter can actually be better. You can create a shorter initial workbook and continue to add content later.


By the time you publish a book, the content may already be stale. This is especially true of nonfiction books by major authors using traditional publishers: the gap between writing and publication gets measured in months.

In contrast, you can easily update your workbook whenever you want. You can tailor the content for different groups and different session lengths.

Ease of Creation

Writing a book feels daunting. You can’t ship it until everything is done. Observant readers don’t pardon mistakes easily. We expect perfection. You might take time learning to use a specialized app like Scrivener.

Writing a workbook is much easier. You can’t be sloppy but the expectations aren’t as high. Your workshop attendees can point out mistakes and make suggestions.

You can use Word (or another word processor) and work on the key sections first. The learning curve is small. You get professional results if you print on good quality paper with a laser printer. You can even print in colour.


A book is a time-consuming experiment that can easily fail. What’s the ROI on your efforts?

Publishing costs money. You need a proper editor and a cover designer. There are multiple steps in the creation of the master files for the paper book and ebook. You can outsource for a price but if you don’t have a reasonable understanding of the process, you might not get your money’s worth.


Books don’t sell themselves. You need to market them. The best way is to start before you write by gauging if there is demand. Seth Godin ran a Kickstarter campaign.

A workbook is often designed for a workshop. You know if there’s demand if you get an audience (free or paid). You can also test via webinars too. Your audience can become part of your marketing plan. They can give you testimonials.

The Last Step

If you start with a workbook, you can always write a book later. Now you have the structure and know what works with live audiences. You’re earning money along the path. If you start with a book, you don’t get these advantages.


PS Writing a blog helps you write a workbook.

April 16, 2013


crack in stoneRBC has more marketing might when we do. That was not enough to spare them from PR trouble with iGate last week. They certainly looked unprepared. Were you surprised?

The unwanted attention continues. Today’s most recent articles are about how journalists spun RBC (Huffington Post) and that RBC doesn’t owe us an apology but the federal government does (Toronto Star).

The RBC story shows how quickly bad news spreads via media and social networks. The attention was difficult to predict since many other companies (including banks) operate the same way. There is no way to squelch or delete them the reactions.


Big companies have great difficulty making sincere apologies, especially if they don’t plan to change their business practices. Responses often come slowly and don’t feel genuine. They read more like an advertisement than a confession. There’s a reluctance to say anything that could bring liability or hurt share prices.

Here are some well-known but less-than-convincing apologies from Apple (IGN, Sep 2012) that even mega-fans would have trouble believing.

What Would You Do?

You don’t fix a leaking roof during a lightning storm. Ask yourself what would happen if you faced bad PR. You can pretend you’d be spared and stay unprepared. That's not a great strategy. The Internet has a long memory.

As a defensive strategy, you could behave well by doing the “right” thing. Your digital tapestry will show that an unfortunate event is an outlier. Most mistakes are forgivable.

You can't build a history the day you need one. You can start now. You build your history a day by day. You collect supporters in the same way. What are you doing?


PS I’ve got a workshop on how to earn public trust on Apr 23, 2013. Bankers are welcome too.

April 9, 2013


YouTube's growth (click for full size)YouTube started in February 2005 (exactly two years before this blog) and already has one billion unique viewers each month. That’s 1,000,000,000.

Where are your videos?

There are lots of reasons to create video. Let's assume you agree. You don’t need to hire anyone. You can create your own.

Better Than Professional

You won't get the same look as a professional. You probably won’t use fancy green screens or specialized lighting. Instead, you’ll be authentic. That’s valuable and costs less.

A key reason to shoot your own video is the sheer flexibility. You don't need to worry about scheduling. You can do take after take. You can shoot more video and more often. You’ll get better with practice.


To get started, you need a video camera, a tripod, video editing software, a computer, and an external hard drive. You may need lighting. For now, let's assume you use natural lighting.

The camera can be relatively basic. These days you can even shoot good video with a smartphone. You'll have trouble mounting one on a tripod though. Consider a “basic” video camera. You can upgrade later if you want.

You might even start with the webcam in your computer or tablet.

Stage fright

Appearing on camera is daunting. Practice helps. Try using your smartphone with a free app like Viddy which lets you record and post 15 second clips. Maybe you can get someone else do the recording for you. Here are my examples.

You need not appear at all. You can add a voiceover to a presentation from within PowerPoint (Microsoft explains how). A high quality external microphone USB is a worthwhile investment since audio quality is very important.

Video audiences keep growing, thanks to mobile devices. You’re losing opportunities if they can't find you.


PS There may be times to hire a professional. By practicing, you save time (and money) when using their services.

April 2, 2013


tempting but may void warrantyApril Fools Day was yesterday. Today I’ve got more problems with my Lenovo ThinkPads. I’ve learned and am now better prepared.

My ThinkPad W520 workstation hasn’t been the same since the two repairs last year. The fan keeps running loud and there’s heat even when I’m doing basic things like typing. The internal speakers no longer work (for the second time).

My backup ThinkPad X200 Tablet has a pricey 128 GB SSD that’s defective, according to Windows. (My Dell netbook also has a defective 32 GB SSD but I rarely use it.)

This morning, the W520 refused to start because of an error with some controller. Later, it did start but it’s no longer reliable. None of my computers are.

Data Loss

At least I don’t need to worry about data loss. My key files are in my 61 GB Dropbox (see review), which means I have synchronized copies and archived versions. I use cloud-based services regularly.

I've also got CrashPlan+ Unlimited which backs up to an external hard drive and an online archive (review on about.com, Apr 2013). I’ve got every version of every file available.

The issue is no longer data loss. The issue is reliability. That will require another computer. The problem is deciding which to get.

Which One?

Costco has the best basic warranty (2 years) and return policy (90 days) but the selection is limited. Best Buy, Future Shop and Staples offer more choice but still play the game of having sales instead of great prices everyday. Computer stores have better prices but seem to be tough on returns (might even have restocking fees). Online manufacturers Lenovo and Dell offer choice and customization … but also use the gimmick of sales and delivery takes time if you customize.

The Ideal

The ideal notebook computer would have these features (in no particular order):
  • lightweight
  • portable (e.g., 13” or 14” screen)
  • Windows 8 touchscreen (reduces the need for a tablet)
  • powerful processor (e.g., Intel Core i7)
  • lots of memory (minimum of 8 GB, upgradeable to 16 GB)
  • lots of high-speed storage (e.g., 1 TB at 7200 rpm)
  • all-day battery (e.g., 8 hours)
  • nonglare HD screen (900x1600 or 1080x1920)
  • 3 year onsite next-business-day repairs
  • VGA output (many projectors and monitors lack the newer HDMI inputs)
  • English (non-bilingual) keyboard
  • inexpensive
There’s no such choice.

Unless you order a customized computer, you’re stuck with compromises like a 1366x768 screen and a slow hard drive. If you order customized, your computer is a one-off. You wait for delivery and get a less reliable computer. According to a Lenovo repair shop, the most problems are with computers that are CTO (Customized To Order).

There are too many substandard choices … but I need to decide.

Your Clients

How do your clients (current and prospective) feel about what you offer? What’s simple or clear to you may confuse them. Rather than asking for your advice, they may decide to do nothing. Isn’t that a lose/lose?


PS What would you do if your computer became unreliable?