Business 2.0 – The Power of Blogging

The Transport Security Administration has been tanned in the media today over the actions of some screening personnel. You can read the details here.

I was impressed with the way that they handled the news of this on their blog. You can read the post here, with the announcement of policy change here.

You can tell from the tone of these posts that the TSA is not enthusiastic about the news coverage. However, the post on their blog was direct, honest and clear. There are good reasons for their security rules, but policies can be modified to be more accommodating of differences between customers.

I’d also encourage a look through the comments on the TSA website. Corporate bloggers can run into as controversial situations, and the wide variety of comments will give you a good idea about what can and will be said about your own embarrassing incidents.

I’ll repeat below my principles for dealing with a public crisis in the internet age

  • Be honest, your company reputation can be significantly harmed by a lie
  • Negotiate with this customer in good faith
  • Communicate your side of the story with the website publishing the accusations
  • A crisis management officer empowered to monitor and address these concerns can reduce the stress level of the entire board

Communication, Communication, Communication!

Yes, the TSA situation is embarrassing, titillating (sorry) and practically made for making the front page. The announcement here, however, was well done, clear and correct.

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Business Tools – PortableApps

There are many uses for portable applications. Security, portability, and keeping all your settings in one place are all advantages of portable applications. However, using these applications can be a little difficult.

My solution for this is the PortableApps suite. You can choose the extent of the applications to install on your USB drive, including OpenOffice for documents and spreadsheets, GAIM for instant messaging and Thunderbird for email.

You’ll note that the PortableApps launcher acts very similar to the U3 launcher I recommended against earlier. The major differences are that the PortableApps launcher is open source, does not require administrator privledges on your computer and can work with a wide variety of open and closed source applications.

Business Tools – The USB Toolkit

One of the most effective tools that you can have is a USB key. Most people use these just to store files but their usefulness goes much further than that. This is the first post of a series I’m going to be doing on the specific tools you can use. To begin, you need a good USB key. My current model is a 512 mb off brand that I picked up 2 years ago for about 20 bucks. At the time this was really inexpensive, but prices have fallen significantly. You should be able to pick up a 4 Gb model for the same price with a little searching.

There is an initiative called U3 that markets a standard for USB drives that allows you to launch programs that meet their standards. I am making a recommendation against these particular drives. In my testing of them, I found that they require administrator rights to run on a PC and thus they are largely useless in most corporate and university environments. Also, this proprietary system has already been made obsolete by a free and open source program launcher, which I will be featuring tomorrow.

The short of it, avoid U3 drives unless they are a really good deal. If you do buy one, re-format the hard drive using the HP USB Disk Storage Utility, I suggest FAT or FAT32 file systems for ease of use and compatibility.

HP USB Disk Storage Utility

Frontiers of Business – Reputation Management – Custom Google Search

To continue this series on using free, web based systems to easily monitor the online business enviroment I am going to focus on creating custom Google searches to find what is being said about your company and products online.

The simplest method, of course, is to search for your products on Google’s News site. For an example, we’ll use McDonalds.

Note how scattered this search is, as of 4:00 today news results from New Zealand, the UK, Virginia and California in the first results. If your product/company name is unique, simple and localized this may be all you need. To tighten up the results, we can limit this search in a number of ways.

The first, is to restrict the search to a single website. I’ll use McDonalds and my favorite consumer affairs website, the Consumerist. This works from the standard Google search, not the news site. Google uses ‘site:’ to limit searches to a single site, so our search string will be

Mcdonalds site:Consumerist.com

Notice how much more focused this is. There is specific, negative responses to McDonalds promoting through blogs and on elementary school report cards. This could be applied to any consumer affairs site.

The second way in which I’ll show you how to limit search results is by using – and +, what us library nerds would call Boolean logic. I’m going back to Google News now, and I’ll show a couple of search strings. Let’s imagine that I’m looking for news stories relating only to the coffee McDondalds sells, nothing else.

The search string:

McDonalds +Coffee – hamburgers -burritos -salad

This is a silly example, and as you can see the results are not that effective. I’ll give another more effective one.

As part of my religious studies hobby I follow news stories on a variety of religious groups, including the LDS Church (Mormons, Latter-day Saints, the guys with the white shirts and nametags at your door). Part of the problem I ran into with a simple ‘Mormon’ search was the incredable number of Mormon Roads and Boulevards that are out there. I was getting an overwhelming number of crime reports from Kansas. Also, LDS is an acronym used in farm futures, so I got a lot of data regarding hog prices and wheat futures in my religious studies RSS feed. Over time I tweaked the search to go like this

Mormon OR LDS -Road -Boulevard -Blvd -“DTN Cattle Close/Trends”

Note what happens there, Road, Boulevard and Blvd are excluded, as is the specific title of the report that kept popping farm data up.

You can target these search strings down until you are pulling in exactly what you want. When your done, grab the RSS feed for the search and let your RSS reader do the work of pulling everything together.

Saturday Fun – MediaMonkey

I have a couple of iPods¬† due to various friends and family members getting them new, then upgrading. I’m a fan of the design (especially the Mini) but I really don’t like iTunes. After a couple of experiences in which my entire music library was accidentally deleted, I’ve sworn eternal vengeance (just kidding) against all Apple software. I do need a way to transfer music, however. MediaMonkey is a very well designed music manager with advanced features that equal and even outstrip iTunes at times.

I use it to manage (at present) around 50Gb of music on an external drive. What is exceptional about MediaMonkey is that it can be run from the external drive as well, with the simple action of moving the library into the MediaMonkey program folder on the external drive. (If that seems greek, take a look at the MediaMonkey forums or drop me a line, I’m happy to help)

The above setup gives me a portable music system that can go anywhere and works on almost any computer.

 MediaMonkey