Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Secret Weapon for organizing clubs, and non-profit oranizations -- Google Groups (now out of beta)

Coordinating the volunteers of small clubs and organizations is a challenge. Email has made this communication quicker, but not always surer. You not only need to swap ideas among members, you also need something of a repository of ideas so that you have continuity as volunteers come on and off the group.

Google Groups gives clubs, interest groups, and non-profit organizations the tools they need to communicate with their members. The new version (released today) extends their services beyond just delivery of email. Google Groups now lets you share web pages, and resource files and all of the services have custom permission settings which allow you to be selective about who sees and edits the information on those messages, files, and web pages.

Today's Announcement from Google Groups:

New Options for Custom, Private Web Pages Take Groups Beyond Message Boards

Starting today, the latest version of Google Groups can give your group its own easy-to-build home on the web for sharing and maintaining information, including tools for creating customized web pages that help you give your group its own special look and feel. Whether you're running a forum for technology lovers, sharing the latest reviews from your book or wine club, posting practice schedules and team information for your soccer league, or planning a neighborhood barbecue, Google Groups gives you a colorful, central place to collect photos, documents, links, messages, and more over time.

Web products for groups have traditionally focused on an email thread or message board format; they've been largely text based. Google Groups, however, now provides a richer forum for group collaboration with the following new features:
  • Pages. Create and contribute to shared web pages with simple drag, drops, cuts, pastes, and clicks (i.e., no coding).
  • Customized look and feel. Select pictures, colors, and styles to express your group's style.
  • Member profiles. See who else is in the group and read their profiles. Personalize your own profile with a photo and other details.
  • File sharing. Post documents that anyone in the group can access.
  • Easy reading of group discussions. Read easily in a Gmail-style interface.
Group owners have a variety of options for managing access to the group. They can choose to make all content completely private and visible only to group members, or they can offer their pages and resources up to the world. There are also options for controlling viewing and editing capabilities for individual group members.
qv: Google Groups

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Video: WYFF - Buyer Beware - Toolbar can grab personal information

WYFF posted the video of the interview I did last week about spoke.com. Take a look and see what you think.


[Watch the video]

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Your Data for Sale -- On WYFF-TV Tonight

Tim Waller called and asked if we could talk a bit about my blog post and the privacy issues created by Spoke.com. The answer was, of course, yes. Look for it tonight on the 6 PM News on WYFF-TV.

Photo by JL Watkins.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Spoke.com is Evil

Spoke.com has built a scheme to capture and then sell the personal contact information of practically everyone connected via e-mail. The plan is genius -- evil genius. Read on...

Spoke.com says it is growing rapidly. Their press release claims:
Since introducing its free service in August 2006, Spoke Software has added more than three million new contacts to its database and has enabled more than 6,000 sales and marketing professionals to improve sales productivity with higher quality, more targeted leads. With no requirement to track points, make trades or give away the direct contact information of colleagues, users are flocking to Spoke's online business contact information database which now provides access to more than 35 million people and 900,000 companies -- more than any other online business database.
This means that over 6000 sales people now have access to 35 million other people using spoke.com. If you are in the business of selling stuff that sounds like a good thing. The problem is that as one of those 6000 people you have entered into a real Faustian bargain.

How the devil will get your soul...

Spoke says that it launched it's free service in August and that they have added 3 million new names since August. How did they do that? It was easy! To get access to Spoke's "free" service, you must install the Spoke toolbar. The Spoke toolbar then copies all of the information from your address book into the Spoke database. It's at this point you should be able to smell the burning sulfur.

If, for example, I pressed the button for Spoke's free service, the Spoke toolbar would install and then copy the roughly 2100 names, phone numbers, and email addresses out of my Outlook Contact database and then add them to Spoke's database. Spoke would then be able to sell those names, titles, companies, addresses, and email addresses to direct marketing organizations. Participating in this scheme is a sure path to hell.

Consider the horrors:
  • You will be submitting the unlisted phone numbers of family, friends, and confidants that may appear in your address book.
  • You may be submitting passwords, PIN numbers, and other private, privileged information stored in your address book because you think no one has access to it.
  • If you are in sales, you've just given away the contact information (and trust) you have worked to develop with your best clients. Now every S&M (sales and marketing) person in the Spoke universe will be bombarding your best clients with calls and potentially competitive offerings.
Instead of joining Spoke, you should be asking congress to outlaw it.

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