Tag Archives: Wall Street Journal

LinkedIn. LockedOut.

groucho_marxGroucho Marx was said to have told the Friar’s Club of Beverly Hills, “Please accept my resignation.  I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.”  Funny stuff from a very clever guy.  While the heyday of restrictive brick and mortar private clubs may have passed, their brand of exclusivity has migrated pretty effectively to a new locale—the Internet.  A growing chorus of complaints replete with snarky comments and asides about being locked out of groups across the frontier of social media sites are on the rise.

Increasingly the rationale for “exclusivity” is based on whether you paid the requisite freight to attend a conference or participate in a given event.  The rejection comes dressed up in diplomatic business speak…”we are only able to extend invitations to participate to members of our audience, past and present speakers and presenters…”  Entrepreneurs are leveraging a familiar twist to social media groups—membership fees so you may become part of the “in” crowd and finally the ultra, ultra-exclusive, “inclusion in the XYZ Social Media Group is by invitation only.”

Theorems of social stratification are alive and well even as the value of these groups remains unproven.  Sure, we all understand that exclusivity and scarcity for humans are like candlelight to a moth.  Humans are inextricably attracted to that which is beyond their reach.  Yet even those holding the reins of the most exclusive events in technology, education and design, like the TED conferences or All Things Digital Conference-D7 (hosted by the Wall Street Journal and sold out since last fall) understand the value of openness and sharing.  Even as they use a “time-lag” strategy to differentiate participants and the public, the power of engaging an audience that did not or could not attend their events remains a valuable part of their overall marketplace focus. 

Association leaders face the identical “inside/outside” challenge.  While the traditional dues-based model of association membership faces ongoing questions and competition, the use of social media tools to attract attention and build awareness will expand the base of possible participants.  How do you balance the exclusivity and economic value of membership with the broader branding essentials and power of being the most trusted and vital advisor for a given profession, industry or cause?  Are the demands mutually exclusive?  The rise of exclusive and restrictive participation in online groups may actually offer associations some pretense of cover in the near term, but being LinkedIn and LockedOut will undoubtedly backfire.  The bigger question remains—what will the optimum “membership” model be in an increasingly transparent and open universe?

Do You Know Where Your Critical Cyber Assets Are?

darkpurplecloudsThere’s a cautionary tale for association leaders and managers in the Wall Street Journal describing how “spies” have successfully penetrated the US electrical grid and other infrastructure systems in recent years.  Interestingly, many of the penetrations were not uncovered by the companies in charge of the infrastructure, but rather by the U.S. intelligence community.  WSJ writer Siobhan Gorman reports that U.S. National Director of Intelligence Dennis Blair has told Congress “over the past several years we have seen cyber attacks against critical  infrastructures abroad and many of our own infrastructures are as vulnerable as their foreign counterparts.”

Which led me to wondering about how many organizations in the non-profit community have taken the time to identify their own “critical cyber assets”?  And how many have created management structures and protocols to properly protect and test them from time to time?  No, I’m not talking about making sure you have a back-up of your computer database and critical files stored off site (it is stored off-site and tested for functionality time-to-time right?) although that’s important to be sure.  No, I was really pondering the notion of what might comprise the  “critical cyber assets” of your organization?   Perhaps databases, with suspects, prospects, customers and members. Check.  The financial data system, including system backups, accounts receivable, tax filings, and payroll records. Check.  Are the customer database and financial systems segregated by a firewall or other barrier?  If someone hacked your member database could they walk through your financial system too?  How about the inventory of periodicals, publications and articles that comprise the intellectual property of the organization? Check.  Convention, conference and seminar registration data, speaker resources, submissions, contracts, venue agreements, and planning documents?  Check.  Where’s the back-up for governance records of the organization such as Board and committee minutes, bylaws, articles of incorporation, IRS determination letters and related correspondence? Got it. Good. Check.  What’s your plan to assure your organization’s new social media assets such as FaceBook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn or Plaxopages could be resurrected were they to be hacked or lost to some sort of cyber-glitch?

I’m sure you and your team can come up with a more comprehensive list than what’s here and that’s exactly my point.  If you haven’t already done so, now is a great time to get started and if you’ve already walked this path, now could be a great time to re-check your steps.  Have you overlooked anything?  Are your firewalls and external and internal intrusion detection systems up to date and secure?  Sure there may be bigger and juicier targets for hackers than your organization, but  the threat can arise from within, too.  The Wall Street Journal story describes an incident in 2000 when a disgruntled employee in Australia rigged a computerized water control system to let loose a stream of 200,000 gallons of sewage flooding parks, rivers and a local hotel.  So, about those critical cyber assets?

Be Open To The Possibility.

It’s fun to read things that make my ears perk up.  So Friday’s Wall Street Journal gets my vote for delivering a triple play.  Beyond the thoughtful and positive review by Joe Morgenstern of the just released film “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (an illuminating fantasy majestically created from a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald), and a short vignette by Karl Rove about President Bush’s competitive nature and reading habits,  Wall Street’s bulls will revel and optimists may rejoice in Zachary Karabell’s Op-Ed piece “The Economic News Isn’t All Bleak“.  Karabell’s analysis  makes explicit the subtle changes that have occurred in the global economy thanks to information technology and delivers an important piece of leadership advice along the way.  The “rush to declare the future bleak has obscured the fact that no one knows the outcome of an unprecedented event.  No one.” Karabell writes.  “The worst course in the face of uncertainty is blind faith in conventional wisdom and past patterns.  The best is to stay humble in the face of the unknown, creative and unideological about solutions, and open to the possibility that as quickly as things turned sour they can reverse.”  While we may not be able to live our lives backwards as in ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’, as leaders we surely can surely agree that optimism focused on a better future will be a true ‘force multiplier’ moving forward.