I’ve got to admit, I wasn’t very excited about reading this one, and procrastinated for a while. It’s about developing and managing relationships using online resources and techniques. Something that I really haven’t paid much attention to. Sure, I have a LinkedIn profile and a few contacts, but I signed up out of curiosity more than from a need to network. Also, I don’t consider myself a natural networker, nor do I enjoy it. Whenever I think about "networking" I get the creepies usually reserved for used car salesmen (apologies to any used car salesmen reading, nothing personal). This is also what’s kept me from reading Never Eat Alone (but based on nudges from Dwayne and Rosa, I actually have purchased the book).
Anyway, once I got into it, The Virtual Handshake is good eatin’. It does three things really well: it’s a remarkably comprehensive overview of various online community niches; it’s a resource for generalized best practices in developing and managing relationships online; it’s got a wealth of information about online best practices that aren’t directly related to relationship management. The obvious downside to the book is that because of the ever-changing nature of the internet, many of the resources listed will be gone within a few years. On the other hand, the other two things are relatively timeless and aren’t hinged upon specific resources, rather they’re ways of thinking that should withstand the test of time. The authors addressed my concern by keeping a jam packed companion website over at TheVirtualHandshake.com. Lots more good stuff there.
The book is built around "Seven Keys" for creating and maintaining a powerful network. These are your Character, your Competence to do what you claim you can do, the Relevance of the people you know, the Strength of your relationships, the Information that you have about people, the Number of people you know, and the Diversity of your network. These Keys are capitalized throughout the book–which helps as a reminder for how the particular topic being discussed relates to the overarching theme. On the whole, the book is very well organized.
The thing I appreciated most about this book was the focus on practical "do this now" type tips. One of my favorite tips was about how to manage passwords:
- Pick a standard word for use with all your sites–we’ll use "jade."
- Split it in half. In the middle, insert the number of letters in the domain name (the example used tribe.net). "Tribe" has 5 letters, so we write "ja5de."
- Add a letter at the beginning that is the first letter of the domain name. "Tribe" = "T," giving us "Tja5de."
That’s a fantastic tip! The book is full of stuff like that.
If there’s an angle to be examined in the purview of online relationship management, this book covers it. It’s that comprehensive. Blogs, email newsletters, community sites, standard webpages, netiquette…it’s all here. The authors have done a great job of keeping the information accessible to rank newbies yet deep enough that even experienced folks will find new tidbits of info or, at the very least, get an elbow in the ribs about reviving some best practices that they’ve slacked off on lately.
Bottom line, I’m glad I finally read this. The lessons I’ve learned in this book will be informing my decisions across both my work and personal online interactions and decisions.
(surprise bonus tip: coauthor Scott Allen is GTD guru David Allen’s nephew. Cool.)