Thursday Jan 22, 2009

Moving On ...

As an angel once told a certain George Bailey, "you've had a wonderful life!" I feel the same way about my time at Sun, and while I am saddened to leave, I feel proud of being part of something truly wonderful. Someone told me today that Sun is a company that was ahead of it's time, pioneering the technologies that first connected computers across the planet, laying the foundation for the next wave of connectedness, the social media revolution.

Of course it's true, and I can't help but believe that like George Bailey, Sun's second act is right around the corner, as is mine! :)

To all my Sun friends and colleagues, a heart-felt "thank you!", and my gratitude to the customers, partners, and fans who believed in our mission of "everyone and everything connected on the planet."

All my best, and you can always reach me via my Linked In profile.

—Lou Ordorica

Monday Nov 17, 2008

Top 10 Social Media Takeaways - 2008 Thin Air Summit

1. Social media is whatever you say it is. It's contextual, experiential, and personal, says Lucretia Pruitt. Think of social media as the tools to let you get where you want to go. Make your choices based on your purpose, audience, and message. Sage advice: "If you're not having fun, why should your audience?"

2. twitter succeeds because "there are no rules." Like MySpace, twitter gives you the freedom and control to express yourself. Purists may claim twitter is all about conversations, but people are playing movie trivia games, learning new recipes, selling ads ... you name it. No-limits social media is powerful and scary, with winners and losers.

3. Jeremiah Owyang inspires. Like many, I have followed and benefited from his work. He is every bit as good a speaker as he is a writer. His talk was devastatingly effective because he told a story, asked the audience questions, cited experts, polled the room, showed statistics and data, used case studies, and was generally remarkable.

4. Power beckons. Jeremiah Owyang likens currency to power. Individuals adept at creating the currency of the Web — sharing knowledge, establishing connections, building influence, and most importantly, creating community — are the new media power-brokers.

5. Size matters. Conversations occur naturally in close quarters, and smaller venues with fewer participants work better for this type of a conference. The odds of running into people you've met online are better, too.

6. Love what you do. Do you what you love. Enough said.

7. Be candid. I had to look this up — when used as an adjective, it means being truthful and straightforward; frank. You gain other people's trust by being candid; trust leads to lasting relationships and opportunities.

8. Give more than you expect to get. Generous acts multiply many times over the original value time invested. Participating by freely sharing your ideas, answering questions, making and sharing connections, and leading others are all fine examples.

9. Dave Taylor is cool. He's helped millions of people with good technical advice, and he is a great role model for "giving more than you expect to get back." Plus, anyone who introduces himself as "savior of blind Martian babies" can't be bad.

10. Look, listen, learn and lead. Four steps to realizing the promise and potential that social media offers every one us. I spend a lot of time looking and listening, I am learning enough to be humbled by how very little I do know, and I aspire to leadership.

How about you? Where are you in your social media journey? More importantly, how can I help you?

Image courtesy of teamstickergiant

Tuesday Sep 02, 2008

twitter meets powerpoint

Take a slide deck, a presenter, an audience of 40 teleconferenced in, and what do you get? Nothing special. Add twitter to the mix, and you get a whole new animal.

Unless your audience hangs on to every word you speak, you're most likely competing with email, instant messages, web browsing, and dozens of other distractions vying for your listener's attention.

What to do? You can keep your audience involved by giving them something better to do, like having a conversation with other attendees interested in your topic. Setting up a backchannel is risky — you are exposing yourself to scrutiny in very public forum, and you should expect surprises, like:

Immediate feedback. Sometimes it's hard to gauge people's reactions over the phone (especially when lines are muted). Are you keeping their attention, or are they tuning out? Simple messages like this one are reassuring and confidence-building:

mjmsf: @sunflash - this is a GREAT presentation...thanks!

People answering questions for you — and sometimes doing a better job! Asked about integrating a calendar into a wiki, I was at a loss, until a participant saved the day with this tweet:

robcwilson: @sunflash Calander plugin on akula wiki may be an option {calendar:id=communitycal|title=Community Venues Releases} - See Community Software

Formation of ad-hoc groups. Every presenter feels satisfaction when participants come away a little changed after hearing your message. Watching that change unfold in front of you is immensely rewarding, like these folks who decided to start a book club:

esherwoo: @sunflash -- anyone interested in joining a book cluck to read Groundswell, let me know.
JoyceSolano: @sunflash yes please Groundswell book club!
lindabarnum: @sunflash Groundswell book club sounds great!!

New connections. The cloak of anonymity is torn away when people come forward and participate in a dialogue with you and others. Twitter offers opportunities to build relationships with the people you meet, first by getting introduced, then by following one another and getting to know one another, and finding mutual interests.

How does this work? After setting up a twitter account, provide instructions on how to send and view messages during your talk. Tip: use twitter search (example). Be sure to set ground rules. In my case, the teleconference was a private conversation in a corporate setting, and I warned against sharing any sensitive information over the twitter backchannel which is public.

With twitter and tools like it, you can spice up your presentations by engaging your audience in a fun and interactive way. Now, if someone would create slideshare and twitter mashup, that would rock!

Friday Jun 27, 2008

Social Media Tips for the Product Manager

Contacts, lead generation, and marketing funnels seem to be popular topics lately. Since business really is a conversation, I imagined myself as a product manager. How can I use the power of social media to effectively market myself and my brand?

If I were a product manager, I would:

  • Listen for people talking about my product, my competitors, and my customer's pain points on blogs, forums, wikis, and social networks.
  • Identify the influencers who can sway large groups of people.
  • Form relationships with them by commenting on their blogs, following them on social networks, and so on.
  • Establish a presence in the online gathering places where conversations that matter are occurring.
  • Look for opportunities to passively market my product in conversations with the community.
  • Build loyalty to my product by honoring my influencers, and rewarding them tangibly.
  • Invite my community to help me "build a better mousetrap."
  • Be sure visits to my product's web site results in a download, trial, registration, subscription or referral.
  • Enable my product to sell itself through hooks into my customer's connections ("invite your friends to try this").
  • Baseline and track all of the above, measure effectiveness, and tweak and tune.
—Lou Ordorica

Tuesday Jun 17, 2008

Social Media is for Everyone

How to use the power of the network to gain opportunities and build relationships.

This was the premise of a talk I gave this morning with Linda Skrocki to a large group of product managers in Sun's IT organization.

Thanks to Mary Smaragdis for her insights and leadership, and to the clever folks at Forrester whose Groundswell book helped to classify people's participation profiles. While the examples and tools shown are mostly intended for a Sun audience, they translate to other organizations, too.

—Lou Ordorica

Thursday Apr 10, 2008

What's The Big Idea? Embracing Your Customers

Embracing customers and looking to them as source for inspiration and new ideas is a smart way companies can reinvent themselves. Starbuck is enjoying a lot of media attention with My Starbucks Idea, a great place for coffee drinkers to share pet peeves with the company (my favorite, a cup lid that doesn't leak).

My Starbucks Idea impresses with its community features, like being able to post your idea, vote on favorites, discuss with others, and actually watch the best ideas gain traction and evolve into usable product ideas.

Of course, community driven content at Sun is nothing new, having launched the Sun Developer Network Share community last year (it's cool, go check it out).

Other companies have successfully launched similar "idea factories" -- notably, Dell Idea Storm, Salesforce Idea Exchange and on a smaller scale, IBM's Thinkplace.

With all the excitement around social media and participation, one would expect that many more companies would offer their own idea factories. I think part of the reason for this is the culture of control. I imagine that some CEOs are terrified by the prospect of opening up their companies to scrutiny in such a publicly visible way. What if customers gang and up and revolt?

What makes companies that embrace customers so admirable, is their courage and commitment. In Starbuck's case, this is a company that saw the writing on the wall — how many people can support a $5/day coffee habit, in the face of a recession, rising gas prices chewing away at disposable income, and new alternatives cropping up everywhere? They realized they needed to adjust the strategy, and the brilliant stroke of involving customers in their product and company strategy is right-on.

It shows that the leaders and decison-makers are willing to engage with customers, really listen to them, and follow-through. People love to feel they belong to something and others care about what they have to say — it's this self-esteem building and loyalty generating engagement that makes My Starbucks Idea so compelling (and sticky, a marketer's wet dream — forgive the imagery).

For those considering their own idea factories, don't waste your energy unless you have iron-clad commitment from your leaders — the people with decision-making authority who are putting their credibility and egos on the line by inviting customer scrutiny and their suggestions to improve products and experiences with a company or brand.

Be ready to staff this program — you'll need community managers to nurture and guide conversations, program managers to report and align the best ideas with company strategy, and a smart strategist / evangelist to pull everything together and keep it healthy and useful.

As far as platforms and technologies — build it yourself or look at any number of existing hosted solutions. If you want an integrated solution that ties into your existing identity and CRM systems, be prepared to spend some time, energy and money. Here are a few to start with: Salesforce Ideas, User Voice, dotherightthing.com.

Embracing your customers and inviting them in to your company and brand makes sense — the question is, does your company have the guts?

— Lou Ordorica

Thursday Feb 21, 2008

Driving Participation through Design

Five simple lessons I've learned for driving participation on community web sites: be brave, make it easy, listen to your users, look outside for ideas, ask if you're not sure. Watch the story behind these lessons in this short video.

Thursday Jan 03, 2008

Join the Parade: 5 Easy Steps to Participating Visibly in Communities

Like the 2008 Rose Parade, a community has organizers, participants, cheering crowds, not to mention dazzling displays that amaze and entertain. But without the crowd, it's just a bunch of people in costumes walking down the street. That's where you, me, and everyone else watching and enjoying the spectacle matters.

Participation takes many forms, and everybody has a role. Even the folks quietly observing and taking in the sights are important. Without them, communities can't grow, the organizers lose interest, and people drift away.

Reading this blog, and other posts on blogs.sun.com, is participating. So is browsing your friend's photos on flickr, watching a goofy YouTube video someone shared with you, or downloading your favorite music from iTunes.

Ready to cross the security line and join the parade? You'll find many friendly and helpful people to guide you. Plus, participating visibly in communities has tangible benefits, such as establishing your presence and "social equity" in networks to help you win friends and be influential.

And, the social equity you build over time in an online community is valuable — eBay's reputation system is a great example — but let's face it: not everyone can be a social media star or starlette.

The good news is that for the rest of us, it's easy to participate more visibly in ways that benefit our professional or personal lives. Here are 5 simple techniques to help you get started:

  1. Think about your interests and goals. Time is precious, and we always want to invest it in ways that will benefit us and others around us. Spend a few minutes writing down things you want to change — for example, learning a new skill, changing jobs, getting to know your co-workers better, exploring a hobby, sharing your knowledge with others, and so on. Starting with clear interests and goals motivates, encourages, and guides us. Use your list to direct your online activities by seeking out people and communities with similar interests.
  2. Build on what you know. You're probably very comfortable with e-mail — why not build use it to stay connected with communities and web sites? Most e-mail clients (for example, Thunderbird, Apple Mail) and Web browsers (Firefox) are RSS aware, meaning you can subscribe to your favorite online places and people and automatically receive updates in your inbox. You can get started by searching technorati for keywords from your list. When you find a blogger you like, locate the RSS icon and follow the instructions provided by your email/Web software to subscribe. Remember that the best blogs are a conversation, so don't hesitate to comment on a particularly compelling post. Now you're participating naturally without even realizing it!
  3. Start small. A big obstacle for many is the belief that establishing an online presence takes a lot of time and energy. While blogging is a popular activity, some may be put-off by the initial time investment. Micro-blogging is an alternative that can be almost as effective as blogging, but with less effort. Start by searching for people or web sites you know or admire on services like twitter or jaiku. Sign up, and start following these folks and exploring their connections. Watch their updates roll in, and feel the sense of presence build over time. Message sizes are limited, so they are easy to create and digest. When you're ready, you can write about what's happening in your life!
  4. Boost your productivity. Tim O'Reilly urges community builders to "build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them." The "net effect" translates into convenience and benefit for you and I and everyone else. For example, everyone needs to keep track of often-visited web pages, to avoid having to dig up or remember URLs. del•icio•us has built a community on the simple premise of saving and recalling bookmarks. The more you use the service, the better it gets! Start by creating a del•icio•us account and adding the save and get bookmarks to your Web browser. Save important and favorite web pages, adding tags to help you remember what the page is about. Explore other people's tags, and find cool new stuff that matches your interests!
  5. Widgetize! Widgets are like desk accessories — simple, small and single purpose tools you keep handy, like a ruler, stapler, or eraser. Using widgets, you can receive updates from your favorite web sites or bloggers, send and receive messages to social networks like twitter, see popular photos from flickr, and much more. Since widgets stay out of the way until you need them, you can gradually incorporate them into your daily routine. Start by exploring Yahoo! WidgetsRSS Reader, Flickr Widget, and Del.icio.us Widget are all good starting points. Widgets come with a caution: they consume system resources, so use them sparingly and with care.

Sunday Dec 16, 2007

A Simple Participation Age Blueprint for Managers

A lot has been written about the democratization of the Web, and the power shift from main stream media to everyday people. The Participation Age promises that everyone can be a producer, publisher, and distributor. For firms, this shift brings opportunity and peril. Reaching customers and building relationships means communicating differently — more openly, with new mediums, and in different places. Not meeting customers on their own terms and participating visibly is a recipe for irrelevance.

Many executives recognize they need to adapt to the new ecosystem, but are unsure about where to get started or how to begin. How are they to lead their firms into this bold new era where "people power" trumps previous communication methods?

It starts with looking to the outside, recognizing the patterns that have taken root and are shaping Web behaviors, and applying these successful models to organizational objectives. We thrive in environments where information, data, and culture is shared. Formulating a strategy isn't as difficult as it seems, if we take a people-centric approach. Here then, are a few guiding principles for folks in leadership positions:

  1. Make them feel safe. Your employees won't write a blog, record a podcast, or create a wiki page if they're worried about their jobs. Eliminate any ambiguity by providing clear rules and guidelines for their participation. Be willing to cede some control to them. Similarly, your customers and partners need assurances that their data and identities are safe with you. Safeguard and protect them.
  2. Give them online gathering places. Start by giving your employees, customers, and partners a framework for sharing and collaboration. Tools like mailing lists and forums have been around for ages, and excellent new collaboration platforms and applications — blogs, wikis, video and photo sharing, social networking — are readily available.
  3. Make participation easy. Simplicity rules! People flock to online places where it easy for them to sign up, add content, and meet others. Provide training for the uninitiated.
  4. Set a good example. Get "out there" and follow in the footsteps of others. Even top bloggers like Jonathan Schwartz had to start somewhere. Even if you aren't the type to write a blog, you can encourage your staff and show your commitment by applauding the blogs, videos, and forum posts they create.
  5. Kill the sacred cows. Scrutinize your business model carefully. Does it segment and exclude people from data and information? Does it promote or limit participation? Depending on the answer and your goals, it may be time to unlock the cupboard and start sharing.
  6. Reward them. Even a simple acknowledgement goes a long way. When your staff posts a video about your company's product on a social networking site, or answers a question on a technology forum, it's a time for celebration! Recognize participation at review time.

Sunday Dec 09, 2007

About Cars, Magazines, and Evos

Sunday Dec 02, 2007

eBook Reading on a Budget

Friday Nov 30, 2007

Sun micro-community sites: a good idea?

A sprawling web site like Sun.com is a large enough ecosystem where microsite off-shoots are inevitable. It makes sense — provide a web experience tailored around a new product or service.

Since this is the Participation Age, it's natural to expect collaboration and customer interaction on a microsite, like GM's notorious ChevyApprentice.com, where you could create your very own Chevy Tahoe commercial.

Sun recently launched a microsite, the HPC Community Portal that invites participation for those interested in high performance computing topics. So far, so good.

What got my attention is the site's community features. For example, I can create new blog and forum posts, add new pages, and comment on existing pages. Basically, all the cool tools I need to create content and collaborate with others are provided.

Wait a minute ... doesn't Sun already provide some of those tools to me, through blogs.sun.com, wikis.sun.com, and forums.sun.com?

Are my contributions to the HPC Community Portal shared with people I've already connected with on these community venues? Are people most likely to discover me through my participation on the HPC Community Portal, or through established Sun communities?

Starting a new community is hard. It takes time, lots of dedication, and commitment at all levels — starting with the community owners and extending to it's leaders and members.

Why not integrate into existing communities? Wikinomics tells us that like free electrons gravitate to the center of an atom, so too do established community ecosystems attract the most participants.

Using existing Sun community platforms and infrastructure yields the most participants, knowledge, and value. Community efforts like HPC Community Portal, though well-intentioned, don't benefit from the critical mass already established, and face a much-tougher challenge to attract and retain participation.

Wednesday Nov 21, 2007

wikis.sun.com: join us!

Curious about wikis.sun.com? Watch this 20-minute video and learn all about Sun's cool new platform for collaboration.

My MacOS X.5 'Leopard' Experience

I love shiny new things, so I took the plunge and upgraded to Mac OS 10.5, aka Leopard. It's a great new OS, but it has been painful since some of my favorite applications broke.

Monday Nov 12, 2007

Comparing Community, the Search Experience, and Technology Companies

We all know that community plays a vital role in improving the effectiveness of search results through the success of Google's Pagerank system, but how do firms integrate community content into their search experience?

First, it might help to begin with an operational definition of community content, within the context of a technology firm like Sun:

Knowledge and information Data contributed through community participation on company-sponsored venues that permit read / write access to members that is not vetted by the company. Examples: forum threads, wiki pages, blog posts, product reviews.

Studies show that customers highly value peer contributions, and are reluctant to make important decisions such as buying without first learning the opinions and reviews of others.

Customers expect to see community content on your web site. Whether their task is researching and learning, downloading, trying, buying or troubleshooting your products, the contributions provided by others like themselves build trust and credibility in your company and brand.

The degree to which technology firms integrate community content into the search experience varies. Assuming a user starts at the home page, firms generally follow these approaches:

  • Filtered — users must narrow search results to display content originating from the community
  • Embedded — community content is shown in default search results, but identified as such
  • Segmented — users are not shown any community content by default, and must visit the community venue to perform their search

Let's take a look at how Sun compares with other tech firms. I'll start on the home page for each site, and search using the term "jre".

Company Approach Click to View
Sun Filtered
Dell Filtered
H/P Embedded
IBM Segmented
Cisco Segmented
Apple Segmented
VMWware Segmented

 

Conclusions

It's clear that technology firms value community content, but placement and integration in the search context differ. The majority of sampled firms split company information from community content in search, requiring users to first access support areas to perform their search. Both Sun and Dell exclude information from community sources in default search results, though easy access to this content is provided. H/P distinguishes itself by showing forums posts with no additional steps required by the user.

The popularity of social media has redefined content and community — value is a reflection of individuals interacting in groups, creating, sharing and collaborating. Technology firms that recognize the critical role of community contributions, and are able to weave these voices into the user experience at every level — including search — will reap benefits.

About

Lou Ordorica's thoughts on community development and social media in corporate settings. A fair smattering of geeky topics, too!

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