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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Three Best Things I Learned In 2010

I have been known to ask customers and associates, “What was the best thing you learned?” at regular intervals. Jack Gates asked me what I would post as the best thing I had learned in 2010 as we were setting blogging goals for next year. Here are three.

Many Landing Pages - When I figure out something to add to a landing page like my Google Profile, I should think about adding it others, like the Dick Davies Website. People join the conversation from all over.

Browser Hypnosis – There is no substitute for the incredible bandwidth of face-to-face contact. Not every touch, but often.

Best Practices – Real best practices are either blindingly obvious or they are probably not best practices.

What were the best things you learned in 2010?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Next New Businesses

Entrepreneurs, investors, dreamers, and others spend a lot of time trying to figure out the next new businesses.

Will Rogers said investing was simple. Buy low, sell high. If it doesn’t go up, don’t buy it.

This week I’ve seen several indicators of where profitable businesses are growing, in a stagnant economy with  uncertain capital markets. Filling in existing niches.

The web, especially social media has roughed in some great new service areas. Now is the time to add the supporting services that make them even better.

John Battelle explains why Groupon is such a great idea. Reading the post, I realized there is plenty of room for other offerings that serve the same target market, a rich area for new business.

Edmund Lee in Advertising Age reports about AdKeeper, a new service building off of what we already use. Taming the frontier, making it friendlier for the risk averse, new ways to use what already exists. The Telegraph Road

Little new technology, just making what we have better, faster, cheaper. Seeing what is needed differently. These companies bolster existing, better funded companies, an intelligent acquisition strategy in a poor IPO market.

Do you see a pattern here?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Platform or Conversation?

Bloggers are looking to get their message out. After creating a blog, the repeating tasks become posting new and attracting readers.

There are many platforms that have already attracted the readers you covet. They probably want some content that will satisfy their current readers and attract more readers.

I have watched new managers on previously successful platforms and foundering founders try to enforce their idea of intellectual purity. That usually leads to an empty space except for the suspect webinars and multi-level marketing “opportunities,”and occasionally suspect webinars FOR multi-level marketing “opportunities.”

I have reached the conclusion that anything I write gets more meaning from reader comments. I am often surprised and frequently enlightened by what the readers see.

The big question is, “Do you want to control the platform or the conversation?” You can make some powerful decisions after answering that question.

Your thoughts?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Where’s The Payoff?

Bruce is a longtime friend and a now a blogger on Sales Lab Posts.  He has a unique and useful way of looking at the world, read here, here, and here.

We were celebrating his most recent post, when he said, “You know, I don’t feel anything when I post. When I make a great (tennis) shot or a great sale, I get a rush. With a blog post, I’m mostly glad it’s done.”

I feel the same way. I mostly have questions about whether each post is any good. And maybe I’m relieved I’m closer to my two-a-week goal.

But there are some awesome rewards.

I like it when I see an idea becoming real over successive blog posts.

I like when a post links to good stuff.

I like when I learn something I hadn’t considered before.

I like that I am cultivating some patches of thinking. Going back over time on a blog shows development.

And I like best when someone comments and adds to the knowledge.

Mike Sansone thinks a blog post is like A Taste On A Toothpick. You need a few to make a full meal.

What taste of this did you like best?

Share The Gift Of Knowledge. Please Join Sales Lab At:
Talk Your Business How to make more and better sales right away!
Tuesday, December 7th, 7:30am to 9:00, Intelligent Office, Alexandria
How to Scale Your Organization – When to Build, Borrow, or Buy
Thursday, December 9th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Catch A Meme And You’re Sittin’ On Top Of The World

How does a blogger find a rich vein to write about?

When I was building an open source software company, Dana Blankenhorn, the open source blogger, was my mentor. Time after time he would post something that was exactly what I needed to know.

I read and met people he identified, went to meetings he recommended, and used concepts, resources, and methods he introduced. After the project was over, I sent Dana an email thanking him for being a wonderful guide and teacher. He sent me his latest book.

Dana writes at least a half a dozen blog posts every day on a variety of subjects. I know, because we are linked on Buzz, so I’m happy to get ’em all.

Sometimes his posts are wonderful, enlightening, they move the species forward. Sometimes they are poignant and show truth. Sometimes they are so unbelievably bassackward, my toes curl…and cramp.

What I have noticed is that other readers have different opinions about those same stories. The ones I think are amazing, other commenters think are offensive. Posts that are bitter in my mouth are brilliant in their eyes. Often a comment will take the original post in a whole new direction. Dana just keeps serving up his wares.

And herein lies the story. Dana has just defined a new meme, the energy device revolution. I’m excited I’ll be learning about that. Come join us. I’m sure Dana can get you a great seat.

Your Comments?

Share The Gift Of Knowledge. Please Join Us At:
Talk Your Business How to make more and better sales right away!
Tuesday, December 7th, 7:30am to 9:00, Intelligent Office, Alexandria
How to Scale Your Organization – When to Build, Borrow, or Buy
Thursday, December 9th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville

Monday, November 8, 2010

A History of Internet Search and Google

“Ten years ago, there was no Google, fifteen years ago, there was no search,” begins John Heileman’s 45 minute 3 YouTube videos about the history of search. (Discovery Science) How we got to where we are, the foundation of social media.

I found this through Watch This Documentary: The History of Internet Search and Google blog post by Stephen Chapman, SEO Whistleblower, ZDNet.

What I found useful in each section
Yahoo – manual indexing, categorizing, and curating (when there were 100,000 websites) Initiated banner advertising.
Excite – Crawl the web for the words the user requested. Not mentioning John Battelle’s Database of Intentions  
Initiated  the idea of ads as search results.Selling and presenting ads became the norm for search results, forgot about search.

Google – Their different premise, that links are a recommendation of  website value. Led to a search engine that cared about search again. Started without an idea of how to make money.

Where Google found the idea of their ads. Improved on the idea of selling and providing ads focused on search terms. Features John Battelle.

I really appreciated the video and graphics that played with Heileman’s narrative. Somebody was working hard to make the most of video format. 

Other presentations you might enjoy:
Talk Your Business - How to make more and better sales right away! Wednesday, November 10th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville, and
How to Scale Your Organization - Build, Borrow, or Buy? Thursday, December 9th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Why Websites Suck

Guy Kawasaki has a post reviewing Gerry McGovern's The Stranger’s Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online.

Three useful ideas from Guy's post:

There is always a key task users come to the site to do. That is especially good for me this week, as last weekend I realized most visitors to the Sales Lab site want to know the date and place of our next free show. So I made a new, high priority link in the navigation.

Guy makes the point that internal users often don't know that task, and that is easily observable watching real users. Seen that.

Designers don't see the offer as users do. The traditional first step is collecting all the things we might do. The profitable (and later) process is to find out what the customers want to do, and refine the website so it is easier and easier to do. Redesign means losing your baseline and starting over. Websites get better, not finished.

Internal power plays keep website as billboard. Even as the mind accepts that a good website is a transactional website, the heart says I need placement on our website to make sure I'm not losing anything.

Communication is not "not losing." Communication design is putting something out that wins customers.

When I was selling COBOL, a 50 year old product, at one point I made a conscious decision to change my marketing focus every 60 days, like a cosmetic or other consumer non-durable - “COBOL to the web”, “GUI COBOL”, “Putting Lipstick On The Pig, where COBOL is going and why.” The result was sales increased, but customers were still buying what they needed, not what I was selling. I had mindshare as they were deciding to buy.

So, why do you think websites suck? 

Other presentations you might enjoy:
Talk Your Business - How to make more and better sales right away! Wednesday, November 10th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville, and
How to Scale Your Organization - Build, Borrow, or Buy? Thursday, December 9th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

One Clear Idea - Great Support

I was fortunate to attend Tony Mayo’s wonderful presentation Whole Brain Leadership at the Leadership Breakfast.

His content was superb, and go see his show when you have a chance. You will be changed for the better. Can’t be helped.

The best lesson for me was about his presentation.

He had one very clear idea. Not an easy idea or an especially attractive idea, but one sharp focus. He spent his hour showing the benefit in a variety of ways, mental, intellectual, theoretical, experiential, physical, heroic, and humorous. Whatever way anyone in the audience needed to learn it, Tony was providing.

Many presentations, even when they are over, I’m not clear what the presenter wanted me to know. Often, the whole presentation has a subtext that this ain’t gonna work. They have one path for presentation and often generate more heat than light.

Tony Mayo wanted everyone to believe, so he cut his idea to a bare minimum, and then did everything he could to make it bright and wonderful. Works.

Monday, October 25, 2010


This weekend we went to a function at a resort. In our room was a next-generation, multi-blade razor.

The package was a nifty travel case, there were several coupons for more blades and special smell’um. This was the marketing that made Gillette King! I was enjoying the care some marketer had taken to get me to switch products, and looking forward to trying the new technology.

The next day I tried to use the razor. It had all the finesse of a towed array. I pushed it, I pulled it, I bent it, no matter what I did, it couldn’t get a clean shave. Forget the burns and the nose, a man could lose a finger.

Later I started wondering, how did such a poorly designed product get such high quality marketing? At some point, didn’t the marketing guy go to the team and say, “I can’t shave with this thing. What can we do?”

What would a responsible team lead do when he finds out the product isn’t competitive?

Is there such a thing as a team lead who doesn’t have experience with the product?

What is your responsibility to the investors when you find yourself in a boondoggle?

What do you when your project isn’t right?

Please join us for:
Talk Your Business - How to make more and better sales right away! Wednesday, November 10th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville, and
How to Scale Your Organization - Build, Borrow, or Buy? Thursday, December 9th, 7:15am to 8:30, Intelligent Office, Rockville 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A graphic guide to Facebook profile photos

A graphic guide to Facebook profile photos, which includes a portrait-interpretation key (Fast Company)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cancering - Better Thinking

Learning from history, I am often enlightened by how redefining a problem can lead to a relatively easy solution...even after years and years of fruitless work.

John Battelle, a social media pioneer, pointed to an article redefining how we can think of cancer, featuring Danny Hillis, who has previously figured out some important things, like how to do parallel processing to extend the power of computers.

Read Cancering and be glad.

Comments welcome.

Talk Your Business coming October 4th at 40 Plus!

Friday, September 17, 2010

McCaw Values

On the LinkedIn McCaw Alumni group, Viki Andino asked for the McCaw Values from the wallet card. Jan Albert and over a dozen others responded.

Choked me up. Took me back to the Huey delivering the cell site on Mt. Tamalpais. Those values are still worth keeping today.

Best use of LinkedIn Groups I've seen. Too good to keep inside the group. Thanks!

Our goal is to establish our company as the premier convenience communications1 company in the world. To do this, we must earn the continuing loyalty of customers by providing them with network service systems which they acknowledge to be of superior value in a way which is profitable to us, thus creating long-term rewards for our shareholders and employees.

Therefore, we will:

 1. Hire and develop great people (it's  the most important thing we do). Decentralize  and empower them to make decisions, but  balance this to take advantage of our strengths.

 2. Stay close to our customers. Listen  to them and care for them beyond their expectations.

 3. Provide superior network service systems of the best quality, as defined by the  customer.

 4. Pursue excellence in all we do. It helps  make customers happy and gives real meaning  to life.

 5. Keep it simple. Focus on results (satisfying  customers), not on form (administrative processes).  This will be especially important as we grow.

 6. Run lean (but spend wisely to achieve our  goals and values).

 7. Be humble. It helps keep an open mind, a  caring attitude, and respect for others.

 8. Be a team player. Teams are more  powerful than individuals.

 9. Employ good judgment. It makes  empowerment work.

 10. Keep our promises. It builds precious credibility.

 11. Consider the future (with an eye on the  customer). Be flexible and open to new ideas  and change. Be respectfully irreverent, questioning established ways, the "impossible," and  things that conflict with our goals and values.

 By doing the above, we commit to becoming the world's premier convenience communications: company.


"Talk Your Business" coming October 4th at 40 Plus!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


If the right 20% effort gets you 80% of the result, what does 80% effort get you?

If it’s a piece of metal twisted back and forth, you can get two pieces, disassembled.

If you are navigating a big enough ship into a wharf, you can get a mobile wharf…just before beachfront parking.

I am reading that if your immune system doesn’t have enough real work, it can over-optimize your body, creating auto-immune diseases.

And as Dan Hurley chronicles, the cure could be eating some parasite eggs to stop the over-optimizing and give your immune system something real to work on. 

Two under-appreciated metrics of  project communication are How Much? and When?

Please leave comments of your best over-optimization experience.

Our next programs are Wednesday, September 15th, How To Get More Value From Your Existing Resources, Mount Vernon – Lee Chamber of Commerce - Alexandria, Virginia, and Thursday September 16th, Championship Leadership in Resource Constrained Markets, Intelligent Office - Rockville, Maryland. Details and reservations at

Friday, August 20, 2010

Creative Solution

Will Marshall of Marshall Strategic Marketing  has been getting some spectacular results for his clients. We were talking about how that happens and I realized he is doing something I learned about 30 years ago, finding the Creative Solution.

It’s difficult to positively define the creative solution. I get irritated when I am looking for one. I know what I want and it’s aggravating I don’t already have it. It can take days, weeks, or months, when I am sorting through information defining the best way to proceed.

The negative definition of creative solution is quite common. I collect them.

Ted Long, the former mayor of San Bruno, California said, “No matter how hard you try the wrong thing it never quite works.”

Tony Byrne of The Real Story Group once told me, “Never buy software that is too sophisticated for your organization to maintain.”

The positive definition is a little harder, and it is found across industries.

In the construction trades, a high accolade for one who consistently gets the creative solution is, “He is a ‘mechanic.’” Bob Harold observed that a young industrial plumber will wear out three pairs of boots a year. A mechanic wears out a pair of boots every three years and gets more done every day before lunch than his younger counterpart does all day.

Anon variously said, “One good programmer can do the work of five, a hundred, a thousand programmers.” What I see is many programmers spend their morning tearing up what they did the previous afternoon. Also called one step forward and two steps back.

Clay Christensen told me that a hospital has three businesses, diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing care. When initial diagnosis is wrong, the chance of successful conclusion is greatly reduced, costs soar.

On the Architecture/Design/Execution/Evaluation model the creative solution is not any one of the stages. It occurs before that process starts and at each stage.

I find project management professionals are consumed with running efficient projects with wildly varying results. I would rather have a slipshod effort aimed at the right target than an immaculate execution going the wrong way. Starting with a creative solution is easier to fix.

Please share your experience with “creative solution” below.

Noon, Thursday, September 15th, we are offering a free presentation of How To Get More Value From Your Existing Resources , Mount Vernon – Lee Chamber, Alexandria, Virginia.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

1987 Grace Hopper Interview

Robert Collins of It's A Cobol World sent a 1987 Grace Hopper interview 

Robert sent:
I just spent the last bit reading an interview with Grace.

There are some gems in the interview which have nothing to do with COBOL.

Her approach to management, sales, leadership, etc. come through quite well in the text. (And is quite revealing about government information technology practices, then and now - Dick)

She was even a proponent of distributed computing and felt the reason everything ran on a mainframe was that "that was the only box they had".

An interesting read.

Robert Collins
Senior Solution Architect
Micro Focus

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Social Economy

Can I get an “Amen” that the economy is slightly askew? Are you spending time wondering what is going on? Here are some emerging patterns that might help.

Daemon/Freedom™  is one story in two books about our economy if it was based on social rather than economic resources. It’s also a good shoot ’em up. Actually, the action makes the new thinking easier to understand…and makes me realize we are seeing parts of a social economy already.

Hippie 2.0  is a raucous blog, many posts daily from a phalanx of talented writers. I never know what to expect, but I haven’t read anything unimportant since I subscribed.

Which gets me to Social Capital: The Value Game  a recent video on Hippie 2.0 Wow! It’s a 12 minute video that shows the steps to create a social value leveraged economic model. The video is short, and not hard to understand, and it explains many things that I see today.

Doc Searls  one of the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto, the book that predicted and then started Web 2.0, has been working on the Project VRM  to “provide customers with both independence from vendors and better ways of engaging with vendors.”

All these smart blind men are describing an important elephant that I suspect may become our dominant reality…soon.

Can you add some light to the discussion?

On Wednesday, August 18th, Sales Lab is presenting How To Scale Your Organization…Build, Borrow, or Buy? 7:15 am, in Rockville, and Front End Selling at noon for the Mount Vernon Lee Chamber of Commerce, Alexandria. Both events are free. Details and registration are available at

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

As Users Become Programmers

Dick was interviewed by Tom D'Auria of IMI TechTalk, on KFNX News Talk Radio, Sunday, August 1st. The conversation was about how programming is becoming less complex and how computer software is being fashioned directly by users, instead of professional programmers. These are Dick's notes from the interview.

What users are becoming what programmers?
30 years ago slides were made for executives by graphic artists. Those slides were on a carousel that went "kachunk" every time the slide changed in the projector. Powerpoint allowed anyone to make slides. YouTube allows any fool to make and post a video, and they all do. Today Google Apps gives anyone a free website and free email, Google App Inventor  lets anyone build an Android App without programming. Microsoft has Kittyhawk  which will allow non-coders to create dot net , Silverlight, and XAML products.

The trend is that building gets faster and easier, so more people can do it, which extends the number of useful projects which extends the value of the coding suite and the hardware.

What is driving this trend?
As we move from Enterprise software to open source software, to create revenue we have to give customers what they want, not what the programmers say they want. In large projects there has traditionally been a formalization of project management and project. There is a “cutoff date” after which the customer can’t suggest improvements.

Let’s see, our understanding of what we want is dynamic and enterprise code development methods are static.

There is a lot of dissatisfaction with code developed with this model. It is almost universal. The reason given is usually "stupid customers" and this new programming paradigm lets those stupid customers have exactly what they want. It works quite well, actually. So this is primarily about software quality and value to the user.

Second, If you want people to use your software, you have to make sure they can use it.

A key part of having Android surpass iPhone could be having any user create the apps they want to use on their phone.

What experience do you have with user programmed software?
Quite a bit actually. 30 years ago, I was the king of "desktop slide making" selling a box that would make a roll of film you would take to the drug store and get your slides back in a carousel, an early technology that was wiped out by powerpoint and the computer projector.

In 1995 I hand coded a large website that was used for marketing my company. I remember my triumph at learning how to code curly quotes. I stayed up for nights on end tracking down and fixing typos and thinkos.

More recently I've put up two Google apps websites, and, in less than four hours each, and two blogs, and Through The Browser, in about ten minutes each.These are all free. I even get free email accounts with them.

I use them to touch over 100,000 people twice a week, which takes less than an hour. I am not sending email blasts, readers have opted in to read my posts.

What about quality of communication if we let amateurs create the code?
Theodore Sturgeon, the great science fiction writer, studied the history of our species at length, and gave us Sturgeon's Law, "90% of everything is crud." If anything, it's getting a little bit better as we have more people playing.

Code has never been very good. We talk about which code is awfuller. This could change that discussion to, "Which code is more useful to me?" which may be a more valuable conversation.

What will happen to IT professionals?
The reason the best got into the trade was they were the best problem solvers. There is always need for competent problems solvers. I just read a book The Science of Liberty by Timothy Ferris, that shows how the founding fathers, the guys who wrote and signed the Constitution, were practicing scientists and problem solvers.

We know about Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, but I read a great story about George Washington and James Madison down in the swamps of Jersey discovering what causes swamp gas during a lull in the Revolutionary War.

The louts who say, "I won't open port 80 no matter what the mission of the company is!" have ROAD status. That's a military acronym for Retired On Active Duty, but they can do that anywhere. No reason for IT to get all the credit.

I had a chance to meet with the head of strategic planning for one of the largest government contractors last year. He said they were getting out of IT services. Not much goes wrong when you are looking at other people's websites. They are going after more real science and engineering work.

Last week I related that story to the sharpest pricing mechanic I know, who is at a mid-tier government integrator. He said, "That's most of the IT contract work in the government!" Welcome to the new world.

How can people find out more?
Sales Lab gives many presentations on this new economy, and we put them all on the web. I learned that from Tom Peters. He must have a million slides on the web. If you are interested in our view of where things are going, go browse That will get you to two blogs, two websites, and over 20 presentations.

Tell us your reaction. Please comment about you see the paradigm shifting (below)

On Wednesday, August 18, Sales Lab will be hosting two free shows,
How To Scale Your Organization? Build Borrow or Buy? 7:15 am in Rockville, and
Front End Selling, Noon, Mount Vernon Lee Chamber of Commerce, Alexandria

Monday, July 26, 2010

Inbound Marketing – Good Book!

Inbound Marketing – Get found using Google, Social Media, and Blogs by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah is a fast, two hour read with a lot of good points.

We differ about building websites, blogs, LinkedIn,  and generating followers, but our differences are not antagonistic, more matter of emphasis, like the blind men describing the elephant.

They also go deep into using Facebook for business marketing, using Digg, and winning with StumbleUpon.

Best things I learned,

   1. Make your primary web presence a hub for the group you are trying to attract. Whether it is a website, a blog, a fan page, you want to make it frequently changing, and build it so that changes can be sent to your followers.
   2. Design the site so the changes can be posted by the writers, and not have to be sent through IT. This allows for tests and frequent editing.

   3. Website Grader, their free online analysis of your website, blog, whatever you are using.

Which Web 2.0 books and blogs are you liking?

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Pete Slam

Pete League sent an email from the Olde Course as he was finishing marshalling at The Open Sunday.

I was a marshall near the Old Course Hotel.  Third volunteer gig this year at three majors.  Gallery Guard (marshall) at the Masters.  Green crew at Pebble Beach.  One more at Whistling Straits (green crew) and I'll have my "Pete Slam." 

You might remember Pete League as the man who created the Career Center at George Mason University. I could always count on Pete to insist on walking the golf course.

The Pete Slam. Now that's an enthusiast!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Who Participates And What People are Doing Online — A nice chart of who participates online, and what they're doing -- data from Forrester Research

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Learning the web: Lisa Williams’ guide for journos, Parts 1, 2, and 3

For at least a decade, young guys in black shirts and nose rings have been telling managers, "No, the software won't let you do that." And the managers are stopped.

Twelve years ago, I did a presentation, "How To Build Your First Website In Two Hours Or Less" for the Washington Chapter of the The Association of Information Technology Professionals, which resulted in a dozen new sites at the next meeting from managers of IT organizations.

A couple of months ago, I was talking with Tony Byrne of CMSWatch. Best thing he said was, "Don't adopt software that is too complex for you to maintain."

For over a year, I have been saying we are coming to a time when everyone should maintain their own website, for accuracy and timeliness. I remember when executives hired graphic artists to do their slides (which came in a round carousel) until software that allowed self made slides changed that process. We are at that point with websites now.

Now Lisa Williams has three excellent posts for journalists to take control of their web presence. And you don't have to be a journalist to benefit from her recommendations.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Popular Culture vs Internet Culture

Ben Huh has a post on Paid Content that begins defining Popular Culture and Internet Culture.

Popular Culture comes from the media barons who think they should tell the audience what to think, Internet Culture is bottom up, fools like me. As the number of people who stumble into Internet Culture increases, the number of offerings will swamp the top down offerings of the broadcasters and publishers.

As each side spins the quality of "their" offerings, I am reminded of Theodore Sturgeon's Law, "90% of everything is crud."

Last October, Google invited Ben Huh to speak on copyright in Washington, and he was elegant. In defining Popular Culture and Internet Culture so the differences are sharply drawn, Ben is crisp and precise.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dan Pink As You've Never Seen Him Before!

The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) has a series called Animate using video communication tools to expand message.

Thanks to Zach Yates for finding this video.

Here is Dan Pink on Motivation in a new type of presentation:

Monday, June 7, 2010

Internet Skills

Last week, I heard about another teacher telling students their papers would be discarded if they used Wikipedia.

Dana wrote about the teacher in Texas confiscating open source software CDs since they were “stolen” and “unlicensed.”

Journalists dismiss bloggers for lack of “professionalism.”

People complain about not being able to trust unrecognized sources of information and then complain about the egregious errors of the “real” news sources.

Here’s the deal:

The internet gives us incredible access to a lot more information than we grew up with. The key internet skill is not finding the information, but learning how to tell the good from the bad.

What if that student who is not allowed to use the Wikipedia (that her teacher doesn’t understand) had to build and curate a Wikipedia entry instead of a term paper? She would get feedback from thousands of interested scholars, instead of depending on one lost academic.

What can you share that have you learned about finding the good stuff?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

We have too many problem definers, we need solution builders

Quote attributed to Bill Van Dyke.

Once upon a time, I was watching an internet industry thought leader. He had a real skill describing a problem, and then giving it a memorable name. He didn’t seem to care if they were real problems. I hadn’t seen them in the wild. He was building his world.

The next guy up was running a global web operation for a large corporation. He didn’t have any classy names or theoretical problems. He kept saying, “when we ran into this problem, we did this.” And he was logical, believable, and smart as hell.

A questioner was confused that his solutions certainly worked on big operations, but she also thought they would work for her small company. He allowed as how he thought it was the quality of the solution, not the size of the problem that allowed it to scale.

Score One.

Then he was talking about best practices. For the first time, I realized that the trick is having best practices that make so much sense, your people are lining up to implement them.

Score Two.

Most of the best practices I have seen called for an immediate performance decrease and loss of viability. Calling them “Best Practices” was supposed to make them different.

“We have unlimited problem definers, we need solution builders” I think there is something to that.

What can you add to help this along?

Talk Your Business!

Friday, May 21, 2010

How To Start Blogging

I’m having a rush of wannabe bloggers launch this month. Here’s the process we’ve developed to get people cruising quickly.

First we get past, “No you can’t hire someone to blog for you!”

Next, start reading blogs. I recommend using a blog aggregator so the blogs you read don’t clutter your email inbox. I recommend Google Reader, which comes as a free part of also free Gmail.

Then subscribe to some blogs. I use RSS (clicking on that orange and white square in the address box at the top of your web browser.

Here are five blogs where I see great stuff:
Through The Browser
Sales Lab Posts
Seth’s Blog
Drew’s Marketing Minute

After you have mastered Reader and read ten blog posts, start looking for an opportunity to comment. Nasty and pointing out errors is boring and backfires regularly. Improve and encourage the discussion. Don’t send private notes, let everyone read your contribution. Think “contribution.”

After you can comment without typos and have collected a couple of thank you messages for your comments, you are ready to blog.

I recommend Blogger, another free Google product. It is almost maintenance free and it seems like Google Search has set up a branch office at the foot of my driveway.

Pick a good name. There are a lot of them out there. I like “Through The Browser” too much. What do you care about?

Start writing and posting. Try posting twice a week. It’s less than two hours of your time.

My biggest hurdle is getting a title/subject. When I think of one, I write it down on paper. Otherwise it gets away.

Figure ten sentences/five paragraphs. More or less is good. I compose in LibreOffice to get rid of rude formatting.

Six posts is a mature blog. Start asking people to read your blog. Use your blog address in your email signature and when you comment.

Congratulations! You are now an experienced blogger!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Jack said, “I really liked your criticism model in the sales meeting. Say the name of the person and then say what they did that you liked. It sounded kinda woowoo, but it really worked.

“The people who had something to say and the people mentioned knew something important was going on, and the people who missed it, knew they had missed it without anyone making fun of them”

That wasn’t woowoo. That was organizational transformation at its finest.

And (I thought) there is no reason to tell anyone that, as knowing the words “organizational transformation” won’t change a thing that they do.

I'll take my victories where I find them.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Social Media Revolution 2 (Refresh)

Eric Qualman of Socialnomics has updated his four minute video about the impact of Social Media here

When I blogged about the first video, my friend Jason came barreling up the next day and said, "That's the greatest thing I've ever seen on the Internet! Can I steal it?"

Steal it from YouTube? But why? That phrase instantly went into my all time greatest remarks.

I think this new version is much better, so Jason, this one's for you!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Most Treasured Gift

In the Information Age the most treasured gift is information.

Blogging, information is often a unique definition, your point of view.



Do It Now!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Yer Welcome!

I said, “Thank you” to a server.

Response, “No problem.”

Full stop, system crash, Reboot.

By the time I got back up, she was gone. No further communication. Not much tip, either.

When someone takes the time and effort to thank you, if you can’t acknowledge their effort, you are training them not to thank you in the future, not to thank anybody. You are training them that “thank you” can be an uncomfortable behavior.

I sell.

My work is about enlarging and improving relationships. It’s hard to work with people who have decided “thank you” is uncomfortable.

If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for me. “Thank you” – “You’re welcome.”


Monday, April 12, 2010

Peter Corbett on Social Marketing

Peter Corbett spoke at Joe Shumard’s Internet Implementation Forum at the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce. I think Peter is one of the smartest people I’ve heard on using social media. This isn’t his whole presentation, just the parts I like best.

His company, iStrategy Labs is a “digital experiential marketing agency.” Google istrategylabs for an incredible demonstration of search engine optimization.

Peter had been in the advertising agency business when an error from his management left him with the opportunity to start his own practice. He produced an age/demographic analysis of Facebook users. Since few people were coming to his blog, he linked his piece to the Wikipedia “Facebook” page and began getting 40,000 hits a day and offers to talk on television and interview in the media.

He uses all types of social media, and as an example told how using Facebook for business has some irreplaceable advantages. Facebook advertising can get you to incredibly small markets (a specific niche in a single town) for very low cost.

Small ads to small niches burn out. You need a new ad every 2-4 weeks. Doesn’t mean people aren’t responding, it means everyone who fits your criteria has seen them! Start with 5 ads, pick the two best performing and add four more.

When one of the participants, a professional writer, was wondering if he should concentrate on his business Facebook or his personal face book, Peter said, “I would concentrate on getting the message out that you are the best writer, period.”

People and organizations track a single word on Twitter. He tells the story about someone who did a transaction with a company because she mentioned their product, and they came to her.

One local listserv is notoriously anti-promotion. Peter got excellent results by answering questions and referring others, until now he is the most referred provider in his niche on that network, and has the other members recommending him. In this case, anti-promotion also meant promote the group.

Peter creates a lot of notice by designing a physical event, promoting it, sharing it to make it bigger, and building a community of people who are getting value from the event. One is, June 11 through 20, 2010 all over the Washington DC area.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

How Local Businesses Can Take Advantage Of The Internet

A Cost-Conscious Workshop For Successful Small Businesses

Spring 2010 Networking Event, Arlington Business Council

Main Ideas
What is the core creative idea that will engage your audience?
Platforms are just amplification.

The Internet is a network of computers.
The World Wide Web is a network of links.

Do you want to control the platform, or control the conversation?

How you use the internet depends on what you want to do. Whatever you want to do, chances are someone else has already done it. R&D means Research and Duplicate.

My Incoming Education

Search Engine - Take the time to learn how to use your chosen search engine. I subscribe to nine Google blogs to learn how to make the most out of their tools. Last night I saw developers searching on Twitter.

Email - The great communicator. You can quickly reach most of the world from your email. I have 6 accounts in one Gmail window because Gmail has the best spam filter.

Blog Aggregator - Replaced my newspaper. I use Google Reader, part of Gmail. I subscribe to 67 blogs. That list is posted on Through The Browser.

Getting Found
I have two free web sites, Sales Lab and I am not a programmer, and I built each in four hours from a cold start. They each come with 50 free email accounts and other goodies.

I have two free blogs, Sales Lab Posts and Through The Browser , where I post twice a week. Figure a good post is 5 paragraphs, ten sentences. Started last September, now more than 85 posts.

I have a free LinkedIn page. My linkedIn strategy is explained in Web 2.0 in Three Paragraphs.

When I change the status bar on my LinkedIn page, I notify over 500 LinkedIn contacts and automatically notify my Twitter followers.

To get my message out to my world, I am active in 25 LinkedIn Groups and a half dozen targeted Ning social networks.

When I write a blog post, I also post it to the groups I think will be interested. A full post goes to over 80,000 people. See Building Your Social Media Platform.

What Else Can You Do?
John Battelle, one of the leaders of Web 2.0 recently posted an update of his 10 year old Database of Intentions. The first concept of DBoI was what people asked search engines. He has expanded that to “What I Want,” “What I Buy,” “Who I Am,” “Who I Know,” “What I’m Doing,” and Where I Am” (or “What’s close?”).

For a chart of the top companies answering these questions, search for Battelle Database of Intentions Chart - Version 2, Updated for Commerce.

For an even grander view of tools you can use, see The CMO’s Guide to: The Social Landscape.

I don’t agree with all the choices on either graphic, and my needs are not your needs. They showed me the bigger opportunity.

What’s a small business to do?

Get email. Learn to use it. I favor Gmail as it is excellent quality and free.

Build a website you can fix yourself. Websites get better, not finished. I favor Google Apps Standard Edition as it is free and requires no programming.

If you’re a local retail business, become a Yelp guru. Yelp shows where you are and what your customers think about you. I found my barber on Yelp and he’s the best barber I have had in a decade.

If you have a business-to-business operation, get a LinkedIn Page, get 500 contacts and some recommendations.

I have 28 LinkedIn recommendations and I like them so much I copied them to my website so people I am not linked to can see them.

Join LinkedIn groups and other social networks that interest you. Start by reading, then write. Let other people read what you write. It doesn’t hurt and good feedback is wonderful.

Other Thoughts
“Hunh, Hell! Do Something!”

The new tools, the most advanced tools, that let you take advantage of the benefits of the Internet are mostly free.

These tools are “social,” so tell your
friends what you are doing. Get their help and opinions.

When you need help to do something, ask a search engine. The answers are there. The trick is which question provides the right answer.

When you are building your cyber-empire, keep a pad of paper handy. Note your ideas, your passwords, your user names, your questions.

When you get frustrated, take a break. Much of the stress is because when you try something on a computer you get an immediate response. Relax!...Rejoice! Resolve to have fun, don’t blame anyone or anything when you don’t understand, because you will be ashamed when you do understand.

In 1995, on my first website, I realized, “Websites don’t get finished. They get better.” I liked that so much, I put that on the website.

In The Mythical Man Month, Rick Brooks writes, “Software is the ultimate art form. You can make anything.”

Was this good for you? Please comment to tell us what is the best thing you learned from this presentation. (Handout)

Thank you!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Limits of government?

Last week my wife told me that college loans will now be handled exclusively by the government. I thought, "Well, that's it for education."

The problem is that government is set up on a bureaucratic model, which in the 1700's was the most advanced management system designed to control the Bureaus (regions) of France.

There is never enough money allocated for a good program. A typical bureaucratic program will have an output of anywhere from 10% to 75% of the funds dedicated to the program. In the case of 75% return, the remaining 25% of the money has to cover ever expanding oversight and management, and in the case of 10% returns, "No matter how hard you do the wrong thing, it never quite works." This is true in all types of activities, but a well funded bureaucracy never fails, it just continues to cost.

A non-bureaucratic organization has is the ability to make benefits exceed budget. Those volunteers standing in a cold parking lot selling Christmas trees actually made more for scholarships when they starting selling bags of oranges as well. After expenses they had a return of 250% of capital. That's real money, not “jobs that might have been lost if we hadn't killed the organization for it's own good.”

You won't find that kind of initiative in a bureaucratic organization. A bureaucratic organization is designed to control resources, not experiment to better results.

I spent several years as a member of a CEO group helping a local university. I can remember having 20 minute meetings in the parking lot, as the membership all had responsibilities with our real jobs. Then a state organization convinced our executive director that they should start attending this committee meeting, since we were getting big results. And they brought donuts.

Well if you're going to have donuts, you might as well have coffee, and before you know it, we were having two hour meetings with much less throughput. I knew something was wrong, but I didn't know what until one of my older and wiser colleagues pointed out that the (by now) four state employees were all recording the two hour meetings as a major accomplishment of their day.

What the heck, it was warm, well lit, and they were sitting with high status personages. Eventually the original members went elsewhere, but the committee has continued to meet, and results are no longer tracked.

This morning I was explaining this to my mom, and she said, “Well, the government says they are taking out the middleman, that should save money…” Eureka! The government is the middleman in commercial transactions, providing no value and exacting significant cost! Their main function is to create and punish the guilty.

In our zeal to organize and stamp out fraud, waste, and abuse, we are forgetting that organized bureaucracy leads to entropy. Sure there are mostly failures in free enterprise, but the successes are the engine that drives our economy. Government has no part in that growth.

How about a little humility and perspective from our elected officials?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How To Take Advantage of the Internet

"How To Take Advantage of the Internet," at the Arlington Business Council's Spring Networking Lunch April 8th, 11:30 - 1:00 will be examining how to use the Internet to drive local business.

You will learn how the Internet is becoming a potent force for directed, targeted business growth, and how business owners can take a direct role increasing their results from the Internet.

Please join us as the Spring Networking Lunch is always a lot of fun! Details at

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Julie Perlmutter – Channeling Ada

Today (March 24, 2010) is Ada Lovelace Day, a global celebration honoring women in technology.

This is the second year for the event, which is celebrated by blogging about your favorite woman in technology.

My favorite, is Julie Perlmutter, who introduces thousands of people to new technology with her Web Managers Roundtable. She enjoys the tribe and the celebration part of the organization, and is a pure technological agnostic, sometimes amused and sometimes bored by the intellectual heat and language of her partisan zealots.

Over the years, Julie has let us watch the Internet mature from a ringside seat.

I don’t think she ever met a technology she didn’t like, if the people said they wanted to have a meeting to learn about it. We’ve learned important things from big companies, small companies, idealists, and dreamers. We’ve learned about how it is, how it should be, and how it might be.

Julie’s core audience are the managers of the top 100 transaction websites in the Washington DC area.

This year, we put up a LinkedIn Group to augment the meetings. She must be doing something right because we average 100 people per meeting and we have over a thousand members on the Web Managers Roundtable LinkedIn Group, from all over the world.

Ada persists!

Monday, March 22, 2010

“People don’t want more information, they want the minimum information they need to understand a topic.”

(Matt Thompson quoted on Twitter)

I Googled Matt and found this quote,
“Time to stop breaking the news and start fixing it.”

What I learned from his sites: Time is just one way to measure news, and newspapers lose to electronic media if timeliness is the standard. However, another perspective for news is context or usefulness.

Imagine if that was the standard. It might save or, better yet, transform the news industry. Maybe that is already starting.

Useful thinking about many things that are affected by technology.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Why We Comment

Commenting is an honor and a privilege. What readers often don’t realize is how much they can add to a post by commenting.

The old model was “broadcast.” Your radio, television, or newspaper communicated “at” you. The result was lowest common denominator news, education, and entertainment.

In 1999, the Cluetrain Manifesto started with “All Markets Are Conversations” (meaning two-way), and the genie was out of the bottle. Today, those traditional broadcast channels are adding conversational opportunities to halt their audience erosion.

Most of the comments I get on my posts expand and enrich my understanding of each subject. I am grateful.

When I see comments on other blogs, they usually increase the believability of a post while adding new data.

Commenting is an acquired skill. We get better with practice. Commenting seldom takes much effort, and a thoughtful comment improves understanding.

In the future, when you have the opportunity, please comment.

Might as well start here! *grin*

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Cirque du Soleil's social media balancing act

A post by Jennifer Leggio, ZDNet

How Cirque du Soleil is using a mix of blogger relations and social network outreach to help grow attendance for all of its home and traveling shows.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Support Your Local Heroes

Last week at the AlexChamber Government Contractors Forum, Monica Bell gave a textbook recipe for how to restart a company in this ugly economy.

I read a lot and talk with many people and it was the first time I had heard the way she did it. Her solution had already worked and was something I could do.

Greg Linas had a unique strategy for almost eliminating bid and proposal costs while improving customer satisfaction and cash flow.

Tom Lantz had the best template for choosing what to emphasize about your company that I have ever seen.

Everybody stopped to catch their breath and Joe Shumard asked who people would like to learn from in the future?

POTUS, SecDef, Agency Secretaries, and CIOs were desired.

I’ve been lucky to work for several federal CIOs, and in every case they would say, “Dick, tell your people not to come to sell me, tell them to sell my people. I don’t have budget, projects, or interest. Being sold is not my job.”

If you don’t know what you are doing, go high.

When I’m selling, I know that a customer has a much closer point of view to a prospect than the salesperson does. Stands to reason that to learn how to improve your business, you probably will learn more from people improving their businesses than from potential customers.

While supporting several organizations I have learned that I would much rather hear from someone I know and care about than some guy from out of town carrying a skinny briefcase.

Acres of wisdom all around us and we want to go see the Queen.

If you don’t know what you are doing, go high.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Nat Boxer

This morning I read Nat Boxer died (on LinkedIn). He was 84, had won his Oscar, and from what I read, still boogieing on, making the world a better place.

I could say he was my favorite college professor, or the only one I remember, or the one I think about a couple of times a month, but I realized he is my hero, a model for what I think a man should be.

Nat was a working cinema soundman, past president of his Union Local in NYC, when he came to teach in upstate New York, rumored to be chilling out after a divorce.

Nat was usually amused and spent a lot of time listening to other people. He knew a lot, and if you asked him, he would give you his opinion. If you didn’t like his opinion, he didn’t much care.

He had an inexhaustible list of things he wanted to do, now that he had the time. He would just announce he was doing something and ask if anyone wanted to help. I remember getting up in the dark and tramping through the fields because Nat wanted to do a time-lapse film of a sunrise. I think we did it more than once as his concept matured.

Somehow his students were always making things - movies, books, pictures, scripts, whatever they wanted. A few of us started following Fred Keller, and we began making commercial films. I saw “One Old Man” was playing at 2 am on a Baltimore television station a few years ago. That would be over 30 years after we made it.

Nat was magical in that we were not talking about doing things, or what they meant, we were always making. We made movies, music, scripts, books, pictures, equipment, whatever was needed for a project.

I remember driving 400 miles on weekend to get the pre-release camera battery packs the press was taking for Nixon in China. Somehow we had them first.

I asked him once about his take on men and women. He thought for a minute, then said, “Sometimes things don’t work out.”

I remember one time we were screening a finished film. The customer loved it. It had pictures, music, acting, great editing. A new, academic cinema professor was an invited guest. Film finishes, lights come up, he says, “Well, it’s good, Fred. But is it Art?”

That was the difference with Nat Boxer. We did more than we ever had, at a higher level, and when it was over, we started something else. What was “Art” was decided by somebody else.

Four months after I graduated, I came back to see him. I had some work success and built a truck for my guitars and carpenter tools and was going to take my Grand Tour. We talked and at one point I asked, “What should I do with the rest of my life, Nat?”

He said, “I have no idea, but I need you in Lake Tahoe as soon as you can get there. I’m flying out tonight. We’re doing some work for Coppola.”

So I hustled across Route 80 and worked on the filming of Connie’s Wedding at the Kaiser Estate for the Godfather series. I had some amateur skills and appreciated watching a professional crew. As Nat’s friend I was expected to help wherever I was needed.

The Key Grip (head of the carpenters) made a call and gave me a letter to take to the Business Agent of the union local in LA. We broke camp and I never spoke to Nat again.

I never knew of anything Nat Boxer wanted that he didn’t have. He took big joy in making the most of what was in front of him.

I’m not going to miss him, as I have been listening to him every time I make something instead of talk about it, every time I accept or encourage someone else.

Goodbye my friend.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Optimization or Maximization?

Last week we competed in the Amateur Rum Internationals in Nassau.

Went diving with a couple from England. Chris had been a dairy farmer for over twenty years, then ten years ago he looked at the economics of dairy farming in England and decided there weren’t any.

Took his buildings and converted them into “workshops.” Took two years to figure out the business, another couple of years to pay back the loans. Now he’s a prosperous landlord.

I asked him what was the best thing he had learned while changing his business so completely.

He answered right away. “The secret is optimization, not maximization.”

I was blank.

He grinned and continued, “It’s more important to keep the properties occupied than it is to get maximum payout on the occupied units. I concentrate on keeping my tenants.”

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Two Weeks to Ada Lovelace Day '10! Sign up today!

Last year, Suw Charman-Anderson started Ada Lovelace Day so people could honor their favorite girl geek. She wasn't going to do it unless she got 1,000 posts. She got almost 2,000.

I wrote a short piece about Julie at The Webmanagers Roundtable, and later noticed she was tied with Marissa Mayer, Princess Googly, one all. Go figure.

On the day there is an amazing amount of good stuff going around the blogosphere, reminding me of a balloon convention in Taos.

Pledge today and write a post in two weeks about your favorite girl geek and you will be a part of a global experience.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why Open Source CMS is Important

The Web Managers Roundtable is presenting Open Source Content Management Systems: Panacea or Pandora’s Box? A Critical Evaluation of Open Source Content Management & Lessons Learned from's Open Source Initiative on April 25th. Event Summary

Disclosure - Julie, who runs the WMR has been a protégé for over 15 years, and Tony Byrne, the moderator, is a friend and teacher who started CMS Watch.

This morning, Julie asked me, “Why is Open Source important?”

Open Source is a major software development paradigm. Strengths are most code comes from adapting already proven modules of code, which speeds development and that code can be developed by large groups of interested coders communicating over the internet.

It’s a flat management model, where the people driving the projects are usually the best coders.

Problems are that the average code is not that good. However, you don’t use the average code, you use the best code for your project, so open source is known for high quality, rapidly improving products.

Having abundant excellent code has changed the software business model. Why and how code is purchased is changing. My key observation is it is not the cost, but how well the software supports the customer and mission that is the big advantage.

It takes a while, but once a customer organization realizes there is no one to blame, they get focused on getting what they want.

When code is no longer scarce, how do you build a your business? This reuse of proven parts is not limited to software, but that is where it started.

Makers, a near future business fantasy by Cory Doctorow, extends open source management to manufacturing and design, medicine, communication, and other industry verticals. Makers is a great book.

Open source software is already the plumbing of the internet.

It is a key advantage for many billion dollar businesses.

Understanding the state of open source content management systems is a key to future-proofing your web presence.

Comments, Ideas, Observations?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Ben’s Blocks

I think we are in a time of discontinuous change. Stands to reason we should be managing for that.

My friend Ben, my longest running client, doesn’t make sales…he creates markets.

Over the past fifteen years he has done that several times, usually when forced by collapsing employers.

He called the other day and said, “Since we last met, I’ve been getting a handle on the block.” First time I heard the word “block.” I think it is entirely appropriate because we don’t find new fields of opportunity, we find opportunities that have stopped everyone who came before.

So as we prepare for another blockbuster, here’s what I see:

Step One – Realizing he has to create a new market. Usually caused by dissatisfaction or collapse somewhere else in his organization.

Step Two – Getting wishes, expectations, and requirements from his employer. Has to be addressed, usually a waste of time, because we have seen again and again that the provider doesn’t know the market requirements, the buyer does.

Step Three – Defining the opportunity. After reflection, Ben will say, “You know, we have this…but the customer wants this…if we do this…we may have something good.”

Step Four – I was once told me my idea of innovation is to go ask ten people I respect what they think about my new idea. He nailed it. For Ben, the next step is putting his ideas on a piece of paper and taking them to his existing customers for improvement. He always gets insightful changes that make perfect sense.

Step Five – Ramming those changes through his employer. The biggest problem is, “We’re not doing it that way.” The second biggest problem is, “That’s not going to work.”

Ben focuses for months, years, finds the people who can make the changes, then finds the people who can approve the changes, and carefully sells each one.

One time he took a Fortune 50 Company from measuring value in eighths of a dollar to tenths of a dollar and created a multi-billion dollar business on the Internet.

Step Six (The part we all love) – Living in the avalanche, leading a business that grows faster than any other part of the organization.

Step Seven – Defending the business from management “refinements” and HR “balancing the compensation curve.”

Step One – Realizing he has to create a new market. Usually caused by dissatisfaction or collapse somewhere else in his organization.

Been there? Done that?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Gary Vaughan's Blog

Gary Vaughan is a retired career FSO, now a Sharepoint guru at the Department of State. We are college classmates.

At lunch last month we were discussing the way Microsoft and open source tools are being used for similar tasks on the social web.

One output was his commitment to increase his blogging frequency.

The second was his post, "Dick Davies Blogging Approach with Open Source Tools" where he explores syndication to extend the reach of an individual blog.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Best Question…Ever!

The best way to present new information is a story.

The best way to get a listener to focus on your story is to start with a question.

Did you ever feel your body lurch to answer when someone asked a good question?

In direct mail, a proven start is the “Passover Opening” from “Why is tonight like no other night?” initiating the remembrance of the Passover.

The Passover Opening in direct mail is three short one paragraph questions to focus the reader on the context of the story that follows.

A question is also a great way to start a speech or a presentation.

A document management software company was building a presentation for a “must-have” account. We all agreed the opening question was the most important part to getting the sale.

When the presentation started, the presenter raised is hand, cocked his head, and said,

“How many of this room...have ever lost a your own computer?”

Everyone in the audience raised their hand, and their comments made all the points planned for the presentation.

Sale completed.

Where have you used opening questions successfully?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Working The Back Of The Room

In this LinkedIn, Ning, Social Media reality, succeeding at face to face meetings and group meetings are still very important. On Dick’s Sales Model, I put “Events/Design,” which most people think means talking from the front of the room.

Even though Julie once introduced me as a “loud and frequent speaker,” I get most of my value from group meetings from actively working the audience.

Last week Washington DC Connections had a speed networking event which was unique, because there was no front of the room! I had a structured meeting, for a minute or so, one-on-one, with over a hundred people.

Here’s what I learned.

Come prepared - My two best tools were a name tag and a supply of useful handouts. Nametag, because several people thanked me for having a sign they could read. The handouts were links to information I thought the participants might want.

Introduce to be helped - I learned that if I asked for something in my introduction, my partners were pleased to help. Got right to: “Here’s what I need.”

Offer to help - A little better than half the time I had someone or something that would help the other person. Those were the happiest meetings.

Any spot is a good spot - After a half hour in a loud room, I was hoarse, I stepped out of line to get a break. Outside the hall, I was still in constant, productive meetings, they just weren’t quite as fast as we couldn’t hear the airhorn.

I found opportunities for me, for my friends who weren’t attending, for the promoter hosting the event

What I liked best was the successful people discarded their recitation of who they were and got right to what they could use, which led to immediate transactions. That might be a good lesson for a slower moving meetings, too.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Building Better Blog Posts

Just read a great blog post on “It’s A COBOL World” called “A Customer Visit” by an old friend. “It’s a COBOL World” is about COBOL, the workhorse of business computer processing, and the team of writers on the blog are passionate about getting more out of the code.

“A Customer Visit” addressed people’s attitudes going into a project and how good attitudes improve the value of the project. As General Colin Powell said, “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.”

So what did I learn about better blog posts?

A better blog post will expand our knowledge either by showing something about the main subject, or more often by bringing a side issue or a part issue into sharper focus, defining the value.

That definition is best presented as a story.

How many examinations of almost-the-same subjects are worth writing about?

All of them. Different readers find different value, see “One Man’s Wingnut Is Another Man’s Guru.”

General Powell said it one way, “A Customer Visit” said it a different way. Maybe the third way will light the spark for someone, maybe it’s a cumulative effort. It doesn’t matter. Figure your readers are interested in your subject. Concentrate on making the story interesting.

And now, the next step…(comments?)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bob and Joan at the White House

Here's a link to the video of Dylan at the White House this week.

What a long, strange trip it's been.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

An “Aha!” Difference Between Social and Direct Marketing

I grew up practicing direct marketing. It’s a “fire and forget” profession. Send a thousand packages, get a 5 percent to a half percent response. Immediate drop-off.

We obsess about improving the list and the package, straining for quarter percent increases.

Joe Shumard and I launched the Internet Engagement Forum at the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce consciously using social marketing practices.

We started with a list of 20, 15 came to the first meeting, including two who were not on the prospect list.

The next week more than half of the people in the meeting were communicating, as well as three further new people.

In a week we are up five new contributing members…while the quality of the posted discussions is much more valuable than what I took notes on in the original meeting.

We believe the group can continue to grow and discover important ways to improve their businesses largely from social interaction.

That same week as that first AlexChamber meeting, I met Ghassan Haddad who leads the Facebook translations project, 380,000 volunteer translators working in over 300 languages, using computing technology to extend and leverage human efforts.

What I saw Dr. Haddad practicing was a different type of management, building a networked environment where people are playing, at the same time doing large volumes of important work.

What is different?

It turns out that planning and control are less important than I was taught. People who communicate their own interests quickly show real value for the whole group.

What seems to be most important is encouraging and facilitating velocity of communication.

Useful is coming from that.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Social media = letting others in

"You can't take advantage of the connectivity, reach and viral nature of the beast without also being willing to connect, reach many people and let others share. It's like wanting to enjoy the sensation of flying over the water in a boat at high speed but without the engine noise. It's the "other people" part of social media that provides its power."

From "Drew's Marketing Minute," Drew McLelland, proprietor. Read the full post at

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

One Woman’s Wingnut Is Another Man’s Guru

The Alexandria Chamber’s Internet Engagement Forum is a project Joe Shumard and I are leading to see how far we can get Chamber members to take advantage of the Internet.

At our meeting yesterday, there was a lot of interest in moving forward…by extending current practices.

We had several people who were experienced in email broadcast marketing, looking forward to finding better ways to do broadcast email marketing.

I remembered the first time I read Doc Searle’s, “Marketing is a conversation” in The Cluetrain Manifesto. I didn’t get it.

People I respected told me it was important, but it wasn’t until I tried it that I began to understand the incredible power of this new paradigm.

Let’s say I want to get an audience for a show. I can send a bunch of emails (control the message, control the platform) and get a small response. As an alternative, I can send the same message to people and let them comment. What happens?

Turns out the feedback has been a better title, some ideas of who else to approach, some stories that make my point, and finding out I may have forgotten to include price, location, or time.

My readers are improving and expanding my message. Sending a broadcast instead of a conversation means I would miss these valuable tips.

What happens if someone writes something awkward? Well, first everyone else can see it is awkward. Second, I invoke Sturgeon’s Law, “Ninety percent of everything is crud.

However, I have also seen that people find important revelations in the crud, leading to Dick’s Assertion, “One Woman’s Wingnut is Another Man’s Guru.

But ah, when a new idea gets up and is adopted by hundreds, when that idea changes some part of society, that’s why we are playing. That’s learning how to play this instrument.

The AlexChamber Internet Engagement Forum meets monthly and is open to all members of the AlexChamber. We are encouraging more participants.

Programming Note - Over the weekend I put up a new page showing some of the best “How To” posts on Through The Browser at Please take a look!

What do you think?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Avatars, Agents, Web Automation

Two weeks ago, Motorcycle Dan the blogger explained that he is waiting for an avatar to handle his email, scour the web for things that interest him, figure out who to let through on his phone, handle the administrivia of his life.

As I listened, I realized I had most of those functions in Gmail, Google Reader, Google Voice and LinkedIn. He said he did too, but he didn’t want to have to manage them. He wanted them to manage themselves. I had a new concept to look for.

In 2006, Ray Kurzweil wrote The Singularity is Near, about leveraging computing to benefit humans, gradually taking over more and more functioning, until consciousness could inhabit and use a machine. He starts with tools that have been in common use for centuries, then adds layer after layer of functionality, until he reaches an unbelievable conclusion, believably.

Last week I got a tour of Intelligent Office in Alexandria. Beth, a distant niece, is the agent, operating their internet and phone convergence station - taking calls, making appointments, and answering questions for fifty organizations. The owner of that two person rug cleaning service who was getting business while he was on vacation, has set up his avatar and I saw it work. Just like the Wizard of Oz (“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”)

The immediate barrier is breaking down work into repeatable tasks, knowing the outcomes and then assembling for automation. Beth operating her station extends the existing technology while we are waiting for the next generation, just like Ernestine, who was running the phone board before direct dial.

I read that Clay Shirky says we don’t have information overload, we have a filtering problem. If it’s not actionable, I drop it. However, currently there is a lot more that is actionable than I get to.

What are your best avatars, agents, and web automation?