Sunday Jul 08, 2007

Employee Performance

The Work Force of One: "The growing recognition that business results are largely attributable to employee performance is leading many executives to seek creative ways of significantly improving that performance." -- Susan Cantrell, Wall Street Journal.

This is so true. And refreshing to hear, too. The article outlines some ways that companies are re-thinking how they manage human talent. Hint: flexibility and customization provide the basis of the most effective techniques.


Sun Gets Serious, Finally, About Supercomputing: "When Sun's top brass brought Andy Bechtolsheim, its former chief technology officer and the first employee hired by the company's founders, back to the company in February 2004, they got a lot more than a techie who knows about chips, servers, and operating systems. They also got one of the smartest people in the world when it comes to networking technology...." -- Timothy Prickett Morgan, Computer Business Review Online.

Sunday May 27, 2007

Toyota & UAW

It will be fascinating to see how Toyota deals with the United Auto Workers union now that the company is taking out GM and Ford and all eyes are on the Japanese automaker. Publically, Toyota seems to be positioning itself quite differently from its American competitors -- In Kentucky, Toyota Faces Union Rumblings: "We think the historic American approach to things is to run full blast, pay out as high as you can in the short term while times are good, and then when times go bust, you lay people off, you shut plants and you destroy communities," said Pete Gritton, a Toyota vice president who oversees human resources at the company's plant. "Toyota does not want to do that."

Friday Apr 27, 2007

Happy Birthday BSC!

We're three. My goodness. I can't believe it's been three years.

A few months before BSC opened, I knew some people had been working on a blogging platform for Sun. But I wasn't involved so I didn't pay much attention. Then I found myself in a blogging meeting with Tim Bray, Simon Phipps, Danese Cooper, Will Snow, and a few other people (sorry, I can't remember who else was there but there were a few more). That was the first time I met Tim, by the way, and it was a great thrill. Great hat, too. Now, I have no clue why I was actually in this meeting. I think I was walking with Danese as she walked into the meeting and I just followed and sat down. I pretty much knew everyone, so it seemed ok. I don't think I said anything in the meeting, but that's when I learned that BSC was already open and very few people even knew. There was no press release, as I recall, and I don't remember any internal announcement, either. It was just, well, there. Will was sitting on my left in the meeting, and he showed me the site on his laptop. I think I said, "That's outside?" He had flipped the switch a day or so earlier I think. That's when I told myself that I had to do something with this thing and I had to do it right away.

Simon and Danese had been on me for about a year previously to start blogging, but I wasn't ready. I was too distracted at the time and didn't really get the significance of the tool. I didn't get that this one tool could change absolutely everything. My first post was only a few sentences but it took hours to write (and re-write). What the heck do you say on this thing? Who wants to hear what I have to say? And around I went. Well, I tend to blog a lot these days, so I got pretty quick along the way and finding things to say isn't hard anymore, either. And I blog for an audience of one -- me -- so I don't worry that much about what I say most of the time. I try not to think too much about the fact that it's all on the Internet, though. That helps.

BSC is a remarkably empowering tool for communications and community building, and it offers opportunities for everyone involved.

Congratulations BSC!

Friday Apr 20, 2007

Language and Globalization

Interesting. In a world of billions of people, companies are still having a hard time hiring -- Where Are All The Workers? Companies worldwide are suddenly scrambling to manage a labor crunch. It seems as we globalize, technical skills are critical to remain competitive. But just as important are those skills involving language and communication. Don't you agree? The issue comes up in this article but only way at the end.

Tuesday Sep 19, 2006

Being Open Actually Protects IP

John Clingan asks a fascinating series of questions in How should a corporation deal with leakers?

Well, I think that companies need realize a few things right at the top:
  1. most leaks are pretty meaningless, but the over-reaction to leaks can be a bigger problem;
  2. many reporters have sources in most organizations, and there's no way to stop this;
  3. all organizations leak because all organizations are made up of people and people talk.
In other words, get used to it. I find that very few companies accept these three items as reality, though. So, leaks will happen, no question. But there are some very practical steps to reduce the number of leaks and decrease the influence of what's leaked:
  1. open up as much as possible so that leaks become even more meaningless than they already are;
  2. stop over-reacting to those leaks because it only creates an internal environment of fear;
  3. seriously limit the number of people who have access to business-critical information, so dangerous leaks are less likely to occur; 
  4. reduce the amount of confidential information so what is confidential is easier to manage and better respected.
In other words, break the monopoly and exclusivity over substantially more of the information in the company. That will help for sure. For truly business-critical information, though, that's a serious matter and that information is best kept confidential. I have no problem recommending a totally closed approach to that part. For example, although I work pretty much in the open these days, there's no need for me to see the financial of the company until the announcement. An extreme example, I realize, but I'm simply arguing that companies keep a much smaller amount of truly sensitive information bouncing around their networks, so that classified information is easier to manage and less likely to leak.

John mentions launches, too. I believe "launches" are hopelessly broken in the technology business. I've done many, and I can't think of a way to fix them, so I try to avoid them if possible. I also don't do them very well, so maybe that's my problem. :) But fortunately, launches don't have the power they once had. I view them as parties, basically. They can be great fun if you don't have to plan them, but they have little significance in the long run. Are customers really making multi-million dollar buying decisions based on a company's well synchronized product launch that didn't leak? I've never seen any data suggesting that's the case. Are launches the only way to bring new products to market? I doubt it. Not anymore, anyway. However, launches are a great source for leaks because literally hundreds of people work on them for months, and the level of activity reaches insane craziness just before launch day. That's right around the time when many companies go out and brief press and analysts under non-disclosure, so now there is information inside and outside the firewall all timed to go off the minute you "launch" whatever it is you are launching. This make no sense to me. And it's a very leaky process, too. So, John asks, when something does leak, what does the company do? Well, if the leaker was obvious and the intent was malicious, sure, punish the employee. I don't have a problem with that. But internal investigations worry me because many times leaks are inadvertent, and it's easy for well-meaning and talented people can get caught up in something unfortunate. Mistakes do happen in this game. So, in that case, I don't think a company should go after the employee. In that case, it's just a part of doing business. It has to be an obvious case, and the leak has to be at the level of affecting the entire business. That's the key. Product launches are simply not big enough in my opinion. I've never seen a product launch that was harmed by a leak, and I can assure you many, many, many of the products I worked on have been leaked.

Again, the concept here is to reduce the classified information -- substantially -- and isolate it from the majority of the company. At the same time, open as much of the operations as possible so the majority of your people are working in the open with information distributed pervasively across the organization so everything doesn't have to squeeze through one tiny little funnel at one end of some process somewhere. Now, many levels of corporations will hate this opening suggestion because many people trade in the business of gatekeeping what they think is super-secret information. And some in the press may also not like this because much of their business is based on gaining access to the highest value information possible -- which is classified, of course, and which has to come from leakers. What I'm suggesting undermines the leaking process on both sides.

John also asks, "If a reporter knows the information is being unethically disclosed, is it ethical for the reporter to print it?" Well, I'm not a reporter, but I doubt that this is something for the reporter to judge. I don't see ethics as being a consideration in this case. If reporters get information and it's good information, the vast majority of them will go with it. Ethics are not involved, other then to keep the source confidential, of course, and most reporters are well-meaning people and honor this and they need to cultivate sources. But in many cases, you can tell where the leaks come from based on the information being leaked.

There are no easy answers to this. But an open, community-based approach to your operations is the best solution I can think of. Also, I think Sun could be a pretty good model in all this. I think we are doing an interesting job in this area. Many parts of the company are very open these days, and other parts are in the process of opening. Actually, I can't think of a company that has as many people working in the open as Sun. Can you? And have we had any serious "leaks" around here lately? Not really. And if so, what has the harm been? There's so much information about Sun and it's products and strategies out there that it's hard to tell if a leak has occured because the level of conversation around the company is pretty massive at this point. Back to my point that most leaks are meaningless.

So, it may be anti-intuitive, but I think a culture of openness may be a good way to transcend leaks, while at the same time respecting and protecting the company's true intellectual property: it's classified information.

Sunday Sep 03, 2006

The Biology of Marketing

In Free Market Economy? John Dodds comments on an article talking about the new viral marketing -- Beyond Viral: Using The Web To Nurture 'Contagious Behavior' Among Customers. It's a fascinating little article with a few words that just jump off the page and gag me.

I like John's position that too often people think of "marketing" as simply "promotion" when in reality the field is far more strategic than that. I've been guilty of this incorrect perception on occasion as well. But I think that all too often marketing deserves this mischaracterization, and in high tech Silicon Valley this is so easy to substantiate. So, it goes both ways. However, I've always said that really talented marketers are worth their weight in gold because they are strategic and bridge disparate groups. And because of that unique position they can many times spot new possibilities for connections that others simply miss. It's wonderful to observe this. Great marketers don't get lost in message making, too. They are strategic by nature, and they see marketing as the thread that ties together the entire business.

I see the intent of the article that John is pointing to, and I support the direction that those marketers are moving. On some levels they are improving and that's good. But what's up with all of these biological references? When marketers use terms like "contagiousness" or "infection" or "viral" or "seed" to describe any marketing activity, they are doing two things: (1) talking to themselves and (2) insulting everyone else. Yes, I know, some really famous marketers use these terms and get lots of attention in the process, but this is exactly why marketing gets bad publicity from those outside the field. Many people feel those terms articulate an attempt to manipulate customers, or in this case to manipulate the powerful dynamics of emerging communities of customers. A good example of this from software marketing is the term "developer capture" that I hear from time to time. It's insulting. Developers don't want to be captured. Do they? I don't think so.

I much prefer terms like community building or facilitation or engagement. Ok, they are somewhat more boring than infecting someone with a virus so they are highly contagious, but what can I say. I'm a boring guy and I don't like being sick. Regardless of the terms used, though, what's most important is that the language reflect the concept of participation, not manipulation. And that's what I'm not getting from this article. The issue is inches away, though. I can feel it. But the comments in the piece still represent marketing as being on the outside of the community, not right in the middle if it all. At least community dynamics are recognized, though, so that's a great improvement over a few years ago.

Web 2.0: Just Jargon or Great Marketing?

Tim Berners-Lee clarified the term "Web 2.0" recently. Very nice. Dan Farber and Gavin Clark cover his comments in depth. Basically, Berners-Lee said that Web 2.0 is "a piece of jargon, nobody even knows what it means" ... among other things. I agree the term is jargon, and I agree with Tim's supporting explanation as well (I'm just pulling the headline here). Web 2.0 as a term never made much sense to me. The examples used to substantiate the term always seemed weak and obvious since I've been working with and benefiting from these tools for quite some time. So, I just never got what the big deal was all about. I had the same feeling when I heard "Web services" used to explain whatever people were talking about a few years ago, too. But as a rhetorical phenomenon, I think Web 2.0 is much more interesting than Web services.

Anyway ... here are some other Web 2.0 opinions around the Berners-Lee comments ...

From Dan Farber: The 2.0 proliferation is simply a natural effect of human intelligence at work – marketers, conference creators, journalists, pundits and lexicographers all trying to capture  themes, the essense of movements in time and give them names that have iconic, instant recognition, although the deeper meaning will be in the eye of the beholder.

From Gavin Clarke: You should thank Tim Berners-Lee. Not just for giving us the web, but for articulating what's gone wrong in the lexicon and thinking of Silicon Valley. Hopefully, his standing in the web community will serve as a rallying cry for right-thinking individuals and true visionaries, and mean Web 2.0 is put in its proper context.

I basically agree with both of those guys. And I'm no longer shy about asking the jargon pushers to please stop and re-explain what they are talking about in plain language. People who care about being understood will generally -- and happily -- explain something in a different way when asked nicely. They realize that being understood is (mostly) the responsibility of the speaker or writer, not the listener or the reader.

So, is Web 2.0 jargon? To a point, yes I think it is. But I also think it's a pretty good marketing communications campaign because you have to admit that it has attracted a significant amount of attention in some markets. It's also taken on a life of its own, and that's what's so interesting about this. Will it last? Who knows. Did it need to exist? Probably not. Sometimes us little people out here don't need all those experts to complicate the obvious. The Web is evolving and getting better and you can do more with it. Ok. Thank you. Back to Tim Berners-Lee. Or maybe I just don't get it.

Thursday Aug 31, 2006

Missing Memes

I listened to this talk by Susan Blackmore on memes several times, and I still don't get it. I keep bouncing back and forth between understanding some of her points and thinking its a pile of nonsense. I know that's not a nice thing to say in a world of Web 2.0 and memes are cool, but what can I say. It's an excellent speech, don't get me wrong, but I've never really studied memes so perhaps I'm just missing it. Or perhaps all this is just the over intellectualization of something really very simple.

According to Blackmore, a meme is basically anything that gets copied (ideas, stories, etc), and the things doing the copying are the replicators (humans). Replicators are also called meme machines. That's us.

Ok, that's all pretty clear to me. But in this presentation, Blackmore is trying to get us to look at all this from the point of view of the memes -- which could be pretty cool, I suppose. The memes will do anything necessary to get copied no matter the consequences, she argues. Really? That's interesting. But what purpose does this perspective really serve? If we look at this from the perspective of the memes themselves, aren't we giving memes just a touch of conscious awareness? Aren't we giving them a bit too much of the credit here, while at the same time letting humans off the hook for doing the propagating of bad or dangerous memes? Blackmore doesn't really say that directly, but I'm asking because that's the impression I get from her explanation and her stated desire to "turn our minds inside out" with this lecture.

But that would be inconsistent with Blackmore's world view because she argues -- strongly -- against any kind of awareness or consciousness or intelligence in evolution generally, and all that the memes are doing is using the same mechanism as organisms use in plain old biological evolution. In fact, Blackmore bases much of her work on Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene, where I guess he puts forth the idea that we need to look at evolutionary biology from the point of view of the genes, not the point of view of the species or even ourselves. Also, Dawkins started this meme theory as well. I haven't read his book, though. Sorry. I'm going by what Blackmore says, and she's read the book.

Ok, so I'm back to where I started -- confused. I get what a meme is. I'm cool with that. I get what a replicator is. That's us. I get that we are supposed to believe that biological evolution occurs with no mind or awareness or consciousness at all. Ok. I can go there to a point. But then I'm supposed to believe that memes evolve using the same non-intelligent process as genes use (natural selection and all that) but that they are somehow using us humans to get themselves replicated? To my little brain, if the memes are using us to get themselves replicated, they are intelligent and thinking creatures. And if the memes are using the same process as genes, then genes are thinking and intelligent creatures, too. But if that's true than evolution is at least based in part on intelligence design, which Blackmore attacks rather harshly.

So, I don't get it. Perhaps I've read too much into this, but I think I'm missing my memes. I'm much more inclined to believe (most of) the scientific theory of biological evolution, but reject that memes use the same process. I just don't see a meme as analogous to a gene. It seems like a forced and artificial argument. That doesn't mean I don't believe in memes, though. I'm ok with memes living right along side us happily evolving humans, but it's the humans that are manipulators of the memes, not the other way around. It's the humans who have intelligence and make decisions that have consequences. Why can't we just look at this issue from the perspective of the humans exploiting the use of memes to get what we want? Isn't it simpler that way? It's it more consistent with human behavior? And doesn't that perspective put all the responsibility for the consequences of meme manipulation right on the humans where it belongs?

I encourage you to listen to Blackmore's talk. She's an interesting character. So are her memes. And if you get what she's talking about and can explain all this from the perspective of the memes themselves, please let me know.

Saturday May 27, 2006


Nicholas Carr pounds on Steve Rubel for his assertion that it's a good thing for companies to admit when their stuff isn't up to snuff. Rubel may go a bit far rhetorically when he says, "I like companies that say 'we suck'" but he does point to specific examples. It's the "sucks" part that jars. But Rubel is largely correct when he says, "Now that conversation is king it's critical that companies begin to have these honest discussions with their customers and do it out in the open." I can't argue with that. Carr does, though, and says:

Do companies actually pay for this kind of knuckleheaded advice? Who exactly crowned "conversation" king? A handful of self-absorbed bloggers banging away at their little keyboards? Conversation isn't king. Good products and services at fair prices are king - always were, always will be. Which would you rather do business with - a company that delivers great goods but has no interest in buttonholing you into some pathetic excuse for "a conversation," or a company that sells you crap but is great at conversing? Well, duh.

The last we thing we need is companies getting in touch publicly with their inner suckiness. Just give me something I want to buy and shut the hell up. I have enough friends.

So, whereas Rubel goes a bit far rhetorically, Carr goes even further but in the opposite direction. Both are wrong and both are right. If I strip out the hype in both blogs, there are plenty of elements I can agree with. I agree with Rubel that companies should have open conversations with customers. For instance, on the OpenSolaris project, we have 120 discussion forums where massive open conversations are taking place. All sides are benefiting from those discussions, and the product and process is improving as a result. But I also agree with Carr that conversations are not king and can not replace good products or services (though Rubel didn't say that they can). Now, Carr goes too far in seeing these as separate and conflicting issues, though. They can be directly related with good open conversations growing out of good products and services. The product/service is at the center (in our case it's source code), and people gather around in a community environment and collaborate primarily using tools that facilitate open conversations. No product is perfect, so open conversations help reveal weaknesses and areas for people to contribute and around you go.

What's so difficult to understand about all this? Nothing, really. Especially if you leave out the hype, which clouds good points made by both of these guys.


Tuesday May 16, 2006

Sun PR Starts Blogging

Congrats to Russ Castronovo and the Sun PR team. They started a group blog the other day -- On the Record. It will be good to see the PR team emerge and open up on I used to work on that team, so it's great to see more of my friends enter the blogosphere. There are some pretty good PR and marketing bloggers in the industry these days, and I expect the Sun PR team to join those ranks. This move marks yet another step in the opening of Sun as we all return to our roots as participants in the community.


Saturday Mar 11, 2006

Jack Trout's Marketing

Over the years Jack Trout has written a lot about marketing, and I've read a lot of his stuff, too. Not lately, but anyway. I tripped over his column in Forbes today -- Is Word Of Mouth All It's Cracked Up To Be? -- and it's interesting to see how much his perspective has not changed with the times. That's unfortunate, but I still agree with some of what he says.

For instance, he starts out by lamenting about the latest FAD -- word-of-mouth marketing and the Word of Mouth Marketing Association and the fact that people are going to conferences for this stuff and the fact that none of this is new, etc. Ok, it's not necessarily all new, but hey, Jack, lighten up. People want to meet and form communities. Associations and conferences and mail lists and phones and web sites and pagers are all based around the fundamental need for humans to talk to each other and that's pretty much it. Then Jack launches into a long list of sameness: :

And that's not all. Now we have a new dictionary to learn. Word-of-mouth is now buzz marketing, viral marketing, community marketing, grassroots marketing, evangelist marketing, product seeding, influencer marketing, cause marketing, conversation creation, brand blogging and referral programs. That's the good stuff. What isn't so good is stealth marketing, shilling, infiltration, comment spam, defacement and falsifications.

Totally agree. There's a lot of marketing out there these days, eh? It cycles through, one FAD after another. He forgot "Web 2.0" though. No big deal, really. Good marketing -- just like good anything -- will come in different names at different times, but the best practitioners are timeless and always easy to find, even if the practices change. Again, people first. Quality cuts through crap and everyone knows who produces quality within a given community.

So far in the piece, he's just poking fun (which is fun), but Jack doesn't like these newer forms of marketing for a much bigger and more threatening reason -- control. Although FADs come and go, I do think the giving up of "control" is here to stay and it pervades his "dictionary" of marketing terms up there. I think it's good, but Jack thinks it bad. Really bad. According to Jack:

Now for the really bad news. There's no way to control that word-of-mouth. Do I want to give up control and let consumers take over my campaign? No way. They aren't getting paid based on how many widgets get sold. If I go to all this trouble developing a positioning strategy for my product, I want to see that message delivered. Buzz can get your name mentioned but you can't depend on much else. Not too many mouths will do a stand-up commercial about your product vs. its competitor. Nor will they check with you in advance on what to say.

This all brings me to my word-of-mouth on word-of-mouth marketing. It's not the next big thing. It's just another tool in your arsenal. If you have a way to get your strategy or point of difference talked about by your customers and prospects, that's terrific. It will help, but you're going to have to surround it with a lot of other effort, including, if you'll pardon the expression, advertising. You just can't buy mouths the way you can buy media. And mouths can stop talking about you in a heartbeat once something else comes along to talk about.

Here's where I leave you, Jack. "Developing positioning" .... "delivering messages" ... "no way to control" ... "let consumers take over my campaign" ... and then ending up with buying advertising? That's the answer? Wow. I'm glad I don't live in that old paradigm anymore. There's much more opportunity for win-win marketing doing business from the perspective of a community culture where things like "positioning, messages, and control" don't exist and power is distributed among many participants.

Saturday Jan 07, 2006

10 Lessons from Blogging

I've been blogging for a couple of years now, and it has changed absolutely everything -- thanks to these guys. So I thought I'd jot down some things that I have learned or observed. Ten seems like a reasonable number for now, so this is what I have ...
  1. I blog for one reason -- it's fun. All the benefits grow from that one very personal experience.
  2. I pay little attention to the audience. I simply assume no one reads me. My audience is me.
  3. I've made many new friends via my blog, and I'm profoundly grateful.
  4. I've pissed off some people via my blog, and I'm very sorry.
  5. Negative comments -- the extreme personal attacks, I mean -- hurt deeply.
  6. Positive comments -- praise, constructive criticism, helpful information, connections -- are wonderful.
  7. Writing blogs requires absolutely no work whatsoever. It's stupidly simply on almost every level.
  8. Blog hit lists and credibility/authenticity rankings remind me of my PR days. They are meaningless popularity contests.
  9. Blogging has reminded me that I'm actually assertive and an entrepreneur at heart. I had forgotten. 
  10. BSC pervades everything I do at Sun and serves as the single most important personal empowerment tool I've ever experienced.
That's it.

Saturday Dec 31, 2005

Conversations Happen Elsewhere

Business Blog Consulting has some interesting suggestions about blog comments -- 5 Strategies To Combat Negative Comments.

I like the list. It's simple and can help those who are excited about blogging but who are nervous about being called nasty names. I've been blogging for two years, and I've been called every name in the book -- both good and bad. I usually delete the really nasty comments with foul language and such, but for the most part I leave negative comments stand. I'm slowing learning to not care about those who hold extreme negative views about everything, so I rarely respond (but sometimes I can't help myself :)). So, I just delete or ignore. Reasoned and humble criticism, though, I always respond to and generally learn from as well.

But there's one thing in this post that bothers me a bit and it's these two paragraphs right here:

Bottom-line with over 50 million people chatting it up on blogs if you turn comments off you loose the home court advantage. People will talk about your company, your products, your customer service and even your blog. Why would you not want that discussion to take place where you can easily monitor it and respond?

To turn comments on. To turn comments off. This has be come a tired debate in the blogosphere. One of the benefits of a marketing blog is the opportunity to dialogue with customers, prospects and stakeholders.  Sorry, no comments does not make a conversation. It's called a monologue. One person takes center stage with no opportunity for direct feedback. For my money, a blog without comments and trackbacks is an on-line newsletter. And that's not a negative comment.

True, people will talk about you, but they'll talk about you all over the place, not just on your blog conveniently in your comment field. And it's getting easier and easier to find and engage these conversations occurring all over the web. What makes you think that allowing comments will channel all the negative conversations to your blog where you can "easily monitor and respond?" And what percentage of the conversation are you missing out there by focusing on comments on your own blog? Also, many people don't like leaving comments but would prefer to just write their comment in their own blogs. By having a mindset of "home court advantage" and "monitoring" and "responding" you may be missing the true nature of transparency and distributed conversations. That's how I read it anyway, but I'm not in marketing so I certainly may have missed the intention.

The reason I bring this up is that many times this argument is used to criticize bloggers who choose to not have comments on their blogs. I don't think the argument holds up at all. Some of the most open and credible people I know don't blog at all or blog very little or don't have comments in their blogs. And I  know of other very credible who people do, of course. But the key is not the blog and if the blog has comments. In fact, I know some real sick sociopaths who blog and take comments and who are highly ranked but who don't have an open or credible cell in their body. So, I don't support statements like (above), "Sorry, no comments does not make a conversation. It's called a monologue." They just don't hold up to even what little I've experienced. I just find them too restrictive to describe the diversity of interactions in this field.

Bill Joy once said, "Innovation Happens Elsewhere." Well, couldn't we just as easily say, "Conversations Happen Elsewhere." And if that's true, wouldn't you want to simply go where the conversation is and engage over there rather than trying to bring it over here? Or perhaps you'd start a conversation over here and then jump over there if that's where the conversation naturally flows? Blog comments certainly play a role in this mechanism, but they are not always necessary because conversations happen everywhere. Also, blogs are personal, so the choice of whether to include comments must remain with the blogger, not the commentator.

Blogs vs Discussion Forums

Here's an interesting little conversation about blogs vs lists -- Blogs slowly killing discussion forums? I've gone back and forth on this over the last two years, but I think that both blogs and lists certainly have their place in the world of electronic conversations. I doubt that blogs will toast lists in the end, as some believe. They serve different needs. More interesting, though, is the different types of behavior that the two tools promote. I say stuff on my blog I'd never say on any list, for instance. And vice versa. Personally, I'm more comfortable writing on my blog, but for efficiency and speed lists blow blogs away. So, I use both.

Monday Dec 12, 2005

Farber, Carr, and Sun Marketing

Dan Farber comments on Sun marketing and also on Nicholas Carr's comments about Sun marketing. There's a lot in both blogs to take to heart, and there's probably some misunderstandings along the way, too. And I can certainly see how we are misunderstood from time to time. :)

Here's Farber on tag lines:

Despite the forays into messaging like "powering the Participation Age" or "Sharing," Sun has one basic message: The Network is the Computer. It has held up well, and is more than a marketing slogan. Sun's business is still focused on delivering infrastructure that powers the network, and in the Internet era the opportunity is far greater.

It's interesting, I was just having a conversation with the OpenSolaris marketing team on this very issue. We were talking about the different brands, tag lines, and marketing initiatives Sun has had over the years in the context of new OpenSolaris marketing ideas. For me it all comes back to "The Network is the Computer." All of it. So, I agree with Dan about that part but I don't see the sharing and participation stuff as a departure at all. Instead, I see those efforts as supporting the company's founding position of "The Network is the Computer" perfectly well, while at the same time offering employees the opportunity to get involved in something greater than ourselves. All the digital divide and sharing and community initiatives are based on connecting people via networks -- either developers on one end or people how don't have access to computers at all on the other. Anyway, that personal stuff is important to me, and I know it is to many of my colleagues. I agree, though, we got away from "The Network is the Computer" for a bit a few years ago (huge mistake), but I see Jonathan and Scott and others getting us right back to where we were and where we belong. Farber has more in his blog -- Parsing Sun's rhetoric -- but I just thought I'd highlight this part since I hope we move even faster in that direction with our marketing.

Carr started this whole conversation with his blog -- Sun and the data center meltdown -- where he says that Sun's inconsistent marketing messages are hurting the company. He articulates well the opportunity we have with our new server systems (with all the heat and electricity issues in the market), and the point is well taken that we need to focus more so that message comes through more cleanly. I totally agree, but I also think we are improving on focusing our messages. It used to be much worse. To me, though, messages are meaningless unless you have great products to back up the marketing. The products come first. And lately, I think our products are starting to do the talking for us -- which is exactly how it should be. But Carr feels we need to get our act together much more. Here's the first paragraph of his blog:

Sun Microsystems is a funny company. It jumped directly from hyperactive adolescence to midlife crisis, complete with ponytail. Ever since the dot-com crash decimated its free-spending customer base, the company’s been on a quest to find itself – and give a jolt to its flat-lining stock price. That quest, dutifully chronicled in the blog of company president Jonathan Schwartz, has looked increasingly desperate of late, as Sun has bounced between marketing pitches like Ricochet Rabbit on a meth jag. One minute it’s the Anti-Dell, then it’s the Leader in Responsible Computing, then it’s the Fastest Chip on Earth company, then it’s the Volume Is Everything company, then it’s the Free Software company, then it’s "The Dot in Web 2.0," then it's challenging Steve Jobs to a “pod duel” – and that’s just in the last two months.

"Desperate?" "Ricochet Rabbit on a meth jag?" "Hyperactive adolescence?" "Midlife crisis?" Well, I don't take rhetoric like that seriously because I think it offends and it thwarts conversation (and yes, I hate when we do it, too). Look, we are clearly on the offensive after years of playing defense, so more people are noticing now. And we just may have the product lines to back up (some of) our rhetoric. Remember when people had written us off completely? Well, this feels much better, even if we do go over the top from time to time. But getting to Carr's comments specifically ... aside from the Web 2.0 stuff (which was totally not necessary), I don't see these things as in conflict or confusing at all. The "pod duel" wasn't a marketing message or a serious strategy, was it? Wasn't it more of a joke at a launch, or something? Isn't that when Schwartz and Fowler were dancing around on stage, too? I mean, come on. These are launches, and Sun has always tried to have some fun at these events. Humor is a big part of the work hard, play hard culture at Sun. Anyway ... moving on. Fastest chips? Sure, why not tell people about all the jet-fast Opteron and SPARC systems we are shipping now. And just how does that conflict with the volume markets we are building with no-cost and/or open source software and the communities of developers and users around all that code? I just don't see the problem here. Don't these initiatives all support each other? As far as the Dell thing goes, I don't know. I must have missed that one.

Now, I do think we pound our chests too much, and I think it confuses people who are not familiar with the company and the powerful/colorful personalities driving it. But we are learning. I think we've done a good job on OpenSolaris of encouraging the engineers to do the talking, since they are the closest to the code and do not deliver messages. This combination -- a great product that marketing can honestly sell to customers backed up by open engineering-to-engineering conversations across the firewall with developers -- is a model that is helping both Solaris and OpenSolaris succeed. The SPARC guys are doing something similar now, too.

Anyway, Carr ends his blog with a mention of blogs:

But if Sun is to succeed, it needs to get its act together - to adopt a single, coherent market positioning and stick to it with relentless, unwavering discipline. Blogging is not a strategy.

Here I think he misses (BSC) entirely by trying to characterize it as the corporate strategy. And the conversations on BSC are not about market positioning. In fact, very few of us (out of thousands) pitch marketing messages in our blogs. BSC is simply forum for exploration into open conversations, and it absolutely represents an effective strategy for directly engaging partners, customers, developers, users, and fans. And even competitors. However, it needs to be considered as part of the overall corporate strategy, not the entire strategy itself.

So, Carr and Farber got me thinking today. I wonder what will get me thinking tomorrow?

Tuesday Nov 29, 2005

Criticism of PR Out of Line

I'm noticing more people taking cheap shots at the PR community regarding blogs. It's fashionable to criticize PR, but I think some of it is out of line. Here are two bits -- virtual identical -- from two recent articles:

From Does Your Company Belong in the Blogosphere? (Harvard Business School, Nov 28):

"Don't let the PR department write your blog. Bloggers will sniff it out, and when they do, you will lose all credibility."

From Spreading the Word: Corporate evangelists recruit customers who love to create buzz about a product (US News & World Report, Dec 5):

"Start blogs and podcasts to humanize the people behind the company's too-opaque walls. One caveat: PR spinmeisters should be forbidden from being involved."

So, just kick the guy and run, right? How brave. Look, I've been critical of traditional marketing and public relations because you can't use traditional techniques on modern, open, community-based projects. That old marketing paradigm is going away. Also, although I'm no longer in PR/marketing, I have close friends who are, and many of the services they perform cross nicely over my own community building activities. In fact, the areas of potential collaboration are significant, and some of us are trying to work together to bridge what has become a substantial divide in style and substance. However, as critical as I've been, I've also encouraged my PR/marketing friends to assert themselves, to fight back, to join the community, to blog, to engage in open conversations on open lists, and to earn their way along with the rest of us in this new world of community communications.

But to ban the PR department from blogs -- as suggested by the quotes above -- misses the point entirely. Instead of banning PR from being involved and from writing your blog, why not encourage them to participate and write their own blogs? Wouldn't that be a more helpful and consistent position? The owners of these two quotes are already advocating that companies start blogs to open up yet they simultaneously suggest (one rather directly) that an entire group of people be excluded. How very friendly of them. I think the critics are afraid of the competition, to be honest.

Sunday Oct 16, 2005

Open Source Marketing

I love Christopher Mahan's comments about open source marketing. Really excellent. For me, his first sentence sums it perfectly -- "It's not about bringing the consumer to the product, it's about making the product the customer has dreamed of longingly for years." There may not be any need to go any further than that, but you should. Check out his comments on word of mouth, the underground, and where the real marketing of open source happens.

Tuesday Oct 11, 2005

Media Bias

Paul Murphy has a nice piece on the media's reaction to some of Sun's recent hardware announcements -- A deafening silence: the media on Sun. Paul's view is that Sun put out some pretty good stuff recently, the media basically yawned, and customers are not getting the best information as a result.

While my default position traditionally has been to agree with this view, I'm not sure it matters that much anymore. There are so many places to get your information now, the media being just one. Some of it is garbage, true, but other stuff really quite good. Besides, I read some pretty good coverage from those launches as well. Coverage on Sun is mixed right now, whereas just a little while ago it was all pretty dark. My goodness ... remember all that "Sun setting" stuff out there? So, we're getting better -- the coverage is improving. But we've made some pretty big changes in the company the last two years, and it will take more time for the press to catch up. I think this will all be reflected in the coverage in the future if we execute on all these new products and strategies. Look, bad coverage and competitive attacks used to really bother me. It doesn't anymore. I now view it as all just conversation. At this point, I feel like I can respond to some stuff to make a point if I want to and let other stuff just pass as if I had never seen it. The choice is 100 percent mine, and I exercise it with pretty much zero consistency. Paul's piece is compelling and detailed, and I can see he gets where we are going. So he's probably a bit ahead of the game.

Saturday Oct 08, 2005


I haven't read Smart Mobs yet, but I really do have to pick it up. Maybe this weekend. There are several little book stores within walking distance of my apartment that I'm sure will have it. Anyway, I liked this little piece here -- "Smart Mobs" Author To Corporations: Join Consumer Conversations -- that has some items about companies controlling brands and such. I wouldn't want to be a control freak in this era of mobs with brains, that's for sure. The control types are still among us, but they are becoming more and more marginalized. It seems the more they control the more they lose. For a growing number of people, though, the opposite is also true -- the more they let go and contribute the more they gain.

Sunday Sep 25, 2005

Neo Marketing

Roumen points to a really nice post on marketing -- You ARE a marketer. Deal with it. It's all about Old School Marketing vs Neo Marketing. Great chart, too. My favorites are the first item (everyone does it) and last one (you believe in it). There's a lot of nice stuff in the middle, too.

Monday Sep 19, 2005


Two nice posts (here, here) on why marketers should focus more on telling stories. I couldn't agree more. Too much of marketing is still based on shouting messages from the outside of a community or a market. One nice thing about telling stories is that it pretty much requires engaging from the inside. And you have to get up real close to tell a story that actually connects. The closer the better.

Collaborative Marketing

I knew this would happen -- Help the OpenSolaris marketing project! I just knew we'd start to see more blogs like this pointing to really good ideas and suggestions for community involvement in marketing on the OpenSolaris project. There have been a steady flow of these blogs from many community members over the last 18 months, but more are cropping up recently, of course.

The OpenSolaris marketing community started way back ... way back in the pilot days. There were a lot of pilot guys who wanted to help with all kinds of marketing activities. They generated so much traffic on the main pilot discuss list that I figured they should really have their own list -- which back then was a "press" list to discuss how the media was characterizing Solaris (pre Solaris 10 launch) and the emergence of OpenSolaris. I used it to basically evangelize to our small pilot community the value of talking back in public, responding, praising, blogging -- just making some noise. We also had this strange situation where we wanted the pilot community to blog aggressively, but we made them sign an NDA to get into the pilot in the first place. NDAs are not known for their openness, so we were always having conversations about what the pilot community could blog about and what was over the line. We tried to be as liberal as possible, and I think we achieved that because the community was blogging away and we really never ran in to a problem. Additionally, back then the critics were saying that the "OpenSolaris community doesn't exist" so we figured we'd make 'em take notice. We started with, well, zero bloggers, but it ramped up pretty quickly, and now they are all over the place. That all grew into the marketing community of today, which has many people involved at Sun (including the new marketing team that formed around mid-pilot time) and outside Sun. We never launched the "press" list since it was focused too narrowly (and I didn't want to manage it :)), and they now talk on mktg-discuss.

I think developers are natural evangelists -- you can see it in their blogs and mail lists and you can hear it in their voices. It's obvious. We have about 30 communities on the project now, and I think the marketing community has a real opportunity to doing something bold here ... something no one has ever done before at Sun. And when the history of this project is written, the OpenSolaris developers and marketers at Sun and the OpenSolaris developers and marketers outside the company will be able share the credit equally. That's never happened before. That's community marketing based on collaboration.

Saturday Sep 10, 2005

Tease Me

I'm not sure what to make of this one. I'm a tease and ignorant, I suppose.

Saturday Aug 06, 2005

Sun's Open Source Spin Machine

Here are two guys who think we're spinning and marketing all this open source stuff --
Oh, well. You can't please everyone, I suppose. I give up trying, too. I'm just too busy, to be honest, and there are too many people who are supportive and humble who need our attention. Anyway, check this out ... in the second piece, Sun is "starting to feel like a parasite" and is "trying to feed off the movement" and is "certainly not trying to build relationships with the community." Yikes. Sounds scary.

But seriously, I'm ok with people criticizing us -- as long as the criticism is substantive. Besides, how else would we learn of we didn't listen to all points of view? But when the criticism drops to this level of rhetoric, all credibility goes out the window. For me, it really is that simple. The more extreme language I hear the more my mind closes. And that's sad because both of these pieces have some points that are thoughtful -- perhaps I could even agree with some of them, I don't know. But how can I have a conversation with a guy who calls me a parasite? I can't. So, I toss the good points right in with the ugly stuff and dump all of it. But, since I always point to all the positive stuff people say about us, I try to also recognize the, ah, not so positive. :) Enjoy.

Thursday Aug 04, 2005

"Up from the bottom"

I'm sorry I missed this talk -- Paul Graham on open source and blogging. Unlike a gallon of my colleagues on the OpenSolaris project, I'm not at OSCON. I'm home. Oh, well. Next time. This piece, though, is really nice. I agree totally. Well, mostly. My favorite quote: "Good ideas flow up from the bottom rather than flowing down from the top. This is the market model." There's lots more, too.

Sunday Jul 31, 2005

Blogs that Matter?

I love the headline sitting on top of this Forbes piece -- Blogs that Matter. Yah, right. Matter to who? Who's judging for who here? Who has the credibility to make such a sweeping statement? There's some useful information in this piece for those new to blogging (and I count myself among them), but the headline is a bit old school media, don't you think? I mean, the media doesn't get to choose "who matters" for us anymore. We do.

Wednesday Jul 20, 2005

Thank you, Bloglines

Special thank you to the guys at Bloglines. I keep my blogroll over there (and here, too, but it's easier to read new stuff there). Well, for some reason, my entire blogroll went bye bye last nite. Over 400 feeds. Just like that. I have no clue why. I pressed refresh, and, poof, gone. Ok, I'm not a technical guy, so at first I thought it was user error (it usually is). But after looking around I concluded that whatever I did by hitting refresh I absolutely didn't toast my blogroll. No way. I'm innocent this time. Anyway, I emailed tech support at Bloglines before I went to bed, and when I got to work this morning I had my blogroll restored with a response from a tech guy. Very nice. I was pissed last nite and happy this morning. This is a lesson for me to get going on some stuff around here that community people are waiting for! I'm on it, guys. :)

Wednesday Jul 13, 2005


This is getting interesting -- OSDL boss hints at Microsoft collaboration. I wonder, what are they up to up there?

Tuesday Jul 12, 2005

Direct Communication

Steve Gillmor has some interesting comments about blogging and the state of tech journalism. The best line for me is this one right here: "What's new is the insistent voice of the blogosphere beginning to dominate the conversation between vendors and customers." This is exactly what people tell me they value most from the Solaris engineering blogs -- direct communication. No filters. Very nice.


« May 2015

No bookmarks in folder