Repost from IBM Social Business Insights Blog: Cool or creepy, part 2: Seven additional social networking apps to consider

As part of a team of IBM Redbook Thought Leaders, I blog for the IBM Social Business Insights blog, and repost those blog posts here on my personal blog. Cool or creepy, part 2: Seven additional social networking apps to consider, is the second part of a series that was originally published on December 23, 2013, and is owned by IBM. Part 1, Five new social networking applications: Cool or creepy? is here.
I recommend checking out the IBM Social Business Insights blog for some compelling and though-provoking content.

Cool or creepy, part 2: Seven additional social networking apps to consider

Brandi Boatner, Digital Experience Manager, IBM @ThinkBluePR
Holly Nielsen, Social Media Leader, IBM @HollyNielsen

This holiday season it’s time to tech the halls with boughs of privacy…or maybe not?

During the holidays, many people share gift ideas, wish lists, New Year’s resolutions they have no intention of keeping and a good amount of laughter with family, friends and loved ones.

Last year we took a look at some popular social networking applications that were designed to connect people by sharing only the information the user wanted to share. With thousands of apps being created every day, and as we close out another tech-obsessed year, which apps will stick around in 2014? Let’s look at some recent apps and ask the same question: Are these cool or creepy?

 1. Gym Shamer

Gym Shamer is an app that lets you set your workout goals and then check in at the gym through Foursquare. If you miss a workout, the app tells your entire social graph that you blew it.

Cool/creepy factor
: This one definitely falls on the creepy side. We’re good enough at the remorse game ourselves for missing a workout, especially if we list “Get in Shape” as one of our New Year’s resolutions. We don’t need all of our friends, family, colleagues and followers piling on the grief.

 2. Butt Analyzer

Butt Analyzer is, yes, you read it correctly, an app that uses your phone's camera to take a photo of a man’s or woman’s derriere and calculate the attractiveness of that booty on a scale of 1 to 10. It’s only available on Android, so we couldn’t test it out (which is probably just as well), and there’s a share button that enables sharing the results with your social network.

 Cool/creepy factor: This app is one of the highest ranking out there on the creepy scale.

3. Spout

Spout is a new way to look at your social content feeds—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Flickr—in a swirling, moving, graphically interesting format where the words flow and stream across the screen. You can set the theme, mode, display time, animation style and word speed.

 Cool/creepy factor: Definitely cool. Spout is a word lover’s dream. It would make an amazing screensaver. Hint: if the word stream makes you dizzy, try different speeds and animation styles to find the one you like best.


The webpage for CARROT for iPhone touts it as “the to-do list with a personality.” You create your to-do list, and CARROT berates you for failing to complete items and rewards you when you finish them. “She” has 400 rewards for good behavior at her disposal, but states, "You don't want to make me upset." Personalized gamification, anyone?

Cool/creepy factor: We’re leaning toward cool for this app, as this reviewer could use some help getting her to-do lists completed. But, getting scolded by her smartphone could also result in immediate app deletion. Not sure what an angry Siri sounds like, but do you want to find out?

 5. Tinder

Talk about a well-defined target audience: no smartphone, no Facebook profile, no Tinder dating. If you read the online reviews (which we did) it would appear that Tinder is taking the millennial dating world by storm. Its claim to fame? It finds out who is nearby and connects you with them if you're mutually interested. A photo of someone in your pre-defined geolocation pops up on your phone, and you swipe left if you’re interested, right if you’re not. Or maybe it was right if you’re interested, left if you’re not. Anyway, if the other person also swipes in the yes direction, a chat box pops up and you can chat. After that, it’s up to you.

Cool/creepy factor
: This app is cool if you live in a large metropolis and have trouble getting out and meeting people. All millennials have active Facebook pages and smartphones, right?

 6. Slydial

This app sounds like just what it does. Slydial is a voice messaging service that connects you directly to someone’s mobile voicemail, bypassing the ringing. How many times have you dreaded dialing a number and praying the other party on the end of the line doesn’t answer and your call goes straight to voicemail? Now, there’s an app for that.

Cool/creepy factor: This app is actually pretty cool. Users click on the slydial icon and instantly connect with the recipient’s voicemail box. Slydial can be used for practical and efficient communications when you’re short on time, when you’d rather not leave a text and, more important, when you want to avoid life’s awkward moments. This app is currently only available in the US.

7. MedXCom

“Take control of your health and well-being—anytime, anywhere!” is the tag line for this app. The MedXCom Patient app is a patient portal that lets you store and manage all of your health profile with confidence and convenience and instantly share important data and updates with your doctors.

Cool/creepy factor: MedXCom is both cool and creepy. It is a great way for people to manage health information and include as many details as they need to monitor personal health like reminders for taking medication, storing images of health insurance cards (most people lose these cards every year) and the ability to instantly notify health professionals in case of an emergency. However, on the creepy side a feature of the app is called “safe bumping" that encourages dating singles to go to the doctor for regular STD checks. And yes - that information can be shared.  We'll stop there, but it's safe to say we think it's TMI and bit too creepy.

It would seem that the term privacy means different things to different people in the digital age with our evolving interconnectedness. However, two key constants remain with the emergence of social networking apps: user discretion and transparency. Perhaps we can make 2014 the year privacy found its way back from the abyss of mobile applications. That’s one resolution we can all stick to…maybe.

Why I Started a Book Club

Reading a book. It's one of the most educational, mind-expanding, self-caring things you can do for yourself. 

Stack of booksDo you remember when Oprah started her book club back in 1996? She had a powerful effect on reading for pleasure and discussion. In 2008, an article in Time magazine stated about her club, "It's the greatest force in publishing today, with the power to raise authors from the dead (Leo Tolstoy) or crucify them on the national stage (James Frey)."

 I've always loved the idea of a book club. What could be better than reading a book, then talking about it with other bibliophiles? Add some wine and a few appetizers, and you have a close-to-perfect evening right there.

My mother's book club has been meeting for well over thirty years, so it's not a surprise that I would want to follow in her footsteps. I tried a few book clubs at local bookstores, and a club online, but neither option quite jelled for me. So, I decided to start one of my own. I included friends that I thought would mix well. The only requirement? Read the book!

This group of funny, smart, caring, insightful and just plain fun women has been meeting for almost 7 1/2 years. We've had a few members drop out for various reasons, and new members have joined us; so that we're at the comfortable number of 12. We meet once a month at different members' homes, and vote on the books we'll be reading next. One of my favorite things about this monthly meeting is how everyone has bonded over time. We often spend the first half of the meeting catching up on everyone's lives. 

I spend a lot of time online: reading articles, writing, publishing, and collaborating and communicating virtually, so getting offline to hold and read a book, then discuss it face to face is a treat.

 I started "officially" tracking our reading list a few years ago on my Facebook page; sharing it with friends looking for reading recommendations.  What better way to share the power and love of reading and connect with others who feel the same way, than with social networking? So I decided to share our list here on my blog, and solicit your favorite books while I was at it. (Readers are very generous about sharing their favorites.)

Wednesday Night Book Club Reading List (so far)

10/06 When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler
11/06 The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd
01/07 Sleeping with Schubert by Bonnie Marson
02/07 Dispatches From The Front by Anderson Cooper
03/07 Memory Keepers Daughter by Kim Edwards
04/07 The Tender Bar by J. R. Moehringer
05/07 The Secret byRhonda Byrne
06/07 Water for Elephants bySara Gruen
07/07 Thousand Splendid Suns by Kaaleb Hosseini
08/07 The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
09/07 Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls
10/07 One Good Turn: A Novel by Kate Atkinson
11/07 My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
01/08 Never Let Her Go by Jennifer Tynes
02/08 Away by Amy Bloom
04/08 Nature Girl by Carl Hasson
05/08 Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
06/08 The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman
07/08 The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
08/08 Pigs In Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver
09/08 Housekeeping by Marilyn Robinson
10/08 The Road by Cormac McCarthy
11/08 The Vanishing Act Of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrel
01/09 Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
02/09 Not a Genuine Black Man by Brian Copeland
03/09 Red Scarf by Kate Furnivall
04/09 The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall
05/09 A Short History Of Tractors In Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
06/09 I Wish I Had a Red Dress by Pearl Cleage
07/09 Funny In Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas
09/09 The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle
10/09 Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa Lee
01/10 Blessings by Anna Quindlin
02/10 Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan
03/10 A Reliable Wife by Robert Godrick
04/10 Delusions Of A Grandma by Carrie Fisher
05/10 Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
06/10 Middlesex by Jeffery Eugendes
07/10 The Art Of Racing In The Rain by Garth Stein
08/10 Magnificent Bastards by Rich Hall
09/10 An Inconvenient Elephant by Judy Reene Singer
10/10 Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penny
11/10 Princess by Jean Sasson
1/11 Moo by Jane Smiley
2/11 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
3/11 Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Janzen
4/11 Ladder of Years: A Novel by Anne Tyler
6/11 The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
7/11 The Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue
8/11 Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A Novel by Tom Franklin
9/11 Just Kids by Patti Smith
10/11 The Paris Wife: A Novel by Paula McLain
12/11 Henry's Sisters by Cathy Lamb
1/12 Ape House: A Novel by Sara Gruen
2/12 The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
3/12 Catching Fire & Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
4/12 Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music by Judy Collins
5/12 The Cosmopolitans by Nadia Kalman
6/12 Ellis Island: A Novel by Kate Kerrigan
7/12 Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain
8/12 A land more kind than home by Wiley Cash
9/12 Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me) by Carol Tavris,Elliot Aronson
10/12 Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas
11/12 Snowdrops by A.D. Miller
12/12 Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity by Katherine Boo
01/13 Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
02/13 Run by Ann Patchett
03/13 The Secret Keeper: A Novel by Kate Morton
04/13  Paris in Love: A Memoir by Eloisa James
05/13 Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
06/13 The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
07/13 Butter: A Novel by Anne Panning
08/13 Crashed (Junior Bender #1) (Junior Bender Mysteries) by Timothy Hallinan
09/13 A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life by James Bowen
10/13 The Red Queen (The Cousin's War) by Philippa Gregory
11/13 Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
12/13 The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel by Rachel Joyce
01/14 Wild by Cheryl Strayed
02/14 Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Woman's Prison by Piper Kerman
03/14 Beautiful Ruins: A Novel by Jeff Walter

What is your book club reading? What are you reading that you'd recommend to others?  Please share in the comments -- we'd love to know! (Plus I need some recommendations for the next few meetings!)

Image courtesy of Supertrooper /

My Five Favorite Crowdsourcing Projects

 It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of crowdfunding, and that I think it's one of the most impressive outcomes we've realized from the explosive growth of social networking. In fact, I've blogged about crowdfunding multiple times (more than I'd realized):
 The creativity, vision, audacity and sheer magic that it takes to bring a dream to life inspires and humbles me. And I'm not the only one.
  •  Kickstarter, one of the more well-known crowdfunding platform states, "Since our launch in 2009, 5.6 million people have pledged $967 million, funding 55,000 creative projects."
  • Indiegogo, another popular platform says it has, "... raised millions of dollars for thousands of campaigns worldwide."
So far I've helped finance (on a small scale) a high school classmate's book of essays, a documentary about Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and California sea otter livestreaming.  I love the updates and excitement of helping to bring someone's creative vision to life.

So my favorite five projects this week:
  • Hello Ruby -  A children’s book that teaches programming fundamentals through stories and kid-friendly activities and targeted toward 4 to 7 year old girls.
  • The Butter Churn - A lovely project from a friend of mine who wants to bring a locally-sourced grocery store to her rural Illinois hometown of 800 people, where the nearest fresh food is 10 miles away.
  • The Lovemark - An actual, physical architectural structure which will be constructed out of thousands of love cube building blocks.
  • UpSense - An invisible, ergonomic, and intuitive keyboard which enables touch typing and Braille typing on the touch screen itself.
  • Cat Town Cafe - A cat cafe in Oakland, California, based on the extremely popular cat cafes in Japan, where cat lovers can go to have a drink and play with adoptable cats.
What an amazing way to connect with other like-minded people, and help them build their dreams. Do you have a favorite crowdfunding project?

Timely Marketing Tips from an Infoproduct Junkie or "Do You Charge for an e-Book?"

By Michelle McIntyre
Reposted with permission from Michelle McIntyre Communications.

Oakland-based business coach for midlife entrepreneurs, Dina Eisenberg recently spoke to my Women in Consulting (WIC) group in Los Gatos about how to kick start an information product or “infoproduct” business. 

An information product is any product or service that you can sell to people to provide them with information. It includes e-books, books, audios, CDs, DVDs, seminars, videos, tele-seminars and more. 

Because the event description mentioned her law degree and creating a "passive income," I was expecting tips on self-employed (S.E.) IRAs and 401Ks. I had just set up a S.E. 401K so I figured it will probably be redundant to what I already just learned after spending hours with a Fidelity representative to set up my own plan. I went to the meeting anyway for the networking.  

 I was pleasantly surprised when Eisenberg started talking though.  

What it was really about was creating sustainable income to make, what Eisenberg calls “a cushion for life's bumps.”  Consultants and entrepreneurs who are typically actively involved in delivering their service benefit from creating passive income streams that work, even when they cannot.

A self-proclaimed “information product junkie,” Eisenberg has also produced a range of products from online courses to retreats and subscription programs. 

She said it all started when her husband, whom she considers a successful entrepreneur just like herself, went on disability for two years due to a medical issue that has since mostly gone away. He was her fiancé at the time.

She shared her tactics with the consultants, many of whom had created their own infoproducts. Several consultants had their products on hand and the talk turned into a brainstorm and information share of sorts instead of just a presentation.

Two of her messages stuck in my mind.

First, start charging!  Yes, the internet is awash in free material however, people will pay for the exact right product that solves their specific problem at that time. Don't assume you have to start with free.

Second, ask first.  The difference between a profitable infoproduct and one that flops is research.  Search Linkedin threads and comments for a wealth of topic ideas for your information product.

To learn more about Dina Eisenberg, visit her website.  
Here are related Twitter handles. 
WIC: @WIConsult 
Dina Eisenberg: @DinaEisenberg 
The author of this post: @FromMichelle 

Michelle McIntyre is a blogger and high tech PR consultant based in Saratoga, Calif. She's also the director of marketing communications for the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators and on the executive team for TEDxSanJoseCA.

5 Social Media Myths That It's Time to Put to Rest

Have you seen this statistic from the Pew Internet and American Life Project's Social Networking research report?

As of September 2013, 73% of online adults use social networking sites.

Regardless of whether you're using social media to keep in touch with friends and family, play games, follow the news, or research goods and services, most of us are logging into these sites multiple times a day. Statistical research has revealed that more than 95 percent of Facebook users log into their account every day. The same number for Twitter is 60 percent and for LinkedIn is 30 percent.

And as with all new technologies, there's a learning curve, and an even steeper curve of understanding before we truly comprehend the impact of social networking. And while we are at the bottom of the social networking curve of understanding, there are five myths that need to be put to rest now.

  1. Twitter is about nothing but what people had for breakfast
    That might have been true for the first six months of Twitter, but we've moved past it. News organizations and celebrities are the most followed accounts, but the virality of Twitter means that anyone can start a trend. Two examples? Arab Spring and the Boston Marathon bombing — both hit the world consciousness via Twitter. Breakfast? Not any more.
  2. No one cares what personal stuff I post; my privacy settings will protect me.
    So there's trusting, and there's foolishly naive. How much do you pay for your Facebook account? Nothing? Well, no, actually you do pay — with your data. Your likes, dislikes, opinions, friends, religious affiliation, political affiliation and more are all tracked, stored and shared. As long as you are aware that you are paying with your data, you can be circumspect about what you say. But to count on your information to remain unused and unshared with advertisers, is well, Pollyannish at best. Every day we hear about another data breach. Your social media data is not immune to hacking.
  3. Recruiters / hiring companies don't pay any attention to this stuff.
    Yes, actually they do. According to this survey by Reppler, 92% of recruiters admit to checking out and screening out applicants based on their profiles on social networking sites. For more information, read my blog post, Think Before You Post: Your Digital Footprint Lives Forever.
  4. Googling yourself is narcissistic.
    No, it's really not. It's smart. See #3 above.
  5. Social media is a fad that won't last.
    Will today's social networking platforms look the same in five years? Unlikely. As with all technologies, they will mature, users will mature, and the platforms and how we use them will evolve. The proliferation of smart phones and the millennials' comfort level with sharing their lives online essentially guarantees that the social media genie will not go back into its bottle.
So why don't we let these five most pervasive myths about social media rest in peace. Of course, additional myths are created and perpetuated every day. Which additional ones would you like to see disappear?

When Blogger's Block Strikes....

.... what do you do? Writer's block has been around as long as there have been writers, and bloggers are certainly not immune to this common affliction. I was heads down with the learning curve of a new position during the second half of 2013 without enough time or energy to write for myself, and now that I've found my stride and am ready to start blogging again....... nothing. No inspiration, no ideas, not even a clue.

Image courtesy of Rawich /

So like any 21st century netizen, I took to Google to see what advice was out there. Two of my favorites:

ProBlogger has a wonderful article on the topic, Battling Blogger's Block, with ten useful tips — definitely worth bookmarking for an uninspired writing day. They include:
  1. Change Your Blogging Environment
  2. Keep an Idea Journal <my favorite>
  3. Free Writing -- Just Write
  4. Read What Other Bloggers are Saying
  5. Combine Two Disconnected Ideas
  6. Start with a Need
  7. Take Questions
  8. Flip an Idea
  9. Collaborate with Other Bloggers
  10. Set a Deadline
HubSpot has a fun Blog Topic Generator, where you plug in three nouns that you'd like to blog about, and they'll "come up with a week's worth of relevant blog post titles in a matter of seconds."

When I entered social media, volunteering and SEO, the generator returned:

So inquiring minds really do want to know: What tips have you used to break through the dreaded blogger's block? Or are there some articles that you've bookmarked in anticipation of that inevitable day?