Category Archives: web2.0

Microblogging talk

I’ve promised to give a short talk on microblogging for the knowledge and collaboration community (KCBlue) at work. Might be a good time to practice animation, too. =)

5 minutes: 750 words, 20 minutes: 3,000 words (throw pauses in there too)

Creativity loves constraints. I want to fit the core of my message into 5 minutes (approximately 750 words), with each “part” being 140 characters or less.

This will be a launching pad for discussion, which will take up most of the allotted time. I’ll switch to Q&A with a summary slide that includes Why and Beyond the Basics so that it’s easy for people to remember what they want to ask questions about. I’ll use five minutes at the end to wrap up, and I’ll post links and follow-up material in a blog post. I’ll collect e-mail addresses so that I can notify people when I’ve posted an update.

I plan to make hand-drawn slides for each of the sections, and maybe even animation if I get around to it. =)

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The Whys and Hows of Microblogging

Why use Twitter? Why update your status on Facebook or Lotus Connections? Let’s talk about why people microblog and how you can get more value out of these tools.

Don’t know whom to e-mail? Don’t have the time to write a blog post? Post a short, quick update that people can read if they’re there.

What can you fit in 140 or so characters? A single thought. A question. Maybe a link.

What can you get? Broad, rapid, almost real-time conversations, if you’ve got a good network.

Here’s what you can do to build that network, and why you’d want to.

  • Learning: Follow role models and learn from what they’re doing. Build the relationship by thanking them for tips and ideas.
  • Updates: Do your favourite stores post updates? Find out what’s on sale and when the cookies have come out of the oven.
  • Customer service: Good experience? Bad experience? Post an update and you might be surprised by who’s listening.
  • Events: Interested in an event? Find out who’s going and what people think. Going there in person? Meet up at tweetups and get to know more people.
  • Awareness: Miss those watercooler chats? Microblogging’s better. You can keep in touch with way more people, and you don’t even have to stand up.
  • Passing things along: Like what someone shared? Share the good stuff by re-posting with credit. Look at how people do it, and follow their example.
  • Sharing: Want to build your network? Make people happy and help them grow by sharing tips and answering questions.
  • Questions: Need a quick answer but don’t know whom to ask? Post your question and you just might get a tip. You’ll need a good network for this.

NOTE: No one expects you to read everything. Don’t get addicted. It’s okay if you miss people’s updates.

How to get started:

Twitter: Sign up on twitter.com. Look for people. Follow them. Reply when you have something to say. Share what you’re doing and learning.

Lotus Connections Profiles: Log in. Look for people. Invite them to your network. Reply when you have something to say. Share what you’re doing and learning.

There are more microblogging services out there. Explore. Find out what works for you.

Beyond the basics:

  • Apps: Use a microblogging client like Tweetdeck to make reading and posting easier. Explore and find out which tool fits you.
  • Cross-posting: Synchronize automatically, or use a tool to post on multiple services. MicroBlogCentral can handle Twitter and Lotus Connections Profiles.
  • Personas: Don’t want to mix work and life? Don’t want to overwhelm people with too many updates? Use multiple accounts to give people choices.
  • Group posting: Corporate brand? Team account? You can use tools to make it easy for many people to post to the same account.
  • Strategy: Where does microblogging fit into your strategy? Post quick updates and interact with people. Link to your main site in your profile.

Next steps:

Pick a reason why you want to microblog, and go for it. How can I help you make the most of these tools?

Getting started on your web presence

One of my mentees asked: in terms of public web presence, should you have a website, a blog, both of the above, or one site that serves both purposes?

These are some things I’ve learned after eight years of having a public web presence:

Have one site. It’s less confusing and it makes it easier for people to get to know you. Work-life separation or anonymous blogging may sound appealing. If that’s what it takes for you to get started, go for it (knowing that anonymity is very hard to keep). But it’s easier to have one persona and one site.

I find that it’s too much work to keep track of multiple personas and multiple sites. My internal/external split is hard enough for me to remember to update. ;)

Yes, there are lots of wildly popular niche bloggers with tightly-focused sites and tens of thousands of subscribers. You’re not there yet. When you get to the point of having tons of great material you can share, you can syndicate or revise things for a separate focused blog or site.

Get your own domain name. It means never having to change URLs or e-mail addresses again, and you don’t have to rely on a third-party blog/web host to stay free or to be in business.

If your name is hard to spell (like mine is), get another domain name and point it to the same content, configuring your web server so that search engines don’t punish you for duplicate sites. For example, I use sachachua.com , but livinganawesomelife.com is easier for people to remember.

It doesn’t matter if your domain name goes to your blog or to an overview. I prefer that sachachua.com shows people my blog because I have many frequent visitors, so it’s easier to go directly to what people are interested in. Fresh content is good. Other people start with an overview that links to their blog. Either way works.

Try starting with a blog or microblog. Set up your site so that you think about updating it. Yes, it’s easy to just put up an “About Me” page. Static pages are useful. But static pages tend to stay static. Start a blog and use it as a staging area where you can write about what you’re thinking. Set up your blog editor so that you can publish to your blog easily. Add blogging to your task list as a recurring task. Use it to cc: world. As you write, you’ll find things that you’ll want to “promote” to regular pages on your website. Treat your blog as your working area, and then use that to think about and create your static content.

Don’t worry about getting started. Just start. You’ll tweak your web presence over time as you find inspiration and you figure out what fits. Get something out there. It’s easy to revise something that exists than to stare at a blank page.

Thanks to Brian O’Donovan for the question!

Information gardening tasks

A large part of my work involves capturing and organizing information. It takes a surprising lot of time and thought. Here are some of the things I do:

  • Capture and file information, relevant mail, work in progress, final output, etc.
  • Help people find information and improve the findability along the way
  • Create and refine navigation (links, new pages, etc.)
  • Move information from private spaces to public spaces
  • Facilitate and summarize online discussions
  • Coach people on tool use and answer support questions
  • Document and refine processes
  • Set up communities, discussions, and other sub-sites
  • Recommend processes and improvements
  • Correct obsolete links and assets

I do that across multiple tools (Wikis, Communities, TeamRooms, Activities, e-mail), with a team of mixed early, mainstream and late adopters and changing communities of learners.

I think of this as information gardening. I can’t architect a beautiful information structure from the beginning. I don’t know what the final result will look like. All I can do is support, organize, water, tie, and prune. I have to find out what paths people use, then pave them to make finding things a little easier.

It’s not easy. It’s less engaging or measurable than programming, where you can track your progress by the defects you close and the features you build. But it creates a lot of value and helps scale up the effect of our group’s work. Why do I do it?

  • I’m building an example of how social computing can support a team.
  • I’m learning more about emergent information architecture.
  • I’m developing and documenting practices that other people might find useful.

How am I learning about this? Mostly through inspiration, practice, and reflection. I collect examples of well-organized wikis and I talk to other teams who use combinations of tools. I handle my team members’ requests and questions, and I think about how we can organize things better.

If you want your team to get more value out of social tools and knowledge sharing, you’ll probably need someone doing work like this.

Anyone else doing this? Want to share notes?

Accessing tacit knowledge and building pathways for two-way learning

… Contacts are of very limited value in this changing world — the name of the game is how to participate in knowledge flows.

… Large contact databases don’t particularly help in this quest and, in fact, can subvert our efforts to build the kinds of relationships that matter the most.

… Accessing tacit knowledge requires a learning disposition and an ability to attract, rather than simply reaching out.

… This often requires discussing publicly the issues you are wrestling with so others can become aware of them and seek you out if they are confronting similar issues. This can be very uncomfortable for most of us, because we are reluctant to expose provisional ideas and acknowledge that we are struggling with developing those ideas.

… Do you engage in these types of practices? What lessons have you learned in terms of being more effective at accessing tacit knowledge? What could your company do to encourage and support these kinds of practices?

John agel and John Seely Brown, Networking Reconsidered

Tacit knowledge: what we know but have not yet captured.

I think a lot about tacit knowledge, both sharing and receiving.

I need to share. I can’t help but share. I find meaning and passion in the act of sharing what I know and what I am learning. I work on converting tacit into explicit knowledge by writing things down and sharing them as widely as possible–usually, on this blog. I map my thoughts so that I can see an overview and find gaps. I write, I sketch, I speak. To speed things up, I’ve offered to mentor people. Questions help me access tacit knowledge. Other people’s perspectives help me learn even more.

It takes a village to raise a child, and the Internet is my village. Where there are gaps—the challenges I’m figuring out, the questions I haven’t even formulated yet, the things you can’t find on Google or in books—people step forward and share what they’ve learned. People are generous with their insights. Strangers pass through; some stay, become friends, move on. I remember the IBM ad of all those people teaching a boy, a metaphor for Linux. When I saw that ad, I thought: that is me as well.

Why does this work? Reciprocity? The serendipity of search engines and random connections? The asymmetry of communication? Reciprocity perhaps explains why people who have learned something from me—or from their own mentors—take the time to share their insights. Search engines mean that the knowledge flow doesn’t disappear with the end of a conversation or the geographic limits of physical interaction. Asymmetry means the network isn’t limited by my energy or courage.

I read a lot. I’ve read many, many books on networking. Inspired by those books, I used to set networking goals for myself. 300 “active” contacts that I’ve reached out to in the last six months, and so on. Now I don’t count. I just share.

I have not yet read a book that made sense of this new way of relating. We do something today that could not be done easily in the past. Not with this scale, not with this reach. There are many like me, and tools make our world even more densely connected.

There could be more. I need to find out what I’m doing right so that I can help others learn. I want to find out what we could do even better.

What are the key points of difference?

  • Motivation: I’m strongly motivated by gratitude and possibility: gratitude for what I’ve learned from others, and the possibilities of what we can do if I can help other people build on the foundations of what I’m learning.
  • Focus on creating value: I give first and freely. I’m more interested in how I can help other people than how they can help me. My own goals are straightforward and take time. Helping other people lets me learn more and get even more value out of my experiences.
  • Value: At work, I create value based on my adaptability, my workflow, and my network. None of these derive power from scarcity of information. In fact, the more I share, the better things get.
  • Tools: I focus on tools that scale easily. Writing is searchable. Sketches are quick and expressive. Recorded presentations and slides can be engaging.

How can I connect with people who are learning about sharing and help them share more effectively?

How can I connect with people who are curious about sharing and help them learn more?

(Hat-tip to Aneel Lakhani for sharing the link on Twitter!)

Visual notes – Gary Vaynerchuk and Democamp Toronto 24

Funny aside: When Jay Goldman handed Gary Vaynerchuk a bottle of water, Gary offered it for sale. Little things like that reinforce story.

Key take-aways: Passion and patience are everything. Hustle. Out-care others. Offer good stuff. Pay attention to everything. How do you scale? By trying.

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Notes from the demos and the pub, before I broke my fountain pen:

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Explanations for scribbles upon request, or when I can make time for it! =)

Wild success and social networks

Every so often, I have these moments when I realize: This must be the future. It’s here!

On Wednesday, I received an urgent request for a Web 2.0 strategy and intranet design expert for a 5-week engagement in Europe. A $10M deal hinged on our ability to find such a person before the end of the week. The project team had already asked the usual groups, and everyone was fully booked.

I knew that we needed to cast a much wider net than just the people I knew. I summarized the request and posted it to our Web 2.0 for Business community inside IBM. I asked people to respond on the discussion thread, e-mail me, or contact the person who had sent us the request. The program manager for the deal found the discussion thread and posted some more details, and we asked people to send him their résumés.

The response was amazing. People stepped forward. They passed the opportunities along to their social networks, diversity groups, and communities. After a flurry of e-mails, Sametime instant messages, and discussion thread posts, we found a lot of strong candidates. The program manager contacted the top candidates and put together a package for the client. Along the way, I got to know lots of people with just the right skillset we were looking for. Suzanne Minassian-Livingston was right: IBM is like an amazing candy-store full of talent.

Problem solved, thanks to Lotus Connections Communities and strong social networks within IBM. I would never have found or thought of all of those people on my own, and it would have taken us too much time to work through the normal e-mail chains in networks. Not only did we solve the problem, we also created a powerful success story that showed the client the value of Web 2.0 on the intranet.

Hooray for IBM, Lotus Connections, and social networks!