Robert Paterson - old culture has to die

The old culture has to die

Most organizations remain bound by the old rules. The power systems all use the old models. Only a handful of organizations have made the move. To make this kind of change, the old culture in the organization has to die. – Robert Paterson

It’s so refreshing when I engage with an organisation that views collaboration, productivity and efficiency through this lens. Tools alone cannot change an organisation or its employees’ work styles. Technological improvements must always be accompanied (or indeed, lead) by cultural change.

It can wait

Just a glance…

Such a powerful message from AT&T.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVnRcIXEqaU

(I’m starting to think that it might need to be illegal to have a mobile phone in view on your dash – so easy to have a phone there for calls or navigation but to be distracted by a notification. Either that or the smartphone OSs need to have a semi-automatic option to disable notifications from appearing in that situation?)

Harvey Mackay

Inspiring others

A mediocre person tells.
A good person explains.
A superior person demonstrates.
A great person inspires others to see for themselves.
– Harvey Mackay

Thinking of this quote a lot at present when delivering strategy workshops and training sessions. There’s really no excuse for failing to always attempt to lift one’s own performance up the next level, no matter how tough that can sometimes be.

Silicon Valley

What if we offered you stock options?

I worked one job and when I finally quit, they had the VP bring me in to ask why. I said, “Well, if you want me to be honest, I come in here on Monday and I’m completely miserable. I have no rapport with anybody. By the end of the day I want to shoot myself.” He looked at me and he said, “What if we offered you stock options?”

Awesome quote from Mike Judge (creator and executive producer of Silicon Valley)… If you haven’t caught the show yet, definitely recommended!

State of Community Management 2015

The State of Community Management 2015

The Community RoundtableIn my line of work as a collaboration and community strategist, one of the key milestones each year is the early summer publication of the State of Community Management report by the The Community Roundtable group.  It tends to provide accurate measurement of the progress of online communities within organisations around the world, as well as offering terrific insight in terms of how one’s own customers and projects compare to the both the average and the very best communities elsewhere.

If you haven’t come across the The Community Roundtable before, you should really should read up on them and their activities. Founded by Rachel Happe and Jim Storre, they’ve been leading the way on research and analysis of online communities for a long time now:

In 2009, we noticed the adoption of social tools and technologies begin to skyrocket, but there was no corresponding attention being paid to community management. Our collective background in business operations and technology (Rachel) and community strategy and management (Jim) set off warning bells. We knew the use of social technologies would open a pandora’s box of implications and challenges for organizations. There were a few early community practitioners who understood what it would take to be successful and we knew that their tacit understanding would be critical to capture and share if the social media, community and social business disciplines were to grow. The Community Roundtable was our answer to this need.

Amongst other efforts such as salary surveys and maturity models, the The Community Roundtable publish the State of Community Management report on an annual basis.  The 2015 version was released a couple of weeks ago:

We are particularly pleased this year to be able to break down the markers of community management maturity into maturity stages, which allows you to see more detail about what initiatives are most prevalent in each stage of a community’s lifecycle. This data helps considerably in building community roadmaps and providing stakeholders with data that supports it. Other new analysis features this year include:

  • Reporting on ‘inactive’ populations in our engagement profile – critical for putting the other engagement categories into context.
  • Discussion of some of our ‘data dilemmas’ as we analyzed the data, which will give you some insight into areas of the research that are still immature or non-standard.

Ultimately our goal with this research is to provide data that helps you:

  • Plan and develop a roadmap
  • Prioritize resources effectively
  • Educate stakeholders
  • Increase your credibility
  • Demonstrating your value as a community professional

This year’s research is as interesting and insightful as usual.  I’ve been working through the key findings and recommendations this week, and have been delighted to see how closely the research aligns with Jive’s existing strategy and methodologies.  However, there’s a huge amount of great content in the report, presentation and recording, am so I’m still digesting what changes I’ll make to my own recommendations as a result of this year’s info.

If you’re interested in finding out more, here’s what you need:

If you’re either a community manager yourself, or else consult on topics in this area, I really do see this research as being an essential part of your arsenal. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8jalG-i05s

IBM Champion gear

Thank you IBM

I was hugely honoured to once again be nominated as an IBM Champion back in December.

IBM describes Champions as:

IBM Champion definitionNon-IBMers who evangelize IBM solutions, share their knowledge and help grow the community of professionals who are focused on social business and IBM Collaboration Solutions. IBM Champions spend a considerable amount of their own time, energy and resources on community efforts — organizing and leading user group events, answering questions in forums, contributing wiki articles and applications, publishing podcasts, sharing instructional videos and more!

I was delighted on arriving at my office this morning to find out that today was the day that the branded IBM Champion merchandise has arrived:

IBM Champion gear boxes IBM Champion gear

Given my new role, I had to be a bit more careful this time in terms of the gear that I selected, but I have to say, I’m delighted with the quality and style of the luggage and drinks containers that I received.

Many thanks to Amanda, Oli and everyone else that works on the Champion program. I’m a big fan of brands recognising advocates in their external communities, so I applaud their continued efforts in this area.

Yahoo-Pipes

Yahoo shutters Pipes

Thank you for using Yahoo Pipes! To help focus our efforts on core Yahoo product experiences, users will no longer be able to create new Pipes starting August 30th 2015. The service will be put in read-only mode until we will discontinue Yahoo Pipes on September 30th 2015.

Yahoo Pipes screnshotWell that sucks big time.  Not altogether unsurprising given the lack of attention that Yahoo had paid to Pipes over the last few years (as an indicator, the last post on the Yahoo Pipes blog before the EoL notice was back in 2012), but even so, there are very few services around the net that provided such a comprehensive toolkit of feed and app integrations.  I’d used Pipes for at least half a decade, primarily for aggregating my many blogs into one consolidated feed, and had looked around for alternatives on at least three or four occasions, but had never found an alternative with the power and ease-of-use that Pipes offered. A sad day.

An aside: did Pipes ever actually make it out of beta?

Jive Chime logo

It’s time to Chime!

After many months of following the progress of Jive Chime, first as a partner and prospective customer, and then as a member of the Jive team, it’s exciting to be helping to get the word out about a brand spanking new social communication product!

Jive Chime logo

So what is Jive Chime?

Jive Chime is a messaging app that lets you quickly and securely connect with teammates on the go, to get the answers you need, when you need them.

Nothing revolutionary there I hear you say?  We already have (insert the name of your favourite tool here… Lync/Sametime/Jabber/Slack/HipChat/WhatsApp etc), why do we need something else?

What you’d be missing is just how light-weight, fast and dynamic the Chime service is to use:
Jive Chime One-sheeter InfographicThink of it as light-weight mobile and desktop messaging, with all the features you’d imagine – push notifications, 1:1 and group (public and private) chats, ability to name conversations, a vast palette of emojis, support for sending images, sync of conversation status across all devices, secure encryption, apps for iOS/Android/Mac and Windows etc etc.  It is beautiful to look and super easy to pick up and use for the first time.

chime-hero-lg

So far so good, yes?

But what’s the compelling reason for using Chime, I hear you ask?

Well for me there’s three significant points I’d pick out:

  1. Jive Chime is free to use for individuals and companies.
  2. Any users that register using your company’s email domain automatically get networked. This makes it super easy to get your company network up and running, and connected to your colleagues.
  3. If you need more control, there’s a plan for you. Just $2 per user per month enables users to be managed from a centralised console, plus the ability for administrators to create/edit/deactivate users and to populate and edit profile fields.  Therefore if you get great adoption of Chime (as we’re sure you will) across a department or location, then you can just move quickly and easily to a larger deployment with all the access and control you’d expect.

That sounds awesome, how do I get started?

Sign up at jivechime.com and download the apps today!

But hey Stuart, we know you’ve been a big fan of Sametime and Slack in the past, how does it really stack up?

I think it’s a stonking v1.0 release, that represents a truly enjoyable and flexible communication network.  It’s free to use, has an incredibly low barrier to entry – sign up, download the app, invite your colleagues, you’re done!

We’ve been using Chime internally as our primary communications channel since before I joined, and over 1 million messages have been sent.  It really does fulfil the IM and group communication needs of a small to medium-sized business incredibly well.

I would be the first to admit there’s a few features that I cannot wait to be added (editing of previous messages being one, an iPad native UI another), but the key features are all there, and are implemented in a very very sweet way.  Jive Software have more than a decade of experience helping businesses develop and enhance their collaborative cultures, and Chime is just the latest product to demonstrate that experience and thinking – this time in a way that means entire organisations can be up and running in a matter of hours.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hknHCYmv5oY

What have you got to lose? It’s free to use, after all!

Give it a try, and let me know how you get on!

Empty Office

Digitally-positive UK workforce let down by workplace tech

Fujitsu today published a study revealing a lack of digital services being provided by UK employers to their work force.

In the Fujitsu report, ‘Digital Inside Out‘, 73% of employees stated that digital is vital to the future success of their organisation, despite only 45% of employees feeling they are provided with access to the technology services and applications they need to do their job sufficiently.

A 29% of the working population admitted that their ability to do their job is being hindered due to poor digital services.

Michael Keegan, CEO at Fujitsu UK & Ireland, said: “Today’s employees are well informed and understand the benefits digital can bring to them in the workplace.”

The benefits digital brings to an organisation, and to the people working within it, were made clear by the employees surveyed.

Main advantages pointed by the respondents included the ability to work remotely (57%), real time access to information (50%) and time-saving (46%).

More >

Nasdaq

Nasdaq Top 10 – 1999 and now…

Nasdaq 1999 to 2015

Some observations:

  1. The almost unbelievable resurgence of Apple is probably the biggest story.
  2. Microsoft and Intel have both lost almost 50% of their value over the past 15 years.
  3. The appearance and stellar growth of Google, Amazon and Facebook.
  4. You’ve gotta think that the acquisition of Sun Microsystems in 2009 wasn’t their greatest move (though the fact that the acquisition only cost $5.6bn when the organisation was worth $117bn 10 years earlier suggests that the decline was well underway).
  5. IBM doesn’t appear in either list. Doh, IBM isn’t on the Nasdaq. Thanks Per!
Modern jive sketch

Time to learn a new dance…

I love my job.

Seriously. I know that’s a cliché, but honestly, I love what I do.

Since early 2008 when I started Collaboration Matters (which morphed into Social 365 back in 2012), I’ve been privileged to have the opportunity to consult for some of the most insightful and forward-looking organisations around the globe.  7 straight years of helping companies improve the productivity of their workforces through using social technologies; working with not-for-profit agencies developing online communities (the real meaning of ‘social enterprise’); assisting 600-year old publishing houses to develop internal communications strategies that will take them forward into the next decade or more.

With these projects and many many more besides, I have been lucky enough to have almost constant work to take on, plenty of challenges to get my teeth into, and to be blunt, to continue to put food on my family’s table.  That’s not to mention the opportunity to blog, to podcast and even to start a user group that has now met in 8 different countries over the past 4 years.

From Collaboration to Enterprise2.0, through Social Business and ESNs, then onto Working Out Loud and Digital Transformation, the terminology may have changed in those 7 years, but here in 2015 I believe even more strongly in the value of these technologies and approaches to make a real impact on working practices and to help change organisational culture for the better.

I love doing my own thing, feeling as though there are no boundaries to what can be achieved through my own energy, drive and commitment.

So all that said… I’m giving it up.

Jive Software logoI am delighted to announce that later this month I will be joining Jive Software as a Senior Strategy Consultant in their Customer Success organisation.

If you’d have asked me 6 months ago whether I’d give up my company to go permanent again, I’d have said ‘no way!’, at least not for the foreseeable future.

However, there have been a few nudges along the way that have convinced me that this is the right next step in my career…

Firstly, at one of my most recent engagements, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to review and analyse more than 30 different platforms in order to create a short list for their procurement process, and then to take those solutions through to final selection.  There is no doubt in my mind (both objectively and subjectively) that Jiven emerged as by far the strongest offering in this marketplace.  Whilst the analysts might squabble about the final order of their leaders, they unanimously view Jive Software as one of the strongest and most focused vendors in this space. My own personal experience in past customer engagements, and again during this selection process, leave me with no doubt that this is almost certainly the most rounded offering out there, and if there are any weaknesses at all, that Jive Software are driven to resolve them at the first opportunity. In addition, rather than having one offering to fit all organisational scenarios,  I love Jive’s approach of having packaged solutions for internal and external communities, plus their focus on different work types and on new solutions for those organisations that need lighter and more mobile-driven apps.

Secondly, I’ve been hugely impressed by everyone I have met in the months since I was first approached.  Every single individual has been focused, insightful, passionate about their roles and hugely pumped up about the future of the company.  One review of the organisation on GlassDoor said the following:

Jive has flipped the typical corporate ratio of top performers to mediocre performers on its head. At most companies 90% of the workforce has middle of the road performance with 10% being top performers. Jive is just the opposite. 90% of the staff are top performers and 10% are middle of the road. This is truly the most competent and highly skilled group of colleagues I have ever worked with. It makes it a pleasure to come to work.

I’ve been honoured to work with some fantastically talented colleagues over the years, but I am genuinely excited to be joining my new team.

Thirdly, moving to Jive does not undermine the friendships I have built in the wonderfully unique Lotus/ICS community. I consider so many people in the community to be my very best friends in the world, and I will stay in touch with you however and whenever I can. However, this is the right time for me to take a different path, to switch gears, and to embark on a new adventure with an organisation that is 100% focused on making the social collaboration ideal a reality.

So, in summary, you’ll probably have realised that I am really pumped up and excited by this opportunity at Jive. It just feels that the environment, the timing and the role is right.  I have no doubt that I’ll miss some of what I have now, but boy, I can’t wait to see what else is out there!

Flags of Europe

Is Europe leading the way on Social Business?

Dion Hinchcliffe certainly thinks so:

[I]t’s not lost on practitioners these days that many of the largest and most committed efforts with social business are now in Europe. The approach to IT in general in the region is certainly more pragmatic, yet it’s also clear that the evolution of the future of work and the new digital workplace is one the minds of just about everyone around the world right now.

So, is social business the leading model for operating our organizations yet? Perhaps not quite, but it is certainly gaining ground and these are some of the leading examples in top organizations today.

In this excellent piece for ZDNet, Dion lists seven major European organisations that are demonstrating  leadership in this space:

I tend to agree, the best case studies I’ve seen in the past 2 years have been European in origin. Not exclusively of course, but there certainly seems to be a theme.

Is this due to the cultural makeup of European businesses, or just coincidence? Can you suggest some US-based organisations undertaking similarly-sized social business projects that would fit into this group?  I’d love to hear from you…

Coffee Time

Using random meet-ups to build relationships and strengthen company culture

I love this idea…

One initiative we’re trying at the moment is CoffeeTime. CoffeeTime is an app, created in less than a day by Daniel, one of our developers. It works by pairing people up randomly, to meet and greet each other, often with someone you may not normally interact with. It doesn’t matter what level in the org chart, or role each person plays. Anyone can be matched up for a 30-minute chat (though people can choose to opt-out, of course). It aims to encourage the cross-team communication and serendipitous learning which otherwise happens naturally when co-workers share an office.

At its heart is the idea that the most important things to learn are often those you didn’t even know you needed to. By making more connections with the people you work with, it increases the likelihood that you’ll have access to someone who can help you further down the line. Maybe that person is having a similar problem or has experienced it before and can point you in the right direction. Or maybe you just end up making a new friend!

CoffeeTime visual

Either way, once a week CoffeeTime runs and you’re matched up with someone else in the organization. Each of you receives an email telling you who that person is. You then take it from there and arrange to meet in person or over a Hangout, to eat lunch or just chat.

The folks at Fog Creek who invented the CoffeeTime app have now open-sourced it and so you can try the concept out in your organisation.

I believe that any digital  transformation project needs to embrace and enable face-to-face as well as online relationships. I therefore think that this model has real potential in breaking down barriers, developing stronger cross-departmental ties and reinforcing an open and informal culture of collaboration.

What do you think? Would you consider running a similar app at your organisation?

Jeff Schick on stage at IBM ConenctED 2015

The official IBM ConnectED 2015 OGS session video

We’ve had the bootleg, now here’s the real McCoy…  

Jeff Schick introduces the IBM ConnectED 2015 opening general session, featuring Scott Souder and Luis Benitez:

From January 25-28, 2015 IBM hosted ConnectED. During the conference, digital experience customers and the business partner community heard the latest in successful business strategies and use cases, solution roadmaps, and participated in valuable sessions covering best practices in Cloud, Mobile and Social.

On Monday, January 26, the conference started with the Opening General Session. Some highlights included opening remarks from IBM General Manager Jeff Schick, an IBM Verse demo from Senior Product Manager Scott Souder, an IBM Connections demo from Senior Product Manager Luis Benitez, and several customer success stories.

Sadly guest speaker Philippe Petit is not included in the recording

Timings are approximately as follows:

01:26 Jeff Schick Intro & Agenda
03:52 2014 A year of Big Bets – The year in review
05:34 Notes 25years, IBM Verse
09:17 Gary Dolsen – IBM Digital Experience: Cloud, Mobile & Persuasive content
14:27 Scott Souder – IBM Verse Demo
34:48 Jeff Schick – What’s coming – IBM Verse, IBM Connections, IBM Bluemix
37:40 Luis Benitez – IBM Connections Next Demo
48:25 Jeff Schick – Summarizing
50:08 Rob & Nicole – Digital Experience tool – Demo
1:02:00 Gary – Summarizing the previous demo
1:03:30 Jeff Schick finishing

Enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJiHkzl5xQo

So glad this was recorded – I had my doubts for a while there!

Slack usage chart

Slack hits half a million daily users in its first year

Slack turns one year old today. In its short but fascinating history, the startup has managed the remarkable feat of actually getting people excited about enterprise communication software. The company has more than 500,000 daily active users, and it’s adding tens of thousands more every each week.

“That’s our primary metric,” founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield tells Quartz. “If you’re not using Slack every single day, you’re not really using it.”

The chart above shows the peak number of daily active users every week in the last year. Minus the big drop off around the holidays, the company has been quickly gaining steam since August—around the time Wired published a big profile. Slack relies primarily on word-of-mouth marketing, helping keep costs low.

Impressive stats, and I really like the metric that they have chosen to represent their growth.  Not ‘registered users’ or ‘organisation domains represented’ but real users that are actually using the platform as it is intended to be used. ((And given Slack is not traditional enterprise software, they’re not indicating licences bundled with renewals for other products either))

I access Slack from my Mac and multiple mobile devices every single day, using it for the team that runs Social Connections, plus multiple other communities.  I have to say, no other tool I’ve used in the past year has had such a dramatic impact on my own personal productivity.  As I mentioned in my IBMConnectED post, I’m surprised that IBM hasn’t tried to counter the rise of Slack in any direct way.

However, other enterprise vendors have taken this on, and whilst I can see Slack continuing its impressive rise, it will be interesting to see how that chart continues over the next 6-12 months.

Reorganisation

IBM plans huge revamp for partner program

The One Channel Team, which will be led by [Mark] Dupaquier, pulls together 3000 IBM employees across the company’s multiple divisions into one group dedicated to channel needs.

The idea is to simplify the way partners communicate with IBM, making it easier for them to build more profitable lines of business using IBM’s SoftLayer, Watson, security, mobile, systems, services and analytics under a single umbrella.

Having been an IBM partner for almost two decades, I have to think that this is a sensible move. For too long, the partner program has been segmented along product and brand lines, meaning that cross-selling and solution-building has been compromised.

From a Lotus ICS ESS perspective, the announcement was especially notable:

Dupaquier also flagged the released (sic) of IBM Verse, which is due in March. Verse will provide business partners with an improved mail and social experience offing services like messaging, migration and support according to Dupaquier.

For IBM to mention Verse at a major corporate announcement like this is very significant for everyone that is involved.

More >

IBM ConnectED 2015

Some thoughts on IBMConnectED 2015 from afar

For the first time in 7 years, I’m missing the annual IBM ‘collaboration and social business’ conference in Orlando.

Sadly this has also coincided with the conference being ‘down-sized’ somewhat and thus being deprived of the live video-streaming and playback support that it has had for the past 3-5 years. I’ve therefore been watching the event through the somewhat murky and confusing lenses of Twitter and PlanetLotus.  This has most likely led me to more than a few misconceptions or confusions on the content shared over 4,000 miles away.

IBM ConnectED 2015 banner

 

However, that said, here are my thoughts so far:

    • That there is a conference at all this year is a major testament to the efforts of many truly committed folks at IBM and in the community.  They have had to pull out all the stops to get the ‘powers that be’ to cover the cost and risk of running the event, and then completed far more of the tasks themselves than in previous years when they would have been outsourced to other agencies. Kudos to them for making this happen. All my comments below should be taken in the context that I am darned impressed they’ve achieved what they have.
    • The rebrand to IBMConnectED (from IBM Connect and before that Lotusphere) has confused many. Watching Twitter over the past few days, I’ve seen a good number of questions from those not present asking about the scope of the conference, the level of content (technical versus business), the audience that was invited and so on.  Given the general consensus so far, I’m not sure that the ‘much more technical’ target has been met, and thus perhaps the additional rebrand was a little unnecessary – however, maybe there were political reasons why this change needed to happen?
      • That said, the attendance is said to have exceeded expectations, and perhaps even to have exceeded the ambitions of those on the organising team.  Early on, a number of 1,500 attendees had been mentioned, and I’ve now heard that a large number of late (or even, on-site) registrations have taken the attendance past 2,200 people.  This is an amazing success and should be applauded.
      • IBM ConnectED TechnOasisHowever, when one plans a conference around one audience size and you get 1.5x that number arrive, it obviously puts pressure on the arrangements and compromises that were made for the original plan.  It sounds as though the TechnOasis is very tight for space, the welcome party was somewhat under-catered and that there have been a few issues getting into packed sessions.  These are understandable issues and I’m sure that most attendees (and sponsors) would trade some minor inconvenience in these areas for having a vibrant, well-attended conference.
      • This (perhaps unexpected) success has lead to some discussions around the future of this event and I’ve heard more than a few whispers that IBM has an open mind on the future of ‘Lotusphere’ after 2015, and might be convinced to continue the conference in the future should it be a commercially viable venture.  I sincerely hope that this is the case. It has a vibe entirely unlike any other event I’ve ever attended, and for the sake of the community that has built up around these products and solutions, I really do want this not to be ‘the final goodbye’. We’ll see what gets announced at the closing session.
    • As the January event has always been the number one marketing effort for ICS throughout the entire year, the news made here has to make a splash around the world.  Whilst this may change as part of the consolidation into the Vegas based events, I do think that at least for 2015, IBM has to ensure that the impact of the content shared in Orlando is a big one.  Clearly a big part of this is IBM educating the analysts and press, and I’m sure they’ll be doing this as well as ever (I’ve taken part in a number of press programs at this event in the past, and have always been impressed with the way they’ve been delivered).  However, from my perspective, particularly given my position this year, the event must have a footprint that extends beyond the Swan and Dolphin complex. For me that means:
      • Live streaming – I can understand that budget was likely an issue this year.  However if I had been asked, I would have suggested that streaming at least the main-room sessions was absolutely essential.  Heck, that could have come down to just an immediately uploaded Youtube recording of the OGS if truly necessary, but really there should have been no way that even a 1,500 user conference should have been cut off from the rest of the interested audience.  I’ve long held (and shared) the opinion that session recordings and presentations are IBM’s best promotional materials for this conference. For me, it is madness that the fantastic news from the OGS yesterday didn’t make it out unedited to the rest of the world.
      • Ed BrillNews summaries of the key OGS announcements – I made this point last year.  ICS misses Ed Brill most of all during the week of this event.  If you were to trawl back through the archives of his blog, you’ll see that January always saw upwards of 50+ blog posts, mostly during and soon after Lotusphere week.  As a blogger attending the event, I could always be sure that immediately following the OGS we’d have a handful of insightful pre-written posts detailing what was shown, what would be delivered and how it would impact users of the software.  In the past couple of years, we’ve come away from the OGS thinking, yeah that was exciting and well-produced, but with little in terms of real details, dates or feature lists.  I know that this will likely come in the breakout sessions at the event, but not everyone onsite can attend all these sessions, and of course those that aren’t there have even less to go on.
      • Press releases – Nothing that was announced yesterday at the event was deemed worthy of an IBM press release.  Again, whilst the press on-site will have been briefed, the rest of the world’s media (and bloggers) will be left uneducated about the news.
      • In summary, I find this ‘you have to be here’ approach to be unfathomable for such a well-organised event run by a multi-national tech vendor.
    • The actual news from the OGS as I could glean from the tweets, Facebook posts, photos and Skype chats that I followed was really positive in a number of areas:
      • The IBM Verse demos looked really fantastic.  I’ve been honoured to be involved in some of the beta testing for the product and so have used some earlier iterations of the platform. However, what was shown yesterday was a massive step forward in terms of usability and UI polish.  The integration with Connections looked very powerful, and the omnipresent Calendar bar at the base of the display had many Tweeters commenting on how useful that would be in their daily work-lives. I’m hearing that Scott Souder’s presentation and demo went incredibly well, and it’s clear that the community both likes and respects his approach.
      • I love the idea that Verse will be available as a Freemium service, and will be open to anyone to use as the client for their email.  I’m not sure how the greater IBM will get their heads around this as an offering, and there is previous for free products from IBM (Symphony etc.) being folded when they don’t become commercially self-sustaining.  The biggest question I have though is how IBM will advertise and market Verse to the world.  As we all know ‘build it and they will come’ is a sure route to failure, so they do have to find a way to win mindshare in startups and small-businesses. IBM Verse has to somehow be considered alongside Office365 and Google Apps – a challenge.
      • New Way to WorkI still have some concerns about Verse, primarily that IBM’s ‘New Way to Work’ message risks over-promising and under-delivering on what is effectively a new UI for iNotes.  I do think that a ‘New Way to Work’ is absolutely needed, but don’t think that this means email, in any form. That’s not to say that I don’t think it will be a mighty fine mail client and productivity tool, but I think that that are other vendors out there that are making similar strides forward on mail management (thinking about Google Inbox and Dropbox’s MailBox app in particular).  At the end of the day, it is still email, and my position is that whilst any improvement in the management of ones email load is important, we need to be shifting away from email at a personal and organisational level.
      • Too many browser tabsMy other small concern is that I find ‘web mail’ in whatever format really difficult to manage – particularly when shifting from web research to mail or and back again.  I mentioned this on Twitter yesterday and the advice was to use pinned browser tabs or even a separate browser altogether.  However, I find that what works best for me (and for many users I meet) is a separate app for email/calendar/to-dos (that’s currently Mailbox/BusyCal/Todoist in my world, but could be Notes or Outlook), even if this is just a lightweight container that renders the web views (think of MailPlane for GMail).  I’d love to hear how IBM plans to deal with this for its own internal users – will all 300,000+ IBM mail users be expected to have a browser tab open all day for them to access their mail?
      • On the other hand, IBM Connections Next looked awesome, really really great.  The new Verse-inspired UI looked fantastic, and is a credit to IBM’s renewed focus on ‘design-thinking’.  In addition, the features that Luis Benitez demonstrated were really well received – not least the new and reimagined Homepage and Community Overview elements.  We also heard of many planned enhancements to the IBM Connections Cloud SaaS platform – primarily to bring it up to feature parity with the on-premises release.  It’s clearly a case of further evolution rather than the revolution that we’re seeing in Verse, but given IBM’s position in the ESN space, that’s no surprise.  I really look forward to getting hold of some of the deeper-dive roadmap presentations to find out more. (One feature I am not keen but I know others will adore is that we’ll finally have full nested folders in Connections later this year!)
      • IBM plans to release a separate paid file sync tool based on Connections that will compete with Dropbox and Box.  This is another good step into the ‘general tech utility’ space – a tool that doesn’t require an entire enterprise to buy into it in order to return demonstrable value.
      • As far as I could tell from the Twitter coverage, there was very little mention of Notes, Domino (apart from it’s integration into BlueMix) or Sametime in the OGS.  I’m sure that this will disappoint many, but surprise few.
    • There was one significant omission as far as I am concerned:
      • Slack iconOne of the major stories of the past year has been the rise and rise of Slack and it’s contemporaries in the Social Communications space.  These lightweight mobile chat platforms have rapidly grown in scope and popularity, and it’s now very unusual for me to meet a customer that doesn’t have at least one of these tools in use in a department or job function around the business. It’s not just Slack either – think of Hipchat (from Atlassian), Flowdock and Hall, all of which are doing well.  Also, Cisco has launched Webex Project Squared, and Jive is working on Chime, both of which will compete in this area.  All have dynamic mobile apps and most have lightweight desktop apps for OS X and Windows.  I’m seeing these platforms compete with (and beat) solutions in both the ESN and IM categories.
      • In the IBM world, we’re still looking at the complex Sametime platform on-premises, or the more limited (though still complex) hosted variant.  To get efficient persistent group chat functionality you would need Sametime Advanced.  At the client level, we’re working with the 1 gigabyte (!) install that is the Eclipse-based rich client.
      • I am surprised that we didn’t hear IBM responding to this threat with either a completely new cloud-based Social Communications platform, or else a substantial commitment to to improve IM and group chat in the Connections Cloud solution.
    • As always, it sounds as though the social side of the conference has been as spectacular as always.  People come and people go, but relationships built at previous events and maintained online tend to withstand change incredibly well.

As I stated at the top, all of the above has been gleaned from following the social media coverage and from speaking to trusted friends.  What do you think? Do I have it right, or have I misjudged the conference as far as you’re concerned?  I’d love to hear from you…

Audio Hijack logo

My favourite audio utility gets a major update

Every single episode of This Week in Lotus (my goodness, I miss that show) that we recorded over Skype was captured using Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack Pro.

This Mac OS X app has always been phenomenally good at managing the audio inputs and outputs available to a Mac system, applying filters and effects, and then writing high-quality recordings out to just about any format you can name.

However, Audio Hijack Pro has become a little long in the tooth over the past few years, with the last significant update almost a decade ago. The UI certainly looked out of place on the recent versions of OS X – Mavericks and Yosemite.

The great news is that Rogue Amoeba has just release a brand spanking new version of the product – Audio Hijack 3:

Featuring a beautiful new UI, and significant new features, this looks a huge update for loyal users of the app.

Audio Hijack screenshot

The new app costs $49 for first-time buyers, or $25 as an upgrade.

You can download a free trial from Rogue Ameoba’s site (it overlays noise on recordings of more than 10 minutes), and it’s worth checking out Jason Snell’s review for more detail.

I can’t wait to get recording with it…

Sad Mat Newman

Missing Lotusphere (IBM ConnectED)

It’s about this time of year that thoughts in the IBM/Lotus community traditionally turn to Orlando, to the Dolphin & Swan hotels, and to IBM’s major collaboration and social business event of the year.

From Lotusphere to IBM Connect to this year’s IBM ConnectED, the name hasn’t mattered too much (I still think of it as the ‘Sphere), it was the technology and the people that made the event what it is.  Thousands of geeks and business folks alike, flocking to the same space every year to meet, greet, debate and innovate on topics near and dear to their hearts.

LotusphereFor me personally, it’s been an almost career-long fixture that has led from a couple of hops to Berlin for Lotusphere Europe, through to more than a decade of crossing the pond to Orlando for the real thing.  I was telling someone just last week that I’ve missed only two events since 2004. The first was in 2006 when I’d temporarily left the Lotus space to venture into other technologies. It was partly reading the news from the event whilst trying to get my head around HP OpenView systems management products that made me jump back into the Lotus partner space within a few months! Then in 2008, my employer decided at the last moment to cancel my ticket – the last straw in a long debate about the importance of collaboration technologies to their business.  Having handed in my notice, Lotusphere 2008 coincided with my first week of running my own business.

The Sphere is where I’ve met huge numbers of IBMers, colleagues and peers. Folks that started as business contacts bumped into in some corridor in the Dolphin, whom I now consider very very close friends – a significant part of the narrative of my adult life.

So why this post?

As most of you will be aware, IBM ConnectED takes place next week in the Swan Hotel.  More technical, more intimate, smaller and less glamorous this time, but still part of the two-decade long history of this great gathering. It will have a different feel for sure, but I have no doubt that enough of the familiar events, locations, features and faces will be present to make it a hugely fun and informative week.

Sadly, it will also likely be the final ‘Sphere event.  The IBM contract is up at the Dolphin and Swan, and as I’ve previously blogged, IBM’s focus seems to be on very large consolidated events in Las Vegas for the future. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing by the way, just that it will be different.

So, it’s the last ‘Sphere, I’ll be there, right?  Nope. Not this time.

There’s a few reasons while I’ll be missing it:

  • The most important is that I promised my wife Philippa that I wouldn’t do it again this year. Almost every January since the kids were very small, I’ve left her to look after the brood for an entire week whilst I had fun and did business in the Floridian sun (at the time of my first Orlando trip in 2004, Philippa was 5 months pregnant with our youngest, and was already looking after three under-7s!).  This at a a time of year when things are most difficult for those of us that are self-employed – Christmas and New Year eat into our potential billable days, and then we take another week out to head to Orlando, whilst usually paying $2-4000 for the privilege!  I would hate to add up what the lost earnings and expenses add up to over the time I’ve attended – that wouldn’t be a happy number.  The ‘Sphere has been an enormous sacrifice for my family and this was the year when it needed to end…
  • The fostering that I spoke about at the NerdGirl Sparks session last year has now well and truly kicked in, and we’re about to have another little person move in this week. This alone would make it almost impossible to attend this time around.
  • My business is less IBM-centric now. This has been a trend for the past few years, but has accelerated since last summer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still working with IBM Connections, but I’m spending as much (if not more) time on Jive, Tibbr and Yammer (amongst many others) as I am on Connections.  Certainly, Notes, Domino and Sametime (or Verse even) are a long way from my focus area these days.

So, for all those that do congregate in Orlando next week, I wish you the very very best time!

Enjoy the beach soccer, the Mai Tais, BALD on the Boardwalk, the ESPN, the Dolphin bar, karaoke in Kimonos, homebrews by the pool, Mat Newman hugs, the pretzel cookies, all of it.  Party like it’s still 1999 and there’s almost 10,000 people there.  Raise a glass to all those that have been a part of ‘Sphere tradition.

TWiL in the RotundaMost of all, just for me, please close out the ‘Sphere at 4am in the Dolphin Rotunda with the style that it is accustomed to (you could even record a podcast to commemorate the moment)!

I’ll miss you, Lotusphere.

New Clues!

The Clue Train is back!

For many in this industry, The Clue Train Manifesto was a seminal work in the evolution of the internet, and in many ways forecast the development of social media and social business.

As I noted in my Social Connections session in Stockholm, it’s incredible both how prescient the site was (written back in 1999), and also how 15 years later, so many organisations are still failing to take note of the theses it offered.

The Clue Train Manifesto book is front and centre on my bookshelves in the office, and it gets thumbed through at least once a month.  The authors have gone on to varied and greater things, and the site has still looks much as it did 15 years ago, so I thought that was that.

So, imagine my surprise when I came across this today:

New Clues!

Yep! Two of the original authors, Doc Searls and David Weinberger, are back with their thoughts on today’s internet.  Here’s the intro:

Hear, O Internet.

It has been sixteen years since our previous communication.

In that time the People of the Internet — you and me and all our friends of friends of friends, unto the last Kevin Bacon — have made the Internet an awesome place, filled with wonders and portents.

From the serious to the lolworthy to the wtf, we have up-ended titans, created heroes,  and changed the most basic assumptions about How Things Work and Who We Are.

But now all the good work we’ve done together faces mortal dangers.

When we first came before you, it was to warn of the threat posed by those who did not understand that they did not understand the Internet.

These are The Fools, the businesses that have merely adopted the trappings of the Internet.

Now two more hordes threaten all that we have built for one another.

The Marauders understand the Internet all too well. They view it as theirs to plunder, extracting our data and money from it, thinking that we are the fools.

But most dangerous of all is the third horde: Us.

A horde is an undifferentiated mass of people. But the glory of the Internet is that it lets us connect as diverse and distinct individuals.

We all like mass entertainment. Heck, TV’s gotten pretty great these days, and the Net lets us watch it when we want. Terrific.

But we need to remember that delivering mass media is the least of the Net’s powers.

The Net’s super-power is connection without permission. Its almighty power is that we can make of it whatever we want.

It is therefore not time to lean back and consume the oh-so-tasty junk food created by Fools and Marauders as if our work were done. It is time to breathe in the fire of the Net and transform every institution that would play us for a patsy.

An organ-by-organ body snatch of the Internet is already well underway. Make no mistake: with a stroke of a pen, a covert handshake, or by allowing memes to drown out the cries of the afflicted we can lose the Internet we love.

We come to you from the years of the Web’s beginning. We have grown old together on the Internet. Time is short.

We, the People of the Internet, need to remember the glory of its revelation so that we reclaim it now in the name of what it truly is.

There follow 121 new clues. I have no idea if they’ll be as influential as the first set were all that time ago. However you owe it to yourself to take 10 minutes out to read and digest