My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 042409

From the home office in Detroit, Michigan…

#1: CNN.com poll asks, “Do you use Twitter?” 331k respondents. 7% yes. 63% no. 30% “what’s Twitter?”

#2: Hey bloggers – make sure your twitter handle is somewhere on your blogs. I like to tweet a link with your Twitter handle. Easy visibility.

#3: My Twitter personality: renowned spamming cautious My style: garrulous academic ROBOT http://twanalyst.com/bhc3 {ROBOT? Say what?}

#4: Great tips about social media releases for companies on @mediaphyter‘s blog by @serena http://bit.ly/s3wQy

#5: Reading: “Don’t cut back on innovation” in Fortune by Anne Mulcahy, Xerox CEO http://bit.ly/OZWHn

#6: Interested in using enterprise 2.0 for innovation? Read this wonderful post by @ITSinsider “Putting 2.0 to Work: Spigit” http://bit.ly/N53bN

#7: With Oracle’s acq of Sun and MySQL, does PostgreSQL now merit a closer look? http://bit.ly/2B8u3q

#8: Fascinating study of high performance work teams. They equally mix advocacy w/ asking & external/internal focus http://bit.ly/qNDtH

#9: Congrats to Ryan Hall, 3rd place in today’s Boston Marathon (2:09:40). Gutsy race he ran today. http://bit.ly/1ay6BF

#10: It was 91 degrees today in San Francisco, & we felt every one of those degrees at my 5 y.o. son’s birthday party. Fun, but smokin’.

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In Praise of Grunt Work

broken-glass

Photo credit: Vieux Bandit

An experience I had that comes back to me from time to time is work I used to do way back in the early 1990s. I was an Assistant Buyer for Hecht’s Department Store in Washington D.C. My department? Stationery and Frames.

The picture frames could get handled roughly, both by customers and in transit. Which meant broken glass. A lot of it.

The store department managers would box up these frames of broken glass, and ship ’em back to the Hecht’s warehouse in Maryland. Boxes of these frames would show up each week, stored in the specially designated Frames area. I’m guessing the warehouse crew thought that was sort of amusing.

So you’ve got a bunch of frames, but no glass. What do you do? Ship ’em back to the different manufacturers?

No, you send the Assistant Buyer to the warehouse to replace the glass.

We’d order a bunch of different pieces of glass, and I’d rebuild these poor little specimens on the Island of Misfit Frames. It sucked. I mean, I wore gloves but would inevitably get cuts on my hands. It was hot in that warehouse. Sitting there for hours doing this work was b o r i n g. I was a college grad, dammit!

But something happened over the hours, days and weeks I did this work. I learned those picture frames. I knew all the Burnes styles cold. It happened in spite of my dislike of the glass replacement work in the warehouse.

How did it help?

  • Sales numbers on a report were matched to a style I knew, making the data much more informative
  • Ad layouts – I knew the colors and styles to put into each ad
  • Store merchandising – I could go into any store and quickly size up the shelves for presentation and inventory
  • Product selection – I could compare new styles to what we already carried

All from the hours of grunt work in the warehouse. This is a lesson I like to remember from time to time.

*****

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Atlassian’s Confluence Wiki Gets Social: Embed Your Favorite Social Media

Zoli Erdos has a nice write-up of enterprise software company Atlassian, titled Business Models and Right-brained Geeks. In it, he notes the culture of Atlassian is different from many enterprise software companies:

Atlassian is a “different” company in so many ways… no wonder they are still hiring while the rest of the world is busy downsizing.  But one thing I’ve not realized until now is they have a backup business plan. They could quit Technology tomorrow and become a Creative Agency overnight.smile_wink Need proof?

We use Atlassian’s Confluence wiki in our office, and I’ll bet a lot of you do as well. It’s easy to use, and I’ve become a big fan of it versus using Microsoft Word.

So it’s no surprise that the latest release, Confluence 2.10 has a really cool feature: the Widget Connector. Uh…come again?

The Widget Connector. It is a lightweight way to embed content from 16 different social media sites:

atlassian-confluence-connector-widget-supported-sites

I have to say, that’s pretty cool. The ability to embed media created elsewhere is a wonderful feature for any site. I’ve embedded my recent SlideShare on the About Page for this blog. And the ability to embed Vimeo videos was great for a recent post where I talked with MADtv’s Chris Kula.

LinkedIn recently started doing this as well. You can add content and applications from 10 different sites to your profile. It’s a smart play for companies. By letting you bring content from elsewhere, these sites become valuable platforms for getting business done.

Considering the Widget Connector in a Business Context

The interesting thing here is that these sites are indeed social. So the content that will be included is likely to be that which is OK for public viewing. Which means some sensitive internal content won’t be found on these sites. I know many of these sites allow private, restricted access content. It’s unclear whether restricted access content can be embedded though.

But a lot of what businesses do is perfectly fine for public consumption. Well, make sure you embed it in the wiki! Conference presentations, product demos, marketing media, product pictures, etc. In fact, the bias should be to have this content public and findable unless there is a real concern about loss of confidential information. Being a presence in the industry means getting out there with information and ideas that you share. Of course, not everything should be accessible. For instance, a webinar should be public, while a customer presentation will stay internal.

The reality is that companies are expanding their presence on social media sites, even if it is happening in a halting fashion. Turns out consumers are starting to expect it. As use of these various social media sites expands, having a central place to view and track the content on them makes a lot of sense.

Another use I see for this is collecting information from various services and users to build out research on:

  • New product or service initiatives
  • Competitors
  • Customers
  • Regulatory and standards development

Consider Atlassian’s release of Confluence 2.10 another step forward in expanding the use and value of social media for business purposes.

*****

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How Enterprise 2.0 Fosters Innovation: Stop Groupthink

I’ve had a chance to read some interesting research about innovation. In this case, whether more quality ideas emerge…

  • When people are in group sessions; or
  • Thinking independently

The background of this research ties into a well-known corporate activity: group meetings. I imagine most of us go through the ritual team meetings. Team meetings are good for a lot of things, but innovation may not be their highest and best use.

Turns out, research says that companies would be better off if employees had a way of coming up with ideas on their own, not in group meetings.

Here are three separate findings:

Via Marc Andreessen’s blog, the findings of researchers as related by Frans Johansson in The Medici Effect:

Via MSNBC, the findings as reported in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Via MIT Sloan Management Review, research published by INSEAD Business School

These observations about brainstorming ring true to me. I’ve been in enough meetings to know that strong personalities and prior relationships can hold sway over a group. The quote above by the Indiana University associate professor describes a dynamic I’ve seen time and again. An idea suggested early in the session gets traction, and becomes the focal point of the brainstorming. At some point, groupthink takes over. Maybe it’s exhaustion, maybe it’s an inability to focus on the other ideas anymore.

Yes, good ideas can emerge. But often, the whole exercise feels forced, and in my personal experience, employees don’t expect much from these meetings. Particularly if they’re run by outside consultants.

It Turns Out Group Brainstorming Does Have Its Attractions

The INSEAD paper referenced above does have some good news about group meetings. The paper studied two types of brainstorming groups:

  1. The traditional model, assembling a group of people.
  2. The other group took a “hybrid” approach, working on ideas by themselves before coming together to share their thinking.

The quote I selected above is from the research. But the study also has this to say about the two types of brainstorming:

Which technique yielded the best ideas? Strictly speaking, the traditional brainstorming groups consistently came up with the very best idea — and the very worst one, too. In other words, the quality of their results varied much more than those that came out of the hybrid groups that combined individual and group idea generation. However, the hybrid groups produced more ideas that were, on average, of higher quality. Nonetheless “for the very best idea, you need to have a pure brainstorming group,” notes Girotra. “Random interactions are likely to produce better-quality ideas.”

A few thoughts from that quote. One, the best idea can emerge from the group brainstorming, but I suspect it takes a truly motivated group. People need to come to meetings energized, ready to participate in a rapid-fire exchange of ideas and counter-arguments. In my experience, most meetings aren’t like that.

Also, how does that research that both the best and worst ideas emerge from group brainstorming play out there? Who doesn’t want the best ideas to emerge, but are you ready to put up with the worst ones too? Is there an argument for maintaining a larger number of ideas that are consistently above average?

Why can’t we get the best of both worlds? I want a higher quantity of good ideas, and I want the best ideas to emerge. While avoiding the worst ideas, if possible.

Enterprise 2.0: Hybrid Between Individualism and Group Dynamics

The graphic below describes the way Enterprise 2.0 captures the advantages of both brainstorming styles, group and hybrid:

Source Ideas: In the model above, the bottom level speaks to the core driver of Web 2.0: user-generated content. In this case, employee-generated ideas. Applying the familiar design and functionality of the consumer web (e.g. Twitter, Flickr, FriendFeed, WordPress, etc.) allows the easy creation of ideas.

Filter Ideas: Something I’ve learned by participating in social media is that your peers are amazing filters. Find a group of people with common interests – but with different opinions – and you’d be amazed at how the most useful stuff floats to the top. Happens in blogging, photos, videos, tweets etc.

Execute Ideas: After all this idea creation and filtering is done, the ideas need to be executed. Here’s where the group dynamic becomes a huge plus. Most ideas in a corporate setting will touch a number of areas, and the group makes it happen.

The key to getting the best of both worlds – more ideas of better quality, identification of the top ideas – is to create a culture where ideas are rapidly created and evaluated, while also letting advocates gestate their ideas to fix areas of weakness.

The ‘Source Ideas’ part of the model speaks to the best of brainstorming as researchers have found, in the above quotes. In my own experience, it’s hard to find those channels for new ideas, either fully baked or based on a hunch. You’d typically have to email someone, or call a meeting with several folks. Coming up with new ideas is challenging enough…you then have to go through workplace Olympics to see an idea get discussed and considered.

‘Filter Ideas’ gets to the heart of what makes group brainstorming powerful, when it works. The rapid creation and analysis of ideas helps everyone. Different points of view, people seeing unique opportunities with an idea or recognizing weaknesses…all are vital to the corporate innovation process. Currently, this can only happen in a group setting, but the group brainstorming dynamics have to be “right”.

Enterprise 2.0 has this figured out. Ideas are easily created and shared. Proponents and opponents can develop analyses of ideas. Simple commenting is very powerful, while longer form blogging can lay down foundational elements. Proposed ideas and discussions live longer than the one hour everyone is together in a conference room.

I know this, because I see it everyday in places like FriendFeed, blogs and Twitter. The diverse opinions, knowledge, creativity and world views result in some really good ideas and perspectives.

I’m not prescribing the particular technology to capture the best of individual and group brainstorming. There are different ways to approach that. What matters is letting the employees try this out for themselves.

Groupthink has its place. A unified group taking on the challenges of the market is vital. But groupthink should kick in after the innovation processes have occurred. First, a healthy scrum of ideas, ultimately filtered to the ones that a company will execute. Then everyone working together with a common sense of purpose.

A utopian vision? Perhaps. But like all stretch goals…if you get halfway to them, you’ve accomplished a lot.

*****

If you want an easy way to stay on top of Enterprise 2.0, I invite you to join the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed. The room takes feeds for Enterprise 2.0-related items on Twitter, Del.icio.us and SlideShare. To see this room, click here: http://friendfeed.com/rooms/enterprise-2-0

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22How+Enterprise+2.0+Fosters+Innovation%3A+Stop+Groupthink%22

How Would Social Media Help You in Your Job?

I’m having a ball with social media out in the consumer web. Blogging, FriendFeed, Twitter, Facebook. I’m learning so much about technology, new companies and people’s attitudes regarding Web 2.0. Along the way, some collaboration and a new job actually happened out of all this fun.

Now why can’t we see some of these same effects in the place where most of us spend a third of our day? We’re seeing live implementations of social media inside organizations (aka Enterprise 2.0). It’s a good sign.

I’m now in a job where I’m thinking about this a lot. And I figured I’d start with myself. Where would social media have made a difference in my two previous Big Corporate jobs:

Both companies were examples of today’s modern company, with a heavy information orientation. It’s been years since I worked at either, but here is how social media could have helped me in my jobs.

May Department Stores

The buying office of a retailer is responsible for picking the merchandise you see on the floor. Buyers also plan and execute promotions, set prices and ensure optimum amount of inventory on the floor and in the warehouse. We also had to communicate with the department managers of dozens of stores.

Here are the social media that would have helped me (if we had the Web back in 1990-1994):

  • Twitter: Yup, I would have loved Twitter. An easy way to fire off updates out to the field of department managers. And they would have sent back news of things they were seeing. Would have been a huge help during the crazy Christmas season.
  • Blog: I would have blogged about the weekly promotions. There’s a fair amount of work that went into them (promo prices, signage, focus of the ads), and documenting all that would have been useful. New products that we bought would have been good to discuss as well.
  • Bookmarking and notetaking: Assuming we had the world wide web back then, I would have bookmarked and noted a number of things for the job: competitor ads and pricing, product promotions I liked, new products I’d seen elsewhere.

Bank of America

At BofA, my group raised debt for corporations. Deals could run anywhere from $25 million to $6 billion. It was an information-intensive job.

The work consisted of three primary activities: (1) win the deal; (2) sell the deal; (3) close the deal via documentation. You had to stay on top of comparable deals, industry trends, capital market trends and general market chatter. Our group was divided into Structurers (me), who worked with clients to win and structure deals; and Distribution, who sold the deal to the market. Distribution always had the best information.

Social media I would have wanted:

  • Twitter: Again! I really would have wanted to see the ongoing chatter of the Distribution guys. They picked up all sorts of incredibly valuable market intelligence during the day. They used to IM. Now I’d want them to tweet.
  • Wiki: Every deal should have had a wiki space, with its “win the mandate” phase, its “sell it to the market” phase and the documentation phase. Wikis would have been good for handling the whole deal cycle.
  • Feed Reader: There were market data publications to which BofA subscribed. Getting a feed of deal information would have been a huge help. We were chasing information down in paper publications.
  • Bookmarking and notetaking: When deal, market or industry news came through, I needed a place to save it. I was always going back to find stuff I’d seen earlier. Bookmarking would have helped a lot. Note taking too – capture some information or thoughts, tag it and come back to it later.
  • Blog: My group wouldn’t have had much use for a blog amongst ourselves. But a blog that updated the rest of the bank as to what was happening in our particular capital market (syndicated loans) would have been perfect. We had other groups asking us often about market conditions.

I’d Love to Hear About You

Maybe you’re already using social media inside your company. Or perhaps you’ve been thinking, “my company really needs…”

If you’ve got any ideas to share, I’d love to hear them.

*****

If you want an easy way to stay on top of Enterprise 2.0, I invite you to join the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed. The room takes feeds for Enterprise 2.0-related items on Twitter, Del.icio.us and SlideShare. To see this room, click here: http://friendfeed.com/rooms/enterprise-2-0

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22How+Would+Social+Media+Help+You+in+Your+Job%3F%22&public=1

Smart Workers Will Figure This Out: Social Media = Career Advancement

Do you think you’ve got more to contribute to your organization than you’ve had a chance to show? I’ll bet you do too.

There have been a fair number of posts about the adoption rate of web 2.0 inside companies. In my previous work doing enterprise 2.0 product marketing for BEA Systems, I can confirm a growing interest out in the corporate world.

But interest from the higher-ups is one thing. What makes the employees actually want to wiki/blog/tag/comment/tweet?

I came across this comment on an old Nick Carr post, Web 2.0’s Numbskull Factor:

Successful adoption [of web 2.0 inside companies] is likely to be driven by the usual three support cycles involved in effective change: achieving personal benefits from using them, seeing peers achieving the same benefits and continuous management support over the 24-36 months required to embed them in business as usual.

Graham Hill, PriceWaterhouseCoopers

Graham’s three elements are spot on. In this post, I want to discuss the first two cycles he discusses. The third cycle is for another post.

Personal Benefits Come in Two Flavors

In a company setting, personal benefits mean one thing:

How will it improve my career?

I know that’s a bit crass. But I think it speaks to what energizes us to work. You want recognition that you can “bring it”.

Two ways such an outcome occurs with social media/web 2.0:

  1. Makes me better at my job and strengthens relationships with colleagues
  2. Others with the power to advance my career start to form a good impression of me

In terms of improving your work, web 2.0 apps offer a variety of benefits. That’s actually going to be future post.

The second benefit is one of reputation. I think all us who work in big companies know that reputations are vital to career advancement. You form impressions of others, which frames your view of their work. And most assuredly, others form impressions of you.

In the typical work environment, you interact with others via email, phone, team meeting. Contributions are made, but not recorded. Knowledge of your effort is silo’d and much of the good stuff we do is invisible.

Social media changes the game. As projects run through wikis, a permanent record of your contributions is created. Your comments are visible and searchable, greatly increasing their value relative to verbal contributions or email. A blog post with a good idea is accessible everywhere, at any time. It also can be shown as the spark for that killer product the company introduced. Your tagging of internal data is like Louis Gray sharing posts from Google Reader. People love your tags.

You also get to step outside of your assigned duties, and weigh in on the big issues facing the company. Always felt like you’ve got a good bead on areas the company needs to address? But your manager and peers aren’t really interested? Blog about it. Tweet about it. Comment about it. Establish your cred. If your thinking pans out, you’ve got a basis for demonstrating your contributions.

The other thing is this. Your contributions via social media need to help others. As you offer insight, decisions and ideas, others will find value in your contributions. Well beyond the normal four walls of that cubicle you’re sitting in. You can build relationships with geographies, business units and departments that are not normally in your work sphere.

To recap the benefits of social media for you:

  • Work better
  • Get beyond relying only on the annual review, create an electronic trail of your work
  • Show you can contribute to larger issues affecting the company
  • Establish relationships with people outside your daily social circle
  • Build – better yet, control – your internal reputation

Peers Getting the Benefits

This one is pretty basic. You know those mass internal emails calling out an individual or team for doing something really outstanding? Don’t you love those?

Well, social media will have some of that. You’ll be on the company portal or wiki, and you’ll see a complimentary message for someone’s work on it. If it’s anything like what I see on FriendFeed or Twitter, there will be several of these messages. A great way to give the “atta boy” or “atta girl” to someone’s work.

And everyone else seeing these complimentary messages will start to get the hint. My colleagues are starting to have an impact. I’d better participate.

Final Thoughts

Workers already have a host of channels with which to establish their reputation: project teams, emails, meetings, water cooler. For some, adding web 2.0 apps is just another thing they have to worry about.

Smart employees are going to see things differently. These tools offer the chance to better contribute, to get a better read on the pulse of the company and to better control one’s reputation. A chance to change the rules for career advancement.

*****

If you want an easy way to stay on top of Enterprise 2.0, I invite you to join the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed. The room takes feeds for Enterprise 2.0-related items on Twitter, Del.icio.us and SlideShare. To see this room, click here: http://friendfeed.com/rooms/enterprise-2-0

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Smart+Workers+Will+Figure+This+Out%3A+Social+Media+%3D+Career+Advancement%22&public=1

Using FriendFeed Rooms for Work: What’s Needed?

I believe that Participation is the killer app.

Whether it is end user participation in content driven conversations on blogs and wikis, or end user developed applications, mash-ups and widgets, I think that it is participation that key difference between Enterprise 2.0 and Enterprise 1.0.

Rod Boothby, Participation Is the Killer App, Innovation Creators

Making work more interesting and more engaging would have benefits for companies and workers. To that end, I’ve suggested that FriendFeed has aspects applicable inside the enterprise. Steven Hodson took it a step further, suggesting engineers could use FriendFeed rooms to manage their software development.

The idea of using rooms for work purposes has been broached by other as well:

  • possible248: “Companies already have blogs and wikis, is there going to be something like a FriendFeed room that they can host on their own server?”
  • Jigar Mehta: “How would it be, if FriendFeed allows users to attach documents (doc, docx, ppt, pdf, txt, rtf) and discuss over them!!”

Personally, I think there’s a lot of merit to this idea. I’ve seen so many good discussions around ideas on FriendFeed. And for many of us, work is the creation, advocacy and execution of ideas – projects, presentations, campaigns, financings, etc.

The land of wikis is well developed, but most of them suffer from only emphasizing multiple user changes to documents and revision tracking. They lack the interactive participation that makes FriendFeed so compelling.

With that in mind, I wanted to come up with a list of features that would provide very basic wiki functionality in FriendFeed rooms. Wikis can have all sorts of advanced features. What would be the minimum feature set to make rooms function as lightweight wikis?

To be clear about the objective…I’ll set the wiki bar low. A room would only exist to manage the production of a smaller project or document. No large-scale stuff here. And that’s probably a good approach in business anyway.

Rooms already have three key elements for making them into wikis:

  • Ability to manage who the room members are
  • Room-specific search
  • RSS directly into rooms

Here are my four features for wikifying FriendFeed rooms:

  1. Better handling of RSS feeds for document changes
  2. Sticky setting for entries
  3. Timestamp comments
  4. New comments and entries notification

Better Handling of RSS Feeds for Document Changes

In Jigar Mehta’s entry, Nick Lothian commented:

Doesn’t GDocs have a RSS feed for changes? Hook that up and then you can have discussion about the changes to documents

That makes a lot of sense to me. FriendFeed doesn’t need to upload the document and maintain revisions. It can leverage that functionality in another app, like Google Docs. And this use case is exactly how FriendFeed works: users read blog entries and then come back to FriendFeed to Like and Comment.

I set up a public document on Google Docs, and had the document changes feed into a specific room: Rooms Wiki Experiment. If you go there, you’ll see my original entry, “Politics 2008 – Google Docs”. I commented a couple times. Then you’ll see another entry called “Restricted”. If you had access to the source document, you’d see information about revisions. I, of course, do have access. And that link only takes you to Revision #3. I made 15 revisions, but those changes didn’t stream into the room.

So that needs to work better, either from Google Docs or within FriendFeed.

Sticky Setting for Entries

Brad McCrorey posted a good question on FriendFeed:

Would having a “sticky” setting that keeps an item at the top of the room be too “forum like”? I think I’d get some use out of it.

I like this idea. In terms of advancing a project or document, this feature would let key decisions remain visible to everyone in the room.

Timestamp Comments

This is a recurring request. And it makes sense in terms of the wiki. Projects and documentsd evolve, and the timestamp helps one understand whether a comment was made before a change or after it. Or before a decision, or after it.

Timestamps give an extra bit of context to the interactions that occur around the project.

New Comments and Entries Notification

Inside a company, you are busy with multiple tasks. You’re not likely to keep the FriendFeed room up all the time (although that may be possible).

But it’s important to know when new entries have been posted. These entries would be:

  • New changes to a document
  • New direct posts of someone with an idea or question
  • New document added to the room

Notification provides the visibility needed to ensure interactive participation and timely decision-making.

Final Thoughts

The comment at the top of this post reflects my position regarding the future of work. More open, more interactive, broader participation, more engaging. FriendFeed, and Twitter as well, have created terrific interactive models not seen in most Enterprise 2.0 apps today.

I’m sure the FriendFeed guys aren’t worried about this now. But somewhere along the line, companies may see the potential in FriendFeed and begin asking for this type of functionality.

*****

See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Using+FriendFeed+Rooms+for+Work%3A+What%E2%80%99s+Needed%22&public=1