The Blue Dog Scientific Blog

Free Contact Email Address Finder.

Here's a technique I created which uses Google Advanced Search as a tool. This method can help you find email addresses of business contacts quickly.

Here's how it works. Enter the name of the contact you are trying to find, e.g. "gary sharpe", enter the company name, e.g. "blue dog scientific", enter the generic part of the email address for the company, e.g. "". You can leave any of these blank. Press the Search button.

This should hopefully open a new browser tab with the top 100 search results from Google.

Now search this new page using your browser's find text facility. Usually the page search box is opened by pressing Ctrl and the "f" (for find) buttons on your keyboard together.

Keep searching through the results for the symbol "@" by repeatedly hitting "return". Hopefully this will allow you to very quickly scan through. See if the search has come up with the email you are looking for. It's not foolproof but I have found this method very useful and a time saving device.

Contact Name:
Generic Email:

A quick tip. If you don't know the Company's generic email address, first perform the search leaving this blank. If you don't find the email of the person you are looking for this way, then often this first trawl will still throw up instances of the "info" or "contact us" type email address of the organization, e.g. "". You can then copy the generic part after the "@" and paste this into "Generic Email" the above form and try again.

Top Secrets of LinkedIn.

Here are a number of not so well known LinkedIn tips and tricks.

1. On your profile you can have a list of live, clickable links, anything you like, to anywhere you like. Like this:

2. On your profile, you can exploit the "Current" section to do things like this:

Yes, a lot more summary details with your contact information too, right at the very top of your profile page (in that all important "above the fold" region of any webpage).

3. In the Rich Media section of your Profile you can drop links to Company or Showcase Pages...but the real secret is that clicking on this results in a Company page "card" which has an embedded "Follow" button on it:

Yes, people can follow your Company Page directly from your Profile (ahem, well, except the rich media doesn't show up on mobile version of LinkedIn?). You'll have to... you get the idea.

4. In a LinkedIn Publication, if you click where it says "[number of] likes" right at the bottom, you get to see all the people who have "Liked" the post:

Yes, you can even Message any of your Connections who have Liked it from here and there is a Connect button for anyone else (but this is one of those instances of "Connect" where it is not automatic and you have to give the reason for the invite).

5.  When looking at articles in the Pulse, you can quickly move up and down the publication in the list by pressing the "k" and "j" keys:

(at least on the Firefox browser). What other such keystrokes functions are there hidden on LinkedIn pages?

6. If you search for people by criteria:
Yes, you get to send Connect requests to lots of interesting people, without any questions asked (I haven't seen any evidence of this causing any issues myself, but I advise to be cautious and sensible with it otherwise bad things might happen to your account...).

7. There's a plugin you can place in a [private] webpage which allows you to monitor your network connectivity with a specific company:

Yes, perfect, if you're a recruiter, for watching comings and goings, or perfect for everyone one else to start at the bottom and Connect your way up to the very Top.


Hazards & Pitfalls of LinkedIn.

In recent days I have received many messages in my LinkedIn inbox from LinkedIn friends-in-need.  

Two in particular stand out. These both pertain to serial personal attacks which the correspondents have had the misfortune to find themselves on the receiving end of.

One is of a very serious nature indeed and involves the perpetrator messaging the target's LinkedIn contacts to seriously undermine their business with malicious lies. The other was from a LinkedIn user who has been palpably upset and shaken by public attacks on their character.

May I politely, but firmly, remind LinkedIn Users everywhere that:
  • this a professional network and that, in this context, the dictionary definitions of the word include:
  1. characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession.
  2.  exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace;
  • we should not behave any differently here to when in a room full of strangers or attending business meetings in "real life";
  • we do not leave politeness, good manners or any other social norms at the door when we log into LinkedIn;
  • everything we do here is a permanent digital record;
  • we should think very carefully about what we've written before we hit the send button;
  • the portrait of ourselves we present here has lasting consequences for our own reputations, careers, businesses and prospects;
  • if we come across as unprofessional here this does have an impact on real life selves;
  • laws around harassment, libel, defamation and malicious communications still apply to our online activities;
  • robust, mature, heated and critical debates and discussions are part and parcel of professional life, but personal insults, character assassination and deliberate baiting are not;
May I further suggest to LinkedIn Users everywhere that:
  • we do not accept unprofessional behaviors on LinkedIn as a cultural norm;
  • we do not bear silent witness when we see professional people subject to messages which are clearly personal attacks;
  • we support the targets by politely, maturely but firmly pointing out to aggressors that we have found their remarks to be unprofessional or objectionable and ask then to moderate their behavior;
  • we take such actions collectively;
May I thirdly use this opportunity to educate and alert LinkedIn Users everywhere to the facts that:
  • LinkedIn is a reflection of the real world and there are some very bad people here;
  • with so many businesses gathered in one place and so much money at stake, it attracts criminal elements like the proverbial flies to the proverbial sh*t;
  • LinkedIn is a haven for a large number of world class confidence tricksters, fraudsters, phishers, scammers;
  • Corporate espionage is rife on LinkedIn, from mystery shoppers to monitoring of communications to hacking data;
  • LinkedIn is a haven for thieves of both personal and business identities;
  • a very significant proportion of the 360 million "people" that LinkedIn likes to point out are here are fake, misrepresentations, bogus or stolen identities;
  • many people having duplicate accounts so they can operate incognito too;
  • electronic avatars hide all sorts of ulterior motives which we can not discern;
  • we have never met most of our connections in person and have never looked into the white of their eyes;
  • we have no visual or audio queues for the modes of communication we use here, no facial expressions, no body language, no tone of voice so we cannot read people on LinkedIn;
  • there is a very serious problem with plagiarism on LinkedIn and a number of authors are in fact in large part regurgitating other people's works to gain authority and influence for themselves;
  • those people and businesses who are the most naive about the negative aspects of LinkedIn are marking themselves out as obvious targets.
While I realize these remarks are unpalatable and not nice to hear, they are nevertheless the facts and it is about time someone said them explicitly.



Poetry in Emotion: Backbones is (C) 2015 Gary Sharpe. All Rights Reserved.

Inspired by and written to and for Deb Helfrich, December 2015.

First appeared in "The Truth About Love and Life Part 1".

I told you, I TOLD YOU, we were clicking pieces of our broken jigsaws, not just Back into place, but Back together. Not just Back together. But Back Together. Together: into One.

I told you, TOLD YOU, that it was not just a flat jigsaw, but a complex pattern... I said its a three-dimensional or even FOUR-D thing we were rebuilding. I didn't understand. Not at that time. So here is the Truth of Today of my burgeoning understanding.

My love.
What are the Vertebrae of our spines but just three dimensional jigsaw pieces? What image  is projected onto a page by the pieces of our Backbones, but simply pieces of a jigsaw, my infinite love? Do you see?

What we are rebuilding are the Backbones of lives.

THATS the jigsaw, THESE are the pieces we are putting Back together from scratch.

Oh I have said we found each other broken.
But I did not realize until today that we were Back broken. 

What we are doing with our Voices and our Words is reconstructing the Spine of our Stories from the littered graveyard of our bones. We take the bleached white bones of our Backs and we create the framework of our central nervous system anew. But this time, THIS TIME it is a double scaffold, two Backbones-working-as-one, aligned together in close parallel. A double flexible center which provides SO much more than just double the original strength. Oh my love, who originally owned each individual bone is now lost in the breakings of the past. We can no longer tell, as we pick up the pieces from the barren ground, which piece of these puzzle belonged to which broken dream, lost to our histories which are being totally erased in the rebuilding. It does not matter, simply does not matter: the labelling of Who is immaterial. The only thing which matters, THE ONLY THING, is that where there was two Broken Ones, we are erecting a new one COMPLETE Two.

Oh my child, my matriarch, my master, my slave, don't you see?

I told you, TOLD YOU we that those pieces of the jigsaw, they disappear as we unlock the puzzle. That the joins in between disappear. Because what we are doing my Queen, is softening the steel of the ivory. In between the pieces we are layering softness, cushioning all blows which could ever be delivered. We are putting in place layers of super-softness between each hard brittle vertebrae of this double scaffold. We are rounding our edges, preventing abrasion, preventing the hard pieces from rubbing, preventing sharp edges contacting. Now no external force can break this double spine, you understand? We are multi-layered, multi-formed, multi-faceted. As we build this edifice forward and higher, we lovingly, with deep deep love, layer the joints with intervertebral discs of harmony and, of strong soft pliable emotions. And we fill the centre of the bones with nourishing love for each other and for the world.

Oh, my darling, my dear. Our commitment to change the world is the marrow of our bones.

A spine is four-dimensional indeed. It flexes and moves. It shifts and changes, adapts its form to the tasks, the work to be done, the toils and the pleasures. Sometime the Backbones are arched in ecstasy, sometimes they will be C-shaped in sorrow or pain, sometimes they will bend with the strain. Sometimes they are moving to the music, figure of eigthing indeed. When we dance.

What we are doing is with our Voices, through our deep, deep, DEEP, love, KINDNESS and CARE for each other, mind, body, soul, with the preciousness and the priceless value we put on our times together, is creating the most supple, durable spine that two people ever had. We bend with the Winds of Change like the willow tree. We are ensuring we can stretch further, contort and extend the body of our Understanding beyond any previous human spine before.

Listen to the Thunder, my Queen. Can you hear it coming. These words are the rumblings of a future.

Advertise for Free on LinkedIn with Youtube Cards.

You're on LinkedIn to sell something right? An app, a book, tickets, an event, photos, widgets, gizmos, websites, hardware, software, arts, crafts, music, an hour of your time? Something.

Are you paying LinkedIn to advertise this whatever it is?

Then you must be stark raving mad. Off your rocker. Completely bonkers. Or you must have more money than sense.

I'm serious. Couldn't be more serious. Really. Here's why.

Have you noticed how youtube videos now appear fully embedded in the newsfeed? Big and bold, loud and proud? That they play right there in-situ? In fact, youtube players are ubiquitous on LinkedIn. Embed them here in Publications. Insert them in the Rich Media sections of your Profiles, add them to your Company Page like LinkedIn recommend you to.

Some time ago, youtube unveiled cards. Cards are clickable little adverts which you can place in a video. Of which, one type is the Merchandise card, about which, and I quote, youtube say: "merchandise cards can promote a creator's licensed merchandise directly from the video... Merch [cards] can link to your shop homepage or an individual product". OK, Merch cards need to link to a youtube approved site. But their white-list is long and includes the big ones: google play, itunes, shopify, eventbrite, ticketmaster, Etsy and many, many more. Or you can just use the Associated Website card instead to link direct to your selling pages on your own website.

No, silly, I am not saying you want to plaster videos all over LinkedIn which are themselves of an advertorial nature. I'm saying you can have great video content which is still engaging, educational, informative or entertaining, but now with an integrated "buy it now" button embedded contextually within/on them. And these engaging video are orders of magnitude more effective than annoying your fellow LinkedIn Users by paying to have your advert splashed all over their Profiles.

And these engaging videos are not blocked by advert blockers.

And these engaging videos, done right, will be a shining beacon on the homepage newsfeeds of your own customer community, not part of the background furniture of adverts to which we have all become blind, nor wasting time and space on the homepages of people-not-in-your-customer-base-and-never-will-be.

And these engaging videos are shareable, likeable, comment-worthy objects in their own right, completely unlike those un-postable, un-loveable , un-interactable boring adverts you pay so much to show.

And these engaging videos and their advertorial cards individually have extremely powerful in-built analytics which help you to understand your audience and their responses down to the level of trivia.
Now, stop thinking so literally. Youtube is not just "video". Youtube media could be anything from a simple graphic (but with background music), an audio or voiceover track (but with background scenery), a slide show or photo album, a blog post made animated, a cartoon, a joke, a quote, a game. Anything you like to post to the newsfeed, but now with your "buy now" button right there as part of it too. A "buy now" button which, by the way is not in any shape or form being placed on LinkedIn at all, because it doesn't exist there. It exists on youtube. It is embedded in a embed. Beyond the reach and say of LinkedIn.

Need help? Ready to start saving your business money? Ready to rethink your LinkedIn strategy? Let me know.

Oh, I nearly forgot to say, in case I haven't been clear.

And those engaging videos with their direct links to your merchandise can be placed anywhere on LinkedIn, including as part of bona fide Group Discussions, for absolutely free.


A Paradigm Shift for Fundraising Online. Part 1.

I have been working for some time with a team who are creating a game changing online Communication, Community and Collaboration tool called Carii.

One of the main applications we've had in mind from the very outset is its use as a breakthrough tool for charitable and non-profit organizations and causes. So I am very pleased to announce that we now have developed the system to a mature state: it is now fully functional for this purpose and I recommend that fundraisers give it their full consideration. In this article I will explain all.

So What's The Problem with Social Media?

Let us first consider the fundamental issues with social media and digital marketing in the context of fundraising. Using tools like Facebook and Twitter, fundraisers currently seek to get visibility, to grow their audience and following. It is a form of mass marketing through engaging people in conversation, rather than directly asking or emotionally blackmailing them for money. On the whole, it has proven a much more effective way to generate donations when used strategically than traditional advertising methods. But it still a highly sub-optimal solution. Why?

In fundraising through social media, we try to draw attention and entice people to visit our social pages, to like and share our posts among their networks, thus spreading the word and raising awareness. This has, in fact, become a hard game because the social media channels are so incredibly noisy: there are now too many competing voices. This makes organizations tend to want to shout and they stop listening to their audience. We call it "Selling by Yelling" - it doesn't work!

A fundamental flaw in this social engagement approach to fundraising is that we are seeking to pull our audience in, when in order to achieve our actual goal - raising funds and donations - we have to push them away again. There is simply a large disconnect between where we create our social posts and where our donate facilities are online. Typically we are trying to pull them in to social media while pushing them out again through repeated "calls-to-actions": we need to ask them to click through to websites, send a text or create standing banking orders, etc. In others words, in order for them to give we are asking them to actively go.

The other major issue which fundraisers need to face is that the current dominant "social" platforms are set-up by the providers as aggressive advertising and marketing businesses. In essence, they derive the mainstay of their own income through forcing us to pay to advertise. There is no doubt these platforms have become seriously gamified, meaning they present us with false hopes and then greatly restrict or throttle the visibility of our posts and social presence. They limit how many people we can follow and force a unnaturally slow pace of growth on our accounts. Only if we pay, or play a very long game, do we ever get to the high visibility we need to convert enough viewers in to funds.

The third barrier that Fundraisers face is that the social platforms go out of their way to prevent organizations making money themselves by exploiting the large online presence they may have eventually built up. Community advertising, sponsorship or affiliate marketing is usually strictly against the terms of service for social accounts. This is one of the few terms that the providers do rigorously enforce.

Carii and the Fundamental Solution.

Carii is different because our concept from the start was always as the solution to these pain points that the social media providers have caused us. The very essence of Carii is to enable organizations to freely communicate, get their message out as widely as possible and grow their communities and audiences as rapidly as possible.

In terms of fundraising the essential idea is simple and common sense, although not yet common practice. It is to exploit the full power of social media engagement strategies and online community development, while providing a simple, easy and highly visible way for that community to donate to the cause. I think this is one of those cases where a picture paints a thousand words, so please let me show you the concept graphically via appealing to an example, in particular this showcase Carii Fundraising Community "National Foundation for Cancer Research: Dave Bjork: Cancer Research Evangelist".

Here is how Dave's Community looks:

We see the familiar aspects of social media pages, except note the prominent and tailor made donate button which is visible to all visitors all the time. Thus now we don't need to push visitors away from our online community in order for them to donate. Nor do we need to constantly call them to action. The task becomes simply to pull people in to our community and provide them every reason why they would want to hit the donate button and support our cause. Clicking on the "Donate Button" brings up a bespoke form in which a variety of payment options, amounts and frequency can be set up very easily.

However, the potentials of Carii for fund raising go far beyond this fundamental solution.

Carii and the Role of Social Media.

Social Media still plays a crucial role, but now that role is as outreach to pull everyone back to the Community. Carii posts can be shared to Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter, with a graphical link back to the community and the post. So the philosophy is that Carii becomes the hub, where all the content is created and archived and each post is then shared outwards across social media in order to drive followers from every channel back to the center.

Carii and Sponsorship

Unlike all the social platforms, Carii encourages Communities to monetize themselves through paid advertising. We believe that Community owners should be able to profit from or support the large amounts of time and effort that is required to build and maintain a high quality forum. Therefore Carii includes options for Community owners to go and find sponsors. In the view of Dave's Carii community above you will see an advert for sponsors of his group. Note also how this advert also appears in every post too. Once Community sponsors are found then, the highly visible advertising space is where their details will go. Most fundraisers will already have sponsors and partners and hence this may represent an immediate way for generating new income. Carii works this facility through a revenue share system. We take a percentage of the revenue which the Community and their sponsors have negotiated in return for creating and maintaining the bespoke sponsorship space.

One point I have just noted is that currently the donate button part of the advertising space is not appearing on the individual posts. I have requested to the designers that we should also definitely feature it prominently here too. That way every click on every share of the post includes this all important "Call-to-Action". Readers then do not have to be pulled all the way back to the central Community even.

This is also another important difference between Carii and other online providers. They go out of their way to find solutions and meet the needs of Communities at an individualized level.

Carii and More...

While this post seeks to highlight the fundamentals, there is very much to Carii than this too which will enable fundraising organizations to step-change their online returns on investment. Furthermore, we are always developing these ideas too and have big plans. I will describe these additional benefits in sequel posts, but for now I will leave you with this quote from Carii's CEO, +Denise Hayman-Loa

"Also, the new fundraising enhanced functionality is coming very soon - in just days hopefully - and it adds significant features to our capability in this area including running multiple campaigns, a common source on the platform to display all open campaigns, create teams who raise money for a campaign and creating campaigns for causes instead of only for registered charities. And the most powerful aspect - fundraising posts! To keep donors informed and engaged - no one else has this."

Check out our e-guides:


Does LinkedIn Treat its Users Like Lab Rats?

Did you know there is an official LinkedIn archive called

In this blog is the truth about how LinkedIn actually views its User base.

Here are my synopsis for just a couple of the posts to be found there. Prepare to be shocked.

I first reviewed:
Key points:
  • A LinkedIn experimentation and optimization computer program exists called XLNT "which keeps track of what experiments and variants are running for all of LinkedIn".
  • When a change to the LinkedIn software is made, XLNT is used to perform so called A/B testing, which is first carried out on a small random sample of users to see what effect the change has.
  • The effect is measured by "suitable" chosen criteria. For example, in this particular blog post, the author considers changes to emails sent out by LinkedIn. The criteria chosen were the benefits of more reads and clicks of the emails they send out vs the downsides of the number of emails flagged as spam.
  • Before launching a change site wide, it is often first rolled out only to subgroups of users for further testing. The examples given is using only active (whatever that means) users or only users in a certain georegion.
  • The author claims that "This combination of optimization and experimentation has been highly effective. So far this year, it has allowed LinkedIn to send 40 percent less email and reduce email complaints by half, with a positive member response. In addition, this has led to an increase in email engagement rates".
Analysis: LinkedIn perform live experiments on users and user accounts. Users are not notified that they are part of experiments. LinkedIn phase changes in by georegions and activity, intentionally. T

LinkedIn have an optimization/experimentation program. This appears in itself to be a commercially viable product or service. By proving its worth on its own users, LinkedIn may be looking to monetize it for other large website developers. So continually rolling out changes to its own platform has commercial benefits for LinkedIn which have very little to do with the needs of the users. Change and testing change is therefore part and parcel of LinkedIn monetizations of its users. In other words, we can expect continual changes into the future, because it is a way for them to demonstrate the value of part of their technology to others.

Another blog post on this theme
considers the use of XLNT for Premium products.
Key points:
  • LinkedIn "knows" that Premium users were "overwhelmed" by the number of versions of Premium accounts which were on offer.
  • LinkedIn have reduced the number of packages from 12 to 4.
  • These changes required a major overhaul of the LinkedIn software.
  • "While we were excited about the product changes, we wanted to be mindful of the business impact a large change like this could bring. Premium subscriptions is a large business that accounted for 18% of LinkedIn’s revenue in Q2 2015".
  • The XLNT software was used to test the impact of this change, the success was measured by which version (12 or 4 products) produced more sign ups.
  • The tests, however, involved other changes too, such as the inclusion of a FAQ page.
  • "Prior to launch, we debated endlessly on the size or [clickable buttons]. There was a strong belief that a bolder [buttons] will drive more sign-ups. Based on feedback from our design team, we decided to test the bold [button] against a more subtle one. The design team won this contest - the subtle [button] performed better and resulted in an improved acquisition flow. We quickly dropped the big blue button!"
  • Simplification and iterating changes at a fast pace are identified as key to LinkedIn's plans.
Analysis: The only thing that LinkedIn have proven here is that 4 specific choices of Premium offering are better than 12 different specific packages at the time at which the A/B testing was done, when "better" is measured in terms of the number of sign ups. Thats all. This is unfortunately pseudo-science of the worse kind which we are being subjected to.

They have not shown or even measured whether this change has any adverse effects on other parts of the LinkedIn users experience. They have not shown whether a different choice of 4 packages would be better still. They have not shown that 1 or 2 or 6 or 10 or 8 packages are actually better than 4. Just that 4 are better than 12.

They have not measured the impact of any of the other changes to the platform on the sign up rate to Premium services. They have not gathered the evidence of whether different changes have effects on the Premium service sign up which might simply swamp the change from 12 to 4, making it largely irrevelant.

They have correlated increased sign ups with the user satisfaction of those services after they have signed up and found out what they are getting. These are far from the same thing. They may have come up with an improved marketing strategy, but this does not mean they have a better product from the users perspective.

They have not shown that when another major change in the user experience is made, that the outcome of the test will not be radically altered. That is to say, if other aspects of the environment were radically improved, that in fact, under those circumstances, the users might then welcome more choice for Premium products.

They have shown that their assumptions often turn out to be wrong when tested. Yet they have not run their XLNT program on their fundamental assumption. They have simply not tested the premise that overall simplification and a fast pace of change is in itself a good thing, through A/B testing. If they are wrong about these fundamentals then everything they are doing, everything they are putting users and their businesses through, is a complete and utter nonsense.

Most of all this demonstrates what we all already know. LinkedIn think of users not as people but as pixels. These blog posts show an utter contempt for users, down to the level that they think they can play with our businesses for the purposes of internal competitions and a bit of sport and then even joke about it.

It also shows that while they concerned with the effects on their own business and quarterly profits, the impacts on our businesses does not even come on their radar, is not even in their lexicon.
The key point about the "button" and "concerns for our profits" above are the ones I wish readers to reflect on the most.

If you like my posts about LinkedIn, may I ask for your support to highlight my e-Manual for Professional Profiles in 2016. I would very much appreciate your retweet of the embedded tweet below.


Extraordinary LinkedIn Profiles.

Those who are following me will know I'm on a personal journey. I have come very, very far in the last year. I have changed and evolved. I have learned so much. Reflected. Thought. In short I have grown. And it's accelerating.

This journey of self-discovery I am on is entirely down to LinkedIn. Simply because the way I exploit the system has allowed me to become connected with some truly extraordinary people. Extraordinary people I would never ever have met, intersected or collided with, by any other means.  Whether they were like ships which passed in the night or they resulted in long time fellow travellers, these encounters of the extraordinary kind have slingshotted me each time, turboboosted my rate of growth.

Who I am today, who I will grow into tomorrow, could not possibly be without LinkedIn.
So let's get this straight. LinkedIn the software is rubbish and amateurish, full of bugs and really annoying. LinkedIn the company is loopy, self-interested, displaying serious signs of insanity and is wasting our time and resources for no good reasons. But forgetting all that for now, disregarding these silly people, Link In with the right professionals and it does change us forever. The connectivity we achieve here matters. It really, really does.. There are ripple effects to all this which are being amplified in to tidal waves. Changing the world.

This then is what LinkedIn is actually for. Like minds attracting like minds. When extraordinary minds collide, sparks fly, igniting impossible ideas.
This place is a furnace which keeps forging me anew.
I am folded steel.
I'm on fire...

...These very Words are testament to themselves. This post-as-poetry, I would not have even be able to express even yesterday. Isn't this extraordinary even in of itself?

The truth of what I'm saying about my own journey is written in the grafitti of the comments, no, the feedback, on these, my LinkedIn Publications, just a very small sample of which now make up the mainstay of my LinkedIn Profile.

This is a point of realization I wish to share with you. We forgot the importance of word-of-mouth. LinkedIn made us all into narcissists.

Profiles have become all about I. We need to step back and re-evaluate. We need to address this. Use our common sense.

You can use your profile to tell me about how good you think you are, what your qualifications are, but what do I care? As a LinkedIn expert extraordinaire, I know all the tricks-of-the-profile-trade. Hell, I invented quite a lot of them. I see through them all.

When I look at your profile, I really don't care about your past career history, I want to know who you are right now.
What's your story?
Where are you on your own particular journey?
But most importantly: who vouches for you, who tells me that you're extraordinary? 

First published on LinkedIn:


Why Your Pop-Ups are Killing Your Online Business

I have been meaning to get around to write a post about how much I detest pop-ups, obscuring email capture forms and those adverts with a count down before you get to content.

Using shares of blogs to social media which when you click you get something else has a name. It is an ugly one.

It is called click baiting.

I don't know about you, but I hate being tricked. I loathe companies who treat me as an idiot.

The reason I have been gearing up to write something on this is because I had been sent articles written on Forbes recently. I never read the entire content of these posts, because Forbes seems to have gone mad on this stuff. To such an extent that it is too painful to even get to the content.

I think this is a major mistake and reflects very badly on the website. I also know from personal experience that this means even though the audience numbers are large, they are both dramatically reducing the visibility of their contributors, but also p***ing a lot off enough never to return.

Well, great minds think alike and this morning my colleague +Neil Patrick sent me an article he had written on the fly in irritation due to similar encounters with the pop-up kind. He asked if I would like to post it here on my blog. As I absolutely agree with what he writes, I absolutely said yes. Here it is in full:

"Like all of us I spend a lot of time working online. And if there is one thing guaranteed to p**s me off, it is pop-ups. They deserve a strapline like: “Annoying people online since 1992”. I surf around and just when I think have found what I am looking for;


Up it comes. The instruction (for this is how such things are usually presented) to sign up for emails,  FREE information, donate to this charity, register for more. Etc. etc. My screen is locked and I cannot do a thing until I find the often cunningly hidden X or cancel button on the pop-up box. My attitude towards the site owner is immediately transformed. And not for the better. I was interested in your site. Now I am not.  Almost certainly, I leave and look elsewhere. And probably never come back.

Ad blocking software helps of-course. And it’s becoming popular with over 28% of the US population using just one of the most popular blockers, Ad-Block Plus. This is now over 150 million users, up from ‘just’ 54 million in 2013. Even Google has finally conceded that pop-ups have become a problem and is attempting to turn the problem into a revenue source. Its Contributor program provides ad-free navigation for a fee ranging from $1 to $3 per month. 

You’d think these facts alone would send a clear enough signal to businesses that people really, REALLY don’t want advertising to get in the way of their online activity. Yet they persist, with many reputable brands clinging to them like a life raft. The Financial Times, the New York Post and The Economist, all eminent high quality information providers, let us view a couple of articles, before we are blocked by a pop-up, demanding that we either register for junk email or pay for a subscription.
As hugely respected publishers with a reputation going back for decades, they really should know better. These are premium brands after all, not jumped up wannabees.  Apart from the slow brand suicide they are engaged in, they also send a signal to the less worthy, that it’s a good idea to do this.

Well I’m going to say it plainly. NO it’s not OK! It’s not big and it’s not clever. In fact it’s very, very stupid.

At this point I can hear a rising clamour from marketing people all shaking their heads and muttering, “Rubbish! We have DATA that proves these tactics work. The ROI proves it. We’re running a business not a charity, you dumb**s!” I know you are running a business. And I know you have to make a profit. And I know that the internet has forced you to devise new business models, to counter the deluge of free online content competing for your audiences’ attention. 

But by persisting with this tactic, you are killing yourself by a thousand cuts. Here’s why.

 The social web has changed everything. I call it the democratization of media. The old media world, worked top down, just like the old industrial age. Owners, provided money to management to grow their businesses. Management hired agencies to craft advertising, and media owners sold space for that advertising. The ads generated business and the merry go round continued, with everyone making money. Year after year.

The social web works differently. One of the reasons it is taking over from old media, is that it allows users to choose what they want to consume, when, from whom and how much. It’s not called the information superhighway for nothing. Pop-ups are like a toll booth on the superhighway. Provide your ID and pay up or go no further. And sure enough more often than not, I stop and return from whence I came. 

In my post here, I expressed a view that on LinkedIn people want control and they want the freedom to choose what they do online and how they do it. They don’t want to be pestered by you, me, or anyone else to do this or that. They want control. But I think this isn’t just true for LinkedIn, its true across the web. People want and value freedom of speech. Freedom from intrusion. Freedom to choose. Pop-ups are the antithesis of this idea. They exist not to help us do what we want to do; they seek to control and force us to do what the site owner wants us to do. It’s crude, it’s disrespectful and it matters not a bit whether it’s relevant, targeted, or whatever other marketing pseudoscience you want to label it with. 

It is a relic of the old top-down command and control approach to marketing.

There IS a Better Way

It’s not unusual for my new clients to be addicted to pop-ups. They have often convinced themselves, that although the impacts are small, because it’s almost free and a few people will sign up every month, it’s doing okay for their business. They can only see upsides, and sometimes out of sheer desperation have convinced themselves that whilst not great, this is better than total surrender.

They think they are slowly but steadily building a list of eager prospective consumers hungry for more. Except they are not. More likely they are building a list of competitors wanting to spy on them, salespeople wanting to pitch something at them, or people who are cleverly bypassing the system completely by providing them with an email address they never use except for receiving the stuff they never want to look at. A bin in other words.

So I have to ween them off this addiction, before we can do anything else. A simple example will suffice. To their credit, one of my clients has never used pop-ups. However, they do provide an option on their home page where if you choose, you can register for emails with future special offers. No pressure, no obligation. And despite not being a large or long established business, thousands of people have freely provided their email addresses and REQUESTED emails.

The leap of faith has been made. My client will send you only what you ask for. And it works.
An email was sent to this subscriber base last week. The open rate was over 30%. Over 3% of the opened emails placed an order. It’s consensual marketing not command and control marketing.
It’s not advertising. It’s an ongoing dialogue between a company and its customers. Anytime someone wishes they can opt out. But few ever do. There are plenty who will tell you that email marketing doesn’t work. Well it will and it won’t. If you have a subscriber list of people who have CHOSEN freely to receive your emails, and you send them things they are genuinely interested in, it will work. If you have acquired your list by force, deceit or spurious targeting criteria, it won’t. Ever.

Especially if it all started with a pop-up."


Collaborative Thinking About Digital Marketing.

I met +Neil Patrick through LinkedIn only quite recently. In fact, I came to Neil’s attention through my LinkedIn Publications, which is kind of ironic as Neil is a strong believer that we should not provide free content to a platform who hold their providers in such low regard* (a point which is actually very valid).

Neil was, I believe, one of those readers who remains in the shadows, until a critical momentum of interest has built up, a tipping point is reached or an opportunity arises.

This is one of the hidden benefits of blogging that most business don’t realize, that there is “dark” side to it which cannot be measured by so called “engagements” on individual posts (views, likes, comments, shares). It is a fact that many of the people we are influencing do not feel it necessary to make themselves visible to us or other readers, but simply enjoy and benefit from our works quietly. Many of my most beneficial business relationships occur when something tips the balance and a hidden reader pops their head above the parapet to say “I have been following your work for sometime and…”

So it is with joyous surprise when Neil popped out of the woodwork, said he will be in my area soon and suggested we meet to discuss possibilities for collaborating. After reading through Neil’s LinkedIn Profile I jumped at this chance. So we met up in my local pub within the week, and I am very glad we did, because it was one of those life changing encounters which are so rare.

Neil and I hit it off immediately. As we chatted it became more and more apparent how much we were the same. We have both arrived at Digital Marketing with fresh perspectives, coming at it with significant experiences of other business sectors. We both feel we have been on a journey of learning and research over the timeframe of years and have now arrived at the same advanced stations. We have both independently examined digital marketing and social sales at a forensic, thorough due diligence, business focussed level, to a depth which we believe no-one else really has. We have both come to the firm conclusion that much of what businesses and organizations are being told to do in the digital space is not just ineffective but actually damaging to them. We both despair at the levels of mis-selling and snake oil vending of social media marketing to business.

Indeed, perhaps the strongest tie which binds us is that our integrity and ethics in this space is paramount to both us and our clients. As my new found friend Neil would say “I would rather live comfortably than die rich compromised”. I could not agree more.

We since have been in regular contact by telephone, bringing together our brilliant minds, plotting our way forward, hatching our plans, consolidating our ideas and know-how, playing to each other’s strengths. Another thing we have in common, you see, is that we both believe strongly in the power of Collaboration with the right people in Business. What has become very clear is that Neil and I are right for each other to take what we have each learned, to bring it together in a whole greater than the sum of the parts and to therefore offer extraordinary support to clients on projects for which we can collaborate.

Last Saturday we met up for a second time down the local pub. This meeting once again accelerated our own thought processes. We discussed the importance of the massive Digital Reputations we have each amassed and evaluated our combined Digital Assets. We discussed the proofs we have that our methods do work for businesses. I told Neil about my work for Carii, how I had helped to put the platform on the world map, how this had helped the Company achieve a major “Innovation of the Year Award” and how my ideas and technical support had shaped the technology itself. Neil told me about how he had just reviewed his work for a client he has only been working with for just a couple of months and how he could already show a real terms 200% rise in revenue against the same period last year.

Then we got onto the subject of business blogging. Did you know that the combined page views of our blogs is half a million? Here is another thing we have in common and which we believe very strongly in: perhaps unusually, we do not use our blogs to try and sell products and services, apart from experimental purposes for clients with blogs, and we do not use them to capture people’s information. We know that blogs are for other purposes entirely.

At the end of our chat we had a light bulb moment. We almost simultaneously pitched an idea to each other which combines all the above commonalities and thoughts on strategies. We said to each other “why don’t we each write a post about our developing relationships on our blogs”?
So here we are. This is my companion piece to Neil's article on his blog,


How I Got A Premium Account on LinkedIn for Free.

I had been making a big fuss about Plagiarism on LinkedIn. I wanted to get LinkedIn people, especially those who are selling the LinkedIn Platform, to engage in a dialogue about this.  I wanted to find out if many people within the LinkedIn Company were even aware of the security and other risks to business we have uncovered.

So I searched for people like this using LinkedIn search. I mentioned the top people who came up in a newsfeed update about my plagiarism post.

I wanted to see what would happen when I did.

This was the result:

Well, ok it was a little naughty and provocative of me, in a good cause. But let's examine this response. Firstly, as this is a contractual matter, I would expect this to make sense, but
"you cannot your posts or comments ..." is not even proper english.

Then "with members who are not interested", now there's a can of worms for you. How on Earth do we know who is interested in a post before mentioning them? Indeed this would render the mention system useless. The note does not define this in terms of connections, followers or participation or any other way. Just subjectively in terms of the mentioned person. Well, I get mentioned about 100 times a day. What if I started flagging up ones I'm not interested in as such?  Would the mentioners be threatened this way too?

Take a look at the LinkedIn newsfeed after you've read this. Note just how widespread mentioning people and companies "cold" is. But more importantly, note examples of where people are attacked by misuse of mentions. I mean really trolling and abusive stuff. You can find it. That is what I call abuse. Yet there are people out there doing it as a hobby. Why have they never been threatened with termination? How come I've been singled out? Have you ever been notified or told this is an abuse? What I found about mentioning people on LinkedIn Help before I took the action above is entirely permissive. Nowhere does it state anything about "interested" or "abuse".

So I wrote a post along these lines on LinkedIn. It got an awful lot of attention, including by LinkedIn Pulse Editors who said they would look into it. The result of my challenge was this apology.
So that's the story of how I got my LinkedIn Premium account for free. Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the oil after all, even on LinkedIn.

How the LinkedIn Newsfeed is Fixed.

At the start of 2015 I probably had half the number of followers on LinkedIn I do now.

Yet I have seen no change in the readership levels of my LinkedIn Publications.

I can look at other peoples LinkedIn posts too and see they are not progressing either, although they have massively increased their followers.

In August I did this exercise. For all my posts, I used the analytics that LinkedIn provide authors and I calculated  this number:


It was always more or less the same number, between about 5 and 11.

I asked another person to do it for posts. The same outcome. I looked at a lot more posts. Always the same.

Clearly recorded views are fixed.  The algorithm for the newsfeed is such that the update is only seen in connections newsfeeds, until there has been a fixed number of clicks on it, then it disappears from sight. To test this we shared 14 posts from an external blog which at the time was receiving little traffic, so we could observe how many views these shares generated using independent analytics. The number of views these shares generated were all remarkably consistent, between 10 and 20 and the sudden drop of views was starkly apparent. There was no lingering tail of views. This evidences strongly that the newsfeed updates are only visible until a quota of clicks on the links have been received and subsequently they are de-prioritized.

The person posting these shares to their LinkedIn newsfeed which received just 10-20 views had some 15,000 followers, by the way.

I then set about keeping meticulous records of activity and view numbers on my Publications. What I found was very clear indeed. After each engagement (like, comment or share) on a LinkedIn Publication, the view count jumps up after a delay period, but only by a handful (usually less than 10) regardless of how many connections or followers the engaging person has. To confirm this, I asked a connection with 25,000 followers to comment on a colleagues' publications which were struggling - this intervention still only increased view numbers by a small amount and then the views stopped.

So for an update to continue accruing views on LinkedIn, a chain of engagements are required to keep it visible, but the number of views generated is not influenced by number of connections or followers the person engaging with the post has.

In October 2015 LinkedIn changed the algorithm so that the quota on a newsfeed update was halved. This means for the average user, views/(likes+shares+comments) is between 2.5 and 5.
I then explored when a link click from an external source counts or not. I tested this on other people's LinkedIn publications. I clicked thru from links in tweets and from google+ shares. These clicks thrus were recorded on the Publications and appeared after a short delay, provided I was logged in to LinkedIn at the time. However, click thrus to Publications when logged out from LinkedIn or from private browser windows did not create a view increment at all.

Social sharing can generate views, but only from LinkedIn Users and only from those who are logged in at the time. Therefore LinkedIn's view counts are not accurate representations of actual views. Moreover, since engagements are required to generate visibility of a Publication to other Users on LinkedIn but at the same time private (logged out, non-Users) cannot engage on the Publication, the effect of social sharing on LinkedIn is significantly and artificially damped.

I then observed carefully how Publications appeared in the Newsfeed as engagements happened live, for both my own and other peoples' posts. This included observing the Newsfeed in both the Top Updates and Recent Updates modes.

The Recent Updates list shows clearly that whenever someone visits it anew, they will find only one single update corresponding to any specific link exists at any one time. That is: if one of your connections generates a Newsfeed Update by engaging on a publication, but then later another connection engages on the same Publication, only the Update created by the most recent engagement appears when next you visit your Newsfeed, while the previous person's Update is wiped off the record.
It means if ten of your connection's all comment on your publication, this does not create ten updates when you visit your newsfeed, it creates just one. The most recent one.

Likewise, ten engagements on your publications do not create ten more chances for other users to see your Publication in the newsfeed, they create just one per user. Each user only ever has a chance to see the most recent Update generated from any of ten people with whom they are connected.

Rapid and numerous engagements on publications do not create self-accelerating organic growth on LinkedIn. For each user, only the latest engagement from across their connections on a given publication will be available in their feed next time they look. There is only ever a single chance at a time to see a given Publication listed in the newsfeed. The prioritization of this engagement in the Top Updates version of the newsfeed is however,  strongly affected by who engaged on it last.

So there you have it. This is how the newsfeed algorithm works: each update is farmed out or prioritized until it has been clicked on by a limited numbers of people and then it is gone.
The only way it can get more airtime is if another newsfeed update is generated. This can occur by one of three ways.

A comment.

A like.

A share.

That's it. So "engagement" = "views" is true, but it is totally manufactured to be that way on LinkedIn.

Note that liking, sharing and  commenting on a post at the same time also does not create three updates, only the last action can be found in the newsfeed.


A New Paradigm For Bloggers and Suggested Improvements.

I recently came across a new concept website via a newsfeed update on LinkedIn by +John White. The idea is very simple. Share someone else's blog post and you get points. Each time someone shares one of your posts, your post is deducted points. The more you share, the more you get shared. So it's a very simple quid pro quo way for bloggers to collaboratively promote their posts.

The people behind this idea include +Adam Fridman and +Jeff Sogolov. When I read about their new website, which is called Babbly, I was very excited by the neat and easy user interface I found. So I called up Adam on the telephone and we had a chat and he was very willing to give me several insights into their thinking. Jeff subsequently got stuck in to some criticism on the LinkedIn post and addressed the points directly. They also both asked for and took on board our opinions. This open and collaborative approach between platform provider and users is very refreshing and bodes well. Indeed, it speaks to their own motivations. Like many of us they find the restrictive post visibility practices of social media providers somewhat distasteful and Babbly seeks to overcome these once and for all.

Does it work? Early indications suggest so. Here are the stats for this very blog over the last week since I've been using Babbly:
The top two are indeed the ones I have already shared to Babbly. The difference is clear and obvious.

My concern at the moment however, is that Babbly is all about quantity sharing. My belief is it would be much more valuable to everyone if it was about quality. Indeed, by slightly tweaking the formula, I see that this could be a demographic blog quality filter. The data which the Babbly Team collect would then have intrinsic value, while the users of Babbly could use it for something more than just sharing. It could allow them to learn how to be better bloggers, test quickly what works and what doesn't.

Here's my idea then. Instead of just getting the choice to share a post, users get a choice to vote on it.

Currently when a post on Babbly is shared, it is removed from the sharer's feeds. The sharer then gets the points for sharing, while the post itself gets docked points. Once the post has been shared until it has no points left, it is then no longer visible in any feeds. The post's owner can always choose to top up the post with more share points, so others who have not yet shared it can see it their feeds. This is all fine but it inherently encourages everyone to share everything so they can amass and spend as many share points as possible. I believe this will ultimately be self-defeating as Babbly will become a by-word for mass spamming.

So my view is that Babbly should encourage not sharing, but activity. "Activity" includes the choice of sharing or to say "No Thanks". A "No Thanks" would simply remove a post without sharing.

The important concept here is that any activity is rewarded in a similar way shares are now. The person clicking either "share" or "No Thanks" on a post gets activity points. There is no large bias towards auto-sharing. Users can assign these activity points to their own posts. Posts are deducted activity points whenever someone votes, until they have zero points left. Essentially activity is just the direct extension of shares as Babbly is currently set up now but includes actively choosing not sharing as a rewardable click too.

But here's the interesting part. As well as activity points, each post can now be assigned a cumulative vote (a bit like on Quora). A share counts for 1 to 3 votes (one each for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn shares).  A "No Thanks" is a vote down: the post is deducted one vote. Total votes can go negative of course.

Now when posts are visible in an users feed they would be presented in order of their cumulative overall total votes, the highest at the top, the lowest (negatives!) at the bottom. Thus the more shared a post, the more it rises, the more "No Thanks", down it goes. Like I said, Babbly would then become a quality filter. Authors would submit their posts for voting, thus this gives an invaluable mechanism for learning what works and what does not work. It allows bloggers to improve and up their game through feedback.

Join me on Babbly and come and see what it's all about


Social Media Marketing and Charlatanism.

Dear Businesses everywhere,

please be aware and be warned:
there is a nasty breed of "social media marketing" types going around selling snake oil to social unsavvy and desperate businesses.

These charlatans are defrauding companies with claims that by "doing" a handful of tweets or a few linkedin updates a month for you, you will achieve miraculous upturns in your business.

These confidence tricksters are charging astronomical prices for their outrageous scams, even in the hundreds of $ or £ a month and, unfortunately, far too many businesses are being suckered.  Meanwhile, the advertising standards and the trading standards organizations are doing nothing about this simply because they have no understanding of social media for business either.

You might like to visit my social profiles, blogs and websites to note the subject matters on which I, myself, post about, as well as both the quality of my content and how often I post. Then you might wish to know that I have never got any business from any of this simply as a result of posting. The phone has never rang due to simply sending out a few tweets or from posting to Facebook. I know lots of other people like myself, genuine articles, and they have never ever got any direct business from their posting of lots of great things either. Never mind a significant upturn in their business from a handful of average quality non-events which someone not connected with their business sends out on a schedule per week.

Because it doesn't work that way. Generating business, acquiring customers and converting leads to sales is not and never will be easy. There are no simple solutions, otherwise we would all be rich. I'm sorry, but business is a hard game and if something sounds too good to be true it is always is, there are no get rich schemes and their are no miracles cures. Customers are not just going to fall into your lap because someone is "doing" a few social media posts for you. You have to go out and win your business just like anyone else.

The con men and con women will tell you that they are raising awareness of your business and that will this will lead to sales. You need to look at how many people actually read each of the posts they "do" for you. Then you need to look at how many of those people are within your target audience, in other words those people who have read it who are ever likely to be potential customers. The number is almost zero per post, on average. Most certainly there are vastly more efficient ways to raise awareness of your business for a spend of hundreds of $ or £ a month than this!

The rip off merchants will regale you with tales of the one big success they have had. It's possible, just as much as its possible to win the lottery. But that's not what you need to know. It's how many failures they've had which is important. It's the odds you need to calculate, because even if they can point to a real success or two, you might just figure out you would be better off putting your hundreds of $ or £ on that lottery.

Take a look at my numbers. Take a good look. This is my full time job. I have to work hard to turn these outcomes into business. Very hard. Perhaps I should be less ethical and sell the snake oil myself? Indeed, the only way to make quick and easy money in this life is to steal it from others, is it not?

So if you've fallen for one of these confidence tricks, if you've spent good money after bad and you've seen no benefit at all, no tangible return on investment, the phone has never rung, not one $ or £ you can identify as accrued from the "tweet for you" or the "do-it-for-you updates" type services you have bought, then you have every right to claim your money back in full. Every right. You have grounds to sue for mis-selling, false advertising or downright fraud, in my view.


Digital Marketing for Sports Team Merchandizing.

I have recently been looking into how English Football Clubs are using Social Media for maximizing their income from merchandizing and sponsorship.

It strikes me that there is all to play for here by thinking outside of the box.

For example, I would consider that the Players and the Team should be seen to have a role as digital brand ambassadors, quite literally.

Here's an example of what I mean by this. I created a Pinterest Board consisting of the Players of my local team, Barnsley FC.
Each Player is a Pin. Each Pin is a link. The link is back to the Barnsley FC website. There is no reason why the link could not be more directly associated with a merchandizing page where the "Buy Now" buttons are.

Each pin can be shared. The more high profile a player, the more likely the Pin is to be shared. By encouraging fans to share the Player pins, not only to their own Pinterest boards, but to other social media pages, this would mean that the Players' links back to the club's website will end up all over the internet. The Players become the true digital ambassadors of the club.

Moreover, the entire Pinterest board can be embedded not only on the club's websites, but the embed code can be provided for fans to embed it on their own personal sites.

There are many ways in which this can be gamified too. In my simple demo I have only included the Player's names in the pin descriptions. There is no reason why their stats could not be included also, enabling "Top Trumps" type games. Or all past Player's could also be included and competitions to build the fantasy dream team of all time ran.

This would also scale to league level, with each club maintaining their own boards on a League account.

This is just for illustrative purposes, and these concepts are not limited to Pinterest, for example Google+ Collections, LinkedIn Showcase Pages and Carii Communities could also be bought into play.

While I have picked a local Soccer team, the ideas are also applicable for any Sport, of course and can be woven into more complete strategies which exploit the vast content on which any sporting business sits.