I was intrigued by Nicco Mele’s  comments  in class last Wednesday (March 18, 2009) when he put up his “favorite slide” of the internet (the multi-colored, spider-web looking one of the internet).   Nicco then stated:  “The challenge is to look at this slide and try to figure it out.  You can’t dominate it.  It is not mass media; it is more one-to-one moving into many-to-many.  You need to think of it more of as a bunch of little towns that you have to go visit.” 

A bunch of little town that I need to go visit…    That struck a chord as I read through the rest of the book Groundswell.   You have to figure out how to go “visit” people where they live and engage them in conversation and through that conversation provide ways to meet their various needs.  No more “shouting at them” which has been the case with traditional media, marketing, and even political organizing.   This is going to take some serious re-training of thought for most companies and organizations…and for me.

The good news for everyone is that it is such a better way to operate.  Just imagine being able to more fully harness the intelligence, creativity and altruistic impulses of the masses—all those little towns.   The one-way conversation is truly over and I think that is why there is such a palatable panic among all entities to try to figure it out.

“People expect you to engage them, listen to them, and respond to them,” seemed to be the theme throughout the remaining chapters of Groundswell.   There was good information on how to go about it, even though it was more oriented to large companies.  Being in Robert Putnam’s Social Capital class, I enjoyed reading about company “wikis” and networks and how they are being used to create company social capital.  Some great examples were Intel’s “Intelpedia” and Best Buy’s “Blue Shirt Nation.”   There’s got to be some insights and lessons in there about how to put this to work in building effective grassroots and political structures.  Because the groundswell thing as a whole requires such novel thinking, I’m left wondering if only the young minds who live and breathe the internet and social networking are going to be able to sort it all out.  It all kind of hurts my brain.

The last chapter of the book “The Future of the Groundswell” was quite fun to read.  I think the authors were probably a little ahead of themselves by placing the year 2012 for their futuristic scenario.   I’m curious what Nicco’s predictions for that year might look like.  It appears part of the future will require technologies that can help you manage the tsunami of information that will be coming at you—finding ways to manage and control it so it useful rather than just overwhelming.    

I appreciated the book’s final comments about the people who are “successful groundswell thinkers and innovators” who are also very humble about their success.  “They seem to reflect a down-to-earth quality because they know they are in touch with some bigger than they are.”  Indeed.  This is bigger than all of us.

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I have “groundswell approach-avoidance syndrome.”  It’s nice to have it diagnosed—the first step to recovery they say…  Here’s one of the symptoms noted in the book Groundswell :  “Anxiety at the thought of actually participating in social technologies, balanced by similar anxiety at the thought of missing out.”  I became particularly agitated and anxious when they go on to report that “The groundswell trend is unstoppable and your customers are there.”   Okay, okay, now you’re getting to me—we’ve got money on the line. 

 It’s a good thing Groundswell gives a prescription for my problem/syndrome.  They even have it broken down into a great little acronym:  POST (People, Objectives, Strategy and Technology).   I did find the next steps under “Objectives” a little easier to get my arms around:  listening, talking, energizing, supporting, and embracing.  That’s probably because they can be directly linked to other familiar business functions—you just do them differently.  A good example being a traditional business task of “research” is correlated with the groundswell notion of “listening.”  Only in the groundswell approach you “listen” to conversations your customers have with each other as well as having a potential for more direct one-on-one dialogue with a customer.    Sales (the old way) vs. “energizing”  (Groundswell alternative) is about “making it possible for customer to help sell each other.”  The chart (“Existing business functions and their groundswell alternatives”) was very helpful.

A recent article in Forbes magazine, “Yes, CEOs should Twitter and Facebook” mirrors chapters 3-6 in the Groundswell—complete with a discussion of Blendtech.  In fact, I wondered if the author of the on-line article was just providing a synopsis of the book.  The article goes on to elaborate about the problem CEOs face in adopting groundswell strategy that is so antithetical to a corporate culture of control.  I was interested in the prospect of new forms of leadership evolving out of application of groundswell principles.  Not only can a CEO lead the way on use of this medium; it gives a leader more opportunity to interact with employees (or constituents in the case of politics) in ways never possible before.  Both sources give cautionary tales about the pitfalls of releasing bad information, company employees saying stupid things, the groundswell taking the discussion where you may not want it to go and the problems that can arise when you’re inconsistent with your communication—or even attempting to stop the communication process all together once it is going.  Both book and article agree, however, that companies ignore the groundswell and web 2.0 at their peril. 

These chapters were heavy on “big corporation tactics” and I’m hoping that the book will get down to dealing with smaller organizations and businesses.  With each sentence I’m comparing the possibilities for use by the non-profit I work with, for my children who are starting an on-line business, and for my spouse who has an older well-established business.  It’s a really good exercise and I am excited to sift through all the possibilities and learn such important and all applicable information.

 

 

Okay, the readings O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 and “The Bazaar and the Cathedral” were a tad bit over my head.  I did glean some of the key points even though a lot of it was lost on me. 

Open-source is based on sharing information.  The metaphor of a bazaar vs. a cathedral was pretty enlightening.   I like the idea of community creating things—somewhat messy, but colorful and productive.  There is something very satisfying about letting people engage on their own terms, with their own needs driving their participation, and yet producing something of value to the entire community.  And then the added bonus of it, for the most part, producing a product that is better than one developed under controlled management, strict timeframe, and a paid salary.  Very interesting and amazing!   I wondered how or if this concept is being applied to things other than computer/internet world.   Now I have a new frame to look at things that are going on. 

I opened my HKS emails this morning and ran across an announcement of a gathering to discuss creating Government 2.0.  It read:  Dear Colleagues, Interested in the role of technology and innovation in government?  Want to join the Goverati by starting a Gov2.0 movement at HKS?  Follow any politicians on twitter?  If so, join us at a planning meeting for a (potential) HKS Gov2.0 PIC!”  As is often the case, I’m late to the party and the “revolution” is already spreading.  I’ve seen the “2.0 this, and the 2.0 that” around but didn’t really get it.  Thanks to the two readings, I now do.

 

I couldn’t help but think that some of the points and concepts espoused in this approach are just basic principles for life and good human relations.  Here are a few that stood out with my “basic principles of life” interpretation:

 

·         “Release early and often, delegate everything you can, be open to the point of promiscuity.”  BE WILLING TO SHARE TIME, INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATE REGULARLY.

·         “Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer’s personal itch.”  THE OLD SAW: NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION.

·         Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.”  WHEN MANY PEOPLE WORK TOGETHER COOPERATIVELY, THEY CAN SOLVE JUST ABOUT ANY PROBLEM.

·         “To often software developers spend their days grinding away for pay at programs they neither need nor love. But not in the Linux world—which may explain why the average quality of software originated in the Linux community is so high.”  LOVE WHAT YOU DO.

·         “If you treat your beta-testers as if they’re your most valuable resource, they will respond by becoming your most valuable resource.”  SHOW GRATITUDE EARLY AND OFTEN.

·         “The next best thing to having good ideas is recognizing good ideas from your users.  Sometimes the latter is better.  Interestingly enough, you will quickly find that if you are completely and self-deprecatingly truthful about how much you owe other people, the world at large will treat you as though you did every bit of the invention yourself and are just being becoming modest about your innate genius.”  BE LIBERAL WITH YOUR PRAISE OF OTHERS.

·         “Often, the most striking and innovative solutions come from realizing that your concept of the problem was wrong.”  ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS.

·         “Perfection (in design) is achieved not where there is nothing more to add, but rather when there is nothing more to take away.  LESS IS MORE.

·          

One last comment comes from this quote:

 

“The “utility function” Linux hackers are maximizing is not classically economic, but is the intangible of their own ego satisfaction and reputation among other hackers.  (One may call their motivation “altruistic,” but this ignores the fact that altruism is itself a form of ego satisfaction for the altruist).  Voluntary cultures that work this way are not actually uncommon… “egoboo” (ego-boosting, or the enhancement of one’s reputation among other fans) as the basic drive behind volunteer activity.”

 

There is a HUGE lesson in this quote for anyone who runs an organization with lots of volunteers.  Thanks for the reminder.

AdWord Assignment

March 8, 2009

I composed my AdWord and paid the $5.  It turns out that was just a “set up” fee and they want me to pay at least another $10 to start the ad.  The class instructions were to set up the ad and pay $5.  When they wanted me to pay at least another $10, I stopped.  I asked a couple of other people in the class and they had the same problem.  I’m on hold.  Below is the message Google sent me.  I feel like I now understand the process and if I were willing to pay Google more money, I’d be good to go.

 

Welcome to Google AdWords!
 
In order to activate your account and start showing ads, please sign in
to your AdWords account at
https://adwords.google.com, and submit your
billing information. Your account will be activated as soon as you have
entered your payment details. Your ads will show immediately if you
decide to pay for clicks via credit or debit card. If you decide to pay
by direct debit, we may need to receive your signed debit authorization
before your ads start running, depending on your location. If you
choose bank transfer, your ads will show as soon as we receive your
first payment. (Payment options vary by location.)
 
Thank you for choosing AdWords. We look forward to providing you with
the most effective advertising available.
 
Sincerely,
 
The Google AdWords Team

“Don’t Be Evil”

March 1, 2009

Chapters six through nine of the book “The Search” seemed to be a synopsis of Google’s efforts to “not be evil.”  From the impact on the little-guy merchant, to privacy vs. public good questions, to Google’s entry into China, the dichotomy of participating and effectively competing in the cut-throat business world  while upholding  standards of “ corporate righteousness” was on display.

“Search has become the new interface of commerce,” states John Battelle.   I was struck by Google’s ability to control what amounts to people’s business destiny and the obligation that comes with that power.  The example of Neil Moncrief’s shoe business made me wonder if anyone could feel secure building a web business when Google can simply alter their algorithms and wipe you out.  I recognize all businesses—web or not—are subject to whims of the market, but, dang… building a business reliant on someone else’s search parameters seems particularly risky.  The most dangerous thing in business is uncertainty in the rules of the game.  My businessman husband is fond of saying that even “bad rules” can be worked around in business—it’s the changing of the rules that causes the heartburn.  I don’t know what to make of Google’s (or any search organization) power in that regard.

Regarding the privacy issues and Google’s ability to cooperate or not cooperate in delivering information into questionable hands, I was interested in the exchanges regarding the millennial generation.  Early last week, I was part of a conversation about the fact that Millennials, in general, don’t seem to be all that concerned about privacy issues.  They have few qualms about plastering even intimate details of their lives (and their faces) all over the internet while we old folks tend to be fairly squeamish about it.  One” 20 something “guy in our class referred me to an article entitled “Social Streaking” in Kennedy School’s newspaper “The Citizen.”  Sam Sanders writes: 

Let’s face it.  We’re a generation stuck on ourselves.  We take pictures of everything we do, throw them online and wait for others to comment.  We write our opinions on blogs as if we were experts and expect everyone to read it.  We post our inside jokes between friends for the world to see….  I’d like to think you all are just like me.  Trapped in your own social bubble by the very technology that was meant to unite us with the entire world.  It’s a little sad, isn’t it?  The internet was supposed to open the universe to us.  And while it has, a lot of what we’ve doing is socially streaking of front of the e-world…”

The old fogey in me wants to say: “Ya know what kids…streaking (virtual or otherwise) is probably going to come back to haunt you.”  That becomes even more real to me when I realize that there is a virtual “database in the sky” for most people on the planet—definitely for those of us in the industrialized world.  Maybe my concern, then, is misplaced….it’s already too late.  I hope Google can find their way through all the shades of gray involved in the cyberspace privacy debate.  I don’t think I’ve been “streaking,” but I do wonder to what degree I’m “exposed.”

As for how Google responded to their moral challenge in entering China, I have to admit I wasn’t all that aware of the details on the issue at the time.  I do, however, remember my husband angry and sputtering about how Google had “sold out.”  He felt that Google had the power and a huge opportunity to make a difference in China—they threw it away to the detriment of all Chinese citizens.   Personally, I’m not prepared to make a moral judgment here–Just telling you how it “played out in Topeka.”

Lastly, the “IPO of the Ages” pages made me laugh.  Got to give credit to Google…I’m not sure that anyone has ever successfully “thumbed their nose” at Wallstreet in the way that Google did.  Tip of the hat.