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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 112808

From the home office in Lake Tahoe, California…

#1: Better than spam? Chris Baskind reports a spammer on Twitter has a 21.5% return follow rate: http://bit.ly/EzHm

#2: If you don’t ask, you don’t get. And…you never get everything you ask for.

#3: Just added BackType to my FriendFeed. An interesting competitor to Disqus and Intense Debate.

#4: I love this saying about parenting: “The days are long, the years are short.” >> So very, very true.

#5: Why is Papa Bear such the dufus in the Berenstein Bears books? Giving us Dads a bad name…

#6: Doing a keyword search in my GReader, seeing some great posts for blogs to which I don’t subscribe. Power of subscribing to others’ shares.

#7: Editing/adding content on my blog’s About Me page. That page receives a good number of hits, and I thought…”What Would @chrisbrogan Do?”

#8: Reading: “Resumes are Dead. Social Media is Your New Resume.” http://bit.ly/yqUQ

#9: Twitter for $500 million..gut says that’s too low. Twitter is the defining platform for lightweight interactions. $1 billion +…

#10: Thanksgiving morning. We’ve got Christmas music playing on the radio (96.5). Kids are jumping on the bed. Heading to Gramma’s house later.

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Happy Thanksgiving with Alice’s Restaurant

I love this song, and hearing it this time of year conjures up great memories. Here’s Arlo Guthrie singing Alice’s Restaurant. The YouTube video is not embeddable, but click the picture and you’ll be taken to the video.

Happy Thanksgiving.

alices-restaurant-arlo-guthrie

Will We Ever Find Our True Talent? Not Likely Says Malcolm Gladwell

outliers-malcolm-gladwell

This past June, I wrote a post titled How Many of Us Find Our True Talent? It was a look at whether people tend to land in professions that fit their “highest and best” talents:

My own theory is that each of have talents that are uniquely strong in us. For some, these talents would put them on the world stage. For most of us, they’d probably vault us to the top of a particular field. And yet I suspect that most of us never hit on those unique talents.

Malcolm Gladwell currently has a book out titled Outliers: The Story of Success. In it, he examines the underlying factors that propel certain individuals to the very top of their fields. I have not read the book, so I’m picking up its contents from various sites I’m reading and a couple interviews with him that I’ve heard.

From what I’ve seen, Gladwell’s thesis can be boiled down to three factors:

  1. Intrinsic talent for something
  2. Luck of the draw for your circumstances
  3. Heavy practice in a field (min. of 10,000 hours)

Microsoft founder Bill Gates comes up in discussions of this book. We all know that he conquered the PC world with Microsoft, becoming fabulously influential and wealthy. But there’s the Paul Harvey-esque “now you know…the rest of the story”. Here’s how Harvard’s Thomas Sander relates it:

He credits Bill Gates’ success to early and sustained access to high-end computers. Gladwell concedes that Gates is obviously brilliant, but still notes that many other brilliant youth never had the chance to become computer stars of Gates’ magnitude because they didn’t haveaccess to these sophisticated computers.

I heard Gladwell on NPR talking about this. It turns out he attended one of the few schools in the country, high school or college, with access to a mainframe computer where students could program. Now Gates had a passions and aptitude for programming. So there was this great mix of talent and circumstances that allowed it to flourish.

In the post I wrote in June, I ascribed people’s not landing in fields that leverage their true talents to three factors:

  • Too quick to focus on something at a young age, never trying out other areas
  • No opportunities to surface and develop the hidden talent
  • Practical realities – kids, mortgage, caring for someone who is ill – prevent a move into a different field

From what I’ve seen about Gladwell’s book, these factors ring true. As he says himself on the website devoted to his book:

Doesn’t that make it sound like success is something outside of an individual’s control? I don’t mean to go that far. But I do think that we vastly underestimate the extent to which success happens because of things the individual has nothing to do with.

I don’t want to leave this post on a down note. Many, many of us will find vocations that we are good at, and which make us quite happy. We have family and friends which enrich or lives. Personally, having gone from one profession I really enjoyed (banking) to another (enterprise 2.0), I know there are a wide range of fields that each of us can do well at and be happy.

And with a lot of luck, a very few of us find the mother lode.

*****

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BackType’s Co-opetition with Disqus, IntenseDebate

friendfeed-add_edit-svcs-comments

Disqus “makes commenting easier and more interactive, while connecting websites and commenters across a thriving discussion community.”

IntenseDebate lets you track your own comments and those of people you follow.

BackType “is a service that lets you find, follow and share comments from across the web.”

Right now, it’s pretty easy to say that Disqus competes with IntenseDebate. Then you read what BackType is doing, and you think, “and they’re competing with Disqus and IntenseDebate too”. Well, they are, they aren’t.

It’s complicated.

I tweeted this last night:

“Just added BackType to my FriendFeed. An interesting competitor to Disqus and Intense Debate.”

That tweet set off a great discussion on FriendFeed. Two folks jumped in. Louis Gray, who has several posts up about BackType, had a couple insightful replies:

“It is a comments tracker and search, not a comments replacement system.”
“My point is that you would not install BackType on your blog. BackType is a superset comments tracker. It finds my comments on Moveable Type, Disqus, Blogger, WordPress, you name it. Then I can search it or follow people. Show me how you would replace your comments on your blog with BackType code and we have a discussion.”

And Phil Glockner added some great food for thought:

I agree with Louis that I don’t think BackType is competing directly. I do think their service overlaps with something centralized commenting systems already do, which is to.. well, track comments across various blogs and other places. BackType opens the scope by supporting tracking your comments wherever they are, in whatever form. But unlike Disqus and ID, it most definitely isn’t a centralized comment service. In other words, Backtype is not the engine you would use to create new comments.

They both really brought home the differences between BackType, and Disqus and IntenseDebate (ID). Disqus and ID are software applications that do a lot of comment management things for bloggers. Spam protection, threading, comment rating, reblog, etc. But I think there’s more to the story here. FriendFeeder Rahsheen puts his finger on it with this comment in the discussion:

I can’t actually put backtype on my blog and have people leave comments in it, but as far as sharing where I’m commenting…it pretty much owns

That’s where the line between competitor or not gets fuzzy.

Is Comment Tracking Geared for Bloggers or Blog Readers?

When I wrote my tweet, I was thinking about BackType from the perspective of a commenter, not a blogger. What I like about Disqus and ID is the ability to see all my comments across the blogosphere in one place, and the ability to track what and where others are commenting.

If I use Disqus for that purpose, then I’ll only see comments made on Disqus-enabled sites. If I use ID for that purpose, then I’ll only see comments made on ID-enabled sites.

But if I use BackType, I see comments by people everywhere! This is because BackType is a bottom-up approach: “Hey commenter! Just provide your commonly-used comment auth credentials, and we’ll find your comments!” It’s an incredibly simple, elegant approach to tracking comments.

BackType tracks comments made via Disqus, and I assume ID as well. For instance, I can see Robert Scoble’s comments on Fred Wilson’s post My Techmeme Obsession on both Disqus and on BackType. But only on BackType will I see his comments on the TechCrunch post A sheepish apology.

So if I’m interested in tracking Robert’s comments across the blogosphere, which site should I use, Disqus or BackType?

BackType also pulls in comments made on Digg and Reddit, as Louis Gray wrote about recently. Even better! So as a user, where should I spend my time?

Disqus and IntenseDebate Will Compete on Other Bases

The reason I say that BackType is in “co-opetition” is that part of the value prop for Disqus and ID is the ability to have a centralized place for your comments, and to follow those of others. It’s not their only value, but it is part of the story.

If things like ad dollars built on site visitors is something these guys are looking at, then there is definitely competition. It’s a battle for attention.

But I believe there are going to be some interesting revenue models for Disqus and ID beyond site visitors. And that makes it less of a competition. BackType founder Christopher Golda made this comment on the FriendFeed discussion:

Thanks for the comments everyone — we don’t believe we are a competitor with either Disqus or ID; in fact, we recommend both. Anything that improves the quality of comments is complementary to BackType :)

Focus on the last part of that statement. If Disqus and ID improve the experience for commenters and bloggers, it ultimately is for the good of BackType. I’m not convinced there won’t be some competitive overlap, but I can also see the distinct value props of Disqus and ID relative to BackType.

*****

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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 112108

From the home office in Manila, Philippines…

#1: “If a mind is always open, it never finishes anything. If it’s always closed, it never starts.” – Scott Berkun, The Myths of Innovation

#2: @pico On FriendFeed? Attention on FriendFeed (for non A-Listers) is driven by: being interactive + decent-to-great content.

#3: Observation: E2.0 crowd is much more active on Twitter than FriendFeed: (1) established connections, (2) conversations, (3) broadcast.

#4: @pico It’s kind of a parallel to enterprise 2.0 in general. E2.0 tracks what happens in Web 2.0, with a 2 year delay. Web 2.0 is the filter.

#5: Just showed my colleague how I’ve got my FriendFeed Enterprise 2.0 List up on my monitor via real-time. His reaction? “Gotta show me how!”

#6: Reading: Why doesn’t anyone care about HP? http://bit.ly/16dEB

#7: @jeffmann The Gartner MQ for social software available in full without registration here: http://bit.ly/gs6dH

#8: Preso best practice = mostly pix, few words. Great for in-person presentations. But Slideshare versions lose context w/ single word slides.

#9: Wow, now my LinkedIn profile is pimped out with my blog posts and Slideshare. Really, really cool what LinkedIn is doing.

#10: RT @THE_REAL_SHAQ Sittin next to steve nash, tryna get hi to join twitter >> Twitter’s viral nature is everywhere…

*****

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Three Ways to Double the Value of Your Social Software

I did a Connectbeam webinar yesterday, Double the Value of Your Social Software. One thing about webinars is they really force you to crystallize your thinking, and you get to try out some cool new ideas. This one was a lot of fun for me. I enjoyed bringing some unconventional examples to the discussion.

So how exactly does one “double the value” of social software? The core of the argument is that integrating the various social software apps inside companies produces a new layer of value. In terms of how this happens, I developed three areas of focus:

  1. Expand information’s reach
  2. Create an employee skills database
  3. Diversify and strengthen workers’ sources of information

The Slideshare below is the presentation I used in the webinar. Below the Slideshare, I describe the background and the three areas of focus.

“Enterprise Silos” 2.0

The great thing about companies rolling out the tools of Web 2.0 is that it lets people from everywhere contribute. Multiple people jump on wikis, blogs, microblogging, etc. Social software can tear down the departmental and geographic walls that separate employees.

So it’s ironic that these wall-busting apps end up as new walled gardens of participation. Employees update their Confluence wiki, they blog on Movable Type and Yammer away. But there’s no integration of the apps.

There’s a screaming need to pull these social software apps together. The folks over at venture capital firm Foundry Group laid out a nice investment theme with regard to Glue.  A lot of the logic from that post applies to the proliferation of social software apps inside companies.

By connecting the different social software apps inside companies, companies will realize a new source of value from them, “doubling” their value.

With that, let’s look at the three new sources of value when you integrate these apps.

Expand Information’s Reach

It’s true that information is the key driver of success in the market today. That’s a truism, overplayed theme, I know.

But, it has had its effects inside companies. You see this theme played out in architectural decisions, such Service Oriented Architectures, which makes integrating data and processes much easier. Mashups are another area where we see this.

How about the consumers of data? How to optimize the creation, distribution and consumption of data inside the enterprise?

This is an area where Enterprise 2.0 can learn a lesson from the world of e-commerce. E-commerce companies work hard to optimize the finding and purchasing processes on their sites. Every extra step it takes to find something or to purchase it causes some percentage of consumers to drop out. So they work hard to provide a full, but easy experience.

How about applying that thinking to accessing the employee-generated content inside companies?
How to reduce the steps to accessing this content?

There are three components for what I’ll call an Information Reach Program:

  • Search
  • Serendipity
  • Notifications

Let’s take a look at those three components.

Search: A Forrester Research survey found that only 44% of employees can regularly find information on their corporate intranet. Meanwhile, Pew Research found that 87% of people can regularly find what they want on the Internet.

Where do you think employees will turn first for information? Now there’s nothing wrong with googling something. New information needs to be brought into the enterprise. It’s healthy and vital.

But the pendulum has swung too far toward looking externally, particularly with the rise employee-generated content. Thing likes social bookmarking, blogging and wikis are letting employees find and filter an array of great information. Yet it’s too easy to ignore.

One way to counteract that? Integrate employee-generated content with search engines. When an employees runs searches, they get their usual search results. But why not also show them related content from the company’s social software? Slide #12 in the Slideshare presentation shows Connectbeam’s example of that.

Serendipity: Also known as, finding useful information when you weren’t expecting it. Or as Dennis Howlett put it:

Serendipity: the 21st C word for ‘bloody good luck.

If search is purposeful, serendipity is passive, and in-the-flow of whatever else you’re doing. For serendipity to work, you have to expose people to a range of information during their activities. And let’s be honest – much of that information will score low on the usefulness scale.

But I argue that you need to cionsider serendipity from a portfolio perspective. If you can enable employees to be exposed to random information in high volumes, there will be cases of great matches between something a worker needs and a piece of information she wouldn’t normally see.

Key here is putting this information in-the-flow of daily work. If all employees do is watch a cascade of information, they’re not being very productive.

Notifications: “It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure.” says Clay Shirky. Search is purposeful, serendipity is luck. How about those nuggets of informaiton that you want to know, but aren’t actively searching for and miss during the course of the day? Notifications are the third component of the Information Reach Program.

Key here is to let people personalize their notifications, because people aren’t monolithic in their interests. Top down push processes diminish employees’ interest in tracking the data presented. Filter on groups (e.g. departments, projects, communities of interest), individuals and keywords. These go a long way toward answering Clay Shirky’s point about filter failure.

Create an Employee Skills Database

When you integrate the different social software apps, you can create rich set of data that well-describes what each employee knows and is working on.It’s not just your position and previous titles that matter – it’s your contributions, visible and accessible by all.

We’re seeing steps toward this approach on sites like LinkedIn, with its new apps platform. When you view a person on LinkedIn, you see more than their resume. You get a living, dynamic view of their work. Someday, all that content you’re piping into your LinkedIn  profile should be searchable by others – beyond the current resume entries.

Same idea holds inside enterprises. If you could aggregate employees’ contributions across the social software apps, you have a much richer view of their skills, knowledge and interests than the typical corporate directory.

Connectbeam customer and all-around smart guy Rich Hoeg of Honeywell put it nicely at the recent Defrag conference:

With Connectbeam, I was looking for a social bookmarking application. I ended up with a skills database.

Yes, that’s a Connectbeam plug. But the logic applies more broadly.

Diversify and Strengthen Workers’ Sources of Information

I’ve discussed previously on this blog a fantastic research paper that evaluated the power of employees’ social networks to affect productivity. Basically, the more diverse an employee’s sources of information, and the stronger her connections to a large number of peers, the more productive she is.

Now tie this idea in with Harvard professor Andrew McAfee’s thinking about employees’ Strong, Weak and Potential ties inside companies. Employees already maintain Strong ties inside companies. That’s the status quo out there.

The opportunity for companies is to work those Week and Potential ties. Move them closer to close ties. How?

  • Make employee contributions as findable as possible (i.e. expand information’s reach)
  • Associate activity and tags to individuals
  • Enable easy following of the activities of others
  • Fish where the fish are – put employee generated content where people do their work

Wrapping up

This webinar was a lot of fun, and I think you’ll notice some different thoughts than what is usually seen in these presentations. There are several ideas included in it that really merit exploration separately. I’ll probably do that on this blog, and over on the Connectbeam blog as well.

*****

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Do Not Kill Off Marketing During a Recession

It is a mystery to me why some companies (often the ones who find themselves eventually dying away) will react to a downturn by cutting marketing expenses. Cutting expenses is a super smart thing to do, but you should NOT cut back on your marketing.

David Risley, The Single Biggest Mistake in an Economic Downturn Is…

I like David’s sentiment, and I put together this graphic to complement it:marketing-radar

In the world of business sales, you cannot predict which prospects will become sales.  But, you know that you need touchpoints with companies. Which prospects will turn into customers? Hard to predict that.

One reaction to the reduced sales that accompany a recession is to cut back on marketing. Unfortunately, that’s just doubling down on your problems. There are fewer bona fide prospects out there during a recession as companies cut back. Which increases the value of each remaining prospect.

Thus, if you reduce the span/frequency of your marketing efforts, you’re going to miss some of the remaining prospects in the market. If you reduce the number of prospects with whom you engage, you can predict the effect on your sales.

That being said, there are wonderful opportunities to do more with less in terms of marketing, thanks to the rise of social media. Jeremiah Owyang and Chris Brogan can tell you more about how to do that.

*****

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