Monthly Archives: March 2009

Hacking Firefox to Improve Motivation, Productivity… and Sanity?

I’ve been truly slammed for the past few weeks, with a new SocialRep product release in the works, new customers, and the San Francisco Social Media Breakfast coming up next week. But as they say, if you want something done, give it to someone who’s busy. And this week, I finally found a resolution to a problem that’s been bugging me for months.

If you’ve joined this crazy productivity revolution, where you can run a couple of companies, half a dozen blogs, and a string of online personas, then, like me, you’ve probably reached a point of virtual schizophrenia. I’ve been working for months on finding a strong thread of singularity and simplification in the things I do, without losing the rich variety of channels to connect and create value. I’ve noticed that just the fragmentation of logging in to various separate blogs, social networks and websites has created a very real psychological resistance. I forget which bookmark to follow, which site I’m posting on, which idea was supposed to go where, which means that instead of managing these things on autopilot, I have to actively think about the most mundane tasks continually. Which sucks.

So after searching for more complex ways to simplify–like multi-tenant blog networks, and complex syndication routines–I finally came across a less perfect, but vastly simpler solution. Instead of trying to centralize everything, what if I could create connection “pods” that would segment and automate many of the connection tasks? And I’ve figured out how to do it with Firefox.

Here’s the skinny, and a disclaimer. I’m describing a conceptual routine that I’ve successfully implemented on my computer. I’m not offering a service or technical support. Proceed at your own risk. ūüôā

The premise of this concept is simple.

  1. I want to segment various common web connections and routines: Blogging, Networking, Business, Finance.
  2. I want to be able to click on one icon, and have all the related connections opened in browser tabs, ready to go.
  3. I want to customize each browser for each segment so that the working environment is visually distinct.
  4. I must be able to have multiple segments open simultaneously.
  5. Sorry, bookmarks won’t cut it. Not even close.

My solution is based on an aspect of FireFox that Web developers rely on–the ability to run multiple instances of the browser, under different user profiles, at the same time. If you have a home computer you share with your family, you might already have separate profiles for logging in to FireFox so that your bookmarks and history are yours alone. But if you take this concept up a notch, you can turn it into the solution I’m running now. The idea is to create a separate profile for each segment you want to manage (e.g. blogging), but then to use an obscure FF parameter to allow that profile to run simultaneously with other profiles. Each profile saves its own preferences, including bookmarks, themes, and session data, so you can customize a work environment for each group.

The result is a set of distinct icons on my task bar. When I click the “blogging” icon, an independent instance of Firefox with a slick Aero Theme opens, and automatically pulls up the admin pages of all my blogs in separate tabs. I use a password manager that assures that all I have to do is click “login”, and I’m ready to post on any blog in seconds. I’ve also customized the admin screens of each blog so they look like their respective blogs. When I click on Finance, a completely separate instance of Firefox opens, in a conservative theme, with my banking and accounting sites automatically opened in separate tabs. It’s awesome. I feel ten pounds lighter.

Here’s how to do it in Windows XP. Other systems may vary, but the concept is the same.

  1. Click on Start, Run, and type in “firefox.exe -ProfileManager”
  2. This brings up the Profile Manager. Create the Profiles you want. (Not sure how scalable this is, so be prudent.)profile
  3. Unless you want to be forced to select a profile every time you run FF, check the box “Don’t Ask at Startup”
  4. Now go to your desktop, right click on the desktop and choose “New > Shortcut”. This will be your launch icon.
  5. Right click on your new shortcut, and choose “Properties”properties
  6. For your “target” you need to enter the path to your “firefox.exe” file, probably in your Program Files, Firefox directory.
  7. In the same text field after the path to “firefox.exe”, type “-P Name” (replace “name” with the name of your profile, e.g. Blogging), followed by ” -no-remote”. The “no remote” part allows you to run simultaneous independent instances of Firefox.
  8. For clarity, you should “Change Icon…” in order to easily distinguish your launch icons. You can find lots of free icons on the web.
  9. Drag the icon to your task bar.task
  10. Customize each instance of Firefox to suit your segment. I’ve made sure each theme is a different color, so I know immediately where I am.

Once you have your instance of Firefox up and running for different profiles, use the Firefox preferences tab to establish the pages you want to load when you launch Firefox. If you want to simplify things, just open each of the pages you want in a separate tab, and each time  you reopen Firefox, choose to renew your old session, and all of those pages will reload. You can use Firefox password manager to remember logins to simplify it even further.

I’ve also added some Tab add-ons from Firefox to color and organize tabs, but that’s a whole playground unto itself. The bottom line for me is that I now have a set of buttons to launch dedicated working environments in a way that clarifies and automates many of the mind-numbing tasks that I shouldn’t be wasting RAM on. I hope you find the same result.

Here’s my dedicated blogging instance of FF, with the slick Aero Theme, with all my blog admin sites ready to go in separate tabs.

blogging

Sales 2.0: Opening the Dialog

At our first Social Media Breakfast in San Francisco, we spent time talking with Anneke Seley, author of Sales 2.0. One of our objectives with the SMB in San Francisco is to meet business authors, get to know a bit about their background experience and perspectives, and then extend the conversation online to discuss their ideas and their work. So we’re going to kick this off with Anneke Seley and Sales 2.0.

If you missed the Social Media Breakfast, you can catch some of the outtakes in the video below, filmed by my partners at MinerPro. John did a great job boiling over an hour of dialog down to less than 10 minutes of outtakes to capture some of the depth of conversation.

To kick the discussion off, I want to start by addressing the concept of what “Sales 2.0” actually means. We’re hearing “2.0” applied to all manor of things (Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, CRM 2.0, PR 2.0), and many people assume the moniker is synonymous with the social media technology that enables Web 2.0. But it runs a bit deeper than that. For some, this may be a penetrating glimpse into the obvious, but “2.0” signifies a fundamental advance in an underlying system–a “major revision” in software terms, which is where the concept comes from.

It’s fascinating that we’ve boiled the meme of “fundamental change” down to a simple suffix, because it suggests we’ve arrived at a need to more simply indicate major transformations in systems that are fundamental to our daily life. It says that change is accelerating in its sweep through our institutions, and it establishes a clear line between the old and the new. The “new” certainly includes social media technology, and in fact, social media technology has been the major catalyst that set much of this change in motion. But to pin the meaning of the change on technology alone misses a much deeper reality: that these changes in technology are driving a fundamental transformation in the way humans interact, and in the way organizations function.

You can adopt all the Web 2.0 technology you want for your sales team, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get Sales 2.0. It’s not the technology, it’s how that technology changes the way we interact that people need to understand in order to get Sales 2.0. And that’s the opening question for this discussion.

How do you see technology changing sales processes and organizations, and how does that define what you understand as Sales 2.0?

Sales 2.0 at the SF Social Media Breakfast

SF Social Media BreakfastI can’t tell you how pleased I was with the launch to the San Francisco Social Media Breakfast. We sold out our tickets and had a great turnout of about 50 people–which is pretty remarkable for a 7:30am event in the city. But hey, the traffic and parking was a breeze. We moved the event a couple doors down from Cafe de la Presse to The Wine Bar, which was a much better venue both for networking, and for the presentation with Anneke Seley.

We kicked the event off with an hour of networking over coffee and breakfast, and I¬†did a an interview with Anneke Seley, sort of in the style of Fresh Air, before opening up the conversation. We talked about Anneke’s background and depth of experience in Silicon Valley–she was employee #12 at Oracle and launched their highly successful inside sales group–and used that as the backdrop for talking about the industry trends that have led to Sales 2.0, and how that’s reshaping the way businesses build sales organizations.

SF Social Media Breakfast
SF Social Media Breakfast

We’ll be book talking Sales 2.0 in the next week or two, so I don’t want to steal the thunder from the discussion, but¬†one¬†concept¬†really jumped out at me¬†that I’ve been thinking a lot about the past few days.¬†It builds from¬†Anneke’s discription of the way the environment for selling in Silicon Valley has changed over the past decade, and how¬†the change has¬†impacted Web 2.0 adoption.

As Anneke tells it in Sales 2.0, back in the day when she joined Oracle, there was a major shift just getting underway in the valley. Traditionally, companies like Oracle sold only extremely expensive enterprise products and sales focused on developing large accounts. Sales people were at home¬†in the field, wining and dining clients and racking up huge expense accounts. As Oracle started selling cheaper products that could load onto desktop PCs, smaller companies became viable prospects, meaning smaller accounts that couldn’t sustain the huge costs of an enterprise-focused sales force.

That trend has only accelerated. We now have companies of all sizes¬†buying products online, and in the case of software, often for a monthly subscription fee with little or no switching costs. What this means is that the cost of selling has to be dramatically reduced. We need efficient ways to meet customers online, attract, inform, educate,¬†and persuade them to buy our products, and the cost of that sale has to be well within the falling margins for product revenue. This is a¬†business driver for social media that goes beyond the red herring of how trendy Web 2.0 may be, and whether or not it’s a passing fad.

If you want to follow the Twitter conversation from the event, you can pick up some good bits of dialog, not to mention some good follows. Also, Jeff Weinberger has a post up about an aha social media moment that happened during the breakfast–which is exactly what it’s all about.

Stay tuned for the book discussion. I passed out a half-dozen books to people who committed to reading it this week. We’ll check in on Friday and start the ball rolling.