Tuesday Jan 06, 2009

Attacks in Politics and Marketing

I see attack politics and attack marketing as pretty much the same thing. Or, a distinction without much of a difference, anyway. Politicians generally attack enemies who threaten their getting elected or getting some policy implemented. If you aren't a threat, though, you are basically ignored in that system. And if you are a little guy trying to attack powerful politicians, you are generally ignored, too. This is why collective protest is a necessary prerequisite for change. Strength comes in numbers. You have to make yourself a threat to even get noticed, and that has to happen well before you have a shot at changing things (whatever your thing is). But from the politicians point of view, since they have the power, it seems the attack principle dictates that they shouldn`t want to give too much exposure to a competitor or group they don`t support, so many politicians actually tend to attack pretty carefully. The rhetorically skilled know this very well. They think out a few moves ahead. Who should do the attacking? What`s the venue of the attack? What will the counter punch look like? Where will it come from? And when? What does it mean when no counter attack comes back at all and instead they are met with silence? And heck, what if the opponent praises in return instead of attacking as expected? The answers to these questions are imprecise at best.

I used to do competitive marketing, and I went through this exact same process. However, I always told my clients that attacks are best done by third parties and only in response to a precipitating attack. In other words, you don`t attack first. It`s not worth the headline. Instead, you be the one responding. Here`s why: those who attack first generally give away at least some of their position, and that gives you much more flexibility to respond. Unskilled politicians and marketers make this mistake all the time when they shoot their mouths off, but the concept holds up pretty well over time. I`ve said before that I think people attack for basically two reasons: (1) they are afraid that someone smaller than them may grow up and kick their butt, or (2) they are small themselves and want to pick a fight with a big guy to get attention. Either way, if you study your attacker you can learn a lot.

It's a game, granted. And everyone in it knows this. Most attacks can be quite easily turned around with some basic facts and logic. But rationality is irrelevant in the arena of delivering really good emotional propaganda for the purpose of influencing behavior. That's why attacks can work in some cases if they generate a strong reaction from the attacked. Attacks spread fear. And many times that fear shapes how people think if it`s not characterized properly. In fact, the term used to describe this process is sometimes called FUD -- fear, uncertainty, and doubt. It`s a silly sounding term, but it should be taken seriously because the best propagandists out there can be rather dangerous people if they have a power base and resources supporting them (a country, a company, an interest group, a foundation, a university, a union, whatever). In other cases, however, attacks and fear mongering backfire badly, and we saw this in the recent political campaign in the U.S. where pols on both sides took some things too far and the people (remember the people?) called them out on it.

So, what should you do if you are attacked in the marketplace? First, stop. Think. Don`t react immediately with the first counter attack you can think of in the first publication you can find. You`ve been attacked so you now have the upper hand for a period of time (not forever, though). What is the attack telling you about your attacker? Is he or she responding go your attack? If so, you deserve the counter attack so enjoy your stupid little fight. If not, though, something else is going on and you may be in a much better position than you think. It means that you got someone`s attention for some reason. You may have not even intended to get this attention, but that`s what the attack may mean and that`s valuable competitive intelligence if you can confirm it. Remember, if you were really irrelevant, chances are you`d be ignored. So, dig right there before responding and respond to defend and deflect not to attack back. And if you can praise the attacker (or his product or community or company or whatever) so much the better. Attackers are generally simple minded and angry and unable to deal with praise as a response. Alternatively, your attacker could just be engaging in bad marketing or politicking. Consider that too. Either way, you have the upper hand if you do the responding, not the attacking.

Tags: propaganda attacks

Saturday Dec 06, 2008

The Power of Mainstream Publicity

Every time I chat with bloggers who feel the mainstream media is not that powerful anymore I trip over an article like this -- One man's military-industrial-media complex. This piece is a textbook lesson in the power of mainstream public relations to drive a marketing campaign. It`s perfect. And, in this case, it worked like a dream, too. Now, the article is disturbing because it talks about the selling of a war, but that`s not the point. It`s reality. And to not realize that is a delusion.

Monday Nov 03, 2008

Edward Bernays: The Ultimate Propagandist

I was watching The Century of the Self recently. It`s an excellent four part documentary from the BBC that aired back in 2002 about how the powerful control the rest of us. Even now six years later it holds up very well. Scary stuff. The time period ranges from around World War I through the late 1990s. Sigmund Freud, his daughter Anna, and his nephew Edward Bernays, seem to be main characters throughout, along with lots of politicians, business leaders, and psychologists. But Bernays was everywhere. And he was probably one of the most manipulative dudes of his era, selling everything from cigarettes to presidents to wars. His methods of implementing propaganda, all based on his uncle`s theories, were largely responsible for the creation of the consumer society in the United States. In fact, the United States leads the world in consumption, yet very few people know that Bernays was the guy behind the curtain. Actually, very few know Bernays at all. I`ve read a bunch of his stuff and I used to be in his business, so I still see him everywhere.

There are a few things striking about the film -- especially in this ultimate season of campaign propaganda in the United States. First, there is a lot of politics in the documentary, obviously, but I couldn`t pick out any clear partisanship. Propaganda clearly transcends party lines. Second, most attempts to directly confront and fight back against the powerful ultimately ended in failure. The elites just used propaganda to leverage the counter punches to their advantage. And third, it doesn`t seem to matter if you know propaganda is being used on you. It works anyway. It`s remarkable. Now, it`s not all that bleak. Change does occur. But it occurs indirectly and over long periods of time. So, confront power carefully, I guess. Oh, and the term propaganda, which was common before World War II, was eventually dumped by the propagandists for the more positive sounding public relations. Today, PR is pervasive. So, if you are interested in communications or politics, give this BBC program a watch. It`s humbling at the very least. Don`t forget to vote tomorrow, too.

Thursday Sep 04, 2008

American Reporters Seeking India?

Journalist seeking paycheck? Try India: "India is a fascinating country where history is being made in many respects so it is a fertile place for good journalism. Hopefully some of the non-Indian journalists will have a better understanding of India when they do go back." -- Raju Narisetti.

Very interesting to see the media market exploding in India. But it's even better to see some of these publications open to foreign reporters coming in and sharing their experience and then going back with a new outlook on the country. I've seen other Indian business people expressing this very same sentiment.

Sunday Aug 03, 2008

Chinese Ambitions

China’s Ambition Soars to High-Tech Industry: "President Hu Jintao hinted at China’s vaulting ambitions during a meeting of China’s scientific elite last June at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, where he called on scientists to challenge other countries in high technology. "We are ready for a fight," he said, "to control the scientific high ground and earn a seat on the world’s high technology board. We will make some serious efforts to strengthen our nation’s competence."-- NY Times.

Cool. More competition. Should be good for the West. Right? That competition should be good for Japan as well. Rhetorically, though, this article is interesting. I never hear the Japanese talk this way. Americans are bold rhetorically, and the Chinese are demonstrating that they are as well. Not the Japanese, though. I wonder. Is aggressive rhetoric a necessary ingredient for innovation and growth? 

Saturday Jul 19, 2008

Deirdre's New Computer

Check out Deirdre's new computer. It's big. Get ready for more video.

Friday Jun 20, 2008

The OGB Breaks Wind

Sam Varghese scratches out a very humorous quote here -- Hey FOSS project, what's your pedigree?
"The project is so tied up in its own bowels, trying to draft structures for its own operation, that the only thing it has left to chance is probably the order in which members of the governing board break wind - and in which minor key they do so. I wouldn't be surprised if even that was specified in an amendment some years down the line."
Sam, I have to admit, that's a great quote. You know pretty much nothing about OpenSolaris (just ask Patrick), but that's a very funny quote indeed. I'm saving it.

The context for Sam's quote is the whole "organic vs inorganic" open source argument. Linux is great because it's "organic" and springs to life from the great wild, and OpenSolaris sucks wind because it's "non-organic" and is driven by Sun and the OGB has flatulence. That's pretty much it. Whatever. I'm a fan of Linux (I use Ubuntu), but I really don't know enough yet about the Linux community to comment about its lack of pesticide use. I know more about OpenSolaris, so I can comment there.

OpenSolaris is still very much a mix. Some parts are most certainly organic -- porting of DTrace and ZFS to MacOS/BSD), the non-Sun distros, the user groups, the OSDevCon conference, etc. Some parts are represented by transparency on Sun's part and the interaction with other communities, such as the specification and testing of the SCM choices, the new wiki applications, the OpenSolaris Summit operations, etc. Some parts are characterized by various open development projects on the site with live gates outside the firewall with external committers, such as desktop and g11n, or just engineers working in the open as much as possible, such as some of the technologies in the new OpenSolaris distro (install, packaging, etc). And other parts of the project are still largely internal to Sun but plan to move outside, and that's probably represented best by the ON consolidation -- the kernel. The kernel source is out there, of course, and the community is contributing via the request-sponsor process, but the main gate is still inside. So, give or take few inaccuracies on my part, it's pretty much a mix of organic and inorganic. Or is it non-organic. Anyway. The problem with all this is ... what? What's the big deal? This is all normal operations for a large, multi-phase, long term project to open Solaris from within a multi-billion dollar corporation that still has build, ship, and support products.

OpenSolaris can't live up to an artificial standard of being a totally "organic" project. I'm not sure anything could, actually. And we never claimed such a characteristic, actually. I think it's fine for those involved in the project to criticize various things (and they do), but that's all in an effort to fix things and move forward. Again, it's normal. You will find that in all projects in all industries. I'll give Sam one thing, though. There is a kernel of truth in that we have spun ourselves around silly on some issues these last few years. But that's very much changing now. Sure, you can argue with the changes, but the fact is that the project has changed significantly lately and for the better. But did Sam choose to get involved and help out in the true spirit of open source? No. Instead, he chose to use a two thousand year old rhetorical technique (well documented by Aristotle) to attack while sitting safely on the sidelines.

It's not big deal, really. I just loved the quote.

Monday May 12, 2008

Sun Guidelines on Public Discourse

It's really nice to see the Sun Guidelines on Public Discourse evolving. Linda Skrocki has all the details. With thousands of Sun employees blogging and participating in a variety of open communities around the world, it's amazing to see the quality and standards remaining so high. We have built a thriving communications community at Sun (blogs, wikis, open source communities, forums,  and it is based on trust and mutual respect between the employees and the company. We also have some really excellent documents to set the context for building this community.

Some important BSC links: Apache Roller, Dave Johnson, The Founders of BSC, BSC FAQ, Original Policy from Tim Bray, The Making of the Policy from Tim Bray, Sun Blogger License Agreement 1.1 (and an explanation from Simon Phipps), and Will Snow.

Sun Guidelines on Public Discourse

Many of us at Sun are doing work that could change the world. Contributing to online communities by blogging, wiki posting, participating in forums, etc., is a good way to do this. You are encouraged to tell the world about your work, without asking permission first, but we expect you to read and follow the advice in this note.


By speaking directly to the world, without prior management approval, we are accepting higher risks in the interest of higher rewards. We don't want to micro-manage, but here is some advice that we expect you to follow to help you manage that risk.

It's a Two-Way Street

The goal isn't to get everyone at Sun contributing online, it's to become part of the industry conversation. So, if you are going to write, look around and do some reading first, so you learn where the conversation is and what people are saying. Remember the Web is all about links; when you see something interesting and relevant, link to it; you'll be doing your readers a service, and you'll also generate links back to you; a win-win.

Don't Tell Secrets

Anything you post is accessible to anyone with a browser. Some sites have a restricted content feature, but keep in mind that external content is NOT as secure as content that resides on a protected intranet — you are responsible for the content you post and the restricted spaces you manage. Common sense at work here; it's perfectly OK to talk about your work and have a dialog with the community, but it's not OK to publish the recipe for one of our secret sauces. Content requiring a non-disclosure agreement or considered Sun Proprietary should NOT be published on Sun's community sites — even in spaces set up to restrict access to Sun employees only. If the judgment call is tough, on secrets or other issues discussed here, it's never a bad idea to get management or Sun legal help before you publish.

No Comment

Do not comment on work-related legal matters unless you are Sun's official spokesperson for the matter, and have Sun legal and management approval to do so.

Policies Apply

Sun's Standards of Business Conduct and other Sun Policies (including export compliance, trademark guidelines, privacy requirements, proprietary and confidential information protection, and anti-discrimination) continue to apply.

Be Respectful

Whether in the actual or a virtual world, your interactions and discourse should be respectful. For example, when you are in a virtual world as a Sun representative, your avatar should dress and speak professionally. We all appreciate actual respect.

Be Interesting, but Be Honest

Writing is hard work. There's no point doing it if people don't read it. Fortunately, if you're writing about a product that a lot of people are using, or are waiting for, and you know what you're talking about, you're probably going to be interesting. And because of the magic of linking and the Web, if you're interesting, you're going to be popular, at least among the people who understand your specialty. Another way to be interesting is to expose your personality; almost all of the successful online voices write about themselves, about families or movies or books or games; or they post pictures. People like to know what kind of a person is writing what they're reading. Once again, balance is called for; a community site is a public place and you should avoid embarrassing the company and community members. One of Sun's core values is integrity, so review and follow Sun's Standards of Business Conduct in your online community contributions.

Write What You Know

The best way to be interesting, stay out of trouble, and have fun is to write about what you know. If you have a deep understanding of some chunk of Solaris or a hot JSR, it's hard to be boring or get into too much trouble writing about that. On the other hand, a Solaris architect who publishes rants on marketing strategy or tax policy has a good chance of being embarrassed by a real expert, or of being boring.

Don't Write Anonymously

If you comment publicly about any issue in which you are engaged in your capacity as a Sun employee, even loosely, you must make your status as a Sun employee clear. You should also be clear about whether, in such commentary, you are speaking for yourself (presumably the normal case) or for Sun.

Business Outlook Rules

There are all sorts of laws about what we can and can't say business-wise. Talking about revenue, future product ship dates, pricing decisions, roadmaps, unannounced financial results, our share price or similar matters is apt to get you, the company, or both, into serious legal trouble. Stay away from financial topics and predictions of future performance.

Quality Matters

Use a spell-checker. If you're not design-oriented, ask someone who is and take their advice on how to improve. You don't have to be a great or even a good writer to succeed at this, but you do have to make an effort to be clear, complete, and concise. Of course, "complete" and "concise" are to some degree in conflict; that's just the way life is. There are very few first drafts that can't be shortened, and improved in the process.

Think About Consequences

The worst thing that can happen is a Sun sales pro is in a meeting with a hot prospect, and someone on the customer's side pulls out a print-out of something you've posted and says "This person at Sun says that product sucks." In general, "XXX sucks" is not only risky but unsubtle. Saying "Netbeans needs to have an easier learning curve for the first-time user" is fine; saying "Visual Development Environments for Java suck" is just amateurish. Once again, it's all about judgment. Using your public voice to trash or embarrass the company, our customers, your co-workers, or yourself is not only dangerous, but not very smart.


Some community sites, such as wikis, require a Sun employee moderator. Optional moderation on other sites such as a group blog and forum can add value by maintaining content organization and responding to ongoing decisions and questions. The goal of moderating is to "guide and nurture" not "command and control."

Other People's Information

It's simple — other people's information belongs to them (be it Intellectual Property or Personal Information). It's their choice whether to share their material with the world, not yours. So, before posting someone else's material, check with the owner for permission to do this. If you're unsure, Sun's copyright experts or Sun's privacy experts can offer guidance.


Many employees put a disclaimer on their front page saying who they work for, but that they're not speaking officially. This is good practice, but don't count on it to avoid trouble; it may not have much legal effect. Community sites contain material written by Sun employees and are governed by company policies. When employees leave Sun, material written during their employment normally remains in place and is subject to the same policies. Sun Alumni are invited to have their non-Sun blog syndicated on our Alumni Blogs site and may continue to contribute material to wikis and forums, where additional terms and conditions apply.

Rev 2.0, Updated May, 2008
Rev 1.0

Sun Blogger License Agreement 1.1

By signing below, you agree to the following:

1. Definitions:

“Intellectual Property:” worldwide common law or statutory (a) patents, patent applications, and patent
rights; (b) rights associated with original works, authorship, moral rights, copyrights, and all its
exclusive rights; (c) rights relating to the protection of trade secrets and confidential information; (d)
rights associated with designs, industrial designs, and semiconductor design; (e) trademarks, service
marks, trade names, and trade dress; (f) rights analogous to those set forth above and any and all
other industrial or intellectual property rights; and (g) registrations, divisionals, continuations,
continuations-in-part, renewals, reissues, reexaminations, and extensions of the foregoing (as
applicable) now existing or hereafter filed, issued or acquired.

“License”: this agreement and the grants of rights in this agreement.

“Sun”: Sun Microsystems, Inc., its affiliates, and its successors in interest.

“Sun Portions of the Work”: the portions of the Work that are owned by Sun but not including any
Unlicensed Sun Intellectual Property.

“Unlicensed Sun Intellectual Property”: Sun's Intellectual Property that you are not permitted to use or
publish according to the Sun Guidelines on Public Discourse or other applicable agreements and

“Work”: all content in any form posted or otherwise published by you at http://blogs.sun.com or
http://www.java.net/blogfront and all blog content that you prepared within the scope of your
employment at Sun and published on the URL(s) you list below your signature; but excluding (i) all
third party materials and Intellectual Property and (ii) Unlicensed Sun Intellectual Property.

“You”: an individual current or former Sun employee who publishes or has published content at
http://blogs.sun.com during your employment at Sun.

“Your Portions of the Work”: the portions of the Work that are not Sun Portions of the Work

2. Sun retains the sole right to control the site at http://blogs.sun.com and any content posted thereon,
and may elect at any time to remove the Work or any portion of it from the site for any reason.

3. You grant to Sun, with respect to Your Portions of the Work, a perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free,
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derivative works based on Your Portions of the Work.

4. You also grant to Sun the right to use your name, photograph, likeness, and biography solely in
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5. Sun grants to you (i) with respect to the Sun Portions of the Work, a perpetual, worldwide, royalty-
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6. You retain ownership of Your Portions of the Work created by you, and Sun retains ownership of
the Sun Portions of the Work and of all Unlicensed Sun Intellectual Property.

7. Each party may charge a third party fees to sublicense the Work and each party waives any right to
an accounting from the other for such fees or any right to share in any such fees received by the other.

8. To the extent permitted by applicable law and to the extent of this License grant, the parties waive
the “moral rights” of authors (or the equivalent) with respect to the Work.

9. A party's license to the other will terminate if the other party fails to comply with terms herein and
fails to cure this breach within 30 days of becoming aware of it. Provisions which, by their nature, must
remain in effect beyond the termination of this License will survive.

10. To the extent not prohibited by applicable law, this License will be governed by and interpreted
under California law without regard to or application of choice-of-law principles. If any term of this
License is found to be invalid under an applicable statute or rule of law, then that term will be deleted
and this License will remain in full force and effect.

11. You may assign this License to a third party, provided that you obtain Sun's prior written consent
to the assignment, which will not be unreasonably withheld. Sun may assign this License at its
discretion. This Agreement will be binding upon and inure to the benefit of the permitted successors
and assigns of each party.



14. You represent (i) that you have the authority to execute this License and (ii) that you are the sole
author of Your Portions of the Work or you have the right to license this material under the terms of
this License.

Please sign below, scan and return the complete document (not just the signature page) with
the subject line “Signed License” to blog_license@sun.com.

Signature: ________________________________________
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Sun Blogger License Agreement 1.1

FAQ and PDF License for Manual Signature

You may have learned about the Sun Blogger License Agreement during a recent log-in to blogs.sun.com or from one of our blogs.  The introductory message to employee bloggers inviting you to enter the license is reprinted here for your convenience.

For technical reasons, we can't offer you another chance to click through and accept the agreement, but if you declined the agreement earlier, you can enter it by downloading, signing and returning a hard copy from this page.  A pdf version of the license is included as an attachment on this page. Bloggers that are former employees may also enter this license the same way.

Intro:  Clarification on Ownership of Blog Content

A number of bloggers have asked who owns the content of the Sun blogs and whether bloggers are allowed to copy the content to non-Sun blogs. We thought we would clarify these questions for the blogging community.

We think many of you would agree that blogs are most interesting when they include content from both your job at Sun and from your personal life outside Sun. This means that most employee blogs include some intellectual property that belongs to you and some that belongs to Sun. So by default, you would need to separate these strands if you wanted to move or copy portions of your blog.

To avoid the need and hassle to separate these two strands, we are inviting all Sun employee bloggers to enter into a cross license with Sun. Under the license, you will get to use and copy your blog in its entirety, and we can keep your entire blog in place at http://blogs.sun.com.

Once you enter this license, you will have the documented right to make complete backup copies of your blog and/or move it to another blogging platform. Sun can remove material from blogs.sun.com at any time so you may want to back up your hard work! You will also be able to syndicate your blog (so will we); we won't ask you to share fees. You can compile your blogs in book form or other formats.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where should I direct questions about the the license?

Contact us at blog_license@sun.com <mailto:blog_license@sun.com>

I am a former employee and the alias did not work for me.  Who can help?

Thank you for your patience.  We have resolved this technical issue and it should be working now.  Thanks to those of you who brought it to our attention and wrote to us individually.

Can I change my "Accept" or "Decline" response?

We wanted to deploy this quickly, so we do not have the technical functionality to change your response.  If you declined and want to accept the agreement, you can use the pdf attachment on this page.

Does this license only apply to blog content that currently resides on blogs.sun.com? What about existing Sun-related content I have on my blog on another platform?

We have updated the pdf license to version 1.1 to address blog content on java.net and other platforms.  We are updating the license here, but not at the blogs.sun.com, because we don't want to send bloggers who have accepted 1.0 through the process again, and we don't have the technical ability to exempt them.

Can I respond to the license agreement later?

We wanted to deploy this quickly, so we used an existing feature set that did not include an "I'll do it later" option by click-through.  If you declined, you can agree now by downloading and signing the pdf and returning it to our alias.

The license feature does not appear to be functioning properly for me. Who can help?

Please direct questions of this nature to Service Desk: Report a Problem -> eBusiness Applications -> blogs.sun.com

Can Sun Alumni be granted the license?

Former Sun employees can enter the agreement by downloading and signing the pdf and returning it to our alias.

What changes are in version 1.1 of the license?

We have updated the pdf license to version 1.1 to address blog content on java.net and other platforms.  We are updating the license here, but not at the blogs.sun.com log-in, because we don't want to send bloggers who have accepted 1.0 through the process again, and we don't have the technical ability to exempt them.

What if I entered version 1.0 and I want to enter version 1.1 now?

You are welcome to do that by signing version 1.1 manually and returning it to us.

Sunday Apr 20, 2008

Benkler on Open Source

Nice TED talk from Yochai Benkler on Open Source economics and the disruptive nature of community development. To me, this is all about empowered individuals acting in their own interests (financial, altruistic, whatever), so that the collective also benefits. Also see Coase's Penguin, or Linux and the Nature of the Firm and The Wealth of Networks.

Thursday Apr 17, 2008

A Communications Lesson on Slashdot

Marten Mickos, former CEO of MySQL AB and current senior vice president at Sun, is engaging in a conversation on Slashdot under the headline "Sun to Begin Close Sourcing MySQL." The headline is wrong, and Marten explains the issue in two lengthy posts here and here. I find the business model discussion interesting, but I'm most impressed to see such direct involvement from a Sun SVP on Slashdot.

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.


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