March 27, 2010 2 Comments
From the home office in CTU, where I’m taking control of ’24’, not going to let it be canceled…
Observations on technology and business from someone who should know better
March 27, 2010 2 Comments
From the home office in CTU, where I’m taking control of ’24’, not going to let it be canceled…
November 23, 2009 3 Comments
I’m generally not tracking the “post ads to your social networks” movement, be it sponsored blog posts or tweeting ads to your followers on Twitter. There is one aspect to it that I think is most important: disclosure. Robert Scoble has a post up, More thoughts on in-Tweet advertising, where he notes that he unfollowed people on Twitter who were running ads:
So, I unfollowed and won’t be looking back. Actually I unfollowed Pirillo too. I don’t think he’s disclosed everything clearly or explained where his ads were coming from and until he does I’ll stay away.
His perspective reminded me of an experience I had years ago in the late 90s when I worked as an investment banker for Bank of America. It taught me the right way to disclose unsavory facts.
You know what the Superfund is? It’s the federal government’s program to clean up the nation’s uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. Throughout America, there are parcels of land with dangerous materials in them. Superfund is there to help get them cleaned up.
We had a client, a rising star in the software world, that need financing for a new headquarters in Mountain View, CA. A headquarters built on a Superfund site. That designation, from 8 years before, meant the land had been declared a hazardous waste site. By the time of the deal, the site itself was cleaned up, and was in an “operation and maintenance” phase. Its status was sufficient for the company to build on. But anything with “Superfund” on it is a big red flag in banking. And we knew it.
I was in the debt financing unit, and I worked with our real estate group on this one. After deliberating, we decided to bury the Superfund status deep in the materials selling the deal – in the prospectus, in the deal presentation. Act essentially as if it was a non-event.
Which at this point, was true. The property was clean and ready for development.
It was also a mistake.
Other banks got to the Superfund status of the site as they went through their analysis of the deal, and saw that it had an afterthought treatment. They didn’t like that.
And they didn’t participate in the deal at the levels we had expected. We got stuck with a larger percentage of the deal than we wanted. We scrambled, got one other bank to join and accepted holding a larger portion of the deal.
Wasn’t a pleasant experience. Nope, not at all.
It’s not often in life you get a chance to rectify a mistake so readily. But I did. Several months later, the software company approached us to increase the deal size, by nearly double. You might imagine the trepidation that request caused internally.
To raise double the amount, after having a number of banks turn us down, meant we were going to have to go much deeper in the market. It wouldn’t be easy.
We decided to do it, but with a big shift in approach. We led with the Superfund status. Put it out there, and directly address issues. Create a separate write-up that specifically addressed the Superfund status, the remediation efforts, and the reasons Bank of America was comfortable with it.
When I got out there and presented the deal at the prospective lenders meeting, I talked in detail about the Superfund site, upfront. Amazingly, no one got up and left the meeting. They seemed to take it in stride.
And the result? Easily got the larger deal done, and even increased its size a bit.
What did I learn? People aren’t stupid. Treating them that way is a sure recipe to piss them off. Scoble’s comment illuminates that fact.
I’m not saying openly declared ads will be welcome, but for sure trying to slip ‘em in to the tweet stream is the wrong way to go. There is a “right” way to go about this advertising thing, if it’s going to happen. Acknowledge people’s concerns, and address them intelligently. You’d be surprised the effect that has.
Don’t make your Twitter account a hazardous waste site.
UPDATE: I received an email from the EPA’s Superfund program manager regarding how to find information about Superfund site. I’ve posted it in the comments below.
June 13, 2009 Leave a comment
From the home office in Palo Alto, CA…
#9: TV news story here in SF about the CA education budget cuts, shows a teacher out of a job as “layed off”. Guess the cuts are hurting already
#10: Kinda sad…took down the crib tonight. Our 2 1/2 y.o. is sleeping in her own big girl bed, our 5 y.o. long ago left the crib.
February 25, 2009 9 Comments
In the recent post Forget Dunbar’s Number, Our Future Is in Scoble’s Number, commenter Adam Metz wrote:
Maybe I’m missing something, but where’s your definition of Attention? Can you add it in to the second or third paragraph? Good idea, but a little rough around the edges.
Calling me “H-Dog” is one way to get my attention. ;-) But back to the definition of attention. Putting it simply:
Attention = time + interest
Time being a real-world constraint. There are only but so many hours in a day, so attention is bound by that dimension. If I’m tied up with work or playing with the kids, I’m not going to give anything my attention. The second aspect is interest. Say, I do have some time. If I’m viewing something on the foraging habits of the scaup bird, my interest is quite low and I’m likely not to pay attention even though I have the time. I’ll find something else.
I will observe though, that while time is a concrete and unyielding dimension, interest is fluid and dynamic. Our moods, activities, friends and life events affect what is interesting at any given point in time. It’s not like it’s totally random – there is a baseline of things that consistently interest us. While time is rigid, interest is a flexible dimension of attention.
Next question is how we find things that are of interest to us when we do have the time.
I think I can make this statement with certainty:
You will miss the vast majority of information which would fit both your interests and time available to read
Anyone disagree? That’s probably a frustrating aspect of our information age. Am I finding the things I should know? How do I improve that? How can I be both more efficient and systematic in finding what interests me?
Technology is making it easier to be more efficient and systematic, but we’re nowhere near perfecting that. And we can’t get too perfect, because as I mentioned before, our “interests” are fluid and I don’t think we could possibly catalog all of what interests us.
Honestly, we have to accept a certain serendipity of attention. And realize we’ve got a much better system of discovery than we did just ten years ago. I’ve thought about my own experience. What’s my personal system for attention? It’s a mix of ways, as the graphic below shows:
Let me describe the bands.
Dunbar’s Number: This is the theoretical limit on the number of individuals whom you can follow closely. The number is pegged at 150, a number of people which even Robert Scoble uses for his core basis of attention. My Dunbar’s number includes the 70 or so people I’m following each day on my Enterprise 2.0 List on FriendFeed. It then includes some other folks who fall outside Enterprise 2.0 but interest me in other ways.
With people in your Dunbar’s Number, you read what they create, share and talk about. My guess is that this is the core use case of Facebook members. Note that you expand the number of people you track via this group when they share content or talk with someone outside your core 150. The expansion is temporary though – based on what someone you follow has engaged with.
@replies: I use the Twitter @replies function as shorthand for the ways in which people reach out directly to you. This includes the @replies, the DMs, the Facebook messages, email itself, etc. Now I’m not inundated with these, so they still get my attention. As you rise in the social media pecking order, apparently you get bombarded with these directed messages. Then they probably move to an outer band of attention for you.
Keyword tracking: This is how people, information and conversations outside my Dunbar’s Number most often get my attention. I track content that includes keywords in which I’m interested. This is the most systematic way I have for improving the efficiency and coverage of things that interest me. As I often write here, I use the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed for this. Another good option is Filtrbox. I’m sure there are others.
Other groups: OK, you’ve got the core group of people you follow in your Dunbar’s Number. But there are others you like to keep up with as well. This is where the group functions come in to play. You can group people based on some characteristic, and check on those groups as attention allows. On FriendFeed, these are Lists. TweetDeck lets you group people.
Groups are great for when you’ve already seen your Dunbar’s List and @replies. And sometimes you just need a break from the usual topics and people on which you’ve put focus.
Random views: I do this as well. For some, it may be dipping into the public timeline of Twitter. Or FriendFeed’s everyone tab. Once you’re following a large number of people, checking out the tweets or FriendFeed entries of everyone you follow becomes a form of random views. Because you can’t possibly take in the full river of content all the time. You’d get nothing else done. But it is worth it to dip in occasionally.
In the graphic, I categorize all the bands outside Dunbar’s Number as the province of Scoble’s Number. To track people well outside your core 150, you need a way that aids the goals of better efficiency and more systematic coverage, while preserving the serendipity that accompanies the fluidity of our interests.
That’s where I am these days when it comes to attention. How about you?
See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?required=q&q=%22The+Serendipity+of+Attention%22
September 5, 2008 6 Comments
One of the earlier complaints about FriendFeed is that it is primarily the playground of the early adopter set, particularly the A-Listers. Remember the recent discussion around Allen Stern’s post about FriendFeed’s recommended members? That they are so heavily weighted toward the top A-Listers? Robert Scoble, Dave Winer, Steve Rubel, etc…
Well, over the past month or so, I’ve noticed a trend where sub-groups are forming and are very interactive with one another. And these groups don’t have A-Listers.
This is healthy.
If FriendFeed is to grow, it will have to get beyond being dominated by A-Listers with their large number of subscribers.
My Friendfeed compatibility 3 months later – an evolution
He added his graphs which show other FriendFeed members with whom he shares the most Likes. The blue chart on top is today, the green chart from three months ago:
Notice the change? Three months ago, his experience on FriendFeed was dominated by the A-Listers: Scoble, Michael Arrington, Chris Brogan, Loic LeMeur, etc…
But now look. Today, he tends to track more closely with everyday folks on FriendFeed. One person in that blue pie chart, Kyle Lacy, has even started a Facebook group for his friends: The FriendFeed Night Crew (click here to see the group logo on FriendFeed).
This is just one sub-group of which I’m aware. I’m sure there are others.
Consider this a small marker of FriendFeed’s progress out of the A-List garage.
See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22FriendFeed%E2%80%99s+Progress+Out+of+the+A-Listers%E2%80%99+Garage%22&public=1
August 12, 2008 1 Comment
On my recent trip to Hawaii, I had a chance to road test my brand spankin’ new 3G iPhone. My web surfing largely consisted of FriendFeed. So I had a good chance to try out the iPhone interface for FriendFeed.
Overall, it was great experience. The links, pictures, comments and Likes came through well. But a week of living only with the iPhone did make me see some things that could be improved:
I’m no UI expert, I certainly don’t have the UI chops of FriendFeed’s Kevin Fox. But why not dive in and see if there are ways to improve things?
Both the FriendFeed web UI and iPhone UI have text entry boxes at the top of the screen. But the text entry purposes are completely different:
On the web, the text box is to perform a search. On the iPhone, the text entry box is to post a comment. But people used to the web interface and the search box have made the mistake of a search term being posted to FriendFeed via the iPhone. Three examples:
A different mobile app, FF To Go, has a similar post box at the top of the page, as opposed to a search box. After Thomas Hawk’s wife Mrsth made a similar mistake trying to search for “thomas hawk“, FF To Go founder Benjamin Golub commented:
Sorry; many people make that mistake, any advice on how I could help that not happen again?
To which FriendFeed user Madsimian replied:
@bgolub The problem is simply that the normal web interface has ‘search’, not ‘share’, on the homepage. I’d change the link to ‘search’ for a link to ‘share’, and make the text box on the homepage search. I’ve done what @mrsth has done, twice.
Making the iPhone interface consistent with the web interface would help. On the web, you have to click “Share something” before posting a comment. Why not have the same approach on iPhone?
As you scroll down the screen, your finger can accidently tap the hide or Like links for a given post. I did this while in Hawaii. Hugh MacLeod tweeted the German word for blowjob. I had no intention of Liking that (really!!!).
Yet a subsequent scroll down the page showed that I had Liked that entry. Which meant people who followed me also saw it, and saw that I Liked it. I quickly un-Liked it.
I also noticed hidden entries at the bottom of the page that I didn’t remember ever hiding.
Done it a number of times… hid Marshal K for a bit, sorry Marshall! Seems like it needs a solution.
How about this? Dedicate a strip of white space on the side of the screen for scrolling? No links appear in that space. I know the space is already cramped, but perhaps a centimeter-wide strip could be carved out?
Once you’re to the bottom of the page, there’s no obvious way to refresh the page. So you scroll all the way back up to the top of the page. This is something that others have noted as well:
However, it turns out there is a way to handle this. You simply tap the top of the Safari browser on the iPhone, and it automatically returns you to the top. Works just fine.
This nit is an iPhone buyer education issue. But if iPhone buyers regularly fail to know about this option, FriendFeed is one of the sites that would benefit from having a return to top link at the bottom of the page.
So those are three things that occurred to me during my week of iPhone-only access. Still, the iPhone interface was great for FriendFeeding, and AT&T’s 3G coverage was just fine around Honolulu.
See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22My+Three+Nits+with+FriendFeed%E2%80%99s+iPhone+Interface%22&public=1