Friday, July 30, 2004

Interesting tidbit from BlogOn...

Software developers take note...

At the recent BlogOn Conference, one of the panels featured some folks from (hold your hisses) Microsoft.

Actually they've created quite the innovative Blogosphere where their engineers and Microsoft developers can interact and communicate.

Anyway, at one point the guy said: "So how many of you use Internet Explorer?" with that confident, I'm-gonna-see-every-hand-shoot-up look.

And in this crowd of several hundred folks, a handful of hands were raised.

He was clearly shocked, and the audience was too. Folks are using Safari, Mozilla, FireFox and so on. And avoiding IE.

Now, you can say this was a crowd of the geekiest of the geeks, and some portion of the room were uber-geeks. But I also think developers of internet apps better take note. In this one area Microsoft's mediocre offering my NOT dominate for long.

Let the Marketing Bashing Begin!

An element of last week's BlogOn Conference that I didn't mention in my basic recaps was the subtle scent of marketing-bashing in the air.

Here is the most egregious examples:

One of the panelists called "forcing the customer to behave as you want them to" as the classic marketing approach!

When it comes to the world of high-tech I'd say the classic marketing approach is to try to force Engineering to do what Marketing thinks the customer wants! Now do we always prognosticate correctly about what the customer wants? Not always.

But I've heard more engineers say: "well, why can't the customer just do xxx?" Or: "well, it's much better to do xxx, just tell the customer that."

And I've never heard a Marketing person come up with that!

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Moving on to the Afternoon of BlogOn 2004

The afternoon sessions at BlogOn were designed to get into the nitty-gritty of what to do with all of these disparate social media tools, features, products...whatever you prefer.

We were moved into a smaller auditorium, which did foster a more interactive atmosphere, and therefore it got a little more lively and interesting. I mean, don't make me get up from my seat, push by some people in my row and walk down some stairs to a microphone, when i can just shout out a question from my chair!

Session #1: The business of blogging...basically can we make money with blogs?
I was disappointed that this session focused almost entirely on advertising as a revenue source. I see a conflict here between bloggers trying to say that they're doing something revolutionary and independent and fresh, and then turning to advertising just as traditional media does.

Blogging is about content. Content is king. And good content gets paid for. Out there in the world people get paid to create all sorts of content: content for marketing collateral, for ads, for magazines, newspapers, newsletters on up to books. It's a harder sell probably, but I think very very few bloggers will be able to make money from ads. People don't have the bandwidth to follow hundreds of blogs. The blogosphere will eventually consolidate.

Which brings me to:

Session #2: Publishing Models
This is the session that descended a little too much into the geekosphere for me. If you're getting into a discussion about RSS vs. XML vs. Atom, and even worse getting into a discussion over whether to use the word RSS like Kleenex as a generic term for're getting too geeky. Yawn.

This was the session where I got annoyed with everyone talking about this brave new world of independent expression, blogging. All true, but if you're talking about how to make it a business, there are three avenues:

1. Some people will get paid for the expression...just like people get published as authors today. And just like in book publishing...that's a very small percentage of the people who wish they could be authors.

2. Some people will get paid to write as a form of journalism...again a relatively small percentage of people. And some of those people may remain independent and pay themselves for this form of journalism via advertising, just as magazines do.

3. And as companies start seeing blogs as yet another medium for sending a marketing message, people will get paid to create that marketing message over that medium.

But all they talked about was ads. You can read a really quite scathing assessment from one of the guys on this panel here.

Finally: Session #3: Metrics of Influence
Here again, it wasn't a boring discussion, but i did feel compelled to speak up and mention something that was missing. Some time earlier in the day someone had mentioned that about 1 in 5 blog readers are blog writers.

I see that and think: ONLY 1 in 5?

Then how can we measure influence of a blog only by how many people link to it on their blogs? That's missing counting whether it's influencing the other 80% of blog readership!

But it's indicative of the insular nature of the social media world that we were sitting there only talking about inbound links as the way to measure influence.

Bottom line: I think that many of the people there were not seeing the potential of blogs beyond a means of personal and individual expression. But my Worker Bees mission is to help organizations, groups, businesses and the like leverage what IS differentiated about the blog experience, both from the user's and the reader's experience:

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Report from the BlogOn 2004 Conference: The Dark Side of Social Media

The 2nd panel at the BlogOn 2004 Conference was supposed to cover "the Dark Side", but it didn't even scratch the surface.

What it did cover was the dark side of doing business in general, especially now that the Internet is ubiquitous.

A lawyer talked about intellectual property and copyright issues.

A P.R. person talked about managing corporate identity, brand and information dissemination in the viral, Internet age (and amused me for an entirely different reason you can read about here.

A social networking exec talked about identity authentication.

A doctoral student seemed like somewhere in there she could talk about the kind of dark side I was expecting to hear about, but frankly I was having an attention span problem and kept getting lost in her academic verbiage.

No one asked, but here's the dark side I see:

1. The devaluing of human interaction and real relationship building
Just look at Dr. Spohrer's comment from the last panel.

Are we losing sight of the tools you can only learn and use when actually with a person: reading body language, clarifying intention and meaning immediately, getting a sense of what makes a person tick and what turns them off.

Am I the only one who has seen email trails get out of control, because it's harder to interpret tone in an email?
Am I the only one who first thinks to work and refer people I actually know, not virtually know?
Am I the only one who has observed people willing to leave behind a better deal because they'd rather deal with the people at a different company?

They say people are more truthful in email because there's a paper trail, and I believe it when it comes to stating facts. But when it comes to revealing one's buttons, good or bad, I don't believe it. People pretend.

2. The degradation of civility in our society

Am I the only one who has observed people say things in email that they would NEVER think of saying in a meeting, or even one-on-one, if it was in person? We can pretend this is just honesty or "bluntness", but I see people cross the line all the time, whether it's because they're in a rush, and don't read their message through, or whether they make a choice to be uncivil and feel they can because it's only electronic correspondence.

All I know is that when someone goes out of their way and does the "old-fashioned" thing, writing a thank-you note by hand for example, people really appreciate it.

3. A more isolated and less connected society

Right now it's a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and I'm downstairs blogging on the conference, while my S.O. is upstairs IRC'ing with some other engineers. And right now I'm sure we're both happy in our respective corners, doing our own thing, so that's fine. But I'm just thinking that all of these online tools are providing lots of ways to be isolated from people, no matter how many you're communicating with out in the Internet world. And I think there are probably many who spend too much time in that world to the detriment of hands-on (pun intended I suppose) relationships.

4. The work ethic or skills of the younger generation

I have to ask: is this always on, constantly multi-tasking mentality breeding a good work force?

IM is really distracting, frankly. I never used it much until I left the traditional corporate world. The I started IM'ing with some folks at my old company who used to work for and with me. And I started this why some things seemed to take too long?

The youth culture that danah boyd, the doctoral student, described, seemed not very conducive to focus or to drilling deeply into a task. Maybe I'm just an old fogey at 40, but I'm kind of concerned.

Anyway, those were my thoughts during the 2nd panel of the day, and those are my thought on what the "real" dark side of social media is!

Report from the BlogOn 2004 Conference: Defining Social Media

As reported, I spent all day Friday in Berkeley for the BlogON 2004 Conference.

First, I will say this: this conference had a higher complement of female attendees and speakers than any I have attended in a long, long time. It was heartening to not be the only woman sitting in a row of the auditorium, let alone in the auditorium as a whole. The crowd was diverse as far as gender and age, less so in other respects. I think it's part of what created the Silicon Valley phenomenon actually. The young may be the genesis of many great new technologies and industries, but we have a population of people who continue to be fascinated by change and innovation as they the Valley has a combination of new thinking and valuable experience at our disposal.

Although the name of the conference implies it's mostly blog-related, in fact the tag line of the conference was "The Business of Social Media."

What is Social Media? Good question, and one they spent the initial panel trying to answer. They defined it roughly as those applications and activities online that are about facilitating expression and connection. This encompasses participatory media, such as blogging, wikis and the like, and social networking sites, such as LinkedIn, Spoke and the like.

To me there was a real dichotomy between the natural inclination of an early adopter crowd thinking they're doing something completely revolutionary and the circling business types looking for ways to (buzz word alert) monetize the phenomenon.

The opening panel spent a lot of time telling us what we already knew about how this particular technology segment has developed and how it's changing traditional media, traditional journalism, traditional ways of doing business. This was the "blah, blah, blah" part of the conference, although they tried to forestall up front any such description by referencing that post, and in fact pointing out the author of it in the crowd.

I was struck more by, therefore, and recorded, statements made that I found counter-intuitive:

James Currier of Tickle/Monster: People get up in the morning and think about themselves. then the second thing they think about is themselves. Then they get around to thinking about the people they know.

Actually, if that were true, there would be little market indeed for any of the social media were were discussing at the Conference. The truth is people do an awful lot to avoid just thinking about themselves. They're constantly searching for something new, something cool, something interesting. True surfers are led from one site, to the next blog, to the next...looking not just for things they already know or think about, but things they don't know or think about.

Jim Spohrer, PhD, IBM Almaden Research Center: In a face-to-face meeting, he finds himself wishing it was a tele-conference, because in person he looses the "tools" to understand who he was with. And he feels like this conference was the "most inefficient" way to cover the topic at hand.

I found this statement almost frightening in its ramifications. The next panel (and my next blog entry) was about "The Dark Side of Social Media", and while that panel focused on certain Known Issues not new to social media, but generally Internet-related, this statement illustrated the dark side of social media to me perfectly.

More on that in the next entry...

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Another Sideline for Worker Bees

I think it's a sign of the (slightly better) times that lots of people I know in the Valley are finally feeling that it might be worth it to start looking for a different job.

Any company who hasn't worried about employee retention during the slow, miserable down times will be sorry as times pick up.

I suppose it's a natural extension of writing and marketing to create any individual's ultimate written marketing tool: their resume.

Lately I have had several colleagues request my services to help them write compelling resumes. It's actually a fun job when it's not about you!

And when you look at the first bullet from the Worker Bees mission stated on the home page:

-You need to deliver a compelling message to your prospective customer

Well, then it makes perfect sense. What is a resume, but the compelling message you're trying to deliver to your prospective customer, your prospective new employer?

Off to the First Annual BlogOn Conference Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the first ever BlogOn Conference. I only somewhat facetiously call it the "first annual' in the title. Given how hot the topic of blogging has become, I fully expect events such as these to become common.

I'll be gone at an ungodly hour in the morning, drive up to Berkeley with a fellow blogger and then stay up there for a dinner.

The Agenda is fairly interesting, although I must say it looks to be mostly speakers who are all about the infrastructure of blogging, as opposed to a bunch of high profile bloggers themselves.

I hope it doesn't become another conversation about social networking or social capital.

I am most interested in finding out about other folks like me, who see blogging as a great way for any business or organization to broaden and deepen their reach and relationship with existing and prospective customers, audience members, donors etc.

If I were really cool I would have figured out how to use the new MoBlogging (that's Mobile Blogging) features of my blogging software and post entries from my cell phone.

But honestly, that does seem a little obsessive to me!

I'll check in after the conference and let you know if any brilliant new ideas were floated that are right up Worker Bees' (and our clients') alley,

Monday, July 19, 2004

New Icons on my Home Page

If you check out my home page you'll note new icons, both for the three customer segments I serve and the icon for the link to my customer testimonials. These are a big improvement over the icons I had before, which my web designer and I had basically found on the web and then modified.

These are the work of a friend of mine who does graphics for a living. I told him what I liked about one of the icons I had, and he took it from there. I simply provided him with the color palette my web designer and I had come up with for the site (as I also did for my logo designer.)

The great thing is that both this icon design work and my logo design work were part of a kind of barter arrangement with each artist. So, never underestimate the value of 1) networking...and that includes meeting more than just people who can give you projects and 2) suggesting creative solutions for payment for services. Never hurts to ask.

The icons were designed by Flashlight Graphics, and I'll be adding his site to my Cross-Pollination section this week.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Update on My Metro Column

As noted, it's entitled "Silicon Veggie", and the first one will appear in the August 4th edition of Metro.

They will appear every 4 weeks. If they have an online link, I'll certainly post it each month.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

This Blog: Proof that Key Word Advertising Doesn't Always Work

Take a look at the top of the blog. See those two ads being served up by Google?

What are they about?

As far as I can tell they're always about actual bees. Live, buzzing bees.

If I were nice to those poor advertisers (and to Google) I would change the name of the blog to the "Worker Bees: Buzz Marketing Blog."

Don't know if that would solve it completely.

Don't know if I'm that nice :)

I Got a Name

Well, I already had a name, name.

And no, I'm not getting all 70's nostalgic and Croce-yearning on you.

We've simply decided on a name for my column in the Metro (drum roll please): "Silicon Veggie"

Now when will the auspicious debut be?

Well, it was going to be this week, but nothing ever happens exactly when it's supposed to, right?

Seems the Metro is overhauling their Dining section and want to pull it all together. The good news is I will probably be able to write longer columns than originally planned. But it may not start until early August.

Be assured this Silicon Veggie will keep you posted.

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