Archives For March 2009

Random: Thoughts

March 23, 2009 — Leave a comment

As someone who likes to blog, or more specifically, enjoys the writing process, I noticed an abnormally lengthy void had formed where the occasional idea likes to grace me with its presence.  I think the trip to SXSW ’09 sucked the inspiration out of me.  It was a great conference, but I was taking in the same information as everyone else; and I’m a believer that what you write is a reflection of what you absorb.  From what I’ve seen my notes look like everyone else’s and that’s not fun.  Part of why I like to write is because I can bring a unique voice to an community crowded with homogony.  There are definitely those worthy of following because their voices offer value, but many gain notoriety because they are first to the punch; RT an interesting tidbit before anyone else; blog live events.  

The ecosystem rewards timeliness first, thought and insight second.  Writing style is a distant third; very few bloggers have anything that resembles a writing style.  Style is absent because, just like any other skill, it takes time to hone and develop.  And if you’re busy developing a writing style you’re not publishing tweets or blog posts and that means someone else is going to get the scoop.    And once 95% of the ‘social media experts’ have been scooped they’ve got nothing to offer.  (Which brings me to another observation that culminated for me at SXSW: there is a surprisingly shallow understanding of business or business history outside the interactive media scope.  That was disappointing for me, especially when it’s evident in some of the thought leaders in this industry.  Do you really expect to be taken seriously if you don’t know that Motrin Moms wasn’t the first time JNJ had trouble with a pain reliever before?  Or if you can’t understand the free market economic principles involved in spec work and the implications they have?)

(Who do you read?  Is there anyone out there you think has style to their blog?)

Perhaps I’m biased because I’m horrible at creating massive amounts of content quickly.  I’ve  embarrassed myself plenty of times trying to rush a tweet out.  Some people are great at it.  I know there have been many times after I hit the post button I wished I could take it back and write something else instead.  

Anyway, it seems that I’d fallen into the trap of publish early, publish often.  But that’s not me.  I need inspiration.  I need an idea.  

 As for writing style, I’ll continue to work on mine; it’s far from perfect.  I’ll leave you with an excerpt  from one of my favorite writers, Bill Simmons, a writer anyone looking to develop a style can learn from:

The more interesting angle for me is how Twitter and Facebook reflect where our writing is going thanks to the Internet. In 15 years, writing went from “reflecting on what happened and putting together some coherent thoughts” to “reflecting on what happened as quickly as possible” to “reflecting on what’s happening as it’s happening” to “here are my half-baked thoughts about absolutely anything and I’m not even going to attempt to entertain you,” or as I like to call it, Twitter/Facebook Syndrome.


SXSW: Day 2 Part I

March 17, 2009 — Leave a comment

A real quick observation before I get into my notes.  There were times when I was sitting in a panel wondering ‘what’s the point?’  Panels discussing who your friends are can feel to be a waste of time for me; I’m not sure they move anything forward or add any significant value. 

However, sometimes I  jump to conclusions quickly and write these discussions off without giving them much thought.  After I sleep on it I end up seeing a different side of the conversation, one that does add value.  All these discussions are important, however trivial they may first appear.  There are many different aspects of the ecosystem we play in and it’s important to explore them all.  There is something we can learn from all of the panels we attend, the challenge for us is to find what it is.  

There’s an element of laziness that plays a part in writing off a panel as ‘hit and miss’ or ‘too many academics.’  I’m guilty of both criticisms.  And while these criticisms may be true and there may be improvements to be made, there is definitely something to be learned.  Let’s find it.


Day 2 Part I

Panel:  Is Privacy Dead or Confused

Here’s SXSW’s description of the panel.

different people have different views of what privacy is.  it’s hard to universally define

  • In today’s connected world, how can you control your reach?  Can you control your reach?

Siva Vaidhyanathan focused on Google, as he’s writing a book: The Googlization of Everything

  • Two myths he’d like to dispell:
    1. Privacy is the oppositte of publicity (it’s not binary)
    2. Privacy is a substance that can be measured (he’s tired of hearing how people would give up their privacy for better functionality – gmail)
  • However, he went on to say that privacy is a form of currency.  it’s my understanding that currency can be measured and can be traded.  i believe he contradicted himself here, but this was a talk given early in the morning and the caffeine may not have kicked in yet.

it’s important to note that it was during this part of the panel that I wrote the following in my notebook: Many of these panelists are very happy with themselves and like to hear themselves talk

just thought you might need to know that…back to the notes…

  • Judith Donath took a much more historical approach to the subject
    • Our history online amounts to our body in the physical world
    • our self-portraits are made based on the interactions we’ve had online
    • It is importnat to understand how contextual history affects our view of privacy; how our views are shaped by historical events such as Watergate or the Cold War (my examples)
  • There are different privacy facets to different pieces of our lives.  eg, we’d tell our doctor things we’d never tell our friends, and vice versa
  • There are levels of surveillance that we invite:  hanging out on our front porch, walking our dog, sharing with our neighbor.  
    • we give them enough information to keep an eye on us, but not too much that they can use it against us.  We like this kind of privacy, it makes us feel safe



Panel: The Search for a More Social Web

So, the first 20 minutes of this panel started out informative but turned into a Facebook launch party.  

Here’s SXSW’s description of the panel.

Here’s an article that goes over, in excruciating detail, the blow-by-blow.  I tuned out when I realized all they were doing was humping FB Connect.  

My two main takeaways:

  • Our network is getting scoped and faceted – need to keep track of who’s who, and their relationship to us.
  • On the social web, the key isn’t talking, the key is listening


I will say, some of the games they announced seemed pretty cool, especiall SGN’s Agency Wars.  Another observation: people were cheering as if it were a rock concert.  It was exciting.



Opening Remarks:’s Tony Hsieh, CEO

Here’s SXSW’s description of the presentation.

OK – easily my favorite presentation of the weekend, and I’m sure I’m not alone here.  

Here are my main takeaways:

  • 75% of orders are from repeat customers – crazy
  • They take the $ they would normally spend on a marketing budget and focus it on customer service.  That’s their marketing.
  • #1 priority = culture
    • After the first week of your new-hire training they offer you $2k to LEAVE.  This is done in an attempt to weed out anyone who doesn’t really want the job.
  • They have a culture book where each employee writes a few paragraphs about what the culture means to them
  • Your culture will eventually catch up to the brand
  • Figure out your values – this needs to be your first step and will drive your organization.  It’s obvious that has has mastered this – they want to bring happiness to the world
  • The last part of the presentation focused on happiness.  I loved that Hsieh brought this up, as I’ve done some research on the subject and have been trying to spread the word around the office as well.
    • Remember this: the bottom line reason we do anything is because we think it will make us happy
    • Most of the research in this area concludes that what we think will make us happy is usually wrong. 
  • Here are two great resources if you’re interested in learning more about the science of happiness:


Here’s Tony’s presentation, but there’s an even better drawing/story below that sums it up.  The slides are great. Go through and learn how to get this culture thing right.  It’s kinda important.  


Zappos Keynote Visual Representation


Zappos Keynote Visual Representation

After trying different ways of taking notes during the panels here, I’ve found that pen and notebook work best for me.  Putting them in digital real-time isn’t my cup of tea, unless you count taking pictures of your notebook.

Day 1

Panel:  My Boss Doesn’t Get It: Championing Social Media to the Man

Didn’t get to see this panel b/c the registration line was so long.  Here’s a source for various recaps.

Panel:  Ooh, That’s Clever.  (Unnatural Experiments in Web Design) – Paul Annett
  • Loved this panel – really inspired thought
  • People love to stumble on hidden things (easter eggs) / discover the secret to a magic trick.  Incorporate these elements into your site design.
  • Kano Model of Satisfaction – you need to take into consideration different levels of needs & expectations when designing sites…or anything.
  • There are simple, creative ways to endear people to your site
  • When thinking about incorporating these types of elements into your site it is better to ask forgiveness later than ask permission up front.  Your customer might not approve your request, but if you show them the finished product they’ll appreciate it.
  • Here are the sites that Paul used in his presentation:
    Here is Paul’s presentation in full w/ audio:
Panel:  Try Making Yourself More Interesting

would people care if your ‘product/idea/service’ went away?  If the answer is ‘no,’ then you’re doing something wrong.

  • I was really looking forward to this panel, like for 32 years.
  • The underlying message in this panel:  there are no shortcuts, so do what you love and what you’re passionate about.
  • The panel had some very strong players, such as the founders of PhotoJoJo & Get Satisfaction, however the content didn’t live up to what you would expect.
  • From a business standpoint, they didn’t have much to offer.  In fact, I heard the founder of Get Satisfaction say that they deliberately don’t measure anything.  It’s cute and counter but misguided.  In the long-run it will be a mistake.
  • The panel got good when Kristina Halvorson of Braintraffic jumped in and pointed out that ‘measuring nothing’ won’t fly with her customers.  Same here.  That’s the reality 99% of us have to deal with; our customers want metrics.  They won’t be our customers for long if we don’t provide numbers.
  • Halvorson continued to add value:
    • People have great ideas.  They get them out & they’re great.  Time goes buy.  The ideas sit and grow stagnant.  More time.  The ideas now suck.
    • We need to govern our ideas: care and feed for our epic shit.
    • Process = Plan.  Create.  Publish.  Govern
    • As our awesomeness grows we hit a tipping point and we realize that we’re out there.  We need to have courage, stick to our principles and stay focused.

Holes in the Dam

March 1, 2009 — Leave a comment

Sounds like an ominous title, and it could be, just depends what the dam represents; in this case, it’s work as usual.  I’m starting to see some small holes that will eventually lead to major culture changes, and the latest step my company has taken in that direction flew completely under the (my) radar.  

While we are piloting Lotus Connections, it’s not having the success or effect we’ve thought.  There are many different reasons attributing to the lack of fanfare around this launch, but those are for another post.  Because we run Notes, we thought we’d reap significant advantages by installing Connections however, the results aren’t there.  As an added degree of difficulty, there’s been lots of hoopla around this pilot and it’s been hard to live up to the hype.  

Enter the acquisition of an Enterprise RSS solution.  I thought I was ‘plugged-in’ but I had no idea we were even investigating this type of tool.  It’s a big company, what can I say?  Anyway, as soon as I found out, I immediately got added to the pilot group and started setting up my feeds (imported right from Google Reader – very slick).  It is AWESOME.  It looks (limited to corporate branding, so there’s only so much we can do here) and feels like a real web-app.  It’s intuitive and does exactly what you’d expect it to do.  This is not an another enterprise app.  

After I imported my feeds (did I mention how easy it was to be able to import them from Google Reader?) the first thing I noticed was that the team running the pilot, instead of sending out updates through email, was sending updates/tips&tricks/how-to’s/FAQs as feeds through the tool.  No emails!  How smart is that?  They get it.  Let me get take a slight diversion here…

…Each day, beginning at 12:00am my Blackberry vibrates for about 3 minutes straight.  I get hit, as most employees do, with automated emails from the different systems/communities/tools/etc… we use at work.  Very rarely do I care about any of the content in the email, but there is an occasion when I need to look at them.  99% of the time these emails get deleted, it’s usually the first thing I do in the morning before I get my coffee.  It’s  really the only thing I do all day that doesn’t require me to think.  

My point here is this:  they aren’t using email.  The automated email issue is easily solved with the enterprise RSS reader; and because automated email affects so many people in the company I predict we’re going to start to see a major culture shift.  This is the tip of the iceberg.  It may seem minor at first, but employees (especially the most reluctant to change) need to be able to see the power that these tools can provide.  Getting rid of ‘junk’ email is something everyone wants and we’re now providing an elegant, intuitive solution to that problem.  This is a small win that we can point to, and say ‘if you liked that, let me show you a few other things…’

This win puts a small hole in the dam of work as usual.


PS – I think it’s important to mention the difference in approach used in marketing the RSS capability .vs Lotus Connections pilot.  The Connections pilot utilized a top-down strategy, everyone knew it was coming and therefore it is trying to live up to inflated (unachievable) expectations.  Everyone has been waiting for this solution, and they want it to be much more than what it is.  To be honest, it’s not fair.  Connections isn’t a bad tool, it’s just been promised to deliver beyond its capability.  Expectations weren’t set appropriately.  It will be hard to be anything but a disappointment.  

The Enterprise RSS solution, on the other hand, was able to stay in the shadow of Connections.  No one was expecting it to be the panacea…no one was really expecting it at all.  It’s easy to exceed expectations when there aren’t any.  They will benefit from viral marketing as well; workers will either stumble upon it themselves or they will hear about it from their colleagues, not their supervisors (and that’s important).  

There is a very good change management lesson to be learned when it comes to introducing social media capabilities to the enterprise.