Links, Links, Links

“Link” is a word we all throw around a lot. A lot. Let’s go to the source on this for a minute (source: answers.com):

noun

  • A unit in a connected series of units: links of sausage; one link in a molecular chain.

  • A unit in a transportation or communications system.
  • A connecting element; a tie or bond: grandparents, our link with the past.
  • An association; a relationship: The Alumnae Association is my link to the school’s present administration.
  • A causal, parallel, or reciprocal relationship; a correlation: Researchers have detected a link between smoking and heart disease.

verb, transitive

  • To connect with or as if with a link: linked the rings to form a chain.

  • (Computer Science.) To make a hypertext link in: linked her webpage to her employer’s homepage.

verb, intransitive

  • To become connected with or as if with a link: The molecules linked to form a polymer.

  • (Computer Science.) To follow a hypertext link: With a click of the mouse, I linked to the company’s website.

Now, those are just some of the definitions that are in current usage. And they are all about connection.

chicago4
(social networking exercise, Chicago, IL, 2005)

When two things are connected, a link joins them. Take some linked items, and join them together, and all of a sudden you have a network. Dave Gray writes:

“Networks form the basis for everything, from the tiniest atom to the entire universe. Understanding networks and how they function may be one of the most important competencies of the knowledge economy.”

I agree with Dave. Which is why from Sunday-Tuesday, like Dave, I’ll also be at MeshForum. It looks like there’ll be a few other folks there, as well:

And many others, too. Here are a few links where you can learn more about MeshForum, register, or even check out the Haystack-based network we’re setting up for the event.

Haystack Updates – April 26, 2006

A bunch of news on the Haystack front. In addition to moving to a new infrastructure provider, have put in a load of new capabilities. The most notable two are:

Profile Permalinks

We realized that, if businesses are going to be using the system to enable customers to find the “right” person to help them from within an organization, organizational representatives need to be as visible as possible. So, in addition to finding individuals via the Haystack tag navigation, profiles are now permalinked and, therefore, discoverable via the big search engines. This also means that you can put a link to your Haystack profile in your email signature, or even link to it from a webpage. Or even from within a blog post.

Example: Permalinks to Dennis Howlett, Denise Ryan and Andrew Taylor.

And check this…the Google visibility rocks.

Private Haystacks

We’ve had a number of customers come to us and say “I love what you’re doing…can we use this just ourselves, and not make the profiles visible?” The answer is now yes. So, Shel Holtz writes the following about “enterprise social networking” behind the firewall.

Shel: “To me, [enterprise social networking] means within the organization. I am convinced that there is tremendous potential in an all-internal social networking platform for large organizations that lets employees get knowledge and information, and make connections, among themselves.”

There you go, Mr. Holtz. Any Haystack administrator can now choose to make his or her Haystack “private,” and only allow visibility to those who are in the network. The Haystack itself doesn’t even show up in the directory. Done. Next?

No, Really. Put The Customer In Charge.

Guy Kawasaki* cranks out a top-10 list on “The Art Of Customer Service.” My favorite of the lot:

Put the customer in control. The best kind of customer service happens when management enables employees to put the customer in control. This require two leaps of faith: first, that management trusts customers not take advantage of the situation; second, that management trust employees with this empowerment. If you can make these leaps, then the quality of your customer service will zoom; if not, there is nothing more frustrating than companies copping the attitude that something is “against company policy.”

The other nine are just as solid.

(By the way, if you want to really put the customer in control, this is a good place to start. Then again, I’m biased.)

* – “His name is synonymous with evangelism as a secular business technique, and motorcycles.” Still one of the best lines in a book jacket biography, ever.

Bill Brantley Groks Haystack

Bill Brantley writes:

“I was first lured to Cerado’s site by their “Web 2.0 or Star Wars Quiz” which challenges you to determine if a term is a Web 2.0 concept or a Star Wars character. Anyway, I clicked on their Haystack link which appears to be a MySpace for business folks. Now, it took me a couple of reads to understand the concept but what I think you do is you register your organization and have members of your organization create profiles. Then you can find other similarly-minded folks in other organizations and voila – instant business networking. Each profile links to the person’s blog (if they have one) and the profiles are tagged which enhances the chances of finding a good match.”

Bill…Yes! (Only thing I’d add to that off-the-cuff is that there are a bunch of other use cases as well.)

Read more here.

Good Intentions

June 2004:If you squint, the situational software angle seems to resemble some research work that was being done ca. 2001 by Accenture and others around ‘intention value networks.’

Why is this relevant now in March 2006? It’s starting to get some legs.

A few key quotes. The words are Doc’s. (The underlines are annotations that I’ve added for context. The links afterwords are things I have added as well, but didn’t want to change the original source, lest something be latter attributed incorrectly.)

Doc: The Intention Economy grows around buyers, not sellers. It leverages the simple fact that buyers are the first source of money, and that they come ready-made. You don’t need advertising to make them.

The Intention Economy is about markets, not marketing. You don’t need marketing to make Intention Markets.

The Intention Economy is built around truly open markets, not a collection of silos. In The Intention Economy, customers don’t have to fly from silo to silo, like a bees from flower to flower, collecting deal info (and unavoidable hype) like so much pollen. In The Intention Economy, the buyer notifies the market of the intent to buy, and sellers compete for the buyer’s purchase. Simple as that.

The Intention Economy is built around more than transactions. Conversations matter. So do relationships. So do reputation, authority and respect. Those virtues, however, are earned by sellers (as well as buyers) and not just “branded” by sellers on the minds of buyers like the symbols of ranchers burned on the hides of cattle.

The Intention Economy is about buyers finding sellers, not sellers finding (or “capturing”) buyers.

Links:
Conversations matter. So do relationships. So do reputation, authority and respect.
The Intention Economy is about buyers finding sellers, not sellers finding (or “capturing”) buyers.

On The Conference Thing: Etech, SXSW, Unconferences and Monocultures

It’s the idea that just keeps on giving. It’s been brought up before. It’ll be brought up again. And this week is going to be an interesting study in contrasts.

“I can’t think of a conference that is more insider, exclusive, obnoxiously rude, insidery (did I say they’re all insiders?) than Etech.”Marc Canter

Over the weekend, was talking to one of the women who was speaking at Etech this week, and she said the following: “Yeah, when they added me to the list, I increased the number of women speakers by 25%.” No way, I thought. Then I checked the Etech speakers list. (The list is also repeated after the jump, for convenience.) Wow. It wasn’t much of an exaggeration. By my rough count, about a dozen female speakers out of about 113 total speakers. A 9:1 ratio. Zoiks.

Why does this matter? Because conferences in this image have no edges to them. They are monocultural.

“But…but…where do we find speakers/participants for our technical conference on x?”

Here are a few dozen speakers. (By the way, to set up this Haystack took all of a couple of hours. The conversation was on Saturday, started putting speakers in on Sunday, and we were ready to rock by mid-day Monday. This thing is fun.) Click on the link above. You want a speaker on Digital Identity? Click on the “Speaker Topics” tag category and choose Digital Identity; you’ll find a bunch. Want a speaker on Product Development? Remix technologies? New Media art? They’re in there. Not sure about the credentials of these folks? Go into their profile, if they have an RSS feed, you’ll see what they’ve been thinking about lately. Want to see where they’ve spoken before? Check the “Past Talks” tag category.

Speakerswikihaystacksnap

Not enough choice for you in that haystack above? Here are a couple of hundred more speakers. No excuses.

I also don’t think it’s just the monoculture thing in conferences that is broken. In fact, I agree with Dave Winer:

“My guess is that if you swapped the people on stage with an equal number chosen at random from the audience, the new panelists would effectively be smarter, because they didn’t have the time to get nervous, to prepare PowerPoint slides, to make lists of things they must remember to say, or have overly grandiose ideas about how much recognition they are getting. In other words, putting someone on stage and telling them they’re boss probably makes them dumber. In any case it surely makes them more boring.” (This is from his unconference essay from earlier this week.)

Now, let’s compare the speakers list at Etech to the speakers list for SXSW. The ratio is utterly different, and improves from 9:1 to about 3:1. Not perfect, but hellaciously better.

Here’s what I propose: next time you choose to invest your time in going to a conference, think about what that investment of time is getting you on the following scales:

Picture_3

(There could be a number of other dimensions on here as well: geographic background, political beliefs, sexual orientation, art vs. tech vs. performance expertise, and so forth.)

Look for the un/conferences with edges. See you in Austin.

[Update]

“I found refuge in the hallways, since the ETech format is highly structured, and the sessions were all jammed.” – Stowe

“I was also surprised — it’s my first ETech — at the depressing ratio of women to men. Perhaps its inevitable that a conference that is constantly referring to its audience as the ‘alpha geeks’ would be so skewed, but it’s still annoying to me.” – Mo’ Stowe

Continue reading

Mmmm…Dogfood. Introducing “Haystack.”

(Please note: Haystack links in this post have been updated since the original posting, in order to point to currently correct sites.)

If you look over to the right, you see the Social Customer Manifesto. It’s all about putting the customer in charge. REALLY putting the customer in charge. So, we’ve built something that lets customers take a significant step, and allows them to explicitly define and state the types of relationships they want with their service providers. Most significantly, this gives a customer the power to navigate profiles of individuals in an organization and choose with whom they want to work, as well the ability to be matched with individuals within the selling organization based on similarity of their backgrounds and interests.

We’re calling it “Haystack.”

What’s been broken with so-called “Customer Relationship Management” systems so far is that, well, they don’t really focus that much on the customer, do they? Under the rubric of “CRM,” there have been three primary classes of systems: sales force automation, customer service and call center automation, and marketing automation. All of these look at the world from the seller’s point of view. And all of them focus on how the vendor can crank more customers through a particular process in a given unit of time. They don’t necessarily help to truly build relationships between individuals. In fact, they are more likely to commodify it.

There has been a considerable amount of research done in this area, and there in an increasing body of data that suggests that building this kind of “enterprise social network” has measurable benefit for both customers and vendors alike. Perhaps the cornerstone of recent work in this area was done by Lichtenthal and Tellefsen, and is called “Toward a Theory of Buyer-Seller Similarity.”

“These findings suggest that internal similarity [perceptions, attitudes, and values] can increase a business buyer’s willingness to trust a salesperson and follow the salesperson’s guidance, and therefore, increase the industrial salesperson’s effectiveness. In contrast, the literature also indicates that, under most circumstances, observable similarity [physical attributes and behavior] will exert a negligible influence on a business buyer’s perceptions or a salesperson’s effectiveness. Thus, the key finding is that it is more important for buyers and sellers to ‘think alike’ than ‘look alike’.”

(n.b. The Lichtenthal and Tellefsen paper has an outstanding reference list that significantly confirms their findings.)

In a nutshell, here’s how Haystack works:


Howitworks_1
(click to enlarge)


In addition to trying this out ourselves, we’re starting to have some great conversations with folks like Collective Intelligence and Seedwiki about how this idea can grow.

Similarly to how Robert Scoble and Shel Israel are developing their book, Naked Conversations, out in the open, we are following a similar path with Haystack. We want customer feedback. We NEED customer feedback. (And we don’t want people to think we suck.)

Why we’re doing this? I think Peppers said it best here:

“Companies are faced with commoditized products. They’re faced with well-informed consumers who are bidding them against the competitors and are less loyal. The only real defense is creating a relationship with customers.”

To date, there just haven’t been tools like this aimed at the enterprise, that take this idea of creating real relationships between individuals and providing a means for customers to explicitly state their case, and determine with whom they want to do business at a real, interpersonal, non-synthetic level. So, we built one.

Naturally, a blog just for feedback about Haystack has been set up, and it is located here: Haystack Feedback Loop

[update] The Cerado Haystack Forum can be found here.

In particular, we’d love thoughts on:

  • Business Feedback

  • Technical Feedback
  • And, of course, (eeek!) bugs

This is going to be fun. Acorns. Oaks.