Social networking et al

Ron Shelvin has a great post initiated by Tim McAlpine (with comments). I commented on the entry and wanted to expand on it here.

First some clarity. Being cognisant of the person behind the message and that further communication is usually necessary will keep a clear focus on the value of social networking. Whether this takes further entries (such as this) a telephone call or a personal visit it depends on the message and the circumstance. A quick example.

Attending Gnomedex a few years ago and recent NorthernVoices you realize a true advantage of where the cutting edge is going. A keynote or seminar is presented and while the presentation is happening Flickr is being uploaded with pictures, blogs are being posted to, wikis are updated and the electronic interaction is almost overwhelming. All of these entries contribute to the presentation. Everyone has their laptop open and the bandwith is phenomenal. You can begin to see who the person is behind the name tag and it is a unique experience. This social networking has now expanded with YouTube and Twitter etc. and I daresay is only the beginning.

Maybe I should have said human networking instead of social networking but I didn’t want to divorce one from the other. Senior execs need to be challenged, big time. Remember ‘customer relationship management’ and what that has come to mean or MIS, ‘management information systems’? Ron is right — we do need to take some of the confusion out of the term. Social networking as it applies to technology is a great unknown by most and that is really too bad because by beginning to use it, by taking advantage of it, we as credit unions, which is the credit union members, can begin to re-create what financial service is.

So what will this collective communication bring us? The power to listen and listen better. One of the problems with listening is that it does take time. Relationships are created by human interaction. One universal concern we need to listen to is what people think about line ups. They hate them. Everybody hates them. They waste time. People don’t want to converse with anyone when they have been standing in line for 10 minutes waiting. They now want to get the business done and move on. If they didn’t have to wait they would spend those few extra found minutes talking and we could then explore those needs and wishes that would seed innovation. But some executive think success is measured by the length of the line up. “We must be busy, great! Just look at that lineup.” Social networking will put concerns like this right in front of us for all to see. The challenge is what are we going to do with them? Will be act, re-act or ignore?

Those that have attempted to build their organizations on vision and values will readily embrace these challenges social networking offers. Those that don’t need to maybe do something else. Something happened with Web 2.0/Enterprise 2.0 and Ron, Tim and William have got it. What about the others?

What makes people generous?

There are so many times you expect people to be one way and they are the other. Generosity is always a surprise. And because one is generous one day does that mean you’ll continue in that domain? It seems a lot depends on how you feel. Sure you can quickly weigh the obvious, that you can afford to be generous with your time, donation, or effort. But just because you can do something does that mean you will do something? There has to be more to it than just that. Maybe one is generous because it is a pretty big thing to help people. Maybe it is that sentiment, without guilt, that you are going to make a difference, no matter how small. There is no ideal for generosity. It comes from a purely human aspect of life. That is why I have difficulty when businesses or an entity other than human portrays themselves as caring or generous. An entity just doesn’t have those sentiments and in my wildest imagination never will. Next time you are generous think about it. It is something that only you can do at that moment.

Saturday, typical

I was at the library and even Luke the Librarian is reading my blog. Wow! He is the one that should be writing blogs. Three very interesting books were brought home.

  • The Shia Revival by Vali Masr. How conflicts with Islam will shape the future.
  • A Whole New Mind by Daniel H. Pink. Why right-brainers will rule the world. Six essential aptitudes – Design, story, Symphony, Empathy, Play and Meaning.
  • Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch. Understanding how to end your small business marketing struggle (or how not to listen to the marketing flavour of the week).

Last week the ‘renters’ moved out suddenly. They were there for such a short time we had only met them a few times and talked to them. The owner was over today. I sort of felt sorry for him as he said the place was a mess. Maybe that is why they left suddenly.

I have been listening to ‘Cranely’s Gonna Make It’ by Broken Social Science on their ‘Feel Good Lost’ CD. This is a very interesting sound. Though it doesn’t sound exactly like the Feelies you get the same ‘moving along’ feeling when you hear this melody. A trombone and banjo for some highlights which is different. Someone named them experimental indie pop. A genre near and dear to my heart.



It is always interesting to read the year end statements of companies and credit unions. Lots of PR in those pages.

Last night at our AGM we presented information about where the credit union gave most of it’s money. It just happens to be the 3 local elementary schools that receive the largest percentage. Our total giving is about 8.8% of our net earnings. An interesting benchmark and one that most people consider as an adequate mearsurement. But I got to thinking, what other means could be used to view this. Westminster Savings gave $950,000 to their foundation which does not include other contributions. Given their member numbers that is a whopping $18.58 per member at least. North Shore CU gave $1million from their foundation not including other contributions this year. Their membership numbers would put them at $27.42 per member! These are fantastic amounts. Our CU is only at $7.41 per member. But then compare that with the 1% guideline that is so often touted as the necessary level of giving. Westminster Savings would be $2.05 per member, we would be 84 cents per member (sorry I couldn’t get North Shore’s figures). It seems either as a percentage or a per member basis credit unions are giving institutions. So you wonder why we look at the banks a little suspiciously.

Blogs and blogging

Great news. Scott Baldwin from North Shore Credit Union has a blog. A remarkable person from a remarkable credit union.

William Azaroff from Vancity also has a blog going. William’s blog links to a posting by Ron Shelvin from Epsilon titled “Dear Credit Union: If You’re Going to Blog…

I always enjoying reading lists. Simple and to the point. Ron has a list (which he readily opens with the phrase “At the risk of overstepping the boundaries of my expertise…”) which points to some pretty practical recommendations. Remembering that blogging is an art and not a science it has been a slow evolution of information written about blogs and blogging. There is no codex so don’t bother looking for it. I remember talking to Matt Mullenweg a few years ago at Gnomedex. What was amazing about Matt is that he didn’t talk about WordPress but spoke of blogging and the passion he and others had for it. That is really the key more than anything else to writing a blog. And it shows time and time again with a variety of bloggers.

When you think of the core elements of this medium (reading and writing) you realize that text and literary skills are as important as pictures and videos when conveying messages. Short, distinct messages that are well thought out carry the day. Post regularly is the standard. If people like what you write they want to read what you write. They don’t want to wait long periods of time before the next posting. There are some excellent blogs out there that for some reason become dinosaurs. It is appreciated when someone who is blogging decides to hang up the keyboard and tells you such. Links are important and should be used generously. That is what makes social networking actually work. You could never plan what is going to happen to any extent because it just happens. There are always surprises out there. And that is what makes you blog and entices you to read blogs. One final thought, never let fear or ignorance govern what you write. Nobody wants to read issues drawn from that.

2 Items

I have 3 invitations available for Joost. If you want one just let me know.

I came across this Web 2.0 application called Jott. You call a number and leave up to a 30 second audio message. This message then gets transcribed and sent to an e-mail address of your choice. All messages also go to a site where, once you sign in, you can see and hear the audio message. This is perfect for those moments when something comes to mind that it is impossible to write down (like when you are driving your car). But there is much more. You need to visit the site.

Payday lenders

So the Government of B.C. is going to establish a licensing system for payday lenders. Ottawa plans some changes. But is this going to be enough? MoneyMart welcomes the news, supposedly. But licensing does not mean regulating to much of any extent. This is possibly the key to managing this ‘industry’. Loan rates of 60% are nothing but usury. They are allowed but really do the math. No notice of how the interest is calculated or charged. Once you compound the math how long does it take to double the loan?

The most interesting point though, and one that is not mentioned, is the disgusting methods these companies use to collect their debts. I have seen examples of individuals cashing a cheque which had a legal stop payment put on it. The means of recourse is the payee not the drawer but they insist on going after the drawer and they will use any means to get their money. It borders on the savage to say the least. People should know their rights in regards to issuing cheques and cheque cashing but when these organizations abuse these rights where do they go to lodge their concern and complaint? Their only course is a court of law when it should be an government agency that monitors and regulates. Banks, trusts, and credit unions have these but not the payday lenders. It does seems strange that the weakest and most vulnerable have so few avenues left to them. Payday lenders remind me of that small, vicious, South American fish.

Sometimes a great meeting

Today I was down at the Vancouver Club in Vancouver with 5 other credit unions discussing solutions with a data processing supplier. Usually these meeting are boring. People ask questions and the answers turn into another series of questions and before you know it you are about a mile from where you started. The Desjardins Group were different. They talked about their banking system but they presented a very compelling reason for being a credit union — your competition is the banks, not other credit unions. In B.C. we seem to have lost this focus at times. We compete with each other not noticing that there are banks out there.

Desjardins is the Central organization for Quebec caisses populaires (credit unions). They are the 6th largest financial institution in Canada. By this time next year they will have the largest ATM network in Canada. The key is cooperation. It appears this system has grown by cooperating and doesn’t get sidetracked by anyone. It was refreshing to hear why things were actually working. It was refreshing to hear about solutions that were formed out of credit union needs, not because someone in a powerful position wanted it that way. I look forward to hearing more from this organization. I just wish all credit union could come to the table with this type of mindset.


Rush hour

My commute to and from work is roughly 40 minutes each way. I go against the rush hour traffic and most of the drive is freeway. There usually isn’t much stop and go traffic so it is relatively easy. But you do get to spend 40 minutes to think about a lot of things. Over that last 15 years of commuting you realize that by driving in the fast lane you might get there 3-4 minutes earlier, you are stressed out to a high degree and you burn more fuel. By just staying in the slow lane you arrive much more relaxed. But there are limits on how slow one goes. Sometimes you have to pass the guy going 80 kmh and then get back in the slow lane. My ritual is pretty simple and it works. Stay in the slow lane, make phone calls if you have to (with the built in hands free unit) listen to the radio, mostly news and maybe the sports radio chanel until the commercials start, and the rest of the time listen to music from the iPod. The iPod also has podcasts on it. I will listen to those if I get stuck in a long line up. And that is the key. Once you start listening to something pretty good, that you have been saving to listen to, you won’t mind the line up. You listen intently and watch the cars in the other lane go by and it really doesn’t matter. You’ll end up a little late but you have used the time to do something you wanted to. I can’t say I look to the line-up at rush hour, it is just they don’t have that big a negative effect anymore.


Bloggers code of conduct

Looks like Tim O’Reilly feels bloggers needs some parameters on conduct. His original post discussed this at length. And Blogging Wikia has produced something similar. I’d like to explore this one issue further.

First we are talking about comments here. Comments. When I have a discussion with anyone in person they don’t necessarily know me. They see a physical presence but may know absolutely nothing about me. Only the physical presence is my identity. Blogging only exists in a two dimensional form with text and its meaning as an identity. The written idea dominates our thought of who this person is. This exchange of ideas would be as valid whether we knew or did not know the person. I have a difficult time seeing why there is a need to not allow anonymous comments.

Advertising. We see it everywhere. In large part this is their opinion or comment on their product or service. But aren’t corporations anonymous just by their size and inability by any individual person to converse with the ‘owner’? Even when we think we see something we ‘know’ they can still remain anonymous.

Tim mentions accountability via identity changes how people behave. Maybe, maybe but why does that matter? People in public places, hockey games for example, are not known but that doesn’t dissuade them from being boors at times. How can a valid email address indicate that accountability is valued? Wikia makes the point that they discourage aliases in emails as vain. People who drive vehicles are not really anonymous (license plates are viewable) but doesn’t bring accountability and changes as to how they behave?

Blogging by its nature brings us the viability and energy of dialogue and comments. Speakers Corner in Hyde Park was the historical concept of this. But blogging takes this a few steps farther. These blogs give everyone a ‘free speech zone’ without the confines of geography or time. They also add the ability to take the time to think and comment. Are good ideas invalid because they are anonymous?

It seems some people eventually arrive at the point were they need to establish a codex of some sort. It makes them feel secure. Gives them ‘laws’ to blame. Some can’t stand the unorganized and have an aversion to chaos. Where are the police when we need them? Next on the agenda – the blog police.

There are blogs where the owner maintains the right to post the comment. For some it is a means of controlling spam. The blog is their domain and they can handle it as they wish. With TV you can turn it off anytime to keep the drivel out of your life (sorry we haven’t had TV for years so we turned it off permanently). The same with blogs, you don’t have to read them if you don’t want to. Only you can judge the merits of whatever is written by whoever.

It’s Easter

Now the rest of the household is coming down with this flu. Time to go to work to stay healthy.

Doug True wrote a very interesting article for the Washington Credit Union League called “Applying the Gas Station Philosophy to Lending”. No it isn’t about a giant gas price hike and how you will be able to afford it. He talks about lending being a commodity which it is. Lots of borrowers, many more lenders it seems. So how will credit unions differentiate?

It is simple but in today’s world radical. You treat people the way you would want to be treated.

For example your car breaks down and the mechanic says it is going to cost an arm and a leg to fix. You can’t afford to buy a new one but someone at work has his father’s car for sale. You call them up, get to see the card and need the money yesterday. You phone up your credit union who answer the phone in person. Now there is a difference – no mechanical talking voice. They transfer you to the loans officer who listens to your story. You have had a previous loan with them. She says if you come in by the end of the day to finish the paper work you can take a cheque to the guy tonight. Make sure you bring the serial number, make and model of the car in order that the credit union can do the registration check. You get down to the credit union, get the cheque, pay the guy that night, get it insured and the next morning are driving to work in your new ‘used’ car.

Not an unusual story. Simple in what was done but difficult to deliver because a key element is making sure the human interaction is the focal point. That the relationship created is one of trust from the onset. That this is the way you would like to be treated in a similar circumstance.

Is that differentiation or just doing best what credit unions have always been doing.? We can never forget that or we loose who we are. And if that happens we become a ‘bank’.

Last day of sickness, really?

I have been sitting at home now for 3 days with this terrible flu. Not really to my liking. Just when you begin to feel a little better you push yourself and wham! your standing in the kitchen as dizzy as ever ready to head for the bed. It seems your mind just gets terribly bored by doing nothing and then expects your body to get going again. I mean how much CBC can you listen to? If it would just rain then at least the raindrops on the roof will be a distraction.
So does the brain every get sick? The only thing I can think of is a headache. Other than that they are pretty healthy. But now I am tired typing this entry…so goodnight.


Our son (Basco5 — no we didn’t name him that) recently started a project with Mentos. They are producing a 12 x 12 billboard at the Burrard Skytrain Station. He should be having fun as it is completely legal. Wheatpasting may be a thing of the past. Looks like he made the frontpage of one of the local Vancouver free tabloids, 24 Hours.

TechCrunch has some interesting thoughts on YouTube. It seems everyone is onto them about copyright infringing and yet there are a number of sites that offer copyrighted TV shows. It is because YouTube is mainstream i.e. owned by Google?

The Mozilla group are in the midst of creating a social web browser called the Coop. Similar to the Flock, the concept is that your favourites, be they blogs, website, photos, etc. would be socially networked through the features of this browser. It will be interesting to see were this goes. The concept of social networking is picking up ground.

MemberNote vs Clairmail/Telus/My-Spy

There is a post at The Bankwatch about a product that will alert a bank customer of transaction activity with their bank card. Earlier this week a product called My-Spy was on a local TV newscast with a similar service. It will be interesting to see how these products develop.

The credit union I work for developed a product over 2 years ago called MemberNote. It does the same thing but with a completely different method. It was built around the banking system and is totally an in-house solution. There are some differences.

These commercial products will have a price in order to implement them. That price will probably be passed on to the consumer. We have seen this as a necessary service and have implemented it from day one with no cost to the user. It is free. You will only pay what your telcom charges you for text messaging. That brings up a point. Is there any agreements between these companies and say Telus about revenue sharing on the messaging side?

The 3rd party solution is going to bang the @#$% out of anyones internet banking servers unless they can install the software/solution at the host site and deliver the alerts. What happens to website stats when the ‘bots’ are running let’s say every 5 minutes, signing into a banking internet page, pulling the info, and sending the alert (if there is a transaction)? There will be a lot of hits just to find out there wasn’t a transaction to report.

Security. Sorry but I really don’t want my PC running all day with a program to monitor my bank account in order to give me alerts.

These may be moot points. Competition is always great as it pushes us all to create something better. We plan on releasing a version 2 of the product in the next few months. New features will give another dimension to this service. We think it will be that much better.

Nice and honest

It is sometimes amazing to hear people begin to discuss some situation and them get agitated and excited. By excited I mean what bothers them or gets them close to angry. It usually stems from someone in some circumstance showing some unkindness or rude behaviour. One doesn’t always hear someone stating how good a particular person is or what they did that was so extraordinary. The conversation tends to follow about the problem and how the person was the cause of it.

I have a bit of theory here. I think people put up with too much because instead of being honest they tend to be nice. Nice supposedly is the way to go these days. Honesty? Forget that because you will loose “friends”, damage relationships and become the loneliest person on the planet. But really by always being ‘nice’ you eventually become the loneliest person on the planet and also have to do a lot of internal damage control. I can remember the condescending remarks of childhood voiced by an adult “Oh isn’t that nice!” That phrase makes me cringe.

So next time you encounter someone who is pulling your chain be honest, don’t be nice. Remember nice is a four letter word.