Leveraging Social Media with Community and Influencers

May 26, 2014

The Internet gave us broad access to an endless supply of information (even if it might distract us and prevent us from deeply understanding topics). Mobile technology increasingly allows us to be constantly connected to the Internet, plus communities and connections. Social media, formerly known as Web 2.0, rode on the waves of new Internet and mobile technology, promising to transform business and communication. At EMC World 2014, I hosted a lively segment on theCUBE with two friends – John Troyer and Amy Lewis (2/3 of the Geek Whisperers podcast) – about social media, community and influencers. John recently ended his 9 years of running communities at VMware to launch a new venture, TechReckoning, a new place for the IT community to figure things out together. Amy manages Influencer Marketing for Cisco. When asked if we are now in a “post-social” phase, both John and Amy agreed that social media is a toolkit that can help with broader efforts such as marketing and community building, rather than a discipline that should be managed separately. We discussed that contributing to the community can come in many forms including coding, blogging or participating in online or in-person events. John proposed that people should dial things back a bit – creating less content with higher value such as long-form posts. Amy also noted that it is also important to have people who can curate information, boiling down the volume of noise into a consumable signal. Check out the full conversation below for great insights on community:

 

 

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On a personal note, it was my 12th year attending EMC World and it was by far the busiest. It’s been a busy season for theCUBE – in addition to EMC World, I was a primary host at the Open Networking Summit, Red Hat Summit and OpenStack Summit broadcasts. On the research side, Wikibon’s definition and market forecast of Server SAN (a scale-out compute+storage architecture including solutions such as Nutanix and VMware VSAN) has received a lot of attention. The week after having Geek Whisperers on theCUBE, I interviewed Brian Gracely and Aaron Delp of The Cloudcast at OpenStack Summit – summary is that blah blah cloud still has a lot of challenges. It’s been an exciting time talking with some top industry influencers, company founders and executives across enterprise IT. As always, feedback is always welcome and thanks to everyone who shares online and in person.

 

Stu Miniman

http://blogstu.wordpress.com


Tipping Point for the Collaboration Economy

September 18, 2013
Chief Catalyst Saul Kaplan kicks off BIF-9

Chief Catalyst Saul Kaplan kicks off BIF-9

It is my third time attending the Business Innovation Factory conference (see my BIF-9 preview post) – while some of the themes are similar year-to-year, there are always new items and trends that bubble to the forefront. After the first day of amazing speakers, the thread that ran through many of the stories that I heard was how the promise of the collaborative (or sharing) economy is poised to take off. Malcolm Gladwell states that a tipping point is where an idea, product or message spread like a virus. The proof points included 3D printing, Kickstarter projects and a many other cases where individuals or small groups could leverage communities to deliver results that are often greater than what large organizations could.

3D Printing

While 3D printing is not new or even a new topic at BIF, the price and availability of the technology are poised to allow people to take the maker revolution to the next step. Seventeen-year-old Easton Lachapelle is an inventor of a 3D printed brain powered robot arm. His current 2nd generation arm (here’s a Vine of him showing it off) costs $400 to produce, weighs under 10 pounds, and it is activated by brainwaves. His 3rd generation will be lighter, stronger (carbon fiber) and faster. On the other end of the experience spectrum, Ping Fu (amazing story – forced out of China, hired Marc Andreesen as a student research, worked on early web and much more) is proving that 3D printing could be “as big as the Internet” for transforming business. Check out Ping’s Twitter page to see her 3D printed shoes – she jokes that she’ll never need to pack shoes again, just print them at her destination. Customization, the sharing of templates and the access to rapid results and iteration can bring people into the design process or completely change the purchasing process. The co-founder of StockTwits, Howard Lindzon pointed to Stratasys ($SSYS) – the company acquired Makerbot – as a hot stock of the 3D printing wave.

Community

There were so many examples of engagement models changing with the help communities and low-cost methods. Doug Ulman of Livestrong explained how the $1 yellow wristband provided such a low barrier to participate; and the primary goal of the organization was to build community for sharing experiences. Food geek Scott Heimendinger used Kickstarter to launch an inexpensive sous vide immersion circulator (high-tech food gear) – raising hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the original plan. And Bruce Nussbaum spoke about how startups like Zipcar and Uber are capitalizing on new business models that existing companies can’t or won’t. Bruce said that companies should allow newer generations to help usher in this change. Collaboration is a big part of my day job doing community-focused research for IT with Wikibon and we see huge opportunities for data (yes – big data too) to transform industries. There are also the companies like Airbnb that are looking to taking sharing and new business models to a new level (see Jeremiah Owyang’s announcement today for more on this topic).

Connect. Inspire. Transform.

I love a good quote as much as the next person and BIF provides some great ones. I would caution that sometimes it’s too easy to boil things down to a headline or tweet (hi, I’m @stu and I tweet a lot), but we need to dig deeper (read more, write more, connect more). So please check out some of the story tellers, the BIF site and I’m always happy to answer questions or connect people with my network. To quote Whitney Johnson, “Showing up doesn’t always equate to winning…You can never give up without dreaming. But you can’t dream if you don’t show up.”

Disclaimer: I am attending BIF-9 on a free blogger pass, which gives me free admission (conference includes meals).

Stu Miniman

http://blogstu.wordpress.com


Finding time for innovation at BIF-9

September 15, 2013

In the technology world, discussions of innovation are usually focused on invention – the creation of new technologies. I grew up in NJ where Bell Labs was an inspiration for me to study engineering and a proud legacy to discuss during my time in sales with Lucent Technologies. Innovation encompasses much more than the ideation moment or even the delivery of new ideas to the market place.

Visualization of SK's BMI talk

If we look at some of the big societal challenges such as healthcare and education, there isn’t a silver bullet to be found through technology or finance. Change for any existing process or business is not easy and requires a different approach such as business model innovations, a technique promoted by Saul Kaplan in his book, his team and his conference (BIF-9 is this week).

At VMworld a few weeks ago (see all of SiliconANGLE and Wikibon’s coverage), over 22,000 people gathered to talk about the latest in cloud computing and virtualization. It is a great ecosystem and my favorite tech show of the year. In many ways however, even with great debate over the direction of some technologies, everyone is talking about the same general topics. As I wrote two years ago (Hyper-connected network or Echo-Chamber), as the social media space has become more crowded, most people will tend to converse and connect with people of similar backgrounds and interests. When it comes to innovation, the best ideas often come through the synthesis of unrelated concepts. One of the best perks that I’ve received through blogging has been passes to some amazing conferences over the years. BIF9The innovation conferences that I have attended have connected me with concepts and people that have greatly broadened my perspective. As Deb Mills-Schofield wrote about the Business Innovation Factory (BIF) conference, it provides us with the amazing opportunity to have Random Collision of Unusual Suspects (#RCUS). While you can definitely gather information at a huge conference, what I relish about the BIF event is that it is designed to blur the line between the speakers and the attendees with lots of networking and deep conversations. The speaking style at BIF is similar to TED events (TED founder Richard Saul Wurman is an advisor and speaker at the event). With only a few hundred people and lots of breaks, it is a great way for innovation junkies to be more than just inspired, but to find connections and ideas that are applicable to your needs. There is a free livestream available for those that aren’t signed up for this sold-out event. While it is always difficult to find time for new perspectives, I’m fond of this saying from Life’s Little Instruction Book:

Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to… Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.

For 2 days this week, I’ll be taking a break from the very busy world of cloud computing, software-defined data center and big data while I immerse with fellow innovation enthusiasts.   I’ll be tweeting and writing about BIF-9 this week. See my articles from BIF-6 and BIF-7.

Disclaimer: I am attending BIF-9 on a free blogger pass, which gives me free admission (conference includes meals).

Stuart Miniman

http://blogstu.wordpress.com

For an update on my activities with Wikibon, check out our software-led infrastructure page. I will be at Oracle Open World and Amazon re:Invent later this year.


A Walk in the Fog – Fitbit up Mt Washington

July 12, 2013

I’m not a fitness nut, but I have been trying to keep in better shape. My general philosophy on weight loss comes from a college roommate who stated, “get off your fat a@@ and stop eating so much” – not to make light of an issue that is serious for many people. A few years back, I dropped 30 pounds in a year by taking a daily 30-45 minute walk and more sensible lunches (more salad, less entrees at the cafeteria). When I moved from a large corporate office where I could easily walk the halls and campus to a small office, my daily walking declined. I’ve seen a bunch of friends through social media trying out the various fitness gadgets and my wife got me an early birthday present of a Fitbit One (find my profile here) so that I could track my daily activity.

What’s great about the Fitbit (and others) is that it doesn’t require much to use – just clip it on (the One is a small clip-on which I preferred to a wristband) and it can sync with a smartphone or computer. It tracks steps taken, floors climbed, distance/miles traveled, time very active and calories burned. I was especially interested in using the Fitbit to track how much walking I actually do when in Las Vegas (it seems like you walk forever) and also for a hike up Mt Washington in NH. In Las Vegas, it was relatively easy to walk 5-10 miles in a day – my current record of 26k steps was at a recent trip where I walked much of the Strip and a lot inside the convention center and between hotels.

Fitbit Mt Washington

Mt Washington is the tallest mountain in the northeast US with the summit at 6228 feet. I was inspired to do the hike after reading Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods a few years back. Two of my college fraternity brothers, Frank and Gil, agreed to do the hike with me. We did a lot of research and got plenty of excellent advice from people – even on a relatively warm summer day, bring plenty of water (I went through 1 gallon on the way up), layers of clothing (the moisture wicking hiking clothes are highly recommended and don’t forget a winter hat), and good shoes (we all wore hiking boots). We took the Jewell Trail which is the “easiest” up – 3900 ft ascent over 5.1 miles. As soon as we got out of the car, it poured rain on us for the first couple of miles, but luckily stopped before we reached the tree line. A nice thing about the Fitbit is that it is fully water and sweat-proof, so even in foul weather, it worked great. The trail directions had details about which way the trail turned at certain mileage, so having the Fitbit tracker was very useful. It took us about 5 hours to reach the summit – and while it was only about 15k steps, it was over 350 flights of stairs (and the Fitbit badge for 300 flights says that this is higher than any building in the world). Gil and I took the Cog Railway back down while Frank hiked the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail which took him 3 hours (a much steeper 4.5 miles for 3800 ft of descent). The summit and most of the mountain was socked in with fog. At the information booth, they told us that this is typical for the summer months, they even sell a postcard of “Mt Washington in the Fog”. While we didn’t get to see much scenery on the climb up or at the summit, we did get to see some of the Presidential Mountain Range on the train ride down.

Mt Washington Summit Group

I’ll leave discussion of wearable computing like Google Glass for another day; my Fitbit has been a fun, simple and useful tool for me. Thanks to Frank and Gil for helping me cross off this goal from my bucket list.


Blogging is dead, how can there be a new place to blog?

January 23, 2013

(my take on Quora's new blogging feature)

Post by Stuart Miniman:

Blogging is dead, how can there be a new place to blog?

View Post on Quora


Passion, Scale and VMworld 2012

September 3, 2012

A theme that I’ve heard many times at business and innovation conferences is that the large organizations kill passion and stifle innovation. At last year’s BIF-7 conference, I asked Dan Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind, if large companies can innovate and he said, “No”. At the World Business Forum last year, Jack Welch said that the argument of companies innovating is a red herring; he said that it is people who innovate. At the recent Dell Wyse CIO Summit 2012, Paul Maritz stated that one of the biggest challenges of a public CEO is keeping the passionate, high-performing employees from leaving. Paul Maritz ran a 10,000 person division of Microsoft, was founder and CEO of a small startup (Pi Corporation) that was acquired by EMC, became CEO of VMware (which has grown to over 11,000 employees) and now moves back into EMC to become chief strategist. He said that the goal of a company is to help people feel that they are doing important work as part of a shared effort and that the structure of the company is helping rather than hindering progress. Size of a company is an obstacle and Maritz states that companies over 20,000 employees are never perfect.

I’ve worked at companies large and small and the balance of process and productivity is a tough balance regardless of size. Some thought leaders and authors have written that the industrial era reporting structure should be abolished. While it sounds promising overhaul management, it is the lack of management oversight and checks and balances that led to the Enron scandal. Paul Martiz stated that the number of people where dysfunction (my word) starts outweighing productivity is 20,000; others have stated that anything larger than a military battalion (around 1000) cannot all be motivated towards the same goal efficiently.

Passionate communities are tough to maintain. Early adopters move on to the next great thing, events lose steam over time and love of brands has a short half-life. The VMworld conference is my favorite show of the year, mostly because it brings together such a passionate community. The bloggers, entrepreneurs, engineers and thought leaders are so diverse and engaging that for the third year in a row, I left the show with my brain full, feet aching and voice shot from non-stop talking. This was the first VMworld that was over 20,000 attendees. While no event of this size is going to keep everyone happy, I have been hearing some rumblings from a number of constituents that the event organizers need to watch out for. First of all, I heard from a number of end-users that there were many sessions that did not meet expectations. A number of the sessions were reported as being too basic, too marketing/product focused or just too boring. I know many passionate vExperts and bloggers that have been calling for a VMworld unconference for the last 2 years to deliver proposed sessions that for one reason or another don’t make the cut. While VMware has to keep its sponsors happy, there’s usually a big gap in passion and delivery between a vendor-assigned presentation and one from a volunteer that shares what excites them. One of VMware’s greatest assets is the halo that the company gets due to the passion of the various communities (VMUGs, VCPs, vExperts, etc); this must be upheld to win the battle against Microsoft and other challengers.

Brent Spiner was the big geek draw at the VMworld 2012 booths, proving that Data was at the center of everything ;)
Thanks to @geekazine for the photo

Whether you were at VMworld or not, check out the full coverage of videos and articles from SiliconANGLE and Wikibon on our curated VMworld 2012 page. Networking had huge buzz at the show due to the Nicira acquisition and theCUBE got an exclusive interview with co-founder Marin Casado, see my article here. I also did videos with EMC TV (watch here – interviewed by Matthew Brender) and TechTarget (watch here – interviewed by Colin Steele).

Thanks everyone for the conversations and interviews at the show! As always, feedback and questions welcome.

Stuart Miniman, vExpert 2011, 2012

http://blogstu.wordpress.com


Reflections on the Next Phase of the Social Evolution

June 9, 2012

The social media revolution came fast and furious over the last 5 years, and I believe that we’ve entered a new era over the last year. I wouldn’t call it “post-social”; while we are definitely past the heady days of early adoption, there are in my opinion still boundless opportunities in the social sphere. To use a financial analogy, with some big stocks like Microsoft, Apple and Google, if you had jumped in early, you could have become insanely rich and if you got in a few years later you’d only be very rich.

In my experience, social media is about social (connecting/community) and media (content). I’ve now been blogging for 4 years (I was on Facebook in ’07, Twitter in ’08, Tumblr in ’08, and WordPress in ’09), and it’s humbling how many connections I’ve made and how many people have read content that I’ve created. I’m a big advocate of getting people to share via blogs and Twitter (I just passed my 10,000th Tweet), so thought I’d share some thoughts on what most of us already know: there’s a big difference between just doing something and doing it well, but too often there are competing pressures or processes that get in the way of doing a great job.

Here I am with James Urquhart and Christofer Hoff at Cisco Live 2009, we were all Tweeting on our Blackberries at the beginning of this video. SQUIRREL!

First on the social side, I consider myself a people person and am active in a number of communities (lots of IT, innovation, social media). I read as much as possible, share what excites me and try and add to the conversation. Feedback through social interactions encourages me to put in the extra effort to write more or interact online (the Twitter retweet or Facebook comment provides the same dopamine ping that we used to get from email beeps in the ‘90s before email volumes became ridiculous). It always helps to understand the target audience for what you’re creating and being active in a community will give your shared items the network effect.

On the content creation side, in addition to blogging and Twitter, I enjoy giving presentations and recording videos that we do in theCUBE at conferences. Research, preparation and hard work separate a good presentation or interview from a mediocre one. A strong narrative or storyline help an audience to connect with both types of presentations. An audience can tell the difference between someone that is prepared, really knows the subject and can feed off of the passion of the presenter. As an example, readers of my blog will be familiar with my FCoE work and likely the YouTube video I did 4 years ago. The format was standard for EMC, there are 100’s of EMC whiteboard videos, yet that particular video has orders of magnitude more views. First of all, it was great timing (I was a non-Cisco person explaining a relatively “hot” technology–brought to market by Cisco–that spanned across storage, networking and virtualization). Second, it was a technology primer, not a product or company pitch. Third, I had seen lots of whiteboard videos, knew what I liked and didn’t as a viewer and worked hard to have a short, focused presentation (I try to follow Mark Twain’s advice – if I had more time, I would have made this writing shorter). Finally, once it was launched, I had the boosting of social media and the internet: I blogged about it, it was picked up and embedded by other blogs and news sites, and it was posted on FCoE.com. Good preparation, execution and follow-through are not easy, and my going “viral” isn’t something that I could ever hope to explain.

I work on many of the Infographics that Wikibon creates, and we strive to fuse strong data points, a good narrative and attractive design (we work with creative teams) so that we’re not putting out “Infocrapics”. Design is very important, as Dan Pink said in his book A Whole New Mind, those who can fuse right-brain and left-brain solutions together (Apple engineering + design is a classic example) can thrive in the economy where commoditization and globalization are disrupting so many industries.

Scott Adams (the Dilbert guy) said at a conference that we make our own luck by looking out for opportunities, trying and persevering on things that pop up that others would likely ignore. I got on Twitter because PR asked for help, did that YouTube video to help marketing, and started blogging thanks to encouragement from the social community. I try to say yes to most requests to share information; time spent with journalists looking for information or participating in podcasts or videos is always rewarding. There’s an insatiable demand for good content in the world. And while I’m a small fish in the blogger world, I know that it’s relatively easy to get connected to some very important people through engagement and sharing of ideas.

Cheers,

Stu Miniman

http://blogstu.wordpress.com

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Some questions for the next phase of social:

As social adoption grows, is your network an echo chamber?

How do you keep community and fun in social so that it doesn’t become un-social and irrelevant?


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