Taking the Facebook out of Facebook

I’ve seen many popular internet trends come and go.  What trendy internet hot spots have actually stuck around?  I’m not talking about product-based businesses like Amazon or Ebay, but the real trendy, “like, you totally have to join up so you can (whatever)” sites we’ve seen come and go.  Remember Geocities?  Ratemyface?  Angelfire?  MSN Space?  (Yahoo?) (Myspace?)

When I see Facebook climb as high as they have I can’t help but think if its only going to make the fall that much more painful.  Is Facebook is a serious Internet tool or a seriously fickle trend? (fer sure!)

I’m not a huge fan of Facebook, I’ll get that out of the way before I write anymore.  It is a gossip site; the only different between Facebook and People.come are the people you’re reading about.  I also disagree with their policies on not supporting open standards.

That being said, they are HUGE.  How can you discount one of the most visited sites on the internet as simply being a trend?

Facebook is taking advantage of how people are currently using the internet, on a massive scale.  People like using Facebook as a one-stop-shop for all those social needs.   But what happens when the social internet turns into the many-stop-shop.

The internet in ’09 will be about identity.  Being who you are, anywhere.

Facebook Connect is a service that lets you take your identity on a ride around the internet.  So when you visit People.com you can see which of your friends are gossiping about which celeb (and in turn you can gossip about the gossipers).  I think Facebook will actually make a lot of progress with their Facebook Connect functionality, initially.  When comparing Facebook Connect to Google’s friend connect and OpenId it is a world ahead.

Data portability isn’t just a technical idea though, there are a lot of social implications here.  It is removing the anonymity from the internet.  It’s giving you your identity back.  Do you really want a company (and I’d argue a company who really isn’t liked very much) to represent who you are?   This is me we are talking about here, not salsaguy786 (although I can salsa dance with the best of them).  I think it will be a real social disaster if we let a corporation control our online identity, and a huge backward step for the spirit of the internet.

Will others agee is the question that will answer the question on whether Facebook is a trend.  If open standards save us Facebook will not be competing against other social networking sites, they will be competing against the entire internet.  The internet will be a giant mono-social entity.  (Imagine the gossip!)

SOLR, Drupal, and GEO Spatial Results

Our search needed to preform typical longitude and latitude geo-radius spatial results (I’ve mashed up all of those keywords because I really am not sure what someone will search for to find this post, apologies for the grammar!).  Since I took on SOLR as our search engine I needed to find an elegant solution.

After some search, I found the holy grail: Local SOLR.  Not finding much instruction on the official site, I found a great blog post with an explanation and example.  Its fairly easy to install and integrate into drupal.

  1. Extract the files and copy them into your solr directory (if your main solr instance is under “example”, make it “example2”.
  2. Stop your sorl instance (I’m assuming your on a dev box!) and start the local solr.
  3. Test to see if its working using the localhost cinema example.
  4. If it works find the java files and copy them into your solr project.
  5. Update your solr.config and schema files.  Sorry I don’t have the exact lines (not at work) but its pretty obvious what lines are local solr related. <edit: read below>
  6. Update the drupal code to send the extra fields (I’ll try to find the exact ones later) .
  7. You’re done!

The only gotcha I found, resulting in a few lost hairs and an increase in blood pressure, was a funny error concerning the comments field.  The error I received was a integer conversion error, which I eventually found out was the number of comments being blank.  Just make sure you adjust your apachesolr.module file to set comments to zero when it is null.

I’ll try to get the drupal developers to support local solr so we can have some official code for you to use.

That’s it for now!

<update>

As suggested I’ll post this on the Drupal website, but for anyone interested the updates to the solr.config and scheme files:

::schema.xml

<field name=”lat” type=”sdouble” indexed=”true” stored=”true”/>
<field name=”lng” type=”sdouble” indexed=”true” stored=”true”/>
<field name=”geo_distance” type=”sdouble”/>
<dynamicField name=”_local*” type=”sdouble” indexed=”true” stored=”true”/>

::solr.config

line 177

<searchComponent name=”localsolr”     class=”com.pjaol.search.solr.

component.LocalSolrQueryComponent” >
<str name=”latField”>lat</str>
<str name=”lngField”>lng</str>
</searchComponent>

<!– local lucene request handler –>
<requestHandler name=”geo” class=”org.apache.solr.handler.component.SearchHandler”>
<lst name=”defaults”>
<str name=”echoParams”>explicit</str>
</lst>
<arr name=”components”>
<str>localsolr</str>
<str>facet</str>
<str>mlt</str>
<str>highlight</str>
<str>debug</str>
</arr>
</requestHandler>

line 574
<searchComponent name=”localsolr”     class=”com.pjaol.search.solr.

component.LocalSolrQueryComponent” >
<str name=”latField”>lat</str>
<str name=”lngField”>lng</str>
</searchComponent>

<!– local lucene request handler –>
<requestHandler name=”geo” class=”org.apache.solr.handler.component.SearchHandler”>
<lst name=”defaults”>
<str name=”echoParams”>explicit</str>
</lst>
<arr name=”components”>
<str>localsolr</str>
<str>facet</str>
<str>mlt</str>
<str>highlight</str>
<str>debug</str>
</arr>
</requestHandler>

Recruitment's Open Future (Part 2)

In part 1 of my analysis on the recruitment industry I explained the challenges the industry faces by migrating to the internet.  Let’s try and figure out a solution.

Recruitment agencies have an identity crises when it comes to the web.  Companies like Monster and CareerBuilder (and more recently Indeed and SimplyHired) have created a successful standard for jobseekers to find jobs.  Recruitment sites are playing a long (endless) game of catch-up.   Realistically they will always be behind (way behind) on technology, quantity of jobs, and traffic.  So, as do all great strategic thinkers, we need to figure out our strengths and their weaknesses.

Recruitment agencies have one great, underutilized, and versatile resource: recruiters.  Why aren’t they contributing to the site?  Let’s look at the more forward thinking IT industry for a second.  I constantly check my favorite tech websites, one of them being collective blog site called Mashable.com.  Much to my surprise (and horror) I saw that their lastest site addition is a job search.  What business do they have selling job board space!  It’s actually a great idea.  I come to this website daily to read about the industry and new startup’s pitches with anticipation.  I’ve gotten to know their regular posters and commented occasionally on their blogs.  It’s… almost like I know them!  Now, from a company I’ve come to respect, I get to browse jobs in an industry I’m obviously interest in.

Ok you obviously know where I am going with this.  Recruitment agents are the boot on the ground.  They know things about their job industry in their respected cities, and people want to know about it.  Recruiters, as I mentioned in my previous post, are at the very best seen with suspicion by the general population.  It doesn’t have to be this way!  I’d agrue– now take a deep breath so I don’t blow you mind– recruitment sites shouldn’t even have a job search (at least to start out).  Building relationships should be the #1 purpose of a recruitment site.  (An hey, now that your essentially a content site, why not throw up a few ads?)

I love history, so I try to learn from it.  Napoleon had a good size army, but their infantry guns were sad even in those times.  What he had though were cannons, and lots of ’em.  He used his cannons to devastate his opponents then sent the infantry in to clean up.  Trying to bring in traffic to recruitment sites using job search is like Napoleon leading with his infantry: don’t do it.  Napoleon also knew to train his artillery squads well.  Getting a jump start and training recruiters to write good quality content is almost as valuable as their job placement skills.

The enemy’s disadvantage? They are completely in the dark when it comes to the social internet (so far anyway).  “Who you know” has always been a big deal when finding a job, and recruitment companies are in a great spot to jump on this. Giving recruiters an online personality is critical to creating new relationships so they can make create client/candidate matches.  Let them leave the nest to make new connections (take Facebook off your list of no-no domains).

This is a major shift for guarded recruitment companies, because it implies a more open approach to job placement.  Should a recruiter blog about that big Coca-cola bulk hire?  Tradition would have the company keep this information under lock-and-key.  But, in the age of free information, who are they really kidding?  Unless Coca-cola specifically requests anonymity (some companies do) your competition is going to find out.  The question is, who does the candidate want to represent them?  The open and honest recruiter you’ve been getting inside industry news from, or the job search guys across the street?  …Well the first one, of course.

The search for other revenue sources will also be a large part of recruitment in the future.  There will be too many cheap options for companies to  find candidates.  Recruitment fees (some as high as 25% of the annual salary) isn’t practical, especially in this job climate. Getting the jump start on this bold new view of recruitment will be an absolute asset.  My advice?  Train your recruiters.

Well that’s all for now.  I will try to update your on my drupal/solr experiences on the weekend (I got spatial geo searching to work!).

Recruitment 3.0 – Part 1 of 2

I really think recruitment, more specifically job placement, is an important part of our economy and well being.  A well placed employee will increase productivity and overall happiness.   So… what’s wrong with the system now?

Well, people don’t like recruiters.  Why?  Nick Halstead put it better then I could in his post 10 Reasons Why Recruitment Agents Are Scum.  They’re not of course, they’re actually really nice people, so what is wrong here?

There is a lot of competition in the industry that has created a very secretive and protectionist industry.  Not only do recruiters have to guard their job positions and candidates from other recruitment agencies, the recruitment companies have to guard against their employees being poached.  There is also a lot of money to be made.  Unfortunately this business does not mesh well with the new age of information in a recession.

The internet is based on the sharing of information and about creating an open environment for collaboration.  The internet has already claimed a lot of victims who haven’t been able to adapt (and many more are on the edge) so the question is: are recruitment agencies next?

In many respects recruiters are the middlemen- they have the jobs and the candidates, and they just organize the pairing.  The value of recruiters are the quality of matches, which is why they are still relevant in a Monster/CareerBuilder age.  Internet technology just hasn’t been able to create a “short list” relevant enough for either the companies or the job seekers.

Let’s assume the worst, that someone does create an accurate algorythm to match 80% of hires to jobs.  This doesn’t leave much of the pie for recruitment companies.

Another agent of the internet potentially working against recruiters is social networking.  A savy HR department can keep track of thousands of contacts, making “who you know” much more relevant.  Boom-ba-da-bing, the middleman was cut out.   HR departments used their LinkedIn accounts to find positions.

So will an algorythm, sifting through millions of resumes, using work histories and education data with pattern matching, add a personal touch?  Or, will social networking give companies the opportunity to an effecient way to create short-lists themselves?

What can recruitment companies do to cope?  I’ll give this a good think and come up with some ideas in Part 2.