Saturday, June 25, 2005

Some key Insytes from Gnomedex

new media becomes citizen media

context is king (now more than ever)

audioblogs are the killer app because of the portability or headphones

sharing insytes in the commons is massively important to innovation

there are a lot of people doing the same sorts of things

bloggers are cool socially aware folks that your mother will like

we really are moving from a left brain to a right brain society

people with brain power will listen to anyone with a good idea

people with money power will listen to anyone with a rolex and armani suit

seattle has one of the coolest public libraries in the world

good people are everywhere, filling many different roles

Yahoo understands and is working with a version of my holsitic knowledge model

blogging is pr with candor - steve rubel

Microsoft may or may not be developing a community focused soul, but if the transparency from Scobel, Royal and others is allowed by MS today, the proverbial camel nose is in the tent...

the api is the UI

tinkerers are really cool - crafting is play

canadians are fun, nice folks

synaptivity is everywhere

some of the things I thought about traditional media and blogging are already being done

people have a lot of important stuff to say - I wonder what the world would be like if the people in power learn how to listen

and finally, I really love the people I have met - just the right sorts to do the right thing and change the world

Friday, June 24, 2005

Good Microsoft?

MS is making the format called "Simple List Extensions" available via a creative commons license. This is definitely something that should be easily leveraged by others - hopefully they will let others contribute to the core standards as they get built. The particular license they are using is to require contributors under attribution share license - the core of my ideals in limited source. This is a great thing, and something we can further point to as perhaps a shift in their perspective and attitude. I will continue to look for more real contributions over coming months.

Take a look at The Windows RSS Platform Architectural Overview of Simple List Extension specification

The head of IE development just said, "today is just the beginning of the conversation" - another person riding the cluetrain...

He also just said that "if the user accesses the feed (for an audioblog) through IE, it would feel like an IE experience - if you accessed it via Word, Word would feel like an audioblogging aggregator."

Bob Wyman held Dean's feet to the fire concerning Microsoft about how come they are ignoring existing standards bodies to put themselves at the point of origin for the next wave of stuff. His answer was really not very good - though he did use humor to defuse the serious nature. Bob is right, particularly in light of the fact that MS has this new standard and licensing format but did not have a community process figured out. On the spot, Scoble offered up a WIKI - shows that he really is one of the smartest people at Microsoft.

Audience member asked for proof that this isnt just 'embrace and extend lite' and that the Death Star is really blown up.

Further notes on Microsoft's RSS integration

Looks like some really cool new stuff with Outlook. Turns a schedule from an RSS feed into downloadable iCalendar standard(ics). When you subscribe to this feed via their new OS and IE, it automatically adds these to your Outlook calendar. You can then look at this new calendar using the Outlook side by side feature.

This is a further example and extension of what I call 'synaptivity', which is something i have been meaning to explain for a while. Hopefully you will keep an eye out for this, but in brief synaptivity is the automatic process of making smart connections for people between their devices, their data and their daily life.

They also showed a really cool way to deal with photoblogs and photo feeds where it downloads the images and the envelope to show the images in a full screen slide show. Yet another area where current efforts by the community to create new companies will be more difficult.

One of the great things MS does is how they leverage their developer and beta community to provide them with up to what some estimate to be be an extra $3-4 billion of research and development. They are smartly doing this again, but this time they are presenting it in a more inclusive tone. Judge as ye will, but the spirit of their requests for community involvement seems to be coming from the heart - or at the very least, coming from the hearts of the individual's representing the corporation.

- From Gnomedex

Microsoft embraces RSS......and extends it

A very good thing happened for RSS today. Microsoft has integrated RSS throughout Longhorn - probably within Office, but definitely within MSN Search and IE 7.0

A very bad thing happened today for everyone out there building their businesses around RSS feeds - see above.

If you are one of those experts, working on building an RSS feed company and suddenly think your great business idea may be a little tougher to make happen, get in touch with me and lets talk about how we might collaborate. RSS is only one small part of what Insytes is doing.

- From Gnomedex

Blogging with my Gnomies...

While I don't want to be just another voice in the crowd, I do want to chime in on Dave Winer's keynote at Gnomedex. The way he is bringing outlining into the blogosphere is very similar to how I am thinking of applying the insights I used in forming my first company, which I briefly spoke about in my post how I got here.

But the OPML editor he showed is a really good first step towards the next generation which will enable more people to adopt this new form of communication and knowledge sharing. Better still, he realizes it needs to go a lot further to get this technology past the 'tinkerer' phase which it is in now. He also had one great quote in particular, which was that "user's dont need to bring new features and ideas to him, they could go and recruit a developer to do it themselves".

To a certain extent, I had the same idea with regards to The Communications Strategy. Rather than writing the book, I thought to myself "why not build it as software instead?" With the Conversal Communications System, I got about 50-60& of what I really wanted. Till now, I really thought I was abandoning that software (though I am using it as my core operational platform). Turns out, this is just the next generation of the vision for me - a logical extension arising from the incorporation of recent and emerging trends. And of course, instead of trying to sell into the enterprise, we will be providing the system to the people who get it.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Introduction: The Customer Strategy

This is a republishing of a short introductory article I wrote back in early 2000 on knowledge marketing. This ultimately formed the basis for The Communications Strategy. The impetus of this model came from my gig as chief of eBusiness for the US Mint (that was the short form title btw, the official title was actually something like Director of New Media Business Development for the Office of Electronic Information and Products, whew) Anyways, I was tasked with using the Internet to encourage more people to become coin collectors - this universal truth of communications dyanmics was the result. Most of the programs I designed for the Mint using this model were never pursued, which is one of the reasons I left.

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What is your company doing to manage your customer’s knowledge? Are your customers involved intimately in the development of your product? Is your company leveraging its customer experience lifecycle? Are your customers talking with each other…without you? Who are your most valuable customers? Who is obtaining the most benefit form your product or service? Are your departments or divisions talking with each other, sharing their customer stories, gaining an understanding of the customer’s needs and concerns? These are a few of the questions that every Manager should be asking. These are the questions that are addressed by The Customer Strategy as embodied by customer knowledge management.

Customer knowledge management is the process of providing potential customers and current customers with all of the information they need to purchase and enjoy your product or service. It begins with the creation of a baseline worldview of how your customer’s behavior is shaped, determining their experience lifecycle, discovering who they really are and ascertaining what knowledge they really need to properly interact with your company. It ends with the creation of better products/services, greater customer satisfaction, superior customer support, extraordinary experiences and increased profitability.

The Customer Strategy is about influencing customer behavior in an era where customers no longer want to be influenced. With the rise of the Internet, your corporate spin-doctors have no momentum and your marketing shucksters don’t talk the talk that walks the walk. As you may have heard, many of the old ways of doing things do not work any longer.

As was stated so brilliantly in the Cluetrain Manifesto - “Your customers are talking to each other. Deal with it.” They know when you have a problem, they know how to get that hidden functionality, they know why your product won’t work under certain conditions and they know what to do to fix it. Help them share this knowledge, this conventional wisdom, with everyone. Stop trying to hide behind half-truths to increase the number of sales you will have to customers who will never enjoy your product and will never be a valuable addition to your family of satisfied customers. Accept the reality of your product’s potential and its limitations and get on with finding the right customers, the profitable customers, for your business. The Customer Strategy is Business Threepoint0, eBusiness to the power of 10, a paradigm shift that will overturn the current hegemony of the old guard and replace it with the new rulers of every revolution – the people, the customers.

Yet, at the same time, The Customer Strategy is not so revolutionary, it’s a focus on value creation in customer relationships based on seeing the big picture and how every activity, resource and person fits together. Bring together your brand manager with your head of eBusiness with your head of customer relationships with your head of product development and your customers and start talking. Not in a focus group, but in the real world. It stands to reason that if your customers are talking to each other, you better be there to ensure they have the right information they need to make decisions and to answer their questions. The reactive methods of customer relationship management are already outdated; the proactive days of customer knowledge management have come. The Customer Strategy is the intelligent executive’s framework for understanding their company’s focus for creating successful relationships with customers online and off.

How I got here...

A funny thing happened while rewriting the business plan the past few days... I realized that the new business we have been developing was actually not an idea revisited from 2002, but rather, was a logical extension of the vision I had back in 1994 when I decided that the emerging medium of the Internet would be my professional focus. In fact, many of the principal Insytes I developed back in the early days are at the root of what we are doing.

Most people realize that where we are today is a result of where we were yesterday. I have long made this assertion with regards to Insytes since the name of my prior company Conversal was was created with the intention of being the brand for conversational knowledge. But, like Shrek's personality, there are many layers to this onion, some of which I only peeled back yesterday. For competitive reasons, I am not able to connect all the dots here, but for those potential partners and qualified investors, I felt a deeper bio might be in order. Truth be told, I could publish a 200+ page book detailing this story, so it wont be deep deep, but it will give you a better idea of who I am and why Insytes is where I will finally make it to the big time.

I want to talk about work experiences that have influenced me since that would seemingly be more relevant to the topic at hand, but before doing so, you must understand what makes me who I am. I was born shortly after we first put a man on the moon, August 24, 1969 (A leo/virgo cusp for those of you who care). I was an accident, but as it turns out a miraculous one at that. My father, who I never met or knew other than through short notes and $10 per week child support met my Mother at some social event for a local club. I actually don't know how long they knew each other before conceiving me, but would imagine that my Mother must have known him fairly well beforehand. My father, Leo, got my mother, Mandy pretty drunk and talked her into having sex for the first time at age 25. First time - first (and only) child. My Grandfather Ed took out the figurative shotgun and took them both to the altar.

Shortly after I was born, my mother became concerned about my dad's responses to my crying. Anecdotally, I understand he would shake me to get me to stop crying and he was verbally abusive to her. So when I was a few months old she decided that she had enough and wanted a divorce. Fearful that he would somehow get custody of her "miracle baby, she agreed to the foul smelling child support agreement I mentioned earlier. Fortunately, I was raised with great midwestern values, growing up with mom and my grandparents who encouraged me to ask questions and provided me with a remarkable learning tool on every different subject matter available.

But most of all they provided me with a loving environment. They were always there when I came home from school. Grandma helped me with homework (she was really good at a lot of things) and even gramps helped me with my math homework (he was a tool and die man among other things). They created a framework for thinking about the world from a middle class perspective that let me look beyond it. My mother taught me to think different long before it was ever an Apple ad slogan. She had big dreams for how the world could be - how it should be and her zest for life, her optimism and her love of people is my foundation for all I do in this world. In later years, her encouragement and her fervent belief that her "miracle" boy could do anything helped me to believe in myself and have courage to take action. In times of self doubt and personal crisis, I still see her pumping her fist and telling me to "go, go go - you can do anything!"

As for material wealth, I grew up on my mom's social security checks and my grandparents pensions. I never got everything I wanted, but I always got what was needed. Even as an adult, when I needed something, they made sure I got it. When I turned 16, gramps gave me his car. When I needed to go to college and the scholarships were not enough, they came up with the cash to help me get my Bachelors degree. When I wrecked it a week later, he bought me another used car. When I started my first company, mom kept gas in my car tank and food in my belly by dishing out a few dollars here and there. When my first company failed and I had no money and no car, I moved back in with gramps to get back on my feet. It was only me and him left out of my immediate family, and we had a chance to bond, playing golf several times per week, sharing meals that he proudly cooked for us and just shooting the shit about life and how much we missed my mother and my grandmother. When it came time in 1999 to leave my first (and only) well paying job at the US Mint to start what is today Conversal, he helped me capitalize the business with a loan for $40,000. Even more recently, when cash flow was poor, gramps would come up with a short term loan for a couple of thousand, which I paid back quickly. Unfortunately, that was really my inheritance he gave me, so now there is no more going to the well for funding this business any further.

By now, I am imagining you are saying so what? Well, both my mother and my father had Cerebral Palsy, which makes the fact that I came out relatively normal something of a small miracle. While there were a few dark periods in my childhood and my adult life after mom became an alcoholic, ultimately dying from cirrhosis, my mother's soul shined so brightly that her impact is still discussed by many of my friends who had the chance to meet her as well as all of her friends at the Publix supermarket, at the 7-11, in the club, at the bowling alley and anywhere else she went. She loved everyone and set a great example for me to follow.

I used to say that I was 'touched by the hand of god' to be so blessed - to have the capacity to think, to create, to see things differently, to have such a great family, to have 2 legs and 2 arms, to have the ability to see, hear and smell - all these things and more I was, and am, grateful for. In looking back today, I realize more aptly, that I was touched by the spirit of my mother which is the real reason I am here today. While she is no longer with us, you can get a better sense for who she was through a mini-book she published, based on a high school paper she wrote (BTW - she was one of the first 'disabled' kids to graduate from the Chicago public school system)

In her name, I have planned to create "The Mandy Fund" which is a college scholarship fund for kids with cerebral palsy. I wish I had more time to do everything I want to do, but this one needs to wait till we make something of the current business, so perhaps within the next year or so, I will be able to fund it properly and begin fundraising efforts.

In the meantime, all I can do is send her my thanks and my love for getting me to here. My only real desire is that she would have been able to see all the great things I have seen in the world and to have met the wonderful people I have had the pleasure of calling a friend.