Facebook Costs US Employers $28,000,000,000 per year

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Facebook.  All your friends are there, it’s so much fun, and it costs US employers $28,000,000,000 in productivity-loss per year.

I recently ran into a competitive situation with my business, ConnectSolutions, where an organization was comparing our service costs against a competitor.  However, the organization was not considering the fact that our solution increased productivity through ease-of-use and associated time-savings.  After I developed a model that showed the potential productivity boost (it was millions of dollars based on the size of the organization and average cost-per-employee/per year), they understood the true costs of both services.

That productivity boost got me thinking about what else we all spend our time on during the course of a workday that might impact productivity.  A quick search will tell you that Americans are spending, on average, 14 of their 74 minutes of online time on Facebook.  Mobile time spent might be more significant, but I don’t have ready access to those distribution stats.

Using that astonishing statistic, let’s make a few assumptions as inputs into our model.  First, I’ll assume that people are spending only 50% of their total Facebook usage during a given day during work hours.  After all, we are hard working Americans…right?

  • Time Spent On Facebook During Workday:  7 minutes

Next up, how many of us are sitting in front of computers with internet access each workday?  As a proxy, I’ll use the “knowledge worker” profile with an estimate of 30% of us American workers fall into.

  • Total Number of Internet-Connected Workers:  48,000,000 (30% of roughly 160M workers)

Ok, now let’s put these together to show how much time collectively we are spending on Facebook:

  • 48,000,000 worker * 7 minutes per day = 336,000,000 minutes per workday

Yikes, that’s a big number.  But how can we translate that into cost-per-employee?  Based on an average salary guestimate of $50,000 and 2000 work hours per year, we can assume a per-minute cost-per-employee of around $0.40/minute.  If we take that cost-per-minute and apply it to time employees are spending on Facebook, we get a big number…

  • Daily Productivity Cost due to Facebook Browsing:  $140,000,000

If we apply that to annual cost, we end up with a really scary number:

  • Annual US Employer Cost due to Facebook Browsing:  $28,000,000,000

Before thousands of IT organizations across the US race to block the facebook.com domain on their firewalls, it’s worth noting this is just a fun exercise and people’s actual usage patterns will vary widely.  We can also assume that there are some knowledge workers who aren’t using Facebook, or at least at work…

For those of you who also suffer from Twitter or HackerNews addictions, try your own model but avoid sharing the results with your employer!

Edit:  thanks to a reader for pointing out my exuberant use of an extra zero in my initial post…corrected…and still a very large number 😉

Consuming Large Quantities of News/Blogs/Updates Effeciently

Photo By Mario Pleitez

Tech moves fast, and for anyone who is trying to stay updated on the latest and greatest, keeping up with the myriad of sources and formats of information can be daunting.  I’ve had several conversations recently with tech-nerd friends who had new start-up ideas, only to be thwarted by my comments of “oh yeah, that sounds like X or Y that just got funded by YCombinator or some other fund…”  After apologizing for being the first to let them know they hadn’t thought about it first (another post someday on how ideas are easy, but execution is really really hard), the conversations have consistently turned to how I stay on top of this stuff.  You’ll find some of my methods below, and I’d love to hear others.

DISCLAIMER:  Consuming large quantities of information for no other reason then to “be on top of it” is not advised.  Set up the following resources to help drive your business venture, personal interests, or other meaningful pursuits to ensure you aren’t just idling along as a tech fan-boy or girl.

Ok, all that said, here are the services/sites I use just about every day:

  • HackerNews: awesome community of hackers and programmers helping each other to build great services, pursue start-up ideas, etc…  The latest programming advancements (NoSQL, Node as recent examples) are actively being cultivated in this community, and if you are looking for brutal but helpful start-up feedback…show yours to this community.
  • Techmeme: Good aggregation of the day’s big tech news.  Starting to get bored by the constant Facebook/Apple/Twitter/Google news items, but I guess that’s what’s dominating tech news these days.
  • TweetDeck: I use this desktop tool in a very specific manner, which is to define searches on topics that I’m interested in for my business (web conferencing, collaboration, competitors, partners, and customer news).  I get to see a wide range of content on these topics in a beautiful column-view, making it easy to digest what’s happening with these folks or topics in near real-time.
  • LinkedIn: I’m going to write another post on this one, because I get a huge amount of value out this service and I’ve been giving out a bunch of tips on this that most people don’t seem to know about (it’s a fact that LinkedIn buries some of its best features from users at the time of writing).  A couple of quick tips:  follow your customers and competitors on this service to see who’s coming, who’s going, news, and other helpful information to keep a pulse on your ecosystem.  You can also add people to “folders” for follow-up or organization.  And if you are pursuing new sales or business development efforts, this is the ultimate tool to find the right people.
  • Google Alerts: I’ve been using this for a long time, and it’s awesome.  You define a search term, and Google sends you an email (immediately, daily, weekly, …) when it crawls a piece of content with that term in it.  I use this to keep tabs on customer news, partners, and competitors.  Several times this service has highlighted opportunities for us to go back into existing customers to help assist with changing business environments (initiatives to save money, etc…).  I like this service because it sends data to me vs. having to pull for it.  Be careful on frequency (most of mine are daily, with some weekly digests).
  • Google Reader: I’ve been using this less lately, but it is still a great way to aggregate large numbers of publishers into a single view.

What about you?

Tech for Working Abroad (with kids)

A business growing like crazy with lots of new products coming online and customers coming in the door.  Three kids under seven.  Sounds like a perfect time to jump on a plane with the whole family and head to France for a month, right?

I’m pretty sure my wife and I talked about the possibility of travelng abroad during our very first conversation back in 1997.  It took us awhile to get there, but we just returned from an incredible month in France (Paris and Le Paradou in Provence) with our three children (all under 7 at the moment).  As I’ve shared this experience with friends and family, I’ve begun noticing some consistent questions about how we managed the kids, and how I was able to continue working (I didn’t take any time off in the end…next trip perhaps) remotely.  So, here you go:  some essential tools and tips we learned during our stay:

Apple iPad

The iPad is a magical device…for kids.  With its 10 hour battery life and lots of storage space, it ended up being the ultimate San Francisco-to-Paris warrior.  We loaded it up with movies, music, and games for the kids, and it made it all the way over with plenty of battery life to spare for another round of Toy Story or various kids games.  The parents enjoyed it too, as once we set-up wireless in the two places we stayed, it became a great email client and web browser for us to geek on during downtime.

Airport Express

I mentioned how the iPad was great for email and web browsing, but if you are traveling abroad, you don’t want to be using AT&T’s incredibly expensive data plans for the iPad, or your laptop, or your phones.  At the last minute, I grabbed the above AirPort Express and threw it in my bag thinking there could be a possibility of the “high-speed wireless” not working at our rentals.  It was a good call given that neither of the two locations had working wireless set-ups.  With this device plugged in, our iPads and computer were quite happy.

Adobe Connect

If you are going to be attempting to meet with your team, customers, and partners during your stay abroad, you aren’t going to want to hop on a plane nor sit on one end of the telephone for a long time.  I used Connect extensively during my travels as a way to make the discussions more social (webcams), as well as more productive (real-time document sharing, etc…).  Yes, I drink my own champagne.

Skype probably saved me several hundred dollars over the course of the month we were away.  Get the “Skype In” capability, so you can hook it up with the next wonderful service:

I’ve been using this as my primary number in my email-signature for awhile now, and it proved amazing while in France.  Folks call my Google Voice number, and I have it set to ring my mobile phone, my Skype account above, and even my office number.  As calls came in, I could answer them on my Skype account to make it basically free, without asking anyone to dial any new numbers, etc…  Very convenient for your callers, and you!

This one kind of just happened.  I had tried out foursquare awhile back, and it didn’t really click.  Early in the trip, however, I realized that having a log of all the fun places we went to (including little cafes, museums, parks, etc…) would be really nice, and this service is great for that.  I wish they had an easy way to export all of the locations we “checked-in” to, but it served us well and we found some good local places through the service.

ConnectSolutions Team

Last, but not least, I have to give credit to the team back at ConnectSolutions.  Their hard work ensured the business continued to be successful and grow while enabling me to get away with such an incredible trip with my family.  The welcome I received upon my return was the most impressive display of corporate pranks I have ever seen or heard of…and I look forward to returning the favor one day.

I’d love to hear from you all about what else could have made our trip even better!?!

Everyone Should “Share” with Adobe…

With two small kids at home, of talk/demanding “sharing” stuff, and in many cases, meltdowns occur as concept is still bit foreign to a four and two year old. Fortunately, when it comes to Adobe, they have the concept down and are proving it through a new Beta launch of a document sharing service code-named “Share.”

Before I review this, let me come clean: Before the days of ConnectSolutions (not that long ago), I had their opportunity to work with incredible team that Adobe on variety of hosted services geared towards “knowledge workers.” This team was responsible for Acrobat Connect, but also series of stealth projects that will truly change the landscape for small and medium size businesses and their knowledge workers. Well, after what I’m sure was many long days over the past several weeks, I had the priviledge of kicking the virtual tires…

Share is a hosted solution that allows individuals to upload, organize, and of course, share documents with others. Sign-up is very simple (and free!), and provides users with instant access to a significant amount of storage. This storage is accessible from anywhere, which is important for anyone who travels, or of course, anyone who tends to work from home, café, etc…

As we’ve come to expect from Adobe, the service is front-ended with a beautiful, engaging user experience. Uploading documents is very simple, with the ability to upload multiple documents at once. With a single-page UI, you can select your documents to upload, identify permissions associated with viewing/reviewing the documents, and then upload. I’d like to see a desktop application to accomplish this through drag-and-drop though…

Once you’ve uploaded a document, the magic begins. You’re provided with a very slick interface your document repository, which includes thumbnails of the actual documents and basic information about them. Even better, a simple double-click over a document delivers an embedded preview right in your browser. No waiting for an external application to load (this includes no Acrobat Reader for PDF files), just instant satisfaction. Right now, it appears this capability is limited to PDF and image files, but other document types are apparently coming. When it comes to sharing, you have a variety of options including email, URL, and embedding documents in external web sites, blogs, etc… This is extremely useful in providing dynamic access to relevant content, in an engaging way.

While I’m very excited about this initial Beta, I will put my bias down briefly for one critique: A large part of my document sharing workflow includes allowing others (team members, partners, customers, lawyers, etc…) to review these documents, and make edits or changes directly in them. My preference is to retain control over who sees a document, but then allow them to engage and modify a document as they see fit. Ideally, this happens directly in document, and doesn’t require me going back into the original and duplicating the changes. Given that need, I believe Share has a great opportunity to allow direct commenting and review, and even editing, of the documents that traverse through its service.

In summary, I’m very excited about the potential here with “Share” and the work the Adobe team is putting into this solution area. Congrats to team for pulling this off quickly and allowing us benefit from work involved!


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Web Conferencing: "Meet" the desktop

ConnectSolutions has just "sneaked" a Beta of "MeetingPulse," a desktop application fully integrated with Acrobat Connect.  The app is based on Adobe AIR, and provides instant access to Connect meeting rooms, allowing users to quickly access their meeting rooms, be notified of participants joining their rooms, and viewing historical trends in their meeting usage.

The application is free to the Adobe Acrobat Connect community, and is available for download at:  http://labs.connectsolutions.com

For more information on the app, visit the official ConnectSolutions blog

Hope you enjoy it!

Forget Atkins, I’m going on the “The Low-Information Diet”

I was recently introduced to the information/work approaches of Tim Ferriss at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco.  His discussion about not checking work email more than once or twice a day seemed insane at the time (and still does), but after reading this latest “manifesto,” I’m going to give it a shot (starting next week… 😉  If I don’t respond to your email, now you know why…

ChangeThis :: The Low-Information Diet: How to Eliminate E-Mail Overload & Triple Productivity in 24 Hours

BRINGO’ing an end to annoying interactive phone directories

bringo logo

Very cool! This is one of those services I wish had been around years and years ago. I just used Bringo to get through to a customer service agent at United Airlines, and I am impressed.

I am traveling tomorrow down to LA, and I couldn’t find my confirmation number, nor was it on my mileage plus account. I was getting the sinking feeling that I might have forgotten to actually book the flight a couple of months ago. I decided to call United Airlines to see if they had any records of my travel. I called the number, spent about three minutes navigating their phone tree to try to speak with someone, and at the point where the automated voice gave up and was going to transfer me to a human, it hung up. I was about to dial-up again and do the whole routine once more when I remembered a recent TechCrunch article on bringo.com.

Using the service is drop-dead simple:

  • Go to the site and select the company you wish to engage
  • Bringo will then ask for your phone number, and then perform a quick call to that number to verify you are who you say you are. My phone rang immediately, and I simply clicked #.
  • The site immediately acknowledged my confirmation of the number, and began to do the dirty work of calling United Airlines.
  • About 30 seconds later, my phone rang and there was an operator on the other end!

Not only was this a much better experience (I could do work while Bringo worked for me), but United did have my record and all is well.

Great, simple service Bringo…

BRINGO : Stop Talking to Machines and Talk to a Real Human

Airplane seating – a better way

Airplane Seating – There’s got to be a better way…

I had a cancelled flight this morning, and ended up being placed on the next flight out. This meant a reassigned seat, and lucky for me, it was the middle seat between two large adults. If you’ve sat next to me before in an airplane, then you are aware I have fairly broad shoulders, which will end up annoying you pretty quickly. Couple my shoulders with my tendency to fall asleep almost instantly with my head way back and my mouth wide-open, and you’ll be looking for the parachute.

Today, I wasn’t getting much sleep with these large people surrounding me, so I thought about what could possibly help my situation. The first and most obvious was not to travel. Second, charter a plane. So with two strikeouts, what was next? Ding Ding Ding. I looked across the way and saw these three small people in the seats across from us. As I jealously eyed the person in the middle seat, it dawned on me that there is probably a pretty simple solution to broad-shoulder-thunderdome:

Most travellers today are using frequent flyer programs to benefit from their suffering. Why not include a profile attribute which contains your shoulder-width? This could then be used to calculate optimized seat-assignments for the greater-passenger-good! How hard could that be?