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Information wants to be free.  Unless it doesn’t want to be.  Nowhere was this more clear than on a recent vacation to one of the western hemisphere’s last bastions of non-freedom, Cuba.

The Cubans we met were super-friendly, happy, and entrepreneurial.  The culture was replete with amazing music, history, architecture, and national pride.  And the beaches were amongst the best in the world. 

The country, however, is literally cut off from much of the western world, largely because of the remnants of the 1960s cold war, and the philosophical divide between the American and Cuban governments.  Cuba does trade with Russia, China, Venezuela, Eastern Europe, Canada, and a few others.  Perhaps because of the closed nature of the country, perhaps because of the American embargo, or perhaps because of geography, Cuba has become a society seemingly frozen in amber.

Randall Craig in Havana CubaCuba is one of the few places where there is no web access, and for citizens who happen to have a computer, email only.  On one hand, this virtual firewall is repressive; no news can find its way in, and no Cuban culture can find its way out.  On the other hand, you don’t see people attached to their mobile devices, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and all of the other solitary activities those in the west seem addicted to.  In the words of Modesto, a driver we hired for the day to see Cuba beyond our resort: “Why do I need computer[s]?  I have my job, my family, my friends.”  And indeed, he does have these.  But like a blind man trying to fathom the difference between two colors, is his comment borne of not knowing what he can’t know?  Or of a deeper wisdom that was stifled in the west, when the Social Media genie was let out of the bottle?

A lesson, perhaps, for those with the option to choose: Does every minute spent on Social Media strengthen our relationships with others, or distract us from being “in the moment” with those we care about most? 

Cuba actually does have internet access.  In the entire Varadero area, there are two locations where those with passports can purchase an access card for 30 minutes for the equivalent of $3.00.  While the connection speed is exceptionally slow, and likely monitored by the government, it is a way for a tourist to gain access to the outside world.  Or, in my case, check for critical emails from the office.

Unfortunately, I was not able to.

Our firm decided (wisely) to place all of our critical infrastructure (telephone, email, fileservers, etc) in the cloud.  This meant, for example, that we would rely on Google Apps to host and manage our corporate email.  We never guessed that access to it would be blocked when out of the United States or Canada.

Interestingly, it was neither the internet cafe nor the Cuban government that prevented access.  Instead, it was Google itself.  That’s right – Google!  Upon login, a “helpful” screen informed me that Google Apps for Work does not allow email logins from Cuba, and a handful of other countries. (The free gmail has no such restrictions though.)

Putting aside the gall of Google for preventing me from accessing my corporate email, for which they are paid a fee to provide, this is a tremendous argument for ensuring that corporate data, functionality, and access to it does not fall prey to another country’s extraterritorial laws.  I don’t recall agreeing to this restriction, although I expect that digging deeply into Google’s terms and conditions, I would find it.

The benefits of cloud-hosted data and functionality cannot be overstated.  Yet how often, when outsourced to a third party, are we fully aware of the constraints under which these third parties operate?  And particularly, whose laws?

While this question might seem more appropriate for Corporate IT managers, consider what this means for us as individuals: Don’t think you use the cloud?  Think again:

  • Dropbox filesharing
  • iCloud and iTunes
  • Google Drive, Google Docs, and Gmail
  • Hotmail, Office 360, and Microsoft OneDrive
  • Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, and all other public Social Networks.

Whether they are free or paid is irrelevant: the question is whether you actually know where the data is stored?  Or what laws apply that may restrict your access to it?  Or for that matter, gives 3rd parties access to your data, sometimes without your knowledge, and sometimes without a court order?

Most sophisticated IT managers understand the due diligence that is required to address the issues of cloud risks, including data sovereignty and access.  But there are two gaps:  Social Media – often mission critical from a strategic marketing perspective – is noticeably absent from the cloud-risk checklist.  And as cloud functionality migrates to the individual level, most people don’t even know what questions to ask.  They rely on the cloud “magic” to just work, without a second thought about data sovereignty, access, or other risks.

While a vacation to Cuba is actually supposed to be a vacation from work, it is hard not to look around and beyond the beauty of the country, find a lesson or two… in the clouds.

This week’s action plan:  List all of the cloud-hosted systems that you use, both corporately and personally.  Then one-by-one, discover which have fine print that can limit your access, or give back-door access to others.

Action plan #2:  When you’re on vacation, it’s actually not a bad decision to… be on vacation. Do you really need that internet access…?

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

 Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders



There is no question that LinkedIn is one of the most powerful networking platforms around. It connects, credentializes, and recruits. It provides a glimpse into the professional lives of those we know, and those we don’t.

But it has been providing less, and less, and less. Consider the following:

  • LinkedIn answers – gone
  • LinkedIn polls – gone
  • LinkedIn company page “product and services” tab – gone

LinkedIn isn’t alone. Google is one of the great financial success stories, but they have been slimming down:

  • Google Reader – gone
  • Google Wave – gone
  • iGoogle – gone

The question of why these sites (and others) are on a diet shouldn’t surprise. Removing features reduces costs, while simultaneously focusing users on the features that generate revenue.  And those features that remain are sprouting a price tag.

  • LinkedIn groups, jobs tab: the tab still exists, but posting has a price tag.
  • Facebook page posts: At one time all people saw your posts; today, almost no one will… unless you ‘boost’ the post for a fee.

As high-traffic sites become more and more indispensable, expect pay-to-play to become the norm.

As many non-prime social media sites are now discovering, without a steady flow of income, eventually they will be forced to shut down. This has already happened to Booktour, Vizify, Amplicate, Hellotxt, Timely, Retagr, Gowalla, Skribit, and many more. (More:  Social Media Going Out of Business.)

This week’s action item: Is your social media strategy based on public social media sites? If so, plan now for a world that may cost a lot more to participate. Review your social ad spend budget, and either hike it, or look at changing your strategy.

Marketing insight: It’s not just an issue of cost. What happens with a strategy built on a public social media site, when key functionality is turned off? Consider a law firm or a professional association whose strategy included the now-defunct LinkedIn Answers? Not only would their responses be lost, but also the names of those who were part of the conversation. Mitigate these risks by considering hosting part of the conversation on your site, and capturing social media relationships into your own systems.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders


Viewpoint: Social Media – Going Out of Business

by Randall Craig March 21, 2013

Before Social Media really took off, the number of tools for engaging stakeholders online was very, very small.  You could create a bulletin board on your site.  An interactive calculator. A “guestbook” (remember those?)  Or get people to sign up to a ListServ and participate in a discussion via email.  These all had one thing […]

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Tech note: SEO – DIY (Search Engine Optimization – Do It Yourself)

by Randall Craig September 7, 2012

There is no shortage of call centers working hard to sell SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services. Some of them are small fly-by-night operators, while others work at the venerable Yellow Pages.  Sadly, many organizations (and people) succumb to these pitches, and spend significant dollars each month chasing a top ranking.  “Sadly”, because much of the […]

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Corporate Success Factors

by Randall Craig April 5, 2012

It’s always easy to look at other organizations – or other people – and marvel at their incredible foresight, acumen, and investment.  To look at some of the most successful companies and their products – Apple and Google come to mind – and say “They were just lucky” is too easy, and unlikely. Few people […]

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Marketing Insight: When Users Defect

by Randall Craig January 31, 2012

Have you labored over your blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for years, only to suddenly find a huge drop in your traffic? As managers begin to probe the Return on Social Media Investment, an unexpected reversal is frustrating – and can have direct impact on the organization’s brand… and those responsible for it. Determining the […]

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Idea Popularity Contest

by Randall Craig August 11, 2010

How do you know if your idea is really popular? Asking around is one way. Doing a survey is another. But how about the popularity of your idea on a world-wide scale? While this might be a bit of a challenge, if you can boil it down to a few keywords, there is a way, […]

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Social Media Sinkholes

by Randall Craig October 13, 2009

There are over 300 web sites that have a Social Media angle to them. Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter might be the most familiar, but you may also spend time on FlickR, eBay, Plaxo, Orkut, and others. In fact, you may be spending so much time on these “Networks”, that you have little time for anything […]

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