Google’s Sidewiki and Pharma – Uh Oh.

Take a look at the screen shot below, from Pfizer’s homepage. Believe it or not, I, or anyone else, can now leave comments “on” any website (such as Pfizer.com) using a new tool (currently in beta) from Google, called Sidewiki.

PfizerSidewiki2

Game-changer? You bet.

While the use of Google’s Sidewiki has ramifications across the entire web, for every type of site or industry, I’m going to focus here on the pharma industry. Because in pharma, it’s all about controlled messaging via corporate sites, and by and large, the idea of people being able to freely comment on (just about) anything is anathema.

The locus of control has just shifted. You can turn off comments on websites and blogs, but now, people can have their say, and the comments are accessible right there via Sidewiki when people come to your site.

How does this work? Google is not the first to try to allow user-generated commentary on any site, but they are certainly the biggest and most sophisticated. All you have to do is have a Google account, download the Google toolbar for your browser (currently IE and Firefox), and activate the Sidewiki capability. That’s it. More detailed explanations of how it works and how to get started are here and here.

MackSidewiki2

I decided to go to fellow pharma blogger John Mack’s site and leave a Sidewiki comment there (above). Now John allows (and welcomes) comments, of course, but with Sidewiki, that is irrelevant. And even for those sites where comments are reviewed before approval, Sidewiki allows commentary completely apart from the intervention or approval of the site owner.

How will this change the game with regulatory issues? Well, it’s a big monkey wrench. A pharmaceutical company already cannot control what people say about it, or its products, on various sites. But now people can express themselves with annotations that are, in essence, sidebarred on company sites! Can a company be held liable for, say, off-label discussions that happen on Sidewiki in association with a product site?

It’s a good thing that the FDA will hold hearings in November about the use of social media/Web 2.0 in pharma communications, because we now have a new issue to put on the table. How does industry and its regulatory bodies view user-generated content that cannot be controlled, yet exists in conjunction with company-sponsored sites?

Some question whether the adoption rate of Sidewiki will be significant enough to make a huge difference. It’s a fair question, but I don’t believe that’s the point. The really important thing is: the wall has been breached. I’m not sure there’s going to be any going back as this kind of (pretty much inevitable) approach evolves.

The rules of the game just changed again.

UPDATE: Fellow industry blogger Phil Baumann was thinking about the same theme today! Read his valuable thoughts.

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Product: Winner. Name: Loser.

(fade in to Toshiba’s boardroom, where a product management meeting is taking place)

“Looks like we’ve just come up with the best netbook out there! Power, features, great user design – now all we have to do is name it and sell it!”

“I know! – let’s call it the PU-875-0988b!”

“Nah, I’ve always been inclined toward the UmmWillatriBBle 876. It just rolls off the tongue!”

“Wait – let’s call in our engineers! They always come up with the most imaginative names…”

NetbookAnd now, introducing the Toshiba NB205-N310. As reviewed here by the WSJ, a nice entry into the Netbook marketplace. Yet once again, horribly named by the What, me Worry? school of product branding. Sexy. Memorable. Gotta go out and tell all my friends about the NB205-N… NB2o M16… AB365… never mind.

When will these people learn???

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Progressive Publishing

This idea’s been brewing for about 5 years, ever since I spilled out some proto-ideas on a train ride with a pharma training professional (who has urged me to “follow the light” on this one – thanks, Susan!)

We all see how the new on-line/social networking tools have radically changed publishing. Here’s where I think it COULD lead:

Context: The bits and pieces

We used to see published materials as somewhat static: a daily newspaper, a monthly magazine, a completed book. There were authors, there were bloggers, there were journalists, there were speakers (with some overlap among them). Media came to us in various formats and from various scattered sources. Often these publications had with a short shelf-life (expired relevance) or a long shelf-life with little ability to update (books with second or third editions).

Current: Multi-channel and Evolved communications

Now, with blogging (especially), we see that people can publish immediately, iteratively, collaboratively, and build an audience over time. Some authors are launching blogs in conjunction with books, or, increasingly, using their blog to build a platform and audience which makes publication of a traditional book more successful. We’re living in a transitional period where “fixed” published media is becoming “mixed” published media, and the mix is getting richer (printed words, blogs, micro-blogs, pictures, videos, etc.) Chris Brogan‘s blog, speaking engagements, and upcoming “Trust Agents” book is a prime example of this approach, as is Greg Verdino‘s upcoming book.

Ahead: Progressive Publishing and Personal Subscriptions?

SubYouWhere is this heading? Here’s what I think. We’ll no longer think of blogs and books and YouTube channels as distinct and discrete entities. Let’s say you have been writing on a specific topic on a blog for years and there is traction there. Your blog pre-builds your audience, which is enhanced by a YouTube channel with brief videos, Twitter blurbs, etc. Then you decide to write a book, but here’s the deal: for the ($22.95) price your customers not only get a copy of hard-back book, they have access to a private network where you progressively share new, updated, and enhanced content – the publication is now a progressive process. Yes, there is free stuff out there to continue to hook new customers, but people are no longer buying a fixed entity (this edition of this book) – they’re buying progressive thought over time. Including, perhaps, the thoughts of others in the community built around the publication.

Information is moving too rapidly to remain in fixed formats. That’s why I think progressive publishing is inevitable.

What does evolve into further? Personal Subscriptions. Let’s say I think Chris Brogan (or Ann Handley, or Valeria Maltoni, or David Meerman Scott, or…) is worthy of being “followed” as one of my inner circle of advisors. I now pay to subscribe to that person (not just buy their product), and with enough subscriptions, that person is now free to crank out, progressively, a ton of great content and advice in multiple formats to their own growing community. Keep up the good work, the subscriptions continue and grow. Falter, and people vote with their dollars annually. The music industry may very well head in this direction as well.

None of these concepts is particularly new or earth-shattering – a lot of this is happening in various ways already. It just seems to me that it’s moving inexorably toward a different publication model, one that is person-centric rather than product-centric, one that is progressive rather than fixed or staccato.

Your thoughts? Would you pay to “subscribe” to key thought leaders? What new models of publishing do you see developing?

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The Morning After – First Impressions of iPhone 3GS

RestoreinProgress2Yesterday, the long-awaited iPhone 3GS arrived at the front door. I loved my first-generation iPhone, and after accidentally causing its early demise a month or so ago, I couldn’t wait for the newest version. But would the upgrade experience be a pleasure or a nightmare? I was a bit apprehensive.

So let’s start with the “get it in the front door and up-and-running” user experience. Ordering the new phone on-line was zero-hassle. Delivery was on-time and as promised. Syncing the new iPhone with my existing account and iTunes setup was…FLAWLESS! It. just. worked.

I realize that other users have had issues, but kudos from this address to Apple and AT&T for making a plug-and-play process that required very little intervention.

Now, for the device itself:

1. Speed – yes, indeed, thank you VERY much. Bear in mind that I was used to the 1st gen, and skipped over the 3G. This puppy rocks, from bootup to e-mail delivery to everything else. 5 out of 5 smiles.

2. Camera – awesome. Great resolution, very crisp video, and amazing simple and intuitive on-screen controls. These Apple people know user interface. I wish it could zoom, but hey. 4.5 out 5 smiles.

3. Audio – very cool. The new Voice Memo rocks – great graphic/on-screen interface, dirt simple, crisp audio, one-click forward to e-mail if you want. I’m going to use this a lot for thought capture. 4.5 out of 5 smiles.

4. Form factor/feel – sweet. Very compact, rounded edges, no problems here. It’s like a t-shirt from a brand you love – you just want to show it off. 5 out of 5 smiles.

Social Media app interfaces continue to impress. I get TweetDeck up and running-and-sync’ed with my desktop (with a little help from my Twitter friends – thanks, Amber (@ambercadabra)!

I have not yet had a chance to dig into a lot of the capabilities and subtleties, but for this user’s first impression-level experience – just plain awesome! I’m not easily impressed. As for now…I’m both impressed and delighted!

And THAT is how you create word-of-mouth evangelists…

The Dread of Anticipation

BrokeniPhoneAfter losing my 1st generation iPhone in a tragic training accident several weeks back, I have been eagerly anticipating the release of the new, 3rd generation iPhone 3GS. I decided to forego buying the soon-to-be outclassed 3G model, and, limping by with a jerry-rigged GOphone, waited for the latest and greatest.

And now I find myself in that familiar state: the Dread of Anticipation.

When it arrives tomorrow (having plugged in my current identity and phone info, I ordered it on-line), will it just plug-and-play? Will it really, actually, pick up my current account, seamlessly sync with iTunes on my computer, and just WORK? Will there be no unexpected charges, glitches, and dreaded phone calls to customer support to clear up problems?

Will this upgrade cross the Threshold of Easy?

Have you found yourself, with new or updated systems, fervently hoping for the best, while pulling back the reins of excitement dreading the worst?

Either way, I’ll let you know. Good, bad, or indifferent, I’ll update the user experience on this blog. But if you hear loud whoops of happy relief echoing out of northern NJ tomorrow afternoon, you’ll know that Apple/AT&T got it right…

Update, 4:30 pm on Friday June 19th – the transfer/update/sync was FLAWLESS! Yippee!

Crossing the Threshold of Easy

For years, I read about Skype, and enjoyed the concept, though I didn’t use it. Didn’t have the need for free point-to-point Voice-over-IP, given my calling patterns and calling plans. It meant a little bit of trouble – hooking up a mic/headset, calling through my computer – not hard, but it was a few steps I didn’t feel like taking.

The quality of VOIP kept improving, however, and many people signed up for Skype accounts. Then they added video. Now that’s interesting – but again, it meant hooking up a webcam, doing an initial setup, taking some steps to use it – a change in workflow. Nah.

easyAfter managing to spill some coffee on my laptop keyboard, I had to buy a replacement Dell, and this model had something new to me – a built-in webcam and a built-in mic/audio system of reasonable quality. Finally, I re-considered Skype, because it had crossed the Threshold of Easy – a quick download, and it just worked. Plus it gave me something new: on-demand and free video calls.

I’m not tech-shy, but I’m not a first-adopter – I don’t chase gadgetry and spend lots of time doing configuration and troubleshooting. I want stuff to offer me some kind of benefit and at the same time, delight me with ease of use. That’s why I was so relieved to get rid of my cell phone and become an iPhone fan – it not only works, it leaps over the threshold of easy. By and large, the Tivo experience has been that way as well.

Over the years, I’ve had a chance to use, and sell, lots of products. Most suffered from a distinct lack of ease of use. Software interfaces designed by engineers who care only about functionality have been a particular grief. If you’re making my life harder instead of easier, you’ve already failed. Go back to the drawing board, and include a creative usability person in the ground-level design process.

If you’re going to create a product or service, put an awful lot of effort into crossing that threshold. It may well be the difference between something that garners a few percentage points, and something that’s a smash hit. Make it, not just able to do things, but EASY.

What are you a fan of that crossed the threshold of easy for you?

Why Your Message Lives or Dies

You’ve got a great message. Maybe you’re marketing a needed service. Maybe you’re instructing a set of students. Maybe you’re preaching a sermon. But there’s a problem, and you can see it – the message is not making it all the way to long-term memory, and it is not leading to the desired behavior change.

Why? Why is it that what you’re saying is being filtered out by some of the recipients, and only a percentage is actually “getting” it? Why does your message live, or die, in the mind of the audience?

I’m going to outline a Theory of Message Reception for consideration and discussion. I owe the seeds and a good bit of the structure of this theory to Elliott Masie (@emasie), a training professional who founded and runs the Masie Center learning think tank in Saratoga Springs, NY. I attended a Social Learning Lab there recently, and while the discussion of social technologies applied to learning/training was interesting, what really got my mind buzzing was a theory of learning Elliott propounded using computer terms. He talked about information that learners process, using personal buffers to filter out/in what would be allowed into (write-protected) storage.

Elliott identified 3 buffers – Value-testing (short-term relevance); Truth-testing (correspondence with reality); and Indexing (does it correspond with, and fit somewhere into, my mental index of information). Something that passes through these filtering mechanisms may get written on our “hard drive.” Because of the overload of (often irrelevant) information, we all need some sort of filters to sift through and find what matters.

This general concept intrigued me, and I wondered if the basic notion might bear the weight of some extensions, and broader applications (beyond learning, into the general notion of message reception). Having mulled it over for several weeks, here’s a preliminary Theory of Message Reception. First, the terribly-executed diagram (I’m not David Armano, after all…), then the explanation.

filters

Your (marketing, instructional, motivational) message is delivered. Before it is “accepted” by the recipient as valid and worthy of remembrance and action, it needs to first pass through four filters:

  1. Source - is the person/medium delivering this message authoritative and believable?
  2. Relevance - does this matter to me, now? (Masie’s value-test)
  3. Reality - does this message seem to be in accord with what I believe to be accurate and real? (Masie’s truth-test)
  4. Core Convictions – does this message line up with my first principles – my (capital T) Truth beliefs?

Anywhere along the way, messages will be tossed out or passed along depending on alignment with these filters. Once a message is accepted, it needs to find a way to be indexed in the mind according to prior categories of knowledge/experience, and if action is called for, then behavior change may be possible.

Why is social networking effective? Because we find peer-to-peer communication more authoritative than, say, 30-second advertisements on TV, which we’ve learned to distrust and filter out. A personal recommendation more easily passes through our Source filter.

A perfectly accurate message about life insurance may bounce off the mind and heart of a 16-year old. It doesn’t pass the Relevance filter. However, a 25-year old new parent who just had a car accident may have the same message (even from a less-than-reliable source) pass right through into action because now it all lines up with relevant, existential reality!

bumblebeeSomeone might explain to you, scientifically, with all sorts of charts and graphs and formulas, that bumblebees can’t fly. But it won’t get through the Reality filter, because…well, you’ve seen them fly!

Therefore, if you are a marketer, or teacher, or preacher, or parent, your goal is going to be to get your message indexed into memory and translated into action as efficiently as possible (sounds rather six-sigma’ish – sorry). If you want your message to pass readily through the Source filter, then it needs to delivered by someone with (real or perceived) authority. Celebrity endorsements apparently work for many marketers and dupes consumers this way (the tactic does have the opposite effect for many of us, by the way). The best source, however, is going to be the recommendation of a current participant, such as we find with friends, neighbors, and trusted social media connections. Hypocrites, shysters, and unknowns may actually have a valid message, but often the message will be jettisoned because the source isn’t truly authoritative.

The Relevance filter will also be a barrier if we haven’t truly studied and come to know our audience. If a congregation has recently suffered a traumatic loss, then preaching a very true message (in line with core convictions, even!) about the historical significance of Ezekiel’s visions just may not be well-received as valuable and helpful for the immediate circumstances. And don’t get me started about the fire-hose training method used on, say, new pharmaceutical sales reps, whose heads are stuffed with an extraordinary amount of background information that generally has little day-to-day relevance. Maybe it’s true, maybe it has a certain level of importance – but short-term relevance dooms much instruction to the dustbin once the test is taken.

The Reality filter is best addressed by creative use of analogies in communicating. When trying to get new information across, by appealing to well-established facts and previously-embraced “pictures” in the mind and heart of the recipient, the way is paved for more rapid uptake. If you’re trying to sell me a fast car, don’t try to go into the physics of mass and velocity. “Remember the rush you felt when you got your first real bike, and you raced downhill at speeds you never knew before…” OK, now I see it and feel it. A great recent example of this is the Heineken “walk-in fridge” commercial.

However, we must be aware that a lot of the “rubber meets the road” filtering happens at the level of Core Convictions. There is observable reality (bumblebees fly), but there are also deeply-held perspectives that shape our worldview and determine what we will or will not “hear” and act on. If my core conviction is that paying 100K for a car is utter vanity and waste (true, by the way), then your message about why I should buy one is going to be tossed out by that filter. If, on the other hand, your conviction is that a 100K car is absolutely necessary for status projection, then every argument for economy will fall on deaf ears.

Getting into much deeper water, on various sides of the man-caused climate change/global warming debate are people with very different core (first-principle) beliefs about Man, God, the Earth, and Fate. Messages will often be filtered or received, not due to inherent and provable validity, but due to pre-existing prejudices (core convictions). And why are some people-groups committed to destroying others, ignoring all reality, reason, relevance, and moral persuasion? Because of a core conviction that “we’re better than they are” and “they are unworthy to live due to past offenses/race/religious differences and we need to eliminate them.” Some core convictions, obviously, are at war with peaceful and productive civilization.

We shouldn’t think that some core convictions cannot or should not be changed. A teacher, or parent, or pastor, or friend who can reach down into the heart and soul of someone paralyzed by a deep-seated persuasion that they are worthless and that all attempts at progress are fruitless, and begin to re-shape that filter into a more healthy state – that is one of the greatest tasks anyone can undertake. Our filters need regular maintenance and recalibration, and we should always be willing to adjust and refine and change over time. But we should always be aware that the core convictions, even if held unconsciously, will still hold tremendous sway over reception of any messages.

If we’re in the business of delivering messages, our craft is not to try to “fake out” the filters, but to authentically and effectively reach the index and the will to act with truth that resonates. If you’re a marketer, what does that mean for your approach? If a corporate trainer, how should this shape your curriculum and instructional design (and delivery)? For instance, how can spend the first few moments getting a handshake from the Source and Relevance filters, instead of immediately setting up barriers to entry?

All right, that’s a mindful. I’m not concerned here with what you think of Heineken or global warming, but let’s enjoy a robust discussion in the comments about the validity (or not) of the general principles, and how they apply to marketing, social media, learning, and life. Poke, prod, improve – chime in!

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Five in the Morning 020309

Geoff Livingston over at the Buzz Bin has some meaty thoughts about personal branding vs “team social media” within a larger company. This is a valuable discussion. Personal branding for a solo entrepreneur is one thing, but how do we approach putting a “face” on an organization when interacting with the world at large? Just for the fun of it, here’s a mega-post with a bunch of recent links touching on personal branding, from David Petherick.

Mario Sundar is on a tear on his personal blog. First, Using social media to help your friends find a job (this is a real passion of mine). Then, Perfectionism ain’t Bliss –  just do it and don’t worry about making it perfect. And finally, some lists of Twitter worthies to follow. Mario, for those who don’t yet follow him, is LinkedIn’s chief blogger; he also maintains his own personal blog.

Image Recognition Software/Service – from TechCrunch blog. This is a big deal, actually. There are so many images now published on-line, a huge challenge is going to be finding/sorting/identifying/filtering. Here is one company (Milabra) that’s making a run at it, and their solution sounds very promising.

It’s easy to just listen to the voices that you already agree with. We also need to consider other points of view, lest we become infected with group-think, or an inflated sense of self-importance. This muse/rant by Kevin Palmer is a needed corrective as we consider the place of social media in the world. Guest post is found on Social Media Explorer blog – it must be good, because I rarely point to the same blog 2 days in a row (nice job, Jason Falls)!

Downturn. We’re in it. From the NY Times Small Business Toolkit section – Lessons Learned from Hard Times Past. There’s a surprise quote in there…

PLUS – What Happened to your Nose? The latest from Ann Handley‘s A N N A R C H Y blog. If you’re not subscribing to this wonderful treasure of muses and amusements, you should be (Ann – the Zamboni reference is a stroke of genius!)

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PLEASE NOTE: There is reason to believe that the Google/Feedburner changeover has created “issues” with RSS feeds for my blogs (and others). Here are the feeds for my three blogs; if you’re a reader, would you please re-subscribe just to make sure? Thanks!

:: Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog (that’s this one!)

:: Subscribe to the Steve’s Leaves blog (that’s my personal blog – you’ll see a story from there below)

:: Subscribe to the Impactiviti blog (that’s a pharma-specific blog, for my consulting business)

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Five in the Morning 012809

10 Ways Social Media will Change in 2009. From ReadWriteWeb. Mostly self-evident stuff, but everyone on Twitter was re-tweeting it, so it must be authoritative and all that…right?

Rohit Bhargava gives us Six Non-salesy Ways to Ask your Customer to Promote You.

Chip and Dan Heath write for Fast Company on Incentives – Irresistible, Effective, and Likely to Backfire. Thought-provoking and a bit amusing.

9 Blog Failures and Remedies. Good, practical stuff from Jay Baer.

While we’re doing 6 this, 9 that, 5 the other – here’s 10 Ways to Increase your Twitter Followers. Actually, this isn’t one of “those” posts (“I got 6 billion Twitter followers in 7 days!!”) – these are pretty helpful practices, from someone who should know, Kevin Rose.

PLUS: From Jon Swanson. Reverberant Silence. Just read it – and think.

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It’s great when we move beyond virtual, into real-life. Enjoyed a great tweetup last night in NYC (thanks, Chris Kieff and Ripple6!) with Jason Falls, CK, David Polinchock, CB Whittemore, Jon Burg, and many others.

ripple6tweetup

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Five in the Morning 011309

Jason Falls brings us an interesting list of the Top 50 Educational blogs, with links aplenty. Nice.

Busy, busy. Jeremiah Owyang has been cranking out great content on his blog. First, reflections on his 20-day holiday from Twitter. Then, for lovers of statistics, a collection of Social Media Stats for 2009. Then, a summary of Forresters Wave Report on Social Media Platforms.

In recent days, Fast Company has highlighted some cool technology trends and products. Such as tiny pico-projectors that can fit in your hand. Or electricity without wires. And how does Sony’s new mini video cam match up against the Flip?

Is there room for anyone else besides Twitter in the micro-blogging space? Louis Gray has an interesting analysis.

Doug Karr talks coffee, and the lies of packaging. It’s what’s in the cup that matters!

————- Come on by tomorrow to find out who is guest-hosting Five in the Morning!

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Five in the Morning 010809

Real-time. Chris Brogan today talks about real-time coverage of events, using as an example his live-tweeting of a press conference last night. What do you think – how much of a game-changer is this? Frankly, I think that the convergence of the tools (cameras, smartphones, etc.) and the platforms (blogging, Twitter, etc.) has already fundamentally changed the game. Immediacy is now here, and we’re just realizing it. Latency is….well, a thing of the past.

2009 – The Year of Going Social. From the blog of Laura Fitton (Pistachio). “The bad news for business? You’re late. The good news? You’re not too late…”

Is Social Media the same as Marketing? Beth Harte‘s asking – what do you think? I’m guessing most of us have had this discussion, at least in our own heads. “…a good communicator does not always make a good marketer nor does a good marketer always make a good communicator. They are two different disciplines.”

Want a nice daily summary of some Social Networking headlines? Here’s one of my secrets. Business Week‘s Business Exchange. Worth a daily visit.

Jeremiah Owyang provides a nice summary blog post of Social Networking news each week. Well worth subscribing to. Here’s the latest.

PLUS – What’s Cramberry? A cool spin on an old technique. Too neat-o to pass up a link. From ReadWriteWeb. And, just because the headline is so imaginative: The Art of One Butt Cheek Blogging (from Copyblogger).

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Five in the Morning 010509

elevator5Five in the Morning returns for 2009! I hope all of you had a restful holiday season – now it’s time to tackle new goals, embrace new opportunities, let the creative sap flow, and learn new things from our peers and mentors (and customers!). To that end…

Drew McLellan starts us off with a challenge to Grow or Die. I like the notion of seeking to grow better, not just bigger. He links to a helpful post by Jay Ehret (who, btw, also has a nice summary blog post here of his greatest hits from 2008). And, if you want still more Drew, plus 99 others, here’s a link to a free eBook on 100 Best Marketing Secrets.

One of these days I’ll actually have the happy privilege of meeting Kevin Dugan face-to-face, seeing how I’ve corresponded with him on-line since right about the time I started blogging here at StickyFigure. Anyway, he offers up some juicy summary insights from a Pete Blackshaw book on customer satisfaction (or dissatisfaction). “This book is designed to help marketers get what they’ve wanted all these years — a better relationship with their customers…”

Is Innovation dead? Paul McEnany points us to a thoughtful article on the subject with a provocative paragraph on his blog. Mini-quote: “To them, “design” is something their wives do with curtains, not a methodology or philosophy to deal with life in constant beta—life in 2009.”

Josh Peters on the long-haul commitment of social media. Amen to that. Once people understand that “social media” (I’m starting to prefer the moniker “Community Networking”) is not a mere matter of technology and messaging, but is centered on relationship-building, the mindset can be changed).

Jennifer Leggio (@mediaphyter) has a thoughtful piece from way back in 2008 (OK, it was only a few days ago) about how Twitter popularity does not equal business acumen. Good discussion here, including some interaction with thoughts from Mack Collier (who, by the way, put up a post on Jan 1 about “Know Thy Traffic” which was quite interesting).

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Five in the Morning 121108

John Moore (Brand Autopsy) begins a series sharing thoughts from Inside Drucker’s Brain (IDB Project). Intro here, first post here.

27 Practical Ideas that will Transform Every Organization. Distilled wisdom from Tom Peters.

The Catchup Lady breaks up with UmbrellaToday.com. Why? Well, you just gotta deliver the goods…

Kirsten Wright shares the ABCs of creativity. Well, 25 of them. Can anyone help her with “x”?

Blogger’s Choice winners for Open Web Awards. Actually, that post isn’t terribly interesting, now that I look at it. So why not visit Olivier Blanchard‘s rant on business cards?

PLUS – Are these folks just amazingly creative, or do they simply have too much time on their hands? Either way, it’s cute, and worth 1 minute and 20 seconds of your time! And while we’re at strange on-line holiday celebrations, have some fun Destroying a Fruitcake.

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Five in the Morning 120208

Growing your Twitter audience. How Jim Conolly did it. What do you think of that big number and the rapid pace? Realistic for most people? (I don’t think so. I’m at 700 with a steady, organic process after about 9 months, and wouldn’t want to go faster…). And, branching off on that theme, what do you think of the “popularity contest” aspect of social media (from Jenn Schooley)?

The Uncertain Future of Blogging? I’m not buying some of the premises here. What do you think?

Twitter 201 – Lessons recently learned from more intense Twittering during Mumbai crisis. From Connie Reece.

If you followed my series a while back on the MetaMee concept, this article on federation/aggregation of web/social media services will make a lot of sense to you. And so will this iPhone app.

Fun: The BrandFlakesforBreakfast gift guide. Get some creative ideas here! From those Plaid folks.

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Five in the Morning 111408

Six ways to Build your own Personal Developmental Network. From the smart and always-helpful Liz Strauss.

What is Passion anyway? From those folks with their Brains on Fire.

Laura Ries on It’s the Category, Stupid. What do you think of her thesis here?

Free Social Media for Small Business e-book, put together by John Jantsch and Microsoft. Cool!

A simple reminder from Drew McLellan.

Discard this ACE. From Stickyfigure blog (ummm…that’s me).

New e-mail tool: AwayFind. Reviews by Chris Brogan and Sarah Perez. I could see this being very useful for some folks…

Just for a little Friday fun – nice looks can deceive! 50 very strange buildings. And, from TechCrunch, an imaginative way to get some exposure, if you can spare a shirt and $75!

And big congratulations to Ian Schafer!!

(Image credit)

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Where are the Business Opportunities Hiding?

Just because there is an economic downturn doesn’t mean that there aren’t opportunities for entrepreneurs. ON a guest post over at Lewis Green’s blog, I point to four conditions that can be open doors to new businesses. Check it out!

The Little Things: Elevating the Customer Experience

This week, my wife told me about two remarkable (hey – she remarked on them!) “little things” that made her customer experience more positive. Thought I’d share them, because I think we can all relate:

1. We recently bought a new Toyota Sienna minivan, and it was due for its 5K miles service. She had an appointment, and when walking in, her name was up on a video display with the scheduled time. Then, she was told that she could sit in the waiting room (free wi-fi, coffee, donuts), but they also had a “quiet room” without the blaring TV! She was able to read and wait in peace, comfortably…no small thing when you’ve been in far less pleasant waiting rooms for automobile service!

2. The Shop-Rite where she shops for groceries recently put in some new technology for the deli counter. Instead of giving your order to a harried person, maybe taking a number, and than waiting there to be called, she was able to punch in her name and order into a terminal, then go on shopping. When she came back, here order was just sitting there waiting for her. No wait, no aggravation.

Little things. They matter. It’s what gets people talking!

(Image credit: Brian Solis shot of Becky Carroll, Customers Rock! guru)

StickyFigure TWOday

Today, October 10th, marks the second anniversary of my first StickyFigure post (and although the writing is a bit jagged, perhaps, “How to Waste 100,00 Billboards” is still one of my favorites!)

I’d actually started blogging the previous July, for my solo pharma consulting business (Impactiviti), and that blog is alive and well and absolutely central to my paying job. Impactiviti is an example of using the power of networking to create an entrepreneurial business.

These ramblings on branding, marketing, social media, and whatever else strikes my fancy as an Idea Communicator end up at StickyFigure. This blog is actually an extra-curricular activity for me (as is a personal blog at SteveWoodruff.com which contains ruminations about family, politics, philosophy, life in general, and feeble efforts to get better at writing and telling stories).

I’ve met so many wonderful and supportive people through this blogging and twittering marketing community that I can’t imagine being on this journey without your virtual (and sometimes face-to-face) accompaniment. If I often feel like a rank amateur among you professionals, you’re not at fault in the least for that – you who have become readers/commenters/friends have always treated me with nothing but kindness and respect.

So, though we can’t blow out candles and lift up a good ale together today, know that I’d like to, and thanks for coming alongside over these 2 years. I love you guys.

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Five in the Morning 100808

I like this post, and the accompany video, on Rohit Bhargava‘s blog, about Chili’s-To-Go.

Jason Alba gives us some advice on How to Find a Job during a Recession.

The Hero’s Journey – A Metaphor for Video Storytelling. Fast Company column from the prolific and ever-interesting Director Tom.

Return on Whatever. MarketingProfs Daily Fix post, by yours truly, on the compulsion to try to calculate Return on too many things. Join the discussion in the Comments!

Crowdsourced Java. A great campaign by Adam Singer. And I want some Coffee 2.0!

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Instant Agency

This somewhat tongue-in-cheek instant “Twitter Agency” concept (click the link for backstory) is fascinating to me, because once you remove the elements of putting it all together in an hour’s time, I’m convinced that the virtual creative agency is a wave of the future. The model can allow for amazing flexibility, load-balancing, best-of-breed resourcing for specific projects, and assembly of talent without regard for geography.

What with the Age of Conversation crowd-written books, and other crowd-organized activities (such as PodCamps and the like), I think it’s only a matter of time before this model gets real.

Five in the Morning 100608

From Ann Handley (@MarketingProfs), on her personal blog A N N A R C H Y – a very bittersweet birthday story. Profoundly touching.

TechCrunch points out a new and improved AlertThingy coming up…this appears to be another step in the evolution toward MetaMee. Can’t wait to try it out!

It was the beautiful photo that first drew me into the post, I confess. But anything from Valeria Maltoni is worth reading, and this is no exception: The Distance between Avoidance and Attention in Customer Service.

Speaking of customer service, Doug Meacham is no longer Expect(ing) Great Things from Kohl’s.

Seth Godin gives 9 SOLID Steps to Powerpoint Magic. Seriously, if you do any presenting whatsoever, you need to read and apply!

PLUS: Congratulations are in order for Douglas Karr, who is starting a new position in social media, and Greg Verdino, whose blog just transitioned into the terrible two’s.

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Apple’s MobileMe = MobileMeh – for now

I really wanted it to work.

I signed on to Apple’s MobileMe because it purportedly would solve one of my nagging little digital needs – one place from which to sync my laptop and my iPhone, especially the Calendar and my Contacts.

So, I went on-line to pay my $99.00 and sign up. That was when Strike 1 occurred.

They have to ship the thing? You mean, you can’t just sign up on-line for an on-line service and activate? Oh well, says I, it must be a really cool program, since it has to be loaded up (assumes I) from a CD or DVD-ROM.

And, next day, the package arrives via FedEx. Cool! But wait – there’s no disc! The box contains packaging, instructions, and an activation code. I needed all that wasteful material just to get an activation code for an on-line service?? Strike one.

Then there are the well-documented problems with the service (which even Steven Jobs admitted to), which was rushed out too quickly. Now it does actually seem to sync my Contacts fine, but the Calendar is slightly flaky, and you cannot set an “alarm” within MobileMe – only on the iPhone itself. I wanted that pop-up and auditory alarm, to help me remember tasks and appointments! But the worst thing was more subtle – some sort of script-running problem on the MobileMe site that slows down my entire browser experience and leaves with no option but NOT to remain on the site all day (defeating the purpose). Strike two.

Will Apple fix it? Most likely. The concept is too right to give up on, and so I’ll wait and hope that things improve. I really want it to work, and I’d rather not issue Strike three on MobileMe.

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One Interface to Rule them All (part 6) – the finale!

If only software could be designed and developed at the snap of a finger! Alas, great programs typically have to iterate their way to excellence and broad acceptance. However, it helps to have some big picture goals to shoot for, and that is the main purpose for this series of posts on the ideal web dashboard/interface. Hopefully, someone will take the ideas we’ve been discussing and create a new generation of portal functionality that will make our web experience better.

Speaking of ideas, what underlies this “MetaMee” concept is one big IDEAIntelligently Designed & Evolving Aggregation. Right now, we have fragmentation across many websites and platforms. Someone needs to take all the bits and pieces, apply intelligent design with user needs in mind first, and allow us to custom-aggregate in a flexible environment that will accomodate an evolving web and its evolving users.

If this final post is your first exposure to this IDEA, here is the background: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5.

In part 5, we began a discussion of one of the key concepts, layering/stratifying of information. Here, I’d like to introduce several other key concepts that would make the MetaMee platform uniquely useful.

First is the idea of pivoting. I will use the term this way: the ability to take one piece of information and view it from different angles of approach and richness. Let’s say, in my conversation stream, I see a tweet from Mack Collier, whom I had decided to follow. I find it interesting and want to know more. Right now, learning about Mack, or joining in on that conversation, might require me to go to Twitter, Plurk, Mack’s Viral Garden website, etc., etc. But what I’d really like to do is click on that message, see it in a threaded view (if it is part of a threaded conversation), initiate a private chat with Mack, see tweets with similar themes from similar folks, see a more complete bio of Mack (based on what he has revealed of himself in the “layers” of his MetaMee profile), see what other data streams he has available that I can subscribe to (pix, other sites, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.), and have the ability to give Mack ratings and recommendations that other MetaMee users can use to form their view of Mack. All from one place.

Some of these ideas I spelled out in prior post a while back, about the ideal social media interface (that is the bite-sized version of this much larger endeavor, an ideal web interface!). The fact is, by aggregating all of this into one place, and being able to pivot around, I can much more intelligently make connections with those that provide value.

Aggregation, in fact, is the next concept. Your comments on other people’s blogs, your tweets, your posts, your purchases, your ratings – they’re all over the place, aren’t they? Your pictures, your contacts, your interests…wouldn’t it be nice to pull all that together and have it accessible from one dashboard? It’ll be a hard technical problem, granted. But the company/entrepreneur/team that pulls this off will find a ready audience.

We also need to be able to classify what comes in (we talked about classifying what goes out in part 5). I’d like to be able to take data streams, and people, and put them into buckets of my own making – you can do this with Google Reader, for instance. Being able to classify by topic, and/or importance, and/or whatever else I want, means I can intelligently aggregate and control. Crucial in the age of information overload. I also want to comment on and rate (think of Netflix and Amazon here) just about anything, which will lead to more intelligent recommendations by MetaMee, and also may help others if I choose to share those ratings and comments in my public persona.

Finally, let’s summarize this whole thing with some imagery to help make sense of it all. In the vast ocean of this networked world, I am a salmon hatchery on a little stream. I launch my little fish (my media) out there, joining other fish coming from their streams, mingling in larger rivers and out into the ocean wilderness of the internet. But my fish – and yours – are tagged. When people catch our fish (see our photos, read our tweets, subscribe to our blog, etc.) they tell others where the good fishing is, and they come to our stream. If the fish are unhealthy, few will cast in their lines, or wish to visit the hatchery. Natural selection at work.

On the other side of the coin, let’s say I have cable TV, with 468 channels available. That’s a lot of noise! But I only want 22 of those channels (I think). I should be able to pick and choose only what I want for my constant streams, and grab tastes of others as they seem interesting to me (it still grates on my nervest that cable providers don’t allow us to custom-create our own viewing packages. Hello??????). But the cable box is smart enough to know what I tend to watch, and even has a central hive mind that tracks what people who seem to be like me tend to watch. Then, when I power on, I can go to channel 23 for “Recommendations.” Bingo! Now this interface to the broadcast (and narrowcast) world is serving me, and making sense of the ocean of content, while allowing me full and flexible choice.

Idealistic? Sure! But why should we shoot for mediocrity? Add your comments and thoughts, and let’s find someone who wants to make us a MetaMee-type platform. To have such a thing to simplify our on-line lives would be…well, precious!

Links to the entire One Interface to Rule them All series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

plus…The Ideal Social Media Interface

Related post: Share Media vs. Tell Media

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One Interface to Rule them All (part 4)

What we’re thinking about together in this series of posts is an “ideal” interface (or portal/dashboard) that will allow for a more efficient and personalized web experience. There are many very cool applications and functions scattered all over the internet – however, this fragmentation brings with it a lot of frustration. Is is possible to make a very cool application (code name: MetaMee) that will simplify our lives? That’s what we’re exploring.

If you’re just arriving for the first time, I’d strongly suggest a quick read of part 1, part 2, and part 3 for context and backstory so that this one will make more sense.

We’ve looked at the very basics of the 5 main functions that would go into the dashboard/interface, and some of the me-centric personalization capabilities that would make on-line life simpler. Now let’s step back and look at data flow, and for that, we’ll need one of my classic ugly Powerpoint drawings:

OK, let’s look at these items one at a time and see how it works together.

The MeeStream (Out) is all my “stuff” that I’m putting out to the web. MetaMee would allow me to auto-login to all my data stores, and through the MetaMee interface and/or widgets from the various sites, more easily determine what gets published where, when, and how. All my ShareMedia (Share Meedia…?) gets funneled through this dashboard, making it easier also to track the stuff. People can then subscribe to Mee, or to whatever aspects of my stream interest them.

The MeeStream (In) is my subscription list. I’m subscribing to people, to information, to news, to videos, to e-commerce deals…to whatever is out there that interests me. Maybe I like Tangerine Toad‘s blog, and I subscribe; but as time goes on, I want to see everything that the Toad (Alan Wolk) puts out there – Tweets, photos, what have you. Click – done.

My Intell-Agents (see part 3) are monitoring my MeeStream, learning from my ratings and preferences, and suggesting new resources for my consideration.

The MeeVault (I have borrowed the “Vault” term from Microsoft’s HealthVault initiative) is the family jewels underlying this dashboard. It is strictly local (MetaMee is a hybrid local/on-line application as I see it), and I have full control over the settings of what information is exposed, when, how, and to whom/to what. My personal information is “layered” into different levels, with full ID and purchasing info in the most secure area of the vault, only be released when I’ve decided to make an e-commerce purchase. The MeeVault feeds the “Settings” area, and we’d use those settings to expose or veil various layers of our identity with all of our web transactions.

What about privacy? If I’m sending out Intell-Agents with my preferences, and various information points are coming back into my stream, maybe I don’t want the world to know what I’m interested in. That where a P1 setting or APP (Anonymous Persona & Preferences) comes in. This is my “stub” residing out there on the front edge of MetaMee, talking to the Internet cloud. My anonymous persona communicates to the internet what I like, what my “similars” are, what I’m seeking – but it does not identify me. This way, our various APPs can communicate similars to each other and help us find more of what we want, but without compromising our full identity.

Let me pick on Tangerine Toad again. For a long time, very few people knew that the man behind the Tangerine curtain was Alan Wolk. But there was a persona out there, Tangerine Toad, and you could actually know a good bit about whomever was hiding behind that ID – you could see his interests, discover his similars, learn from him…all without knowing it was Alan. Similarly, our APP stub allows us to express the full range of our interests and find matching resources in a “safe mode,” before exposing our identity.

Admittedly, this is a lot to digest, and “there be dragons” here in the many technical details. What are your thoughts? You technical/programming types – is this out beyond the stratosphere, or is it do-able? Would love to get your feedback as we crowd-create this (very rough) blueprint of an ideal web dashboard…

Links to the entire One Interface to Rule them All series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

plus…The Ideal Social Media Interface

Related post: Share Media vs. Tell Media

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One Interface to Rule them All (part 3)

First, I’d like to thank all those readers who have left comments and given input on my prior posts (part 1 and part 2). We’re all wrestling with the problem of having application-overload, and while none of us has “the” answer, all of us together might be able to craft something that gets us closer.

After reading some of the comments, I’m wondering if I shouldn’t have called this series “One Dashboard to Rule them All”; as what we’re really talking about, I think, is a functional master dashboard. Some might misunderstand that I’m implying an approach of imposing a certain interface scheme on app developers. I’m not – I just want a tool that will display, talk to, and intelligently query all those sites and apps through APIs and what have you.

Also, referring back to the part 2 post, I should clarify that if a user selects one of the five main functions (say, View), then the viewport floods with the user-specified content related to Viewing, while the other functional areas wait in the background to be selected, perhaps via tabs, as the drawing implies. However, it might also be cool to select a continuously running horizontal or vertical “Converse” ticker so the IM/Twitter/etc. conversations are displayed in real-time.

Be that as it may, here’s the next installment. This ideal dashboard/interface would enable us to consolidate a number of me-centric functions in one up-front area (we’ll call it the MeeOMy bar – I know, dumb name, but we’re just doing rough design here!) that will then update and interact with various websites and apps. Here’s a graphic of the concept:

Using this tool, we can put our current status or location in one place, and this could be used to feed other “presence” apps such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, etc. And wouldn’t it be sweet to have one MASTER place into which, and from which, to import/export ALL of our contact info (and to have that contact database also be resident on the local computer).

The next couple of functions get into the heart and soul of why this dashboard/interface is something well above the realm of just another set of favorites on a browser, or widgets on an iGoogle/MyYahoo/Netvibes/Pageflakes page.

This app would have user-configured smart bots (let’s call them, for the time being, Intell-Agents) that would go out to the web and FIND what I’m looking for. Right now, we have to do a lot of SEARCHing. And the volume of people, information, and things on the web is exploding, which means that sorting through everything out there is a monumental task. I think that the next big thing is automated engines that will help us find what we specify.

So, for instance, I want to purchase a Bose Wave Radio, for under $125.00, and I want MetaMee to look at all auction sites, discount sites, and other shopping sites, until it finds available listings fitting my specifications. Only then does it return results – maybe days later. Intell-Agents actively go out and look for/find what we need, while we work, sleep, and go about our other activities. Extrapolate that out beyond just a purchase into the many other realms in which we search, and you’ll see how powerful this is.

The other realm of “Intell-Agents” that I’d love to see is smart Recommendations. Let’s say you subscribe to a number of people on various sites like Twitter, Plurk, FriendFeed, etc. – and you subscribe via RSS to any number of blogs with various themes. MetaMee would, via intelligent mapping of people/blogs “like mine,” make ongoing recommendations of “similars” – including people, info streams, products, etc. Think of how Amazon and other sites make recommendations, and then expand the concept to all the various areas where we’d like to find “similars.”

Search? That function is a subset of all the other functions. When I’m in “Converse” mode, I might like to Search among individual people in single or multiple platforms. When in View mode, Search is essentially Googling. In Buy/Sell mode, I’m searching across whatever multiple e-commerce sites I specify; or, if I’m using MetaMee to launch one particular site through a link or a widget, then I’m using that site’s search function for its own content.

Out of the gate, there’d be some work getting cooperation among some sites. But if there was enough demand, individual platforms would need to collaborate with the MetaMee platform or get left out.

On this front, you’ll see that I’m painting with broad strokes, because I’m speaking as an idealistic and pragmatic user, not a developer/programmer. There’s some seriously hard work under the hood here. But if these capabilities were available, even in alpha and only a subset of functions active, I’d be jumping all over it. How about you?

UPDATE – I guess somewhere in the “my” category should be a centralized way to track comments, ratings, reviews, and/or recommendations that I’ve placed elsewhere. Haven’t really thought it through…what do you think?

Next post: Data Flow: the MeeVault, Settings, and interactions with the “cloud”.

Links to the entire One Interface to Rule them All series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

plus…The Ideal Social Media Interface

Related post: Share Media vs. Tell Media

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