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shel
Writer. Speaker. Nice guy.
Interests: anything related to social media
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Mar 15, 2010
I have moved to WordPress as of Feb. 7, 2010. Please visit me at http://globalneighbourhoods.net. See you on the new site. Continue reading
Posted Feb 7, 2010 at Global Neighbourhoods
Are you referring to Naked Conversatio
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This is my third try with this new book. That's not nearly as bad as it may sound. Scoble and I tried seven names before we came up with Naked Conversations. I don't even have a proposal yet, never mind a publisher or publishing date, so there is still lots of time. But having a working title, even one that may change a few times, makes it easier to talk about my book. And the process of name requires me to focus thoughts on what this book is about in the simplest, clearest possible terms. So let me try again: Blurring Boundaries --How Online Enterprise Communities improve products, markets & profits This is a book about large enterprises and how their dedicated social networks are lowering the borders between them and their customers and partners. It is an attempt to address the lingering questions of social medias business value as well as where and how social media teams and programs fit into existing business practices. In my prior two books, I've championed the tools of social media. I have argued that their business use was early and disruptive; that measurement was early and primitive. Over time, I argued, the early disruption would come to an end and that standards for measuring value would become more refined and easier. My overwhelming focus in writing more than one million words about social media has looked at public venues such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the rest. So have the traditional media and most of the burgeoning social media community. It's where so much action has been. There's conflict, adventure, celebrity walk-thrus, natural disasters and occasional sexuality. It makes good copy, and yes, it also makes good business. But where most of us have not looked is behind the firewalls of some of the world's largest organizations; companies with tens of thousands of corporate customers and partners; companies whose products are in the hands of hundreds of millions of end users who depend upon those products to conduct a majority of the world's business. It turns out that there is a great deal of downright exciting social media action going on in the bellies of some of the biggest--and perhaps most boring--of technology enterprises. The result are networks of online communities, built by huge enterprises for developers, customers, partners and employees to come together and share information and ideas. These private and semi-private social networks rarely have discussion of lunch menus and in my research I didn't find a single flirtation. But I do see real business going on. I see new marketplaces that independent analysts say have values in the tens of billions of dollars. I see ideas and information being shared at high speed and with great accuracy in communities that are usually under a half-dozen years old but have attracted tens of millions of users. This book will explore online enterprise communities. Much more than my previous books, the primary focus will be on business-to-business, which it turns out, has developed pretty much in the same way as business-to-consumer and peer-to-peer communities. Blurring Boundaries will examine in depth six enterprises: IBM, Intuit, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and possibly SAS. I will report on the history, structure and issues of their online social networks. I will look at how these communities are changing or have changed business models and strategy for the better during a period of great economic pressure. The title is inspired by a conversation I recently had with Mark Finnern who runs the community-championing mentor program at SAP. He talked about how customers, and partners had played extraordinary roles in improving products used by SAP customers, as well terms of use and standards. "The lines between companies and customers are blurring," he told me. "Instead of exchanging goods and services for money, we now collaborate and everybody wins." A few days later Scott Gulbransen at Intuit, a company serving consumer and small business markets told me just about the same thing, despite clear differences between how Intuit and SAP's communities are organized and who they serve. This book will explain that online community collaboration is shortening product development and improving product functionality and design because the people who use them are talking directly with the people building them. They are likewise, reducing time-to-market and marketing costs. Online enterprise communities are also bring sanity to Terms of Agreement, product standards, developer certification programs, appropriate community behavior by allowing those who must adhere to these governing factors contribute to the rulebooks as they are written. Blurring Boundaries also examines the issues of where social media teams and online communities belong on an enterprise org chart. Almost invariably, social media in corporations, began as skunkworks projects, places where small teams of bright people were allowed to experiment. Allotted small budgets, they were protected from the sea anchors of labyrinthine enterprise processes so that they could move with greater agility than systems in place would allow. But they have grown fast and that speed is accelerating with millions of community members participating and billions of dollars of value in the marketplaces being created, the managers who recently disdained social media projects as having no real business value are now struggling with the inevitable process of assimilation. Each of these companies has dealt with this issue in different ways. This book will examine each and compare the results. Blurring Boundaries will not answers the ubiquitous question of where's the ROI of social media. That question remains as daunting to answer as placing ROI on email or a telephone. But it will show that there is real business value being generated because of online enterprise communities. And that billions of dollars in products and services are being generated as a real result. People will walk away understanding that social media in business is at the end of it's early disruptive phases and is now entering the longer period in which use of the tools are normalizing, are becoming part of business practices and are valuable... Continue reading
Posted Feb 4, 2010 at Global Neighbourhoods
I've decided on a working title for my new book, unless of course, someone tells me why it's a bad idea: Blurry Lines --How online communities help companies & customers mutually profit. When I interviewed Mark Finnern, who runs SAP's mentor program, he told me that the companies community networks were blurring the lines between the company and it's customers. The same perception came up again when I interviewed Intuit's Scott Gulbransen who talked about an ongoing collaborative process in communities that let the users say what they wanted in products in discussion with those who built it. Then there's the whole ROI issue, which I view with the same ambiguity as measuring the ROI in a telephone. You really can't find the answer, but there must be a way to measure value. I will not be able to report that online communities are delivering directly to enterprise bottom lines. If they were, public companies would not be able to discuss specifically anyway. But my early research indicates that hundreds of millions of dollars are being realized by both companies and customers because of online communities. I talked recently with Ray Wang, a partner at Altimeter Group who covers enterprise ecosystems--a major component of the book. He estimated that the SAP ecosystem had created a marketplace for the company, it's customers and partners of about $80 billion, with the lion's share being enjoyed by the partners and customers. I asked him how much of that was being delivered by online communities. He explained that while very little--if any-- profit was being derived directly from the communities, a great deal was coming because of them. "The heart of the ecosystem is the community," he told me. "You cannot take them away. The level of connection is what gives the ecosystems life." The novel concept is that companies and customers have historiacally seen themselves in a symbiotic tug of war. One makes and markets; the other buys and uses. One side's expense is the other side's profit. That perspective is starting t be seen through a new prism, one where both buyer and seller thrive or flounder together. This changes a great deal, I believe, and Blurry Lines will examine how this fluidity between company and customer change all marketplace dynamics. The concept of the ecosystem coming to life because the communities are at their heart is yet another key point of this book. I was tempted to call this book "It's Alive!," until Lon Cohen who follows me on Twitter commented that the title sounds a bit like a cheesy horror movie. So how does "Blurry Lines" sound to you for a book title? I may change it at some point down the line, but I really need a name right now. For me it's like having a new baby, who I'm calling "the kid," because I can't come up with a name I like. Tell me what you think. Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2010 at Global Neighbourhoods
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Intuit is one of at least five companies that I plan to profile in depth for my new--still nameless--book. The others are essentially big business-to-big business players. But Intuit is business-to-small business and consumer. My particular interest is the small business side an area generally considered to be too fragmented, limited in budget and late to adopt to be a profitable area to serve. Yet, every small business needs to manage its books and tax records and Intuit is the overwhelming supplier of automated products in this area. Scott said Intuit has 50 million individual and small business users. It started its online communities about three years ago and today has 3.5 million active users. About 400,000 are small business users. Both numbers are growing. Last week, I talked with Scott Gulbransen, a senior PR/Social media manager for Intuit's TurboTax group. It was an overview, the first of what will be a series of talks with Intuit, its customers and third-party developers. Like other companies, Intuit did not wake up one morning and devise a grand strategy for online communities. In fact, it was more an outgrowth of issues that would keep company officials awake at night: how to migrate from a company whose products sold off retail shelves to one whose products are downloaded from the internet. Scott didn't say it, but in the early-to-middle 2000s, Intuit lost luster as an innovator and some wondered if the company would remain as an independent entity. The company started to fumble with an online strategy and as it did, Scott told me, "a sense of community was woven into corporate DNA." Like SAP, the communities are part of a larger something that both companies call "ecosystems." Both companies see the ecosystem as core to corporate strategy, but they've structured them differently. SAP has folded its network of communities into an Ecosystem and Partners Group, Intuit's communities are assigned to product groups and operated separately from each other. Still, it assembles into an ecosystem strategy. At Intuit, developers collaborate at the back end, telling each other how to make applications succeed. And the strategy makes traditional command and control approaches obsolete. “An ecosystem makes you get out of the way. You build a platform and enable. At the end of the day everybody benefits. Your marketplace becomes a living breathing thing,” he said. Despite these different approaches, the outcome seems to be the same. The lines between company, customers and third-party vendors and partners get blurred as products, services, policies are developed, delivered and refined in transparent, collaborative style, somewhat ad hoc style. While marketing may be responsible for communities, these communities have diminished the importance of traditional marketing tactics of drum rolls announcing releases and updates. Stealth modes make no sense in collaborative environments where companies ask customers how to make the products better. While the company built these communities, and they host them on company space, Intuit does not presume to run these communities from what Scott told me. The lines between customers and the company have became less clearly defined. Third-party vendors who might previously have been regarded as competitors or irrelevant, became partners. The key issue in the communities "is no longer what's good for Intuit," Scott said, but "what's best for the customer." Coincidentally, it turns out that what's best for the customer is almost always best for Intuit in the long run. To understand the core benefit to Intuit, Scott quoted Scott Cook, Intuit founder and chairman “In the moment feedback is a huge gift to companies. You want to do everything you can to foster more and more. This was not possible 30 years ago.” The communities created a partnering process for product development and for helping each other, sometimes without an Intuit representative being involved at all. The communities become a "connection platform," one where ideas and information are shared and spread faster than was previously possible. Scott feels that the social networks have a special value for small business practitioners. "Running a small business can be lonely. The biggest obstacle is to connect with others like yourself." Intuit can help proprietors find others like themselves and because its online, they do not need to take time away from their operations to attend a workshop or events. The social networks also serve as development platforms, giving independent software developers unprecedented access to a community of millions of small business operators and you can affordably address them as property owners, or dry cleaners or coffee shop proprietors. "If you can build for QuickBooks, then you have a massive market opportunity," Scott told me. One such example is Propertyware.com which helps smaller property owners and operators to manage cost and flow of rental properties. It lets small landlords better manage their properties, understand profits, cash flows. The company has no brick and mortar, but exists exclusively in the cloud. Through a variety of services including Intuit Marketplace and old-fashioned email newsletter, Intuit has given this small virtual company the ability to speak to Intuit's customer base. When Propertyware acquires a new customer, that customer can go directly to Propertyware to purchase additional products. Intuit is fine with that. The customer benefits and Intuit's value to that customer goes up. One other place that SAP and Intuit seem to agree. Online communities do not reduce the need for face-to-face meetings between people who primarily know each other through online communities. They increase it. Both companies host a series of social events for their most passionate community members. It seems there still is a business value to handshakes, smiles and occasional hugs. [NOTE: Do you have a story about Intuit or any other enterprise social network? Please let me know. This book is in the early phases of development. And I can use the wisdom of this crowd. Leave a comment or send me an email.] Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2010 at Global Neighbourhoods
Justin, As always I can use all the help I can get. I look forward to any story ideas you may have.
1 reply
Hawk, Thx. You just gave me the first crowd-sourced idea for the new book: a section on "Death of the software launch," how products are designed and refined by ongoing conversations between companies, customers and partners. This would deal with better products, less guesswork and reduced marketing costs associated with new product. If you email me your real name, I will add it to the book Acknowledgments. shelisrael1@gmail.com
Toggle Commented Jan 31, 2010 on 8 Key Points to my new book at Global Neighbourhoods
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One of my exercises in starting a new book is to create two sentences. The first tells you what the book is about and the second tells you who it is for. The challenge is to constrain yourself to two sentences. I'm not there yet. It would be nice, because once I get there, figuring out the Title/subtitle would not feel like such a daunting task. As I've written before, I use this blog as a sandbox, for my books, a place to play and experiment. A place to see what does and does not work. Over half the books I planned to write have never gotten beyond this sandbox. Almost all writers go through similar exercises, the difference being that mine occupies a public space. And my hope is that you give me some feedback that will help guide me forward. So, here are a few thoughts I have on what this book is about. I offer them randomly. It helps me just to put them down on virtual paper. It would help more if you chose to give me some feedback. Almost every corporation today is dealing in some way with social media. Almost any department of any company can use social media tools and I've dealt with that issue previously. This new book looks only at online enterprise communities, built by a few, usually very large enterprises. I will spotlight at least five: IBM, SAP, Microsoft, Oracle and Intuit and use my blog and Twitter to actively search for additional enterprise community examples and anecdotes. Enterprise communities are usually part of enterprise ecosystems, an historically vague term that predates social media. It refers to the global infrastructure of partners, customers and companies. Every large enterprise uses the term, but it is very often just a concept that looks like a lifeless org chart with lots of dotted lines. But when you insert online communities into the ecosystem it gives it a heart, one that pumps life into the ecosystem, making it more resemble the biological kind. This section will probably be called "The Tinman's Heart," in reference to the Wizard of Oz character. Some online communities are huge. SAP has about two million active users as part of an ecosystem that Ray Wang at Altimeter Group says is a marketplace worth about $80 billion. Intuit's series of very loosely joined social networks may be the most viable small business marketplace anywhere. I believe that these marketplaces simply could not exist without these online communities. My research for this book will either prove or disprove that opinion. Online communities almost invariably have small cores of passionate champions coming from all sectors of the online community. They play key roles in all the online communities I've looked at so far, but these roles and styles vary greatly from, say Microsoft MVPs to SAP Mentors or the contributors that Intuit assembles periodically a few times each year. Founding companies give these community leaders recognition, but what seems to drive them is a passion to share what they know with other community members. [This section may be called, It's not the stoopid tee-shirt] A key issue to address is the role of the founding company in the social networks they create. This section, tentatively called I lost my command & control. Just what do I do now?" Another thread will be a look at the blurred line between companies, customers and partners. Both Intuit and SAP have given me countless examples of how online communities and ecosystems have changed traditional perspectives of buyer v seller v vendor into something more fluid and interactive. These days, there is an interdependence between companies, customers and partners. They count on each other for better products. They thrive or fail together and this changes the entire dynamics of the relationship and how products, support, design and policies develop. Social media serves as an accelerant for the sharing of ideas and information. Even during these tough and formative times for enterprise communities, participants are getting smarter faster than has been previously possible. As the economy turns around, this will put social media closer to the center of the company and help businesses come back faster and at lower cost. This book will deal with the issue of business value for social networks. This does not mean that there needs to be an ROI for communities, but this book will look long-and-hard at how social networks are being braided into the fabric of traditional business, which they so recently disrupted. These ideas are neither sequential, nor are they organized. They are the beginning of my understanding the two sentences of what this book is about and who will want to read it. I am missing a good deal and I am sure that some of what I've just written needs greater clarification. It's a work in progress, so tell me what you think. Oh yeah, one more thing, got a good name for it? Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2010 at Global Neighbourhoods
Yesterday, I announced that I was dropping out of The Living Enterprise book project to write about enterprise communities from an independent perspective. Today I woke up and discovered that once again my toes are against the base of a mountain. The mountain is a new book project. My toes are at the base, because I am starting anew and this post is the first baby step. At this moment, this new book has not title, no outline, no table of contents, or publishers proposal. I have hundreds of interviews in front of me, dozens of chapter drafts, leads to pursue, dead ends to hit. But, if I am at the beginning of a lengthy climb, I am better equipped than I was at the start of previous endeavors. First off, I have a satchel full of notes and ideas that come from dozens of conversations with SAP folk whose stories and insights will be helpful. I've also started exploring elsewhere. While writing this post, Intuit's Scott Gulbransen, a TurboTax PR guy, has sent me some links and intros, so that I can start exploring what they have done with communities that embrace independent developers and small businesses. Adam Christensen, an IBM communications officer who helped me with Twitterville has agreed to help me with this new effort, and IBM has done some remarkable work with enterprise communities. Sean O'Driscoll, who started Microsoft"s pioneering MVP community has agreed to talk with me on how it all started and what it has succeeded--or not--in achieving for Microsoft. It's a start. I'm counting on you, dear crowd members, to be the source of more. Let me tell you a few random thoughts that will be at the nexus of this book, whatever it will be called: This book will examine business-to-business social media efforts, mostly online social networks. It will explain through as many stories as possible how social media projects began as a skunkworks, but are now showing real business value. While social networks may not deliver many dollars directly to the bottom line, significant revenue is being realized because of social media. It will look at how large organizations are dealing with the difficult problem of where social media fits into a traditional organization's structure. Should it be part of marketing? Should it be part of corporate communications or should it have it's own box on the organizational chart? The blurring of lines between companies, partners and customers. Social media has made it clear that community members more often thrive or wane together, showing that success is shared and the health of your customers matters to your company's bottom line. Stories, stories and stories. I am, by nature, a story teller. I don't write books that look like white papers between hard covers. I tell about people in business who use technology to either achieve success or fail in trying to do so. I believe that if I tell you a lot of stories, about blogs or Twitter or, in this case, enterprise communities, then it will give you ideas on how you can use that information in your work. This is as far as I've gotten on the project so far. But Hell, it's only 10 am of Day 1. Please tell me what you think. Does this interest you? Do you have an idea that would make this a better book? I have used crowd sourcing as much as any author I know and I have greatly appreciated the result in my two previous books. I hope once again, the people I meet in social media will help me write a better book. Please start sending those cards and letters in. I'm eager to share my view with you from further up the mountain. Continue reading
Posted Jan 27, 2010 at Global Neighbourhoods
As you may know, I’ve been working on a new book called, “The Living Enterprise,” in collaboration with Mark Yolton, head of SAP’s community networks and Zia Yusuf, formerly EVP of SAP’s Ecosystem and Partner Group. The original direction was to explore the SAP ecosystem and the role that its online communities play in making it work so well. It's a good story, but as I dug in I became increasingly aware that there are other good stories at other companies that I really want to cover as well. These include IBM, Intuit, Microsoft and Oracle as well as other companies and communities you may already know about that I want to learn about. I have decided to write this new book independently of my co-authors. I continue to respect them and wish them well, but I am at my most comfortable as an independent writer and that is the course that I will pursue moving forward. My new focus will be from an independent perspective, comparing and contrasting different communities and strategies; giving you ideas of options that may be useful to understand wherever it is that you work. I will almost entirely talk about large companies and business-to-business strategies, perhaps as a contrast to Twitterville, which covered more small operations than large. Hopefully, it will give readers of the breadth and diversity of social media in business. Mostly, as always, I will try to assemble some really useful and interesting stories. I remain convinced that the best way to tell business stories is not by putting a white paper between book covers, but by telling you about people; their struggles and dreams and how it impacts their work. SAP will most certainly be part of my new book. It's a great story that tells you how one of the world's largest companies has figured out how to integrate social media into a modern enterprise to the benefit of its customers and partners as well as itself. As always, I will crowd source as much of this book as I can. If you have a good story about an enterprise community, please share it with me. It can be favorable or unfavorable. What I am looking for is content that is will be useful or interesting to business readers. If you have a good story lead, please leave a comment here or email me. Continue reading
Posted Jan 26, 2010 at Global Neighbourhoods
I thought I was having a senior moment this week, when NASA announced the "first tweet from outer space this week," by astronaut TJ Creamer, who declared: "Hello Twitterverse! We r now LIVE tweeting from the International Space Station -- the 1st live tweet from Space! :) More soon, send your ?s" Lots of press picked this up and declared this an historic moment. Just like they declared it an historic moment on May 13, 2009, when Astronaut Mike Massimo stepped out of his spacecraft to repair a telescope. When he returned, as many of us reported, he tweeted: "My spacewalk was amazing. We had some tough problems, but through them all, the view of our precious planet was beautiful." The event got enough notice that @astro_mike now has over 1.3 million followers. I recalled this instantly when I started seeing reports this week on Creamer's first tweet because I reported on the incident in Twitterville. What is remarkable is that a great many newspapers who reported Massimo's first tweet last year, reported Creamer's first tweet this week with seemingly no recollection of their own reports of eight months ago. What about NASA? Well the may have some wiggle room, although I have my doubts. Last year, the question was raised on just how the first first tweet was actually sent. After all, there is no broadband in outer space. It turned out, that Massimo had relayed his message to a coworker who had the astronaut's twitter user ID and password. So the post actually came Florida, which is sometimes strange but always terrestrial. So was Creamers the first space tweet that did not involved just a little bit of a cheat? Not sure, because there still isn't anyway that's been explained on how you post a tweet from outer space. I would ask NASA, but I have tried to interview them three times and all three times they ignored my requests and there's just so much rejection an earthling can take. Continue reading
Posted Jan 22, 2010 at Global Neighbourhoods
Author Diane Danielson has an excellent post on the role that social media played in Scott Brown's victory over Martha Coakley for the Massachusetts Senate seat. It reminded me of when I was asked for some social media thoughts on the California presidential primary by some of Hillary Clinton's pols. Those talks were filled with a certain smugness on their part, that the California primary was in the bag and their interest in social media was how it could be used to get the word out and contributions in. They looked amused when I used such Gumbaya terminology as "listening to the voters," demonstrating that you care about what they care about." One of them quipped, "Yeah, we'll just have Hillary sit down an email every Democrat in the state." I think Coakley's loss reflects a certain smugness on her campaign's part. They presumed they were the heir apparent to the Kennedy throne. They didn't think Coakley needed to go out and ask the voters what was on their mind. They didn't need to do what we want people in power to do more than anything else: Listen to us. Stop talking and start listening. Coakley started later than Scott Brown on Twitter and ended up with fewer than one-fourth of his followers. Brown was more conversational. Whoever was tweeting on his behalf really sounded like him. Whether true or not, he used social media to demonstrate a thread of sharing experience with working class people,with people facing struggles in tough times. I don't think this election was won or lost in Twitterville any more than I believe that it was a referendum on Obama or health care. In fact, Massachusetts has the closest thing to universal health care that we have in the US. Elections are often more complex, more layered and nuanced than pollsters and newsrooms portray them. Sure their are polarized loyalists to one party or another, but increasingly, we vote for people; people we can relate to, people who may see the issues from a similar perspective or with a similar ethic set as we do. Scott Brown seems to have come across as a more human and accessible candidate, in my view from 3000 miles away. He used social media--along with many other channels-- to portray himself that way. Social media did not make the difference but I'm pretty sure it made a difference. These days, politicians need to be on social media for the same reason that they go to the funerals of famous people. That where the voters are. That's how they show a human side. That's where people have access to those who are elected to serve them. This is a global phenomenon. Elected officials are joining Twitter, not just in the US but in the UK and most recently in Japan. Why? because voters are there in increasing numbers. You can reach more of them faster and at lower cost, but more, much more than that, you can find out what is on their mind. You can listen and respond and that is really what we want from ut elected officials. Continue reading
Posted Jan 22, 2010 at Global Neighbourhoods
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In 1953, Ralph Ellison wrote The Invisible Man a book I was required to read in college in the 1960s and one that has shaped my thinking. The invisible man in that book was a black man, one that you would pass by without seeing; you could say what you wanted within earshot of him and it did not matter, because well, it was as if he wasn't there. Over the years, I have become aware of all sorts of invisible people in the world, those whom we are more comfortable ignoring than acknowledging; those whose problems do not concern us, because their poverty or affliction was not our doing. Mark Horvath has been a commercial TV producer and a recording artist. He's also a great writer and story teller. Earlier in his diverse career, he was teen age pot dealer and would end up being one of those invisible people along Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. If I had passed him by in 1995, I probably would not have seen him at all--except for the large lizard on his shoulder. Mark is now producing TV again at invisiblepeople.TV. He is also tweeting at Hardly Normal. To say his new endeavor is being done on a shoestring might exaggerate his assets. But the next time you want a dose of reality TV, try watching some f Mark's incredibly interesting, moving and occasionally inspirational episodes. His story is below, but first one other note: Mark could really use some editing equipment. If you have some to spare contact him through me or at Hardly Normal. 1. Let's start with your background. Where were you born and raised? What did you aspire to do when you grew up? I grew up In Binghamton, NY. At age 14 until I was 16 I sold an average of 20 pounds of marijuana per week. It was my first business experience. As a kid, I could not come home with a new car so the group of kids that helped me --my “employees” would spend event cent on anything fun. I also started to play drums professionally--meaning I made money--at age 14. By the time I was 16 music gave me the same power that selling drugs did, and since people now gave me drugs to hang with the ‘band,’ and since I was no longer a minor and laws changed if I was caught selling drugs - I stopped selling. At 17, I formed a record and publishing company and produced my first single. Music became my life. I also learned how to do lots with a little. I did not have money to compete with major labels, but by using a little extra effort and creative thinking the stuff I produced came across with big budget excellence. At age 26, my girlfriend and I moved to LA. I did a little everything for a while: music, acting, working apprentice special effects on B movies. In 1990, I was playing music fulltime and got a girl pregnant. I thought I would need health insurance and started to look for ‘normal’ work. I lied on an application to a major TV syndicator. They hired me as traffic supervisor. Two weeks later they fired my boss and made me traffic manager. Soon, I ran traffic, mass duplication, vault and fulfillment services for a major TV company. It may not have been glamorous, but if you watched TV from 1990 to 1994 I was responsible for getting it to your TV set. 2. How did you become homeless? My homelessness resulted from a series of bad decisions and severe drug abuse over a 20-year period. I was always a very high-functioning drug addict. I didn’t lose my job because I was on drugs; I lost it because I refused to obey an order to fire a Mexican to cover a mistake made by a a senior executive. They fired one of my team members anyway. I screamed about it and the madness sent my drug abuse into overdrive and that cost me my job. I went back to old habits and started hanging out with some very bad people. I lost it mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I lived on or near Hollywood Boulevard off and on for about a year. I would go into a homeless shelter and kicked out. I was brought down to the point of no support, and no security. It’s very hard to explain what homelessness is like. Living on the streets is hopeless and horrible. You beat yourself up with, “how did I get here” and “how am I going to get out of here” questions. Visiting my homeless memories are not easy for me. I remember, in 1995, sitting by what was then a tee-shirt shop next to Grumman’s Chinese Theatre. My pet 6-foot-long iguana, "D.O.G." was sitting on my shoulder. My head was buried in my hands. I was lost in thoughts of my situation. Then, a busload of Asian tourists unloaded and a group of them surrounded me. One asked, “can I take a picture of your Iguana?” “Sure”, I said “for a dollar.” Everyone started handing me dollar bills. It was at that moment that I started to sell photos of D.O.G. and became “The Lizard Man Of Hollywood Boulevard.” There's irony. Grumman's Chinese Theater became Kodak Theater. Fifteen years ago I survived by panhandling in front of it. In 2009, thanks to Jeff Pulver, I presented from the stage at The 140 Characters Conference because of my Twitter experience. That’s AMAZING! 3. Tell me your happiest personal story from you homeless days. Tell me your saddest. There are no happy stories. There are memories that I now laugh at, but I don’t consider them happy. Here is a post I wrote for Change.org about my first homeless night. After walking all day to find a safe place to sleep, I finally lay down in a park only for the sprinklers to go off. Horrible then – funny... Continue reading
Posted Jan 21, 2010 at Global Neighbourhoods
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In 1953, Ralph Ellison wrote The Invisible Man a book I was required to read in college in the 1960s and one that has shaped my thinking. The invisible man in that book was a black man, one that you would pass by without seeing; you could say what you wanted within earshot of him and it did not matter, because well, it was as if he wasn't there. Over the years, I have become aware of all sorts of invisible people in the world, those whom we are more comfortable ignoring than acknowledging; those whose problems do not concern us, because their poverty or affliction was not our doing. Mark Horvath has been a commercial TV producer and a recording artist. He's also a great writer and story teller. Earlier in his diverse career, he was teen age pot dealer and would end up being one of those invisible people along Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. If I had passed him by in 1995, I probably would not have seen him at all--except for the large lizard on his shoulder. Mark is now producing TV again at invisiblepeople.TV. He is also tweeting at Hardly Normal. To say his new endeavor is being done on a shoestring might exaggerate his assets. But the next time you want a dose of reality TV, try watching some f Mark's incredibly interesting, moving and occasionally inspirational episodes. His story is below, but first one other note: Mark could really use some editing equipment. If you have some to spare contact him through me or at Hardly Normal. 1. Let's start with your background. Where were you born and raised? What did you aspire to do when you grew up? I grew up In Binghamton, NY. At age 14 until I was 16 I sold an average of 20 pounds of marijuana per week. It was my first business experience. As a kid, I could not come home with a new car so the group of kids that helped me --my “employees” would spend event cent on anything fun. I also started to play drums professionally--meaning I made money--at age 14. By the time I was 16 music gave me the same power that selling drugs did, and since people now gave me drugs to hang with the ‘band,’ and since I was no longer a minor and laws changed if I was caught selling drugs - I stopped selling. At 17, I formed a record and publishing company and produced my first single. Music became my life. I also learned how to do lots with a little. I did not have money to compete with major labels, but by using a little extra effort and creative thinking the stuff I produced came across with big budget excellence. At age 26, my girlfriend and I moved to LA. I did a little everything for a while: music, acting, working apprentice special effects on B movies. In 1990, I was playing music fulltime and got a girl pregnant. I thought I would need health insurance and started to look for ‘normal’ work. I lied on an application to a major TV syndicator. They hired me as traffic supervisor. Two weeks later they fired my boss and made me traffic manager. Soon, I ran traffic, mass duplication, vault and fulfillment services for a major TV company. It may not have been glamorous, but if you watched TV from 1990 to 1994 I was responsible for getting it to your TV set. 2. How did you become homeless? My homelessness resulted from a series of bad decisions and severe drug abuse over a 20-year period. I was always a very high-functioning drug addict. I didn’t lose my job because I was on drugs; I lost it because I refused to obey an order to fire a Mexican to cover a mistake made by a a senior executive. They fired one of my team members anyway. I screamed about it and the madness sent my drug abuse into overdrive and that cost me my job. I went back to old habits and started hanging out with some very bad people. I lost it mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I lived on or near Hollywood Boulevard off and on for about a year. I would go into a homeless shelter and kicked out. I was brought down to the point of no support, and no security. It’s very hard to explain what homelessness is like. Living on the streets is hopeless and horrible. You beat yourself up with, “how did I get here” and “how am I going to get out of here” questions. Visiting my homeless memories are not easy for me. I remember, in 1995, sitting by what was then a tee-shirt shop next to Grumman’s Chinese Theatre. My pet 6-foot-long iguana, "D.O.G." was sitting on my shoulder. My head was buried in my hands. I was lost in thoughts of my situation. Then, a busload of Asian tourists unloaded and a group of them surrounded me. One asked, “can I take a picture of your Iguana?” “Sure”, I said “for a dollar.” Everyone started handing me dollar bills. It was at that moment that I started to sell photos of D.O.G. and became “The Lizard Man Of Hollywood Boulevard.” There's irony. Grumman's Chinese Theater became Kodak Theater. Fifteen years ago I survived by panhandling in front of it. In 2009, thanks to Jeff Pulver, I presented from the stage at The 140 Characters Conference because of my Twitter experience. That’s AMAZING! 3. Tell me your happiest personal story from you homeless days. Tell me your saddest. There are no happy stories. There are memories that I now laugh at, but I don’t consider them happy. Here is a post I wrote for Change.org about my first homeless night. After walking all day to find a safe place to sleep, I finally lay down in a park only for the sprinklers to go off. Horrible then – funny... Continue reading
Posted Jan 21, 2010 at Global Neighbourhoods
Ike, First, there is some difference between a social network and social media. I would concede that both Amazon & Pandora have social media aspects, but they are primarily not conversational tools. To me the conversational element is primary.
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In February 2006, Chris Shipley, then executive producer of the DEMO conferences delivered an important keynote address. In it, she defined the term 'social media.' At the time there was conclusion between it and Web 2.0. Simultaneously, there was a new generation of online conversational tools that included, blogs, wikis, video and photo sharing. Shipley's definition was simple and clear: "Social media were spaces on the web where people could hold public conversations." I thought it was a great definition for a fast-emerging category of tools that needed their own taxonomy. I wrote and spoke about the term as often as I could. I still do. So very much has happened since then; so many millions of people have come to social media spaces to share a wide array of conversational elements. The topics are is varied as what gets discussed in email or on the phone. Lately, I've noticed a new level of confusion. Social Media's definition is getting narrowed down to Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and a few other public platforms. Recently, someone who should know better told me that enterprise online communities are not really social media. Earlier today, I go a similar comment on Twitter. Of course they are. They are public conversations. Large numbers of people can join in on a topic. They make geography less of a barrier to information and ideas. My consistent view is that people keep confusing a set of interactive communications tools with apps. The answer to the questions of how you use Twitter is "however you want." That answer changes only slightly when the question becomes, "how do you use SAP's community networks. There the answers is, "in any way that is relevant and appropriate to the overall community." There is so much these days, which gets clouded by layers of complexity. To my way of thinking social media's definition is quite simple and has not changed since it first came into use. I hope it remains that way. Continue reading
Posted Jan 19, 2010 at Global Neighbourhoods
DRV, I had explored doing a book called conversational healthcare with my friend at Tom Stitt. In the end it just didn't feel right for me. Over half the book ideas I explore I abandon. I don't think that's uncommon for authors, but I may be a little more transparent.
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Mark, Thanks for your comments and corrections. The interpretation of you as too much of a one-person star was mine. You were very modest in all your representations during our conversation. I will adjust the tone in the book.
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[SAP's Mark Finnern. Photo by Shel Israel] It seems to me that SAP's 75 mentors are the fire starters for much of what happens in SAP's two-million member community network and I told you a little about why in my previous post. And further, they have influence on programs, policies, product and ideas that often spread throughout SAP global infrastructure For that reason, I'm giving a good deal of attention to the mentors while researching The Living Enterprise. My previous post told you a bit about the organization and today's post looks at the program's founder and leader. Mark Finnern, is SAP's chief community evangelist. He created, named and orchestrates the SAP Mentor group. It would not be accurate to say he runs the mentors, because they in fact, run themselves. He is more like a spiritual vortex for them. His role is not part of any company devised grand strategy. Rather, his job has sort of evolved as so many social media positions have done in the past few years. In some ways, social media professionals in established businesses are still making it up as they go along. It started in 2003, when Mark became part of a small handful of SAP professionals assigned to develop a developer outreach program for NetWeaver, then a new software platform that needed to open the company up to a larger number of software developers that had been previously necessary. This became the Software Developers Network [SDN] SAP's first online social network. Sinc then there have been several new social networks created, all under the SAP Communities Network [SCN] umbrella. Like other enterprises, these communities are public in that anyone can visit them, but they are private in that only community members with a designated userID and password can post content. Free thought and speech is encouraged, but inappropriate content is promptly taken down and repeat offenders can be banned. Mark was the non-technical member of the technical team that started SDN. "I brought the passion," he told me. He also brought a series of new ideas and played a key role in stitching together a series of communities that meander seemlessly from online to off and from company representative to partner or customer and back again. SDN's first module was an old-fashioned forum, which pretty much looks and feels like any forum that you may have seen in the last 20 years or so. Mark's first significant improvement was to add blogs to the forums. Blogs were still relatively new, outside of the development community. There were less than 50 of them among Fortune 100 companies in 2004, when these started. Tim O'Reilly, CEO of O'Reilly Media, an open source champion,publisher and event producer consulted SAP on how to get started and social media and provided the company with it's first online community platform. [As the communities and users grew, with thousands of posts per day, the company would eventually migrate to Jive Software.] Blogs move faster than forums and the comment structure is more conversational. After Mark and others injected them into SDN, the conversations became a lot more interesting. But they also raised issues that have been a pain points for most businesses related to social media. SDN, is an official SAP site. Companies are accustomed to being in command and control of what is said on their own turf. And when you think about it, why shouldn't the company, have the power to review, revision, polishing and filtering. Blogs just don't work well that way. And on SDN customers were encouraged to post blogs side-by-side with those from SAP employees. This changed the perspective from company to community. Company concerns probably reached a crescendo when an outside developer posted a blog calling a particular SAP product a failure. Mark's phone started ringing a few minutes later, a higher up ordered Mark to take the post down. Mark resisted. Deleting it would cost the company credibility. While the internal offline debate continued, something started happening at SDN itself. Other community members began chiming, posting defenses for the product and pointing to several mistruths in the original post. The result strengthened the product's position as well as SAP's credibility in the developer community. When customers defend a company, it has greater influence than anything a company spokesperson could hope to accomplish. But it was a two-way street. The community had revealed itself to be credible to the company. If some officials had feared that blogging would allow an unruly mob to light torches, it turned out that those torches would illuminate the truth about a company and its products. It meant that praise could protect SAP and the criticism that did come in would be mostly constructive, helping the company to adjust course when it was wise to do so. The incident helped SAP to gain credibility with some of the hardest-to-impress people inside SAP. Senior technologists generally speaking tend to be viewed as hard nosed and cynical to any form of hype and SAP's are no different. SAP's Horst Keller, an internationally known German physicist and author was one such senior technologist. After the incident, he posted a blog describing what had happened as very cool. Mark encouraged him to post more content and Horst complied, opening the door for some of SAP's most respected technology voices to join the conversation. Mark kept helping to evolve functionality. he encouraged the team to add wikis, which seem to keep better focus than others I've seen. he adapted a system from Reilly media that allowed the company to reward contributions with points based on frequency and quality of contribution. Perhaps most significantly, was that Mark realized that while online communities may reduce barriers of time and geography, it misses one of the magic points of human interaction: the face-to-face meeting. He started developing events in cooperation with the mentors. It began with "unconferences," where attendees set the agenda and schedule. These have evolved into what is now called SDN Meets Labs, day-long... Continue reading
Posted Jan 18, 2010 at Global Neighbourhoods
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[SAP's Mark Finnern. Photo by Shel Israel] It seems to me that SAP's 75 mentors are the fire starters for much of what happens in SAP's two-million member community network and I told you a little about why in my previous post. And further, they have influence on programs, policies, product and ideas that often spread throughout SAP global infrastructure For that reason, I'm giving a good deal of attention to the mentors while researching The Living Enterprise. My previous post told you a bit about the organization and today's post looks at the program's founder and leader. Mark Finnern, is SAP's chief community evangelist. He created, named and orchestrates the SAP Mentor group. It would not be accurate to say he runs the mentors, because they in fact, run themselves. He is more like a spiritual vortex for them. His role is not part of any company devised grand strategy. Rather, his job has sort of evolved as so many social media positions have done in the past few years. In some ways, social media professionals in established businesses are still making it up as they go along. It started in 2003, when Mark became part of a small handful of SAP professionals assigned to develop a developer outreach program for NetWeaver, then a new software platform that needed to open the company up to a larger number of software developers that had been previously necessary. This became the Software Developers Network [SDN] SAP's first online social network. Sinc then there have been several new social networks created, all under the SAP Communities Network [SCN] umbrella. Like other enterprises, these communities are public in that anyone can visit them, but they are private in that only community members with a designated userID and password can post content. Free thought and speech is encouraged, but inappropriate content is promptly taken down and repeat offenders can be banned. Mark was the non-technical member of the technical team that started SDN. "I brought the passion," he told me. He also brought a series of new ideas and played a key role in stitching together a series of communities that meander seemlessly from online to off and from company representative to partner or customer and back again. SDN's first module was an old-fashioned forum, which pretty much looks and feels like any forum that you may have seen in the last 20 years or so. Mark's first significant improvement was to add blogs to the forums. Blogs were still relatively new, outside of the development community. There were less than 50 of them among Fortune 100 companies in 2004, when these started. Tim O'Reilly, CEO of O'Reilly Media, an open source champion,publisher and event producer consulted SAP on how to get started and social media and provided the company with it's first online community platform. [As the communities and users grew, with thousands of posts per day, the company would eventually migrate to Jive Software.] Blogs move faster than forums and the comment structure is more conversational. After Mark and others injected them into SDN, the conversations became a lot more interesting. But they also raised issues that have been a pain points for most businesses related to social media. SDN, is an official SAP site. Companies are accustomed to being in command and control of what is said on their own turf. And when you think about it, why shouldn't the company, have the power to review, revision, polishing and filtering. Blogs just don't work well that way. And on SDN customers were encouraged to post blogs side-by-side with those from SAP employees. This changed the perspective from company to community. Company concerns probably reached a crescendo when an outside developer posted a blog calling a particular SAP product a failure. Mark's phone started ringing a few minutes later, a higher up ordered Mark to take the post down. Mark resisted. Deleting it would cost the company credibility. While the internal offline debate continued, something started happening at SDN itself. Other community members began chiming, posting defenses for the product and pointing to several mistruths in the original post. The result strengthened the product's position as well as SAP's credibility in the developer community. When customers defend a company, it has greater influence than anything a company spokesperson could hope to accomplish. But it was a two-way street. The community had revealed itself to be credible to the company. If some officials had feared that blogging would allow an unruly mob to light torches, it turned out that those torches would illuminate the truth about a company and its products. It meant that praise could protect SAP and the criticism that did come in would be mostly constructive, helping the company to adjust course when it was wise to do so. The incident helped SAP to gain credibility with some of the hardest-to-impress people inside SAP. Senior technologists generally speaking tend to be viewed as hard nosed and cynical to any form of hype and SAP's are no different. SAP's Horst Keller, an internationally known German physicist and author was one such senior technologist. After the incident, he posted a blog describing what had happened as very cool. Mark encouraged him to post more content and Horst complied, opening the door for some of SAP's most respected technology voices to join the conversation. Mark kept helping to evolve functionality. he encouraged the team to add wikis, which seem to keep better focus than others I've seen. he adapted a system from Reilly media that allowed the company to reward contributions with points based on frequency and quality of contribution. Perhaps most significantly, was that Mark realized that while online communities may reduce barriers of time and geography, it misses one of the magic points of human interaction: the face-to-face meeting. He started developing events in cooperation with the mentors. It began with "unconferences," where attendees set the agenda and schedule. These have evolved into what is now called SDN Meets Labs, day-long... Continue reading
Posted Jan 18, 2010 at Global Neighbourhoods
Stew, Thanks for a very thoughtful respnse. MY answer to your question is, yes, I prefer Google's approach to user privacy to Facebook's. I respect the company's decision-makers fr taking that course as well as the one they have taken in China.
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We* see SAP's ecosystem as a living thing. To understand it, think of the biological kind rather than the org chart or PowerPoint slide that some companies use to represent their ecosystems. Think of people and places and how they interconnect and interdepend on each other. In Earth's ecosystem, there are land masses. Some are huge and divided into different sectors. While people in each share a great deal in common, they sometimes don't speak the same language and have cultural differences. This sometimes leads to misunderstandings, which can be costly to all parties involved. In the earth's ecosystem, oceans and waterways connect all the land masses. Increasing the same can be said for SAP's network of online communities. But there's two million users of these networks. Some are occasional visitors some merely use it to get fast answers to tough technical questions. But there are others who have for varying reasons, chosen to immerse themselves into the community. They have demonstrated expertise. They have helped others and contributed to the community by organizing events, writing white papers, advising newcomers, advising and sometimes pressuring SAP to adjust course. They are also good communicators and you find their contributions are almost omnipresent wherever you look across the SAP Community Network [SCN]. They are hand-holders, advocates and occasional antagonists; the defend the company against false accusations and tell the company when they think the company is making a mistake in product, service or policy. They produce local face-to-face events and travel to regional and national ones sponsored by or related to SAP. A mentor gets an annual performance review. She or he can be fired for poor performance and in return for all this time and effort, they are rewarded with tee shirts, recognition and points. A mentor is an unpaid volunteer who needs to keep his or her day job. There are 75 of them and they reside all over the world. Most work for SAP customers or partners. A few are employed by SAP. Obviously, the recognition makes them influential in the overall enterprise technology communities, but from those I've talked to, that is not what makes them spend all this time and energy as mentors. They seem to me to be motivated by passion more than professional creds. which are almost deeply technical. But they simply would not have been selected; nor would they have wanted to be, if each of them was not passionate about SAP and the issues impacting company, customers and partners. Mentors are similar in many ways to Microsoft's better-known Most Valuable Professional (MVP) program. But the significant difference in perspective is in the name. "MVP, is a sports term. It's for the stars in the field. "Mentor," refers to a wise and trusted counselor or teacher. It's not about being a star. It's about giving. One other aspect that has impressed me and the reason for this post's title. The mentors self organize into teams. The membership is determined by what needs to be accomplished, rather than who wants some glory. So far, despite some attempts to get them to behave otherwise, each of them speaks and acts in support of the other. It seems to be part of their culture. Mark Finnern, who will be the subject of my next TLE-related post, runs the program. When I spoke with him, he emphasized that the group was called SAP Mentors, not community mentors. This was because they are influencing and changing all of SAP. Not just the social networks. More on Mark in my next report.*When I say "we" I mean my co-authors Mark Yolton, Zia Yusuf and me. I do not presume to speak for SAP and I often bring a different perspective to this story. Continue reading
Posted Jan 16, 2010 at Global Neighbourhoods
An open letter to Mark Zuckerberg Dear Mark, First, congrats on building Facebook into the world's largest social network. You now have about as many users as the US has residents and China has people on the internet. That makes Facebook a very important platform and you a very influential decision-maker on how this new Conversational Age will unfold in the coming years. I'm writing you now because of your recent remarks during a recent eight-minute interview where you said that you try to maintain "a beginner's view" of Facebook and make decisions as if you were starting your company today. In that light you decided to open all Facebook user information in the interest of transparency and because you believes your 350 million users were now comfortable with it. Mark, I have to say, I think you are wrong in so many ways. We may be in transparent times. If we are I applaud a new age of transparency. But there is a big difference between transparency and privacy. Let me illustrate: I may elect to blog about taking a work day off and using the time to take a romantic walk on the beach with my wife. I may post a picture of her and my dog on that beach. But their are elements that I keep private. Perhaps we share an intimate moment in the sand dunes. I elect not to tell you about that part. So there are a few pieces to this. First, I disclosed personal stuff including some photos of loved ones and a confession that I was playing when I should have been working. I also elected to hold back certain parts of the day because they were private. Transparency is important in business as well. Businesses, using venues such as Facebook are learning that it is safe and wise to be far more transparent today than they were at the beginning of the last decade. But that safety comes from the assurance that they can keep certain matters private and that they get to decide what information they should hold back. Mark, I have no problem really with the data you just released to the world about me. I'm a pretty transparent person and all the stuff you released is pretty public already. But Mark, I have a huge problem with you deciding to release that stuff about me. I would greatly prefer to have been asked. I'm betting a good percentage of your other 349,999,999 users do as well. You see, we agreed to other rules. We did not know that you would start every day as if Facebook were brand new and could then change the rules on us and many of us just don't like it. To be honest Mark, you are building up a compelling case that there is a command-and-control aspect to your customer approach that a few generals might envy. A couple of years back, you decided to use advertising to monetize Facebook without asking customers. Some people shrieked and you shrugged implying that they should get a clue. More recently, you unilaterally changed your Terms of Use with 350 million people, declaring that you suddenly owned user-generated content and you could reuse it as you saw fit. In response, your users started an "I hate Facebook" campaign, using Facebook itself as the group's epicenter. I thought you were wise to have backed off. I had hoped that you would have learned a lesson. Apparently this was not the case. Mark, as I stated Facebook is a force to be reckoned with. You can probably get away with this. But please think about the precedent you are setting. If you ca share my user name and email account, why can't the next guy unilaterally share my phone number, and street address. How about pictures of my grandchildren along with the schools they attend and the routes they walk to get there? Then there a great question about what banks, credit cards and governments might do down the line. The term "slippery slope" is little bit overworked, but Mark, honestly, I feel you have just put 350 million of us at the top of a mountain on a toboggan that you remotely control and have gien us a swift push down a steep trajectory. Please reconsider. Tags: Zuckerberg, Facebook, Privacy. Terms of Use. "I hate Facebook"e Powered by Qumana Continue reading
Posted Jan 15, 2010 at Global Neighbourhoods
As you probably know, Google very recently responded to hacks into it's China operation that could very well have been conducted by the government trying to trick human rights activists, with a two-part agenda: (1) It is no longer complying with government restrictions. In short for the first ime ever, people in China are able to search for anything they wish and get results. (2) It has threaten to leave if the government makes its GoogleCN situation untenable. By that it means in conflict with the company's stated "do no evil" policy. Will Moss has posted the best analysis on it I've seen so far on his blog, where he said in part: "Google has taken China corporate communications playbook, wrapped it in oily rags, doused it in gasoline & lit a match." I have spent all of one week in China, and I've probably read six-or-eight books on the topic. So I am far from an expert. When I was there, I met with a great number of Web 2.0 folk, including some serious blog dissidents, executives from GoogleCN and other executives who told us a good deal about how they work under and around the China censors. I left the country understanding for the first time how little I understood about the complex, fragile relationship between the Chinese people and the nine elderly men who run the country as its Politburo. I remember tweeting on my last day in Beijing, "Whatever you've heard about China is true." Here are a few random insights I got from visiting China: When I asked about censorship and human rights, the most frequent answer was, "we are happy with the freedoms that we have." That may befuddle westerners who were born with an assumption of certain inalienable rights, but not so the Chinese, whose emerging generation has greater wealth, education, information, access, security that any member of their family ever had in prior generations. Some of their parents were victim of Mao cultural revolution. I spoke to a woman who was raised in a rural rice paddy where her father a history professor worked. Her grandmother was among the 30 million Chinese who starved to death during Mao's social engineering experience called the Great Leap Forward. The Politburo, at least a year ago, was generally tolerated by the people I met, who were among China's most successful and best educated. There seemed to be a general agreement that evolved in the post-Tianeneman Era. The government will give it's people unprecedented wealth. In return it will do whatever it please to suppress social unrest. In a country that need to create 17 million jobs, such suppression seems to make sense to many f the Chinese and expats that I talked with. Google came into China with a perceived arrogant attitude. Google officials did not deny this when I asked about it, but they said they had learned their lesson. They also told me that EVERY western company has to make some adjustments to make China's vast, multi-tiered government happy. My brother, who has been doing business in China confirms this. For Google this is probably harder because the company really seems to try to do no evil. It least it appears that way to me. And yet the irony of their Chinese compliance activities puts them in a uniquely awkward position vs local and international competitors with whom they compete. Which brings me to some observations of why this issue has huge implications. This is a stand-down that will probably have huge implications for business and for China's relationship with the west and standing in the world community. If China deports Google, most of the world will praise their heroic stance. Other companies will need to think of the repercussions of continuing to collaborate with a government that spies on its citizens and abuses those who seem to foment unrest. Likewise, if China deports Google, it will at a minimum have a dent on it's relationship with its emerging, well-educated citizens particularly the 350 million of them who use the Internet and have experienced the frustration of being blocked. Other companies will have to rethink what they are willing to accommodate. Looking like a China government shill will not bode well for the image of most of the world's largest companies. In short this incident may be a thread that has been pulled on a very large sweater. And the remainder of it may start to unravel, first slowly then perhaps more rapidly. That may sound like the good thing that I hope it is, except for one well-documented fact. When this government gets pushed or frustrated it sometimes responds with a great deal f violence toward citizens and guests. Continue reading
Posted Jan 13, 2010 at Global Neighbourhoods