SDForum Launches Search SIG With Podcast Search

SDForum, the venerable Silicon Valley technology and networking locus, has launched a special interest group focused exclusively on search. The first get-together will be 14Sept2005 at Yahoo’s (Yahoo!’s?…where’s the style guide for that one?) headquarters in Sunnyvale, CA, and will feature:

(Yahoo! will presumably talk about their audio search capabilities as well.)

According to Jeff Clavier, who will be co-chairing the SIG…

“The purpose of the Search SIG is to offer a communication and collaboration platform to the Search ecosystem: search engines, marketers/advertisers, users and developers. Through a series of monthly events, the SIG will cover a large diversity of topics: from the latest developments in search to the needs of brands and advertisers, through the issues and key learnings of starting, funding, building, and exiting a search company.”

Kudos to SDForum, Jeff, and co-chair Dave McClure for getting this going!

Corporate Blogging, Wikis, RSS All On The Fast Track, Says Gartner

Gartner has published their most recent “Hype Cycle” report, this one covering emerging technologies. The report covers 44 technologies, and prognosticates when they will reach the “plateau of productivity”…that is, mainstream business use and acceptance. Corporate blogging and RSS are flagged as technologies that will take “less than two years” to reach the plateau, with wikis on their tail in the 2-5 year window.

The interesting thing about Gartner’s analysis of all three of these technologies is that all are still positioned as being before the “trough of disillusionment” — that is, the inevitable backlash to their initial hype is yet to come. (n.b. Podcasting’s hype is still on the upswing, according to this, if you can believe it…)

Opinion (mine, not Gartner’s): Of these technologies, RSS is going to be the one that is going to have the greatest challenge slogging through the trough to true mass-market (i.e. not early-adopter) usage. Until there is a truly “zero-training” method of publishing, finding, and subscribing to RSS feeds (which might not even be called RSS feeds in a couple of years), RSS will have a challenge crossing the chasm, to use Geoffrey Moore’s terminology.

(hat tip: Steve Rubel for the initial link. Of course we went out, did some research, and dug a bit deeper to find the details ::poke:: But that’s what we do.)

PRWeek: Podcasts Open New Doors For Customer Relationships

Keith O’Brien gets it right in this article: Podcasting: Podcasts open new doors for customer relationships. Jason Calacanis has a great quote:

“I think it’s a great channel for companies to go direct to the consumer. I love JetBlue, and if they had a travel show that incorporated where it goes, what you can find at its destinations, and travel tips, I would certainly download it. If you’re a Flash designer and could listen to a podcast each week on Flash design produced by Macromedia, that would be of high value, as well. Just like blogs can engage customers in a conversation, [podcasts] can, as well.”

Additionally, although I normally try to avoid The Mouse at all costs, Disney’s Duncan Wardle also makes a good point:

“Say a single mother from San Francisco is thinking of coming to Disneyland. When she’s planning her trip, what if she listened to a podcast of a single mother talking about what’s good and [bad] at Disneyland? Right now, consumers are in the marketing mix, as they should be. There’s a huge change of focus where you will not be marketing at consumers; you will be marketing with them.”

http://www.prweek.com/news/news_story_free.cfm?ID=239677&site=3

(disclosure: I was interviewed for the article)

All About DELL – The Social Customer Manifesto Podcast 7JUL2005

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Welcome iTunes subscribers! Today’s conversation topics include thoughts on Dell’s current customer service and support woes, news on the shuttering of a portion of Dell’s online customer community, and (unrelated to Dell) some upcoming conferences where I hope we can get together in person.

Dell “support” stories

The original Jeff Jarvis post: Dell Hell (more here, here, here, here, here, etc.)
Steve Rubel’s post (with the now-infamous “A-lister” comment)
Technorati tracking
Blogpulse tracking
Blog Business Summit is running a Dell ClueWatch
Forbes: Dell Slashing Customer Service [Costs]
Jory puts Dell on the CSL

Motherboard Chronicles (brilliant writing, in 7 parts…highly recommended)

Dell to terminate their Community Forums tomorrow, July 8

Dell Customer Support Forum (link likely to be inactive after 8JUL2005)

SocialCustomer: I may have missed this in another thread, but has Dell given a reason *why* they are shuttering the non-technical customer service boards?

rickmktg: No reason was stated. One can conclude that Dell continues it’s business focus combined with reducing its expenses. The moderators were expenses. The support and help they gave wasn’t measured, and therefore to the big corporation has no value. And with the India support willing to take the calls real cheap and recommend formatting for every solution, all is well in the Dell corporate world…

Why is Dell killing the forums, after being open for years?

Let’s go straight to Dell and ask, shall we?

Welcome to Dell Chat. Please wait for an available agent. You will be notified when your chat is accepted by an agent.

The session has been accepted.

{Pooja 12:29:21 PM} Thank you for contacting Dell Customer Care chat. My name is Pooja, how may I assist you today?

{CFC 12:29:58 PM} Hi. I noticed that it appears the Dell Customer Service forums are being retired tomorrow. I was wondering why?

{Pooja 12:30:46 PM} Please give me a moment to review your question.

{Pooja 12:32:54 PM} Christopher, as of now there is no information in this regard.

{CFC 12:33:18 PM} Any idea of who within Dell might have the answer?

{Pooja 12:33:27 PM} May I know from where did you get this information?

{CFC 12:33:53 PM} Sure. Let me find the URL.

{Pooja 12:34:10 PM} All right Christopher.

{CFC 12:34:21 PM} link

{CFC 12:34:38 PM} “The Customer Service boards on the Dell Community Forum will be retiring at 3:30pm this Friday, July 8th. Customer Service FAQs will still be available to help answer your questions. If you need further assistance, you may contact our customer service team via Chat or e-mail for any non-technical issue you may have.
Thank you.”

{Pooja 12:36:08 PM} Christopher, I did go through the URL you provided me. Please allow me 4-5 minutes so that I can provide you with further information in this regard.

{CFC 12:36:39 PM} Thank you. I’ll wait.

{Pooja 12:41:02 PM} Thank you for your time.

{Pooja 12:41:55 PM} Christopher, we are closing the Customer Service boards on the Dell Community Forum for the time being as there certain updates which needs to be taken care of.

{CFC 12:42:31 PM} I see. When are they expected to be available again?

{Pooja 12:42:41 PM} Once the board starts the function again their would be a notification on the web site.

{CFC 12:42:59 PM} Do you have a list of the updates that are being made?

{Pooja 12:43:25 PM} No Christopher.

{CFC 12:43:38 PM} Ok. Thank you for your help.

{Pooja 12:43:40 PM} Meanwhile, you may contact our customer service team via Chat or e-mail for any non-technical issue you may have.

{Pooja 12:43:45 PM} You are welcome.

In Other News: Upcoming Conferences

AlwaysOn (July 19-21, Palo Alto CA)
BlogHer (July 30, Santa Clara CA)
GO! (Sept. 18-20, Leesburg VA)

The Social Customer Manifesto Podcast 29JUN2005

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Welcome iTunes subscribers! Today’s conversation topics include thoughts on the new iTunes v. 4.9 release, thoughts on a few business books that are on the radar, and some practical tech about the Mirra internet appliance.

Podcasting:

  • iTunes 4.9 adds podcast support

  • Impact on iPodder, other podcatchers


On the side table:

Just finished The Loyalty Effect, Frederick Reichheld
(again, thanks to Jerry for the rec)

Books in the queue:
All Marketers Are Liars, Seth Godin
(and, as the kids these days say, mad props to Ethan Johnson for sending me a copy for review)
A followup to the boxing match of a couple of weeks back

It’s Not What You Say…It’s What You Do, Laurence Haughton
(thanks, Laurence!)

Internet Marketing e-Book, David Waring
(thanks, David!)


Tech stuff:

Backups, etc…experiences with Mirra

Pros:
Easy to setup
Easy to get multiple machines backed up

Neutrals:
Secure Internet-based access to backups

Cons:
Can’t seem to do remote backups (all machines to back up need to be on same network)

Errata: The sizes of available Mirra boxes are 160, 256, and 400GB, not MB, as mistakenly stated in the podcast. D’oh.

Internal, External Business Conversations

Hugh writes a great post about why business blogs can help organizations improve customer connections. (Updated to later illustrate that the concept is relevant in intra-organizational discussions as well.) The metaphor is that there is a membrane that surrounds every organization, and that membrane impedes real information flow and, with it, learning. The nugget:

Hugh: “The more porous your membrane (“x”), the easier it is for the internal conversation to inform the external conversation, and vice versa.”

In other words, if there is alignment, or “equilibrium,” between what’s happening inside the organization and what’s happening in the customer base, both sets of stakeholders will be better off. Customers will be getting what they want, and organizations will have happy customers. And, presumably, reasonable profits.

This triggered four thoughts:

  • The theory above sounds a lot like this.

  • For this to work, it can’t just be “conversation,” it has be the RIGHT conversation.
  • There is a flow to this. Flow 1 is “out to in.”
  • There is a second flow to this. Flow 2 is “in to out.”

So, first off, this sounds a lot like thermodynamics. I had to go look up the thermo stuff to put this post together, and then it made my head hurt (again, like it did mumblysomethingsomething years ago, the first time I saw it in school), so I closed that page quickly. But, I think a way to characterize this model is through paraphrasing that law into something like this:

“Insight spontaneously disperses from being localized to becoming spread out if it is not hindered.”

Insight is good. Knowledge is good. Knowledge of real customer needs can help an organization do the right thing for the market. Knowledge of what a supplier is doing can help a customer make better decisions.

Another way of putting this…communication in this way changes the game from being zero-sum to being collaborative. Things tend toward zero-sum when information is withheld, and power and manipulation come into play. This changes that.

Moving onto the second point above, the idea of “conversation” needs some clarity. We’ve come to use the word “conversation” as shorthand for “folks who ‘get it,’ and want to work collaboratively, and want to share information, etc.” However, all conversations are not the same. More importantly, all conversations are not equal.

For this model to work, some conversational structure may need to be in place. If customers are clamoring for something (let’s say, a fad-ish feature in a product that may have long-term detrimental effects), the company can react in two ways. In the first case, the company can listen to those customers blindly, and deliver exactly what they want. In the second case, the company could try to explain some of the shortcomings of following that approach, and try to reach a middle ground where both parties agree, that results in a longer-term positive outcome for both sides.

Both cases reach equilibrium, but they are certainly not equal conversations.

Which brings us to points three and four above, the flows. There will be an increasingly strong “out-to-in” flow if a company is not meeting the current needs of its customers. If there is a flood of feedback going across that membrane from out-to-in, and nothing is being done about it, there is a sure bet that at some point in the future that organization will be in trouble. However, if that out-to-in flow is moderate and steady and is responded to with an equal in-to-out flow of information about how the company is responding, you can bet the company is marching ahead in step with where its customers are going.

The “in-to-out” flow, on the other hand, is a quite interesting one. Assuming the in-to-out flow is information-rich (and not a flood of the same-ol’-B.S.), the company is providing some insight and novel ideas to the marketplace. This is good. However, similar to the example above, if this flow gets too strong, the company may be outrunning its customers, and providing products or services that require change the market can’t yet absorb or isn’t ready for yet (see the Apple Newton for an example). In this case, the company should take a step back and perhaps slow down a notch and listen to what’s coming back in from the outside.

Food for thought.

Others commenting on this:

Lee LeFever
BlogSpotting (Heather Green)
Fredrik Wackå
Scoble

Business Podcasting As A Competitive Intelligence Tool

The fine folks over at B2BMarketingTrends were kind enough to ask me to contribute to an article on the business uses of podcasting. In particular, they were interested in an answer to the question “How can podcasting be used to enable customer-facing personnel to stay abreast of what’s going on with competitors and to provide market intelligence?” The full article is here.

The four most salient points:

  • Podcasting delivers the information to users automatically, typically via a combination technology called RSS (for “Really Simple Syndication”). It is a simple program that regularly checks to see if any updated information is available. The user’s device automatically downloads this competitive information when it becomes available. This is in marked contrast to a “competitive intelligent intranet” that you must check regularly and navigate for updates, or a process that requires an individual to locate, print, and organize electronic or paper documents or e-mail messages.
  • The flip side of this is that individual users can choose to “subscribe” to only the particular podcasts within their organization that they deem relevant. So if an individual only wishes to receive information about a particular set of competitors, he/she can easily specify those preferences. With an individual’s attention already stretched thin as a result of e-mail overload (not to mention the problem of unsolicited messages, or spam, and a seemingly endless number of voicemail messages), the ability to receive only relevant, selected podcasts can aid not only in significantly improving productivity but also assist in reducing some of the challenges that information overload causes for sales team members.
  • Competitive intelligence information has an exceedingly short shelf life. Since podcasting ensures updates automatically, a sales team has the assurance of having the “latest and greatest” information that may be available.
  • Podcasts are, by their very definition, portable. But, more importantly, they allow people to “time-shift” to better fit their own schedules. Similar to audiobooks (which, according to National Public Radio, experienced double-digit growth in 2004), you can access competitive intelligence podcasts during a morning commute, on a subway, or while engaged in other activities such as jogging. So instead of needing to carve out time in an already hectic schedule to review and study the latest competitive information, this information can now be accessed whenever it is most appropriate for the individual (and it can be paused, rewound, and replayed as many times as desired).

Link: Listen To Information About Your Competitors…On Your iPod?

What Happens When You Put Kryptonite In A Nalgene Bottle?

Actually, no. I have no friggin’ idea what would happen if one did that, for two primary reasons:

Reason 1: Never tried it
Reason 2: Kryptonite isn’t real

That being said, check out the most recent Community Guy podcast, where Jake McKee, Lee LeFever, and I dissect Kryptonite (the company’s) response to their recent blog-PR fiasco, as well as our take on how internet rumors get spread through the blogosphere (and what a company can do about it).