Monday, December 20, 2010

Amazon acts exactly like a customer-centric org shouldn't

Amazon gets cut a lot of slack by a lot of people. It's held up as a paragon of the web2.0 age - a fabulous disruptor.

Its stated mission is to become the most customer-centric company on Earth.

Sounds wonderful.

But let's get the reality stick out.

Like so many people in a snow-affected UK, I've been let down recently by Amazon.

And when I've tried to email customer services I've found an un-usable form to fill which fails to send unless I complete an 'add your name' field - and there isn't one!!! (I generally use Mozilla Firefox for this - not exactly a rare interface with the internet...)

And when I've called, I've found a 'computer-says-no' attitude among staff - having to demand escalation to more senior people within a short but frustrating period of time.

Customer centric is as customer centric does, my friends; not as it says it does.

I'm an Amazon Prime user. At the moment.

Biggest let down for me has been a delivery of Christmas presents which I ordered to come via the 'First Class' delivery option.

Little did I know (and neither is it clear in the Amazon purchasing process) that when you order 'First Class' from Amazon they get to choose how they are going to send your item to you. I do wonder if trading standards have ever challenged this. Royal Mail ought to have a word, in my  view.

Amazon chose to send me this last package via CityLink. Now, I don't know about you, but for me and most folk I know in the UK, when I select 'First Class' delivery I expect delivery by the Royal Mail. Indeed the very last courier company I want deployed is CityLink because they have a 'local' depot furthest from me. And their website fails to record requests for redeliveries from their customers. And they don't answer the phone. And they close for pick-ups from the depot when the going gets touch. And they don't try to fix their backlogs by going out on Sundays.

No, Amazon, when I request 'First Class' I mean by Royal Mail - because if I'm not in when the the postie tries to deliver there is a depot I can go pick up from about a mile from my home.

So Amazon, I want a 'Not by CityLink (and for other folk not by x, y or z courier) option - at the very least made available to Prime users.

But why am I blogging about this rather than just dropping Amazon some customer feedback?

Well, first because that bloody email form keeps failing for me (I hate email forms with a vengeance, by the way - no record of what I sent and never a clue as to whether they are being picked up or dealt with).

Second because when I went looking for senior Amazon UK folk to make contact with they were, how can I put this, virtually absent from the internet.

The MD, one Brian McBride (you know, the chap who dropped you an email apologising for poor service a week or so ago), is not discoverable on LinkedIn even - let alone on google or any social media. It's alright for you to send your customers an email then Brian - but not to get one back?

You will find a few relevant and pertinent folk for Amazon UK on Linkedin - the Marketing Manager, for example. But their profiles are, for the most part, marked 'private' - not even a name on show.

Guys - you are operating in the exact opposite direction  of your organisation's stated aim. You cannot become customer centric when you don't listen and respond. You certainly can't listen if you don't engage in social media and you hide from contact with your customers.

No one appears to be monitoring and managing response to the deluge of outcry about your services on twitter etc right now. A real shame because there is one hell of a wikifixing opportunity happening for you right now.

You cannot become customer centric when you don't listen and respond.

Seriously, taking online payments and enabling user reviews does not a customer centric organisation make.

Step up - start listening, start responding, open your doors - then you can start leading the way to customer centricity.

In the mean time, feel free to contact me by any means you choose. I will respond.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Bringing the school report into the 21st century

A medical record folder being pulled from the ...Image via WikipediaHow do you monitor your child's educational progress at school? For most of us touch points are few and far between - a parents evening coupled with a report once a term.

There are digital means by which kids get their progress regularly encouraged and monitored - things such as Mathletics for example.

But I think there are greater possibilities to be accessed if we take a more holistic approach.
I'm thinking of your child's school progress updated live and recorded in a personal url shared between you, the child and your teachers.

This borrows heavily from ideas such as the personal url for health records - a place where your healthcare data is recorded and shared with the patient and their doctors; a place where the patients can give rapid and direct feedback to their doctors about what treatment is working, what isn't - and where the anonymised data in aggregate can be used to inform the wider medical community leading to improvements in effectiveness for all.

It is an approach being seriously considered by the UK's national health service, according to Macrowikinomics, for example.

Applied to education, parents could get more direct involvement with the child's progress - be able to identify slow-downs, strenghts and weaknesses and where their input could help most.

And again, in aggregate the data could help inform the wider education community in what works and what doesn't and how to be more effective for all kids - in much closer to real time than we have been used to.

The approach makes data live, useful and change enabling - rather than silo'd and gathering dust on a shelf.
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reflections on my first 20,000 tweets

I just clocked up my 20,000th tweet. A moment perhaps to pause and reflect on what's going on here.

According to twitter I've been tweeting since June 20, 2007 but I'm pretty sure I didn't get serious with it until maybe six months later.

In any event, in the same period I have blogged 763 times. That is, for every blog post since I signed up for twitter, I have tweeted 26.2 times.

I tweet so much that Twournal (which turns your tweets into a book) can't cope. All it'll handle is the last 3200 - which I now make available for download should you so desire.

I suspect the same limitations are imposed on the word cloud I generated of my tweets. But then I guess twitter is all about real time, so what the hey?

The rate of decline in my blog posting is huge. In Jun-Dec 2007 AT (After Twitter) I posted 152 blog posts. 2008 saw a roughly similar rate/month (348 for the year). But in 2009 I posted just 159 times. And this year to this point just 104.

This is partially because Twitter has replaced one of blogging's functions for me; microblogging. In those days of 300-plus posts a year some of the posts would have been a throwaway comment and a link to something I found interesting. Now I do that on Twitter - and I can do that anywhere anytime - something which wasn't available to me on back in the day (though now is through some useful iPhone apps).

Blogging remains very important to me for a number of reasons:

1. Blogs are the least silo'd of all the social media: Anyone can find one of my blog posts. Yes with google now indexing tweets that is becoming more possible for twitter, but the 'real time results' window of opportunity for discovery is small. Anyone can discover my blog posts any time and from any where. This increases my ability to connect.
2. Blogs have longevity. What I post here remains until either I delete it or goes pop. My tweets are gone before you can say "where's my first tweet"? Most tweet recall and compilation services appear only to be able to index the last 3200 tweets you post. Pah - a drop in my trivial ocean!
3. Blogs are your personal url - a home to store and share everything you care about. Neither twitter (with its light weight architecture) or Facebook (with it's silo'd approach) can match them for that. Doc Searls said it best: "Blogs are the single best representation of the sovereign self".
4. Blogs offer more depth and exploration: Most things can be said in just a few words (hence twitter) but not all. Exploration of ideas obviously benefit from interaction but ideas also need a chance to breathe, to wander, to digress. Blogs are good at this.

Tweeting offers something new. We tweet 'the trivial' - the snarky, the wisecrack. Twitter (and trailing along behind Facebook status updates) lowers the technical barrier to publishing what we think - and in its mobile guise particularly - where and when we think it.

For example there are tens of thousands of tweets in the UK every week in which people tell us they are having a drink. I never once wrote a blog post to say I'm having a beer - I've certainly tweeted that I have.

This creates a new value in aggregation - we express our metadata much more readily, systems, brands and orgs can learn from this about what we want, what we don't like, when we want it and where. And all without positing a single question. Market research without the waters muddies by point of view.

People have always said this stuff to their nearest friends 'in the real world'. Now they publish it for all their friends - and for the world to learn from. It's giving orgs the ability to wikifix by gathering realtime expressed metadata that was never available before.

And I'm part of that - moaning about train delays here, download speeds there, reporting on service good and bad - as it is happening to me.

But that's not my motivation for tweeting - at a rate of almost 16 a day - as I'm sure it's not yours.

Neither is it a desire to gain an audience - just as that's not my motivation in blogging.

What motivates me is the desire to connect with people who care about the same stuff I do.

The trivia is there for two key reasons: First to create that connection with someone else having an 'I know what you mean' moment - or someone who has a solution or a step towards it.
Second, it functions as our rather more sophisticated equivalent of picking the nits out of the next monkey's fur - we maintain our social connectedness through small talk - the weather, the pleasure in a cup of coffee, last night's game or even - to my shame - the X Factor.

Small talk is a very very human thing to do. Twitter is a very very human medium. To succeed in it as business or individual you have to take a very very human approach.

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Is it war or just a coincidence?

Cupid's foot, as used by Monty Python's Flying...Image via WikipediaUp and down like the Assyrian Empire... as someone once said in a Monty Python movie.

As the hysteria around wikileaks and talk of an internet war heat up, every time a website isn't accessible for someone somewhere there's a rapid and general assumption that it has been caught in the crossfire.

Before you blame 'anonymous' et al, and try retro-fitting why site A 'had it coming', try a few of the following:

1. Remember that the fact that wikileaks is so high on the issue attention cycle means we're likely to over emphasise the impact and regularity of cyber attacks of the kind that hit Paypal, Mastercard etc.

2. Websites crash all the time. Usually we don't panic or look for a cyber army to blame. We wait a few minutes.

3. Then we use something like which tells us whether it's our problem, or everyone's.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Open Pro-active Customer Service: A Social Media trend for 2011

2011 is going to be the year when making/creating/doing with social media begins to gain the ascendency over messaging/using people as a channel.
And it will be customer service that leads the way.

It's increasingly high on the agenda of many orgs - and many are starting to see the value of engaging in social media to ramp up their levels of service.

Open Pro-active Customer Service delivers both ROI and a powerful reminder of the convergence required. In reality customers don't neatly sort their intended interactions with brands or orgs to fit into your existing silos (eg customer service, PR, direct sales etc).

They never did.

Now that customers have the easy ability to publish their needs, complaints and intentions in real time (not always at you, but always available to you) you can identify the areas of critical convergence, surface issues and act to build better products and services in response.

Open Pro-active Customer Service means:
  • Doing you customer service in public - Good service should be seen to be done. And it's harder to do bad service with an audience (which can always include the boss).
  • Actively seeking out customer feedback eg searching all open conversations.
  • Wikifixing: Creating dataflows to ensure when issues are surfaced they are flowed to the key part of the org for solution.
  • Being Prepared for organisational change as the requirement for new roles and shared cross-departmental responsibilities become clear.

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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Don't blame Twitter for bending to 'the man' - we all know it'll make no difference

If you want an illustration of the fruitlessness, and indeed illusion, of control from the centre, just follow what happens with the whole wikileaks witch hunt as it plays out.

Some of the traditional corporations, legislatures and judiciaries (and more corporate dependent denizens of the web) have rapidly folded to demands from the centre (the US and other Western governments) as that centre lashes out against wikileaks sharing information the centre feels the rest of us have no right to.

I'm not here to argue the rights or wrongs of that, by the way, many others follow the intricacies more closely and are better able to comment on that than I.

What I do know is that when Mastercard, Paypal and even Amazon pull the plug on wikileaks you know it is because they have come under pressure from the centre. And that's hard to resist when you rely on the corporate norm for your paycheck.

Tonight the ante was raised as Twitter started suspending accounts and - remarkably - removed wikileaks from the trending topics.

Suddenly those for freedom feel even the open web and its uberlords are cowtowing.

Panic not. And don't blame Twitter, Facebook or any other pressured party.

I'm pretty damn sure the guys at Twitter et al are wise enough to the self organising nature of the internet to know that a blockage here and a restriction there is soon worked around. Intelligent networks have ways of reforming.

The internet was developed to survive nuclear war. I'm sure it'll survive the best efforts of even the most zealous of politicians.

Central control is not an option. Never was.

So if the guys at Twitter or elsewhere throw the hapless politicos a sop here and there - don't blame them. They'll be doing it with fingers crossed behind their back and in the full knowledge that it'll make little difference in the very near term - that the network will reorganise and self-organise around whatever restrictions it faces.
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Monday, December 06, 2010

The social media bum steer

There is a fairly straightforward way of understanding how 'to do' social media. It starts with content, leading to conversation, forging connections, enabling collaboration (see left).

Which would be fabulous if the outcome was something other than making some more content. But the bum steer given by naming this stuff social 'media' has led many to conclude this is the virtuous circle they should follow. It goes a bit like this (left). And because of the 'media' bit the focus and majority of effort stays at the top of the circle - in the content and conversation zone: Make entertaining high quality creative ideas - get them to talk about it; Or broadcast using the 'channels' of social media - as we might otherwise describe it. Marketing done to people, not so much with them.

I prefer to introduce a fifth element (a fifth c, as it happens), which moves us away from media and towards creating something more than content: co-creation.

This places the focus on the lower half of the circle - and creates a central hub that emphasises the point of all this conversation and connectedness: to bring us together to do/make something we care about.

Making things together is what the web is for. It's also what the tools and techniques of social media are for.

Making things together because all involved care about the outcome.

I came across an example recently that helps clarify this for me. I'm reading Macrowikinomics currently. Just done the chapter on Universities.

And there is much good research discussed and good thought given to reshaping how Universities could and should function in the networked world.

What struck me as missing, or at least, misaligned, was the focus of the output . The output for education appears to be considered at the micro or individual level - how does student A get a better education? Crudely - how do they get a better CV?

But isn't the output of education a larger, more interdependant networked thing - a global problem solved, a situation improved, an efficiency achieved? Universities/Education could be (self) organised around problem solving/shared issues rather than meeting individuals' specific requirements, for example.

Using this shared output approach can help us understand how best to use the tools and techniques of social media to greatest effect for all the parties in supply chains (or supply webs) - with the intent of creating value for all parties.

Social is rarely about a win for one, more a win for many to share in.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

We have to get over fame before we learn to connect

If you aren't a regular follower of Marketing Week (the UK mag for the Marketing industry) you may have missed my latest leader - published at the end of last week.
I wouldn't want to miss out on the opportunity of making connections - which are frankly more likely here than on the fame-hunting pages of MW so, the column is repeated below...

Does social media satisfy an urge for fame left as a hangover of the broadcast age? An urge we must get over before we achieve connection?

The use of the term social media has done many marketers a dis-service. Actually, it's led them up a garden path to a place where the trees don't quite bear the fruit they may have hoped for.

There are two reasons.
First: including the word 'media' made us believe this was all about communication. It is. But only as a means to an end.
The second: the hangover of our mass communication era concepts of fame.

The latter assumes people are broadcasting in social networks (etc). Those who believe that will point to the idea that when we use (eg) Twitter we are shouting out into the ether in order to acquire an audience.

And that would be the case if this was a broadcast model - an example of one to many.

But it isn't.

It's many to many. When we tweet (or express metadata - stuff about ourselves, our lives, our issues and concerns) we are not seeking an audience, we are seeking connections.

It's an important distinction.

I'm not saying that there aren't plenty of people seeking their little bit of fame through the use of the tools of social media. There are.

What I am saying is that they misunderstand the true value of a network over a broadcast model - that a network brings you connections.
And it's time we all got over that fame thing.

Unless we do, marketers will continue to make the mistake of seeking to gather audience when what they actually want - and need - is connection.

A recent example? I received an email from someone in the industry begging me to 'like' one of his clients facebook pages. If it acquired a certain (big) number of likes then the client would give a (big) cheque to Children In Need. Each like (should the target be reached) would have cost the client £2.50. That's a reasonable cost per acquisition I suppose - If you think audience has value.

The reality is if I 'like' your page only because I want to help a third party (in this case Children In Need) or for any other reason than genuine shared purpose/belief, then my eyes and ears are closed to you.

£2.50 down the drain.

A community without connection is just an audience with its eyes and ears shut.

Connection discovers and brings together people who care about the same things and gives the opportunity to do something about them together.

Connection means we join together to make things - products, services, co-created campaigns.

Social Media is more about connection and less about communication than is too often assumed. Letting go of our old world concepts of fame and audience reveals the real ROI of the web: A place for making with others - not taking from or broadcasting through.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Why I love Twitter's 'People Similar To You' feature

I've only just noticed a Twitter feature which I think is a very healthy development: People Similar To You.
Click through to your twitter profile page and you'll find a small collection of people Twitter has run an algorithm against and decided are people 'similar to you'.
On further investigastion I find it's been trialled quietly since the summer - but only with limited numbers of users. Please check and let me know if you are seeing it on your profile?
If I had to stab a wild guess I'd say it was using similar matching technology as found in @MrTweet - which always had a pretty good hit rate for me.
I have to say the first four 'People Similar to You' delivered to me (and it was just four on the evening of November 25, 2010) were all people I'm comfortable with being described as 'similar to'.

Whether or not the others are we shall see. I'll tweet them all to ask for thoughts shortly...

In the meantime - I really like this development. I like it because it suggests Twitter is taking much more seriously our interest in people very similar to us (not just who, for example, use the term social media marketing from time to time - clogging up the twitter arteries with 'internet marketer' spam).

I've never thought much of Twitter trends. They reveal only the lowest common denominator and smack of a broadcast approach being layered on to a seriously adhoc network play.

Which is why I shouted out for Trends Among Friends - revealing what is important among my friends seems more valuable to me.

People Similar To Me seems like exactly the kind of building block that can make Trends Among Friends work.

While I'm really not too fussed about how appalling Gillian McKeith has been on this evening's I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here (ITV 1 in the UK) I am concerned about the metadata being expressed by Tamara, Tony, Neil and Mark.

It could prove to be another wonderful way in which twitter enables us to discover people who care about the same things we do, right now.

And if they are wise they will use this not to message us, but to bring us together to help add value to the thing we care about through intelligent and scalable co-creation.

I have my fingers crossed for it. Though I will note, because I expect others so to do, Twitter will be wise to throw in a little serendipity. The role of the publisher is often to introduce us to things we didn't know we needed to know. The risk of a sealed silo of similarity  is clear and one I'd expect any org with the clear understanding of group forming network theory that twitter appears to have to be very careful to avoid.

I mean, it doesn't want to be Facebook, now does it?

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Revolution requires Government thinking that understands the web

I'm not sure Martha Lane Fox's latest report is calling for anything like a 'revolution' - as the headlines are screaming.

The Government's 'digital champion' is calling on the Government to sharpen up its online processing of our needs. In other words to do better channel management.

That's no revolution. That's what those in Government have been trying to achieve for some long time. They know it costs less to deal with an individual online than it does by phone or - God forbid! - face to face.

It's all about reducing the cost of transacting with the public. In other words, applying old principles of service delivery (one to many; from the centre to the edge) to the network tool set that is the web. Sure. Do it better. But incremental improvement does not a revolution make.

The real revolution would be for the Government to understand the value it can derive by connecting people to make what they need together - like our example for turning digital dole queues into a breeding ground for new businesses.

It's time we adjusted our thinking away from driving people online to deliver services more cheaply and instead use the advantages of online to develop new models in keeping with the network. Ones that make better services with less waste and deliver new services with those who need them. And everyone can join in that revolution.

And with my work hat on; here's my response to Sir Tim Berners-Lee's discussion of the way uber silos are threatening the web and our ability to create value with it: A wake up call for Open business
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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The end of the age of significance - how we'll create our own cultures

The Mona Lisa (or La Joconde, La Gioconda).Image via WikipediaI was just listening to a quite marvellous piece of music by Brian Eno. I won't tell you what - it's likely not relevant.

(Just because you place a little trust in my musings about social (etc) doesn't mean you trust my musical judgement - and unless we are connected on a music sharing service, why should you?)

Whatever the case, most commentators on popular music would acknowledge Brian Eno has contributed works 'of significance'.

In a similar though perhaps clearer way, Leonardo's Mona Lisa is - whether you like or loathe it - acknowledged as a work of significance.

There is something uplifting and unifying in the idea that a piece of music, art, work of literature or person is of such significance that it is afforded near universal value by the majority of humanity.

But this is challenged by this networked age of ours - an age equipped with the tools to surface and scale relevance.

To understand the shifting sands of 'Significance' we must take a step back and explore how Significance has been acquired.

The Mona Lisa has been surfaced as significant by the machines of mass media and production.
Centrally contrived notions of what makes good art, who is a fine artist etc have been codified in the universities and art colleges. Those agreed notions are broadcast through traditional channels – the books from which the next generations of art professionals are taught, the filtering and selection of our iconography sorted to suit the lowest common denominator.

Who and what does Hollywood make movies about. Who and what are most often granted significance by other mass broadcast platforms?

“It’s important because we say it is” is a mantra once (still?) heard in newspaper offices. The centre selects what is of import, what is of significance – repeats and echoes that. The selection is based not on what is validated as important more on what is assumed to match lowest common denominator descriptions of what is important.

The same is true of how we come to select the significant icons of our culture – our shared broadcast, of the many culture.

Which all sounds quite negative. But didn’t it give us a Ghandi for every Cheryl Cole, a Mona Lisa for every ‘Dogs playing poker’?

Yes. But who am I to say thank you for that? I am but one person who happens, on this occasion, to concur with the lowest common denominator view that Ghandi is a wise selection as a person of significance and the Mona Lisa deserves her place in La Louvre.

As we see time and time again, as the long tail extends – as we learn to make use of the tools to scale relevance – the lowest common denominator shrinks until it is no longer the majority. It may retain its place as the single largest group – but it will not dominate.

Indeed the notion of a shared one-size-fits-all culture – particularly confined by and within geographic locations, is challenged by the network – by our ability to scale relevance.

There may be one salvation – a way in which this journey is a not a one-way ticket to nothing of truly iconic significance emerging in our future niche-dominated world; our human nature.

My good friend Mark Earls (author of Herd) would remind us that our inherent desire to be like the monkeys alongside us makes us more willing to accept as majority view. But even that will require us to be exposed to that majority view.

Right now, we are. Twitter trends reveals the single largest groups and we take a peek.
But in a world in which twitter ‘trends among friends’ are the only ones exposed to us, our iconography – our culture and its people, art, music and ideas of significance may come from within small self-forming adhoc groups.

Society, culture, call it what you will seems, to me at least, to be headed on a path away from homogenity – at least as measured within geographic boundaries.
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Friday, November 05, 2010

Social Media as philosophy and other developments in social software...

Lisa Devaney's post on TheWall 'Stop Dumping Social Media On Your PR' seems to have earned me a rash of new Twitter followers (thanks to her very generous inclusion of some of my thoughts).
I'll quote a hefty chunk below - since it's so flattering.

As social media has grown over these last five years, I’ve watched several people really embrace the emergent sector and turn it into a profession. Some of these folks I know are getting the tossed around label of social media “gurus” which makes you wary that what they are offering is a new kind of mysterious snake oil. However, it is time to get to know these experts and take the knowledge they have developed seriously.
David Cushman (@davidcushman) is one of the big thinkers in the social media space, who, following nearly two decades of experience working with emap, set out on his own with passion and enthusiasm, and a spark of genius to devote himself to social media. He is now a managing director at the 90:10 Group, offering the kind of deep thinking counsel client’s need to approach social media. I asked David about his approach to social media and for some tips and tricks that might help PRs and clients get their head around it all.
“Our approach is to think consultancy – to get out of the way as much as possible. We use the tools and techniques of social media to solve business problems – creating new efficiencies by working with the crowd (hence the 90:10 name – 90% of the effort coming from outside the org, 10% inside),” he told me.
“Ultimately this social stuff is, like the web, for making things with people who care about the outcomes – rather than broadcasting messages through.”
David offers this advice in approaching social media:
  • Social media is not a set of tools or channels – it’s a philosophical approach.
  • It is not an innovation in and of itself.
  • The innovation and the true value derives from the application of its tools and techniques to support people in solving problems that matter to them
Five years ago, there wasn’t the kind of choices of experts and agencies available, but now, the social media sector is booming and it is time to call on leaders like Maz or David to take a smart approach to what is proving to be the most important channel of influence between a brand and its public. Reputations are being made and destroyed, sometimes in a matter of days in social media, and to just dump such a crucial responsibility onto overworked account executives is a recipe for disaster."
So thanks very much for that Lisa. And if Lisa thinks I understand the space and have a few reasonably wise things to say about it, then all I can say is, it takes one to know one.
While I'm on big-up-me Friday, I also received a copy of a book today which includes a chapter from myself - based on the presentation I gave at BlogTalk in Cork in 2008. I have John Breslin to thank for my involvement in this project.
The book is titled: Recent Trends and Developments in Social Software.
My chapter is: "Reed's Law and How Multiple Identities Make the Long Tail Just That Little Bit Longer."
It's available on Amazon (Prime and Kindle) but the price is on the scary side (and nothing to do with me - honest). At £40-plus those with a clear academic interest in the area - and a good grasp of the tech - are likeliest to get best value from it.
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Join the team at 90:10

London-based social business consultancy 90:10 Group (UK) is seeking to recruit a new Executive to help us change the world - niche by niche.

The role is a first step on an exciting career path for someone with a passion for the tools and techniques of social media and the desire and ambition to join a vibrant, fast-growing organisation in a sector bursting with innovation and opportunity.

During your first year you'll receive exceptional training and guidance, preparing you for promotion within 12 short months. We recruit into this role with your long term development very much front of mind.

We expect the successful applicant to be capable of becoming a share-holding partner within three short years and a director of their own arm of the business within 5-6. On joining you will have a clear career development path mapped out with rewards and incentives marking the way.

Our career structure is designed to recognise and reward the work and experience our employees gain at 90:10 and give each member of the team more to inspire and aspire to.

The role:
The Executive role functions as the one-year entry point into the 90:10 Group business.

The Location:
Our London office at 88 Kingsway, Holborn.

Function: You will provide vital day-to-day support to the London office and its team while gaining an understanding of how the office / business operates. You will gain hands-on experience in community culture - the 90:10 platform approach to delivering business efficiencies through social technologies and techniques of co-creation.
You will be trained in the best online community auditing/monitoring and data processing tools and techniques with expert leadership. You will also be supported in responding to day-to-day client management issues.
You will be required from time to time (with any necessary training) to update our own web resources, take notes in meetings and support the senior team in a variety of administrative roles.

Essential: Excellent written and communication skills in English. Computer and web literacy. Business and client focus. Excellent eye for detail and accuracy. Must have the right to work in the UK (you will be based at our office in Holborn, London, right next to the tube).

Advantageous: As a multinational, multilingual business, additional languages are a clear advantage as is evidence of effective personal participation in social media. An MBA in Business, BA in Research or Communications OR equivalent working experience will make you stand out, too.

We intend to appoint to this role rapidly - there is work waiting to be done! If you or anyone you know would like to discuss this rare opportunity please email me with your CV, current salary details and availability as soon as you are able.

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Join 10,000 of us and Fix The Web for all

I'm happy to say I have some small involvement in the Fix The Web campaign that is being launched today - and I hope you'll be able to say the same when you've finished reading this.

Fix The Web is a platform for making the web a better place for all of us by making it a better place for disabled users.

To make that seemingly daunting task a do-able one, we're turning to the crowd to join us in identifying where the issues are and in helping by working together to fix them.

The web is a wonderful place but it places obstacles in the way of millions of disabled people. They are being excluded by unfriendly navigation and other poor user experience issues.

Every person lost to the network halves its value. So it's in all our interests to remove the barriers to participation for as many as possible.

To compound the problem for disabled users, it is often difficult to complain about the offending sites. Fix the Web ( offers a quick and easy way to register complaints. AND it introduces a volunteer-led process for those complaints to be reported back to website owners to get them fixed.

And there are big financial incentives for site owners to get them fixed - with £50bn-£60bn of spending power in disabled people's pockets in the UK alone.

With Fix The Web process of reporting an offending url is easily done in under a minute:
Fix the Web is an initiative of Citizens Online a national charity, of which I am a Trustee, which campaigns for internet access for all.

Citizens Online believes disabled people should not be expected to fight for a better web alone. So Fix the Web is recruiting a taskforce of tech-minded volunteers to champion the cause and report problems back to web owners. The project aims to have 10,000 volunteers dealing with 250,000 websites within two years of launch.

You or someone you know can help. So please join in or share - or join in and share.

To offer your technical or other support to Fix the Web visit: Maybe someone would like to offer to design a logo...

And if you can do nothing more than pass this on, please do that.


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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cuts this deep require model change - and a platform approach

There is much talk within UK Government of using digital means to reduce costs. Reducing costs is what this government does. Or at least attempts to.

When the discussion is about the use of digital means the focus is usually on delivery of existing (or reduced) services or benefits - providing a replacement, lower cost customer interface when compared with bricks and mortar offices. (Image courtesy sjsharktank)

Essentially what they are seeking to do is deliver the same old same old at a lower cost. Efficiencies. Hopefully.

But as those with long expertise and experience in business will tell you, the kind of cuts, the kind of savings our current Government is trying to make don't happen without a significant change to the model, too.

So it's time they stopped looking at driving people online to do what they used to do in offices and instead use the advantages of online to develop new models in keeping with the network.

A great example. Fellow Twitter user @siliconglen and I were discussing 'the cuts' this morning when he suggested there should be some kind of site where the 500,000 public sector people who will be put out of work by these cuts could be helped - where they could pool resources and skills.

This is a very different kind of digital thinking than applied by the Government in its channel management focus. This is platform thinking.

Imagine a site where users register their all important meta data - ie their skills, their interests, their location, their resources - where users pitch ideas to each other, aggregating support, pulling together teams with the right key sets and who, thanks to redundancy payments, may even be able to provide seed funding for the idea. Augtomated cross matching could bring together new groups focused around their shared purpose.

Self-organised, self-starting, highly-motivated businesses launched from the ashes of job cuts - perhaps supported with matching funds by the Government for those ideas reaching a critical level of support. People building things they believe in - and which others believe in, too.

Yes, I appreciate there are elements of this model distributed here and there throughout the web. Places where seed investors are matched with entrepreneurs. Places where ideas are pitched and communities vote. Places where people log their interests and skills. Places where their assets are listed.

What may be necessary is a selection of the essential elements and a distillation into one functioning whole. Hell, some of those cast aside in the spending review could probably do the build. People could share skills and retrain each other through it, too.

With a relatively small investment and a grip on the realities of our self-forming future, the Government could inspire a new self-organising style of entrepreneurial business - contributing to the economy, creating new things and new value - matching real needs. Instead of standing by and keeping fingers crossed that the existing private sector will take up the slack - or even watching helplessly as the unemployed become a long term cost.

Of course this would become valuable not just to the 500,000 public sector folk at risk - but also to all those whose jobs may tumble in the cascade around those public services. In fact, any one could join.

That's Big Society, Dave. Writ large
As I've often said, the future isn't digital - it is self-organised.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Why the ASA can't regulate peer to peer

Marketing Week has published a cover story on the ins and outs of the ASA deciding it should have some kind of regulatory jurisdiction over the behaviour of brands using Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.
My comments are included in the piece - which you read in full here.
But here's a link to the blog post I wrote on the subject when the idea was first floated.
An extract:
"You have to ask how they expect the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to police this?
And more importantly, why they think they are better placed to police this than those they seek to protect?
It's another example of the advertising world attempting to place a broadcast, centre-out solution on a peer-to-peer space. You ain't in Kansas any more, Dorothy.
They make the assumption that the act of setting up a page or account and filling it with dishonesty is equal to broadcasting that dishonesty to unsuspecting audiences. Which is to fundamentally misunderstand how distribution happens in social media."
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Monday, October 04, 2010

Singing lessons

If you want to learn how peer-to-peer works; how the absolute dominance of the social self asserts itself; how none of us is cleverer than all of us; about the fluidity of influence and how we distribute knowledge within groups... just go and join in and a good old sing song.

I found myself at a 123 Sing Session (It’s sponsored by Classic FM, I believe – but that’s not how I heard about it...) at my local church on Saturday morning – part of a nationwide effort to get the UK singing more.
Importantly (and influentially for me) this was not an X Factor style individualist approach to singing; it was communal. (Image courtesy Mrs Logic)

I know (as do you) from experience that we enjoy doing things together – from dancing to chanting to singing to learning and playing, we feel better when we do this together not apart; a truth that speaks to the dominance of the social in our lives.

It was this, and the fact my peers were inviting me and attending themselves (friends and family) that got me into a church on a Saturday morning with wife and child.

There were around 25 of us. None of us had ever sung together. Some folks sang in amateur groups. Most of us rarely sang out loud at all. But within 5-10 minutes we were sounding pretty good in four part harmony.
So how did that happen?

Imagine if we took the view that knowledge (indeed messages of any kind) is learned, held and regurgitated by the individual. Each of us would have gone off to learn our part. We’d have done our best to remember our starting note, the timing, the phrasing, the intonations.

And on reunion we’d have delivered a cacophony.

Instead we learned together. None of us learned our own parts in one go. We learned a little. And so did the person next to us, and the person next to them. The musical director didn’t tell each of us which part to remember best. No one listed who should remember each line best, or which phrase of the music best. We self organised and self distributed with nothing spoken.

Yes the musical director gave us the version to copy (he sang it, once or twice) – but each of the four groups learned together. If I couldn’t recall whether the next note was up or down, or when the next word should start or end I didn’t go back to the source (the musical director) to verify. I relied on the distributed learning within the group. I listened to the monkey next to me. And the monkey next to me listened to me.

And we mirrored each other. Nothing spoken. Nothing particularly ‘rational’ even. We self organised an agreed version of ‘the truth’ – in this case the way this piece of singing should sound.

We transmitted the agreed version one to another, adjusting it interaction by interaction – the group agreeing each time through its responses to each interaction what the collective version would become.

Influence shifted moment by moment – those holding the needed-now piece of the puzzle of our distributed knowledge, coming to the fore as required – leading for a moment, falling back when they needed to follow.

In order to perform this task in the allotted time we had a musical director. He ‘knew’ how each piece should sound, and the role each part had in the overall four-part harmony.

He provided the 'purpose' - the common goal we all strove for. But once he had set the framework, his interventions were few and far between. He gave the structure in which the peer to peer interaction happened – a kind of community manager.

That in a very short time we were acting together so cohesively was of course due, in no small part, to the structure. But the most significant drivers were that we are social beasts; we mirror each other’s actions (we are mimics) and we like acting together – we do better together.

The power and value of our ability to distribute knowledge and tasks so intuitively (as in this example, without a word said) is becoming increasingly important as we assess the impact of the web on how we know.

Where once holding a silo of information seemed key to our life success, today our ability to know how and why to access the distributed knowledge we all share is becoming a dominant factor in success both for individuals and for organisations.

And if you ever need a reminder of the truth of that - and our willingness to work together toward a collective goal, go and join in a sing song.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?