How to dissect a website – and keep it healthy

When it comes to sharing ideas for analysing library websites, Jennifer Phillips-Bacher of the Wellcome Library has some helpful analogies.  She likens the first stage of content auditing to dissection.  This is where you look inside to see what’s working – and what’s wrong.  Jennifer’s content audit was a detailed and tedious task.  Starting with the site map, every link must be clicked and each webpage analysed.  Content type, URL, author, metadata, when the page was created/updated and other information was captured.  In particular Jennifer recommends you keep an eye out for ROT – content that is redundant, outdated or trivial. The output of this type of content audit is an enormous spreadsheet.

The second phase is diagnosis.  You can use the information you have gathered, as well as other tools such as Google analytics to understand exactly how people are using your site.  You can see what content is never used and which are your most visited pages.   Diagnosis helps you validate exactly what you are going to include, and omit, from your website.  You can begin to identify your underserved audiences.

The next phase focuses on strategy. For the team at Wellcome, processes are being built in to ensure that the website is kept healthy and happy.  Governance of the new website is critical.  Accountability will be built into the website and an editorial strategy and content lifecycle will be developed.  The team is consulting with a branding agency and all staff will be trained in writing for the web.

Even if you are not embarking on a full redesign of your website, brief content audit can reveal all kinds of interesting information.  Start to explore your site’s analytics and see if you can find unmet needs and other opportunities.  Audit and analysis can help make you stronger!

Jennifer was speaking at Internet Librarian International


Digital inheritance

What happens to your digital identity when you die?  According to a survey quoted in the Daily Telegraph, one in ten people in the UK are now leaving their passwords in their will.  They want their families to have access to photographs, digital assets and their social media accounts.  They also want their digital identities managed and protected after they are gone.

(The research was carried out by the Centre for Creative and Social Technology at Goldsmiths College, University of London.)

Marketing Week also picks up the story.  Brands should make post-death processes a ‘default part of their service’.  You should be able to nominate a next of kin when you sign up for an email account for example.

What is clear is that consumers need more advice in this area.  And 90% of us need to be thinking more seriously about our digital legacy.

Challenges faced by marketing sound familiar

IBM has just published its 2011 Global Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) 2011 report (called From Stretched to Strengthened).  Over 1700 senior marketing staff in 64 countries were interviewed about the transformations and challenges they and their businesses are currently facing.

The CMOs identified four big ‘game changers’

  • data explosion
  • social media
  • proliferation of devices and channels
  • consumer demographics

They also identified key areas for focus and development, including understanding customers and delivering value to them; creating lasting relationships; and the necessity for measuring ROI.  This focus on ROI reflects a move from marketing being seen as a ‘cost centre’ to focusing on customer centric initiatives.   In fact, it’s all sounding rather familiar.

The report synthesises the wisdom of the respondents to suggest nine strategic imperatives.  These too are relevant to information professionals.  These include:

  • focus on creating value to customers as individuals
  • capitalise on new digital channels to stimulate customer conversations
  • use advanced analytics and compelling metrics to improve decision making and demonstrate accountability

It seems there are opportunities for information professionals to help senior marketing colleagues understand the potential impact and deliver the benefits of social media and to support them as they attempt to meet the challenges of data explosion and analysis.





Is relationship building the key to customer loyalty?

Harvard Business Review (HBR) has just published the second in a four-part series featuring findings from a study by the Sales Executive Council which analyses the productivity of over 6,000 sales representatives.  5,000 business customers were also surveyed as part of the study.  The findings challenge some long-standing beliefs about what drives an effective customer engagement strategy.

The research identifies five ‘types’ of sales representatives (relationship builders; hard workers; lone wolves; reactive problem solvers and challengers).  The findings suggest that the most successful – by far – are the ‘Challengers’.  They are assertive and unafraid to take control of sales conversations.  They are capable of teaching their customers, not focusing on features of benefits but bringing insights in their conversations with customers.  They also have finely tuned understanding of what drives individual customers.  Not only are the Challengers the most successful, but Relationship Builders constitute only 7% of the high performers identified in the study.

If this finding is surprising, the survey also finds that where the sales experience itself is of a high quality, this is more likely to drive customer loyalty than just about anything else, including brand, product or price.  If the sales representative is one who can challenge the customer and bring new insights, then this can have a real impact.

And if you are surprised so far, wait till you get to the section about how asking customers “What keeps you up at night?” is ‘the worst question you can ask’!

The first and second part of the series are available on the HBR blog.

(Thanks to @Thepastamaster for alerting me to the story)

Adopt a humble position – a lesson for facilitators

Manavodaya is an organisation that has been working with the poorest communities in Uttar Pradesh in India for 20 years.  Its work takes place in villages, many of them remote, where it is not uncommon for villagers to be living on the equivalent of 20p per day – well below the poverty line.  These people are the most marginalised and disenfranchised in their communities.

The Manavodaya approach is simple.  A facilitator goes to the village and opens up a ‘human-level dialogue’ with villagers.  There may be several meetings with villagers before any discussions about ‘change’ even begin.  The key is that the facilitator’s role is a ‘quiet and humble one’.  The villagers are the experts in the life that they are living – not the facilitator.  There are no pre-conceived agendas, targets or solutions.  The philosophy is as far away from the co-dependency of ‘solutions delivery’ as it is possible to be.

At first, villagers are, at least, agreed in the need for change.  Through collective visioning, ways to deliver real change can emerge – very often from the smallest of beginnings.

The Manavodaya philosophy was explained in a lunchtime lecture at the RSA.  Many members of the audience were there to explore whether lessons could be integrated into social programmes in the UK.  Certainly the focus on user- or community-centric development struck a chord with many.

Yet elements of the philosophy have wider implications.  The approach calls for quiet self and group reflection.  It focuses on enabling others, not encouraging them to depend on us.  It acknowledges the expertise of others.  It urges us not to have pre-conceived ideas.  Most of all, it recognises the importance of delivering change through our own behaviour and attitudes.

All in all, a humbling lesson.

Twitter: learning from the bad and the good

We have all read inspirational quotes encouraging us to learn from our mistakes.   How much more fun, though, to learn from other people’s mistakes.  Chris Brogan (always worth reading) writes about badly managed or abandoned corporate ‘grocery goods’ Twitter accounts and the lessons are clear.

  • An abandoned Twitter account is worse than no official Twitter account.
  • Many companies and brands still don’t ‘get’ social media and are simply broadcasting press releases
  • Spamming is just wrong – don’t do it!
  • Tone of voice is everything – don’t be a Twitter braggard

Chris also gives examples of great Twitter usage if you are that way inclined.

There are also positive Twitter lessons to be learned from the Top 50 ‘most followed magazines’.  Speaking to Folio Magazine, representatives from four of the top 50 share ideas on growing readership via Twitter.  Key lessons include:

  • provide useful information
  • reply to all questions
  • use hashtags consistently
  • be willing to entertain – and challenge
  • above all – be human.  It should be clear to your community that you are speaking with your ‘true voice’

What ‘good’ looks like

Some years ago, when he was working at BP, Chris Collison and his colleagues developed a deceptively simple methodology that helped transform the way that knowledge and expertise was identified and shared.  This ‘river’ diagram remains an astonishingly powerful tool that is used by organisations of all types, size and sectors, from global telecommunications businesses to third sector organisations.

At the latest NetIKX event, Chris guided members through a river exercise that sought to identify the supply and demand for knowledge expertise within the room.

The process involves:

  • Bringing stakeholders together to agree ‘what good looks like’
  • Enabling teams to self-assess their performance levels
  • Encouraging teams to set targets for improvement
  • ‘Matchmaking’ those with a supply of expertise and experience with those who want to improve

As with any great consulting methodology there is as much to be gained from participating in the process itself as there is from the actual outputs.  The conversations that take place to discuss what constitutes ‘basic’, ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ can help stakeholders to develop a shared organisational language.   The process helps organisations identify, capture and share good practice. The longevity of the river diagram approach also shows the power of effective visualisation – and of a great metaphor.

In our session, two café conversations took place, bringing together those who self-assessed high on knowledge strategy and organisational learning and those seeking to learn from them.

The amount and level of animated knowledge sharing at our workshop demonstrates just how healthy the NetIKX knowledge marketplace is.  It also shows how committed the members are, not only to their own learning, but also to the ongoing development of peers and the future success of knowledge and information management.

Pirate Party’s success in Berlin

For those who missed the story, the Pirate Party, dedicated to the freedom and transparency of internet traffic, has entered a state parliament for the first time.  The Party received almost 9% of the votes in the recent Berlin regional elections taking it comfortably over the 5% hurdle required to enter the city’s legislature.  The Party took 15 of the 149 seats available.

You can read an analysis of the political implications of this development on the Economist blog.  You can read more about the (apparently astonished) victors on this English language German news blog.

Cyber crime, cyber criminals and information professionals

In his new book Dark Market: CyberThieves, CyberCops and You, Misha Glenny identifies and explores three major threats posed by networked computing.

Cyber crime, which is very often high value/high-volume includes such criminal activities as card skimming and identity theft and represents in most instances the more low hanging fruit for cyber criminals

Cyber warfare, which has been recognised by the Pentagon as the fifth domain of warfare (in addition to land, sea, air and space).  Whether a nation state – and which one – was responsible for the Stuxnet attack on Iran’s nuclear industry has been hotly debated.  Even if it is impossible to prove the original source, Glenny sees this as the start of a new arms race in cyber offensive weapons.

Cyber industrial espionage, which sees organisations targeted for extortion or competitive espionage purposes.  The problem is that, until it becomes compulsory to report such breaches, it is impossible to estimate the true cost of cyber industrial espionage.   Glenny quotes estimates ranging from $100 billion to $1 trillion per annum.

Fake malware – a case study

Speaking at the RSA this week, Glenny presented a case study which seeks to put this estimated value into context.  Based in the Ukraine IT company, Innovative Marketing advertised prize winning malware to its customers.  The hitch was that the prizes were not real and the anti-virus software being sold was both fake and liable to open up users PCs to viruses.  Many people took the company’s claims at face value, and failed to carry out even the most basic check – such as whether the top computer publications named really HAD granted prizes to the company.

Ironically, the company failed to address its own computer security and it was possible for someone to review its invoices and estimate that the company had made in excess of $500 million.

Who are the hackers?

Glenny is perfectly aware that the subject of data security might put many readers off (although it didn’t seem to put off too many readers of the Millennium trilogy).  In his book he features the people who are involved in hacking, reasoning that it is important to understand exactly what it is that motivates hackers.  Not all of them, for example are motivated by money.  Many of them are simply ‘ahead of the curve’ when it comes to applying internet technology.  The growth ‘carding’ websites for example enabled  the industrialisation of cyber crime on a massive scale.

The hackers Glenny encountered shared some common characteristics.   In most cases they were men and obsessive gamers.  Many – but by no means all – were lacking in ‘real world’ social skills and were easy prey to criminal elements.   The solution, Glenny suggests, would be to intercept such people very early in their hacking career, which in almost all cases happens in their teens.   It is important to understand the human element behind hacking, and to remember that financial gaine is not always the main driving force.

Fight complacency

Meanwhile, there are some pretty obvious lessons for the corporate sector.  The risk of cyber crime and data breaches should be on every organisation’s agenda at board level.  Reputational as well as financial risks must be taken seriously.  And as the story of Innovative Marketing in Ukraine proves, there is still much work to be done by information professionals in helping colleagues recognise scam sites and helping them to understand why, and how, they should check a website’s claims for its products and services.

Some CPD dates for the diary

Autumn is traditionally a busy season for conferences and professional development/CPD events and my diary is rapidly filling up.  Some highlights are described below and they show the range of topics, speakers and formats available.

First up is NetIKX’s September workshop, which Chris Collison will facilitate.  The event marks the two thirds point for the network’s ‘framework for seminars’ and provides the opportunity for delegates to consider future priorities for CPD – for themselves, their organisations, for NetIKX and the ‘profession’.  Chris is an excellent facilitator who will no doubt enable delegates to focus clearly on key priorities. 

Other events I have signed up for include the RSA lecture ‘Value-based social change’ which focuses on how India’s self-help movement is achieving sustainable social change amongst the poorest and most disenfranchised groups.  I am looking forward to hearing how such communities have been empowered and to exploring opportunities for other types of organisation to learn from such initiatives.

At the beginning of November I will be attending Axiell’s two-day Rethinking Libraries Symposium in London.  Hosted by the London Libraries Consortium, the event will focus on new opportunities for libraries including new forms of partnership and new user groups.

Before that, of course, I will be attending, and blogging and tweeting from, Internet Librarian International 2011.  During the conference last year ILI2010 was a Twitter trend!  A year in social media is a long time, and the growth in the number of Twitter accounts and traffic makes it unlikely that a niche event could trend this year – but you never know!  Please make a note of the hashtag (#ILI2011) now, and let’s see what we can do!