Social Platforms and Groups

By | July 1, 2012

Taylor Davidson asks super important, timely questions about social platforms, groups, and membership.

There are many points of success about how social media has enabled groups to form and achieve in ways never possible before: the Arab Spring, Crisis Congress, Reddit, etc. But that’s not the question here; as Clay and David point out, social platforms still have many ways to grow to make membership meaningful. What does the social platform help us do as a group? How does the platform explicitly empower the group and its members? And what kind of an impact does it have on our lives?

via Membership has its Opportunities | Taylor Davidson.

Groups with active memberships are what could distinguish Google+ from Facebook, if it catches on (which is why I haven’t given up on it).

It’s also where social collaboration in the enterprise is already innovating and has to innovate to succeed because, unlike on the open Web, people at companies are explicitly there to solve problems together.

The Collaborative Revolution Is Coming

By | June 28, 2012

What will make that type of interaction between strangers safe and secure, Botsman says, is “reputation capital” — a quantifiable metric that pulls together your reputation, intentions, capabilities and values across a wide variety of communities and marketplaces.

via The Collaborative Revolution Is Coming.

A Comment “On Collaboration”

By | June 6, 2012

I left a comment on JP Rangaswami’s second awesome post this week on social enterprise and social collaboration:

Great post JP, definitely fresh air for this whole exploration, thanks.

The things I would add to your excellent list from my experience with social collaboration at BlackRock are

* leadership
* personal perspective

Leadership, and the deeper DNA of a company set in motion by leadership, sets the tone for how people will even consider using the technology for filtering, subscribing, recognizing and so forth. It is amazing how subtle and powerful the effect of leadership advocacy (or the lack of it) is on collaboration. I am talking about the psychological background the leaders create for collaboration. This is a pure issue of “getting it,” but of course it has many practical implications for priorities, processes, and policies.

And that is why my second item is one’s personal perspective. Some people are individuated enough to actively collaborate if the leadership and culture supports it and be their own truly social node if it doesn’t. These folks do get it and it doesn’t necessarily have to do with their familiarity with social tech. It is more about having something to say and saying it with integrity and creative intent.

This type of person tends to trigger the collaborative gene in others, and you can often watch people popping around the network as the result of their contribution, at least momentarily. Tapping and nurturing this type of perspective seems a necessary part of building a social enterprise, and I would say much more efficient in that everything follows from a social perspective. I’ve watched many people cross that invisible threshold and they do remarkable things.

Look forward to future posts.

Social Collaboration Is 1/2 Culture

By | May 30, 2012

One of the reasons I love social collaboration is because it’s inseparable from culture.

This may sound odd to some, but that’s because they think of social collaboration as simply the software, or maybe the software plus “users,” but it’s actually social software plus real people, and when living, breathing people are involved, so is culture.

Culture is hard to pin down, but in the end it’s what makes cities, events, and groups of people – communities – fun and full of #awesomeness. You can’t not have culture (it’s like social air), but good culture is also more than the day to day. When’s the last time you experienced it? For me, it was last weekend at this casual bonfire at Muir Beach where we had a full sound system set up.

Software for social collab, and I’m most familiar with Jive’s, but it’s also happening at Lithium,, Yammer and others, has evolved to the point where it can capture a full range of human expressions, intentions, and gestures, and that puts the individual, and groups of people, at the very center of the action. In other words, the software is now capable of receiving cultural signals.

So today, it isn’t only the software setting the parameters for what people/groups can do, as useful as that may be. Rather, the culture generated by these people/groups is continually defining, and eventually redefining, what the software does (and this gets even more interesting when machine learning comes into play). Software and culture are evolving together.

The fact that culture is half of social collaboration is extremely good news. It’s what business has been waiting for, something “digital everything” wasn’t ready to deliver. It’s a leap from merely digital to fully social (one that is about social communities getting stuff done not just social networks), and it’s why people who work in this world aren’t just excited about social collaboration as a growth business, they are gaga about it because it’s powering the Big Shift.

What this all means for the practice of social business is still yet to be seen, but the signs are off-the-chart compelling.

Update: No sooner had I published this post than I saw @tdavidson had shared “Thinking About the Big Shift and the Social Enterprise” by @jobsworth, which is very much related to the above.

Why Gamification?

By | May 9, 2012

Nothing is more interesting to me when it comes to social collaboration than the psychological aspect.

For example, if you have a quality piece of information to share, or question to ask, and all you have to do is type a few lines into a comment field and click “Post,” why wouldn’t you?

And yet people come up against this barrier all the time (and it applies to status updates, blogging, creating collaborative documents . . . any type of contribution). This goes deep at the personal level but even deeper when an org’s culture wants people to just “do what they’re told.”

That’s why I get so much delight out of gamification. It’s such an effective way to move past your resistance to contributing what you know (or don’t know).

When I use an app that’s been gamified, like Codecademy, I can feel it tapping into things that motivate me as a human, a bit beneath the level of my mind, things like, as gamification company Bunchball says, “reward, status, achievement, self-expression, competition, and altruism.”

Gamification, in other words, gently but persistently overcomes my perceptions about or experience of punishment, obscurity, failure, lack of self-expression, and so on. Isn’t that powerful when married with the flexibility and interactivity of digital/social/mobile? You know it.

(Below are my current Codecademy badges.)


What Stops Us From Connecting?

By | April 20, 2012

What happens when a single person connects with another person (or, second best, a piece of content) who really inspires them? This is a remarkable thing to experience for yourself or watch happen to somebody else. It creates flow.

What interests me is why people don’t reach out more in social business communities when they have the chance, when it’s all right there for them? What stops us from connecting?


By | April 17, 2012

Time to blog again. The way social business, community, and digital marketing are converging and amplifying one another is too rich to pass up.

Display That Inspires

By | December 27, 2009

This digital ad from Apple on from several days ago, whatever the technology or cost or format, was inspired. Apple was dancing on the page, exploding the meaning of “take-over.” What’s that worth?



(Chris Dixon is right: here comes display advertising, and beyond our expectations if we can reinvent it.)

Yeah, the Big Shift Is On

By | December 3, 2009

Push to pull.

Stocks of knowledge to flows of knowledge.

Transactions to relationships.

Scalable efficiency to scalable peer-to-peer learning.

Paychecks to passion.

Incomes to outcomes.

What is the Big Shift?

Better yet, absorb the Big Shift – the somewhat unnerving and rapid move away from an economy based on transactions to one based on long term trust-based relationships – at today’s awesome opening panel at Supernova 2009.

I’d say grasping the Big Shift and its characteristics is going to be essential, and by grasping I mean deeply internalizing its meaning and movement and measurements, if we’re going to be able to create the businesses and institutions that first sustain us and then allow us to thrive in the next two or three decades.

How could you not be passionate about helping to create this shift? How could you not want to participate in a positive outcome? But to participate, you almost have to grow a new brain, a better skeleton and completely new muscles with some kind of bio-skin, but, if not that, one better at least take on a radically new outlook about what has value – what is value – and what creates it.

On that note, Lang Davison, who authored The 2009 Shift Index along with John Hagel and John Seely Brown, posted on Facebook today that he’s reviewing a proof of their upcoming book, “The Power of Pull” (out in March 2010). I’ll be gettin’ it.


(Watch this panel, yo.)

Marketing Built In

By | October 8, 2009

I met a developer in a coffee shop a couple days ago near 24th and Castro in San Francisco who works for Mozilla and was coding the latest version of Firefox (in C++). It helped that I was flying those colors on that particular day.

We were talking about marketing things on the Web, and she said “the best way to market something is to get people who love it to tell their friends about it.” We all know it, but it was clear to me she knew from experience what she was talking about.

If you should remember one thing when it comes to a healthy diet it’s probably: Sugar is bad for you!

And for Web marketing, that one thing: Create something worth talking about!

Right, right this has always been true. But the Web has brought the thing and the marketing of the thing closer than ever before. You can’t collapse one into the other, but in Web-life 2.5 they are deeply interpenetrating and symbiotic.

The Web is interactive from the core out through its many layers of hardware, software, and interface. And that holds true both between you and your audience and those people and their network. This is why your offering and the sharing of it (marketing) is much more intertwined than before the Web or Web-life 1.0. Interactivity is simply going to be much more integrated into what you make and the way people talk about it.

And that’s why you want to create something worth talking about . . . because marketing is built in.

Singers Amanda Palmer and Matthew Ebel created something worth talking about yesterday when they sang live for us on

In a response to a live song Matthew had just done, Amanda tweeted:


So, I did, and it was completely original, and NOW, and awesome, and now I’m talking about it. You know it when someone has created something worth talking about. Now I want to know even more about them, now I want their music, now I want to tell my friends about them.

The marketing was built into the music, perfectly.


Attention Margins

By | September 21, 2009

Free” isn’t about giving away goods and services for nothing. Let’s not have that false debate. Really, it’s code for “we are now making a full transition to an information economy.”

“Free” makes no sense at all if you’re talking about stuff being exchanged for money. Through this lens or framework, stuff cannot be free (there are only freebies).

It makes perfect sense, though, if the stuff is being exchanged for something more important than money, and that something is attention.

I know, calm down, but let’s get with it.

In the world we’re now in, this young, healthy information economy, attention is more valuable than money, So, there’s little choice, if we want to work in our own best interest and with economic forces, to invest in it, cultivate it.

It works like this. I wanted a great way to send invoices and track time. Soon, I found out about and signed-up for Harvest. Harvest gave me full access to its app for free, forever (the deal is 2 projects, 4 clients, unlimited invoicing for 1 user). Additional projects, clients, and so on require a monthly subscription.

Harvest was so easy to use (not just good, but great) I decided to test it by actually invoicing a client (no demo this). Successfully, beautifully accomplished. As a result, I had real data in the system (a live invoice), which I was able to play with to figure out tracking, my use cases, and collaboration.

Harvest got my attention. And they invested a lot to get it, to get it prior to my money, and to keep it.

The fact is lots and lots of information creates a lot less attention. Or as the economist Herbert Simon put it, attention is consumed by an information-rich environment. Once that happens, it’s gold.

Fine, one might say, but I don’t want to make attention, I want to make money. Sure, do it, and remember two things.

First, the money economy is now a subset of the attention economy. Money isn’t threatened, attention transcends and includes it. The attention economy couldn’t survive without the money economy; it’s the foundation. Money is here to stay.

Second, because money is a subset of attention you’ll generally make less per customer (as a user I’m already paying you with something else, right?), but the number of customers you have, with networks spilling into other networks, will likely be greater, and, the real beauty of it all, your cost of acquiring those customers can be shockingly low.

Craigslist serves as the poster child for this phenomenon: free to most users, 30 employees, $5-10M in costs, 100M in revenue. Now, what kind of capitalist are you if you’re not excited about those efficient margins? No industrial-era company can touch it.

Okay then, let’s not deny, defend, or rail against the attention economy (or, on the other hand, claim it replaces money) – it doesn’t make sense. Customers, like me with Harvest, are ecstatic with the result (and happy to pay with both attention and dollars), and those of us creating the services/products get to be smaller scale and yet radically profitable. Rejoice.

Also see:

The Art of War: Web Style

By | July 27, 2009

Hmm, doing advertising yourself, now that’s a novel idea:

. . . over the last eight years, companies have shifted $65 billion in annual spending away from traditional advertising channels and spent it on “page content, Web analytics, search engine optimization and site design.” Link.

One reaction, if you’re an ad firm morphing into something else, might be to try and get some of that business by adding a little analytics or design to your services. Which is okay.

But the problem with that is (a) it’s not easy to do any of them really well (b) it’s hard to package them all together so that your margin holds and (c) even if you get the first two things right the fees you can charge are always being deflated by the fact that the Web is ultimately a self-serve platform.

A better path (at least simultaneous) is to ask what all the businesses who were spending $65B on advertising, and who are now spending it on advertising of their own creation by ordering up specific services (. . . but $55B next year and $45B the year after that) actually want from that advertising. (What do they want?!)

Then, use everything about the Web that’s breaking your business model now (modular, real time, social, open, micro-transactional) to give it to them. Make it work for you. In other words, don’t chase the customer, surround them with their own reality. That’s the art of war.

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Likes and Loves

By | July 21, 2009

HypeM is attempting something pretty cool. They wondered if it was possible to create a music chart driven by people for people, one that actually represents a diverse set of music and interests.

It’s not that HypeM doesn’t already do a pretty good job of this with their “popular” list of songs marked with big red hearts, those “songs scoring the most favorites on The Hype Machine,” by users like you and me.

But with Twitter, they thought, you could potentially have a music chart generated by anyone who links to a HypeM song, no need to have an account with HypeM.

This took a couple of brilliant decisions on their part. First, they needed to value each Twitter user, which they’ve taken a good shot at with this formula (. . . and already trying to better it by asking for feedback from the math geeks):

round(( 1/3 * (twitter_followers / 10) ^ 0.5 ) * (twitter_followers / twitter_friends) * 10))

The formula weighs individual influence and group influence and puts a ceiling on how much influence one or the other can have. But, the key point is that I have a Twitter score, you have a score, anyone can have a score.

And when you tweet a song that is on HypeM, you and your score are added to a group for that particular song on the Twitter Music Chart. It rises based on the sum of those scores.

Very cool, but HypeM also took another step to make this chart even better, deeper. They used BackType, which aggregates comments from all over the Web, to suck in and interpret all of the tweets out there before using them. The result is that when someone uses a URL shortener (like to link to a HypeM song, BackType recognizes it and includes it in the useful pool of tweets.

Why care about this way of building a music chart? Because what people like, love, and discuss on the open Web, all of those needles in the haystack, needs to be gathered up to create something that didn’t exist when those sentiments existed by themselves. HypeM just gave us a great example of how to do it.



AdWords On $1 A Day

By | July 17, 2009

I’m doing a test campaign in AdWords via Clickable to play with its functionality. My budget is $1/day because right now I care about how Clickable works not the results of the campaign.

But, come to think of it, what can you do for a $1/day?, a micro-budget.

So far, only a handful of people have clicked on my ad and visited this site, but the quality of the traffic ain’t bad at all. Here are a few metrics after two days:

2.23 Pages/Visit

00:02:03 Avg. Time on Site

69.23% Bounce Rate

If people coming from my text ad stay for more than 2 minutes on average, look at more than 2 pages, and only bounce out 69% of the time, I’m going to keep spending that $1, work on creating better ads and putting them in better places . . . then slowly but surely increase my spend.

What’s Around Me?

By | July 16, 2009

Maps. Combining search with maps and reviews is one of the most interesting emerging areas of advertising.

What could be better than being able to identify and pinpoint something I want now, knowing what other people think about it, and where it’s located relative to me. What’s it called?, what’s it like?, and where is it? – the basic components of local business ads.

For instance, what if I wanted a great organic salad in San Francisco? How to get it? You can do a search on Google Maps (e.g., organic salad near San Francisco, CA) or do the same on a service like Yelp.

Yelp had better results in my experience for this particular search and slightly more interesting reviews, but the ones on Google Maps were also good, and it gave me a better sense of where the place was and how I could get there.

More and more I think when people want to discover what’s available around them, they’re going to think, “map,” which online now additionally means peer review and info on proximity. And that’s a pretty cool way to find and be found.


Update: And there I was . . .

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