Friday, January 27, 2006

review: The Virtual Handshake
by Ron Lichty

I wrote this review for SDForum's bimonthly newsletter. It was just published on page 20 of the Feb/March SDForum newsletter.

The Virtual Handshake
by David Teten and Scott Allen
reviewed by Ron Lichty

How do you most effectively leverage the new social software tools that have emerged in the past few years? As David Teten and Scott Allen ably advise in their new book, The Virtual Handshake, these tools can help you meet new people, maintain relationships, build your own flexible, lifetime network, open doors, close deals and build professional success.

The new tools include blogs, social network sites, relationship capital management software and biography analysis software. Some of the older tools include contact management software, shared workspaces, personal Web sites, e-mail lists, instant messaging and Web conferencing.

In our July SDForum / SofTech meeting, "Architecting Community and Collaboration Solutions," our panel looked at tools like blogs, wikis, meeting software, group email, and message boards, seeking to answer these kinds of questions. (There's a summary of the event, along with a lot of other discoveries both before and since, on the official event blog at: )

Teten and Allen got the luxury of a couple more years, 250 pages and a web site (and hopefully an advance and some royalties) to explore those questions, so took them to a deeper level. It's not often that you read a book in an area where you have interest and passion and discover authors who both deepen and broaden your thinking. It's equally rare to find a book that, despite being published, as books are, months after they're written and more months after they were researched, that nonetheless introduces technologies and applications and services that seem as fresh as if they were posted to a web site yesterday. The Virtual Handshake was that for me. Here are everything from lists of providers to rules for effective use to the subtleties of using them for best success. My copy is tagged with Post-its and laced with highlighting.

Who are the providers of all these areas of online services? See the table they provide, by the way updated on the authors’ website at:

How do you promote your blog? Have you built relationships with the A-listers, syndicated your page, connected with other bloggers, and submitted your site to the specialized blog search engines? Do you know who all these people and services are? Teten and Allen do.

What can you do that you might not have? iCohere in Walnut Creek used its own software to host a four-day online virtual conference on collaborative learning. Are you holding a business meeting? Have you checked out Cvent,, or PowerMingle to connect attendees beforehand, and prepare them to meet each other?

How do you improve the effectiveness of your email approaches to people you know well? How about to those to whom you’ve only just been introduced? How do you write emails that don’t get tossed before they’re even read? What’s appropriate use of email and what’s not?

How do you truly connect with people online? How do you build and nurture your network?

More general advice? There's some of that here, too. As you set up your web site and your blog, they advise, make it easy for others to republish your content, perhaps using the Creative Commons licenses.

The Virtual Handshake removes some of the mystery of blogs that newcomers often struggle with, such as terminology like “Permalink” and “Trackback”.

To the other extreme, one of the most fascinating aspects of the book are examples of how people are using social software and services in ways that even long-experienced online networkers have likely never thought of.

Take the Value Investors Club, an exclusive investment ideas network where membership requires writing up an "A+" investment idea for the other members -- and maintaining membership requires two to six more such analyses each year. It’s fascinating that the 250 members know each other only by aliases and can communicate only to the entire community –preventing private messages for purposes like cross-firm recruiting.

Or did you know branding expert Rob Frankel "runs a weekly public chat every Monday morning in which he donates one hour of his time to anyone who drops by. He likens it to the academic tradition of 'office hours.'"

Or do you know the story of the Lockergnome service, a score of free tech newsletters with over a million subscribers -- as well as the annual Gnomedex convention, the exclusive thinktank, regular TV hosting spots and magazine columns, and a couple books – that Chris Pirillo first began in the form of emails of his online discoveries to his college friends? All that activity has made Pirillo a recognized leader these days in email publishing.

From how to manage the e-mail deluge to setting up the virtual you, from increasing the relevance of your network to doubling your “weak ties” (and why you’d want to), The Virtual Handshake can help. Whether you’re a rookie or a veteran at using these services, and whether you’re in marketing or sales, or looking for a job (or preparing for the eventuality that you one day will be), this book will point you in the right direction.


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