Is This Future Shock?

musings on how technology is changing my business environment

Archive for the ‘blogging’ Category

Websites, blogs and content management

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Cromarty CG

Please, can we have a website?

How many of us get questions like that?

I did, and the Cromarty Coastguard website was the result.

So, the answer was “Yes”.

Recently, my local Coastguard Team decided they wanted to get a quick team website off the ground. Most of the team are happy with the internet for searching for technical information, they all use email, but they’re not really content providers of any sort.

They seemed astonished when I said that they could have a website, with their own domain name within a day or so. They were then a bit surprised by the number of questions

What’s your website for…

Usually the first thing you should decide.
Are you:

  • providing a service
  • sharing information
  • building your brand with it
  • selling something
  • or just learning HTML/CSS

We wanted an information site, which would highlight the work we do for potential new members, and provide some easy reference material.

Who’s going to manage this?

The idea was, “Oh, the team’ll do it”. I’ve heard this before, so wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to provide content. I’ve offered to help admin things, but I expect the Station Officer will take a lead.

What’s it going to run on?

It’s a tiny wee website; I’m not expecting huge traffic. I expect regular changes as we respond to incidents and do training exercises. I thought I’d better get a content management system(CMS) . I’d heard about Joomla and Drupal… but I’d also read about using WordPress as a CMS. I blog with it, so am familiar with it. I’d been thinking about moving a couple of other hobby sites onto WordPress, so this was an ideal opportunity.

So, our website runs on WordPress.com, with its own domain name. I’ll watch the stats with interest, and see how many members author content for it – and look for any links for other coastguard sites.

From request to up took 2 days; much of which was finding content and getting the domain name up on WordPress.com. I’d certainly use WordPress again for a hobby/small site.

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Written by SteveEllwood

November 25th, 2008 at 10:36 am

Even Demos says allow Facebook at work

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Facebook, Inc.

Image via Wikipedia

In an article on use of social networking sites reported on the BBC, a Demos report states that firms should allow the use of these sites at work.

“Banning Facebook and the like goes against the grain of how people want to interact. Often people are friends with colleagues through these networks and it is how some develop their relationships.”

When even the BBC and Demos are picking up issues @jobsworth was blogging about last year in Facebook and enfranchisement you figure this must be going mainstream.

Now, as long as companies can hold their nerve and not retreat into the comfort zones of “retrench/forbid/ban” – and revert to centralised command & control, maybe some of the innovation at the edges, and the contacts people build will help us get through the recession; if not, at least it will give their people some more human contact and stability in difficult times.

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Written by SteveEllwood

October 29th, 2008 at 9:08 am

Is Yammer really a Twitter in the Enterprise?

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scales

I don’t think it is.

Having seen a posting from @pistachio about Yammer, I wittered on our internal blogging sytem about this – and was astonished and delighted to get a ping from @richarddennison saying there was a BT group on yammer.

I joined it. Nice sign up, requires a corporate address, a confirmatory email is sent to the address. There’s a nice web interface, and a cute little AIR desktop client.

There’s a familiar ability to follow people, see “All” – basically a corporate public timeline, and  an in-built tagging and search facility.

I really quite like it.

But – and there’s always going to be a but – their monetisation model seems to be that you can have a network free; it’ll cost you $1 per person, per month if you want to admin it.

That includes removing people, setting session details, branding. Note, some later experimentation confirms that any member of the network can block another by going to the admin section and saying the user is no longer part of the network. This forces a reconfirmation of the email address; if the blocked individual no longer  has an email address then they won’t get back in. That addressed one of my larger concerns.

I don’t anticipate a huge signup from within BT. Say 100k employees, 2% signed up… that would require $24k a year; and a huge control overhead, given that there’s free signup. As we have people retire, leave for other contracts they’d all need to be excluded.

We have some internal tools, that link to our HR system (so low admin costs for us) which might be easier, though the interface isn’t as fancy.

I’d add that I miss the “broad church” of Twitter. I wish it luck, but I don’t see it taking over my microblogging.  It may, perhaps, give people new to blogging/microblogging a quasi-safe environment to try in. I think if it gets taken up for that we’ll need to remind folk that it isn’t really a controlled environment.

Of course, the easy sign up process means that anyone with a domain could use it. I could set up an Ellwood Family group.  But why wouldn’t I use Twitter instead, where I can choose to follow my family – and whoever else I’m interested in?

Image Credit: action datsun
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Written by SteveEllwood

September 16th, 2008 at 9:36 am

Posted in blogging,Twitter

Personal branding and blogging

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Sherlock Holmes

… or what happened to ShaiDorsai?

Following a personal branding/social media engagement post on Richard’s blog, I thought “Yes, fair, I ought to make it plainer who I am, and take more open ownership of my opinions”.

Another guy whose blog I read (actually, I take an RSS feed but that’s another matter), and whose posts I admire is Chris Brogan. He’s written a whole series of post, including Elements of a Personal Brand:

Build a Destination

This comes first in giving people a way to reach you, to see you, to know what you’re about. In this case, I mean giving people a website (preferably a blog), a phone number, an email account, a twitter account, a LinkedIN profile, and a Facebook profile. At minimum.

Now, I had the last 3 in my name, so it seemed churlish not to provide a recognisable blog and email address…

Get your blog a domain name

Now, I started *this blog* on WordPress.com, as it was easy – but the wordpress.com suffix takes away from my identity…

I use 1and1.co.uk, amongst others, for domain names and I ordered steveellwood.com from there. It’s about £11 a year. Initially, I just had a frame forward to my blog, but then decided I’d rather do it *properly*. I followed the instructions at the WordPress FAQ – after a moment’s hesitation, as you can’t pay for the domain upgrade until you have pointed your domain at the WordPress nameservers. That came at a cost of $10 a year.

Sort out your email

In line with WordPress’s suggestion, I used Google Apps for Your Domain to sort this out, again there are easy Google Mail configuration instructions. [It’s probably easier if you don’t already use GoogleApps – but if you do, you can find your configuration code at https://www.google.com/a/cpanel/YourDomainName/VerifyOwnership]

So, I can now be contacted at my domain, too. Currently I forward mail to another account, but can always find it through Google Apps email.

Why not self-host?

I have another blog (at http://shaidorsai.co.uk) which I self hosted, so I could learn about WordPress, and I may even do that at sometime.

Until then, it’s easy to use WordPress.com, and since *I* own the domain this blog now sits under I could easily point it to a self-host if I want – and WordPress.com makes it easy to export your blog to ease the transition…

Image Credit: gregwake

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Written by SteveEllwood

August 26th, 2008 at 6:56 pm

How personal is your blog?

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How do you blog?

In my blogging, I tend to post about things that interest me from a work perspective, or changes in social networking. I tend to mention domestic matters in passing to set context, or to explain what’s stimulated me to write.

How do you tweet?

I’m a huge fan of Twitter, the widely used micro-blogging tool. You can usually see my latest posts in the right hand side of my blog. I usually answer the question “What are you doing?”. Sometimes it’s about things at work; quite often what I’m doing at home – maybe a concert I’m going to, or what I’m cooking.

Why do you blog?

I blog partly to clarify my understanding of things, partly to record what I’m learning, and partly to learn more – usually from the comments people leave, but also as I am driven to learn more to talk about…

Why do you tweet?

This is a little more complicated. I am a homeworker, and my office surroundings are 4 walls and my email/IM/phone clients. So, no “water-cooler” chats. An internal newsgroup can provide company scuttlebutt, though this is often rather parochial. Twitter gives me a window into the lives of others; not just their working life, but often what they choose to share about themselves.

I feel this gives a more rounded view of them as people, so in the spirit of reciprocity I tweet about my doings.

I don’t feel this is a case of being good to Momma, but I can’t resist the opportunity to link Queen Latifah…

So, I tweet for connectedness.

How does your family feel about this?

Now we come to the nub of the post. I’m interested in your views about this, following some discussions I’ve had within my own family.

“It feels like we’re living in a goldfish bowl” said one.

I’ve said that my twitter feeds are read by probably no more than 150 people maximum, most of whom may share similar types of things; my blogging tends to be non-domestic; and my Facebook is pretty restricted, too.

My mother has a very closed down Facebook – family only; my wife has no online presence to speak of. Neither of them see why I’d want to share anything publicly; I’ve talked about building trust, developing an authentic voice and so on, but they remain unconvinced.

Obviously, family comes first, and so I will twitter less about anything domestic, but I’d welcome suggestions as to how I can best portray why “What are you doing?”  might be of interest to others – and harmless to your family.

Written by SteveEllwood

July 7th, 2008 at 9:42 am

Weighing Contributions and Participation

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stairs

Should we reward participation?

Is adding useable knowledge to your employer useful? Should it be part of your actual job?

If it was part of your job, how would you measure it? Should you?

To save time, I think the right answers are Yes; Yes; Yes; Various ways; Yes

Why ask the question now?

As my interest in Social media and wikis has risen over the last year or so, I’ve watched JP talk about social software in the enterprise (many links), and recently been delighted when my firm started the nascent internal social networking, announced publicly by my colleague Richard Dennison

There’s a fair amount of wiki use within the firm, and I like them – despite my ongoing discussion with another colleague Sandy Blair.

We’ve now got an excellent WordPress instance running internally – I think I accidentally publicly announced that, shortly before the official announcement. I like that too, particularly how easy it is to search. I’m still amused that Sandy ranks first for “Glitter Glue” within BT.

We have had a BTpedia – an enterprise wide information wiki for some time.

It’s a source of some mild pleasure that I’ve contributed 0.25% of the content (including some of the most edited/updated articles) although I’m .00125% of the workforce.

This stuff is really taking off, internally

Why the fuss about job descriptions/measuring etc?

One reason that is suggested for non-participation in wikis/social media is the “not real work” argument. People express concern that their management will think they are slacking if they add to wikis/blogs.

Make adding to corporate knowledge part of people’s jobs, with some sort of weighting to it, and people *may* be more willing to do it

As far as measuring goes, until we move to a more Deming driven organisation, you have to show what and how you contribute. Measuring something about your contributions might provide that.

What should we measure

As is often the case, I’m again somewhat beaten to the point by Richard, who in his excellent recent post says

Leadership will be a combination of willingness to engage and connect, and the value of those engagements and connections to the community of users and to the complete enterprise ecosystem. Leadership won’t be about power but influence. And, value to the ecosystem will be measured in terms of contribution rather than achievement

he then highlights

Everyone in a enterprise ecosystem will need to understand that while every perception/view is equally valid, they are not of equal importance… Importance will be a combination of that inferred by the enterprise (as currently happens) and that inferred by the community (willingness to connect/engage and value of those connections/engagements as measured by the community).

To me, that suggests a combination of

  • objective measure – perhaps a combination of separate views, incoming links, other citations, and maybe number of comments/edits
  • subjective measures – post ranking/karma awards

What do you think should be measured in Enterprise Social Media?

Picture Credit Capt Kodak

Written by SteveEllwood

June 23rd, 2008 at 1:34 pm

Managing the stream of data

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threads on a loom

How do you read all that stuff?

I’m often asked by friends, family and colleagues how I keep track of all the different sorts of things I’m interested in online.

In the past, good bookmarks, aided by social bookmarking like del.icio.us or ma.gnolia were useful to find places… but how to get through all of the content.

Drinking from the firehose

There’s so much good content on the internet that trying to consume all of it is impossible. You can take a sip or two as the river passes by, but how do you get the good bits? There are all sorts of ways to identify them – which will be meat for *another* post – but the key issue is how to get them in front of you.

The best way I have found is using RSS – an initialism which stands for a range of thing – let’s go with Really Simple Syndication.

At its simplest, it’s a way of a site pushing its latest content out in a format that can be captured by an RSS Reader; there are loads of them about.

Lee LeFever has a wonderful explanation of RSS shown here…

What other sort of feeds are there?

I use RSS to track the results of searches – I use summize.com to search twitter – where I am @steveellwood – and the feed (http://summize.com/search.atom?q=%40steveellwood) will produce any mention of me – so I can see if I’ve missed any replies…

I use RSS to track news, blogs, and twitter – you can see some of the things that interest me below… in Sharing Your Reading

RSS Readers

One client I use at work is FeedReader which lets me pick up information about corporate news and activity within my Professional Community. It’s straightforward to use, and if there are private feeds – that can’t be seen outside your corporate network – it’s ideal.

Usually though as I move between a variety of PCs – my home desktop, my work laptop, and my lovely eee PC, I prefer an online reader.

There’s a variety of these, too including NewsGator products, Google Reader and my favourite, NetVibes.

Sharing your reading…

These online readers have the additional benefit that you can share what you think other people might be interested in – for example my public NetVibes universe, or my Google Reader shared items.

Those are my somewhat idiosyncratic choices, but the irrepressible Guy Kawasaki produced the wonderful alltop.com which claims to have “all the top stories covered, all of the time”. You can get updated feeds about just about anything you want there. Sadly, I’m *not* one of the Twitterati – but I do follow some of them!

There’s even RSSmeme which allows you to search shared RSS feeds…

Will you sell RSS?

If you know people that don’t use RSS, do you tell them about it?
Are you an RSS user – and if you are, what do you read with?

Picture Credit janettowbin

Written by SteveEllwood

May 7th, 2008 at 11:09 am

Posted in blogging,Twitter

Tagged with

How to use social media?

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jigsaw imageHow to deal with multiplicity?
I’m deeply puzzled – not that this is at all unusual.
There are lots of social media tools, and many of them link to each other. Like quite a lot of dabblers, I’ve ended up with a mish-mash of updates appearing in varied places. How best to use the wide variety of social media tools at my disposal? I’m coming to the conclusion I need to list and separate what I use – and how.

What do I use?
I’m trying a fair range of things. A fairly full list is below, sorted more or less in frequency of update.

Do I set my location?
Well, yes. Sort of. When I remember.
Largely I use microformats in twitter, as I indicated in Twitter – what it is, and how I use it.
I’ve also used Plazes.
I’m registered with FireEagle but no-one seems to be using that.

How do I update these?
On the web interfaces, often.
For twitter I’ve used and like both snitter and twhirl
For pownce, I’ve used a similar air client.
I’ve updated via voice on phone using Spinvox and by SMS to twitter. I’ve also used ping.fm both on the web and as a WAP client on my mobile.

Where are they aggregated/streamed?
Often, bits are currently fed one to another – meaning that twitter feeds to jaiku, which feeds to Facebook, which feeds to friendfeed – which is echoed back to Facebook. Which is cluttered, untidy, and very likely the sign of a grasshopper mind.

I currently have some life streaming services I’m playing with at the moment, friendfeed which though I like the interface doesn’t seem to pick up all that’s going on – and onaswarm which gives a nice feel for what’s happening in my area. I’ve also given soup.io a shot but I haven’t made my mind up about that yet.

Which way am I heading?
I think I’m going to bite the bullet and take out all the inter-tool updates, with the probable exception of twitterfeed which lets people know when I’ve blogged.

Then it’ll be twitter for quick “What I’m doing/thinking”; del.icio.us for those important bookmarks; tumblr for future blogging ideas or GTD Someday/Maybe, Facebook for contacts, flickr for photos.
I’ll – eventually – choose an aggregator, probably friendfeed as it seems to be gaining traction…

Maybe, then, people won’t see the same wibble in 4 places from me – and won’t that be an improvement?

What are you doing?
I’d like to find out what others are doing.
Are you more choosy than me?
Am I a grasshopper bouncing from one thing to another?

Please, let me know your solutions.

Partial Inspiration
This is also the first blog post I’ve tried following Chris Brogan’s guidelines to Writing Effective Blog Posts. How was it for you?

Picture Credit place light – on a a project –

Written by SteveEllwood

April 3rd, 2008 at 4:04 pm

Personal Blogging from within a Corporate?

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It’s no secret that I work for a big corporate, and the PTB are aware that I blog about a range of things that interest me and affect both within and outside work.

My colleague Richard Dennison wrote an interesting post about the risks of blogger/social media interaction from disgruntled employees.

“On the one hand, you invited them to join the conversation in the first place and they’re just expressing their views … on the other, they’re damaging your brand. Leaving them to continue making negative comments feels uncomfortable … leaning on them through their line managers feels like censorship. “

It might show I’m old style, but I reckon that you shouldn’t sledge your employer in public – OK, I’ll make an exception for whistleblowing – when there are avenues for dealing with issues internally. I’m certainly happy to draw attention internally to people who damage the brand of the company that feeds me.

Now, if you feel those avenues aren’t delivering an open, honest and credible response to your people… there’s a nice improvement project to work on.

So, what to do?

First, make it clear what you expect people to do. The BBC have a nice blogging policy

“Personal blogs and websites should not reveal confidential information about the BBC. This might include aspects of BBC policy or details of internal BBC discussions. If in doubt about what might be confidential, staff members should consult their line manager.

Personal blogs and websites should not be used to attack or abuse colleagues.”

Seems pretty fair to me – and incidentally, the BBC explicitly allow staff to blog from work, as do my employers.

Who else has a sane policy? In a reaction to the Civil Serf furore, Tom Watson has come up with some suggested points for Civil Service blogging. Something I’d like see enacted.

Then, accept you are going to get some posts you don’t like … so, you do have hate groups – including employees or not – what to do? Engage where they are? – as Richard says

“Accepted social media ‘wisdom’ says you should engage ‘in the channel in which the comments were made’ to try to turn things around … but do you really want to get into a ‘dialogue’ with a mixture of disgruntled customers and employees?? “

I’d have said “No.” Well, maybe a qualified “No, but…”

…but there has to be an easy way for people to get human interaction. Don’t insist they go through callgate hell. Let’s bite the bullet, and take all the feedback we can get. Let’s really be customer connected.

Sandy Blair in an engaging and typically erudite comment says

“Much better to join the conversation with positive comments (and fix the issues people are raising).”

I know Apple, Verizon, Oracle and Microsoft all have some presence at GetSatisfaction.com. Do you want to do that? A *big* corporate would bring loads of traffic to someone else’s site. Publicity for them and impact on their infrastructure. You’d need loads of folk handling enquiries, and you’d still get posts elsewhere – so perhaps not.So, just do it. Get a group of people on “20% time” to start digging at the issues raised in these individual sites. “My appointment failed…” Why? Sort that and we’ll sort issues for lots more than that individual. So, engage individually, sort root cause, and fix globally – meaning you’ll get more Right First Time.

How do you choose the people who’ll get the 20% time… well, they just volunteered, didn’t they? They saw and raised the problem… let them help to fix it.

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Written by SteveEllwood

March 12th, 2008 at 11:36 am

Posted in blogging

Windows Live Writer

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I’ve played with a variety of clients before, and never found myself hugely committed to any of them. Having noticed a tweet by @dahowlett where he suggested it was the best blog editor on the planet, I’ve decided to give this a try.

If you’re interested, it can be found at the Live services site.

From home, I’m never offline, so it’ll be a while before I try that out.

Written by SteveEllwood

February 18th, 2008 at 6:30 pm

Posted in blogging