Wednesday Apr 16, 2008

Congrats, Linda Skrocki

I know Melanie and Mary already bogged about this, but I couldn't resist. I'm a fan. Check out Linda Skrocki being profiled as a leader in corporate social media -- The New Robert Scobles: Seven Leading Corporate Social Media Evangelists Today. Very cool.

Sunday Apr 06, 2008

Chris Anderson Explains TED

Chris Anderson talks to Charlie Rose about TED. If you haven't been to the TED site yet, go there. Don't even bother searching for a speaker or subject you may know or be interested in. Just randomly click on  anyone or any subject. They are all outstanding.

One of the things I love about these talks is that they transcend all the rules of presenting. You can't possibly deliver enough information -- especially technical information -- in only 18 minutes. Wrong. You need slides. Wrong. Those slides are too busy. Wrong. You shouldn't read. Wrong. You shouldn't stand behind a podium. Wrong. You shouldn't move around too much. Wrong. You shouldn't turn your back to the audience. Wrong. You should hold your hands this way or that way. Wrong. You need voice lessons. Wrong. Don't say, "Ah." Wrong. Don't talk too fast. Wrong.

It's all wrong. All of it. There should be one rule to presenting. BE YOURSELF. Period. That's the only way you have a shot in hell of connecting with another human being. Until that happens, there can be no transmission of information, and so there is no reason to ever stand up in front of a room full of people and talk. Connect first. Be yourself. Go to ted.com.

Friday Apr 04, 2008

Weekly Reports

It's late Friday afternoon here in Japan. That's weekly report time for me. I never miss it. Not that I like it, per say, but it's critical to document what you do. That function usually takes me a couple of hours on a Friday night or a Saturday morning, but today it's just a bit of editing since I now do my weekly report a little bit each day. What a relief. It's amazing how much easier this is. It's also amazing how much work you do every day that you forget when Friday rolls around. Much better this way.

Thursday Mar 27, 2008

We Don't Have Any Committees

"We don't have any committees." That's a quote from Warren Buffett talking to Charlie Rose a while back. There are many fine bits in this interview, but that gem Buffett blurts out toward the end of the conversation -- right after he talks about how he has no human resources department or investor relations department or public relations department. Pretty remarkable, don't you think? Probably even more remarkable is that there are only 19 people at corporate headquarters at Berkshire Hathaway, which has 73 businesses and a U.S. federal tax return running more than 10,000 pages on top of all the state returns and foreign returns. But the "no committees" comment got my attention because he so casually dismissed committees as things that degenerate into "make work" with people acting as "liaisons" between committees reporting to each other and around you go wasting time and money.

A lesson for all projects. Do you really need that committee? Or can you simply do your job and trust others to do theirs? The very best project managers I know all feel the same way about committees. And they'd agree with Buffett.

Wednesday Mar 26, 2008

News in the Swamp?

"If you say something provocatively, in a new way, or with an unexpected spin, you will succeed online. If you play it safe, you will not." -- Michael Scherer, The Internet Effect on News

I think this is true online, but I think it's just as true in print and not only in the news business. I think it's true of all forms of communication, but it doesn't necessarily have to be considered pejorative -- as it's implied in this article. The "unexpected" can bring huge value and have nothing to do with spin. Communication has to grab and hold attention. How could it be any other way?

A Quick Fix

Last night Stephen Hahn found a bug in the voting software and that's delaying the results of the OpenSolaris election. Should only be a couple of days. But what's cool is that he found the bug, posted mail outlining the issue in detail, suggested a solution (with an alternative), offered code to fix the issue, asked for comments, and gave reasonable deadline after which he'd act on his proposal. The result? Quick feedback, approval of the proposal, and praise. I find that rather efficient, to be honest. I know many engineers just work this way culturally, but that sequence of events and attention to detail is a lesson for the rest of us. It's just a small example of how to use communication to focus an issue and move it to action.

Tuesday Mar 25, 2008

Don't Feed the Trolls

"I think trolling in the broader sense has four causes. The most important is distance. People will say things in anonymous forums that they'd never dare say to someone's face." -- Paul Graham, Trolls, 2/08

The other three causes are good, too, but the first is key for me. Get together from time to time. A hand shake or bow and a beer can make all the difference in the world.

Friday Mar 21, 2008

Email from Vacation

I started the week on Tuesday with over 2,000 messages in my inbox from vacation. I'm ending the week with 35. Damn. I wanted to get to zero. I'm out of time, though. Must go swimming.

Saturday Feb 23, 2008

Open Communications

Chattin' with OpenSUSE's Zonker. Barton George talks with OpenSUSE's new Community Manager, Joe "Zonker" Brockmeier. I like some of the things Joe says about community development -- the importance of communications so you can get the word out, competition vs cooperation so you understand how to balance interests and expand the community for all, and getting the necessary tools in place so your community can grow. And OpenSolaris gets a nice plug for how we launched the project three years ago (the engineering blog launch, I mean). Nice talk.

Monday Feb 11, 2008

Everyone Marketing

Forget the A-List After All: "Evangelism is not about sucking up to only people who are famous and self-important. To wit, few Fortune 500 CIOs helped make Macintosh successful. It was unknown artists, designers, hobbyists, and user-group members who made Macintosh successful, and we could have not identified them in advance." -- Guy Kawasaki, commenting on Clive Thompson's in FastCompany article, "Is the Tipping Point Toast?"

That FastCompany article is great. If you are at all interested in marketing or communications or community building I highly recommend it. The article outlines research from Duncan Watts that basically says we all have influence, not just the special people, and some much of what happens is random. Thompson says, "Influentials don't govern person-to-person communication. We all do." A little democracy in marketing? Cool.

Wednesday Dec 19, 2007

Hostility

Interesting. I agree with John's observations here -- #opensolaris -- and I think it's a problem on a few discussion lists on opensolaris.org as well. Although some people have complained about this, the community has thus far been unable to deal with it. My own view is that the vast majority of people in the community simply see no problem in our overall behavior, so that's why it's not addressed. In fact, I've brought this up a few times on list and internally, and I've been told that it's healthy. Other times, I've just been flamed myself. Ok, well, we'll have to agree to disagree on that point. :) Yet I don't see this type of behavior in any on the OpenSolaris communities growing in the emerging markets. I wonder if that's just because those guys are far away and smaller in number, or if the personality of the various OpenSolaris communities are really that different. Don't know. Time will tell.

Sunday Nov 18, 2007

Smart Marketing, Competitive Marketing

Sun has run aggressive, very pointed marketing campaigns promoting the benefits of its system over Dell, HP and others. But today in a follow-up media briefing, Schwartz said, "The stupidest thing we could do is say 'You blew it, you made a mistake'" buying Dell. Schwartz said such hardball marketing is a thing of the past for Sun. He even went so far as to suggest customers could use the $5,000 they might save adopting Sun's free Solaris and xVM software "to buy a brand-new Dell server." -- David Needle, internetnews.com

Well, that must have been an interesting press conference, eh? My goodness. Very cool.

I'm happy to see these changes in Sun's external communications to customers. It's far smarter than the bulldog public attack tactics we used to do. When I was in marketing (before I joined the OpenSolaris engineering team) I wasted several years of my career doing that stuff around standards and open source and Java. Heck, I even won an award for it! Embarrassing. Based on that experience, though, and four years of working in the OpenSolaris Community (where such nonsense is not tolerated), I can see clearly that those activities were counterproductive. It made Sun less competitive and less respected and less credible. But even if this so-called "hardball" marketing is going away, it doesn't mean we are any less competitive in the marketplace. In fact, Sun's product portfolio is probably more competitive today than it has ever been, and we are cutting interesting deals and moving faster than anyone even realizes.

Are we still making mistakes? Sure. But we are people, so you can expect that. And although our communications to the market is improving, I think we as a company still have to improve our communications to the various developer communities we are involved with. As our engineering opens, so too must our communications. The two functions are directly related, and right now too much of both lives inside of the firewall. We'll get there, though. It's a fine line to balance corporate interests with community interests, and there's no rulebook for doing this on the scale we are attempting. In fact, I can't think of a multi-national corporation that has done as much in this area. Can you?

Friday Oct 05, 2007

Mark's Musings

Very cool to see my buddy Mark Herring out there blogging -- Mark's Musings. Mark is one of the very best marketers at Sun, and his blog could be very hot very soon.

Thursday Oct 04, 2007

Cubes

I guess Intel has a lot of cubes in Santa Clara -- Intel Rethinks Cubicle Culture. And check out the Conan O'Brien clip cited in the article. I was on the floor laughing from my cube here in Tokyo! My goodness. Such fun. Can you image what Conan could do at Sun?

Anyway, more seriously, it seems that there is a new project at Intel to reduce distractions as well as increase face to face interactions within engineering groups -- "Quiet Time” on track – "No Email Day" is next! That's all good stuff. Everyone needs face to face time to collaborate, and everyone also needs time to work without having to always dodge meetings and other distractions. However, many groups are global now, so we always need to factor in the people on the other end of thin pipes and across big language, cultural, and distance barriers. This is absolutely an issue at Sun (as it is in all companies, I'm sure), and it's also an issue in the OpenSolaris community. A balance of all forms of communication is needed.

Friday Sep 14, 2007

To Diversify or Not

Seems multiculturalism isn't what it's all cracked up to be. Or is the science on it faulty? Probably a bit of both. This is an interesting article below based on some research that hasn't been released yet, which is part of the problem. My comments spread throughout:

Diversity's Dark Side
By John Luik, 11 Sep 2007

For at least the last twenty years the cultural and political elites of the United States have championed the cause of multiculturalism by claiming that diversity was something that made all of us better.

Well, I can think if many ways diversity has made me better, and I don't need any "political elite" telling me either. It's a challenging, though, for sure. It requires work and flexibility and a hugely open mind, but I think it's worth it in the long run. We need to understand how others think and communicate and make decisions, so we are less inclined to drop so many bombs on people. History demonstrates that humans really don't have a good record in this respect over the past 10,000 years or so. We over react a bit too much. I had hoped that diversity would teach us to not overreact so much. Perhaps I'm wrong as this article certainly suggests. I have my doubts, though.

Little effort was ever made to define precisely just what was meant by diversity, difference or most crucially "better." Nor was there any significant research that provided empirical support for the claim that multiculturalism and diversity translated into better people, better communities, better organizations and businesses or a better country.

I'm not sure about the hard core science involved, but I suspect that there is more of it than this article suggests. Also, just based on personal experience I'd have to say that diversity is better. It's certainly more interesting! :)

But now a considerable amount of solid evidence about multiculturalism is in, and it suggests that far from something positive, it is a corroding and corrupting influence on just about everything that it comes in contact with, from social capital, trust, and community spirit to altruism, volunteering, friendship and even happiness.

Wow. That's overkill to say the very least, eh? It's difficult for me to take that paragraph seriously. "A corroding and corrupting influence on just about everything ..." I doubt it. I grew up in New York and lived in Boston and San Francisco. All three of those regions of the US are quite diverse, and there's no way I'd describe those areas using the above paragraph to the exclusion of all else. It's just too extreme. There are big problems, sure, but how about balancing at least some of this out?

That's the startling conclusion from Harvard's Robert Putnam best known as the author of Bowling Alone. According to Putnam a variety of research from the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe

I have no clue who this guy is and I've never read Bowling Alone. Haven't bowled in years. Also, this "variety of research" he talks about ... nothing about India? China? Korea? Japan? And is he saying that Australia represents Asia? And does "Europe" represent Western Europe or both East and West? How about South America? Africa? It's a big world out there.

shows that ethnic diversity is associated with lower social trust, lower "investment in public goods," less reciprocity, and less willingness to contribute to the community. In workplace situations diversity is associated with "lower group cohesion, lower satisfaction and higher turnover."

I wonder if he studied more monolithic societies to juxtapose the two?

Putnam's own research in the United States, confirms this international picture.

How could research in the United States confirm an international picture and leave out most of the world? That makes no sense.

In the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey carried out in 41 US communities ranging from Bismarck, North Dakota to Boston and involving 30,000 individuals, Putnam found that the "more ethnically diverse the people we live around, the less we trust them." This translates into nine particularly troubling behaviors, including reduced confidence in government and in one's ability to influence politics, reduced voter registration and interest in social change, lowered expectations about the willingness of others to work together cooperatively, less charitable giving and volunteering, fewer close friends, a reduced quality of life and more time spent watching television. Indeed, one could hardly come up with a list of behaviors more likely to undermine democratic society.

Sure, I see some of these things in the US, no question, but I wouldn't describe the US (or any other relatively diverse society) that way. It's just part of the picture. And, by the way, I see many of these very same problems right here in good ol' monolithic Japan. And it's very obvious, too.

But the consequences of the multicultural diversity extend beyond its effect on social and community engagement. For instance,  criminologists have found that effective community policing is much more difficult in areas with increased ethnic diversity.

[Of course it is open to defenders of multiculturalism to argue that Putnam's findings are skewed by the fact that poverty, crime and diversity are themselves interconnected, making causal conclusions difficult. But Putnam's research show that even in comparing equally poor and equally crime-infested neighbourhoods the outcome is the same "greater ethnic diversity is associated with less trust in neighbours."]

This is one area that I'd love to explore more. There's far less violent crime here in Japan than there was when I lived in the US. And I feel safer, too. But there is plenty of other types of crime, though..

Putnam's findings should not come as a surprise. For instance, studies from business, which has been one of diversity's greatest champions, have shown that diversity produced few if any positive effects on business performance. One major study even concluded
that industry should move beyond trying to build a business case for the benefits of diversity and multiculturalism, since there was no empirical evidence to support such a case.

In part this is due to the fact that homogeneous teams tend to outperform diverse groups because diverse groups often suffer from communication and process problems. As psychologists Katherine Williams and Charles O'Reilly have noted "The preponderance of empirical evidence suggests that diversity is most likely to impede group functioning."

I experience this here in Japan all the time. However, I'd rather we mix in teams and reduce our productivity a bit than have monolithic teams separated by a total ignorance of other cultures and ways of doing business. We have to work together eventually, right? I mean, sooner or later, teams will butt heads and cross paths, right? Also, after an initial period of confusion, I can point to a growing number of instances where productivity has increased as a result of the diversity I'm experiencing. Also, when you talk about teams, you have to separate "culture" from "language" issues. They are related, sure, but if there is a unifying language then the culture differences are much more easily overcome. Working across language barriers are gigantic, though, and that only serves to exacerbate any cultural differences.

As a champion of multicultural diversity, Putnam finds his results disturbing and he has been reluctant to publish them. The only place to find them is in a speech reprinted in the academic journal Scandinavian Political Studies. And even there the data is not provided, only summarized. Putnam told the Financial Times that he "had delayed publishing his results until he could develop proposals to compensate for the negative effects of diversity."

He needs to publish his data and study so it can all be critically analyzed. And I think he needs to publish his stuff before going to the press, too. Very interesting issue, though. I can go back and forth on some of it.

More here: New Scientist Mistrust rises with social diversity and Times Online People in ethnically diverse area ‘less trusting of others’



Update: It seems this article I'm commenting on is wrong on multiple levels, especially the assertion that the study hadn't been published. That's unfortunate and does a disservice to Robert Putnam's work, as have my comments. It's amazing how easily you can be led the wrong way when you have little context, my goodness. Putnam's study can be found here. If you are interested in this subject, give it a read. It's long and detailed and utterly fascinating. I love the distinction Putnam draws between the diversity challenges experienced in the short to mid term and the mid to long term. I'll have to read this thing a few more times and then blog about it again.

Putnam concludes: "[M]y hunch is that at the end we shall see that the challenge is best met not by making 'them' like 'us', but rather by creating a new, more capacious sense of 'we', a reconstruction of diversity that does not bleach out ethnic specificities, but creates overarching identities that ensure that those specificities do not trigger the allergic, 'hunker down' reaction." -- Robert Putnam

Thursday Aug 30, 2007

Communicator

A blog into Schwartz's mind: "The number one role of a leader is to communicate. And the number one role of a CEO is to be the chief communicator." -- JIS

Tuesday Aug 21, 2007

Rebirth

Q&A: Jonathan Schwartz on Sun's open-source business strategy: "After spending an hour prodding Jonathan with questions about Sun's history and future with open source, I was left with one clear impression: Sun is rising, and open source is the driver behind its rebirth." -- Matt Asay

Cool. If that's the impression Matt takes away than that means Sun is much more focused these days. Matt's comments also demonstrate the value of allowing impressions to naturally follow actions rather than artificially trying to force impressions using messages up front. In our case the last few years, we said we'd open a bunch of code and then we went out and opened the three core products of the company -- Solaris, SPARC, and Java. That's a lot of code. And that's on top of all the other open engineering projects Sun started previously. So, the message resonates because we did what we said we'd do, and the conversations documenting everything are widely distributed among large numbers of people in the community. Simple formula, really. But that's why it works so well. It's genuine.

Friday Jul 20, 2007

Pressure Questions

Michael Dell tries to reboot Dell Computer: "During the interview, Fortune editor Andy Serwer asked Dell if he's been approached by any private equity firms about a potential buyout. Dell went quiet, smiled, looked to his PR person, looked back, and said, 'I'm not sure how to answer that.' And so, he didn't answer." -- Jia Lynn Yang, Fortune.

Pretty funny. But a good lesson for anyone dealing with the press and analysts. Even extremely experienced executives used to pressure interviews get caught off guard from time to time. It's actually nothing to laugh at. These guys have to choose their words carefully and for good reason. Even in this so-called age of open conversations, interviews are rarely conversations. Especially if you are in Dell's position right now. Also, unless you've been in a stressful media spotlight, it's difficult to judge those who are.

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.

Monday Sep 04, 2006

WaggEd

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?

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.

Tuesday Jul 25, 2006

Helping Doc

Thank you, Doc Searls, for rescuing markets from marketing -- Markets without Marketing. The two need not have anything to do with each other now.  I've always disagreed with the assertion that marketing owns markets. One has lived forever and will continue to thrive despite the other and go on to serve new generations, while the other is no longer effective and will not survive much longer (at least in its present form) because it doesn't understand what the other one is. Practiced traditionally, marketing many times does more does more harm than good and uses entirely too many resources in the process. Really great marketers have always been able to transcend marketing, though, and those guys are extremely valuable to any organization or any community.

In Doc's article, he's looking for some examples of great marketing in this new age of open for his talk at OSCON in Portland. I'm not in marketing, but I can think of many examples from the OpenSolaris project. But I wouldn't term them as "marketing" because they were all done by a mixture of program managers, engineers, executives, marketers, and non-Sun developers and system administrators. Also, they were all based in simple, open, and direct communications. Messages were rejected. Focus groups were rejected. Press releases were largely silent. Top down dictatorial management was absent. There were very few filters, and almost none as the project matured. Engineering led the effort, and engineers made all the important decisions since the program was designed to engage developers. Interactions were done in the open in a variety of forums -- conferences, blogs, mail lists, customer briefings -- and were diversified and distributed horizontally, not vertically. Launch activities were discussed with the community on open lists, and the engineers led the launch in every important way with literally hundreds of blogs. Anniversary activities were planned and implemented openly as well. Highly technical SCM discussions and evaluations are taking place in the open as well as governance and development discussions. Again, no filters. Now, was it all perfect? No. We got more open as we learned and experimented, and we got better at it as we went along. But was it a big step for a big corporation? Absolutely. Was it marketing? No. But did marketing participate? Yes. And that's the key. Participation in a market no longer takes place through a funnel. It's distributed and multidimensional, and there's probably no need to call it "marketing" any more. 

I've written a lot about this since I started blogging and working on the OpenSolaris project, and my views have evolved. To me, this is all about business, and good business is all about basic common sense. Every entrepreneur I've ever met in every industry knows this instinctively. Hell, the newspaper boy knows it. It's all about talking openly and honestly to a customer or developer or parter or whoever to build a relationship based on trust and performance so both sides benefit equally. That's it. No fancy "social software" tools needed. No messages needed. No spinning needed. It's not based on open source (I saw it in construction two decades ago). It's not based on the Internet (basic face-to-face networking far pre-dates technology ... ask any craftsman in the world). It's just good business and basic common sense, that's all, and the best marketers know that.

Monday Sep 19, 2005

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.

Thursday Jun 16, 2005

A Community Launch

Some really nice bits from IT Jungle -- OpenSolaris Community Opens for Business (underline parts are me):

Sun Microsystems tried to stay out of the limelight as the OpenSolaris community launched itself....

Taking Solaris open source is not a last ditch effort by Sun to save itself, as many of Sun's competitors might have us all believe. It is as much Sun returning to its roots in the open source community from which it was spawned as IBM and Hewlett-Packard embracing of Linux were effort for them to actually grow some roots and gain some cred in the increasingly open source world.

The Sun blogs announcing OpenSolaris were swamped today....

Exactly.

Monday Nov 01, 2004

Ian Griffin

Welcome Ian Griffin to blogland over at ecademy. I'm looking forward to following Ian's blog. He's a great writer, and a pretty fascinating guy, too. He's done it all. Well, maybe not all, but a lot, anyway. When he was at Sun he used to write speeches for McNealy and Schwartz. Sometimes at the same time! Ouch! :) I view that as pure intractable pain, but Ian loved it. Maybe it was all that flying around in Scott's fancy corporate jet ... :)

Sunday Sep 19, 2004

Scoble's new policy on PR, press, blogs

Seems Microsoft's top blogger, Robert Scoble, has a new PR policy. Thanks, Steve, for the link.

I like the policy. I think it would work well for someone like me if I'm ever in the position of having to talk to the press. You see, I'm not big on talking to the press in the first place. I'm not sold on the value, to be honest. Along with the press comes formal interviews staffed by PR people with the idea of delivering "three key messages" to someone who doesn't want to hear them and will (rightly) not print them. Then there's the pain afterwards of reviewing the "message pull through" from the "coverage" you "generated" or "secured" and the inevitable executive raised eyebrows when the messages didn't "resonate." The result? The press is not happy because you are shoving messages at them, the spokesperson is not happy because you are constricting the conversation, and the executive is not happy because the reporter is not printing the company's story. Yuk.

Ok, that's a bit extreme, but I'm not too far off. Having spent entirely too many years in PR, it's nice to be on the outside with absolutely zero desire to be a "spokesperson." It will never happen. I don't have the disposition to deal with the press that way, just like I didn't have it in PR to manage the press from that perspective. There's simply nothing of value in PR-press-spokesperson system for me to get excited about. However, I love blogging having conversations and interactions at conferences. I want to do more of those activities. Talking to customers and developers about Sun and OpenSolaris and the market dynamics surrounding them both is great fun. And listening to ideas about how I can better engage is always welcome and educational.

Scoble's new policy recognizes both sides of the equation -- he's going to blog and talk at conferences publically, and the press can certainly quote all that. But if you want an exclusive, formal interview you have to call PR for vetting and logistical support. Works for me. I'll just skip the second half.

Monday Jul 26, 2004

Blogging Boston

Congratulations to all the bloggers who earned press credentials to cover the Democratic National Convention in Boston. I'm so excited for these guys. The New York Times talks to a few of them here. You gotta love the opportunity blogs have provided people. I mean, Jeralyn Merritt, criminal defense lawyer in Denver, now has access to the bowels of the Democratic National Convention? Wonderful! And Stephen Yellin in Berkeley Heights, N.J? Where's that? Who's he? He's 16! Now that's opportunity.

Merritt told the Times after getting her credentials:

"It was someone who was judging me on the work that I was doing for free over the last two years and found me worthy."

Guess it wasn't for free after all, eh? Having a passion pays off.

I think many in the media get it and are adapting, even leveraging, the new medium. That's great. But it's always fun watching those still fighting from the other side of a dying paradigm. I love this quote in the article from a journalism professor:

"I think that bloggers have put the issue of professionalism under attack," said Thomas McPhail, professor of media studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, who argues that journalists should be professionally credentialed. "They have no pretense to objectivity. They don't cover both sides."

Both sides? Objectivity? How silly. Tom, I have to say ... THAT'S THE POINT! At least for me, I don't care if a blogger covers only conservative issues or only liberal issues or any of the several hundred points of view in between. At least I know where bloggers stand within 10 seconds of reading their stuff. They are smart enough to have absolutely no pretense of objectivity, which is a dopy notion, anyway, one that only the elite media talk about yet no one believes. I've never met a single objective person in my life. Not one. Not even a journalist. And I've worked with several hundred of them from all over the world for a decade. Journalists are human, just like the rest of us, Tom. You are not special.

Saturday Jul 17, 2004

Contrarian Minds

Really nice to see "Contrarian Minds" go external on sun.com. It had been on Sun's intranet for a few months, and I was blogging about it internally.

This is a wonderful series of articles written by my buddy in communications. But I don't see his name anywhere in the articles or on the main page. Typical. He's a humble guy. A great writer, too. I'm an absolute fan. You wouldn't believe who he's written for and the extent of his clip file. Amazing. Anyway, Contrarian Minds is a growing series of profiles of Sun's most innovative people -- Gosling, Bosak, Gage, Papadopoulos, etc --  the people who change things, the ones who see the things that most people miss. Oh, how I absolutely crave that ability and have for my entire life. Where is it? How do you access it? I have a feeling it goes way beyond just being smart (although I could use a bit more of that to help in this trek). Sun has gallons of really smart people lurking the halls causing trouble, but these contrarian types are different. Oh, they cause trouble too, sure, but they seem to transcend their Ph.Ds and their education and all the noise around them. They seem to think differently then the rest of us. Or at least me, anyway.

How do they do it? I can't wait to see who is added to the list as time goes by.

Friday Apr 30, 2004

The Value of Blogs

I'm new to blogging ... only been doing it for a couple of months. I have four of these things now: one personal, two internal to Sun for various projects we are working on, and this one on blogs.sun.com.

The real value to me from all this is that it provides a faster way of learning the details of a subject. I'm not so much interested in feeds from news organizations; what I'm really interested in is the personal context of individuals actually involved in the stories -- the stuff that gets cut out. Sure the immediacy of a news organization feed is great, but it's still filtered through reporters and editors who are under pressure from so many sources and deadlines that it's hard to tell what's real. To me, it's just one point of view. A valuable one, for sure, but only one. By reading good blogs, however, I tend to learn a great deal and that's what I'm after.

Both are necessary, though: I get my macro issues from news organizations; I get my micro issues from bloggers dug deep in the trenches actually creating the news. Nice combination.
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