Wednesday Oct 18, 2006

Corporate Blogging

Interesting article on CNN/Money about corporate blogging that's done right and done wrong. I'm not sure why some companies are getting themselves into trouble with this form of communication. It seems really simple to me, but hey, we all make mistakes so it's hard to be hard on someone attempting to be more transparent. And I understand the recent PR example quite well because I know that business and those errors speak for themselves. For a nice review of that one, check out Dave Taylor's piece from the other day. It's a piece I tend to agree with a great deal .

Sun, on the other hand, seems to be just surfing right along with blogging. I think I have a theory as to why -- Sun grew from the community so it understands how to behave within a community, and we have a large number of engineers participating in communities of all kinds -- some Sun run, some run by other vendors, some run by standards bodies, and some by foundations. All these interactions take place on open mail lists or forums. So, when blogging came along it was really nothing new, and people seemed ready and eager to get going. It was just a new way of doing what they had been doing in the past -- communicating openly and honestly. Not perfectly, but openly and honestly for sure. And that can take you a long way.

Monday Sep 04, 2006


Interesting -- Microsoft's PR agency admits it doesn't "get" blogs!. What's not to get about blogging this late in 2006? Just blog. The lessons are obvious, immediate, painful, humbling, powerful, exciting, and [insert your favorite lesson here]. But you can't understand blogging from the outside looking in, so don't bother trying. In this case, understanding comes through direct experience, not observation. Which means you have to blog. Only then will your opinions change or at least be based on something substantial. And if you hate it, that's fine. It's not for everyone. But who am I to talk. I "don't get" Web 2.0, so maybe WaggEd shouldn't listen to me, eh?

Saturday Jul 08, 2006

Connected Capitalism

I love the term "Connected Capitalism" coined by Simon Phipps to describe how "open source works by everyone contributing what they want without compulsion and using what they need without restriction -- as a counterpoint to people who try to call open source 'communism'. Think Benkler."

That's a jam packed Simon quote from a comment he left to a recent James Governor blog about press coverage on Simon's keynote at OSBC a couple of weeks back. Ben Rockwood also has some interesting and valuable thoughts on the subject. Ever since I tripped over open source here at Sun about six years ago, I've been fascinated -- mostly because the culture reminded me of things I had seen in the past but couldn't really fully participate in. There is so much to talk about, but I'll just carve out my favorite little bit from Simon's comment -- connected capitalism.

I see a nice consistency between capitalism and open source. If open source were really about communism, as some detractors assert, I'd dump it pretty quickly. Not because of any political belief (I don't waste time on such issues), but because it would be incapable of providing me enough value so I wouldn't want to contribute to it. I'm looking to earn a living with multiple and diverse streams of income but in a way that contributes to the community (whatever community), not detracts from the community like the robber barons of times past (and some present, I suppose). If I don't have the ability to get something out if it, I'm gone. It's that simple. Food is important. So is health insurance. I have a significant amount of experience with the medical community, and I'm determined to have enough money to pay for as many circumstances I can imagine. And a steady flow of cash well into retirement should come in handy as well. So, my perspective is especially economic and I'm getting more and more focused on that every day. It's my primary goal, in fact. But I've never been a believer in the zero sum game, either, so that's why I like the concept, culture, and dynamic of open source. It's the perfect solution.

As an economic system, capitalism has done a lot of good and certainly provides some pretty massive incentives for growth. It has some pretty big holes, though, and many people react negatively to the term. Perhaps because used alone it can sometimes connote "big" and "exclusive" and "exploitive" and the connections supporting it generally pervade insiders -- the special ones, the privileged ones, the rich ones, the ones who control things like Big Oil, Big Unions, Big Education, Big Agriculture, Big Banking, Big Construction, Big Shipping, Big Government, Big [insert your favorite big thing here]. So, if that's the reason someone doesn't like the term, I can understand it. And, for the most part, I agree. Those things bother me, too. Breaking into some of those entrenched industries without paying off the controlling parties is challenging. Those industries are not communities whose members openly welcome new contributors, that's for sure.

I tried to break into the construction industry in New York as a small business owner, and, boy, did I learn a lesson in, ah, capitalism. My goodness. It had nothing whatsoever to do with open competition or competing based on talent, better pricing, better service, better equipment, better ideas, or better innovation. Instead, it had everything to do with paying to play in a controlled market, and it represented an absolutely stunning destruction of innovation and inspiration. I had to pay to enter the kingdom of those who had gone before and who were carefully guarding the gate to their paradigm -- at all costs. The controllers viewed their game as zero sum for sure, and I didn't fit in very well at all. In my case, I ran into several powerful construction and trucking unions (I was non-union), dozens of well-connected contractors (I didn't have their money), many government agencies (I didn't have political connections), and a few other rather strange characters (I'd rather not talk about). At times, the lines supposedly separating these groups blended all too closely, which was confusing and unsettling at best. The experience was both disgusting and exhilarating, and everything I believe today about economics and politics I learned from those early battles in the construction business. Back then I worked with some well-meaning business people -- true entrepreneurs -- and I learned all about what creative, innovative, talented individuals could build and how easily a powerful, centralized, controlling group could take it all away -- sometimes violently -- because the leaders felt threatened. I came to believe that open competition terrified people who contributed so very little..

I've always wondered about this though. In capitalism, why can't the individual and the community (or company, government, or union, or school, etc) benefit simultaneously so the cycle is self referral? To me, open source goes a long way to solving this problem because the culture of that system openly welcomes new contributions from creative, innovative individuals anywhere -- and the more the better. This is not necessarily exclusive to open source software development; it's probably present in other engineering and scientific disciplines as well. I sure saw it at Tufts University where I worked for a few years with physicians, veterinarians, and a variety of researchers. Heck, I bet any true craftsman or artist in any field would get this concept of individual, contribution, community. In other words, the community benefits but so does the individual contributing. In fact, the more one contributes, the more one benefits. It's that whole "you get out of it what you put into it" thing, and it supports the notion of enlightened self interest, which Simon rightly explains can be a problematic term but one I have no problem with (other than the fact that I need to assert it much more often). So, you enrich the commons and all the individual people within the community managing the commons benefit as well, and those especially hard working people have a limitless opportunity at their fingertips. Opportunity is there for all but it's proportional to how hard one works and how much one contributes. And around it goes. Generally speaking, of course. And by "enrich" I don't necessarily mean only in pure monetary terms. Rich means many things to many people: money, reputation, connections, access to shared resources, conservation, safety, insurance, learning, skill development, contribution, feeling of well being, donations, participation, desire to help others, etc. Simon explains all this much better, of course, but I'm trying to understand it based on my past experiences and on my future plans.

Now, elements of this absolutely remind me of capitalism -- but a very, very special form of capitalism. It's called entrepreneurialism. Small capitalism, I guess. Capitalism for the little guy. Capitalism the way it should be. Capitalism where everyone is welcome to participate and dare and risk. Capitalism that the old capitalists and the old communists would both have a hard time dealing with. That's the kind of capitalism I like. I just call it entrepreneurialism because my perspective starts with an independent individual being able to take care of him/herself so as not to be a burden but to do so by being connected so contributions benefit all. I think small entrepreneurs understand this more than big capitalists do (yes I'm splitting hairs a bit here) because the entrepreneurs usually start small and depend heavily on connections to others for resources, whereas those big capitalists tend to rely more on buying their way around since they already have lots of resources. It's certainly not true in all cases, but that's what I've seen along my way.

So, when Simon puts "connected" in front of the term "capitalism" it gives the entire principle a new, de-centralized, individual, empowering feeling and that's something every entrepreneur can understand. Hard work, perseverance, talent, skill, opportunity, luck. Not for Big Enterprise, but for the individuals who can't help but dream of what's possible. In this context, the term "connected" is critically important because it implies rather directly that for all this to work one has to connect to the community and help manage the stuff in the commons. Connected also implies responsibility, and if you are connected to people rather than capital it's more important that you do the right thing, not necessarily the most profitable and selfish thing. It's the connection to the community that creates the opportunity to create individual value, and that's what has hooked me. It solves my problem. I can be entrepreneurial without being a robber baron. The elite wouldn't understand this because they are not connected to anyone other than elitists like themselves. Whatever economic system they use in whatever society they live tends to exploit the commons, not contribute to it, and over time that pisses people off on all sides of the political, economic, and social fence.

"Connected Capitalism" works well for me. And I've yet to see a more powerful expression of the entrepreneurial spirit than the dynamics of a thriving community. Have you?

Friday Jul 07, 2006

Ideas and Engineers

"For most engineers and software people it's the ideas and solutions that count, not the public accolades that come with acceptance." -- Paul Murphy, Job satisfaction and open source

Tuesday Jun 27, 2006

They're Everywhere

Paul Murphy compares Sun and Ford and says that we "can't seem to monetise [our] research" due to issues with middle management:

Want to lose your credibility at either company? make yourself responsible for a breakthrough product or strategy that fails -- in big organizations there's always someone who can retroactively prove he warned you of the certainty of failure if what you do goes wrong; and it doesn't matter if that's a sales compensation policy change, or a part that becomes a million car recall; there's always someone.

I love this observation generally, but it's true of all organizations. Every company has its predators and antibodies. Every university. Every government agency. Every institution of every size absolutely everywhere at every level. I believe these guys are in the distinct minority, but they carefully use fear to build the perception that they are in control and you are wrong. They are usually weaker than we think, but many of us end up following and giving them power. I've kept my own list of these guys over the years, and I can trace them all the way back to grade school. They are just the same people recycled in different skin. I've met them here at Sun, sure, but Sun is also a culture particularly tolerant of risk-taking, and it's not a culture of blindly following bullies. That's one thing I appreciate about this place.

Saturday Jun 17, 2006

CHEN on the Pod

Nice to hear Barb Heffner at CHEN PR talking up blogging on a recent podcast with Dana Gardner. Sun's bloggers came up in the conversation as well as the recent entry of the Sun PR team on BSC. Also, CHEN is now partnering with Dana Gardner to offer podcasting services. Cool. I'll be listening ...


Thursday Jun 15, 2006

JohnnyL: First Adobe Exec Blogger

Check out JohnnyL's new blog at Adobe. It doesn't surprise me that he's blogging, but according to one of the comments on his first post, he's the first exec at Adobe to blog. That's pretty cool. Should be interesting to watch things emerge over there down in San Jose.


Wednesday Apr 26, 2006

Some More Scott and Jonathan Links

Seems like another busy media day for Scott and Jonathan. Reading all this coverage over the last two days has been interesting. I have a feeling there will be a lot more as the dust settles, don't you?

Sun users offer advice to new CEO Schwartz
Neal Tisdale, praised Schwartz's selection. "I think it's a great change," said Tisdale, vice president of software development at the Atlanta-based subsidiary of Siemens Power Generation.

Sun: Same song, second verse?
Bill Zeitler, IBM's systems/technology group: "I think the move to OpenSolaris has been a good one. The move to open up their portfolio to Opteron and away from Sparc and moderate their investments there is a smart thing strategically." That's IBM talking up OpenSolaris there.

Sun's chiefs on the hot seat
"If you're an engineer or you're a technologist, you want to come to a place that appreciates technology and engineering. This is one of the places that you go do it." -- Schwartz

One rises, one sets / New generation, but same vision, for Sun CEO
Crawford Del Prete of IDC: "I think Jonathan has shown that he understands the multiple aspects of Sun's extremely complex business and he has shown that he can be engaging with customers."

New Sun CEO Is Unconventional, Controversial
"When directors at Hewlett-Packard Co. saw a need for a new chief executive officer, they recruited Mark Hurd, a button-down operations specialist from NCR Corp. who is now overhauling H-P's sales strategy. Rival Sun Microsystems Inc., by contrast, promoted a brainy insider who promises to stay the computer maker's maverick course."

Analysts Seek Turnaround Strategy From Sun
"It was under Schwartz that Sun Solaris, considered by some to be the gold standard of operating systems, became a free download." And it became open source, too. Let's not forget that part.

When I First Met Scott...
Jonathan talks about Scott.

McNealy--an engineer's witty patron
"McNealy has been the down-to-earth face of the Valley's engineers -- more comfortable in jeans and sneakers and more apt to talk about golf and ice hockey than fabulous vacations and yachts."

Langberg: McNealy was pushed out because he had lost credibility
"I hope McNealy continues to serve as the company's public face. He's always been a nightmare for the PR department, telling reporters exactly what he thinks and producing great quotes." Cute. But I'm not sure the article really substantiates the headline.

Why a new CEO is right, Wall St. is wrong and America needs more jails
Scott: "It allows me to go do what I want to do, which is working with the US government, Japan and our top 20 accounts."

McNealy's greatest hits (wisecracks)
Great little video.

Analysis: All eyes on Schwartz to turn Sun around
“Sun still has the influence -- don’t count them out yet." -- Joe Wilcox, JupiterResearch

Goodbye, Mr. McNealy
"McNealy wasn't just an industry giant, he changed the IT world forever ... Let us never forget, that without Scott McNealy we would have neither the Internet nor the open source that powers so much of it. -- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

McNealy--apres moi, you'll be bored silly
"Unlike, oh, 99.9 percent of the white-bread phonies who present themselves as corporate leaders, McNealy was the real deal when it came to leadership." -- Charles Cooper

Sun's New Boss: The Same as the Old Boss?
"This is not about how we take a whack to headcount," Schwartz said. "The goal is to make sure we focus on top-line growth and increasing the value of our shares."

Sun Microsystems' Big Changes
"The company had its woes, but Sun has been a fountain of original and innovative thinking over the years." -- Dan Gillmor

Don't Blame Scott
An obnoxious piece.

Tags: sun jonathan-schwartz scott-mcnealy

Sunday Apr 16, 2006

A Blog is Essential?

There's much to agree with and disagree with in this Boston Globe article -- Blogs 'essential' to a good career.

''For your career, a blog is essential," says Phil van Allen, a faculty member of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

''It's the new public relations and it's the new home page. Instead of a static home page, you have your blog," he said. It's a way to let people know what you are thinking about the field that interests you.

Sure, I get that blogs can be used as a PR tool and that you can blog and link your way to new heights of popularity and a new career. No question about it. But it's you doing that, not the blog. You have earned it, not your blog. The blog is just one (albeit powerful) syndication tool.

But is this tool of blogging "essential" for your career? What about those who don't blog but who are seriously successful and who have earned deep credibility within their communities? I see these people all over the place. I don't know about all this. I think the marketing people are making too much of this in this article. Personally, I'm becoming more interested in the non-bloggers at this point -- the ones who earn credibility without publicity. Those people fascinate me. What's the quality supporting their success? Whatever it is I bet it transcends time and tool.

Back to a few more quotes from the articles ...

Employers regularly Google prospective employees to learn more about them. Blogging gives you a way to control what employers see, because Google's system works in such a way that blogs that are heavily networked with others come up high in Google searches.

And coming up high is good: ''People who are more visible and have a reputation and stand for something do better than people who are invisible," says Catherine Kaputa, branding consultant and author of ''Blogging for Business Success."

But pick your topics carefully and have a purpose. ''The most interesting blogs are focused and have a certain attitude," says van Allen. ''You need to have a guiding philosophy that you stick to. You cannot one minute pontificate on large issues of the world and the next minute be like, 'My dog died.'"

Note the word "control" in the second sentence of the first graph. Interesting perspective, eh? Also, the bit about the people who are more visible with a so-called reputation doing better than the ones who are "invisible" is way too restrictive to be a credible statement. Just because someone is not in the public eye or a blog star doesn't mean he or she is invisible and lacks a reputation. That's one of the most ridiculous things I've heard about blogging. And the last paragraph advising that you not blog about "large issues of the world" and then also talk about personal issues is pejorative at best. Why not? Who says? Perhaps I want to know that someone's dog died, what the heck is wrong with that?

Aha. Ok, that's pretty much it. There are also eight tips to being a good blogger. I'd add one more: (9) If you are blogging strictly to enhance your career and using branding, marketing, and PR tactics, your blog may not earn as much credibility as you think. Remember, many people can easily see through blogs used simply as vehicles to publicize. Sometimes it's really quite obvious, too.


Thursday Apr 13, 2006

Reality PR

I see BusinessWeek has a bit on  Eric Dezenhall, author of Nail 'Em! It's an excellent book about brutally competitive attack and defend PR tactics. Actually, it guts the PR industry's silly tactics of press releases, briefings, messaging, education, and influence and replaces them with reality. It's a devastating book. I have it on my shelf right along with a couple of other classics in this area: Rules for Radicals and The Prince. There are many such books, of course, if you like this sort of thing. Any good PR pro has these books practically memorized. They rarely call it PR, though.


Wednesday Mar 29, 2006

Sun: The Web 1.0 Company?

Kathy Sierra talks about applying "Web 2.0" principles to managers. Here's a snip:

One dramatic difference between mature tech companies and the Web 2.0 startups is the way employees are managed. Or rather, the fact that they are not "managed." Most Web 1.0 companies (like, say, my former employer Sun... they put the dot in dotcom, remember?) are not only too big, but their management practices are just too old school (and not in a retro hip way) to foster a company culture that matches the culture of the new community/user-centric Web 2.0.

Interesting perspective on many levels.

First, if Kathy is implying that Sun is "mature" I have some news for her. We're not. That's what makes it fun to work here (even though I wish we would mature a little, actually). Second, why is the marketing term "Web 2.0" only used to characterize startups? Much of Sun (and probably other large companies) is very Web 2.0 and has been for decades. Third, why are the so-called Web 1.0 companies seen so pejoratively? Is absolutely everything "old school" bad? Fourth, Sun's "the-dot-in-dot-com" advertising is only about billion years old now. The distinction between that Sun and today's Sun is rather gigantic. Fifth, if Sun's management is so old school why are they spending millions and millions and millions of dollars to open up pretty much everything we have around here specifically to build communities? I mean, really, we are talking about thousands and thousands and thousands of hardware and software engineers leading, contributing to, building, and participating in open communities of one sort of another all over the world. All of those engineers have managers, and those mangers are directly responsible for investing resources in all this community building we are doing. At the development level, Sun's company culture is very much based on the values of community. And more and more of the mangers -- and executives -- are blogging quite openly along with the other two thousand or so Sun bloggers. That doesn't sound old school to me.

Now, do we have more to do? Yep. Sure do. There are still many Sun people not yet participating openly in any of these several dozen communities, but more and more are every day. Do we have some managers who are a bit on the conservative side? Sure. It's a big place. That's normal for any large organization. But I don't see them controlling the direction of the company anymore, and that's critical. A few months ago, Jonathan spoke about the changes -- and opportunities -- that managers at Sun are experiencing. But, to be honest, I'm happy that some elements of the company are more conservative. Sometimes it's necessary to integrate the best of your stable core into your more dynamic edge. Or maybe that's the other way around. Regardless. When running a company of this size and complexity that engages sophisticated and demanding customers, I think it's responsible to encourage a healthy mix of all types of people.

I'm sorry, Kathy, I just don't experience the Sun you see. Every day, I pretty much live in the right side of your chart -- the Manager 2.0 section. I really like your chart, by the way. I think I'll use it to start some conversations with my colleagues. Except I don't know what the "Hollywood model" is, and I'm not sure how that is juxtaposed with the "Hierarchical structure." Perhaps I'm too old school. :)


Thursday Mar 09, 2006

PR, Press, Bloggers

Well, this one is worth a read: Wal-Mart Enlists Bloggers in P.R. Campaign. I don't get it. Why would a top PR agency like this put itself in such an unbelievably compromising position between bloggers and the press?

Robert Scoble is right:

... for companies thinking of getting in this space: why don’t you just blog? That’s the best way to get your point of view out there. Hidden agendas will be found out eventually (and there are plenty of them, particularly in comment sections -- how do you know that anonymous commenter wasn't paid by a competitor of mine? You don’t.)

Another way to look at it? Join, don’t use. Ask yourself: are you communicating or trying to manipulate others into communicating?

Isn't that obvious? Especially that last point?

PR agencies have started pitching me to write stuff about their clients -- which is wild, I must say. Why me? I always respond to their queries asking why they pitched me, but they never respond back. Unlike many bloggers, I don't think that blogging marks the end of the PR business. Sure, the traditionalists may get disrupted, but blogging is redefining PR, not killing it. It's distributing it, actually. And blogging offers innovative PR people an opportunity to contribute to conversations, rather than just shouting messages at conversations hoping some will stick. And by getting involved, I don't mean pitching bloggers. I mean actually getting involved and blogging right along with everyone else and earning the right to participate.

Monday Nov 28, 2005

PR Call to Action

Check out Steve Rubel's call to action for the PR industry "to start using social media technologies." I like it. He focuses on action, not talk. PR is part of a company's marketing operations, though, so I'd include marketing in this call to action, too. And community relations, as well, because many times community managers live in marketing but they are just as likely to live in engineering. Either way, we need to be doing our community management (relations, marketing, evangelism, advocacy, facilitation, or whatever) from within the community, not from the outside. Anyway, I'll be following TheNewPR/Wiki closely as the PR community wrestles with this trend. The pressure is clearly on traditional marketing and public relations to adapt. Heck, even US News is writing about all this in Spreading the Word: Corporate evangelists recruit customers who love to create buzz about a product. (Sun's Simon Phipps is quoted in the piece, too).

Tuesday Oct 04, 2005

One Sentence

Check this out -- First Google Earth, Now Google Sun? Here's the deck:

"Sun Microsystems made a one-sentence announcement today that has already produced giant vibrations on Wall Street and will likely produce fault-line like tremors throughout the tech world. The announcement: they're teaming up with Google for something to be announced tomorrow-one sentence that no doubt shook building foundations in Redmond."

Wow. That must have been quite a sentence, eh? I'm serious, actually. It's amazing what just a few words can do. People (and companies) of substance usually say very little at the most important times. This should be interesting ...

Monday Aug 15, 2005

Microsoft's Linux Lab

This is a really interesting piece to me -- Inside Microsoft's Linux lab. I'm most interested in articles like this because I'm fascinated by The Innovator's Dilemma -- how people on the edge create innovations that disrupt those in the center and how the disrupted respond.

So, Microsoft's Bill Hilf is running systems from all over the place up there looking for ways to compete and interoperate with
Linux and other types of open source software. Ok. Nothing wrong with that. It's nice to see Solaris is included in the list, but I don't see OpenSolaris listed. Yet, anyway. From the article:

[Hilf] started with the ambitious goal of creating a server room with dozens of flavors of Linux, along with commercial Unix software from Sun Microsystems, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Apple Computer. The goal, he said, was to have something "more mixed then any real, sane customer would have."

"No customer runs 40 different versions of Linux on 200 servers," he said. "It's silly."

200 servers? Wow. Now that's resources, eh? And I admire Hilf's honesty with the quote that ends the article here:

As a lifetime Unix guy, Hilf believes he is helping Microsoft to help make Windows a better option for companies than either Windows or Linux are today.

"At the end of the day, we're in it for business reasons," he said. "I exist for business reasons. I do not exist as a PR stunt or as sort of an olive branch."

Couldn't agree more, actually.

But earlier in the article I found this little gem as Hilf was working in his lab on all of this stuff:

More than once, Hilf was thwarted by bugs -- glitches in Microsoft software, glitches in open-source products and even in third-party software designed to help the two technologies talk to each other.

One example, Hilf said, was on the instant-messaging side. There was an IM client called Gaim that allowed connectivity to MSN instant messaging, but the program was not able to use the HTTP protocol, the only technology means available to Hilf. So he set his team of open-source software experts to write the needed patch. He submitted it to the open-source group that oversees Gaim's development and the changes were accepted.

"Now we can use it, and so can everyone else who uses Gaim," Hilf said.

How very community-like of you, Bill. I wonder if there are any Microsoft customers and developers out there who'd like to see the Windows source, fix something, and submit the code back to the Windows community so everyone else can use it. Now, I'm not equating Gaim with Windows on size and complexity, of course, but that open process just seemed to work well in this instance, didn't it? Ok, a bit if a cheap shot on my part because our house is far from wide open, but we're making substantial progress on multiple projects. And we sure as heck know how complex it is to open already large code bases for co-development. Our developers want this opportunity, and we are providing it. Albeit slowly, but we're getting there. :)

Sunday Aug 07, 2005

Same Source, Opposite Conclusion

In his blog criticizing Sun, Dave Rosenberg points to an article by Dave Rosenberg as an example of something he says Sun is not doing -- which is using innovative to help build relationships with developer communities. Well, I read the article and I liked it. Some good tips in there. So, I'd like to point to the same article to demonstrate the opposite conclusion -- that as a corporation, Sun is actually doing some fine open source marketing and it's largely based on the open communications of our engineers. And since we are in the process of open sourcing new stuff all the time, we'll continually be building relationships with our developer communities just like we are doing now. Are we perfect? Hardly. But we are doing more than some people think, and there's more to come, too. What's happening at Sun is that marketing is starting to join the community and do its marketing from within the community. Many engineering groups have been there all along, but now our marketing colleagues are showing up, too, which is very encouraging.

Anyway, back to the article -- The voodoo of marketing an open source project. Here's the last paragraph:

In the end, it's the dialog that you have with your current and future user base that will drive the success of your project or product. The open source community thrives on the reciprocity between product developers and those who support the efforts. Having consistent, honest communication with your constituents is the first step to launching a marketing effort that will help catapult you to success.

Those "dialog" and "honest communications" references are most important, I believe. But -- and that's a very big but -- the communication has to be unfiltered and distributed, which is the opposite of traditional marketing. In other words ... engineers talking to engineers.

In our marketing, we already do much of what the article talks about (conferences, t-shirts, newsgroups, blogs, etc), but what's interesting is that our engineers have been doing these things for years -- directly engaging with the communities in which they participate. It's not traditional marketing, of course, it's simply the process of having a consistent, honest conversation with a peer across the firewall. So, we get this part totally and always have.

Last week just the OpenSolaris contingent of Sun's participation at OSCON topped more than 15 people -- including the entire OpenSolaris CAB -- to participate in several sessions. Heck, we even sent the prez. Other Sun software groups were there, too, so I have no clue what the total was, but it was a lot from just one company. And although I was at home with a three month old, I heard things went pretty well in Portland. It's important to note that the vast majority of presenters from the OpenSolaris project at OSCON were engineers. Again, it's the engineers that are driving these conversations, not marketeers and executives.

This dynamic has been going on long before . Many of Sun's core kernel developers have been participating on Solaris community public mail lists (alt.solaris.x86, comp.unix.solaris, solarisx86) for years, as well as contributing to various open source communities. And the Solaris engineers have been blogging on for more than a year now, well before OpenSolaris went live. When we launched OpenSolaris, we launched with 150 engineers leading the way in their blogs -- talking about the code directly with the OpenSolaris community. Totally unfiltered. We skipped the press release and just, well, opened the site. PR did brief some reporters under NDA (I was strongly against this), but much of the traditional marketing and PR tactics were simply not used in favor of directly engaging the community. OpenSolaris is a developer program, and we wanted our marketing to reflect that. As launches go, I'd say it was a pretty innovative move. These open communications with the community will only increase as the project grows. Currently, we have 24 communities that are chatting away on 46 discussion lists, and when we implement a comprehensive governance and co-development model with projects the interaction will increase further still. All of this is the foundation of good open source marketing. All of it. We have a long way to go, true, but we are already ahead of many of our critics who don't realize how much Sun has changed.

I'm sure the guys at NetBeans, Java,, Jini,, Jxta, GlassFish, Grid, Looking Glass, and the other developer communities in which we participate would agree with me. They are, after all, doing pretty much the same thing at their conferences and in their blogs and discussion lists -- collaborating on code and talking directly and honestly with their peers within their communities. Pretty much what's outlined in Dave's article, don't you think?

Sunday Jul 17, 2005

Three Points of View

I was reading some stories last night about Dell closing a community support message board. I'm not especially interested in Dell's action, but the reaction out there fascinates me.

First the PR point of view from Dell without a 'Care' in the world --

Dell spokeswoman Jennifer Davis said the closure was necessary because many of the issues that cropped up on the boards were of the type that should be addressed only by authorized Dell representatives and not other customers. Many of the answers, she said, required access to customers' personal information.

The No. 1 computer maker said how-to questions, preventative maintenance issues and other nontechnical concerns are better handled through other Dell Community Forum boards that cover the company's home and home office systems, consumer electronics and financial services.

"What this was all about was determining that we had channels that were better suited to handle these order-support type inquiries, and then we could move the presales and Dell financials services that used to be housed under Customer Care over to general boards," Davis said, noting that the company has spent nearly the last two years revamping its online customer service.

Next the negative point of view from Dell falls off the Cluetrain --

Dell chose to shut down the forum rather than engage with its customers. I suppose you can shrug it off as an isolated example of bad judgment. <snip>  Sometimes, companies get a clue, and sometimes, they remain clueless. -- Charles Cooper, executive editor, Cnet.

And finally the positive point of view from Dell Draws Ire Over Canceled Customer Care Boards --

"I don't think this will hurt Dell because the company has significant credibility in the market and with customers. Community boards are not necessarily frequented by small businesses. Enterprise customers also visit them," [said Sarang Ghatpande, vice president and senior analyst at Ideas International.] "But Dell is trying to engage more on a personal basis with their customers rather than having users help each other out. It's a more proactive approach."

PR, negative, positive. Three points of view. What's the truth? What's your point of view? Do you see this story (or the world, for that matter) from within one of these three paradigms?

Friday Jul 15, 2005

Astronomical PR

Congrats, Barb. Space shuttle duty, eh? Now, that's a launch! Sorry it was scrubbed, but I'm dying to hear the stories from your week.

Sunday Jun 05, 2005

Microsoft's "Relationship" Marketing

(via Scoble) It seems our friendly competitors to the north are doing some marketing homework up there. Pretty interesting article in CMO Magazine talking about all this -- The Ultimate Bug Fix. At one point in the piece, Steve Ballmer talks about the engineering-marketing-PR-launch sequence:

During Microsoft's climb to the top of the software industry, rapid-fire product cycles often
happened without much front-end input from the folks in marketing. Engineers would develop
new software, pack it with bells and whistles, decide on an acceptable number of bugs and
toss it over to marketing for a press release and a launch event.

"The old Microsoft marketing style was that you did an event, and then you waited for the next
product release, and then you did another event," Ballmer said to the marketing recruits. Facetious,
perhaps, but the message was clear. Microsoft was not using its marketing function strategically.

Sound familiar? It does to me. Anyway, the article talks about how Microsoft's marketing and engineering teams are now working more closely together and how the company is improving its customer research tools and focusing on something called "relationship marketing." Ok, I get that collaboration part. But I'm not sure what relationship marketing is, and the two links in the story don't offer much more than traditional marketing buzzwords. However, in a Q&A Mich Mathews, Microsoft's SVP corporate marketing, is very specific:

The area that we are investing in like crazy is around relationship marketing: the systems,
tools and processes that allow us to have an ongoing conversation with our customers.

Ah, ok. The conversation word, again. I get it. But it seemed buried in the article. And no mention of all those Microsoft engineers talking to all those developers via all those blogs? I bet that's where the real action is. On the edge. With the developers. That's the way it seems here, anyway.

Next Mathews, like Ballmer, takes a poke at launches (good):

Marketing was largely a marcom function. Marketing was always out launching something
or doing an event when it should have been back under the hood with the engineers figuring
out the next version [of a product] that's not going to be on the market for another two years.

This bit about marketing and engineering collaboration is a very good point. Our marketing and engineering teams could stand a little more collaborating, too. But because of how much of our software is open source, we have the opportunity to go much further than Microsoft. As our marketing and engineering teams collaborate more closely internally, we need to also consider crossing the firewall and including community developers externally more frequently as if they were in the office right next door. I don't see any hint of that in this article, which is good, but I do see it emerging on OpenSolaris -- engineering is leading and getting closer to the community and marketing is beginning to directly engage in the community conversation as well. When OpenSolaris goes live, marketing at Sun will never be the same.

Monday May 23, 2005

Sun PR on Blogging

My buddy Noel talks PR and blogs -- Survival of the Publicists -- in Naked Conversations, a book by Shel Israel and Robert Scoble:

Noel Hartzell, at Sun Microsystems says cultures will determine which PR teams will evolve and which will not. “Our PR team is thinking about how to use technology and culture as a corporate weapon and blogging does both.” He said the Sun communications team sees itself as information gatherers, analyzers and counselors directed their energies toward a series of communities. “A bad way to do PR for them is to blast press releases every Thursday. We help feed the right information into the right channels. What could be better for a PR organization than blogs,” he said



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