Archive for ‘May, 2011’

How to do Automated Emails

This week I received a message from an old friend and colleague who forwarded an “automated” email he received from the moderator of the Aircraft Lifecycle Wikinomics Group on LinkedIn. My friend no longer works in aviation, but has done in the past. Here is the email in question… not quite in full and with some minor embellishments of my own to help tell the story.

Michael Denis has sent you a message.
Date: 5/25/2011
Subject: Request to join the Aircraft Lifecycle Wikinomics forum on Linkedin

I am Michael Denis, founder of Aviation Wikinomics and the Aircraft Lifecycle Wikinomics forum on Linkedin.

When I initially reviewed your request to join and profile – I actually thought you were mistaken about the subject matter and industry focus of our group – a lot of people in the health industry read “diagnostics, prognostics & autonomics” and think we’re a medical focused group.

But when I saw you were connected to [Steve] Russell, [Paul] Saunders, and [Wayne] Enis – I figured you knew exactly what our little community of 3100 members were all about.

There are a lot of similarities between health care and insurance to aircraft lifecycle engineering / maintenance and enabling IT.

I hope you enjoy the topics of discussion and request you actively participate.

I’d also like to connect if you would be so kind as to send an invitation to one of my addresses below.

Very respectfully,

Michael Wm. Denis

I know Mike quite well through LinkedIn and having shared a few vodka and cranberries at a couple of conferences, so I asked his permission to use this email as an example of how to do automated emails and to get some additional background information. This email obviously isn’t “automated” and that’s my point. There is no substitution for the real thing and a personal touch. Mike has sent over 3100 of these emails out to new group members usually 3 or 4 a day. You may think that’s a lot of effort, but there is no more important time as on-boarding when encouraging new users to use a service or in this case contribute to a community. As they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. In Mike’s case he often uses this opportunity to explain some of the ground rules of the group (especially with potential marketeers) and to connect with individuals which makes future engagement and moderation so much easier. In my opinion this is a great lesson on how to do automated emails right.

Author: Paul Saunders

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Did I mention we’re on Tumblr?
Because Everyone Else is Doing It


We’ve all heard of solving problems by applying the KISS acronym: Keep It Simple Stupid, or even Keep It Stupid Simple. Now there’s a new extended acronym that is highly appropriate to any software solution: KISSASS or Keep It Simple, Stable, Available, Scalable and Secure.

Thanks to Oleg Shilovitsky at Beyond PLM for sharing that one.

Author: Paul Saunders

The Geosocial Universe by Jess3

Last week data visualisation wizards Jess3 uploaded a presentation file to Slideshare which outlines the global proliferation of various social media platforms.
Here it is:

The Geosocial Universe Version 2

View more presentations from JESS3

It has been published using a Creative Commons license so can be re-used by anyone providing they in turn share their work and attribute back to Jess3. It’s a great asset to include in any presentation or piece of work of this nature and provides the same data in multiple formats absolutely free of charge. An awesome demonstration of the power of open data.

However the original file was uploaded in Apple Keynote format. I’ve taken the liberty of converting to .pdf format and sharing alike with my PC friends. So here it is:

The Geosocial Universe v2 by Jess3 (pdf format)
[Right Click and use the option “Save Target As” to download a copy.]

Please feel free to use and abuse, but make sure to attribute any usage back to Jess3. Thank you.

As for the infographic itself: I was surprised to see that Skype had more users than Facebook and that some of the older social media platforms like Myspace and Friendster were still on the radar.

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The State of the Internet
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Author: Paul Saunders

More Icelandic Ash Heading our Way

It seems like the volcanoes of Iceland are expected to cause some more flight disruptions this week. At the time of writing there have been a few flights cancelled in and out of Scotland. Airlines and authorities are keeping a close eye on wind directions and weather patterns to see which way the cloud moves next.

Here’s the culprit – the Icelandic volcano Grímsvötn

Travellers will want to keep an eye on the following resources:
Eurocontrol the agency that regulates European airspace has a dedicated Volcano sub-site with up to the minute updates and resources

The UK air traffic control service agency NATS has latest ash avoidance statements available on their website:

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) also has an area of their website dedicated to volcanic ash news.

It seems that some valuable lessons have been learned by the airlines and the regulators alike from the last ash cloud crisis. Some airlines have even invested heavily in ash detection tech for their aircraft. I expect much less disruption this time round as a result.

Author: Paul Saunders

Amusing Microcopy

I got an email from Tumblr over the weekend to inform me that somone had started following me.

I found it quite amusing. There were two things I liked about it:
It was made pretty clear that the email is automated (and Tumblrbot has a bit of a personality), and secondly the long wait for a follower is made light of. I wonder if the “finally” text is variable depending on how long it takes to attract a follower. My follower is a bit dubious hence the redaction… I think I might know who it is though.

Author: Paul Saunders

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Did I mention we’re on Tumblr?

It’s official: I suck at Twitter….
The numbers prove it. For quite a while our Twitter account has snagnated with roughly the same number of followers and very few inbound links to our website from the so called micro-blogging site.

There seems to be a direct corelation between me posting links and losing followers. But on the flip side when I try to engage directly with people I get nothing in return for increased effort. In the last 30 days we have had a total of 11 referrals to our website from Twitter and this was during a period where I attended two conferences in London and was tweeting away with coverage like I was some kind of media whore.

Time to call it a day – at least with trying to figure it out. Having a Twitter account for what we do is an absolute must though. Some very useful sites such as Lanyrd, Slideshare and Stack Exchange are very tightly integrated with Twitter so abandonning an active account would not be sensible.

A couple of months ago whilst researching a paper I was working on I set up a Conduce Tumblr account and started having a play around with it. Tumblr is probably more accurately described as a micro-blogging site than Twitter is and would sit neatly in a gap formed on either side by Twitter and WordPress. Its not quite a fully loaded blogging site like WordPress or Blogger, but it is much more feature rich than Twitter. Anyway, I quite like using it and have set up links from our blog feed and to Twitter, so it takes very little time to maintain a half decent stream of content.

Now here’s the weird thing. I thought I sucked at Tumblr as well. The Tumblr community is in fairly rapid growth phase but is still largely used by early adopters and hip-kids who are posting their art work and vintage photos, so my face, you would think doesn’t quite fit. I have devoted very little time to it and I have zero followers, but Tumblr is now consistently the highest source of inbound referral links to our website…. its pretty much neck and neck between Tumblr and LinkedIn right now.

I’ve decided to abandon trying to figure out why Tumblr is proving so successful for us – long may it continue. Instead I am going to embrace it. Please check us out on Tumblr… visit our Tumblr page at, heart and reblog our posts, follow us and tell your friends too.

Author: Paul Saunders

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Shaving for Ideas

In my white paper and presentation “What’s up with Aviation IT?” I say:
Often my best thoughts occur to me in the morning whilst I’m having a shave… I think this is because it takes my brain ten minutes to boot up in the morning and it’s around that time each day that I’m hacking at my face with a razor.

Image source YGX on Flickr

It was pointed out to me yesterday that Albert Einstein made a similar observation:
Why is it I always get my best ideas while shaving?
Maybe there is some truth in my theory about the brain’s boot up time? Whatever the reason it’s satisfying to know that I’m in good company.

Author: Paul Saunders

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White Paper Published in AircraftIT eJournal
Airline Purchasing & Maintenance Expo Presentation