November 5, 2007
Facebook vs. OpenSocial API
It is interesting to read about the new Google OpenSocial API. Jeremiah Owyang had a great article on his blog about it last week - titled: Explaining OpenSocial to your Executives. The mainstream media jumped on the bandwagon trying to explain things.
But my favorite analysis comes from Don Dodge - 50M Facebook users don't care about OpenSocial APIs. Sure, he comes to the discussion with a Microsoft bias - but who in their right mind thinks that non-geeks will abandon Facebook and flock to OpenSocial apps? Is OpenSocial likely to drive new traffic to MySpace? Would I want to be listed as a friend of someone I "friended" (amazing how things tend to become verbs) on LinkedIn who has a personal profile on MySpace?
October 1, 2007
Comparing Wal-Mart and Target on Facebook
Target has over 7,000 members and mostly positive comments in a vibrant set of discussions. The Wal-Mart group on the other hand has a little over 1,200 members, no discussions are allowed, and the wall postings are mostly negative.
What is the difference do you think, except for the fact that a large portion of the population believes that one of the two companies is truly evil?
The Wal-Mart home page looks like another interactive ad.. The Target home page is more inviting and enlists the help of users to co-create the experience. Any other differences that you can think of that would result in such a difference in membership and tone of conversation?
We can take the discussion to Facebook - in fact I started a thread on the subject in the Marketing 2.0 group, where we now have more members than the Wal-Mart Facebook group.
September 20, 2007
What is the marketing potential of LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace
Reveries.com conducted a survey on the potential of social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Myspace as media for marketing activities (pdf download of survey summary results and analysis are here). The main finding seems to be that marketers are in the very early stages of truly understanding the potential of these new networks - with only 18% of the respondents calling the potential of online social networks as a medium for marketing "huge".
Other interesting tidbits from the survey include the fact that marketers see "word of mouth" as the most promising aspect of social networking sites, and that many pointed out that marketers should participate in the conversations that take place on those sites without interrupting them.
Unfortunately, the reality is that many spammers have already invaded Facebook, Myspace and other similar sites. Go check the walls of the most popular interest groups in Facebook to see for yourself - many are littered with posts that are total sales pitches or with information that is totally irrelevant to the group's conversation.
August 24, 2007
50% of employees blocked from accessing Facebook at work
According to recent research from Sophos, 50% of employees are blocked from accessing Facebook at work...
I guess most companies do not get it :)
August 1, 2007
US is #15 in broadband subscribers worldwide
According to a new commentary released by the Pew Internet Project, It will be hard to close the broadband divide in the US (pdf here).
We now rank # 15 among countries worldwide in terms of broadband subscribers (19.6 subscribers per 100 inhabitants compared to 31.9 for Denmark and 29.1 for Korea).
May 23, 2007
Enterprise 2.0 adoption issues - different from collaboration adoption issues?
Yesterday I was fortunate to be the host of a really enlightening conversation on adoption issues related to enterprise 2.0 projects with Andrew McAfee, Euan Semple, Jenny Ambrozek, Jerry Bowles, and Jim McGee (you can listen to a replay of the event here). We had another session on Monday - but since we had some technical difficulties during that session the audio needs editing. I will write about that one when the audio is available.
One of the questions that crossed my mind is whether enterprise 2.0 tools (web 2.0 tools deployed within an enterprise environment) have the same barriers to adoption as traditional collaboration tools. One of the main barriers to adoption with collaboration tools is to not be able to get everyone who is working on a project to use the tools. This can happen for a variety of reasons - i.e., "the blank screen" syndrome, which happens when people do not quite know how to use the tools or organize their work within those tools, and revert back to email, face-to-face and phone instead of working within the specialized collaborative environment, or for cultural/political reasons, when people do not like the way the project is organized and boycott the use of the collaborative tools. In all those instances the value of the collaboration environment goes down to zero for all the other team members who want to use it. If some part of the work or the project lives outside of the project collaboration environment, then that environment has no more value than a person's inbox - it is not complete.
Enterprise 2.0 tools on the other hand are less project-centric and a little more individual-people-centric, meaning that even if I am the only one who is using tagging or blogging on a project, that still has value to me. I am not sure that holds true for wikis, which are true collaborative environments.
Note that we also set up a Ning social networking group for Enterprise 2.0 Ravers - feel free to join and engage in that conversation as well.
May 8, 2007
What is the state of the market for Enterprise 2.0 Tools?
Are you in the process of deploying Enterprise 2.0 Tools or thinking of doing it? Who in your organization is involved? What do you anticipate the biggest barriers to adoption to be? How will you measure success? Which process will you start with?
If you are interested in participating in a project in which we collectively come to an answer for these and other questions, then take a few minutes to fill out the Enterprise 2.0 Market Readiness Survey. We will share all the results with everyone who's interested.
And of course feel free to post it on your blog for your audiences to fill in and participate (just point them to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=937203810006).
April 12, 2007
Artificially creating barriers to adoption...
I have been looking for a group "to-do" list for a long time, and never really found what I was looking for. Most to-do lists are for individual usage - which is not what I am looking for. And unless you are Google, I do not even get why people bother developing those apps as there are a ton of applications on people's desktop that already have that service integrated - for free.
But as far as a simple group task list for truly distributed teams....there isn't much available. I finally found a solution that looked promising....integrating/synchronizing with Google calendar, etc. - all for $15. So I bought it thinking that would solve my problem. Except that when I tried to invite one of my closest associates, it required that he too buy that same application. That was almost a week ago, and of course that has not happened yet.
How can people do that? Group applications already have plenty of barriers to adoption to overcome - so why a company would artificially add one extra barrier in the mix is a mystery to me. I bet you that most "potential" users of this app would use it with teams of 2-3 people. So if that is the case, charge the buyer of the app $30-50 instead of trying to get $15 from all the users. That way you may end up with some real users instead of frustrated buyers.
Elementary...my dear Watson...
January 23, 2007
Wiki's work, but team collaboration adoption is still a problem...
According to a new survey, Wiki's in the Enterprise seem to deliver real results and appear to be sustainable (via Headshift). All that being said, team collaboration adoption in general is still something that 40% of companies give up on as they run into too much resistance.
January 10, 2007
The "Inter" Personal Enterprise
As part of a client project I ran across a set speeches that former Oracle COO Ray Lane has been making on the "inter" Personal Enterprise (you can find a slide deck used at a Sandhill conference here).
In his recorded keynote presentation, which can be found at IT conversations, Lane reminds us that eighty percent of the enterprise software industry profits currently go to just three companies, while seven thousand companies fight over the remainder. In order to succeed in this environment, he recommends that enterprise software vendors focus on ease of adoption, instantaneous value and a minimum IT footprint. He also says that "...vendors need to make it easy for users to get started and provide real value to the customer before she is required to pay. The user experience should be personalized and contextualized and the product should spread through the enterprise organically, via user recommendation, rather than by management edict."
That is in fact how we built eRoom Technology to become a profitable $40M company in the early 2000's. We provided easy ways for individuals and small teams to get started after which the solution would spread organically throughout the enterprise through user recommendations. By the time the CIO at KPMG decided to standardize on eRoom as their collaboration platform, there were already over 2,000 happy eRoom users in the company. We then tried to scale the ease of adoption process by releasing an ASP version of the product. While I still believe that was a good idea, that strategy was not widely successful as the ASP offering never fully got embraced by our "enterprise" sales force. The shift from big upfront payments and fat commission checks to a more predictable pay-as-you go scheme was just too much of a culture shock.
In a lot of ways, that is also what is happening with Enterprise 2.0 tools - the adoption of Web 2.0 technologies within the enterprise. But as Harvard Business Professor Andrew McAfee, who coined the Enterprise 2.0 term, predicts, most Enterprise 2.0 tools will remain confined to geek-heavy groups, companies or industries, or at best they may find spotty mainstream penetration.
December 5, 2006
Social media 2.0: empowering communities to solve problems
In a recent interview for the BBC, Tony Blair's outgoing strategy advisor brings up a few good points on how the Internet is fueling a crisis between politicians and its citizenry. Many of his points are actually valid for the world of business as well.
Too often he says, the web is "used to encourage the "shrill discourse of demands"." What he would rather see is "more needs to be done by the web community in general to encourage people to use the Internet to "solve problems" rather than simply abuse politicians or make "incommensurate" demands on them." Talking about the immaturity of the whole environment he said ""We have a citizenry which can be caricatured as being increasingly unwilling to be governed but not yet capable of self-government," and further comparing the citizenry to teenagers he said "Like "teenagers", people were demanding, but "conflicted" about what they actually wanted, he argued."
Social media empowers people to "speak up" and "make demands." It can also be used to leverage collective intelligence to "solve problems." Yet the tendency at this stage is for people to whine more than to collaborate on constructive problem solving. This can perhaps be explained by the fact that the dominating tool in the new social media toolkit is the blog, which works better as a single person or small group mouth/shout piece than as a true collaborative environment. Sure, blogs are well suited for conversations or raging debates, but that is not how one typically solves problems. Wiki's are more appropriate, but still limited to a very small segment of the population - too insignificant to truly act as an empowering environment for community based problem solving and self-governance.
So maybe that is what we could expect from social media 2.0 - a set of rich and intuitive collaborative environments that enables groups of people to spontaneously congregate and collaborate on helping others to solve problems, whether they'd be socio-political problems or problems related to their favorite brands.
Some interesting experiments in developing collective problem solving environments are already underway - such as the Community Wiki, where Keith Hopper discussed the same BBC interview and suggests a few actual projects projects to tackle as a group.
November 15, 2006
Did the "wisdom of crowds" fail this election?
According to Reason, the wisdom-of-crowds-based prediction markets failed for the Senate race this last election. Most prediction markets were putting the likelihood that the Republicans would keep a majority in the Senate at 75-80%.
Does it really mean a failure of the system? If the probability that most people in the "crowd" would predict that the democrats would win 6 out of 7 tight races in order to win a majority in the senate is less than 50%, then the wisdom of crowds would only reinforce that - at least that is what the Condorcet jury theorem says. Besides, predicting that there is a 20% chance that the dems would win those races and thus take control of the Senate is not a negligible chance. In fact, it probably is somewhat higher than the straight probability that pollsters would have come up with.
What do you think?
November 10, 2006
Email marketing delivers best ROI - but do you buy that?
According to a new study by the Direct Marketing Association, and as reported in DIRECT, email marketing delivers the highest ROI of all media available to marketers. Having just finished reading a pre-release version of WOMMA president Andy Sernovitz' new book - Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking - he would probably argue that word of mouth marketing would have the highest ROI as you can get that going with no investments.
The DMA research shows that the return on email marketing in 2005 was $57.25 for every dollar spent, compared to $7.09 for catalog marketing and $22.52 for non-email Internet marketing. The study also projects that all the ROI's for the different media marketing options are headed down-ward.
The same research also estimates that the commercial email market in the US was $16.5B in 2005, while the direct marketing-driven sales hit $1.806 trillion in 2005 - projected to hit $2.627 trillion in 2011!
Ouch...that sounds like a lot of wasted dollars...there should be better ways to reach people. And no matter what Set Godin says about messaging frequency vs. "being full ," there ought to be better solutions out there to resolve the ambient findability problem in marketing!
The DIRECT article did not mention anything about the methodology used by DMA - but it is assumed that the study looked at investments vs. "new" customers and "new" revenues - which is a really bad transaction-based metric in marketing.
A more interesting metric would have been to understand how email direct marketing impacts long term customer-relationship-based revenue streams for companies. Isn't that where the real profitability lies?
MARKETING - it's not the transaction anymore, it's the relationship, dummy!
November 9, 2006
Peer pressure in Social Media
Giovanni Rodriguez found that the business benefits of social media are becoming quite apparent, but the pressure to stand out -- and do something different -- is mounting (disclosure - I am on the advisory board of Hubbub PR). He starts his excellent post by saying that: “There’s no question – the early success of peer-driven, social-media programs will put pressure on businesses to both adapt and adopt. But, for some leaders, there’s another question: in a world where everyone participates, what does it mean to lead?”
In their rush to stand out, companies and people will screw it up - let's just hope that they don't break it for the rest of us.
October 31, 2006
Customer communities do pay off!
The most recent Harvard Business Review reports on a study (requires subscription) that was done on the impact of customer communities on customer behavior at eBay in Germany (disclosure - I have an active interest in this topic as I have agreed to chair a conference on the business of communities - Community 2.0 - but more on that later).
The numbers are quite interesting. The experiment involved 140,120 eBay customers who had bought or sold on eBay but who had not participated in the eBay customer communities before. 79.242 were invited to join the online customer community, while the remaining 60,878 were used as a control group. Of the people who were asked to join the community, 3,299 became active participants and 11,242 became lurkers. Over the course of a year they compared the behavior of the active participants and lurkers to that of the control group and found that:
- Lurkers and active participants won up to 25% more auctions
- Lurkers and participants paid prices that were as much as 24% higher
- Lurkers and participants spent up to 54% more money in total
- Active participants listed up to 4 times as many items
- Active participants earned up up 6 times as much monthly sales revenue
- For first time sellers who were lurkers and participants, 10 times as many of them started selling on eBay after joining the community
All in all the activities of the lurkers and participants resulted in 56% more sales during the year of the study - bringing in millions of additional dollars into eBay's bottom line.
So can the results of this experiment be replicated in more traditional businesses?
Some people clearly think so, while others who used to be very enthusiastic about the business of communities are starting to become very skeptical.
Communities require a certain critical mass to get going - and not all companies have a large enough customer base to get to that point. They also require a lot more work and resources than most companies are willing to invest - to set up the infrastructure, to nurture the communities, to acquire content, etc.
Active communities of employees, customers and partners are clearly powerful management instruments that can dramatically improve core business processes like innovation, product development and marketing & sales. They can also backfire and have very negative impact if they are not managed properly, or set up wrongly. Before embarking on this path, companies have to truly understand the dynamics as well as the pros and cons of communities. They also need to find out if they have the resources and wherewithal to create their own communities or whether they should play in someone else's sandbox.
Unfortunately, many will start the process by throwing technology at the problem - let's just hope that those ignorants won't destroy the market for the rest of us like email spammers destroyed email marketing and (un)ethical zealots are slowly destroying word of mouth marketing.
October 27, 2006
Authority, popularity, expert-ness - how to set your filter to get the right content?
Marry Hodder, CEO at Dabble, made a good point yesterday at the business blogging summit here in Seattle when she said that the Technorati rankings for authority are not really a measure of authority but a measure of popularity - and that measuring authority is not something that should be conceded to a web service but something that gets determined by the end user.
At one point or another everyone is struggling with how to filter content to find the relevant pieces of information. Some people believe that popularity may be the right filter. Others believe that you can only trust "real" journalists and should use that as your filter to get the right content. Some others still cling to the belief that only academic credentials, with publications and peer review, can result in the "experts" worth listening to.
The reality is that no one filter can work for all topics and at any point in time. If I am looking for customer feedback on a new product, I may not want the voice of the expert, and certainly have learned not to trust the voice of the "journalist" reviewer. If I am looking for information on cutting edge cancer treatments on the other hand, I may only trust academic types. And if I need information on a more popular topic, then popularity may well be the right filter - or ratio of blog posts to comments and trackbacks, or some other metric that determine how well a person is read, quoted, etc.
Now, another person may look at this in a whole different way. The bottom line is that the "right" filter is content-specific as well as reader-specific.
Making things even more complicated - the right filter is also time sensitive. If I have time to cull through a large amount of information then my filter may not be set as narrowly as when I am in a time-crunch.
So in a way, everybody has a personal profile that determines the right filters based on subject and moment in time. If somehow we could have web services that would match their results to my personal profile, then we would have a real cool solution.
It's really simple when you think about it...well...maybe not :)
September 28, 2006
Thriving on the edge of chaos
Fortune's most recent issue has a number of articles on the increasing chaos in markets, technologies customer behavior, and products. Business models that sustained companies for decades no longer work. Companies can now enter and leave markets at a moment's notice. Market disruptions happen faster and faster.
According to the article, the way to manage chaos is not by retraining managers, it's by changing people's mindset and assumptions about business, management, and most economic principles we grew up with. Successful companies are meeting the challenges of a chaotic environment with chaos - by loosening controls, getting rid of hierarchies & titles, providing full transparency into all aspects of the business and more.
What causes all this change? For starters, the fact that companies can now operate free of physical assets makes them both more flexible and vulnerable at the same time. Next is the fact that with the advent of the Internet we have witnessed a dramatic power-shift towards the consumer. Information about products and services, which used to be controlled by the seller - giving them an unfair advantage - is not only widely available, it is complemented with free flowing consumer generated content that gives the consumer the upper hand in the power play.
And the chaos is here to stay. As the article points out "the forecast for most companies is continued chaos with a chance of disaster."
The only way to survive is to allow your company to operate at the edge of chaos - something that nature knows all to well how to do. Perhaps the best training for company executives and employees will not come from business schools but from science departments who are studying complexity theory and how self-organized systems can thrive in nature -even in the worst of circumstances.
If you are starting a new company it may be easy for you to inject that right kind of culture in your company's DNA. For existing companies the only answer is change, dramatic change that is - and as scientists have found, change hurts, and people naturally resist it.
So should we get ready to see many corporate icons dissapear in the near future?
September 26, 2006
The future of the Internet
Major predictions by 2020 include:
- A low-cost global network will be thriving and creating new opportunities in a “flattening” world.
- Humans will remain in charge of technology, even as more activity is automated and “smart agents” proliferate. However, a significant 42% of survey respondents were pessimistic about humans’ ability to control the technology in the future. This significant majority agreed that dangers and dependencies will grow beyond our ability to stay in charge of technology. This was one of the major surprises in the survey.
- Virtual reality will be compelling enough to enhance worker productivity and also spawn new addiction problems.
- Tech “refuseniks” will emerge as a cultural group characterized by their choice to live off the network. Some will do this as a benign way to limit information overload, while others will commit acts of violence and terror against technology-inspired change.
- People will wittingly and unwittingly disclose more about themselves, gaining some benefits in the process even as they lose some privacy.
- English will be a universal language of global communications, but other languages will not be displaced. Indeed, many felt other languages such as Mandarin, would grow in prominence.
Some of those predictions seem like they are already upon us and not 14 years out into the future.
It is especially great to see that 56% of the people who were surveyed believed in this scenario: "By 2020, this free flow of information will completely blur current national boundaries as they are replaced by city-states, corporation-based cultural groupings and/or other geographically diverse and reconfigured human organizations
tied together by global networks."
Unfortunately, many still believe that "governments and corporations will not necessarily embrace policies that will allow the network to spread to under-served populations; that serious social inequalities will persist." And according to the report "The experts and analysts also split evenly on a central question of whether the world will be a better place in 2020 due to the greater transparency of people and institutions afforded by the internet: 46% agreed that the benefits of greater transparency of organizations and individuals would outweigh the privacy costs and 49% disagreed.The experts and analysts also split evenly on a central question of whether the world will be a better place in 2020 due to the greater transparency of people and institutions afforded by the internet: 46% agreed that the benefits of greater transparency of organizations and individuals would outweigh the privacy costs and 49% disagreed."
September 22, 2006
Crowdsourcing vs. community outsourcing
Crowdsourcing has been a popular term ever since it appeared in a Wired Magazine article earlier this summer. This past week, Business Week jumped on the crowdsourcing bandwagon with an article in their second issue of Inside Innovation (may require subscription - but you can find a good description of the article by Renee Hopkins Callahan over at IdeaFlow).
What is confusing about the "crowdsourcing" terminology in both articles is that they use "crowd" to refer to the "wisdom of crowds" - a term introduced a few years back by James Surowiecki to describe the fairly simple idea that large groups of people are smarter than an elite few. Many of the crowdsourcing examples used in both articles, however, like the use of iStockphoto to source images cheaply, do not rely on wisdom of crowds at all. Getting your images from iStockphoto instead of from a professional photographer is like outsourcing your photography to the public - where everyone can be a semi-pro with high end cameras below $1,000 these days. In the end you still buy your images from individual photographers. There may be a crowd, but there is no wisdom of crowds involved here.
When a company like John Fluevog Boots & Shoes asks its fans to submit and vote on new shoe designs - that is a model based on the wisdom of crowds. The wisdom of the mass is more likely to identify a winner than a select few (see also related post on when wisdom of crowds does not work).
The Business Week article spells out four rules for successful crowdsourcing - or should it be to outsource your task/process to an outside community.
First, be focused and provide clear guidelines to what you want to have done. Not really all that different from any outsourced project. If you give vague guidelines you will likely get something back that you did not expect.
Second - get your filters right. Since by outsourcing a task to a large set of people you will get a large number of ideas, you need to filter all those ideas so that you can find the gems. But why not use the wisdom of the crowd to do the filtering? IBM solicits ideas from customers and employees during two day innovation jams - which led to 37,000 ideas the last time around. They then use their own employee "crowd" to filter those ideas. As most companies do not have 140,000 employees to draw upon, they could use their fans and customers to select the best ideas. An idea could be emailed to a randomly selected set of active people for voting, rating or ranking.
The third is to tap the right crowd. Pretty obvious when you think about it. Just like you would not outsource a complex engineering problem to a company of 14 year old summer students, you need to be picky about the community you outsource your task to.
Lastly is to build your community into social networks. While this may be key to success in getting certain communities to function in the long run, enabling networks or teams to form within your community goes against the principle of the wisdom of crowds - adding to the terminology confusion.
Renee adds two more rules in her post - find ways to feed the ideas into your company's existing processes and fund the process - as incentives fuel creativity.
In the end, successfully outsourcing product innovation and other processes to outside communities comes down to a deep understanding of two factors:
- understanding of the traditional keys to success for that particular process
- understanding of the fundamentals to successfully create (if needed), manage and interact with communities - virtual or otherwise
September 21, 2006
Commercial buddies and friends on MySpace
ClickZ Experts has an interesting article on Social Network Marketing by Sean Carton. In it he lists some of the profiles of advertisers on MySpace.
- Helga - for Volkswagen, a 25 year old female from Germany has 9144 friends
- The Original MySpace Burger King King - male, 52yo - has 3255 friends (he's probably too old for MySpace)
- Smart - the Wendy's Square - a 28 yo single male (and with an unsure orientation) - has 79,840 friends
It all looks pretty cheesy - surely there must be better ways to promote products to the youth market.
September 7, 2006
Social marketing vs. social marketing
Nedra Weinreich from Spare Change and others, who had been using "social marketing" for decades to refer to the use of marketing to address health and social issues, took issue with the new usage of the terminology - especially when Forrester launched a "Social Marketing Bootcamp" and Jupiter launched a "Social Marketing" practice. Forrester backed down and renamed their bootcamp "Social Computing Boot Camp," while Jupiter refused to rename it's practice - fueling the ongoing feud over the use of the terminology.
While it is unclear to me how good a term "social marketing" is to refer to the marketing of social issues - I disliked the new usage of the terminology from the get go.
Using "social marketing" as a catch-all category for the (not-so-new) marketing techniques which include viral marketing, word-of-mouth marketing, community marketing, consumer-generated-content-based marketing, and other social media-based marketing "techniques," not only "hypes up" the value of those methods unnecessarily - it also engenders the danger for misuse, abuse and the ultimate destruction of those marketing techniques for everyone.
Many clueless and panicky marketers, who have witnessed the decline of marketing programs like email marketing and other interrupt-based marketing methods - which incidentally they destroyed in the first place - will now jump on this latest craze and screw it all up! As usual, they will throw dollars and especially technology at the issue without understanding the underlying fundamentals and ethical considerations that allow those methods work in the first place.
You don't believe it? By now, the value of word-of-mouth marketing is being threatened by the lack of disclosure by very large and respected marketers like P&G and others. And with so much "fake" consumer-generated content going around, some people are already asking for some sort of "organic labeling" before it is too late. When it comes to "community marketing," the jury is still out as it is one of the younger hot new marketing memes - but history shows that it will only take time for some clueless marketers to latch on to that one as well and potentially spoil it for the rest of us.
I really hope that Jupiter and other industry analysts and industry associations will show leadership in this space and try to create some sort of self-governance amongst their clients and members - but somehow, and based on the descriptions of those new services, I am not so sure that is part of the agenda.
Hopefully I am wrong!
August 28, 2006
Why wisdom of crowds does not always work
The most current issue of the Harvard Business Review has an interesting article in which they marry the wisdom of crowds "theory" with the Condorcet jury theorem - which was developed by a Frenchman in 1785 (requires subscription).
To understand how the theorem works, imagine that a number of people are answering the same question and that there are two possible answers - one correct and one incorrect. Assuming that the chances that an individual will answer correctly is more than 50%, the theorem proves that the probability that a majority of the group will answer correctly increases towards 100% as the group size increases.
That explains why the wisdom of crowds works well for consumer product testing, or to predict well documented political races. It also explains why it failed in other areas, like predicting whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. With little information available, individuals had a higher likelihood of picking the wrong answer, making the chance that a majority would predict correctly close to 0% as the size of the group increased.
August 21, 2006
BlogBridge Library - a cool way to manage libaries of important content
As part of a potential client project, I finally got a chance to take a real close look at the BlogBridge Library (disclosure - I am an advisor to this open source project).
It is a very cool and powerful application, which enables you to create and manage a central library of feeds, blogs, reading lists, podcasts and more. Different sub-sections of the library can be managed by different people, and with full opml support, it is really easy for you to share the library or parts of the library with other people in your team or company.
The BlogBridge Library can be installed behind your firewall and while it will work with any RSS reader, there are additional features within BlogBridge (my favorite) that will enable you to manage your library straight from within the reader instead of having to go through the web UI.
One obvious application is for Marketing teams and their PR agencies to coordinate rapidly changing lists of social media movers and shakers in their space.
August 19, 2006
Prevent further "participation gap" between have's and have not's
DOPA, or the "Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006", would limit access from public places to all sorts of social networking and social media sites by minors, including libraries and schools. If you have not heard of DOPA - check out this excellent article about this horrible piece of legislation at the MIT Technology Review.
Once you've read it, you will probably want to sign this petition to stop those morons from continuing to screw with this new digital medium which many legislators do not understand and most likely fear.
August 16, 2006
Advertisers on social networking sites
I think brands will have to go beyond a conversation - though that's a good start - they have to be willing to develop and maintain a relationship/friendship with their customers over the long-term. And I think companies are looking at these sites all wrong. Advertisers, marketers, product-makers are trying to figure out how to exploit and use all the people on these sites - when they should be studying what these folks are doing and try to figure out how they can help these social sites be better for their users. Not more cluttered with their ads. If your product and brand don't really fit in - stay out. Know your customer and respect your customer - that's it.
At the risk of being repetitive - marketing is not about interrupting or intercepting people, it's about assisting them!
August 7, 2006
End-user vs. author tagging...
If those services use tags to add information related to the "aboutness" of the posts or blogs, then they should allow tagging by everyone - much as Flickr. And they should also allow users to suggest "related" tags.
When using a service like Technorati to alert people about stuff you wrote, the current setup works. Once you start using it to search for stuff, the limitations of having author-only tags and (I assume) system-only "related tags" become somewhat obvious.
August 1, 2006
Mastering the new marketing practices
One of the great sessions at last month's CMO summit, which was organized by Corante and the Center on Global Brand Leadership, was moderated by Johh Hagel. While the session has been summarized in a variety of places, John now summarized his points on his own blog. At the risk of being somewhat repetitive I will summarize/paraphrase the post here as it has a ton of great insight...
So where does John think marketing is going?
For starters, he thinks that the current shift in the economics of business will force major changes in marketing. With attention being the new scarcity and customer acquisition and retention costs being on the rise - business will have to start focusing on economies of scope instead of economies of scale. In customer relationships it will come down to getting the largest share of wallet of any single customer rather than a fix share of wallet across a large number of customers. This whole trend is reinforced by the fact that the cost of interaction and the ability for customers to find information about vendors and products is steadily declining as well.
According to John, this all leads to the need for fundamental changes in the areas of marketing strategy, branding and performance metrics.
In the area of marketing strategy, we need to move from the 3I's (intercept, Inhibit, isolate) to the 3A's (attract, assist, and affiliate). Another way of looking at it is that we have to move from a "one to one" marketing to a "many to one" marketing mindset.
From a brand promise point of view - we need to move from a "buy this product because I am great" mindset to one closer to "buy this product because I know you and you can trust that I will configure it properly for you."
As for the new metrics, try these on for a change: average life time value of the customer (customer service execs - are you listening!), 80/20 segmentation of customers based on profitability, ROA (return on attention), ROI (return on information).
And so what are vendors doing?
As John says, they are...well...acting like vendors!
In response to attention being the new scarcity - they are bombarding us with intrusive ads on animals, in urinals, in the sky, and with other desperate moves to "grab" our attention. John has it right when he says "Rather than just focusing on how to get attention, vendors might also want to consider how they can help their customers receive attention that is important to them and not just from the vendor, but from others that matter to the customers."
And as is typical with any new wave of tools, they are also jumping on the new social media technology bandwagon - deploying blogs, communities, wikis and other network-enabled marketing tools without really asking themselves how this will help the customer, or how "it will increase return of information for customers."
John finishes his article with some recommended actions for CMO's to take: affiliate with partners to create more useful solutions for your best customers, change organizational roles so execs are in charge of the total customer experience, and adopt performance metrics that measure and reward the increase of the lifetime value of the customer.
As usual - a post chock-full of great insights for marketers.
July 27, 2006
Whatever marketing becomes...
I do agree with many of the assertions in his reply regarding the poor state of marketing and especially product management in the Linux World and the Tech world in general. I would not, as he does, differentiate between marketing technology products versus marketing consumer electronics or consumer packaged goods. The role of marketing and the skill set requirement are very much the same across all industries. Having deep industry experience is an additional requirement layered on top of that.
Across all industries, marketers must play the role of "cultural anthropologist" to distinguish the real needs from the short term annoyances that people will find workarounds for by the time you can address them with either a new product or a new feature. They must also be able to interact, negotiate, and mediate with R&D, engineering, suppliers, competitors, partners, and other groups, to finalize "feasible" product plans that will meet the customer needs and include all the "relevant" innovations coming from those groups. And they need to be able to do that without being a gatekeeper or information traffic cop. In an age of rapid development and co-creation, they need to be comfortable in an environment where everyone can and should talk to everyone - regardless of organizational boundaries. Because, and within the constrains of not aggravating the customer, all of those groups need to have direct access to the customer to test and validate certain assumptions. Again, there is no difference in those fundamentals across industries.
Next they need to find ways to communicate with customers about the new products and services in the face of "attention" being the new scarcity. And while the solutions will differ from market to market, the range of options that need to be evaluated are the same across all industries. As part of that they also need to make sure that they set up the proper infrastructure to "listen" to market feedback on an ongoing basis instead of in episodic waves as they currently do.
Whatever marketing becomes will be enabled by technology. Wiki's, blogs, social bookmarking, technology enabled CGM, and many other new technologies are very powerful tools for companies to execute all the marketing functions - including all the customer touch-points - in different and better ways. Hopefully marketing will not become "defined" by technology, as that would make things much worse. Just take a look at what CRM did to sales and marketing...
Lastly, it is important to keep all things in perspective. What marketing becomes is not all that different from what it should have been all along...just take a look at what Peter Drucker said during the last three quarter century:
- "Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two--and only two--basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business."
- "The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself. "
- "The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said."
- "Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it."
And hopefully, what marketing becomes will also be heavily influenced by other disciplines besides technology - including sociology, anthropology, politics, economics, science, and others. Some of the best "field-specific" innovations have come from seemingly unrelated fields. Again, Drucker has a good example of that: "The new approaches to the study of history have, for instance, come out of economics, psychology and archeology all disciplines that historians never considered relevant to their field and to which they had rarely before been exposed....... By itself, specialized knowledge yields no performance."
July 26, 2006
Marine Corps attracts 12,000 friends on MySpace
12,000 people signed up as friends and 430 already requested to be contacted by a recruiter.
Although this particular example is a little unsettling, using MySpace as a recruiting tool sounds like a logical thing to do.
July 18, 2006
Successful formulas do not always work for others - especially when you miss the key ingredients
Whenever a company finds a new and successful way to reach a goal, or to reach a hard-to-get-to audience - many others follow quickly - copycatting the original company, often times with dismal results. In some cases, as is the case with word-of-mouth marketing, new entrants screw up the whole playing field for everyone.
There are three main reasons why copycatting does not always work. First off, many companies who copy others do so without really understanding what the real ingredients for success are. The second reason, which took down email marketing and potentially could take down word of mouth marketing for all of us is related to ethics and industry self-regulation in the absence of government guidelines. And the third one is that best practices are not always portable from one company to another.
The entry of Wal-Mart with a Myspace-like offering clearly falls into the first category (via adage - may require subscription). In an attempt to appeal to teens with something else than pencils and backpacks, Wal-Mart launched a social networking site called The Hub. The site is designed to allow teens (hubsters) to "express their individuality." They can create their own page to show it to the world, and they can post hot-lists of songs and movies. They can even shoot and submit Wal-Mart related video clips and have a chance that it will be picked up as part of their TV advertising.
So far so good.
Except that they screen all content, email all parents requiring their consent for teens to put up a page, and forbid users to email with one another. Oh, and they reserve the right to modify the commercial created with the winning video...
And they call that a "GENIUS WEB DESTINATION?"
It is web alright, but where are the genius and the destination parts? If all goes well, they may win the top price for the "most uncool" social networking site!
July 12, 2006
MySpace moves up to #1 US Internet property on the web
To put this in perspective, this means that 4.5% off all US Internet traffic visits MySpace! It also means that their traffic increased 4,300% in two years and 132% over the last year. The chart below shows the traffic growth of MySpace over that of Google.
Another interesting statistic is that besides being the top search term, myspace-related search terms like myspace.com, my space, etc., take up 5 of the top 10 search terms!
Fear of social networking sites like MySpace may be overblown...
[UPDATE] Later this afternoon I got an email from Yahoo!'s PR company - trying to clear up some confusion around the numbers. Their point is that the HitWise stats are really comparing apples and oranges - and to a
certain large extend I have to agree with that. Here is the statement from Yahoo!
The report that Hitwise released today with the headline “MySpace Moves Into #1 Position for all Internet Sites” is misleading. The Yahoo! network is made up of many domains and it is not accurate to compare MySpace.com to just Yahoo!’s mail.yahoo.com domain. When taking into account all of Yahoo!’s domains together as an entire network, Yahoo! clearly remains the number one property in terms of audience share, duration share, page view share and days visited per month.
In the U.S. alone, Yahoo! attracts 129 million unique visitors per month, which represents 74 percent of the online population; in comparison, MySpace reaches only 30 percent of the online population with an audience of 52 million unique visitors. In addition, Yahoo! has the largest share of online time spent than any other property: Yahoo! accounts for 13 percent of users’ online time, while MySpace has only 3.2 percent share in users’ online time.
Yahoo! maintains its leadership position as the world’s most trafficked Internet destination online, with a community of more than 500 million unique monthly visitors from around the globe.
(These statistics are according to comScore Media Metrix, June 2006)
Also check out Jeremy Zawodny's entry on the subject
July 11, 2006
Marketing software tools just don't cut it yet...
A new study released by the Business Performance Management Forum (via ClickZ Stats) found that despite continued investments in CRM and other market/company tracking data software solutions, most product marketing and product management executives use spreadsheets and gut instinct to make key business-changing decisions.
While the study implies that this is a refection of the current state of the marketing software solutions, one should not discount the possibility that it could also be an indication that marketing execs do not believe that you can extract business-changing decisions from existing company data.
There is no doubt that the current state of marketing software solutions are woefully inadequate (siloed, too hard to use, etc.). That being said, it could be that the solutions that will find the widest adoption are not those that increase complexity while enhancing usability, but rather simpler tools.
Look what wikis are doing to the collaboration space...
Fear of social networking sites like MySpace may be overblown...
According to a new study conducted by California University Psychology Professor Dr. Larry Rosen (download press release here), the MySpace sexual predator reports in the media are widely overblown/unfounded (via apophenia)
Rosen's study included interviews with 1,500 MySpacers and 250 parents and found that (partial list of findings - for full findings download pdf here):
- Only 7% of those teens interviewed were ever approached by anyone with a sexual intent and nearly all of them simply ignored the person and blocked him from their page.
- Two-thirds of the parents were sure that there were many sexual predators on MySpace, while only one-third of the teenagers shared this concern.
- Teenagers spend an average of 15 hours per week on MySpace.
- One in three admits their MySpace activity has negatively affected their schoolwork, family life, or both.
- Only one-third of the parents have seen their child’s MySpace page and only 16% check it on a regular basis.
- However, 70% of the adolescents said they would feel comfortable with their parents looking at their MySpace page.
Rosen makes an interesting point when he says "MySpace is the 13th largest country in the world. Teens live in this virtual world and parents need to pay attention. It is not a fad. It is not going away. And it is not a scary place. Teenagers can live and grow there with help from their parents.”
Meanwhile, the social networking space continues to heat up, with Bebo (a MySpace competitor especially popular in the UK) rejecting a $550M acquisition offer from British Telecom (apparently they are looking for offers north of $1b).
While there is no doubt that sites with that many users should be able to monetize their traffic, it is will be interesting to follow the emerging new marketing models that will make these sites truly scalable and predictable from a revenue point of view.
June 26, 2006
Lessons learned from the gaming industry
Neuroscience tells us that games shape behavior by leveraging our "primal response patterns," which are deeply embedded in our psyche, and by engaging us in "flow" - that spot where skills and challenges are somewhat in balance.
Based on that, there are 5 game dynamics that can make an interactive game more fun, compelling and addictive. They are:
- Collecting - the ability for people to collect all kinds of stuff and brag about it - be they weapons or other artifacts in worlds like WoW or Runescape, or friends in MySpace
- Points - both social points given by other players as well as ratings given by the system
- Feedback - whether visual or auditory, a way to tell a person how well they are doing
- Exchanges - especially social interactions, whether explicit or implicit
- Customization - whether customization of your persona or your environment. After you invested time personalizing your world, you are less likely to leave
If you can embed some of those game mechanics into your traditional software service or software application, then those too will become more fun, compelling and even addictive. Some of the software applications that have successfully embedded those features include Flickr, MySpace and even eBay..
Other write-ups about the points made during the session include:
[Tags: gaming industry neuroscience software+development ]
June 2, 2006
Pew: 35% of all internet users have posted content online
Pew Internet & American Life Project Report found that "35% of all Internet users have posted one or more of four types of content to the internet: having one's own blog; having one's own webpage; working on a blog or webpage for work or a group; or sharing self-created content such as a story, artwork, or video." If you only look at broadband internet users, that number becomes 42% (via ClickZNews - click here for PDF download of the report).
"Sharing a variety of creations online is among the most popular kinds of user generated content," says the report, in fact, 26% of internet users "have shared their own artwork, photos, stories, or videos on the internet." Younger people are more likely to do so, with 51% of the "under 30" home broadband users posting content online vs. 36% of older high-speed users.
Combine this with some other research - like the one that says that adults spend as much time online as watching TV - and you can start seeing, in quantifiable ways, the potential creative effects of the Internet as well as the already obvious enhanced social networking effects.
But considering that the study found a statistical correlation between broadband use and many of its other findings, it also goes to show that governments have a duty to ensure that a high-quality, high-speed Internet infrastructure is accessible to all its citizenry - not exactly a feat that many large western democracies can point to.
May 5, 2006
Social networking sites draw tremendous traffic
According to Comscore, and as of March 2006, 23% of US Internet traffic visit Myspace...(see earlier post for some more stats on MySpace)
(via software only)
May 2, 2006
Hypergrowth at MySpace - but with some trouble monetizing traffic through advertising
Shawn Gold, the VP of Content and Marketing at MySpace, gave an update on the MySpace business at Ad:Tech in San Francisco last week .
The numbers which he used to describe his business were absolutely staggering. Get this - every day they add 250K new users to the system, get between 15-20M logins, download 30M songs, and add 11M people to other peoples' friends lists! Oh, and they serve up 1B page-views every single day...
All that being said, and according to a recent New York Times article (requires subscription - via Don Dodge), MySpace, like many other social networking sites, is having trouble monetizing those 1B daily page-views. The culprits for this situation are manifold - it is hard to "target" ads on consumer-generated pages like the ones found on MySpace, advertisers are sometimes reluctant to have their brands associated with content which may sometimes be of questionable taste, and according to Google, when you add the inventory of consumer-generated sites like MySpace and YouTube to the overall online advertising inventory, you get a situation where supply outstrips demand.
One of the creative ways in which MySpace is trying to attract advertisers is by letting advertisers like Wendy or Best Buy create profiles on MySpace - much like users would - and then have MySpace members sign up as friends of the vendors. Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers was able to sign up 100,000 "friends" that way - that's right 100K members!!!!
[shameless plug] If you are interested in this topic we will be having a session on the threats and opportunities of online marketing on brands at our upcoming Marketing Innovation Conference.
February 21, 2006
Most RSS users don't even know they use it
According to MarketingSherpa (open access through March 2nd) there are about 75M RSS users in the US and the UK. Of those, nearly 50M have no idea that they are actually subscribing to RSS feeds - and most would never click on the little orange RSS button.
So who are those people - they are the users of MyYahoo! and MyMSN. And according to Nielsen, even though they may be unaware of use - they are influencers nonetheless.
The article also mentions a best practice related to this. When Travelocity announced the availability of an RSS feed to their users that have Yahoo! or MSN accounts, 2/3 signed up for the feed.
February 13, 2006
Do we really have any privacy left?
While this will likely raise serious civil liberty issues - you have to ask yourself how much privacy is still left in this day and age.
Google, Yahoo and a bunch of other companies have records of every web page you ever visited, every email you sent and received through their email services, and who knows, maybe even every chat you've had using their instant messenger app. Pretty soon, and if their newest service takes off, Google will have copies of every file on your desktop. Using embedded GPS technology, telephone companies and car manufacturers can track all your whereabouts. And when satellite image services become real time, anyone will be able to watch who comes and goes at your house.
January 26, 2006
Email and internet strengthen social bonds
According to new research released by the Pew Internet and American Life Project "The internet and email aid users in maintaining their social networks and provide pathways to help when people face big decisions:" (pdf here - via Online Media Daily).
The report concludes that:
"Our evidence calls into question fears that social relationships — and community — are fading away in America. Instead of disappearing, people’s communities are transforming: The traditional human orientation to neighborhood- and village-based groups is moving towards communities that are oriented around geographically dispersed social networks. People communicate and maneuver in these networks rather than being bound up in one solidary community. Yet people’s networks continue to have substantial numbers of relatives and neighbors — the traditional bases of community — as well as friends and workmates."
And in another interesting conclusion they find that:
"Because individuals — rather than households — are separately connected, the internet and the cell phone have transformed communication from house-to-house to person-to-person. This creates a new basis for community that author Barry Wellman has called “networked individualism”: Rather than relying on a single community for social capital, individuals often must actively seek out a variety of appropriate people and resources for different situations."
It's also interesting to note "that people not only socialize online, but they also incorporate the internet into seeking information, exchanging advice, and making decisions."
People who use email to connect with they network on a weekly bases are also calling their contacts more often - so in effect the study found that email strengthens relationships, and is not just a "medium" shift for communication.
With 2,200 people interviewed and little bias towards different demographic profiles, this should settle the debate on what the Internet does to our relationships and social capital.
January 24, 2006
Knowledge management - still an illusion
The Wall Street Journal had an article yesterday on the continued struggle that companies face with trying to pass knowledge from one worker to another (requires subscription).
The conundrum is that while people learn best from other people - a system that relies on employee word of mouth for knowledge transfer does not scale. In such a system, people only learn from those people they know, and in many cases there is just not enough opportunity for this type of knowledge transfer to occur (i.e., field repair workers, work at home folks, etc.).
Technology to help with knowledge management has had spotty track record so far - with the Wall Street journal citing an Bain study which ranked knowledge management tools near the bottom in effectiveness amongst 25 management tools.
Apparently some companies have had success with a brute force approach - by forcing people to document what they know in a central database. They claim a virtuous cycle with people contributing voluntarily once there is a critical mass of content in those knowledge repositories.
Perhaps the quote from Hadley Reynolds with the Delphi Group captures the real issue - "We don't necessarily understand enough yet about optimizing the conditions for knowledge work, even though we've been doing it for 25 years. Most organizations are still managing as if we were in the industrial era."
January 19, 2006
Ten Trends to watch in 2006 according to McKinsey
McKinsey Quarterly's Ian Davis and Elizabeth Stephenson just released a web exclusive trend article with macroeconomic factors, environmental and social issues, and business and industry developments that will shape the corporate landscape in the coming years (may require subscription).
Apparently success is not always about execution - but more about being in the right markets and geographies with the right technology. So it's more about being in the flow rather of going upstream. The key of course is to find the right currents. And, according to the authors, to predict the right currents you need to look far out into the future instead of focusing on short term changes.
The three macroeconomic trends are:
- Centers of economic activity will shift profoundly, not just globally, but also regionally.
- With a rapidly aging population in the West, public-sector activities will balloon, making productivity gains essential.
- The consumer landscape will change and expand significantly - with 1B new consumers entering the marketplace
They also list 4 Social and environmental trends:
- Technological connectivity will transform the way people live and interact - some of that is already visible
- The battlefield for talent will shift - with a big shift towards knowledge-intensive industries
- The role and behavior of big business will come under increasingly sharp scrutiny - about time
- Demand for natural resources will grow, as will the strain on the environment - think about this (heard on NPR this weekend) 1/3 of the world copper inventory is in the ground, 1/3 in use and 1/3 in landfills
And then they list 3 business and industry trends:
- New global industry structures are emerging
- Management will go from art to science
- Ubiquitous access to information is changing the economics of knowledge
Perhaps the most significant trend is the one related to shortages in natural resources and the increasing strain on the environment. Sure people will behave differently because of technology and come up with new management structures, and the worker profile will change. And while it will be fun to be an active participant in these changes, in the grand scheme of things, those changes will be incremental.
When it comes down to the environment, however, incremental changes will not be enough to result in a sustainable world for the future. What we need is the end of a "human-centric-we-are-the-end-of-evolution-and-everything-in-this-world-is-ours" attitude in exchange for a more symbiotic "world-nature-human-technology" balanced worldview. And that will not happen incrementally - it will require radical new ways of world governance and fundamental changes in people's beliefs about their place and role in nature's evolution.
January 18, 2006
Teen's bold blogs alarm area schools
Haven't posted for a while, but this story in Tuesday's Washington Post lead to some serious Googling which uncovered a fascinating study by a grad student at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that blew my mind. First the gist of the Post article. Schools in the D.C. area are waking up to the fact that lots of high schoolers are sharing incredibly intimate details about themselves in blogs, and on sites like MySpace and Facebook. For instance, " Sidwell Friends School in the District recently prohibited students from using their school e-mail addresses to register for access to Facebook, a widely used networking site for college and high school students. Before the holidays, Sidwell, Georgetown Day School in the District and the Madeira School in McLean wrote to parents to warn them about use of the site, and the Barrie School, in Silver Spring, recently asked a student to leave over the misuse of a blog."
So I decided to take a closer look at Facebook and see if it really is as sinister as this article made it out to be. As I have mentioned in previous posts, my approach to search is, well, "free-form" would be a polite way to describe it. Somehow I came across a paper by PhD candidate Fred Stutzman, with the intriguing title, "Student Life on the Facebook." You can read it on his blog. or bear with me for the abridged "executive summary."
Over the course of a semester, Stutzman analyzed the behavior of UNC students in social network communities. He was particularly interested in Facebook because in a previous study he found that 88% of freshman had active Facebook accounts. His current study was based on a sample of all undergrads in the class of 2009.
First mind blowing factoid from his study: On the first day of school, 3,193 freshman had a Facebook account. That was over 85% of the entire class, and many had already been using Facebook for many months. As it turns out, the months of June and July represent the greatest months of account creation. He found that in the two days following freshman orientation, there was a 200-500% increase in daily account creation.
Second factoid (not so mind blowing): Over the course of the semester Facebook accounts grew to encompass 94% of the freshman class.
Third factoid (this is truly amazing): While the number of freshman did not grow substantially over the course of the semester, the number of friendship connections expanded at a remarkable rate. As freshman made friends over the course of the semester, their social network size grew from 144,319 to 373,651!!!
The average number of Facebook friends a freshman had on day one was 46 and at the end of the semester it was 111.
Stutzman has lots of other insights into the behavior and interests of these students, including their political orientation and their favorite books, movies and music, ranked according to their political orientation. If you want to learn more, he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tag advertising - a new and viable tagging application?
Tagging is a very interesting emerging phenomenon, one that engenders many different applications. Some people people use tags to alert others that they have written something (Technorati tags are often being used that way), others use them like a folder organizing system to organize their saved bookmarks (i.e., Yahoo/del.icio.us), many use it to share and find web pages (i.e, del.icio.us, furl), photos (i.e., flickr), music (lastfm), videos (i.e., YouTube), or even dates (i.e., consumating), and some bloggers use it to annotate web pages for blog republishing purposes (i.e., del.icio.us). As a publisher, we are also trying to use it to help readers navigate through vast amounts of posts (i.e., Corante Marketing Hub).
Surely there are a ton of potentially useful and lucrative new usages of tagging which I am missing or which have not yet been tried. But then I came across 1000tags.com - which tries to use tagging for people to advertise their site. In their own words they are "a project that aims to put to the test in its simplest form the viability of tagging as a way to advertise, by presenting a tag cloud formed by tags added by people who try to promote a particular site or page." The way they do it is by " offering a web page where anyone can book a particular tag that will later be displayed in the main tag cloud at the 1000tags.com page, as well as allowing web site owners to add their tag - for free of course - by syndicating a small tag cloud at their pages."
Maybe I am slow - and that surely has happened before - but somehow I do not get this one. Why would I list a tag cloud on my site that has nothing to do with my site? It does not help readers, and I am not sure how it would help me as a blogger (other than perhaps increased "google juice" "if" the tag I choose becomes really popular and "if" many other bloggers list the 1000tags.com tag cloud on their site). Plus there is only one tag cloud - which right now includes poker, sex, dating, ???, BBW - not exactly things that are related to this blog - but which might arguably be of interest to some readers :)
At any rate - just for posting your opinion about them you get a free tag. So I will submit a request for my free tag, and see what happens.
January 11, 2006
The end of Cyberspace?
Cyberspace and virtual worlds used to be very distinct from the physical world. You had to make an effort to access cyberspace, the rules were different, and the the economies were different.
Now however, you can access cyberspace from public parks, in airports, in your car while driving, or in the air while flying to your destination. And you don't need a dedicated computer to access cyberspace anymore, your DVR is connected, your cell phone, your watch, soon your fridge, your camera, even your clothes if you want to. The economies are getting pretty intertwined as well - with millions of dollars worth of virtual world artifacts being sold on eBay and other real world markets. Real world politics has spilled over to virtual worlds. Heck - you now even have real IPO's in virtual worlds, and it looks like the legal system is starting to cross virtual boundaries as well.
To the extend that computers have a "role" in virtual words - which they do - that seems like a pretty strong symbiotic relation between humans and machines - perhaps a stronger one than the one that exists between humans and nature.
According to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang from the Institute for the Future, it also means the end of cyberspace. As a matter of fact he thinks that the idea has gained enough popularity to support a standalone blog - called the end of cyberspace - which sounds like an interesting new voice to watch in the future.
December 1, 2005
Are we moving towards an era of IT artisanry?
Steve Duncan over at "A Visit To Lornitropia" talks about the ease of use of setting up your own IT infrastructure and ponders whether renegade IT is the wave of the future...
I do happen to agree that there is somewhat of a trend here. Increasingly, and especially in smaller startups, but also in bigger companies, I have noticed employees using their own laptops, their own PDA's/cell and other tools. From there to have individuals buy or rent their own applications is not too far off. In fact, we already saw some of that happen when I was with eRoom (a collaboration applications vendor). While our solution was not quite bought by individuals, but by teams of people, by the time the CIO's office of one of the major 5 consulting/accounting firms (that's how many there were then, ok!) decided to standardize on eRoom, they already had 8,000 users that had bypassed IT.
Maybe it is a trend back towards artisanry - knowledge workers (or tacit workers as McKinsey calls them) coming to work with their own tools!
The shifting workforce and its new opportunities
The latest issue of McKinsey Quarterly has an article on the "The next revolution in interactions" (here - requires subscription). In it they describe the changing nature of the worker and explore what it will take to improve productivity in the future - both from an organizational point of view as well as from a technology deployment standpoint.
They separate the workforce into three categories:
- transformational workers (miners, farmers, manufacturing workers) - who either extract raw materials or transform them. They made up a majority of the workers at the turn of the last century. By the turn of the 21st century they only made up 15% of the workforce in the US
- transactional workers - those are the people whose jobs involve routine transactional interactions. They include not just clerical and accounting jobs, but also IT specialists, auditors, biochemists, etc. Their jobs are very much rules-based and in many cases have been automated or outsourced. At the turn of century they still made up about 44% of the workforce.
- tacit workers - those are workers whose jobs involve complex interactions - those involving ambiguity and requiring high levels of judgment. They are not rules-based and cannot easily be automated or outsourced. At the turn of the century they made up 41% of the jobs, but had been growing 2.5 times faster than the transactional jobs and 3 times faster than employment in in the entire national economy.
So put another way, 70% of all the jobs created between 1998 and 2004 were tacit jobs that require judgment and experience! And their pay is 55-75% higher than that of transactional and transformational workers. And as mentioned before, the main reason the balance has been tipping is that all other jobs can easily be automated or outsourced.
Of course, those companies that can make this tacit workforce more productive will gain a key competitive advantage - one, which according to the article, will potentially be long term one, as the solutions to make this happen will be difficult to duplicate and best practices will be hard to transfer from one company to the next.
The article continues by saying that the first change that companies need to do to increase tacit worker productivity is to rethink their organizational structures:>
"There is no road map to show them how to do so. Over time, innovations and experiments to raise the productivity of tacit employees (for instance, by helping them collaborate more effectively inside and outside their companies) and innovations involving loosely coupled teams will suggest new organizational structures."
Does that finally mean the end of hierarchical pyramids and the emergence of new models of governance and management? I sure hope so...
Technology is the other place where companies will have to look to improve productivity of the tacit worker. Here again, the authors of the article rightfully warn that:
"First, the way companies deploy technology to improve the performance of the tacit workforce is very different from the way they have used it to streamline transactions or improve manufacturing. Machines can't recognize uncodified patterns, solve novel problems, or sense emotional responses and react appropriately; that is, they can't substitute for tacit labor as they did for transactional labor. Instead machines will have to make tacit employees better at their jobs by complementing and extending their tacit capabilities and activities."
They identify three areas where technology can be deployed - those technologies that eliminate or reduce the low value transactional interactions which the tacit workers perform, those technologies that help them make better decisions, and those technologies that will extend the reach of their tacit interactions, both inside and outside the company (loosely coupled collaborative tools).
Very interesting times we live in... And to me, it's fascinating to see how all this loss of jobs to automation and outsourcing is actually resulting in new jobs that pay 55-75% more and in new long term corporate competitive advantages that have not been seen in decades!
If only the government could realize the importance of schooling and education in this country, I would feel good about the future.
November 28, 2005
The fanaticism around web 2.0 tools sometimes confuses me...
Don't take me wrong - I am totally excited about this current wave of web innovation and a big believer in where it might lead us (as I wrote about it a few times - including here). What confuses me is the fanaticism with which the current tools are being promoted - and the associated "death of the old tools" predictions that go with it.
I already wrote what I felt about Business Week's prediction that "email is so five minutes ago". But the blogosphere is littered with other such examples. Take Basecamp - which is hailed as a "must use" web 2.0 collaboration tool for anyone that wants to be perceived as an insider of this current wave of innovation. More than once have I been dinged for using a Yahoo group for simple collaboration instead of Basecamp. But what's so 2.0 about it?
If I have a Yahoo Group - I can email to the group - I do not have to ever log in to the Yahoo Group itself to participate. While Basecamp will also give me email notifications - I have to log in if I want to comment or post something. If I have multiple Yahoo groups that I want to send the same message to - I email it once to three email addresses and everybody gets it in their email inbox. In Basecamp I have to log in to each project and cut and paste my message. If I want a to put something in italic or bold in my Yahoo Group message - I click on the B or the I icon. In Basecamp I have to remember to put a * before and after the stuff I want to appear in Bold and an _ before and after the stuff I want in italic - not to mention that I have to add h1. or h2. before stuff that I want to appear bigger as a header (I guarantee you that very few people are using bold, italic, or headers in the projects that I run in Basecamp). In Yahoo groups I can organize my files in folders, in Basecamp I cannot. So what's so 2.0 about this? Oh yeah - Basecamp has RSS feeds which you cannot have with private Yahoo Groups. But to me, project related work and alerts should come in my email inbox, and subscriptions should stay out of it and go into my RSS aggregator - a personal preference - I agree.
I am sure that Basecamp will improve over time - and although I am a firm believer that the wiki metaphor is a better collaboration metaphor than blogging - I am convinced that they will develop a loyal "mainstream" following over time. There are however collaboration lessons that were learned during the web 1.0 wave and the pre-web wave that will always stand in the way of group adoption. And the are remaining web 1.0 tools that are still working fine for certain applications - let's not become too snobbish about this whole thing - because that will impede innovation.
In general, and for the web 2.0 tools to find broader acceptance, they will have to have much better UI's, more depth, and be much more robust...
We knew how to do that before - why are we giving it up in this wave of product innovation?
November 21, 2005
E-Mail so five minutes ago? I don't think so...
Business week this week has an article titled E-Mail Is So Five Minutes Ago (may require subscription) - in which they say that many people are tuning out email because of spam, and that consequently many companies are ditching email in favor of of other software tools that can function as real-time virtual workspaces - including wikis, blogs, IM, RSS and more elaborate systems like MS Sharepoint.
Maybe I am missing something, but this is not only mixing up apples and oranges its also confusing cause and effect. First off, spam is a problem that needs to be addressed and fixed, and I wish that the government would spend more time on that instead of chasing porn consumers - not the kid type, but the consenting adult type. But to mix spam and people's resulting email blow-off factor with a move to group collaboration tools is just not a logical conclusion. Email is typically a person's "personal workspace", while some of the tools suggested in the article - like wikis - are clearly "group workspaces". One will not replace the other. It's like saying that conference rooms will replace personal office space in the physical world. - not so...
While I agree that email does not work for most group collaboration scenarios - some of the tools mentioned in the article don't work any better. You cannot really collaborate through IM, nor can you truly collaborate through blogs. You can communicate through IM and have conversations through blogs - both of which may be components of collaboration, but clearly not the total solution. You could argue that you can collaborate through wikis, but then you're missing some important other collaborative components. And knowing that if people have to open up multiple apps (more than two or three) to get a job done, they will revert back to the "old hacks" - telephone, email, and increasingly IM - companies need to realize that unless they have a seamlessly integrated set of tools to enable group collaboration, frustration will continue to persist around the shortcomings of any so-called collaboration tool.
I buy the article's conclusion that "In the global race for innovation, it's not as much about leveraging what's inside your factories' machines as what's in your employees' heads", but not the sentence that comes right before that: "That's why fans say the beyond-e-mail workplace will become a key competitive advantage." Let's not forget that successful collaboration is maybe 50% technology and 50% people (individual behavior, company culture, etc.) Even with the best of tools, many companies will never be able to achieve great collaboration, just because of their anti-collaboration policies and cultures.
November 7, 2005
Half the teens are content creators
- 87% of those teens use the internet
- 57% of online teens create content for the internet
- 33% share their own creations online, such as artwork, photos, stories or videos
- 19% blog or maintain some personal online journal, 38% read them - 22% have personal web pages
- 19% remix content
Remixing is a fascinating phenomenon - but every time I think about commercial applications for remixing, I bump into the IP limitations of what's possible. (or perhaps I just run into my personal limitations in terms of subject-matter knowledge).
October 11, 2005
Boston Globe on Web 2.0
Following the Web 2.0 conference last week, Scott Kirsner wrote a good review article in the Boston Globe yesterday on web 2.0.
He thinks that the term web 2.0 is in danger of being overused, and talking about the current hype cycle he says:
" When Silicon Valley gets excited about a meme -- a Web 1.0 term for a new concept or idea -- like Web 2.0, everyone gloms on and dozens of copycat companies sprout up like Tribbles. There's also lots of wreckage, as we learned during the aftermath of Web 1.0."
October 5, 2005
Great post on how to use tagging in marketing communications
Recommendations go from the basic use of tags to pretty interesting ones involving remixing feeds, tagging your employee profiles and more.
October 4, 2005
The possibilities are limitless...innovation at work
While I do not want to join the fray in trying to refine a definition for what web 2.0 is - I wanted to point to an obvious difference between this wave and the web 1.0 wave. Forgive me for stating the obvious, and for repeating what others have said before me (like Jeff Clavier or Joe Krauss), but to me it is absolutely fascinating to see how little resources go into building new products and companies compared to 10 years ago.
Take a look at the richness of iVocalize, Zimbra, Netvibes, thinkfree office, just to name a few. How much money and people do you think went into building those apps? Tens of millions of dollars? I doubt it - and as a matter of fact I know for sure about a few of them.
Many of the new web 2.0 companies are built by a few passionate individuals - and with budgets that fit on credit cards. And forget about traditional marketing expenses - it's all word-of-mouth, sometimes enhanced with a few dollars worth of search engine marketing - but gone are the days of expensive direct marketing campaigns and traditional promotions. It's all about influencing the influencers - but more on that later...
The fun part is that this trend will only accelerate. Think about when the re-mixing/mashup age goes mainstream - then everybody will be able to become an app publisher - just like everybody already can be a content publisher.
I'd love to see an update on the total amount of outside investment that has gone into building the web 2.0 innovation wave vs. the web 1.0 wave. I remember Business Week quoting a number in the double digit millions vs. double digit billions earlier this spring.
September 30, 2005
Is it time to revive Knowledge Management?
David Pollard over at How to Save the World has a good post on the old KM vs. the new KM. He summarizes the differences between the first wave and the second as:
"First-generation KM has vainly sought one-size fits-all integrated enterprise solutions, which are complicated to use and expensive to change, and which focus on content + collection; Second-generation KM must look instead to simple, lightweight, cheap, intuitive, stand-alone apps, which are easy to use, add or change, and which focus on context + connection. In the shift from first to second generation KM, the holy grail changes from cost savings to improvements in knowledge worker effectiveness."The article also contains a list of 23 human behaviors that impede the sharing of knowledge and collaboration, and how some recent organizational and technological changes do alleviate some of those impediments. The main message he conveys is:
"The challenges we face today in getting people to share what they know and to collaborate effectively are not caused or cured by technologies, they are cultural impediments. It's extremely difficult to change people's behaviours (they usually exist for a reason), so the solutions we find have to accommodate these behaviours, and these cultures, rather than trying to 'fix' them."While I buy most of what he's saying, I think that he is missing a few key points. There are two main reasons why KM has not worked in the past. The first one that in most organizations it was a top-down exercise with a disproportionate amount of "perceived" benefits for the organization vs. the individual (we will build a system to make sure that we capture all "your" knowledge if you walk out the door - or if we push you out the door). The second reason is that previous KM tools and processes (i.e., best practice teams, etc.) were never integrated with people's real work. That meant that KM became a "voluntary" extra-curricular activity - and guess what - most people don't do that.
For KM initiatives to work, they will have to be grassroots in nature (i.e., no taxonomy but folksonomy), and will indeed have to be based on lightweight tools (including Wiki's) that integrate with people's daily work. And most of the "perceived" benefits of the initiative have to be for the individual.
September 26, 2005
Web 2.0 - moving towards a good definition
You've probably heard about the web 2.0 terminology - referring to the fundamental changes that are going on with the Internet/web right now. While we all agree that what is happening now is fundamentally different (and more powerful) from what happened with the web 1.0 wave of innovations, the problem with the term is that it was never properly defined.
John Hagel - author, visionary and consultant on everything related to the web 1.0 & 2.0 waves of innovations takes a stab at defining the web 2.0 on his blog, stating that web 2.0 refers to: “an emerging network-centric platform to support distributed, collaborative and cumulative creation by its users.”
Don HinchCliffe over at WebServices Journal also talks about the web 2.0 - marveling at the ways that "people are remixing, aggregating and syndicating stuff."
It is indeed fascinating to try to envision the future web, where virtually everyone can be an application developer and where we'll potentially end up with more content producers than consumers.
September 8, 2005
Facebook - an amazing story
Only four months ago, Jeff Clavier wrote a post on the meteoric rise of FaceBook.
Now TechCrunch reports that 85% of College Students use FaceBook.
Check out those numbers:
- In May they had 640 universities - in September 882
- In May they had 2.6M users, now 3.85M
- In May they had about 65% that visited the site every day, now that seems to hold at 60%
August 22, 2005
Interesting new info on Technorati (at least for me)
It's a very good post - talking about recent system problems, but most importantly about the effectiveness in search of using technorati tags.
August 19, 2005
More on acceptable online social conduct
Following up on a comment that Jeff Clavier posted on Yann's explanatory comment (see previous post to get the context), he actually developed his ideas further in a great new post on how to balance confidentiality with disclosure.
On a funny note - I now get my wife and friends asking me not to posts stuff...pretty soon we'll need NDA's for friends and family.
Changing social behaviors and the enabling tools
There is an interesting tempest in a teapot brewing that apparently started with a comment posted by Yann from OpenBC on my post about some LinkedIn upgrades which I thought were great.
I had interpreted the comment as spam and could not really understand how a GM for a competing service could imagine that he would enhance traffic to his social networking service with such “anonymous” practices.
Knowing that some of the marketing practices in this field are…let’s say “interesting” (see what Spoke did on Ross Mayfield’s blog a long time ago) I found it noteworthy enough to create a new post about it – which Jeff Clavier picked up in one of his LinkedIn reviews. At that point I thought that was the end of that.
Then came a post from Loic yesterday – a LinkedIn angel – in which he described how he had asked LinkedIn to remove all linkages and endorsements between him and Yann – all of which seemed to have been created based on very “weak links.”
Yann kicked into gear and posted some explanatory comments on my site, offered to do a Skype call with me (which I hope will happen sometimes soon – I am always up for a good discussion), and apparently reached Loic in person, who subsequently deleted his post (he explains the reasons why on Neville’s post on the subject).
What is fascinating in this whole exchange is that we are in the midst of an emerging new social code of conduct. While much of the online social etiquette is similar to that of the face-to-face world (i.e., criticize the ideas, not the people presenting the ideas), we are in need of many new acceptable social codes of conduct. Think of “de-friending” in the Livejournal community, the ability to reject someone’s request to network without making it personal, or de-endorsing as Loic did, just to mention a few.
As part of enabling this new emerging social code of conduct, the underlying social architecture will also have to adapt (disclosure – we are running a social architecture symposium in November – more on that later) - how people manage their identity, attention schemas, rating and ranking schemas, etc.
It will be fascinating to watch how all this plays out…
August 15, 2005
Tagging goes mainstream
It is a hoot to look at popular and unpopular tags...
Using virtual networking tools -
Renee Blodgett has a great post on how she uses LinkedIn. She also talks about the awkwardness of turning down people who ask for introductions and suggests that people should not take 'rejections' personally.
It is interesting to see how virtual worlds sometimes call for new behaviors. There are indeed a variety of reasons why you might reject someones request - bad timing, not knowing the person well enough, feeling like you are abusing the social capital you have with the person that someone wants to get introduced to, etc. And turning down someone for many of those reasons is not a personal reflection of what you think about that person - although sometimes that may happen also.
I would also join her in asking people not to abuse the system - it is indeed a valuable tool!
August 13, 2005
When you are too far out there...
I have many friends that have no clue what I am doing nor what I am talking about. In many ways, I kind of enjoy it, as it forces me to talk about (and keep up with) other more mundane topics than tagging, social networking, blogging, wikis and marketing.
This morning was just one of those moments when I was reminded what it means to be too much out there...(and I realize that I am probably dating myself by exposing this).
Last night I finally found some time to play around with last-fm - a social networking based music site. I instantly fell in love with it, downloaded the plug-ins and started playing with it. Being impatient as I am I let my iTunes play all night - trying to reach that magic 300 tunes when they will start recommending songs to me and start streaming my personal radio station.
So late this morning, I checked the site, and it showed that I had played 270 tunes. I said to my wife, who was nearby, and with whom I had shared my excitement about this site last night (even though she did not get as excited as me about my ability to "tag" my songs and things like that) - 270 songs, 30 more to go!
She: you're not too concerned about privacy, are you?
Me: it's not like I have to be embarrassed about the songs I listen to, plus if people want to find me, I am all over the web...
She: yeah, but this is something real "personal" about you...
Me: look, this is about "social" - how can you leverage the "social" aspects of things and be invisible?
She: WHO are you trying to get "social" with?
Me: NOBODY - you don't get it - it's the aggregation of profiles that will cause "the computer" to make music recommendations to me...
She (mumbling): my husband is trying to be social with a computer...
Me: [blank]...then bursting out in laughs...
What is currently happening out there is truly fascinating, but sometimes we have to pause and remember that the market adoption curve for new inventions can take much longer than expected...
July 30, 2005
We are the web
Kevin Kelly has a great article over at Wired Magazine (here - thanks Julie for the pointer).
In the article, he analyzes the history of the web and extrapolates where this might lead us. Talking about the web as a giant machine that has been on continuously for the last 30 years, he says:
"In 10 years, the system will contain hundreds of millions of miles of fiber-optic neurons linking the billions of ant-smart chips embedded into manufactured products, buried in environmental sensors, staring out from satellite cameras, guiding cars, and saturating our world with enough complexity to begin to learn. We will live inside this thing.
Today the nascent Machine routes packets around disturbances in its lines; by 2015 it will anticipate disturbances and avoid them. It will have a robust immune system, weeding spam from its trunk lines, eliminating viruses and denial-of-service attacks the moment they are launched..."
He continues, predicting that we live in a time as momentous as when religion or science were born:
"There is only one time in the history of each planet when its inhabitants first wire up its innumerable parts to make one large Machine. Later that Machine may run faster, but there is only one time when it is born.
...Three thousand years from now, when keen minds review the past, I believe that our ancient time, here at the cusp of the third millennium, will be seen as another such era. In the years roughly coincidental with the Netscape IPO, humans began animating inert objects with tiny slivers of intelligence, connecting them into a global field, and linking their own minds into a single thing. This will be recognized as the largest, most complex, and most surprising event on the planet."
This reminds me of a great book I read many years ago - The Symbiotic Man - a must read if you are interested in this stuff.
July 28, 2005
Teens and technology
Some of the findings include:
- almost 9 out of 10 teens use the Internet
- 51% go online every day
- half of the internet users have broadband connection (which btw is low when compared with countries like Korea)
- 76% get news online (and I guess the rest of their news from comedy shows)
- 13% do not use the Internet (yikes - that is 3M people!) - mostly because of lack of access to technology (again, we should take a lesson from Korea on this one)
- they prefer IM to email (through which they share photos, videos, music...not just text)
July 21, 2005
Interesting discussion on tagging over at many-to-many
David Weinberger picks up on an older post from Tom Coates at Plasticbag on tagging - which leads to an interesting conversation over at many-to-many (disclosure - I accepted to join Corante as a partner - more on that later).
As a reminder - the original post posits that tags for blogs change over time for three reasons:
- the content changes
- people start using new terms (i.e., Ajax) to describe things
- it is a reflection of the fact that people tag differently - and that their tagging habits change over time (which I guess could also mean that your readership is shifting)
David thinks that most people do both. They file (or folder) when they do it for themselves and they tag when they want to contribute to a social tagstream.
I agree with the fact that most people have multiple tagging behaviors depending on what they're doing. But I also think that there are more than two tagging behaviors. Some do tag as an act of filing - that is very much how you use your categories on your blog or how some people use delicious or furl. Some do tag to let others know that they found something which might be of interest to them (as some do through delicious - knowing that others subscribe to a particular tag). Others use it to alert others that they wrote something that might interest others (much the way people use Technorati tags). And lastly you have those that use it to annotate something for re-publishing (much like people are using delicious tags to comment on something they see on the web - only to have it being re-published on their blog).
I guess you could lump the latter three together into one category - but for me they are different enough to threat as three distinct cases of tagging. The difference between the first and third behavior is also why I think it makes no sense for Technorati to pick up categories as tags.
July 20, 2005
LinkedIn to make some big changes
This is great - LinkedIn will limit your personal network to three degrees (see here - thanks Konstantin)! So no more introductions between people that are trying to network 4 degrees, where you do not know the person requesting contact nor the recipient. This is a major improvement.
I also liked the InMail option - whereby you will be able to reach people who are more than 3 degrees away by emailing them directly through the system. The recipient can accept the contact and reveal his/her contact information or reject it. The best part of this option is that the recipient will be able to see how many requests from the sender have been rejected by others.
The question is - how much will it cost?
July 18, 2005
Myspace acquired by News Corp
The New York Times reports the acquisition of Intermix Media (their primary property is Myspace) by News Corp for $580M. The last time I checked, Myspace had 12M users (after being launched only two year ago) - so that makes for almost (updated based on comment - my math was lousy - thanks!) $50/user (including the "testers" - like me - who are clearly not regulars).
July 11, 2005
Tagging for two at delicious
There is an interesting new little feature over at delicious - although I am not sure I like it yet. It provides users with the ability to tag for someone else (here).
[Technorati Tags: tagging]
19 social bookmarketing services
How many different services can one use? And what is the critical mass of users required to start delivering value?
[Technorati Tags: social bookmarking]
July 8, 2005
Moodtracker for livejournal
Moodgrapher: the World according to Livejournal, tracks the changes in mood at Livejournal. It is amazing to see how the site as a whole went angry and anxious after the London disaster (and also less horny, more grateful, less guilty).
It would be really interesting to see the mood swings by country. I bet you that would reveal some interesting information about cultural differences (i.e., how people deal with disaster).
Explanation for why Technorati is slow
Like most people, I have been extremely frustrated with Technorati's unreliable server behavior - especially the search feature and the feature that keeps track of in-links. Stephen Baker over at Business Week's Blogspotting spoke with the Chief Engineer at Technorati and the story.
I realize that what they are doing is truly hard...but I think that they should put off introducing new features until they have a stable platform.
[Technorati Tags: technorati]
July 5, 2005
Big brother watching you?
Cool new vertical search engine
Jeff Clavier over at Software Only announces a new product by one of his clients – Glenbrook Networks. It’s a really cool vertical search solution. The current showcase - Glendor - lets you look for jobs in the bay area and map them on Google maps - check it out.
June 21, 2005
More on folksonomies
By now you know that I am very interested in this topic and that I believe that this is one of the potential cornerstones of making KM finally work. That being said there are a few interesting developments that crossed my aggregator today.
First - here is a great article on folksonomies vs. taxonomies that will be presented later this week by Emanuele Quintarelli (via coporate blogging). The author does a good job of explaining where taxonomies fit vs. where folksonomies fit. He also takes you through the good and the bad of folskononies and specifically addresses the use of it within the enterprise - citing as one of the benefits the bridging of silos within companies where the same thing sometimes goes by a totally different name.
That reminded me of a large medical devices company I used to work with. The terminology used for product innovation between the different product groups was so dissimilar that a product manager from one department simply could not be transferred into another! Talk about barriers to cross-product innovation...
IBM is also rolling out enterpise usage of folksonomies - check out James Snell's post on that yesterday.
June 14, 2005
IBM simulating the brain
The Connection on NPR had a great program yesterday on the ethics of simulating the brain (you can listen to it here). Besides the obvious questions about whether the machine will develop some sort of "self-awareness", I am curious to know if this will be able to simulate the brain close enough so that giant steps forward can be made in everything neuro-.
Scary to think that perhaps soon everything we
do are will be "simulatable."
June 10, 2005
Started using tags differently again
As you may have noticed (I know I am not the first), I am having del.icio.us post the things that I save to del.icio.us on my blog every day. That caused me to use delicious tagging differently than I used to.
In the past I would tag stuff at delicious primarily for my own use. Now I use it to bring stuff that if of interest to me, and which I think will be interesting to you as well, to your attention. They are articles and web sites that fit with what I am writing about but for which I do not have enough original commentary (delicious lets me add one line of extended comment - which I have to start using better). In effect its a little like the Technorati tags except that if the links are of interest to you you can tag them yourself and put your own commentary on it.
June 7, 2005
Taxonomy for cooperation technologies
They categorize the emerging cooperation-amplifying technologies into 8 categories. I really like some of their categorizations – such as “knowledge collectives” to talk about social bookmarking sites, or “social accounting” for sites like Epinions.
The report concludes with 7 guidelines:
- Shift focus from designing systems to providing platforms
- Engage the community in designing rules to match their culture,
objectives, and tools; encourage peer contracts in place of coercive
sanctions by distant authority when possible
- Learn how to recognize untapped or invisible resources
- Identify key thresholds for achieving “phase shifts” in behavior
- Track and foster diverse and emergent feedback loops
- Look for ways to convert present knowledge into deep memory
- Support participatory identity
June 6, 2005
more on tagging...
Tom Coates over at Plasticbag has another view of how different people use tags (here). Some use it as folders to organize their stuff while he uses it to annotate a post.
It's really interesting to see how different people tag differently.
June 2, 2005
Interesting view on social software from the gaming world...
Over at Terra Nova, Ren Reynolds writes about "Lost in s-Space" - an interesting perspective on how MMOG's (Massively multiplayer online game) would benefit from social software capabilities like those found in services like LinkedIn and vice versa how some of those "flat" social software services might benefit from things that are being done in MMO's. He also talks about the potential benefits of tagging his profile to see nearby people that share the same interests (tag) as you do...
June 1, 2005
Competent Jerks and Lovable Fools
The latest issue of the Harvard Business Review has a great article titled "Competent Jerks, Lovable Fools, and the Formation of Social Networks". They categorize the different types of employees into a 2X2 matrix with competence as one of the axis and likability as the other (so they end up with four profiles - (going clockwise starting from the bottom left)the incompetent jerk, the competent jerk, the lovable star and the lovable fool). Boy, does this bring back memories...
Interestingly enough - but perhaps not so surprising - likability is the stronger factor in the development of social networks within companies. The lovable fool is mildly wanted while the competent jerk is mostly avoided (with the incompetent jerk is desperately avoided)! That means that competent jerks are a total missed opportunity for companies unless they can "correct" their behavior...
May 31, 2005
You tag that... I'll tag this...no wait... let's tag it together
Another post about tagging. Pretty soon, I'll rename my blog "emergence tarketing". But what can you do? This stuff has big implications on the way we will share, publish and organize information and conversations - so I cannot stop thinking about it (I know...I need a life). The other reason I felt compelled to write about it again is that there have been quite a few good entries around tagging lately.
Over at Feedster, Scott Rafer brings us his latest views on tagging after a week of doing it (and comments on issues raised on Brian Del Vecchio's blog - here). He believes that anonymous tagging is going to be important and that the arguments for someone to own up to a tag in order to avoid tag spamming is overrated. His posts also touch on some of the copyright issues related to tagging (here).
Ericka Menchen (here) and Ryan King (here) debate the differences between reader-based tagging and author-based tagging. Ryan argues that reader-based tagging have a distinct advantage over author-based ones.
As I wrote before (here), people will use tagging for different purposes - some to alert others of new content (author-based tags, much like people technorati tags), some to share new found information with others or merely organizing their own information for later retrieval (reader-based tags). They both have a purpose in life and as such I am not sure whether it makes sense to add more value to one than the other. It would be nice to have a system that would cluster these tags as related (i.e. the author-based tags and the user-based tags on the same content). I am starting to be convinced that Folksonomies in general will only have real value with some form of clustering.
The issue of anonymity goes beyond accountability and tag-spamming (the act of associating inaccurate or bad tags with an entry anonymously) - it goes all the way to affecting the "credibility" of a tag. If you tag anonymously and tagging is now widely accepted (so we have "tag chaos" and we all become selective about which tags we subscribe to) - can you build credibility for that tag while being anonymous? I am not a big fan of anonymity in general, but I don't think this will work. It would be interesting to see how many people at del.icio.us subscribe to "people" tags (i.e., /plasticbag (Tom Coates), /linkorama (Ross Mayfield), etc.) rather than keyword tags (i.e., /marketing, /tools).
There will be more "tagging" related posts on this blog...not because of the hype surrounding it but because I truly believe that this is important to the way we market ourselves, build products, share stuff and get customer feedback. Just today, I had two lengthy conversations with ex friends and colleagues on tagging in the enterprise and in the new product development process.
neat new collaboration solutions
Robin Goode talks about a few new collaboration/conversation systems on his site (here - specifically Conversate and Quick Topic). I played a little with Conversate and I really liked it. I would add one more idea to his list of thingies that would improve the product - some form of presence indicator.
May 30, 2005
More articles on new media technologies in mainstream media
First I ran across an article about social networking in the Boston Globe today (here) which looks at Spoke, LinkedIn, Ryze, ecademy and Tribe Networks and the benefits of online networking vs. f2f networking. It seems like the most popular usage for these sites these days is for job searching. I use it primarily to find new people to bounce off new ideas. It's an ok article...
"But the e-mails that make him laugh out loud come from concerned newcomers who have just discovered they have total freedom to edit just about any Wikipedia entry at the click of a button. Oh my God, they write, you've got a major security flaw!". There are other great passages, including this one
"An Encyclopaedia Britannica editor once compared Wikipedia to a public toilet seat because you don't know who used it last."It also has some other interesting tidbits - like an MIT study that found that an obscenity gets removed in an average of 1.7min...or that it contains 500,000 English articles compared to 65,000 in the 2005 edition of Britannica.
I am still amazed about how many people have not yet heard about Wikipedia.
May 27, 2005
[interesting] Graphing del.icio.us
It's cool, but I am not sure what to do with it yet (I admit that I can be slow)...
Tag-poetry and competitive tagalysis
After reviewing the traditional tagging suspects (technorati, del.icio.us, flickr, spurl and furl) we talked about the whys and the hows of those emerging tagging services and the differences between folksonomies and taxonomies. A good example of the folksonomies would be eBay. A good example of taxonomies could probably be found in the technical documentation department of Boeing.
Why are emerging tagging services increasingly popular (somebody quoted that del.icio.us counts 45,000 users to date)? Is it because Google does not do what we need it to do? Is it because of the “shortcomings” of DMOZ (the open directory project underlying Google)? Will tagging conventions emerge over time (one non-profit organization mentioned that they use an arcane tag for all its members to use when they tag something that might be of interest to the rest of the organization)? How can you assess the “authoritativeness” of one tag vs. another? All great questions that made for an enlightening evening conversation.
We also discussed the need for simple clustering of tags so that it becomes easier to find “related” tags. Some of that is already being implemented by the various players – del.icio.us recently started an experimental post to delicious that recommends a tag when you post something. Technorati shows you related tags – including tags coming from furl and delicious. Spurl even has a search engine based on its tagging system – zniff.
Interesting was to hear how people use tags. Some use it to share information with others (when someone tags something which they want a group of people to see – which they do by “subscribing” to that particular tag). Others use it to “store” information for later reuse (using delicious for links or furl for “perishable” content as furl saves a snapshot of the page for you instead of the link). Some use it to tell others what they are writing about (bloggers tagging their posts with technorati tags), while others use it to discover new information (by subscribing to popular tags). A real interesting scenario was that of tag-poetry. Children blog poems and are asked to tag them with tags – then they follow the links of poems that are tagged similarly.
As I have said before, I think that tagging has a tremendous potential in the enterprise – even for those companies do not have agreed upon taxonomies. Think of using tagging to share content that sparks ideas about new products with employees, customers and prospect (you ask them to tag whatever makes them think of your product or service with a special tag), or using tagging to proactively do competitive analysis. Or should we call it competitive discovery? Nah... how about competitive tagalysis?
May 26, 2005
People addicted to email
You find yourself hitting the send/receive button every 30 second on your email client? Not only will it reduce your IQ (yeah right - here), but a new study just found out that you are not alone (here - via techdirt).
May 25, 2005
De-friending, de-endorsing and other online social behaviors
Last week I attended one of the Thursday meetings at The Berkman Center (here) where they were talking about Livejournal (which has more than 7M users!). From what I gathered, it is similar to MySpace, which now boasts 12M users.
One interesting part of the conversation was when they talked about friends. In most of those places, as well as in most online games, you can create friends’ lists. A difference with the real world is that in virtual spaces, a person can put you on their friends’ list without you putting them on yours. What kind of a message is that? The other one is what people do when their friendship falls apart. On Livejournal (there were many real users at the meeting), people often times start a new Livejournal without inviting the person with whom their friendship ended, and they let the old Livejournal go stale – as to not hurt that person’s feelings. On X-Box, my son usually has no problem kicking someone off his friend list – but the other day I did hear him tell some of his friends to turn their profiles to “invisible” and go play somewhere else – as to not hurt the feelings of a younger kid that was getting annoying.
This also reminds me of a behavior on LinkedIn. What do you do when someone asks you to endorse them and you don't really feel like it?
To me it’s fascinating to witness some of the new social dynamics that are emerging online.
May 23, 2005
Open source radio to go live next week
"We’re figuring this out from scratch, but here’s how we look at it: the Internet is our beat. We’re looking to capture the way people talk to each other online, the way they record their own stories. The blogs and the podcasts and the Wikipedia are not the story; the people we find through them are."
May 22, 2005
I just ran across this piece of code to let you add a "bookmark this" link at the bottom of your post. When a reader clicks that link it posts that posting to del.icio.us. You do need an account to post to de.icio.us.
With all this random tagging going on, I wonder if some kind of organizational hierarchy will emerge over time (much like Wikipedia's structure emerged). If it doesn't, then all this tagging will have little value. And if people try to impose it from the top down (through some sort of standard-setting activity), I fear we will run into the same issues that KM ran into in the corporate world - people just don't use it.
May 20, 2005
Playing around with Feedster tags
Update - after using it a few times, it turns out that the anti-spam scheme is way too hard. The last time I tried I had to re-enter the scrambled message 7 times!
May 19, 2005
Cannot get the attention of main media - try social networking
Article on Wired.com (here) talks about new bands who sign up 100,000 fans and sell 2,000 CD's using MySpace. Fascinating...
May 14, 2005
Ranting about (anti)privacy in the workplace
Shel Holtz is ranting about Spectorsoft and Websense on is blog (here) - rightfully so! If you do not know what they do, those companies make "big brother" type products that monitor employee emails, web surfing activities, as well as their chats/IM. Their products also capture every keystroke and programs launched. Yikes - I sure would never want to work in a company that deployed those apps! And I suspect that few people would.
Shel goes on - on the topic of whether those anti-privacy tool companies are evil he says:
"Well, yeah. They’re profiting by creating unfounded fear and introducing products into the workplace that will suck the company dry of employee commitment.."I could not agree more. I would go a step further and say that the companies that are deploying those tools are evil too...(ok maybe too harsh - definitely clueless). What kind of culture are you creating by deploying tools like that? I am sure there are abusers everywhere, but by and large, I would argue that letting people do personal stuff online while at work probably ends up having a positive impact on productivity. By letting people do some of their shopping or some of their banking at work, not only will you reduce their stress level about getting personal things done, you will also free up their time to think more about your company's problems. And if they surf seemingly random sites - guess what? You may actually increase the rate of innovation within your company. The web, just like conversations, is a great source of ideas. Monitoring employees with those software tools will clearly kill both their commitment to the company (as Shel argues) and the company's ability to innovate!
Shel concludes his rant with
:"The question is, how do we get this message into the heads of executives who are bombarded with the kind of pathetic, fear-mongering crap that companies like SpectorSoft and Websense shove down their throats? I certainly don’t have their advertising budgets. I’m open to ideas."
...maybe we can start a wiki listing the companies that deploy those solutions. This is one case where a reference list of customers can work against you rather than for you!
[Technorati Tags: privacy websense spectorsoft]
May 13, 2005
Trials and tribulations of using rss
Robert MacMillan over at washingtonpost.com writes an interesting article about his trials and tribulations in trying to get an rss reader and an rss feed to work (here - via micro persuasion). The poor guy downloaded 15 rss readers before he could find one that would work for more than 2 hours (he should have looked here - but I am biased as I work (unpaid) with those guys).
It is an interesting read which demonstrates that insiders can quickly become blind to simple usability and messaging issues which can actually turn into huge barriers to adoption. Here are a few from the article:
- the "RSS" label itself - not exactly a term that draws you in if you are not "in the know"...
- orange button with "XML" - what the heck do you do with that?...and clearly not a "one-click" action if you venture out and actually click on it
- "feeds" anyone?
May 12, 2005
We have a long way to go...
I mentioned Everett Rogers awhile back (one of the key researchers on "diffusion of innovations") – which got me thinking (I also upgraded my copy of the book to the fifth edition - which helps the thinking)…
The key variables determining the rate of adoption of innovations in his model are the perceived attributes of innovations - which are:
- Relative advantage – the degree to which the innovation is perceived as being better than what came before it
- Compatibility – the degree to which an innovation is perceived as being consisten with past experiences
- Complexity – the degree to which an innovation is perceived as relatively difficult to use and understand
- Triability – the degree to which an innovation may be experimented with on a limited basis
- Observability – the degree to which the results of an innovation are visible to others.
If you just take the perceived attributes of innovations and evaluate some of the new web technologies (tagging, wiki’s, blog syndication, etc.) against those attributes, you will quickly conclude that we have a long way to go (I guess that’s where good marketers come in the picture)!
Web based or desktop
This morning I was reading Richard MacManus' post (here) on web based rss aggregators as being a separate category from desktop aggregrators. While I do prefer a desktop aggregator myself (note my affiliation with BlogBridge), I do not think that we need to split those two in two different categories. They are one category - meant to help you aggregate content, sort through your content and hopefully discover new content.
The reason that I personally prefer a desktop version is because I like my information to come to me and be able to read it even when I am not online. A web based solution to me is a destination - I have to go somewhere to read it. At any rate - according to Jupiter, people are about evenly split on that one right now.
May 5, 2005
Let's make the new web technologies more accessible
While many of us get excited about all the new technologies out there and their potential to change the way we do many things - work, archive, collaborate, innovate, market, sell, etc.- we need to realize that there are very few people that remotely understand what we are talking about. Business Week's Blogspotting blog today lists a few reader responses to their issue on blogging (here) that illustrates that point. They conclude that "the knowledge gap between the blog world's insiders and outsiders is wide enough for six lanes of Hummer traffic".
But even when a broader set of people will understand what this is all about, widespread adoption will not happen until the new tools become more "approachable" and more tightly integrated with one another. Have you ever tried editing a page at Wikipedia? Or tried to show someone how to add a bullet list in a movable type posting?
I know, there are great efforts out there to make a lot of these applications more user friendly. But its not just that, they also need to be seamlessly integrated with one another. With the same piece of information I may want to "social tag" it one day (i.e., save and share with others), "blog" about it another (i.e., provide commentary and share with others), or "wikitize" it (i.e., share and collaborate with others). Unless this all happens from within the tools through which we access that information only innovators and early adopters will tinker with it, and broad adoption will not happen.
May 4, 2005
80% of WOM happens F2F!
A recent national (US) study conducted by NOP World reveals that face-to-face (f2f) remains the strongest medium for spreading word-of-mouth (WOM) - in fact 80% of people make in-person recommendations (press release here via WOMMA)
Following f2f is telephone with 68%. Personal email comes in at 37%. Amongst the "Influentials" - those 1 in 10 Americans that tell the other 9 how to vote and where to eat, the number is even higher - 90% of recommendations are done f2f.
Perhaps most interesting in the study is what triggers influentials to make recommendations. After all, and from a marketer's perspective, that is the target group which needs to be "ignited". At the top of the list are magazines with 61%. The web comes in at 45% and email at 26%.
...very interesting...Those are consumer numbers. I wonder what those numbers look like in specific verticals.
May 3, 2005
The future of work - revisited
I was just reading Elizabeth Albrycht's report on the the future of work congress over at Corporate PR (here) which reminded me of a conference on the Future of Work which I organized with Rudy Ruggles and the Center for Business Innovation back in 2001.
We invited 56 or so thinkers from all walks of live (scientists, psychologists, business people, consultants, architects, urban planners, analysts, designers, scientists, etc.) to come and brainstorm together around the future of work, workers, workplace and working. Attendees included David Weinberger, Michael Schrage, Larry Keeley, Birute Regine, Chris Meyer, Bob Luchetti, Wanda Orlikowski, and 49 others that will now feel left out if they read this. The point in me writing about this is not so much to reminisce about an old conference, but to resurface some of the predictions that were made at the time.
In one of the last excersises of the day we split the attendees into groups and asked them to create the cover magazine which we would likely be seeing in 2010. Here is what they came up with (5 images - make sure to click through - and sorry for the poor quality - I have a pdf of the write-up of the conference with better pictures if anyone is interested):
May 2, 2005
Clustering in web conversations
There is a cool picture mapping the republican blogs vs. the Democratic blogs over at the AMA blog (here). I first read about this in the book Linked (a great book on social networks) but I had never seen the visual representation.
It is interesting how there is a high degree of cross-linking within each group but not so much between the two groups. If I recall correctly, the average percentage of links linking within the same group is 80% vs. 20% of the links linking across party lines.
It is surprising to me that there are not more cross-party links. After all you would expect people from one party to pick on statements and proposals from people in the other party more so than build upon one another's content...
April 29, 2005
Innovation – what do you do?
A lot has been written up recently on idea management and innovation. “DON’T Ask the Users What They Want!” says Tom Evslin – arguing that "the very best ideas come from smart people realizing that a new use of a new technology can create a compelling new capability" (here and here). Only get your lead users involved says MIT Prof. Eric Von Hippel (see here). Get your ideas by using new technology (rss, search, etc.) to set up continuous environmental scans (and don’t forget internal sources) – says Dave Pollard (here)
The solution to ideation and innovation is much broader than that:
- Why limit yourself to getting ideas from a small subset of people? It is true that you may not get your category busting ideas from your customers, but considering that 80% of new products are new versions of existing products – why not listen to all of them for good product enhancement? It doesn't cost much anymore, and who knows, maybe the next “iPod-class” idea will come from one of those people you least expected it from.
- And don’t forget to include all your employees! A.G. Lafley, CEO of P&G had it right when he was quoted in Fortune last year for saying: “…P&G of five or six years ago depended on 8,000 scientists and engineers for a vast majority of innovation. The P&G we’re trying to unleash today asks all 100,000-plus of us to be innovators. We actively solicit good (product) ideas…”
- Environmental scans, especially continuous ones, for getting ideas are indeed the right thing to do. But unless you can increase your marketing staff by a factor x, you will need to leverage the people within your organization as well as those outside of your organization to make that work. Those communities need to help you make the best content (re)bubble to the top.
Today’s technology can help you achieve this in a very cost effective way – both from a technology deployment point of view as well as from a human resource point of view. And it can create huge side benefits – both on the innovation side of things as well as on the social side of things!
Interesting link - Trustrank helps reputation
According to Robin Good, Google may be working on a ranking system that gets rid of all the spam - thus bringing back a true sense of reputation and trust into the ranking system (article here). The funny thing is that one of the paper's co-authors is from Yahoo.
April 28, 2005
Gated online communities
Jennifer Saranow wrote a piece in the WSJ yesterday (The Gated Online Community – requires subscription) about the recent successes of exclusive online “social networking” communities. The most famous invitation-only community is of course Google’s own Orkut – although the company claims that the invitation part was meant to control growth and not to create exclusivity. Others mentioned in the article include asmallworld for people splitting their time between St Barts, London and New York; funhi – with “virtual” bouncers and everything; and closedsociety just to name a few. Those exclusive communities use the exclusivity as a way to lock in traffic and ensure repeat visits, which the more generic communities seem to have problems maintaining (e.g., less that half of Friendster’s 16 million users visit the site regularly).
The article also mentions open communities – like Myspace, Friendster, LinkedIn, and Ryze – noting a trend away from some of the older general purpose communities towards more business-like sites like LinkedIn.
I personally doubt that many of the smaller exclusive communities listed in the article have business models that will prove successful in the long run. It has been a long time since I seriously thought about virtual communities (I once tried to launch a startup in that space – ’96 – a bit too early), but I would have thought that the first key to success in getting a community off the ground was still to get to critical mass as quickly as possible. With exclusivity you can only do that a few times, after which it must be really hard to enlist enough people to invite others to reach that critical mass fast enough. Add to that some of the other critical success factors – such as a shared interest, shared goals, strong sense of belonging, large enough active user base vs. lurkers, etc. – and you end up with a lot of those communities that just have too small a membership and links that are too weak to succeed.
That being said, I am convinced that exclusive communities that can overcome some of those obstacles – communities with very strong bonds, those where a large percentage of the membership is driven to contribute, the ones with a strong sense of belonging, or those communities where reputation is important and peer controlled – can succeed.
Reputation engines vs. multiple persona's
There is a great article on Wired about the existence of the multiple versions of "us" out there in the datasphere. The article goes on to describe the differences between 20th century reputation engines like Experian vs. the newer, transparent reputation engines like eBay. (Via Smartmobs)
A reputation engine like eBay or Amazon works because it is a closed (albeit a transparent) system. But could an open, transparent reputation engine exist? Could it withstand spam or other "optimization" techniques?
April 27, 2005
April 26, 2005
Any self-defense against unwanted links?
The other day I was looking through my log and spotted a robot from linksmanager. Knowing that an online reputation is built primarily on “incoming” links – this is another way to “buy” an online reputation. And these are not the only kind of “artificial” links that get created – there is also trackback spamming, comment spamming, tag spamming, search engine spamming, and I am sure I am missing a ton of them.
That got me thinking. Is there any known self-defense mechanism in other large complex systems against these unwanted – at least from the point of view of the system as a whole – viruses (i.e., links)?
It sounds to me that if we can build self-organized libraries, encyclopedias, news sites and the like, we should be able to build a self-organized inoculation system against those viruses…
April 24, 2005
Knowing when to log off…
A friend of mine sent me an article which was recently published in the Chronicle Of Higher Education (“Knowing when to log off" – April 22nd – requires subscription – but I found other articles on the same subject like this one in the Seattle Times). Yesterday the BBC spoke of similar research done at some English University (update 4/25 - I found a copy of that here).
The bottom line, they claim, is that we are being bombarded with way too much information – most of it being SPAM of some sorts. The result is that we have less time for “thinking” and many of us are developing some kind of attention deficit deficiency. All of that, the researchers say, does not bode well for education/academia/innovation and even people’s health. They all call for “switching off” technology every now and again.
I am not sure what to think about this. After all – the speed at which information will be published will continue to increase exponentially (I think it’s one of those things driven by a power law!). And while technologies to help us sort through all this stuff will improve dramatically over time, I also think that people will have to develop new skills to scan through larger amounts of information.
All of that being said, I find myself reading less books and more online content – some more meaningful than others. Is this a bad thing? Am I less creative because of it? I am really not sure…
April 12, 2005
Goofing around with wikis makes me think of KM
I am looking at some technologies to enable a local virtual community of kids (teens and tweens) who love to develop Flash animations, write and play online games.
So as part of that project I installed TikiWiki on my server earlier this week. It's only one of many wiki apps that are available in the open source community (you can find a comprehensive listing here), but I picked it because my hosting provider has that listed as one of the wiki apps that I could auto-install on my server.
I was stunned by the richness of the application. Not only does this Wiki come with a blogging module (and a WYSIWYG editor), it also comes with a forum module, a chat module and a ton of other modules too lengthy to list here (here is their home page).
These experiences just strengthen my conviction that the combination of wikis and blogs make for a very potent community platform - both inside the firewall and outside. Combine wikis and blogs with a smart rss reader (note my affiliation with BlogBridge) which enables the discovery of content and the ability to tag, blog or "wikitize" some of that content and you end up with a great virtual work environment. Not only that, I think that you may end up with a functioning knowledge management solution.
Remember that? Knowledge management (KM) has been one of those IT holy grails that many companies spent tons of money on - often times in vain. I do think (if you still have the energy) that these new technologies may actually work for your KM initiatives. KM fell flat on its face because it was dictated from the top down and because it was not fully integrated with people's real work. With rss readers, tagging capabilities, wikis and blogs, we're turning that upside down. If deployed properly they can be totally integrated with people's work - which means people will use the tools. And a wiki/blog/rss reader based KM initiative would be grass roots instead of top down (think wikipedia inside your organization)!
April 11, 2005
Intelliseek/Edelman white paper on blogging in communications
I liked the report from the moment I downloaded it because of it's title:
Trust “MEdia” - How Real People Are Finally Being HeardSupposedly this is the first in a series on New Communications and Word-of-Mouth Marketing white papers.
Diverting for a second and while on the topic of Word-of-Mouth Marketing, did you know that there is a new Word-of-Mouth Marketing Industry Association? It’s called WOMMA (here is their web site). They are apparently pretty successful, and just finished their first conference. You can find comments and coverage about the event here.
Anyway…back to the report. It’s self-stated goal is:
“It’s intended to inform marketing and communications professionals about the who, what, where and how-to of blogging.”The overall report is educational in nature – a good thing considering the small group of people who really understand how this all works.
It starts by summarizing the recent results of an Edelman trust survey, which could point to one of the main drivers for blog and blogging adoption:
“According to Edelman’s 2005 Trust Survey, peoples’ trust has shifted from authority figures to “average people, like you.”In general, the report does a great job at explaining what you should do when incorporating blogs in your communications strategy. And it also has some great stuff on the nuances of blogging etiquette.
I downloaded the report from the Intelliseek's website (here - requires registration but free).
April 10, 2005
Interesting - Technorati announces related tags
Sunday morning musings on identity and culture
My son learned how to smith bronze and steel, and he learned how to fish with nets (and how to cook it too). He tells me that sometimes there is speculation in the coal market which makes it more profitable for him to sell coal outright rather than to mine it for smithing. He also plays with teams – sometimes with people from other states or other countries, like Australia, New Zealand, or Sweden. This morning he was the only American on a team full of Belgians – most of whom he never met. As the game progressed they were talking to one another in Dutch while switching to English when they wanted my son to do something. All along my son kept talking to them in English about his position, his recommendations and other things. The other day, there was a 45 year old woman on his team. And one of his regular team mates is a college kid in Europe. He is a member of a guild in one world and also a member of a clan in another. His friends go by names like doodleman, intelogix, shady, and chainsonic.
If you have not figured it out by now, my son, like millions of others around the world is playing in digital worlds like RuneScape, Halo2, Tony Hawk Underground and others. He interacts with other through chat or VoIP (I read somewhere that Xbox Live has the largest VoIP user base.)
Sometimes, I wonder how these new interactions will affect their sense of “self”, their identities, or what impact it will have on cultures…
It's easy to understand the benefits of virtual worlds like the ones sponsored by the Starbright Foundation, where severely ill children can play with others in virtual worlds from hospital beds – thus forgetting their ills for awhile and appearing like everyone else in those make-believe worlds.
We adults know that on the internet “nobody knows that you are a dog” (remember that cartoon?), and that is part of the fun. But what does it do to kids that are spending part of their formative years online?
About ten years ago I read the book Life on the screen: Identity in the age of the Internet by Sherry Turkle, a Professor of the sociology of science at MIT. She says it is good for them to experiment with different personae. I can see that, but are those virtual personae competing for attention with the real life ones?
Maybe now is a good time to go and re-read that book…or maybe I’ll go re-read William Gibbson’s books…any other suggestions?
April 6, 2005
Blogworking? Yes - but what about the potential barrier to adoption...
An interesting post on AlwaysOn (via Schel Holtz)defines Blogworking as the next evolution of social networking...
Self-governing social networks combine with interactive weblog publishing to create something people just call Blogworking. People have been Blogworking well before the term was popular, but whatever you call it, the trend is gaining momentum alongside social networking sites which do not provide editorial content.
I buy that - adding community features and participation capabilities (as differentiated from collaboration capabilities) to social networks would give me an added incentive to join and participate.
And as a marketer, these tightly focused communities, if indeed highly visited, would be extremely valuable!
There is, however, a potential barrier to adoption for these blogworking sites. The way that they are being described now, they are yet another "place" that we have to go to to stay informed. Now, most of us "belong" to multiple potential communities. I contend that if you have to start "going" (as in clicking) to multiple places in order to stay informed - you will eventually stop going to all of them!
It's a phenomenon that we witnessed at eRoom Technology - where we built a virtual workplace/group collaboration product. Once people started to belong to multiple projects (which were happening in multiple eRooms...i.e., different urls, they quickly stopped using eRoom and reverted back to the old hacks of getting a project done with a virtual team - email, fax, phone, IM, etc. We had to integrate whatever was happening in the different virtual workplaces with people's email (which is a person's personal workplace) in order to overcome that adoption issue.
I suspect the same will happen here. Whatever happens in those blogworking communities will have to be fully integrated with my personal "place" - which in my case and for this kind of stuff will most likely be my personal RSS aggregator.
April 4, 2005
Technology enablement - tagging services
So I may be the last one on the blo(g)ck to talk about this. After all, Business Week this week wrote (Picking Up Where Search Leaves Off - requires subscription) about del.icio.us and other tagging services.
Awhile back I started using two social tagging services - del.icio.us and furl. For those of you who are unfamiliar with these services, check out John Udell's screencast on del.icio.us over at Infoworld.
The service is fairly straightforward...whenever you see something you want to save, you click "post to del.icio.us" or "Furl It!" in your browser's links section and up comes a menu that enables you to save the link, add additional comments to it and tag it with your own tags. Giving users the ability to develop a list of tagged links is very compelling all by itself...
But that is not where it stops. You can also see who else tagged the same thing as you did, and see what tags they used (and based on others' tags you may revisit your own tags.) You can also subscribe to a tag's RSS feed (so every time someone tags something with a tag you subscribe to, you get it in your reader) or to a person's RSS feed (so every time that person tags something, you get it as well).
I am finally getting to the point I wanted to make - which is that I am convinced that these simple services can be very powerful in your daily fact gathering, knowledge sharing and collaboration. You could subscribe to tags that represent your competitors - even small companies return tens or hundreds of listings! You could also ask your team to tag things with pre-determined tags whenever they see something of interest and then have everyone on the team subscribe to that tag's rss feed. You could even extend that to include customers - have them tag stuff with your company or product name when they run into something that they find relevant to you.
The other neat thing is that unlike with so many other "enterprise" applications, I do not think that you will have much of a barrier to adoption. The beauty of those solutions is that they pack enough benefits to the individual users. So they don't have to wait until the broader community uses it to derive benefits - a common barrier to adoption in group applications.
[Categories: tagging del.icio.us furl]