October 24, 2009 2 Comments
From the home office in Kabul, Afghanistan…
#4: If the Enterprise 2.0 crowd wanted to share a link, my guess for the top 5 services: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Posterous, Yammer. Agree?
Observations on technology and business from someone who should know better
From the home office in Rio de Janeiro…
#7: Heard of auction site Swoopo? Users buy “bids” in advance, then can bid on items. Result is low winning bids (e.g. $10 for widescreen LCD).
#9: Men & healthcare: My wife just scheduled my physical, because I’d never do it. Asked bachelor co-worker when he last got physical: “college”
From the home office in Pyongyang, North Korea…
#4: You know what I like about working at Spigit? Plenty of competition out there. Fun to see them laying the smack down on us. Love it.
#10: Just looked at my E*Trade account for the first time in months. Less bad than I thought.
In case you missed it last week, Google CEO Eric Schmidt had this to say about the microblogging service Twitter:
Speaking as a computer scientist, I view all of these as sort of poor man’s email systems. In other words, they have aspects of an email system, but they don’t have a full offering. To me, the question about companies like Twitter is: Do they fundamentally evolve as sort of a note phenomenon, or do they fundamentally evolve to have storage, revocation, identity, and all the other aspects that traditional email systems have? Or do email systems themselves broaden what they do to take on some of that characteristic?
At first blush, this seemed like an example of Google not ‘getting it’ when it comes to Twitter (see the comments to the linked blog post above). But I think he’s actually on to something. It is a new way of posting notes about what you’re doing, but it also has a lot of communications usage via @replies and direct messages (DMs).
Reflecting both on Schmidt’s statement, and my own use of Yammer at my company, I’m seeing that microblogging is slowly replacing a lot of my email activity.
As more companies take up microblogging with services like Yammer, Socialcast, Present.ly and SocialText Signals, employee communications amongst employees will both increase and divert away from email. Something like this:
Socialcast’s Tim Young said this about email:
Email is dead. If your company is relying on email for communication and collaboration, your company is walking dead in this new economy.
Being the CEO of Socialcast, that’s not a surprising statement. But I think he’s more right than wrong.
The shift I describe applies regardless of the microblogging application used. Since I’m actually familiar with Yammer as a user, I’ll talk about its features in the context of this shift.
A useful context for thinking about Yammer versus corporate email is Clayton Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma. Generally, the premise is that incumbent companies need to grow and increase the functionality of their products. This increases the products’ complexity and cost, but also increases margins. But as the incumbents are doing this, it opens an opportunity at the lower end of functionality for new companies to come in and attack the incumbents’ base. From Wikipedia, here’s a graphic that demonstrates the concept:
A useful way to think about the Innovator’s Dilemma in the enterprise software space comes from this blog post, Enterprise Software Innovator’s Dilemma. Existing vendors expand the functionality of their products, heavily relying on the requests of large customers. Over time, this has the effect of creating a robust, highly functional and more expensive offering. This trend is what opens the door for new vendors to come in.
Let’s consider Yammer in this context. Simple microblogging runs along the “low quality use” in some ways. At least in terms of the feature set. But it certainly takes “use case share” away from email.
If all you could do was make public notes, that’s the end of the story. Microblogging does not replace email. But these guys are advancing their product, and are rising up the performance axis.
Here is what Yammer now offers:
Look at that list. When you think about your own internal email usage, what ‘s missing? Folders or the Gmail equivalent of tags seem to be something for the down the road. I’m not an IT manager, so I’m sure there are some heavy duty infrastructure aspects of Microsoft Exchange/Outlook and Lotus Notes that are not there. Thus, Yammer still has the insurgent, disruptor profile relative to corporate email.
But don’t underestimate that. There’s what IT knows is needed behind the scenes. and then there’s what the users actually do when given the different applications.
Microblogging’s premise is that public proclamations of what you’re doing and information that you find are a new activity for people, and they have value. Information is shared much more easily and in-the-flow of what we’re all doing anyway. In an office setting, I continue to find the way Dave Winer describes it quite useful: narrating your work.
This use case is what promises to dramatically increase communications among employees. As we’re seeing with Twitter’s explosive growth, it takes time for people to grok why they should microblog. But once they “get it”, it takes off.
So services like Yammer have your attention as you post updates and read what others post. In reaction to what someone posts, you hit the Reply button. You’re having a conversation that others can see, and join in if they want. You decide to have separate conversation with someone in this context. Do you open up your email? Or just click “Private Message” to someone? I’m willing to bet you’ll do the latter.
Which starts the marginalization of corporate email. Why? Because a lot of what’s going to generate interactions is occurring right on that microblogging app you’re looking at. It’s the most natural thing to act in-the-flow and use that application in lieu of email. Well-designed microblogging applications are also quite seductive in terms of ease-of-use.
As I’ve written before, email’s role changes in this scenario. The logical end use cases are:
This isn’t something that’s imminent. Email is quite entrenched in daily workflow, older generations aren’t likely to stop using it and internal microblogging is still nascent.
But no one said the Innovator’s Dilemma plays out over the course of a couple years. It will take time. But watch the trends.
I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.
From the home office in Denver, Colorado…
#1: Please, I don’t want your automated DMs after I follow you. This practice needs to stop. I never click your links, it’s just spam.
#2: To all you social media whales doing the mass unfollow routine, I say: “Go ahead, make my day.” Got my unfollow trigger finger ready.
#5: “Discovering problems actually requires as much creativity as discovering solutions” The Myths of Innovation, Scott Berkun
#8: Do you suppose accident rates are down in California now that we’ve banned cell phones in the car? Do you feel safer?
#9: My favorite Jelly Belly beans: 1. coffee 2. watermelon. My 4.y.o. son Harrison: smelly skunk (betcha didn’t know about that one). You?
#10: Driving down 101, behind this car. Smelled an odd sweet odor that I recognized. Pass the car minutes later, sure enough dude had a fat one.
From the home office on Capitol Hill…
#5: Private accounts on Twitter and FriendFeed that require a request to follow…always such an air of mystery…
#6: Steve Wozniak will be on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. Wow.
From the home office in Victoria, Australia…
#1: Interesting convo w/ colleague. Is there any risk to tweeting that you’re traveling on vacation? Burglars searching for such tweets?
Well, January is over. Time to see how I did:
As you can see, I’ve got some work to do. First, my average email weighs in at 164 characters. 164 characters…hmm, doesn’t sound so bad but it’s pretty far beyond 140 characters.
Even worse, 41% of my emails are beyond the bar set for the email brevity challenge. One positive? Check out that median length – my heart is in the right place in terms of brevity.
But I can do better.
Looking at my emails, I see an obvious candidate for cutback. Seven of those 140+ character emails are essentially links with commentary of snippets.
Say what? You work for a social bookmarking company man! And you’re emailing links?!!
Well, yes. But I also bookmark them. Let me explain. I bookmark plenty of links for my own purposes. And true to social bookmarking’s purpose, other people can find them as well, which is better for discussions around the information.
Some of these bookmarks are more than useful information I want for recall later or for others to find in their research. Some are relevant to things that we’re working on right now. They provide context to product, development and marketing efforts.
Those bookmarks need to have higher visibility than typical links do. And a problem with only bookmarking a link is that many people won’t see it who should.
That’s what email provides: guaranteed delivery. Everyone is using the app, and everyone checks their email. So I know the link + commentary will be seen. What social software needs is an equivalent mechanism.
In fact, many apps do have such guaranteed delivery mechanisms. For instance, you can think of the @reply on Twitter as a form of that. Although even then, it requires someone checking that tab. So TweetReplies will actually email you when someone uses your @name in a tweet.
As I wrote before, email’s evolving role in social media will be more notification, less personal communication. Email is still a centralized place for all manner of notifications and it has that lovely guaranteed delivery aspect.
So what are alternatives for emails inside companies?
Inside my company, I actually have three alternatives to emailing the links with lots of commentary”
Connectbeam: As I mentioned, a simple bookmark has no guarantee of visibility. But the app does include email (and RSS) notifications of new content. You can subscribe to emails of individuals’ and Groups’ activity in real-time, or get a daily digest of those options plus keyword-based notifications. So what I can do is set up a Group, call it “Email Worthy”. I then have all my colleagues subscribe to real-time notifications of activity in that Group. Voila! I add a note to my bookmark, save it to the Group and I know everyone will get it.
Confluence: Another option is to create a wiki page for these entries. I can put longer form commentary in the pages, include a link and tag them. Since Connectbeam automatically sucks Confluence wiki pages into its database, these individual wiki pages would be as good as a bookmark. I could then email a link to the wiki page (using a bit.ly URL), going Twitter style with a brief intro.
Yammer: Yammer now has Groups. Which is something people have been wanting with Twitter. You can publish a message in Yammer (a “yamm”?) to just a particular Group. Yammer has nicely added an email notification feature for Groups. So similar to what I described above for Connectbeam, we can create a Group on Yammer called “Email Worthy”. Everyone can join the Group and elect to recieve email notifications when new yamms come through. I can post the link + commentary, and be assured of guaranteed delivery.
One problem with using Yammer this way is that information put there is separate from the wiki entries and bookmarks we have. So people would have to check two places for information. As I wrote over on the Connectbeam blog, that creates a de facto silo.
I’m going to experiment a bit with this. Of course, I need to get my colleagues to subscribe to email notifications for Connectbeam. But I’ll just tell them, “do that or I’ll email ya!” And I’ll try the Confluence wiki approach as well.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?required=q&q=One+Thing+Social+Software+Needs+The+Guaranteed+Delivery+Button
From the home office in Phoenix, AZ…
#2: IBM’s term for layoffs is “resource action”. That’s a new one.
#3: Example of Yammer benefit. I just yammed about wanting to see a feature algorithm, not sure who wrote it. Engineer replied to me w/ answer.
#4: One thing about Enterprise 2.0 ROI: the highest return has the least predictability
#6: Brothers & Sisters TV show quote: “I didn’t know what Twitter was” (OK, don’t hate because that show is on TV here right now)
#8: Hard to tell when a fax goes through successfully here. Our fax machine is very secretive about its activity reports.
#9: Played a round of War with my 4 y.o. using home-made cards. True to statistical probabilities, we went 2-2-1 in our five games.
#10: Wonder what George Bush is doing tonight?
Twitter is the glamor girl these days. The latest triumph is the early picture of the U.S. Airways plane that belly flopped into the Hudson River. But before there was Twitter, there was Dave Winer’s Instant Outliner.
Never heard of it? Maybe you have, but I hadn’t. But it’s fascinating and eerily prescient of the rise of Twitter and Enterprise 2.0 today.
Dave can explain it better and more fully, but here’s what I have been reading about it.
Started in March 2002, here’s how Dave described Instant Outliner:
When you subscribe to someone’s outline, expect to see time-based notes on what they’re doing right now. I like to start each session with a top-level headline, and put a time-stamp in the headline (Control-4 on Windows, Cmd-4 on Macintosh). Then from that point, I narrate what I’m doing. When I start a new session, I start a new top-level timestamped headline. Sometimes I carry forward notes from previous sessions.
We can and probably will implement fancier notification routines, we’re ready to do it, but first we want to bootstrap with this brain-dead simple technology. It’s designed so that other outlining software can easily fit into the network of Instant Outliners.
See how Dave described it? “Notes on what they’re doing right now”. What is Twitter’s tagline? “What are you doing?” And notice Dave’s emphasis on designing Instant Outliner so that other software can work with it easily. I read this, and I think of Twitter’s API.
Here’s an April 2002 perspective on Instant Outliner by Jon Udell:
It’s been clear to me for a long while that the only thing that might displace email would be some kind of persistent IM. That’s exactly what instant outlining is. If it catches on, and it’s buzz-worthy enough to do that, we’ll have a framework within which to innovate in ways that email never allowed.
I like that the tweet…er…IO note here is the kind of thing you’ll see on Twitter these days. The IO message obviously doesn’t need to abide by the 140 character limit.
Here’s how Dave described use cases for IO:
We start with the Instant Messaging model, which many people understand. You get a structured surface to write on. You get to choose how you want to do it. I think that narrating your work is the way to go. But also answering questions or asking them of people you subscribe to is good too.
What I love about his use cases is how closely they align to Twitter use cases. This was microblogging, before microblogging was cool.
Check out how Jon Udell describes IO way back in 2002:
These are people who maintain outlines, in the form of Outline Processor Markup Language, to which I am subscribing. Some of them also subscribe to my outline, but not necessarily all of them, and this is one of the really interesting twists on email. Communication in this environment is by invitation only, and two-way communication requires mutual invitation. Sayonara to spam. If someone annoys you, just drop his or her feed.
You choose to whom you subscribe, and you only see updates for those to whom you subscribe. I especially like that Jon talked about unsubscribing from people whose feeds annoy you.
Retaining the IO notes and making them searchable as knowledge was another area Dave recognized:
The key is to find ways to flow the stuff entered there into a knowledge base. I have quite a few ideas about that.
Dave Luebbert, a former Microsoft programmer and collaborator with Dave, noted the enterprise social software possibilities of IO:
For leaders of large groups, Instant outlining has the very cool feature that you can allow folks to subscribe to you so that they can see what you are thinking about. The leader does not necessarily subscribe to everyone who subscribes to him because that would overwhelm his thinking process. But those who get to subscribe to one of his Instant Outlines get quite an informational advantage and can work better on their own goals because they have that.
If you’re organized around email, usually the only folks who get to listen are the folks who are direct reports. And those guys are always too busy to pass much info down.
The leaders also get to monitor activity in any of the subdomains of the company. They would subscribe to outlines in different groups of the company at their pleasure, but since they are not intimately familiar with those groups business they would not want immediate notification of changes made to those person’s outlines. They can see all the way down to the bottom of the company if they wish to. That’s been a near impossibility up to now with the communication tools that have been available.
And John Robb adds this thought about Instant Outliner that presages the rise of Enterprise 2.0:
I think this is a major new product that could sell in the hundreds of thousands of seats. It connects IM, weblog publishing (a weblog is essentially a published outline), RSS (if RSS items are brought into the outline), and outlining in a new way that radically improves team productivity. I bet I could do the same thing for this product that I did to business weblogs — turn it from a geeks only product and into mainstream productivity tool used by major corporations.
Based on search results for instant outliner, it appears the technology was most active between 2002 and 2005. I’m not sure the status of the project currently, although Dave Winer does subscribe to an entity called Instant Outliner on FriendFeed.
I’ve known Dave as the father of RSS. Now I know the range of his thinking included early models of microblogging and social software. Which tells me I ought be paying attention to what he’s thinking these days.
I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.
Are you on Twitter? Have you perfected the art of communicating a lot in a few characters? Well how about putting that talent to good use, making the lives of your co-workers better ?
I’m talking about…
THE 2009 EMAIL BREVITY CHALLENGE
What’s that? Simple, really:
Keep your company emails to 140 characters or less.
Now let me tell you a little more about this.
I trade tweets with Jennifer Leggio (@mediaphyter). Well, one morning we had this exchange:
Hutch: Are you a long form twitterer? I often hit 140+ characters in my tweets, and spend time cutting them back.
Jennifer: Yup. I think it’s made me more succinct in other mediums, too.
Hutch: You’re right about Twitter making us more succinct. You know where I’m seeing it most? In my emails, of all things.
Jennifer: I wonder if I should challenge myself to only send 140-character emails in 2009? hehe
Hutch: That’d actually be a great challenge. Make your emails max out at 140 characters. Recipients would be thankful.
Jennifer: Let’s do it. In some cases (i.e. work emails requiring tons of back-up) it might be hard, but I’ll shoot for 50 percent.
From that conversation, Jennifer wrote Micro-emailing: The 2009 email brevity challenge on her ZDNet blog Feeds. As she says there:
We understand that some emails need to be longer than 140 characters (I’m not sure my boss would appreciate it if I sent her multiple 140-character emails when she needs a detailed project report). For the rest of the emails, however, we’re going to try and give our co-workers’ weary eyeballs a break. More than that, we are going to start logging these communications and tracking monthly the average number of a characters we use in our sent work-related emails. I’ll post monthly reports here on this blog.
And there you have it.
Consider this little resolution another strike against our overreliance on email. IBM’s Luis Suarez has been quite an advocate for reducing the volume of emails inside companies (see Giving up on Work e-mail – Status Report on Week 46 (Living without Email – One Man’s Story. Are you Next?). He has an ongoing quest to eliminate email in his daily job. He actually did that during Christmas week, as he reports:
It has taken me 46 weeks, but I have finally made it! I have finally been able to prove the point that you can go by a week without using e-mail, but social software, and still get the job done!
And upon seeing this challenge for email brevity, he offered this:
@bhc3 Absolutely! And more than happy as well to help promote it as part of the continued weekly progress reports s haring further insights
If you’re forced to be briefer with your emails, there are a couple outcomes. First, those epic emails are reduced. That probably is welcome news to a lot of workers. Second, it highlights the proper place for many email discussions: wikis, blogs, Yammer, forums, etc. You can use email more for notifications and links to the place where the longer form thinking/discussion/collaboration is occurring.
To participate in this initiative, you only need to do three things:
I particularly encourage you to try this out if you’re interested in Enterprise 2.0. What better way to put into practice what we all see as the future of social software inside organizations?
And drop me a comment if you’ve got any other thoughts or suggestions.
See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22The+2009+Email+Brevity+Challenge%22&who=everyone
The enterprise 2.0 space saw good action this year. I’ve had a chance to see it up close, starting the year with BEA Systems (now Oracle) and closing out the year with Connectbeam. I think it’s fair to say that in 2007, social software was still something of a missionary sale. In 2008, company inquiries increased a lot. The burden still falls on the vendors to articulate business benefits, adoption strategies and use cases. But enterprise customers are now partners in this work.
So let’s get to it. Here are my top ten stories for the year:
1. Activity Streams
Facebook really got this going with its newsfeed, and FriendFeed took it to an art form with its lifestreaming service. In 2008, many vendors added activity streams to their applications: Connectbeam, BEA Systems, Atlassian, SocialText, Jive Software and others. Activity streams are great for improving awareness of colleagues’ activities, and adding a new searchable object: actions.
2. Forrester’s $4.6 Billion Forecast
Forrester Research made a splash with its forecast that Enterprise 2.0 will be a $4.6 billion market by 2013. The ReadWriteWeb story about it has been bookmarked to Del.icio.us 386 times and counting. Forrester’s projections provided a solid analytical framework for the different tools, used internally and externally. According to the analysis, social networking will be the most popular tool for companies. Whether you buy the forecast or not, they remain the best-known, most visible numbers to date.
3. Oracle Beehive
Larry Ellison is fond of essentially dismissing SaaS. He does not have Oracle invest much in the trend. But Oracle did seem to embrace Enterprise 2.0 in a big way this year with Beehive, which is an “integrated set of collaboration services.” The New York Times quotes Oracle EVP Chuck Rozwat: “It is a product we built from scratch over the last three years.” Now since Oracle is a huge enterprise software company, there’s plenty of skepticism about the capabilities and innovation of Beehive. But there’s no denying that Oracle has the ear of the enterprise, and picks up a lot of market intelligence through its customer base. While Beehive itself may or may not succeed, the idea that Oracle came out with Beehive was a big story.
4. AIIM/McKinsey Surveys
Research and consulting firms AIIM and McKinsey each came out with surveys of corporate interest in enterprise 2.0. The AIIM survey looked at levels of awareness and interest among different Enterprise 2.0 technologies. AIIM also took a fairly expansive view of social software. The top 3 “Enterprise 2.0″ technologies in terms of corporate awareness? Email, instant messaging, search. That’s actually a funny list, yet there are lessons there for vendors and consultants in the social software industry. If those are entrenched, can you play nicely with them? One other quote I like from the report:
This study of 441 end users found that a majority of organizations recognize Enterprise 2.0 as critical to the success of their business goals and objectives, but that most do not have a clear understanding of what Enterprise 2.0 is.
McKinsey’s survey of enterprises looked at the interest in various tools as well. It also asked respondents what the leading barriers were for success of social software initiatives. Top three were: (1) Lack of understanding for their financial return; (2) Company culture; (3) Insufficient incentives to adopt or experiment with the tools.
5. Facebook Co-Founder Leaves to Start an Enterprise 2.0 Company
Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and colleague Justin Rosenstein announced they were leaving the hot consumer social network to start a new company. The new company will “build an extensible enterprise productivity suite,” with the goal of “making companies themselves run better.” Why would these young guys, sitting on top of the leader in consumer social networking, choose to exit? As I wrote at the time:
The Enterprise 2.0 market is still quite nascent and fragmented. Combine that industry profile with projected spending in the category, and suddenly you understand why these guys are striking out on their own.
Assuming they’ll be able to tap the mother ship for help, I think this was a fairly important story this year.
6. Microblogging Enters the Enterprise
Joining wikis, blogs, social bookmarking and other incumbent tools this year was microblogging . Given the way Twitter is used by Enterprise 2.0 aficionados, and is enjoying skyrocketing popularity, it’s no surprise we started seeing microblogging emerge for internal use. At the mostly consumer-focused TechCrunch50, enterprise microblogging start-up Yammer won the top prize. Other start-ups in the category include SocialCast and Present.ly. SocialText added microblogging with its release of Signals.
7. Gartner Narrows its Criteria for Social Software
Gartner’s Magic Quadrant is probably the iconic piece of analyst research. With its visibility and status, it also has enormous influence on vendor sales opportunities, especially when it comes time for IT buyers to draw up the all-important vendor short lists.
So it was with great interest when I read that Gartner had narrowed the criteria for whom it puts in the Magic Quadrant:
Added blogs and wikis to the functionality requirements
The effect of that is to establish those two tools as the de facto standard for enterprise social software inside the enterprise. To the extent corporate buyers are listening to Gartner for signals about the market, this will make it a bit more challenging for start-ups with interesting offerings that address other parts of the social software market. Yammer, for instance, won’t make it into their Magic Quadrant.
8. Enterprise RSS Fails to Take Off
RSS is one of those technologies that you know has huge value, and yet continues to struggle for awareness and adoption. Google tracks the leading “what is” searches. The fifth most popular on its list? “What is RSS?” Take that as both good and bad. Good that people want to know, bad that awareness continues to be a struggle.
Forrester analyst Oliver Young has a sharp write-up that shows enterprise RSS did not expand inside companies as many had thought it would this year. As he notes:
Of the three enterprise RSS vendors selling into this space at the start of 2008: KnowNow went out of business completely; NewsGator shifted focus and now leads with its Social Sites for SharePoint offering, while its Enterprise Server catches much less attention; and Attensa has been very quiet this year.
RSS is a great way to distribute content inside companies, but its ongoing limited adoption was a big non-story for the year.
9. IBM and Intel Issue Employee Social Media Guidelines
IBM and Intel each established guidelines for their employees who participate in social media. As I wrote, this essentially was a deputization of employees as brand managers out on the web. These market leaders were essentially saying, “have at it out there on blogs, social networks, Twitter, etc. But make sure you know the company’s expectations.” These guidelines represent a milestone in large enterprises’ comfort with social media. I expect we’ll see more of this in 2009.
10. The Recession
This affects all industries, globally, of course. And Enterprise 2.0 is no exception. Jive Software made news with its layoffs, but the effect was industry-wide. And of course, corporate buyers aren’t immune either. It’s a time for companies to hunker down, get slimmer, more focused and creative than they are in flush times. This recession will be a marvelous test for the resiliency of the Enterprise 2.0 sector.
Those are my ten. Did I miss a big story for 2008? Add your thoughts in the comments.
If you’re interested in tracking what happens in 2009, I encourage you to join the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed. It is a centralized location for tweets and Del.icio.us bookmarks that specifically relate to Enterprise 2.0.
See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22The+Top+10+Enterprise+2.0+Stories+of+2008%22&who=everyone
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