Friday Sep 18, 2009

Embracing Social Communities: A CIO's Crib Sheet

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Bob Worrall, Sun's Chief Information Officer, and my all time favorite marketing goddess, Mary Smaragdis, about how Sun builds community and enables collaboration via social networking tools. Have a look...

Social networks are everywhere — but what do they really mean to the CIO? Our experts discuss the implications, the opportunities, and the trends.

There’s no question that social networking has permeated our lives as CIOs — both on a personal front as we use these forums for communicating, and on a professional front as we put systems and policies in place to manage our organizations’ use of these communities. For my column this month, I’ve invited two social community experts within Sun to join me to discuss this phenomenon and what it means for CIOs. Mary Smaragdis, Director of Sun News Network and New and Social Media, manages Sun’s corporate activities in social media spaces, user-generated content spaces, and virtual worlds. Linda Skrocki, Sr. Engineering Program Manager for Sun's high-volume external-facing community web properties, is involved with running Sun’s high-volume Web properties.

Bob: Mary, let’s start with you. How are you defining the social community space in your role?

Mary: The social community space is about first-person conversations on the network. Within Sun’s social community spaces, people are conversing about their work and their passions around work. They use these platforms to engage their stakeholders, whether they are customers, prospects, media, or others. The network dramatically elevates these conversations so that they reach huge potential audiences.

Linda: My responsibility is to enable those conversations Mary just described. When we open up a conversation to the marketplace, we need to have the toolsets to enable it. Sun has a variety of social community participants — some are very savvy technology-wise and are comfortable with social media tools. Others aren’t. So we provide tools and training to maximize peoples’ time with these media. Social networking, blogging, and wikis aren’t for everyone all of the time. And while we have a very liberal policy, we have usage guidelines so that people learn when it’s appropriate to use a blog as opposed to a wiki, for example. Because of this safety net, employees feel comfortable having organic conversations in the marketplace — which I think has been a huge factor in our success in this space.

Bob: What guidance do you give when adoption of these tools varies based on geography, language or even age?

Mary: Social media sites like Facebook and MySpace are most well-known in the U.S., but there are dozens of social media platforms around the world. As a CIO looking to extend your conversations to these places, you’ll want to understand the equation for adoption on the different platforms in different geographies.

As for age, MySpace and Facebook started out in a younger demographic, but have moved beyond the millennials. Certainly younger age groups have been more liberal with putting their information out there. Older age groups still tend to be cautious. This is a big transition — much like email was — and people are becoming more comfortable with how it works. This is just the next evolution of communication tools — for business and social communication — and there is definitely an adoption curve across geographies and age demographics.

Bob: What are some benefits of embracing social communities in terms of engaging customers, prospects, and investors?

Linda: has proven to be a powerful tool for Sun employees (tech writers, engineers, etc.), who are globally distributed, to collaboratively create and iterate technical and program-specific content with customers, partners, and other members of the community who share common interests. has been an amazing success story for Sun. One of the primary reasons is because we’ve created a set of guidelines for employees to follow, thereby keeping Sun and the employees out of trouble. Over 10% of our company is blogging. We have 4,500 bloggers who have posted 137,000 entries. Within those entries, we have 153,000 comments, which tells us that there really is a two-way conversation happening.

Another success area is which is one of our oldest and biggest communities. This is where people interested in Sun products can converse and help each other. It is a community-driven environment for users to get quick answers and engage with other users who share a commonality — usage of a particular technology for example. Over 4 million messages by approximately 1 million contributors are posted there.

Mary: To add some numbers to that, in the past 12 months, Sun’s bloggers have pulled in more than 8.3 million unique visitors. has seen more than 15 million unique visitors.

Bob: Those bring home some powerful examples of how these technologies can benefit both companies and individuals. I know from my own IT staff that blogs, wikis, and forums, even Twitter, allow them to reach support groups that otherwise they may have had to pay for, so we’re certainly using these technologies to drive down costs.

Once a company has decided to engage in social communities, what are the areas a CIO needs to think about as they begin preparing their organization?

Mary: There are two areas that are critical to success. The first is determining, as an organization, if you are prepared to be good contributors. Do you have a clear understanding of what the thresholds are, what the guidelines are? Sun’s guidelines of public disclosure have been held up as a benchmark and I encourage folks to take a look. The other key area is the infrastructure itself. How is it architected? Do you build it or host it yourself or outsource?

Linda: I agree. Policy-wise, it is important to identify your risk and transparency tolerances. You must keep in mind that this is part of your brand. Identify how often you are going to participate from a time-investment standpoint and then get training and evangelism to support that. Then, you need to analyze what kind of infrastructure you want. Do you need full control over your scalability, uptime, performance, feature set, and data or can you get by with using third party provided services? Can you afford to not have full control over your data and the availability of your site? Could you afford to lose all your data if someone else controlled it and lost it?

Bob: That brings up a good point. Many people consider these tools to not have critical business value and place them in the category of “interesting.” My advice, for all the reasons just brought up, is to treat them as mission-critical business applications, if for no other reason than issues of privacy and data control.

For the average CIO, who are the key stakeholders across the company that you should get engaged with as you adopt social media strategies and policies?

Mary: Definitely your CEO, because he/she can influence the success of your program. Jonathan Schwartz set a positive tone early on with bloggers. He blogged in a very open manner and left his comments section open for folks to read. We also engaged our privacy folks as well as folks in trademarks, export, legal, and HR.

Bob: What are some common pitfalls you’ve seen?

Linda: People sometimes forget that these tools are for organic conversations — not one-way publishing platforms for contrived messaging. Trying to over-control or command the conversations of a community would be considered misuse.

Bob: What is the trajectory both for CIOs and businesses at large as they think about this space?

Mary: These trends are well-entrenched and will continue to grow in the trajectories we’ve seen. The models we have for communicating and collaborating are increasingly becoming anchored around technology. The choices CIOs make will have ever-increasing reach in terms of how future models need to be anchored. This will be the way we communicate, collaborate, exchange, and engage in commerce for a very long time.

Linda: And I would add that people need to be open to new technologies. Blogging came out and people loved it. Then micro-blogging came out. Once that happened, there was a question about whether blogging still had a place. There still is a place for those more in-depth conversations. You can only say so much in 140 characters. My advice is to be open and try the new social technologies as they come along, but don't feel compelled to use every one.

Bob: That’s terrific advice because one thing is certain — change. Twitter may be big today, but something new is around the corner. So my advice is the same — stay open to new ideas and technologies and stay abreast of what’s going on in the marketplace.

Thank you all for joining me this month. Until next time,

Bob Worrall

Thursday Sep 10, 2009

Community Moderation: A Success Story

Sun Forums is one of Sun's longest running community sites. It's been around for ~8 years. It's grown by leaps and bounds and continues to be one of our most active sites. There are currently more than 4 million messages posted by nearly 1 million contributors. The site see ~44 million page views annually (or 3.7 million/month) -- amazing traffic & volumes of rich community-driven content.

While the majority of contributions are positive, as with any community site, there are going to be occasional disruptions in the form of derailed conversations, abusive posts, etc. We struggled a bit with implementing a protocol that would scale to effectively manage this issue.

As a collaborative effort between the team that manages the Sun Forums, the Sun Legal team and the Sun Forums Community, a sensible Community Moderation Program was defined, then implemented on January 26th, 2007. Since then, via the same collaborative effort, the program has been fine-tuned.

In addition to our community nominated volunteer moderators generously sharing useful information with their peers and helping to set a positive tone throughout the Sun Forums, they've also leveraged the site's community moderators features to take the following actions in response to content that violate site terms or are simply posted in the wrong forum:

  • Blocked 793 accounts
  • Blocked 2,391 messages
  • Quarantined 2,768 threads
  • Moved 941 threads to better align with various forums topics

Many thanks to the community members who helped define the Moderators Program and special thanks to the eight volunteer moderators (dcminter, kajbj, PhHein, yawmark, ejp, Darryl.Burke, sabre150, and cotton.m (alumni)) for giving so generously of your time and for making such an awesome difference to the site & the community in general!

Wednesday Aug 26, 2009

Free Cloud Webinar Sept 1st: "Protecting Your Services in the Cloud"

If cloud security is weighing heavily on your mind lately, you may find the following interesting:

Safety First: Protecting Your Services in the Cloud

Join us for a free webinar in which we'll explore one of the leading impediments to the widespread adoption of Cloud Computing -- security concerns. Given all of the hyped up claims and gross generalizations flowing across the Net, it's no wonder people are worried.

Cloud Computing and security both are multi-faceted areas, and it's high time we stopped thinking of them as a single entity. If you want to take a serious look at Cloud Computing, then it is time to inject a little sanity and context into the security discussion.

Join us for this free webinar to learn how to begin using Cloud Computing -- securely.

In this webinar, we will discuss:

  • Key questions to ask your cloud provider
  • Security issues to consider before moving to the cloud
  • Steps you can take today to protect yourself in the cloud
Event: Safety First: Protecting Your Services in the Cloud
Date: Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Time: 10:00 am PDT / 1:00 pm EDT / 19.00 CET

Speaker: Glenn Brunette, Distinguished Engineer and Chief Security Architect at Sun Microsystems

For over 15 years, Glenn has designed and delivered security architectures and solutions supporting a wide array of global customers. Currently, he has focused his efforts on improving security for cloud computing and other highly dynamic and scalable architectures.

  • Bring your questions to the live Q&A.
  • Even if you can't make the live event, sign up anyway so we can send you the replay information.


Tuesday Jul 21, 2009

Nifty Wiki Diagramming

Did you know you can create nifty diagrams via Sun Wikis? Here's a sample flow diagram that I created in a few minutes:

The nice thing about wikifying your thoughts in the form of a wiki diagram is not only ease of conveying your idea, but you can easily open up iteration of your idea to others. The wiki has version history, so if someone "veers" too far off course, for example, you can retrieve previous versions.

Here's how:

Friday Jul 17, 2009

The rare bedazzled geek tee!

@WillSnow (the well-connected Paris Hilton of the geek world -- seriously! He gets invited to invite-only geek parties with free fancy drinks & food!) hooked me up with the coolest chick's geek tee ever!

Props to the JavaFX folks for not only ditching the mens only tees approach, but taking it one step further and adding some sweet bling! With tees like this, you know they've gotta be doing something über cool.

Friday May 29, 2009

The Barbara Walters & Katie Couric of JavaOne

Yup, these chicks' JavaOne videos are better than The View. If you're going to JavaOne, be sure to check them out so you're in-the-know on places to go & people to see.

If you're on Twitter, Heidi can be found at @_intellichick_ and Jen can be found at @maybeimright.

Tuesday May 05, 2009


Sorry about having to play my annual all caps blog title card, but this is exciting. As a child, I would watch Wheel of Fortune not for the ridiculously easy puzzle solving, but to admire Vanna White's grace -- how she'd float across that floor and sweep her hand over those letters. It was magical, but I have something she doesn't -- a certified background in wheel spinning. That is correct. I spun the wheel at the church bazaar in front of 10s of people holding their raffle tickets filled with dreams of carrying a whole salami home with them! How much training did I require to be such a wheel spinning child prodigy, you ask? The answer may very well shock you.

None! That is correct. None.

And so, it makes perfect sense that I was selected from an abundant pool of people to be one of this year's JavaOne wheel spinners. Never mind that most of the people in the pool said "Pffft! I'm not doing that!" They, my friend, are crazy people. They don't get the whole wheel spinning lifestyle, but I do.

AND, that's not all!

My good buddy, whom many of you know as @ditucci will also be a wheel spinner. On the same day! At the same time! We'll be like Bob Barker's Babes, but different. More modern. More classy. More confident. More approachable. More je ne sais quoi...mysterious. We're kicking around ideas on matching evening gowns, but the people in the brand org might veto that, no promises there.

So, please join us at JavaOne. Our wheel spinner work schedule is as follows: Tuesday, June 2nd 11AM - 7:30PM


JavaOne June 2-5, 2009

And none of this "I can't afford to go" business. Here's how you can possibly have your pass and $1500 in travel expenses covered. Let me know if you submit a video and I'll obnoxiously state my opinion to the judges about how I think it rocks (not that that will help, but you never know -- persuasion is part of my job).

I hope to meet you then!

Wednesday Apr 08, 2009

Cloud Computing Basics and More

A collection of resources to help demystify cloud computing...

Cloud Computing in Plain English

About cloud computing as a utility -- much like electrical & water utility services where you pay only for the computing and storage that you use, as opposed to paying the overhead of creating & maintaining your own data center.

Data Center of the Future: Supernap by Switch

It's no longer a thing of the future -- it's a glimpse inside the brick walls that physically house cloud engines. Think of it as being a cloud compute and storage utility site equivalent to an electricity plant.

The Cloud, Virtualization, and All That

A webcast featuring Jonathan Eunice on why cloud computing is relevant -- an IT culture shift from "if we should use it" to "why wouldn't we use it". Comprehensive explanations of public vs private vs hybrid clouds, how virtualization is the grease that enables it all, and definitions of:

SaaS: Software as a Service
PaaS: Platform as a Service
DaaS: Data as a Service
HaaS: Hardware as a Service
IaaS: Infrastructure as a Service
XaaS: X as a Service, for whatever X

A Guide to Getting Started with Cloud Computing

A free pdf on why the cloud isn't just about inexpensive computing, cloud history & how to use, leverage, build and be the cloud, Sun's Open Source and Interoperable cloud philosophy, how to join the Sun cloud API community and sign up for Sun cloud public beta.

For me, as is the case with most end-users, I simply want my favorite websites to:

A) Always be available
B) Always be snappy (even during a major events that may cause unexpected traffic spikes); and
C) As Don with SmugMug puts it, I want owners of my favorite sites to focus on "writing great software".

“We really don’t want to operate datacenters anymore. We’d rather spend our time giving our customers great service and writing great software than managing physical hardware.”

— Don MacAskill, CEO, SmugMug

Wednesday Mar 18, 2009

The Sun Cloud Cohesion

Yesterday was a great day for Sun. Dave Douglas, Senior Vice President of Cloud Computing and Lew Tucker, Vice President and CTO of Cloud Computing unveiled the Sun Cloud. From an internal view, it feels good to see Sun's power players from various levels and organizations within the company huddled around this effort -- the traction is obvious.

In case you missed it, you can replay the webcast -- following is the portion of the general session where Lew demonstrates the virtual data center:

Via his video blog, Jonathan comprehensively discusses how the Sun Cloud offers storage, compute and bandwidth by cohesively weaving together the use of Sun's open source assets for the entire free software community -- including deployments behind corporate firewalls.

The open cloud API is under a creative commons license -- API info is posted on The Sun Cloud API wiki.

For early cloud access and updates, sign up here.

Monday Mar 16, 2009

Cloud Privacy Governance Alliance

David Berlind with InformationWeek has an excellent podcast where he interviews Michelle Dennedy, Sun's newly appointed Chief Governance Officer in the Cloud Computing Organization.

Michelle is spearheading an effort to organize a collaborative cloud privacy governance alliance to define a cloud governance framework (What is it? What needs to be regulated?) in the short term with a long term goal of building cloud trust via transparency, open standards & interoperability that is regulated by the cloud governance framework & governments/legislators around the world.

Well worth a listen...

Podcast: Sun Looks To Start Privacy And Governance Alliance For Cloud Computing Industry

Monday Mar 09, 2009

A Successful 1st Colorado Girl Geek Dinner

A million thanks to Deirdré Straughan, Sun videoblogger extraordinaire for organizing a very successful 1st Colorado Front Range Girl Geek Dinner, held at Sun's Broomfield campus last week. Thanks also to my boss, Will Snow, Sr. Engineering Director, for helping to fund the event.

In case you missed it, Jodi Brooks with CBS Denver News and Deirdre have posted summaries.

Tuesday Mar 03, 2009

My New Favorite Twitter Tool

If you haven't signed up for Twitter yet, do yourself a favor & do it now -- nobody wants to be the last adopter of a mainstream utility (as was done w/ electricity, indoor plumbing, television, etc.). You'll thank me later. ;-)

Anywho, have you noticed what a polling crazed species we've become? I have a feeling that twtpoll (a super simple Twitter polling tool that can be easily embedded) is going to be huge. Check it out:

<script src="" type="text/javascript"></script> <script src="" type="text/javascript"></script>

Sunday Feb 22, 2009

CommunityOne New York March 18-19

$200 bucks will get you into what Tim Bray calls "One heavyweight geek-fest." And if you're stuck in stimulas package limbo, you can "Access the main conference program, lunch, snacks, and all the ideas you want" for F-R-E-E. Details here.

I'm wishing I could see the opening general session -- my new VP (Dave Douglas) & my former VP (Lew Tucker) will discuss why Sun's Cloud is unique. If you haven't heard either of them speak, they're interesting & comprehensive communicators:

David Douglas
Senior Vice President of Cloud Computing and Chief Sustainability Officer

Lew Tucker, Ph.D.
Vice President and CTO, Cloud Computing

CommunityOne East: Free and Open
Join us March 18-19 in New York for a developer conference focused on open source innovation and implementation. » Register Today

Monday Feb 09, 2009

Four Million Messages on Sun Forums!

A notable milestone for Sun Forums was reached today in the form of seeing it's four millionth post.

I've been lucky enough to be a part of the team the last few years and as a result have engaged directly with the community -- it's been an invaluable education in the community space. If you're looking for a lesson in community dynamics, community policy building, community moderation, or just want to learn to be an effective community contributor, I recommend you find a forum that interests you and engage. You'll find the experience and the rewards are different from any other community site. For example, forums conversations are faster-flowing than blogs, yet more focused and organized than super fast flowing micro-blogging sites like Twitter.

In terms of annual page views and visits, Sun Forums is by far Sun busiest community site. To offer context, here's a quick glimpse of traffic for Sun forums, blogs, wikis for 2008:

 Views  Visits  Site Age
 Wikis  4.6M  1.3M  <2 yrs
 Blogs  21.8M  12.2M  <5 yrs
 Forums  66.4M  36.0M  <8 yrs

That's a lot of communication going on! If you are a Sun employee, chances are the project you are working on has a forum dedicated solely to that topic -- an excellent opportunity for you to engage with the folks who share that commonality. Let us know if you're interested in becoming a Sun Moderator of a particular forum or if you'd like to nurture a forum on a new topic.

I also want to give a shout-out to the Sun Forums Lead Engineer, who has been committed to the site since day one, always has a positive disposition and a "can do" attitude...Congrats & a million thanks Ramsci! :-D

Monday Feb 02, 2009

Confluence Wiki Tiny URL

Just learned a helpful tip from Igor, Lead Engineer of Every Confluence wiki page has a tiny url that can be found on the Tools --> Info page:


Sr. Community Engineering Program Manager/Acting Director for Sun's external social networking sites (blogs, forums, wikis, etc.). Skrocki's personal blog, LinkedIn.


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