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Joining Badgeville

February 7, 2012

Some great news to share. Yesterday I began work at Badgeville, where I’m serving as the company’s Director of Product Marketing. Badgeville’s Behavior Platform is the leader in the hot and emerging space of gamification. I’m joining a dynamic team led by my former colleague (and now Badgeville’s CEO and co-founder) Kris Duggan.

In my role, I’ll be managing product marketing for both Badgeville’s core products and our partnership opportunities across the technology landscape. Badgeville and its behavior platform has had incredible momentum for an early stage start-up, and I’m thrilled to be the newest member of the team.

New to Badgeville? Here’s a few highlights that give you a nice overview:

  1. The New York Times featured Badgeville and two of its customers (Samsung and Recyclebank) this past weekend. The theme: How companies are utilizing gamification to improve both engagement and loyalty across their customer and employee facing websites.
  2. Forbes recently named it one of America’s Most Promising New Companies.
  3. Badgeville launched just over a year ago, and already has more than 100 global customers and 50 employees

Thank Yous

I want to thank TIBCO for my time on the tibbr team. It’s a great product that will continue to grow into enterprises globally. I learned a lot about large businesses during my stint there, and I know it’s going to help me moving forward in my role at Badgeville as we grow in the enterprise space.

I also want to thank my close friends and family who helped me through the decision and transition period (you know who you are). I feel blessed to have such incredible (and wise) people in my life.

Five Core Tenets of the Social Intranet: Bringing Together People and Process in Context

August 19, 2011
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There’s been no shortage of people saying that social computing represents the next wave of the corporate intranet, the latter being a piece of technology that’s been perpetually disappointing. For a place that’s supposed to be the starting point of people’s day, it has never lived up to that expectation.

The first wave of intranets were static, imposing too much friction for end-users who wanted to post new information. People had to wait for their IT department to hack HTML code and update the page. Then came the second generation of intranets — the self-service variety — that brought more functional use, but ultimately the most time you spent there was during your first and last week working at the company. They also lacked a critical element: People. Who does what? And who can help me get my job done better?

So naturally, enterprise social computing came to save the day and deliver that critical people element, right?

Well, yes, but that isn’t the most complicated part of the equation.

The new intranet will be heterogeneous environment of systems across a whole company — and the challenges of actionable integration points and relevancy will far outweigh the people part of the equation. What the social intranet won’t be is a homogeneous, monolithic software stack that only incorporates people and systems based on one vendor’s view of the world. As a new generation of CIOs take the ranks, they’re realizing such a strategy for their corporate intranet isn’t “good enough” at all.

1. Ensuring Relevancy and Context

In the social intranet, everything in it — from content to people to data from systems of record — must be tied to a particular subject or top-level architectural construction. The purposes of this will be two-fold: One is obviously to increase the chances that people find what they’re looking for. But more importantly, it gives them a mechanism to filter this information as it comes to them in real-time.

This also helps with discovery.

Depending on the maturity of your intranet, your people have different ways of finding information. If it’s old, they’ll search the static HTML pages and experience difficulty finding the information they need. If it’s slightly newer, their searches might yield better informational results, but they’ll lack context since the information is devoid of who or what generated it. Consequently, the careful use and management of top level social architecture Subjects will be key.

With regards to relevancy, speed matters, too. Information become stale quickly in early generation intranets because it required IT’s help to update. The social intranet puts publishing tools right at employees’ fingertips, and gives them the power to update and change information on the fly.

2. Agnostic Architecture

It’s tempting to think you can have one company provide everything in your intranet, but the reality is you need a stack that’s technology agnostic. Otherwise, you’re going to have to mold every single piece of integration to that vendor’s way of doing things. Open web standards and RESTful APIs are key in this endeavor, but they alone won’t work. A strong integration framework that incorporate custom business process will be essential as well.

Even in the year 2011, there’s many pushing for a “their way or the highway” mentality, and that will stifle the success of the social intranet. By insisting on one particular development framework, or pushing the religion of cloud only versus on-premises and ignoring all the nuances in between the two, it makes it hard for companies to think holistically about how they piece together the relevant data and systems they need to make their intranet a successful work tool.

The social intranet shouldn’t care where your data lives; it should aim to provide your employees with a secure location to access relevant data and people in context of where their work is getting done.

3. A strong administrator

No, it’s not a community manager because you’re managing more than just people. This administrator will focus on corporate intelligence – the ability to apply social analytics and business intelligence within the confines of your social intranet to understand key trends, content, and conversations happening around your company.

They will also do some lightweight information management. This will offend the sensibilities of social purists – who think the crowd alone aided by search can manage data – but they can’t.

For example, you want to empower end-users to create their own Subjects inside your intranet, but sometimes, they’ll categorize something in the wrong area, which will much up filters and search results inside your intranet. Thus, the administrator should be able to move things around your intranet and categorize people and data with a simple drag-and-drop. Ideally, this person’s overall organizational and business process knowledge will be a more applicable skill than the hacking of any code.

4. Business Process Execution (The Feed Isn’t Enough)

Simply pulling in events via a REST API or integrating via OpenSocial won’t be enough to make your intranet a place that people rely on to get their work done. If they can’t execute business processes from right within the intranet, and instead have to toggle away to the application in question, then their motivation to live in your intranet will wane quickly. That’s not true integration with enterprise social computing tools.

True integration with the social intranet must be bi-directional. If my company’s Oracle Expenses system sends an expense report into my activity stream, I should be able to view and approve it right there. If I want to upload a document to my document management system, I should be able to pull it from my computer, write a message in my social platform that puts it in context, and post it to both the intranet and the document management system.

5. Shifting from Asynchronous to Live Communication

The social intranet needs to let me shift from asynchronous communications to live ones more easily than what we see today. Though video and web conferencing have been around for years now, it requires so much effort (calendar invites, pass codes, etc.), and is managed outside the corporate intranet (mainly in e-mail). Worse, by the time those meetings finally take place, the collaborative conversation that generated them has gone cold, contest is lost, and the ideas seem more dull.

If I’m having a great conversation with a few of my product and marketing colleagues inside my corporate intranet via a microblogging post, I should be able to quickly chat live with them with as little friction as possible.

These are just five that I came up with. As always, I’ll be talking more with tibbr customers and my friends in the social computing community to think of more. In the meantime, I’d welcome feedback/thoughts.

Rethinking Social Architecture in the Enterprise

July 21, 2011

Recently, I wrote about the challenge of managing tasks in the unstructured world of social computing. I discussed how social software had departed from the filing cabinet metaphor of 1990s desktop computing — where we couldn’t find enough information due to immature search capabilities and the inefficient method of placing documents into tidy folders.

So as the Web evolved in the early 2000s, we saw the rise of tagging, folksonomies and search. The theory: Users do their part by lightly tagging bits of content, let it be unstructured, and search will do its job.

The problem is, social computing has become too unstructured for its own good. The Web 2.0-era notion that we should trust everything to the crowd’s folksonomy and new search technologies hasn’t come to fruition in the way we’d hoped, both in the consumer world and in the enterprise. On Facebook, I can’t find a thing when I swim upstream to find posts more than a few days old (Facebook search still doesn’t do much for me). On Twitter, which hashtag should I use or search for? Google + may address this problem with Cirlces, but that would only solve the people element — not data and topics.

Blogs have been a little better, with WordPress’s categories hierarchy as an example. But I’m generally disappointed, if not annoyed, with how long it takes me to find content both long and short on these platforms.

The enterprise has been moderately better than the consumer social world at this problem. With auto-fill, natural language tagging capabilities, and recommendation engines, we have made it easier to suggest to end-users how they should sort and search for information. But in my experience, once we hit a critical mass of content, it generally becomes uncontrollable and some poor community manager goes in and tries to pick up the pieces. Some people tagged something “sales presentation,” while others tagged it “sales preso” or “sales powerpoint.” Some tag it with one; others will all three. Either way, it’s one of the reasons I haven’t found a tag cloud to be really helpful in years.

Imposing a Little Structure

While we don’t want folders like on a PC or document management system, the time has come to add some hierarchy and structure to social computing platforms. This will make certain topics, projects and groups more visible to the end-user, while ensuring that people access the most relevant filters and streams within the company.

Now, this doesn’t entail turning off end-users’ ability to create and contribute to taxonomies. However, the way the hierarchy of existing classifications are presented should encourage them to assign their content to the right bucket — rather than just construct one wlly-nilly with no additional thought. At tibbr, we approach this through “Subjects.” We place subjects into a hierarchy. There, users can visualize a high level subject (i.e. sales), but then go a level deeper into that subject, and create a sub-subject (i.e. “sales presentations”). As they peruse the subject hierarchy, they can choose which subjects it makes the most sense to follow. As users create a subject, the system scans for similar ones so the end-user has confidence that a similar one already hasn’t been created.

This model allows much better admin control, which, like it or not, is important with taxonomies inside companies. Because you can put all the recommendation and auto-suggest features you want in place; users are still going to create useless topics and tags that will muddy search results and discourage access to the most relevant content.

So with any kind of subject-based hierarchy, the admin needs to be able to move around subjects easily (drag-and-drop), rename them and seamlessly change them on the fly with as little friction as possible.

Cleaner, More Relevant Taxonomy and Architecture Means Cleaner Activity Streams

Having a cleaner social taxonomy will improve the quality and relevance of activity streams. Right now, too many streams inside companies are either a firehose of “everything” — or they filter by an individual group.

But businesses — especially large ones — are way more dynamic than that, and need more fine-grained controls that make it easy to create an activity stream based not only on people or system data, but concepts, ideas and projects related to each. So if you’re able to pull together relevant subjects — or sub-subjects — from your cleaner taxonomy, you’re going to have better, more relevant streams that map to specific business processes.

Conclusion: Finding the Middle Ground

Again, I’m not suggesting we revert back to the days of heavyweight information management that turns end-users and their administrators into managers of digital filing cabinets. At the same time, the sheer volume of information shared by both humans and machines today means that leaving this to the wisdom of the crowd might not work as well as many of us had initially hoped in the early waves of social computing.

My New Gig at tibbr

June 23, 2011

I’ve been attending the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston every year since its inception. The majority of my professional network attends, and I’ve typically used that event as an anecdotal benchmark to measure how much I’ve personally progressed since the year before.

(Not to mention it’s in my boyhood state, so I get to visit the cathedral on Yawkey Way and watch my Red Sox play)

So when I was absent this week, several of my close contacts texted, IMed, or e-mailed me, saying, “Dude, where are you?”

So, What’s New?

I’m excited to share that I joined tibbr, TIBCO’s enterprise social computing platform. In a marketing role there, I’ll help with tibbr’s overall positioning, messaging, market strategy and social media presence.

Aside from the fact TIBCO has built a tremendously powerful and intuitive social computing product, what excites me about tibbr is its ability to integrate systems of record with systems of engagement – and do so in a contextual way that gives people the power to act and execute right from within their enterprise social platform at work. I’m also really excited to work with the tibbr team, who bring a deep knowledge of business technology paired with a passion for social. I know I’m going to learn a lot, and that’s something that’s always important for me in any job.

Thank You, Socialtext

While I’m excited to push forward with tibbr, I want to publicly thank my colleagues and friends at Socialtext – who have taught me so much and who helped cultivate my knowledge of this space. I’ve had an incredible run there that I’m immensely proud of, and I’ve been mentored by some of the best people in the business. From New York to Sydney, I’ve had the opportunity to visit and work with forward-thinking companies who helped pioneer the enterprise social world.

I’m lucky to call many of you my friends as I make this transition, and I know we’ll stay in touch.

Meanwhile, this blog continues, and I’ll be blogging over at tibbr as well. So stay tuned.

Why It’s Not Just Filter Failure: Managing Tasks in the Unstructured, Social World

June 1, 2011

One of the main benefits to social technology — and the Web in general — rests in its lack of structure. Or at least in our ability to surrender structure as a concept we held dear for ages.

The Google founders were the first to figure this out in a meaningful way. They realized that packaging data into tidy, digital folders was an unrealistic endeavor. On the Web, too much information was already being created every second. We’d drive ourselves mad trying to keep up. Just let all that data be, they said. Google will go back and find the most relevant information for you whenever you need it.  Other features in the Web 2.0 era, mainly tagging, assisted in making things findable in this unstructured world.

Then came Facebook, Twitter, and the general emergence of Activity Streams. These firehoses deliver a wealthy stream of unstructured data and information generated by both people and machines. Some of it might be annotated and tagged, but it’s still lightweight in its organization.

Many ask, isn’t that too much data and information for people to process?

Every consultant or social media expert, for their part, will cite Clay Shirky’s “it’s not information overload, it’s filter failure” theory to answer that issue for you. The problem is, when it comes to using these tools inside companies to get work done, it’s not filter failure that worries me; it’s an execution and prioritization failure within those filters.

Filters have improved and are getting better (in fact, it’s an area where enterprise social networking is ahead of  consumer social networks). In many enterprise social platforms, you can filter by group or virtually any object type, which helps put relevant information at people’s fingertips.

But while filtered enterprise social networking tools give people greater awareness for colleagues, projects and initiatives inside their company, it’s harder to keep track of which things need doing first. If we collaborate around enough work issues in a social environment, something needs to be done to ensure the individual — and the groups he or she interacts with — knows where they stand on a certain set of tasks, projects and issues within this collaborative context. And this  needs be done without imposing too much structure since business processes change so quickly.

Right now, I think the enterprise social networking world has just scratched the surface of how to deal with this challenge.

At Socialtext, our developers are probably ahead of the curve. They use a Kanban process that tracks key state changes in their development efforts via tagging. When they build a new feature, it’s chronicled on a wiki page as a “story.” With each crucial step along the way, they use different tags to mark that state change. Those changes are broadcasted in our activity stream, as well as on a visual representation built on a page (think: “assigned,” “in progress” and “completed” types of steps). We have actually made this into a widget for our customers to use to map to their business processes. In this case, our engineers used the lightweight tools within a social software platform (mainly tags, wikis and activity streams) to monitor these key changes without resorting to an overly structured system that would hamper innovation.

One area that will also help is bidirectional task executions within the stream. Whether it’s approving a task in another external system, the ability to stay in the context helps end users immeasurably in getting their work done.

I’m posting this with the obvious caveat that I’m not a social design expert. But what the Socialtext devs have done with Kanban might represent a larger trend with social software and enterprise social networking moving forward, and it’s something I’m listening to closely right now in my visits with companies utilizing these tools internally.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Is Our Seinfeld

December 28, 2010

I remember Seinfeld’s last episode vividly. It was 1998. I’d just gotten home from a golf match in the spring of my 8th grade year. I was sunburned and tired. As I watched the finale in our living room in Massachusetts — the state where Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer would be thrown in jail for their crimes against dozens of innocent people during the show’s nine year run — I was also sad. I had this ominous feeling that I, too, would have a television death sentence: No sit com will ever live up to this.

And with all due respect to The Office, nothing has.

But “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” comes close. Sunny, now in its sixth season, is a more dark, sordid, and depraved version of Seinfeld, written for a darker time. It also carries the grim belief that, at the end of the day, we all only care about numero uno.

The comparison has been made before, with FX even tagging Sunny as “Seinfeld on Crack.” But if you really look at it more deeply, the similarities are so striking.

The settings are different, of course. Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer hatched their schemes over coffee at a diner in Manhattan; The Always Sunny Gang does it over beer at the dank bar they own in a dismal looking part of Philadelphia.

But it’s not just the characters’ obvious selfishness. Like the main Seinfeld characters, each Always Sunny gang member has a specific objective that he or she will sell out their friends and innocent people to achieve.

In both shows, sometimes the main characters team up or pair off for an episode if it’s mutually convenient, but it still must support whatever selfish goal they set out for at the onset. As each character pursues his or her objective, even if they seem absolutely disparate from what his friend is trying to achieve, all the characters converge on each other at the end.

In Seinfeld, this could result with George getting mauled by a hawk while all his counterparts look on from the fake Merv Griffith set erected in Kramer’s apartment. In “It’s Always Sunny,” the gang comes together to watch ships sink, cars explode and find themselves in a serial killer’s apartment.

From a character perspective, you can even match each of them (to do so, you must include Newman with the major four of Seinfeld).

Jerry and Dennis

Both are vain. And despite asinine, OCD behavior, they get lots of women. They’re superficially judgemental and feel an air of superiority from the rest of people in their respective groups. i.e. Jerry shaving his chest, scratching the waist size from his jeans, getting a woman’s phone number off an AIDS Walk list, and delivering the vintage “that’s a shame” line to marvel at others misfortunes. Dennis taking advantage of “The Waitress” to get him a job at a local chain restaurant (only to get her fired), relegating Mac and Charlie as “low class,” and video taping every woman he has sex with.

George and Mac

The insecure ones with complexes abound. Insecure with women, and homophobic to the core. i.e. Mac condemning his former transexual girlfriend’s husband as being gay; George worrying himself to death that “it moved” when got a massage from a man.

Elaine and Dee

Both immediately get the upper hand with most men they get involved with. They’re modernly promiscuous, and condemn the stupidity of the guys in their respective crews. i.e. Elaine seeing if a man is “sponge worthy” and breaking up with a man who had a stroke; Dee sleeping with Bill Ponderosa, ruining his marriage and trying to take a free car in the process.

Charlie and Kramer

A pretty easy one. Both are the most eccentric and out of right field, and maybe the only person with a sliver of a soul in each show. You don’t know what they do in much of their spare time, and the glimpses we do see are normally enough. i.e. Charlie’s sniffing glue and eating catfood; Kramer preparing food in his shower while he bathes.

Newman and Frank

Not just because their both rotund, funny guys. They’re also both unabashedly sinister. They live on the fringes of the show, more than Charlie and Kramer. What they do can in some ways be more egregious or sneaky. i.e. Newman giving Jerry fleas; Frank admitting that he defecated in Charlie’s bed.

And that seems the appropriate place to end this post.

My Advice to Kids Thinking About Media Careers

December 7, 2010

My friend Dougie’s sister is in college majoring in advertising. For class, she had to “choose a profession in the mass media field and interview someone who is in that profession about their job.”

Doug’s idea: Interview me as someone who started in media, and moved to something else. So naturally, I offered my $.02 like any jerk giving “this is how the world is” type of advice. It turned into a mini essay about my generation, the place for writing in the modern workplace and how to get along with your bosses. Her questions are in bold. My answers, slightly edited to make me sound better, below…

1.  What do you do and how did you get into your profession?

I currently work as a Marketing Manager at Socialtext, a venture backed software company that builds social networking technologies for companies to use internally for employee collaboration and communication. I got involved with this market by covering it as a journalist for CIO magazine, a trade journal that focuses on business and technology.

At Socialtext, I help with our messaging, positioning and customer marketing. I manage our media and analyst relations, and perform the bulk of our customer research that gets turned into case studies. I also run our corporate blog, and work with another marketing colleague to manage our external social media marketing efforts on places like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others.

I also do a lot of other stuff.

2.  How did you get your current position?

When working at CIO out of their San Francisco office, my main beat areas revolved around Google, Facebook and Twitter. I also covered a plethora of start-ups in Silicon Valley, including Socialtext (where I work now). During my time as a reporter, I developed a good rapport with Ross Mayfield, the co-founder, president and chairman of Socialtext. He was a great source for many stories, but after some time we realized that we shared similar philosophies on technology, business and media. We also became friends (this happens with sources, and people in media who tell you it doesn’t for reasons of “objectivity” are liars). In late summer of 2009, I began discussions with Ross and Eugene about a possible role in marketing at Socialtext. I wanted a new challenge and the time was right for both of us, so I “hopped the fence” as they say.

3. What training/ experience do you need to get into that
profession?

I have a BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in Boston, where I graduated in 2006. I participated in Northeastern’s famous “co-op program,” which allows students to take a semester(s) off to intern at a company that relates to their major or profession of choice. Halfway through my time there, I decided that I really needed to focus on something within journalism.

As I looked at the dwindling and massively disrupted media market, I realized being a GA (general assignment) reporter would neither pay well or offer much in the way of job security. I considered politics, sports, technology and business. Probably in that order. I decided, however, that I didn’t have the stomach to cover politics (I’d get too angry, especially with Bush being in power at the time), and figured it’d be bad for my overall stress/health levels. The problem with sports was that I wasn’t willing to put in the time. Covering high school or college sports for years to proverbially “pay your dues” sounded just dreadful. So I picked business and technology. Both were still growth areas for media, and I also figured it would teach me about two disciplines that I hadn’t focused as much on in school.

In 2005, I took a co-op at CIO, where I was the equivalent to an editorial assistant. I fact-checked and was assigned short, “front-of-the-book” stories. As I proved myself, I was allowed to begin writing a long feature on the declining newspaper industry that would be published sometime later. They hired me in May of 2006 upon graduating as an editorial assistant. And I was promoted to a writer less than a year later.

At the time, I was based out of CIO’s Boston-area offices. But soon, I realized that I needed a specialty within the specialty of biz tech. At the time, Facebook was heating up and Twitter was just getting off the ground. Meanwhile, I was very interested in all things Google, so moving to San Francisco made sense (also did for family reasons). Over time, I became an unofficial “expert” in social technologies (I put that in quotes because journalists aren’t actually experts or gurus, since they never had the formal education for it, but I have a whole rant on journalism and media education in that regard. Media people are experts in media and content, a very important skill that society doesn’t appreciate enough.).

4. What skills do you need to do well in that profession?

Writing skills have propelled me both in my work as a journalist and as a marketing professional at a technology company. The ability to express yourself — or speak for your company, colleagues and its executives — in a clear and cogent way is a very important skill. I already sound like old man river (I’m 27) in saying this: I’m consistently appalled with the writing skills of people old and young in the working world. I think the latter camp, which grew up “bathed in bits” to use a Don Tapscott term, will have huge communication challenges moving forward. Tech nerds will call a statement like that a war on new technology or fear-mongering, but deep down, they know it’s true.

5.  What are 3 tips you would recommend to help be
successful in your field?

I’m giving four, which will be ironic given what I delve into here.

1. Read — People don’t read anymore. And if you don’t read, you’re also probably a poor listener. The ability to read information and listen to people around you — whether they be colleagues, peers or customers — is critical. My ability to listen is directly proportional to how much I’m reading.

2. Talk to people outside your field or concentration. One of greatest sins we commit is becoming so dedicated to our specific role or specialty that we miss out on great ideas from people that we don’t functionally work with everyday. I work in marketing, but I just got back from a lunch with someone in sales and another person in product that turned into my favorite “meeting” so far this week. Quite often, these types of informal meetings lead to more “aha!” ideas than ones I have with my immediate group. In journalism and media organizations, the separation between editorial and sales, once religious, is now bat shit stupid and actually explains a lot of their problems. Editorial people who say they shouldn’t have conversations with sales (and vice versa) are flat wrong.

3. Be humble (even if you are smarter than the old folks). It’s great to have confidence, but our generation (or your generation, as I’m on the fringes of it) has a reputation for being cocky, entitled and self-involved. Heck, look at the novel I’m writing here about myself and my “wisdom” and you’ll see what I mean. This is boosted by the emergence of social technologies (look at your “look at me” Facebook feed). If you work in media — a naturally self-involved profession — this problem will be even further exacerbated. From a generational aspect, this is not entirely our fault; most parents are guilty of telling us we’re all winners (think to those sports games where everyone gets a trophy). In reality, the world needs losers. Otherwise, there’s no value in winning. So my advice is to be confident about your ideas, but be humble in how you present them; it will endear you to other people you work with — especially your bosses.

4. Know when to press. I think being good in media (and now in marketing and technology) is a lot like being in congress; you should know when to press, compromise, or back off. In my line of work now, I have to be judicious about how I work with customers in this way. Secondly, this factors into to how effective you are at asserting your opinion when it counts. With my bosses, I will let some things pass that I have moderate differences of opinion about without any fuss. This way, when they’re about to do something I really disagree with, they listen and strongly consider my view.