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Some important bloke on some important blog.
May 14, 2006
Sunday
Quote to remember
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As creative as your organization may be, the community at large will always be more creative.
- RedMonk analyst Stephen O’Grady in From Web page to Web platform

April 28, 2006
Friday
Social media and blogs event in London
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The Blogs & Social Media Forum takes place on Wednesday 17 May at the Hilton London Metropole Hotel (£350).  This is an event designed to bring social media closer to businesses. I have been working with VNU to make the conference a bit less formal and more involved for the delegates. It is still difficult as experimenting with formats is all very well but for the need to make it commercial viable interferes.

There will be no powerpoints (or very few, I hope), the sessions are short, focusing on case studies and the panels conversational rather a series of presentations. We are trying to get the speakers down from their ‘elevated position’ and the main afternoon session is ‘Open Space’ with the panelists and a few other speakers going into a huddle with the delegates.

I find that the most interesting conversations at conferences happen during the coffee breaks and the open space is an attempt to bring the coffee break style of interaction to the main auditorium. Lloyd Davis and Johnnie Moore are going to facilitate this session, as open doesn’t mean unstructured. It means that the structure is invisible and far more flexible as the power to determine the topics and lead the discussion falls on the audience. Lloyd and I went to check out the venue, Hilton Metropole today to see if we can arrange the rather formal settings into something a bit more relaxed. I am hoping that we can get the panelists and speakers away from tables, breaking down the division as far as possible. Whilst still fulfilling the purpose of the conference – inform, share knowledge, discuss and further understanding of social media in business [end of a serious business voice]. This is the official blurb:

Examining the impact of wikis, blogs & RSS, this one day forum will combine expert industry insight from leading thinkers in the field of social media technologies with real life case studies.  The programme offers an unrivalled learning experience addressing the following challenges:

  • Choosing the medium - wikis, blogs, RSS – where is the value?
  • The risk and reward of social media
  • How you can communicate and collaborate in your organisation
  • Podcasting as a business tool
  • Understanding social media’s ROI
  • The future of social media and web 2.0 - where’s it all going?

The speakers will be a mixture of old and new, hoping to provide a balance between the bigger picture and the practical applications.

  • Christopher Barger, Blogger-in-Chief, IBM
  • JP Rangaswami, Global CIO, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein
  • Raymond C. Jordan, Vice President, Public Affairs & Corporate Communications, Johnson & Johnson
  • Adriana Cronin Lukas, Partner, Big Blog Company
  • Jeff Clavier, Managing Partner, SoftTech VC
  • Euan Semple, Independent Consultant and ex-Head of Knowledge Management at the BBC
  • Ben Hammersley, Journalist for British Press (The Times, The Guardian and The Observer), and the Author of Content Syndication with RSS
  • Jaap Favier, Vice President, Research Director, Forrester Research
  • Jackie Danicki, Founder, Engagement Alliance
  • Jason Korman, CEO, Stormhoek Wine
  • Alec Muffet, Principal Engineer, Sun Microsystems
  • Lloyd Davis, Perfect Path Consulting, UK
  • Johnnie Moore, Johnniemoore.com
  • Loic Le Meur, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Six Apart, France
  • Ruth Ward, Head of Knowledge Systems and Development, Allen & Overy

The full details of the programme are here. I look forward to seeing you there.

April 18, 2006
Tuesday
Bad news for office Luddites…
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... that is how an FT article about social networking and media in workplace begins. I do not normally link to subscription sources but this article was too good to miss and I’ll quote the bits that make the main points.

The next wave in office productivity, represented by wikis (editable websites), blogs and other social networking technologies, is here. Experts say these tools will transform the way work is done by encouraging new types of collaboration.

This is a point I have been making for some time. It’s difficult to demonstrate the benefits of wikis and blogs (and tagging) to companies who operate on measurement and metrics only. The thing about the whole Web 2.0 (before it became an annoying buzzword) is that you cannot foresee what impact the activity of many individuals will have on the network and its dynamics. Many people doing their own ‘thing’ - blogging, organising events via wikis, uploading photos, bookmarking web pages, aggregating their knowledge, etc, give rise to phenomena that leave most business types scratching their heads, wondering what it all means. Well, it’s the emergent, stupid. Nobody could have predicted or planned or justified something like Wikipedia before it happened. As for business applications, the trick is to provide clear parameters to avoid unacceptable risks.

The article mentions some respectable companies such as Google and Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein as believers in the brave new world of wikis and blogs.

Every Google employee can create a blog and contribute to the company’s internal wikis. Social technologies play an essential role in keeping the creative juices flowing and also help Google keep track of its rapidly growing numbers of ideas, projects and employees.

....

More than 450 DrKW employees have internal blogs and the bank has built an internal wiki with more than 2,000 pages which is used by a quarter of its workforce. After just six months, the traffic on the wiki exceeds that on the entire DrKW intranet.

This is what JP Rangaswami says about his experience with blogs and wikis within DrKW:

We recognised early on that these tools would allow us to collaborate more effectively than existing technologies… Using wikis is much more participative and non-threatening, as people can see what other people have suggested…

And most importantly:

Is blogging a good use of company time? They are going to have these conversations anyway – in the lift, for example – and if the topic is boring, people lose interest. It is self-policing.

Indeed, you won’t get the creativity, collaboration and innovation that most businesses profess to want without letting individual employees assert and reclaim their sense of identity and value. And this cannot happen if you box them in metrics, return and objectives that do not take into account the emergent impact of social media and tools.

Exbrayat: An author’s (posthumous) blog
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The grandfather of my fiancé, Antoine Clarke, was a famous French writer known simply as Exbrayat. He invented the genre of the humorous detective novel and wrote more than 100 books (plus several plays and films), on which his first name, Charles, never appeared. You can read more about him here, at the Exbrayat blog that Antoine and I set up yesterday.

We hope the blog will be something very special for Exbrayat’s fans. We will be adding more never before published family photographs, podcasts, and other goodies for fans as time permits. For Antoine’s mother, who has always been very publicity shy and has refused all interview requests, it’s a genuine case of blogging and social media as DIY PR - actually conversing with the public, bypassing the traditional media owned by others in order to speak directly with the people who really count, on a platform owned by the family. The network that nobody owns is a million times more valuable and useful to the family than any other.

May 5th would have been Exbrayat’s 100th birthday, and we’ll all be heading to France soon for the various Exbrayat centenary celebrations in that country. Antoine and I will be taking photos there for the blog, as well as noting the family’s observations on the events in France. And yes, we’ll be doing it in English. 

April 17, 2006
Monday
Quote to remember
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Social software is the experimental wing of political philsophy, a discipline that doesn’t realize it has an experimental wing. We are literally encoding the principles of freedom of speech and freedom of expression in our tools. We need to have conversations about the explicit goals of what it is that we’re supporting and what we are trying to do, because that conversation matters. Because we have short-term goals and the cliff-face of annoyance comes in quickly when we let users talk to each other. But we also need to get it right in the long term because society needs us to get it right. I think having the language to talk about this is the right place to start.
- Nat’s notes on Tim O’Reily’s blog on Clay Shirky’s talk at ETech.

March 01, 2006
Wednesday
NYC Geek Dinner
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I am organising a NYC geek dinner for 23rd March as the last one was hugely enjoyable (at least for me!). Details are on this wiki, so please sign up, if you are in the area and feel like meeting up.

February 22, 2006
Wednesday
Good things come to those who wait
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Rachel tells the world about the new Guiness Blog.

She gives some interesting background to trying to get a major brand management company to introduce blogs. Thumbs up to the effort, I know it wasn’t easy:

It’s been a long journey from idea to reality for this site; long and varied conversations with the legal teams to ensure that a site would comply with our Marketing Code and allow the brand team to have a conversation with their consumers that would follow the principles in the document.

On a different note, Rachel mentions that she is with her old company for another two week and will be setting out as a freelance project manager. Well, we hope to use her expertise extensively in the immediate future and, in fact, can’t wait. grin

February 15, 2006
Wednesday
I have seen the future and it blogs
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Clive Davis is trying to strike a balance but blogs still come on top in his Times article:

Ultimately, however, I remain optimistic. For one thing, conservative bloggers still tend to be more tolerant of dissent than their left-wing counterparts, many of whom are about as much fun as superannuated members of the Militant Tendency. More importantly, if American bloggers often take a superficial view of Europe (we all sit on street corners begging, apparently) Europeans must take some of the blame. There simply aren’t enough of us out there working the internet. For some reason, the habit still hasn’t fully taken root on this side of the pond. Which means that, unless we rise to the challenge, the stereotypes will only get worse. Pardon my franglais, but the time has come to say “Aux keyboards, citoyens!”

February 05, 2006
Sunday
A few good men and women…
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We are looking for several people who can work with the Big Blog Company. We have been bringing blogging to businesses in the UK for the last two years as a small team of dedicated and by now weathered professional bloggers, who need more bodies to capture the demand coming our way.

Two ‘blogging experts’ i.e. people with considerable blogging experience of their own and with understanding of the blogosphere, with its network and social dimension.

  1. The focus is on communications and interaction as relevant to businesses and their audiences rather than just blogging. We need bloggers who would like to make a living from their experience of running their own blog and interacting with other bloggers. The job is not writing and blogging for clients but demonstrating and explaining the practice and to some extent the theory behind the dynamics of the blogosphere to them and assisting them with applications of that to their businesses.
  2. Technology skills are welcome but people skills are more important. We supply much of the knowledge, so there will be much to take in at the start. The Big Blog Company has extensive experience in promoting blogging in the UK and we have developed several principles that are the core of our expertise. Of course, own input is welcome and an open mind essential.
  3. The ‘blogging experts’ would work on development of new services as well as on particular projects and be integral part of the company. The job comes with a monthly retainer as we will need continuous focus on development and looking after clients. For more specific and clearly defined projects, there will be payment on top of the retainer to be agreed on a case per case basis as we need to have flexibility to price projects strategically rather than be locked to a particular formula.


A few practical conditions for potential candidates:
  • need to be articulate, be able to present and deal with clients (i.e. patient)
  • have their own blog(s), or familiar with running one, for at least a year
  • based in London

We are also looking for two people to work on project by project basis - a code assistant and a supplemental tech/design operative, based anywhere but ideally in London. There is an option of a retainer with flexible pricing for specific projects or straightforward fixed fees/prices, depending on the individual situation and preferences.

The code assistant should be:

  1. Efficient in HTML/XHTML and CSS in order to work out advanced mock-ups that we will provide, understand them quickly and ‘translate’ them into actual code - in the most effective and accurate way (under our guidance and with the help of our specifications of course).
  2. Ideally, we’re looking for somebody who can look at the mock-up, and perceive the most efficient underlying HTML/CSS structure, with as little explanation as possible - although we will provide instructions. However, it will just make things much easier if he/she can look at the mock-up and have a feel for how the code should be structured.
  3. He/she should also be able to manage gracefully - again, with our input if needed and under our supervision - the slight inevitable differences that exist between the graphical mock-up and the final display in the browser(s) window, in compliance with the original design. In any case, we will handle and provide each and every graphic element to be part of the design, and we will manage as needed any subsequent editing or addition of graphics all along the development process. Therefore, he/she doesn’t really need to be a Photoshop guru, as we will spare him/her image editing work.
  4. A reasonable understanding of PHP and Javascript, in order to painlessly implement scripting within the (X)HTML code he/she will produce. We’re open to any kind of proposition as far as scripted features and solutions are concerned, but this is not something he/she should have to worry about on a regular basis, as we will provide the said scripts, and the instructions to implement them.
  5. An understanding of the CMS(s) we will be using and coding for. His/her expertise on both points 1 and 2 should be enough for him/her to learn quickly whatever software we are (or will be) using, but any preliminary knowledge of the way most CMS templates are usually structured will be a definite plus.
  6. Flexible enough to adapt and produce code according to our guidelines and conventions (for the most part, we’re following XHTML recommendations: all tags and attributes in lowercase, quotes around attributes’ values, closing tags, etc.).

    Ideally, we would favour somebody who codes ‘by hand’ (the ‘Notepad School’ as opposed to the Dreamweaver one) but ultimately, we’ll leave it to him/her, as far as he/she can provide us with clean and optimized code, that complies with our specifications.

    Having said that, I know that (somewhere between) 80 to 90% of the people out there surf the web with various flavours of Internet Explorer. I have no intention to lecture them, snub them or Javascript-Alert them to change their browser. Consequently, the policy is fairly simple: We stick to the aforementioned standards up to the point where it makes no sense to stick to them, and we expect the same from our code assistant.

    We’re looking for a pragmatic professional with a solid sense of reality and who understands that between ‘standards’ for a happy few percent of users and Word crippled HatcheTML there is a quite wide and acceptable margin of operation.

  7. Any delivered code has to be rigorously and intelligibly commented, as our code assistant shall always keep in mind that somebody may have to (will) work on the code he/she produces in the future, and should be able to do so as painlessly and quickly as possible.

    In the same spirit, strict naming conventions will be used consistently for files, directories/site structure, templates and CSS selectors. We’ll expect him/her to follow them conscientiously.


  8. In a more general way, we’re truly looking for an assistant. He/She will specifically code what we will design, and therefore will only have to care about his/her code.

To that end, he/she will have to work in close collaboration with the Head of the Design Department (of which we have none, the department, not the Head, of course).

We’re also looking for a supplemental Tech/Design operative who should retain most of the requisite aspects for our code assistant, with the following additions and/or differences:

  1. Ideally, we’re looking for somebody who would be able to manage both design and coding aspects of a project, albeit with a stronger emphasis (and expertise) on coding. Let’s say two third web developer, one third web designer. He/she can code (X)HTML/CSS in his/her sleep and is at an advanced level at least in PHP/Javascript (any extra competencies/mastered languages are of course welcome). A strong understanding of the Dark Mysteries of MySQL wouldn’t hurt as well.
  2. On design considerations: It’s definitely okay if he/she is not the Next Big Thing on the art/graphic design field as far as he/she is able to produce good looking, elegant and professional blog/website designs—with our input when or if needed. Maybe not a graphic design pro (remember that’s just one third) but at least an ‘enlightened amateur’.

    On the technical side of graphics, my policy is: When it comes to graphics optimization, broadband doesn’t exist. If we can gain that extra 0.2 Kb on a .gif or a .jpg simply by moving the cursor one notch down while maintaining top visual quality, then go for it. There’s no such thing as a small gain.

  3. Although he/she will regularly answer to both the Design and the Sales department and get their validation all along the development process, he/she should be able to manage the project(s) in a fairly independent way. He/she will have to conceive and design, make structural and aesthetical decisions and create the final product.
  4. Independent doesn’t mean ‘loner’, so he/she should be able to work with the other members of the Design Dept. whenever a project requests it - and in full awareness of #6, par. 2nd and 3rd of course. Ahem.
  5. He she will be a ‘self-maintained cutting edge pro’ in his/her field. Additionally, we do hope he/she’ll never hesitate to share the relevant part of the knowledge he/she’ll gain that way, in order for all of us to move forward and stay ahead of the curve.
  6. Generally speaking, we’re indeed looking for a web developer with a strong emphasis on design, able to work in parallel with other on separate projects.

Want work with us? E-mail adriana at bigblog dot net.

January 03, 2006
Tuesday
Goowy spam faux pas
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This morning I found an email from Dennis Howlett whom I finally got to meet at Les Blogs 2.0 last month, recommending something called goowy as a new email client. The invitation was to set up an account and then let him know what I think. I like Dennis and know he gets involved in interesting ventures, and the way the invite was worded I thought he was somehow involved in this project. Also, as it was an early morning email-check (having gone to be at 3am the night before), I wasn’t thinking about matters too much and proceeded with setting up the email to test it.

First of all, it’s built in Flash, which is pretty but a bit of an overkill to say the least. But perhaps mainstream users like a graphically designed interface, so be it. Not everybody has to be a fan of gmail style simplicity. I moved on.

Secondly, when you sign up, you get to import all your contacts from your main email client. I use gmail and the import was smooth and effortless. Too effortless in fact, as I was clicking through the steps, there was a line at the bottom of the (visible) screen with a box checked, which only flashed before my eyes, as I was clicking ‘continue’. It said ‘send invitation to goowy to your contacts’ or words to that effect. With horror I watched as responses (mostly out of office replies) started piling in into my new shiny inbox. You may say that I should have been more careful about proceeding to the next stage in the set up but you’d be wrong. I was setting up a simple email client, which is something I do all the time, when testing various new applications coming out of the blogosphere.

This is the real killer and the message is - You. Do. NOT. Check. Anything. Intrusive. By. Default. For. The. User!!! I am now incredibly pissed off at goowy for effectively spamming all my contacts. I did send an unhappy email to comments@goowy.com and I know I’ll be watching the fallout from this with growing unease. David appeared on my IM asking about goowy already as he received invitations from two of his contacts. He commiserated while I was fuming, offering the opinion that they don’t deserve to stay in business… And in true blogosphere fashion, he already blogged about it. I second that and may you burn in spam hell, goowy.

And now, what do I do? Send a link to this post to all my contacts? Groan.

cross-posted from Media Influencer

December 27, 2005
Tuesday
Quote to remember
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If Shakespeare had been a weblogger, Romeo would find Juliet after she took poison and would have been so overcome with emotion he would have blogged about finding Juliet dead and would have taken so long that Juliet would have awoken and Romeo wouldn’t have killed himself, and they would have married and had kids and his and her weblogs… and everything.
-Shelley Powers quoted in the Carnival of Capitalists (for the week of December 26, 2005)

December 20, 2005
Tuesday
The dumb, dumber, and dumberest things of 2005
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Robert X. Cringley does his end of the year act when he recognises… all that is twisted and unholy in the world of high tech. Welcome to the third annual GUI Awards, for Greed, Underhandedness, and Imbecility.

I think my favourite winner is the “I’m With Stupid” Award:

… is a tie between Sony BMG Entertainment and First4Internet, which made the CD copy protection technology that turned consumer’s PCs into hackers’ playthings. Even more stupid: Sony BMG issued a “fix” that made things worse. As part of their award, executives from both firms will be locked in a soundproof vault and forced to listen to Celine Dion until their ears bleed.

Other good ones are the “Drop Those PowerPoints and Nobody Gets Hurt” Award goes to Cisco Systems (Profile, Products, Articles).

At last summer’s Black Hat conference, Cisco did everything it could to prevent security consultant Mike Lynn from spilling the beans about holes in its IOS (Internetwork Operating System) software, save for a) putting a ball gag in his mouth, or b) fixing the damned flaws.

and The “We’d Show You, But Then We’d Have to Kill You” Award, which goes to SCO

...which finally submitted evidence in its nearly three-year-old copyright infringement case against IBM (Profile, Products, Articles), but asked the judge to seal the files so only he could see them. I understand the evidence is so terrifying it has been known to drive grown men insane (although not insane enough to hold on to their SCO stock).

Good show although I hope next year won’t have that many contenders. Right, as if.

December 18, 2005
Sunday
Quote to remember
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It’s increasingly difficult to play the stealth game. Too many consumers and bloggers have high-tech surveillance tools at their disposal to out folks that try to trick the system. You can only run away from your reputation for so long in the age of bloggers.
Pete Blackshaw in Blogger Thwarts PriceRitePhoto ID Change

November 28, 2005
Monday
Thanksgiving and US business
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I have been travelling in the US for the last week or so. It has been an interesting time for me as the experience of talking to people in America about what I do is vastly different from doing the same in the UK. To sum up, in the US people tend to first make an effort to understand what I am talking about, then ask how much? and how would you go about it technically? and what’s next? In the UK, it’s more like, hm, that’s fascinating, but… and start coming up with reasons why it’s not going to work or pointing out (correctly) that it’s going to be difficult to get paid for it.

When I set up the Big Blog Company, with Perry and David, I knew that the UK was way behind but saw it as potentially a lot more sophisticated market. With the experience of the last two years of banging the head against the wall and then going to the US, I expect to fall flat on my face any moment, as there is no wall. Go figure.

Yes, things are moving in the UK but, God, could they have been a lot further, if not for the resistance (relative to the US) to new approaches and lack of willingness to pay for knowledge. The Brits are scroungers when it comes to paying for expertise, they like to get things for free under the guise of deciding whether to buy or not. I wonder whether this is why decision making process takes six times longer than anywhere else in the developed world.

I am writing this in the States, about to get on the plane and by the time I get back, I’ll probably eat my own words. I know that there is much creativity in the UK and interesting things are and will be happening in my area of expertise. And the UK is where I have spent two years trying to get things moving, not only for blogging but for its wider applications. It would be rewarding to start seeing some serious impact. 

November 12, 2005
Saturday
Les Blogs 2.0
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For those who haven’t heard yet, there is the second Les Blogs conference planned for 5-6th December in Paris. Organised by Loic Le Meur of Six Apart for very good reasons , it promises to follow up on the concepts and blog geekfest that the first one was. And jolly nice that was.

I will be speaking on a panel about how blogging is affecting corporations together with Philippe Borremans of IBM, Belgium, Georges-Edouard Dias of L’Oreal, France, Michel-Edouard Leclerc, France and Martin Varsavsky of Fon. You can see the full programme here and the conference wiki is also worth a look. I look forward to seeing you there.

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