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Showing posts from 2008

Off the Tracks

I'm doing my annual "goal planning" this week and took some time to review the past few years goals (and success rate) and it isn't pretty. First, here are the stats: 2005 9/14 63% 2006 12/15 80% 2007 7/13 54% 2008 5/9 56% My goals are a combination of personal (fitness, finance, charity, vacation etc) and professional goals. clearly, 2006 was a great year, but I've been sliding hard since then. 2008 was an odd year from the beginning with me leaving the IRC for Microsoft, so I expected some fluctuation (notice the drop in total number of goal targets - down to 7 from 13 in 2007). As a way to get this out of my system, here's what I achieved, and what I didn't this past year: Success! Maintain 180 lbs Coach sports (specifically spring/fall softball and winter basketball). I also helped out with all-star softball and recently started a coaching blog . 1/2 speaking gigs Establish myself in my new role at Microsoft Build blog readership (>200 visits per

Book Notes: Rebound Rules

I just finished reading Rick Pitino's latest book " Rebound Rules ." I was looking for some inspiration in both my professional and coaching life and found it here. This is a breezy read for those of us who read a lot of self help books, much of what Pitino talks about is well-tread in other books. That said, I especially liked some of what he has to say about managing young players. Granted, the difference between the type of coaching he does is a galaxy away from the type of coaching I do! What I loved most about the book however is how Pitino recounts his Celtics failure and how he rediscovered himself and his passions. His "PHD" (Passion, Hunger, Drive) framework is something that I will be using personally as I begin to plan for 2009. One other phrase that I really liked was the "darkness of doubt." I've had some recent failures myself in my professional life and realized that the doubt I felt was natural, but something that I simply need to m

Book Notes: Exodus to the Virtual World

I guess I've been revisiting my own ideas on virtual worlds and the immersive internet these past few months and picked up a copy of Castonova's " Exodus to the Virtual World " to see how things have been evolving since reading his first book "Synthetic Worlds." It is my opinion that his first book was quite a bit better, although this book does really expand on where virtual worlds are headed in more tangible ways. The book is really interesting, if not way out there. While the idea of people "migrating" to virtual worlds seems (and feels) odd to me, Castronova makes some extremely compelling and interesting points given from an economist's perspective of the world. That said, I'm not so sure his core concept is valid. It would help me if I were a social scientist and had any sort of knowledge to validate or debunk his thesis. For scale's sake, Castronova points out that "when 100 million people do something" governments need

I Can Save the US Auto Industry, Really!

I have the answer! I really do. But I want to lay out some ideas before dropping the bomb on you. A few disclaimers before we get started... In reality, I have very little car experience. Never marketed a car, built a car or designed a car. That said, I've paid for CV boots, brakes, tires and once, an entire new front end. I've wrecked a few cars (no one hurt), and certainly spent plenty of time at the gas pump. I have washed cars occassionally, but don't like it that much. Now that I've gotten that out of the way, here are some actual disclaimers: I'm not a huge car nut. My brother fills that gap in our family. I did once subscribe to Car & Driver, but only for a short time. I tend to view cars as a depreciating asset, but I do trip out when I see a really cool looking ride. I actually (delusional or brilliant, you tell me) believe I can save the US Auto Industry with my idea. The idea is free for you to take and use. All I ask is that I get a free one of my ch

Fun In B2B Social Networks

I've just finished reading " The Theory of Fun " by game designer Raph Koster. I had been meaning to read this book ever since hearing him speak at a Serious Game Conference way back in 2005. While long overdue, the timing was quite good.I've spoken to a few of you (and lots more folks who probably don't read my blog) about some ideas that I have around using gaming concepts within social networks. In my role at Microsoft, driving engagement inside the CIO Network has been my primary focus. It hasn't been easy! Koster's book is quite good for lots of reasons, like understanding what fun is, and how to have it for example. I was really pleased however with his discussion and call out of Game Designer Ben Cousin's concept of "ludemes." Ludemes, according to Cousins and Koster are the basic units of gameplay - the fundamental components (atoms?) of what makes a game a game. Koster lays out some fundamental elements that make for successful games

Book Notes: The Future of the Internet

I heard Jonathan Zittrain speak at a CIO Magazine event about 9 months ago in Boston and had his book "The Future of the Internet" in a big pile up until about a month ago. The subtitle "and how to stop it" put me off a bit and in my usual way, I judged the book by it's cover, thinking that this was yet another explanation about how the Internet is about to collapse, sending us back to the dark ages. The thrust of the book however is all about "generativity" - the ability of certain technologies which allow users to create new and unexpected things from humble, typically underground or misunderstood beginnings (think... the Internet itself!). The PC as a generative platform however is probably the biggest and most effective example, it being at the very core of some of the concepts Zittrain tackles. The book uses some terrific (and recent) examples but ultimately leans on Wikipedia a bit too much. Have you noticed that many, many recent books lean on W

I Like Greg Grunberg

I really do. I liked him in Alias and love him in Heroes. Never saw Felicity. I'm just hoping he doesn't get Sylar to come split my head open and steal any of my powers after reading this post. I've been following @greggrunberg on Twitter for a while now and really enjoy his updates. He seems like a normal, cool guy who happens to be an actor. I dig that about him. Just a few minutes ago, I spotted this update from him which promptly prompted me to write this post. greggrunberg GREGGRUNBERG.COM I'm just sayin'!!!! -- I'm LIVE baby! Just went live and it's good to be live! GREGGRUNBERG.COM I'm thrilled he has his own web site. I've had my own since God knows when and would never begrudge a celeb their own slice of cyberspace. Good on him. Good on him until I checked out his site that is. Hey! What happened to the @greggrunberg guy that I like to follow on Twitter? Why is it that I cannot find, no matter where I look a li

Role Playing in Immersive Worlds

I've been participating in a new community focused on the immersive internet called ThinkBalm. We did an in-world "role-play" a few weeks ago that despite the usual and significant user issues, technology hurdles and confusion worked out pretty well. Erica Driver , the curator of the ThinkBalm community and a few community members (including me just a tiny bit) helped write a paper about the experience titled " Role-play redux: ‘Convince the curmudgeon .’” Visit the link to see more and download the pdf of the article. I continue to be fascinated by immersive worlds for many reasons but continue to struggle with their business applicability because of significant user interface issues, training and technology hurdles. Consider me an early adopter! Visit the ThinkBalm site to learn more about the community and getting involved.

I Coach

My passion is coaching youth sports. I've been a coach ever since I was a camp counselor at 15 years old and I can often be overheard saying that one day... I'll be coach youth sports full-time. I wonder how that will happen. In any case, I'm really into it lately and in addition to coaching my daughter's softball team, I'm coaching two basketball teams this winter. That means games Monday through Thursday with practices on Saturdays. There is so much good stuff a girl (or boy) can get out of a well coached team, that I tend to take it really seriously, putting in time to develop practice plans, setting goals and communicating with parents. Now, I'm only talking about 9, 10 and 11 year olds, but good practice habits and learning game strategy is critical at this stage of their development. I want these girls to keep playing, even if in recreational leagues for a long time and to develop friendships and work habits that transcend a given sport and help them succe

Squirrel, Inc.

I just finished reading a neat little book called " Squirrel Inc.: A Fable of Leadership through Storytelling " on a colleagues recommendation and really loved it. In short, it's a neat little fable about a Squirrel with a great idea on how to save her company, Squirrel, Inc. She thinks the company needs to stop burying nuts and start storing them! It's a quckie read but I took some key lessons in storytelling with me. How do you persuade people to change? How do you get people working together? How do you share knowledge? How do you tame the grapevine? How do you communicate who you are? How do you transmit values? How do you lead people into the future? Each chapter takes our hero through a different type of storytelling, each one optimized for the desired effects. It's a fun, quickie read that will leave you wanting to tell more stories!

How Tiger Does It

Cross posted from my golf blog ... I just finished reading a terrific book " How Tiger Does It " by Brad Kearns. It provides some great insights into Tiger's life and how he maintains his competitive edge. The book is much more interesting however, when read from a parent's point of view, I think. The author talks a lot about kids and parenting (he must have his own!) and translating Tiger's winning ways into tools you can give your kids. The biggest takeway for me, across the board however is the idea that your child must be internally motivated (pure motivation), and that motivation must come from inside them. My daughters both play sports (softball, basketball, soccer and golf) but never, ever practice on their own without being asked. Never. They do however, read, write and practice their instruments. My younger one draws pictures just because she feels like it. It's hard as a parent who knows that in order to get better, your kids have to practice - but t

Marketing and Communities Conference Notes

I spent the day in NYC at the Forum One Marketing and Communities Conference (tag # moc2008 ) yesterday and had a pretty good time. I was happy to get out of my office dungeon for a bit and meet some new people. To follow the twitter stream, start here. I don't have much time for a completely coherent blog post, but did take a lot of notes during the day. I organized them into a top X list (let's see how many are worth listing) and go from there. These are mostly in chronological order as I read down through my notes. Heather Gold was terrific (a bit like Sarah Silverman if you ask me). She's funny as hell and led a kickoff discussion. "Presentation as conversation" is what I wrote down. During that same session, this quote popped for me as well: "Vulnerability leads to connection." How true! My experiences managing online communities prove this over and over again. I can be scary to allow yourself to be vulnerable in an online community, but it goes a


I ran across this little blurb in the 10/27/08 issue of BusinessWeek that I found endlessly interesting. People, apparently differ radically on what makes things similar (from a study in Cognition ). As a marketer, this really is fascinating. The study showed that about 50% of ~200 subjects defined similarly in a "categorical way," lumping does with cats because both are animals. The other half though more thematically, meaning that they paired dogs with bones instead for example. The blurb points out a lesson for marketers: if you sell cake online, include "milk' in the search terms you buy! The human mind continues to fascinate.

Stand Up

Social Media Speaking Gig

Here are some of the details of my upcoming seminar/speaking thing. The basic gist is trying to outline the core differences b/w traditional and engagement marketing and then giving some good examples and strategies around both. About Social Media What exactly is Social Media? Social Media is media that users can easily participate in and contribute to, like blogs, message boards, forums, wikis and social networks. It’s dynamic and flexible, thrives on the notion of making connections and brings with it the power of every user on the planet. As marketers, we are used to carefully crafting and honing our key messages and measuring results. Social media turns that scenario upside down. Control is shared by all users, and feedback is immediate. There’s a lot of buzz surrounding social networks these days and companies have been quick to get in on the action by establishing profiles on these web sites to promote their products and services. Online social networks attract millions of users

Best E-mail in a Long Time


Getting Back on the Speaking Gig Horse

I was asked to speak to a group of Healthcare CMOs about social media and marketing. In fact, I just had a prep call with them and I have lots of thoughts floating in my head right now. In particular, I found myself really pushing hard on the distinction between traditional marketing and "new marketing." When I talk about "new marketing," I'm referring to "conversations" and building customer communities. I've been thinking lately about the distinction between the two, and while to some of us it's fairly obvious, to others it's not so clear. Traditional marketing includes direct mail, telephone, advertising and more. It also now includes ads on social media sites like Facebook and Myspace. It even includes in my own mind, much of what we call viral marketing. To me, traditional marketing is all about manipulating your customers to get them to buy your crap (that's my cynical, I'm wearing my conversation hat definition and I'm st

MS Society

Someone over at the MS Society is paying attention. They've apparently asked for Andy Sernovitz to give a keynote speech and in doing so, Andy's sent out an e-mail presumably to a bunch of folks asking for the answers to 3 question. I just sent him mine, and decided to do a quickie blog post about it (I've been struggling to find stuff to blog about lately!). Here was Andy's e-mail, my answers are bolded. I'm giving a keynote speech to the National MS Society ( ) in November. I want to help them learn to earn great word of mouth, motivate volunteers, and raise money. Please help: 1. Answer the following 3 questions and email me your answer 2. I'll blog all the replies, link to you, and share your ideas with all 1,500 participants at their annual conference 3. Blog about the whole thing when it's posted in a few weeks Here we go: 1. To get more word of mouth for the National MS Society, they should try ... > open source their fundraising

20 Year Reunion

I had my 20th year high school reunion last Saturday night and it was a complete and total trip. On the way over, as I pulled into Bedford Hills, I realized that our prom song from 1988 was playing. Serendipity I guess. Interestingly as the event approached, I had reconnected on Facebook with so many friends that I hadn't thought about in so many years. The memories had flooded back quickly, some things just stick in your brain for one reason or another. I think the biggest question I had going to the event was to try to find out what imnpression people had of me from back then. I've been on such a crazy journey since graduating (as we all have I guess). What I realized is that while we've all grown up, we still retain some pieces sof who we were back then. I found myself reconnecting with a certain set of people who for one reason or another I fell away from towards the end of high school. As the memories came back, I found myself really enjoying myself and wished that I h

Perspective Shifts

I was doing some office cleaning this morning and found a letter my daughter wrote to me a few years ago. It's all about how she wants to be me when she grows up (how sweet!). It's a great letter. Towards the end, she writes "I want to be 5'11" tall like my dad. I want to see the world like him." What a statement. It powerfully reminded me just now about how important my most important job actually is. It's amazing at how kids (conciously or unconciously) can make statements that hit you like a ton of bricks in such an innocent manner.

Spreading New Ideas...

I was pointed to a great little article by a colleague " The Challenge of Spreading A New Idea " on (they are still around?). I love this framework and applied it to what I'm working on at Microsoft... To spread a new idea, connect it to a familiar one, then give it a twist. Here are four examples. Success: Cloverfield Breakthrough: Blockbuster event movie shot in digital video Message: Godzilla meets Blair Witch Upshot: The film has grossed about $168 million worldwide on a $25 million budget. (Read More examples) Here's the CIO Network through this lens... Jury's Out: The CIO Network Breakthrough: An invitation only, private online network for CIOs to build peer relationships, talk about issues and get connected to Microsoft execs and product developers. Message: Unique opportunity to connect with like minded strategic CIOs and get behind the scenes at Microsoft. Upshot: Will CIOs actually participate in such a forum?

Book Notes: Wikinomics

Just finished reading Wikinomics while on vacation in Vancouver and I wanted to dump out some book notes before I get too far into my next book and forget it all. This was a good book, and one that actually reinforced a lot of what I already think and know about mass collaboration. The case studies in books like these usually never disappoint, and this book was no exception with great examples in Goldcorp , Dell and Innocentive . Late in the book, the authors drop an incredible quote from Internet Pioneer Vint Cerf that really says it all. Paraphrased, "The 3 golden rules of the Internet are that nobody owns it, everybody users it and anyone can add services to it." It's obvious I know, but these rules mean fundamentally that the Internet is a totally new beast, something different than any preceding communications channel in history. Obvious I know, but still great stuff! The 4 principles that the authors (Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams) outline are openness, peer

Recurring Themes...

I keep coming back to this idea about how people recover from career mistakes and how they move on. I recently blogged about Gerald Levin , who moved on from a pretty big error he made while with AOL and I obsessed over J.K. Rowlings Harvard commencement speech about failure . I guess it's on my mind lately! The latest installment of this story is a new article from Julie Wainwright, the former CEO from Yep, she was the sock puppet lady. It's fascinating to get an inside look at her thoughts and the aftermath which included a deep depression. I really love this article and the 5 mistakes. My favorite mistake is #3 "I stopped believing in myself." I can speeak from direct experience on this one and while fear was a part of my mistake, it isn't the entire story. I got caught in an odd circumstance at a past job and simply couldn't/wouldn't continue to believe in myself. The honesty and authenticty in this article is like a breath of fresh air to me

Got Perspective?

I was going to blog about Google's new Virtual World and while I was installing it, I was flipping through the latest issue of Business Week. Rather than blab on about Livey (at first glance, it looks like yet another odd attempt to create a usable virtual space), I'd much prefer to talk about the interview Maria Bartiromo did with Jerry Levin . If you remember your dot com history lessons, Mr. Levin is the guy who was pushed into retirement after the Time Warner/AOL disaster. What I didn't remember, was that in 1997 his son Jonathan was robbed and killed by a former student. I'm always curious and interested to see how really successful people deal with tragedy, and what becomes of them. One of Maria's first quesitons was "What have you learned in the past half-dozen years that you didn't in all those years climbing to the top?" Levin's answer stopped me in my tracks. He talks about his relationships and perspective being in a "rather parochi


I was digging around the wayback machine at some old web sites I managed and found this funny quote on an old homepage... "Everything is different, but the same... things are more moderner than before... bigger, and yet smaller... it's computers... San Dimas High School football rules!" Anyone remember what movie that is from (heck yes I know the answer).

The Future is Theirs

My daughter graduated 5th grade today and I was really blown away by what some of these kids have planned for the future. Brain surgeons, authors, athletes, aid workers and more. The ceremony was terrific and despite me having very bittersweet feelings about seeing my daughter graduate, it was a really good day. Earlier this year, I taught a Junior Achievement class to my daughter's 5th grade class. It was my 4th time doing this sort of volunteerism, and I continue to really love the experience. As with most volunteer activities, I started out thinking this would be a great way to give something back. In the end though, it's me that gets the most out of the time I think. This year's class wrote me notes after our sessions ended. While it's always nice to get a thank you, these notes really went over the top. I feel so lucky to have had the chance to show some of these kids more about business and to get them excited about their own futures. Stephen wrote "It was c


I recorded my very first podcast for the Microsoft CIO Network yesterday, finally joining the ranks of bloggers who have tried their hand at podcasting. I was initially nervous about the interviewing/conversation, but got over that quickly. On the way back to my office, I started to worry about how I sounded, and how I would edit the audio. I think I sounded OK, but need lots of work on how I interview and how fast I talk (I need to slow down a bit). I used Audacity to quickly edit the podcast and used the Internet Archive to find a snippit of sound to use as an intro bumper for the podcast. I'll share the final podcast here if I can (not sure I can use it in public). What I really love about this way of developing content for a community is it's potential to be really authentic and informal . I'd like to continue to develop and refine a format that will result in a 20 minute conversation that really gives listeners some insights into the topic(s) and the persion (CIO) I

Here Comes Everybody

I just finished reading Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky (@ clayshirky on Twitter). I took a bunch of notes and wanted to pull out some key things are really impact the development of social network and apply them to what I'm working on at Microsoft. First up is the notion of " publish, then filter " - with the massive amounts of information being published today both online, broadcast and offline, filtering has become the real issue. As I think about my own ways of consuming information, it's the filters that are available to me that make big differences. For example, Tivo's search functionality, wish list/keywords and swivel search has revolutionized what I watch on TV. Similarly, I consume almost all of news and technology data via RSS feeds from a browser. I still read the NYTimes on Sunday, but I'm not convinced that I do it for any real reason other than I think I ought to. Emerging platforms continue to accelerate the publish then filter trend - si

Kids Say (and Write) the Darndest Things

My 10 year old wrote this poem for a school project. As I was reading, I was getting more and more alarmed. Had I misread her? Am I a bad parent? Read the poem, and then find out what it's really about at the end. Over the Wall The world was spinning Around and around and around It left me behind. The tragedy crashed down on me Like rocks falling in an ocean. It broke the surface and stayed below. Waves lapped against the shore As people tried to mend my heart While sadness twisted it Into crazy shapes. As pretzel. I'm still confused. A worm. I don't understand. A bird. I try to fly above my depression. It's like a wall, a great looming wall. It crushes my heart. It crushes my dreams. Over the wall I climb. High, high, high, until the wall is nothing but a memory. If I fall, I go right back up. High, high, high. Into the sky. So I'm reading this (it was printed and mounted on a purple piece of construction paper) and thinking oh my god, my baby girl has some real is


J.K. Rowling's commencement speech at Harvard really struck a nerve with me. In particular, her bits about failure and not pretending to be anything other than what she was. Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality. So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been

Book Notes; Groundswell

I just finished Groundswell: "Winning in a world transformed by social technologies." Groundswell is a much reviewed and commented on book, so instead of my normal book notes, I figured I'd provide some links for you to follow. The core premise of the book is that much of what's happening in marketing today revolves around creating "conversation" or "social spaces" where brands (er, brand managers) can have conversations with their customers. There's been tons and tons written about this in the past few years, but Groundswell provides a terrific framework that really helps clarify a lot of what many of us haven't been able to articulate to date. In addition to the framework, the authors have also created a profile tool which allows you to profile your customers to see how likely it is that they are partiicpating in the new world of marketing and online conversations. As you'd expect, there is also a discussion board where you can ju

Marketing Posts Coming Soon.. but Little Brother for now

With all my recent travels, I've had a chance to read some great stuff lately including " Sea of Monsters ," " Infected " by the sick and twisted Scott Siglar and most recently, " Little Brother " by the astoundingly terrific Cory Doctorow. I was prompted to post about Little Brother after reading a book review on who gave the book an A-. It's also got 4 stars on Amazon (23 reviews). I'd give it a solid A- as well, the imagination and use of current technologies really blew me away. I also have to throw in the fact that Doctorow uses the XBox as main character and plot device (I work at Microsoft) which I found hysterical, and totally plausible. If you are a geek, this book will have you nodding all the way through - from the ARG references and the fact that the characters end up LARPing their way to a terrific ending. If you aren't a geek (or if you are older than 30 and are curious), you'll be amazed at how emerging tech c

R.I.P. Pa

My grandfather died yesterday at 2 PM. He was a stunningly important figure in my life, even as we spent less and less time together. I've been in a fog since I heard yesterday and I wanted to write down some lessons I learned from him and post them here as a way to memorialize my relationship with him. As the now eldest male on my side of the family (both grandfathers and my dad have all passed), the world ahead looks strange. It's a perspective I think better left for later in life. But as with all things, I'll find a way through it all. My grandfather, known as "Pa" (not pawwww, I'm from NY, not Tennessee) was a pretty amazing guy in many ways. Pa had a great sense of humor and loved to laugh. He had a slicing, mean streak in him too and his sense of humor could be biting for sure. I always appreciated it for what it was - a true ability to see something and then laugh at it. It is still something I want to be able to do more readily. Pa was a salesman in b

Clay Shirky: Where Do They Find The Time?

This video is stunningly good and thoughtful. Enjoy. Anyone who seriously and academically claims that the sitcom is social lubricant under which the the wheels came off the enterprise (i.e. society) must be reposted as much as possible. Makes me feel better for being such a d0rk.

UPDATED: How Does "Social Technology" Affect Business?

I was going to leave myself a comment, but instead opted to update this post (updated 5/21/08) The panel went really well - but I changed some of the content as I was taking the train down to the city from Bridgeport. I ended up going with 4 broad trends or factors that are driving the use of social networking and tools within the enterprise. 1. Consumers technology is invading the enterprise 2. Employees have an insatiable need for data, self-service tools and the ability to collaborate 3. Technology is fundamentally driving innovation 4. Generational shift I think it went well and I hope to re-post video once it is available. Here's the original, unchanged post: As I mentioned in my previous post and on Twitter, I'm doing a panel this Friday at NYU. I'm on what looks to be a terrific panel titled " The Digital Future: What Social Networking and Marketing Tools Mean for Businesses and Entrepreneurs." I'm guessing that my take will be slightly different than