Monday, 3 November 2008

Fly me to the dole office

Oh dear, another hoo ha all about employees posting what some might think is inappropriate content on Facebook. This time Virgin Atlantic and British Airways staff saying mean things about passengers and planes.

(I have to say, I probably agree - a lot of passengers smell and yes, a lot are indeed "chavs". However, if your job is to deal with the general public on a daily basis, this may not come as a complete shock. And if this is a source of complaint, then maybe working in customer service is not an ideal career path. But I digress...)

What I find most interesting is that it's still making the news. Google had 121 sites listed today about the BA and Virgin cases for instance. Surely there have been enough similar instances for both employers and employees to understand how these things work - to know what is appropriate, and what is not; to know what is a reasonable response, and what is draconian.

The BA group on Facebook that seems to cause all the furore is actually a "closed" group, requiring moderated viewing. As it's not for general public consumption, and presumably closed off to non BA employees, does this make it a private work space? Arguably not, but BA's actions have made the whole issue a very public one, so have they managed to achieve at least some of their original objectives of reputational management?

To be honest, if I were BA I'd be a little more concerned with the group titled "STOP BRITISH AIRWAYS SELLING IT'S CABIN CREW!!!", a public group that is a bit of a focal point for Project Columbus, the apparent cabin crew outsourcing project. Or how about "British Airways Surfboard Ban" that currently has over 14,000 members and growing.

And while I'm up here on my soapbox, how about the groups "VIRGIN ATLANTIC HOSTIES", "The girls of Virgin Atlantic! On the ground and up in the skies!" or even "The Boys of Virgin Atlantic". Hoping that Virgin Atlantic HR and legal teams are scouring through the employee handbook about discrimination and fairness....

The point is the line between work and personal is becoming increasingly blurred: arguably it always was. But now, the blurring is much more publicly, and both companies and employees are finding it hard to define clear boundaries, and to handle (inadvertent) transgressions.

Maybe it would have been easier to ask the particular employees to delete their postings, reminding them of their work obligations, rather than fire them and feed the frenzy. Collaborative working through of these grey areas helps both parties define where their responsibilities lie, and should ultimately give a more workable code of conduct that everyone can understand and follow.

Well, enough from me. Am off to recommend "RIO SUCKS FOR BANNING FACEBOOK!" to all my colleagues.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Widget Expo

I was one of the speakers (graveyard slot! *hmph*) earlier this month at Widget Web Expo London, where I whittered on about widgets and gadgets in an enterprise, corporate world.

The most interesting thing (apart from my pearly words of widsom, natch) was the direction that many of the delegates thought the internet would be taking, in particular that widgets were something new that would change the way we all interacted.


We were using this techology at Rio Tinto years ago, through our Plumtree Portal implementation. Plumtree was reliant on "portlets" for users to build intranet communities, which visitors could then view in situ, or tear off and add to their own customised pages.

Sound familiar?

Well, unfortunately it didn't change the way users interacted with the company intranet. In many ways it was a barrier, and over time the portal fell out of use, although to be fair I think the concept was unfamiliar to people, and our implementation could have been more robust.

We've now replaced Plumtree, and our new portal platform is proving much more successful.

And just to prove that things never really go out of fashion, we're looking at ways of integrating widget technologies into our new portal.

As they say, wait around long enough, stuff just comes back into fashion.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Our peers get updated

Interesting to see that our peers BHP Billiton* and Anglo American both recently refresh their public websites. And even more interesting was how they've gone for a similar, more "web 2.0" look and feel. Well, you know what I mean.... some chroming on the menus, some fades on solid backgrounds, lots of big hi res photos.

Both have also gone for the "feature story" splash approach, trying to grab visitor attention on something interesting.

Hmmm nice big hi res photos on the home page you say? Prominent feature content? Wonder where that came from.

* just in case you didn't know, and it's important that I tell you, BHP Billiton recently made a preconditional offer for Rio Tinto.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Dear "One born every minute Co.,Ltd"

Working in a company that's spread around the world, with thousands of domain names under our control, we're not immune to the occassional registration spammer from some internet cafe in the Far East.

Most of them in the same format...

Dear [insert any old name here],

We received a formal application from a company who is called AoMeiXin Investment Co.,Ltd are applying to register "[insert domain we've picked up using a whois bot]" as their domain name and Internet keyword in China and also in Asia on August 6, 2008. During our auditing procedure we find out that the alleged Meiao Investment Co.,Ltd has no trade mark, brand nor patent even similar to that word. As authorized anti-cybersquatting organization we hereby suspect the alleged Meiao Investment Co.,Ltd to be a domain grabber. Hence we need you confirmation for two things,
First of all, whether this alleged Meiao Investment Co.,Ltd is your business partner or distributor in China.
Secondly, whether you are interested in registering these domains. (The alleged Meiao Investment Co.,Ltd will be entitled to obtain a domain not needed by original trademark owner.)
If you are not in charge of this please transfer this email to appropriate dept.
This is a letter for confirmation. If the mentioned third party is your business partner or distributor in China please DO NOT reply. We will automatically confirm application from your business partner after this audit procedure.

Bst Rgs
Mark Li

Registration Commissioner
Tel: +0086-10-82771675-602 +0086-10-82772510-602
Fax: +0086-10-82771640

The most annoying thing about these people is that they just seem to use the same email template, modify a few bits and pieces, and send it out ad nauseam. They all even share same grammatical and spelling mistakes. Personally, I find it slightly offensive that they think I'd be stupid enough not to notice....

Some fun stuff here about this In fact, there's lots of fun stuff on all sorts of forums on the interweb - just Google it.

I've been getting 2 or 3 a week now from our business around the Group, and our legal teams have drafted up a rather pithy email response which we send out. See, lawyers *do* have a reason to be on this earth after all.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Tag. You're it

Branding is prominent in the comms team at the moment here are work. We're all busy implementing our new visual identity, and there's a load of people doing work in internal engagement and so on.

Interesting to come across this site - - which allows people to tag various well known consumer brands with the values and attributes they think are most appropriate.

Some very interesting things going on - check out SAP for instance. We're loving that one of the main brand associations is "??" Go figure.

(and no, we're not on there, so don't try)

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Facebook hoaxes

I remember, all those many years ago, when you'd get chain letters by email. Remember them? "If you don't send this on at least 10 people then bad things will happen". Yeah, whatever.

Invariably they'd come from your closest friends, family or work colleagues. And so you'd believe them, and duly send it on (or wait for calamity to strike).

Well things moved in the world of email. We now get the fake Gap vouchers and so on.

Meanwhile, back in the world of social networking, we're once again seeing the gullible make tits of themselves. My personal favorite is the "what's wrong here.... AAA BBB..." post that appears in Funwall in Facebook. Apparently you can see the answer if you click on "fast forward" to your friends. Hmmm. Hello, is that faint tinkly noise the sound of alarm bells?? Apparently not for thousands of poor trusting, curious, souls who did just that, and send the posting (sans answer) to all their mates, who in turn sent it to theirs and so on and so.

This for me highlights a couple of the major problems that are inherent in social media:

1. You trust your friends. Human nature to trust people that you know, but that doesn't mean they're right.
2. You don't check. A quick Google would have found the answer to this particular problem (oh, and btw the answer to our AAA BBB poser revolves around the phrases "found it impossible" and "80% couldn't find it". Go work it out, or Google yourselves).

We now have a medium where unqualified people are being trusted. Unreservedly. And that isn't healthy.

Now, send this post on to 10 of your closest friends and good things will happen. If you don't, then let the suffering of baby kittens be on your conscience.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Twittering in a corporate world

Well, we've just dipped our well manicured corporate toes in the dimly lit pool of microblogging, by signing up for an account on Twitter.

I'm not yet sure of the business value of this. Yes, it's an interesting platform for p2p comms, and I've even heard it holds some value for those b2c.

However I wait to see whether we get much out of it. It's success depends on who else has signed up on the site, and our stakeholders - hedge fund managers, NGOs, business journos and the like - are not reknowned for their early adoption of social media. (OK, by now it's not really early adoption, but you know what I mean...)

If the chickens aren't in the yard, there's no point scattering the corn.

People looking for a job on our student or graduate placements schemes may very well come across us though, so that's a good thing. Mind you, it's a difficult thing trying not to come across as "getting on down with the cool kids". That's not really a core brand value for a mining company such as ours, trust me.

We'll see how we go over the next few months. And who knows, getting our feet wet may well prove to have some payback. (Probably more so than stretching this particular metaphor).

Friday, 1 February 2008

Am I allowed to....?

We'll it's no news to anyone watching the financial pages since before Christmas that we've been under the watchful eye of the UK Takeover Panel. This is because of a proposal by BHP Billiton, another company in the mining sector.

One of the unexpected results of this, is the change in what we're allowed to talk about (hence the lack of postings here... yeah, I know) and what we're definitely not.

Blogging (however informal) by someone in a company which is in a potential takeover/merger situation can lead to a breach of all sorts of regulations, both here in the and abroad. The UK's Financial Services Authority (FSA), the Takeover Panel, and lots of corporate lawyers and bankers take a very dim view of people within such a company issuing potentially misleading or unverifiable statements. Our poor lawyers are checking every piece of marketing communications at the moment that goes out from us - and I think they're getting a bit bored writing "source, please" on the bottom of every email!

Of course, I've now got to submit this post to them for approval. No doubt there will be a comment in due course asking for my sources.