Passwords, Passwords, Passwords, thoughts on managing the chaos

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been asking every new prospect and client, how many Internet passwords they have to remember.   The question has several levels.

“How many places on the Internet do you log into on a regular basis”, I ask

Usually the answer is 4-8.

“What about associations, alumni sites,  facebook, myspace, LinkedIN…sites that you may not access every day?”

Usually the answer is “another 10 sites”

“Ok, what about sites that you have signed up for, but may only need to log into once in a blue moon.  Examples,  account management for your cell phone provider, your 401K account,   sites like classmates.com, etc”?

Usually the answer is “10 or more”

“Lastly, what about sites you signed up for and you do not expect to return to in the next year.  Althought you still may need to access the it in the future to update account, billing or contact information?”

Typically I get 20, 50, no idea, or “lost count” 

This is when the average sales rep or recruiter realizes they have anywhere from 25-100 (or more) places they have have passwords to.  (Personally, I have well over 200 and I’ve lost count).

Then it gets fun. 

“Do you use the same password?”  I ask

95% of the time I get a …….YES.

This is a security nightmare.  What happens if facebook or myspace or one of these well trafficed sites gets comprised?   Then someone has YOUR password to all the other sites you use.  

Yes, there are password managers.  I am not a fan of them.  You can’t take them everywhere and computers do crash.  Today, I present a humanistic solution to password management.

It’s a simple concept I call password schemas.  It starts with picking a core password and then modifying it based on the attibutes of the place you are using.  I am going to use my dog’s name as an example of a core password.  Her name is Captain Janeway, so the core password is CaptJane (for those of you thinking it…no, I don’t use my dog’s name).

Password schemas, used badly, can be dangerous.  You could expose all your passwords should someone figure it out.   However,  using a schema is far superior to using the same password everywhere.   The more creative you get with the schemas, the better your protection is.

Here are some schemas:  (I just made up names for these). For each schema I am going to use mail.yahoo.com as the site example 

Alpha front/end:  using the first letters of a site in front or end of your core

            yaCaptJane            CaptJaneya       ( “ya” comes from first letters in “yahoo”)

Syllable front/end:  use syllables of the site in front or end of your core

            yhCaptJane              CaptJaneyh     (“yh” from first two syllables in “yahoo”)

Keyboard replacement:  In the password below, I used the key above each of the letters “CaptJane” on the keyboard.   Example:  the “D” key is above the “C” and the “q” key is above the “a”, etc.     Downfall here is that may need the keyboard in front of you to remember your password.

           DqmbUqhc

Alpha front/end + keyboard replacement.    Combining schemas

          yaDqmbUqhc          

Vowel replacement:  replace  O with 0, replace A with @, replace E with &

         C@pJ@n&

Keyboard wrap:  if the site name starts with a “y”, start with y and use the next 7 additional characters to the right.   If you hit the last letter, wrap around to the other side of the keyboard.

       yuiopqwe    (yahoo)
       ghjklasd       (google)
       hjklasdf        (hotmail)

These are just a few ideas of password schemas.   One of my favorites is to replace vowels with full words:  example  A=Alpha, B=Bravo, C=Charley.    The key thing is to sit down with a paper and pen and create your own.   Be creative, have fun and come up with something that you will remember.  Make sure it would be hard for someone to guess your password by looking at a few examples.  The combinations are endless. 

Captain Janeway & Donato
(she thinks she is a lap dog)

Janeway and Donato

Platform as a service (PaaS) potential to disrupt SaaS vendors

I’m taking a redeye back from San Francisco after attending Salesforce.com’s  tour de Force and the rollout of force.com.   We are all familiar with the Software as a service model (SaaS).  Many of the successful ATS vendors in the recruting market have grown their businesses with the SaaS model.  Salesforce.com is now taking SaaS to a new level.   They call it Platform as a service or PaaS.  Salesforce.com has a new development environment that allows developers and companies to base applications on the same infrastructure that salesforce.com is built from.  This is significant event, here is why.

With the Force.com framework, you can build applications that look nothing like salesforce.com or you can create “mashups” that combine salesforce.com,  Gmail, Yahoo Maps, etc.  I have seen many email systems from ATS vendors, some are very very good. But none of them come remotely close to Google’s Gmail.  

Ok, what am I getting at?  Imagine this:  An army of developers writing bolt on applications.    Job posting mashups,  resume parsing mashups, search engine aggregator mashups,  objection-response mashups, etc, etc.  Basically, an entrereneur can now create a complete ATS system and not have to worry about core software, hardware and datacenters.    Most of the basics are covered by salesforce.com and Google applications.  Yes, the workflow and business logic will have to developed, but taking a job order is not that complicated.   I should mention that there is even an open source ATS system right now,  CatsOne, see it here: CATS

The playing field has been leveled.   APEX, the salesforce programming language is similar to JAVA.   Salesforce has over a million users.

Why was I at tour de force?  Broadlook is salesforce.com’s latest partner.  We just launched our Contact Capture for salesforce.com on the salesforce appExchange.  We use our Broadlook Universal Exporter (BLUE) to send data to Salesforce.com.  What that means is that ALL Broadlook applications, now work with salesforce.com.  So if any company or entrepreneur want to create their own ATS system,  it will be 100% compatible with all Broadlook applications day 1.  

This is a trend we will continue to see over the next decade. Barriors of entry being continually reduced.  Exciting stuff.

If is also amazing that this idea of mashups came up recently on the recruiting animal show.  Someone said that the company that creates it will make a zillion.  Well the platform is here, salesforce is the first mover in the space, but I predict that we will see additional offerings from other vendors, google, microsoft, etc.  The end result is that everyone wins. 

While salesforce is the first mover, they will not be the only mover.  The real message here is

1.  PaaS will distrupt Saas, due to ease of entry

2.  The barrier of entry for someone to create a SaaS model has been significantly reduced and it will continue to become easier.

3.  Look for PaaS from multiple vendors.  (ie Recruitingblogs.com is based on Ning.com) another example of PaaS.   This was not available 2 years ago. 

On being creative when blogging

For the past month I’ve been immersing myself in comparing and contrasting different search engines. If you work in the search space like I do, and you have a pulse, it is hard to stop yourself from being exposed to articles about this sort of thing…but I’ve been trying.  Why?  I’ll detail that in another post, but basically, I’m working on a search engine concept.  …So I’ve purposely avoided these articles, as I have a theory.

It’s about the creative process. Most people who have worked with me at Broadlook over the last few years understand my theory and bias, whether they agree with it or not, they know how I feel and they give me the space to follow my method as it works for me.

The basic concept is that you should avoid reviewing others work in a field before you think up your original concept for a project. I actually got the idea from a short story I read in high school by Orson Scott Card called Unaccompanied Sonata. Story in short: A young boy, a musical genius, is removed from society so his musical creations are original. At the end of the story he sneaks away from his encampment and hears the music of Mozart. Upon his return, he is cast out as his music was forever influenced by Mozart and no longer original.

Before I sit down with our team to create a new recruiting software product, I put myself through a black out period. Whatever I am working on, I avoid the concept from outside sources at all costs. This allows my creative side to be creative. The copy factor reduces. It’s like when you find yourself in a totally dark room and your eyes start seeing things. Your brain is trying to stay busy & stimulated. The same thing will happen if you deprive yourself of input stimuli on the topic you are interested in…you will start to think.

Once you have your ideas worked out, then and only then review outside content.  Not reviewing external “art” after you’ve gone through your initial creative process is foolhardy.

The “me to” creations coming from most dot com’s are a sign that they start by copying first, not creating.

I was on the Recruiting Animal Show today and one of the comments was about creating original content vs. reposting information.  For those people who want to start blogging original content, avoid reading blogs at all costs.  Shally Steckerl talked about the “Signal to noise ratio” on the show today. It’s all about eliminating the noise. Eliminate the noise and the creativity will come.

Creating a custom search engine (CSE) with Google coop

Having your own custom search engine (CSE) via a Google coop can be a competitive differentiator.   This is a free service that you can access by navigating to www.google.com/coop.  Why would you want to create a CSE? What is the value?

How about stomping your competition?  Is that enough? If so, read on… 

At the basic level think of it this way:  The World Wide Web is very large, too large for you to type in a term like “medical devices” into Google and get a manageable set of results.  

What if you wanted to only look for “medical devices” inside university research departments?  You could try and use Boolean expressions (university and “medical device”).   Right?  Wrong…This is pedestrian.  Yes someday when search engines can guess what you want, maybe this will be possible.   Semantic search is not there yet.  We’re at the pre-cock roach stage in artificial intelligence.  

So what is wrong with searching for University and “medical device”?  

(1) search engines are keyword-based
(2) therefore they are limited to the keywords you type in so
(3) the word “university” may not be on every page of a university where medical devices is mentioned
(4) your search will have partial results from the good potential results
(5) you will get millions (2.49 million…I checked it) of web pages across the Internet that happen to have University and “medical Device” on the page.
(6) you will think Google sucks and get frustrated

CSE to the rescue!  A simple solution.

Google is searching everything.  Why not limit it to a smaller set of websites?  That is what a custom search engine is all about.  ** Limiting **

“Custom Search Engine”  sounds complex, but it is actually easier to work with a CSE than it is too work with massive one-size-fits-all engine.

With a Google Coop I can create a search engine that only searches Universities.  Therefore I can search for “medical devices”  and  I know that the results are coming exclusively from University sites.  Easy.

Take-aways:

Using a custom search engine is easier to use than a monolithic search engine (MSE)  because you are dealing with a known universe of possibilities

You get results faster with a CSE

It is less expensive to train users to work with a CSE than a MSE

You will get faster user adoption with a CSE 

Your competitors don’t have your CSE

Final Thoughts:

The big movement on the CSE front is one of open collaboration.  Create a cool new engine and let everyone use it.  Since everyone else is writing about this, it’s covered, so I’ll opt out.  What about the dark underbelly?  What are people not talking openly about?   How about creating your own search engine for your exclusive use, a competitive differentiator,  a category killer for the sake of sheer profit?  I have mine and I’m not talking, but here are some ideas.  Practical capitalism.

List of ideas for Google Coop’s 

1.  Create a  CSE that inlcudes every one of your clients.   Include the CSE search box at the top of your Web based CRM or ATS system.  (google makes this easy to do…review the video in this post). You now have a search box in your CRM that searches only your clients.   Possibilities …wow!   Broadlook is creating a service that will do this for you.  Look for it soon at http://www.broadlook.com/products/engineme

2.  Do the same as #1, but for your prospects

3.  Compile a CSE consisting of all free resume sites.  

4.  Create a CSE for all job boards in a specific niche.

Here are some examples of google coop’s already built

 5. Green Maven  http://www.greenmaven.com
Green Maven is the most comprehensive Green Search Engine. This search engine emphases websites with Green and Social Values, as approved by a team of Green MBA editors.
Try these queries: shoes, solar panels

6. Macworld http://www.macworld.com
Search for information about all things Macintosh recommended by the experts at Macworld.
Try these queries: Mac games, iPod headphones

7.Global Voices Weblog Search Custom Search Engine homepage
Search the global weblogs featured on the Global Voices website.
Try these queries: Ghana, Sudan

8. Intuit Small Business Site
http://www.jumpup.com
Intuit has used their 20 years of small business experience to evaluate and select the most useful small business resources on the web and provide them to JumpUp.
Try these queries: taxes, marketing

9. ASCII IT Search Custom Search Engine homepage
A listing of specialized “nested” custom search engines that provide results for special I.T. niches.
Try these queries: gigabit switch, network management

10. Real Climate http://www.realclimate.org
RealClimate.org provides expert opinions on the science of climate change. Since this subject has become rather politicized, the quality of information available on the web varies. Using Google Custom Search Engine, they have created a searchable subset of the web that they believe provides the most reliable information.
Try these queries: Greenhouse gases, CO2