Posts filed under ‘General Community Discussion’

Microsoft Live Spaces updated…

Well, since I abandoned MS live spaces quickly after launching this blog there first, I thought I owed a little plug to some enhancements just rolled out.  Some friends at Liveside did a good job pulling the list together here.  I thought some of the facts highlighted upfront interesting:

  • 93M spaces created since spaces launched (51 countries/25 languages)
  • 111M users/month
  • 18M photos per day uploaded (4B since launch)

I’d qualify that as a pretty active set of communities.  Note…Spaces itself is not a community by my way of think…but a collection of communities, some active and likely many that are largely static.

Sean

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April 21, 2007 at 9:55 am Leave a comment

Attending a few events in the next several weeks…

Let me know if I might see you there! 

May 3rd and 4th I’ll be attending and speaking at the Online Community Business Forum, put on by Forum One Communications.  Over the last few months I’ve met Jim Cashel and Bill Johnston of Forum One – a couple of very committed guys on the influence of virtual communities.  I’m really looking forward to this event and my opportunity to co-present with my counterpart from Apple.  I haven’t met him yet, but I can’t resist suggesting to him that we start our session with him saying “I’m a Mac” and me responding “…and I’m a PC.”  🙂

On May 7th and 8th I’ll be attending and speaking at SSPA, Service and Support Professionals association.  Kurt Samuelson, responsible for Support.Microsoft.com and I will co-present on Enhancing Online Community and Support Models. 

And finally, on June 6th, I’m planning to attend Forum One’s Online Community Unconference. 

Do let me know if you’ll be at any of these and I’ll certainly plan to blog the best bits from each.

Sean

April 20, 2007 at 7:40 pm 1 comment

Online "Brand Management:" Good? Bad? Or it depends?

Really curious what others think about this…and I guess even more curious if anyone would share their experiences using it!! 

If you are “Tag Drafting” me, you already found this article in The Seattle Times from about a week ago.  It talks about a local company, Visible Technologies as a company to watch.  I’ve quoted a big chunk of the article by Brier Dudley here as I think it’s a good intro…

“Visible is monitoring every place that people can submit comments online and copying the conversations into a massive database.

Discussions are mapped, influential people are identified and Visible’s software then helps clients engage in the conversations or directly contact the influencers.

 …Its other major product is a search-optimization tool that companies and several local billionaires use to influence how they appear in search engines’ top results.

…If a blogger badmouths the Hummer, for instance, the system could notify GM. Within the console, a PR person can draft a response, inserting key points, then get approval to post or e-mail the nettlesome blogger.

Clients pick an “author” or opt for anonymity. Visible also has a virtual army — thousands of personas registered with online forums.

Graziano said the idea is to make it easier for companies to respond and participate, but it’s up to clients to decide how the tools are used.

“This is a communication tool,” he said. “It’s not a pull-the-wool-over-anybody’s-eyes tool.”

It makes you think twice about the authenticity of conversations in the Web community. It’s also a reminder that you have to think critically about all media, new and old, online and off.

The technology can also backfire, if the users go too far and come across as inauthentic participants online, said Forrester Research analyst Peter Kim.

“In the end,” he said, “the authentic voices win out: the human voices.”

In an earlier post, I asked if “Google is stealing equity from your brand?”  In that post I questioned what affiliations (and therefore risks) your brand takes based on what comes up with it when users search for you.  And what you might do about these risks.  Then today, from the Visible Technologies web site I quote:

With more than 90 percent of consumers now relying on Google, Yahoo!, MSN Live, and AOL for information, what people see when results are returned for your brand and employees can have a major impact on your reputation and business.

Let’s think a little about the services Visible is offering (TruView and TruCast) and let’s assume they work brilliantly (this is an assumption, I have no idea:  I guess if they use their own products, they could make a point by demonstrating that they found my little post about them here.) 

  • TruView:  Reputation management service for organizations, brands, companies and/or people designed to “ensure that fair and accurate information is correctly ranked among the top 20 results on each site when people search for your company, products and services, or executive management team.”

hmmm.  Well, I can’t help but think that “fair and accurate” is often NOT aligned with what an org, brand, company or people want discovered first.  Who decides what is “fair and accurate?” – the users or the company?  And what steps does the service take to deliver on this product promise?  Dangerous but interesting ground.  I could sure see politicians and celebrities using a service like this and potentially with fair intent.  I could also see this used to the extreme in ways that really damage the utility of independent user communities – critical voices marginalized.

  • TruCast: Online Conversation Marketing solution.  Harvests all the user generated conversations about “you.”  Identifies and categorizes the conversations, identifies Influencers and directs/orchestrates your participation/response process.

To be sure, I don’t think there is any real shortcut to engaging in “your” communities.  However, I would be really interested to see how this worked.  The concept here I think fits very well with insight capture discussed in an earlier post.  And of course I am a huge proponent of influencer detection and engagement as a cornerstone of community strategy development.  I’m not sure I like the examples used to describe this service as they feel very marketing centric and I fear that if your community engagement is about marketing response to online conversations about “you” then you are in trouble.  Those responses generally only benefit YOU and not your users, so the balance is not right – and therefore your community strategy is defensive or controlling vs truly participative.  But, this comes down to how you use the tool, not the tool itself. 

I guess in debating if this is good, bad or it depends, I almost see this like a weapons manufacturer.  The weapons themselves are neither good nor bad – it depends on who ultimately is using them and for what purposes.  I really hope to learn more about this to share later.

A few other companies with related products or services:  Buzz Metrics, Neboweb, Digital Vigilance, icrossing.

Sean

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April 17, 2007 at 12:57 pm 5 comments

Finally revealed!!! The secret criteria for the Microsoft MVP Award!!

Ok, this may be my last post for a little while on anything explicitly MVP as that is not the point of this blog.  But, on the heals of the MVP summit, I’ve decided it’s finally time to come clean on the “official” criteria for the MVP Award program.  I’ve revealed these super TOP SECRET criteria only privately to some of the MVP’s in the past, but at some urging and with tongue firmly planted in cheek, I give you the following.

Before proceeding, please put on your best Jeff Foxworthy voice…now, here goes:

  • If you have more computers than rooms in your house…you might be an MVP
  • If your family members learn about your life from your blog…you might be an MVP
  • If you’ve ever synchronized your smartphone in a bathroom…you might be an MVP
  • If you don’t think of Starbucks when someone says to meet you in the coffeehouse…you might be an MVP (only MVP’s will get this)
  • If you’ve ever been introduced at a party by your online name…you might be an MVP
  • If you’ve ever “thrown down” in a bar over which developer language is the best…you might be an MVP
  • If you plan your day around wireless hotspots…you might be an MVP
  • If your wardrobe prominently features computer industry logos…you might be an MVP
  • If your spouse gets jealous of your laptop…you might be an MVP
  • If you spent more money on hardware than the car you drive…you might be an MVP
  • If you can quote a KB article, but have no idea who won the last season of Survivor…you might be an MVP

🙂  hope you enjoy and thanks to all the MVP’s and Microsoft personnel that made this years MVP Summit the most interactive summit ever with over 1700 MVP’s and over 1000 Microsoft personnel involved.

If you’d like a little more formal take the program and background, read here.

Sean

ps…for the record, 7 of 11 apply to me (if you substitute BBQs for Hardware on one – well, not quite, but disturbingly close enough!!)

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March 20, 2007 at 8:32 pm 21 comments

"Happy Birthday" Community Group Therapy…

Ok, I promise, no Birthday every month, but today does mark the 1 month “anniversary” of launching this Blog with my launch post.   So, how has it gone?  When I started I was committed, but still apprehensive about whether or not I would continue to have things I want to talk about on a regular basis…but so far, it seems I suffer more from too much I want to talk about.   As the month has turned, I have wondered how I should judge success of this blog?  I considered asking others how they evaluate success of their blogging activity (maybe some good ideas will get posted back here).  Ultimately, I decided it’s a silly question.  In the end, I blog largely for myself – a personal outlet allowing me (forcing me) to put what I’m thinking to “paper.”  It’s an amazingly clarifying process – therapeutic even:)

In traditional “web metric” terms, I don’t know what to think.  Here are a few factoids…

In the end, to lift from Mastercard, what has been priceless is new connections I’ve made with like-minded people that I never knew 60 days ago.  As is typical in any community endeavor, you learn most from the people around you.  So, thanks to all of you reading, thanks to those who have posted comments here, thanks to those who have emailed me, thanks to those who have linked to me.  It’s been a pleasure!! 

Sean

ADDED LATER:

Mukund from Best Engaging asked me a couple of questions about this post I’ll elevate: 

1. Tell us what you learned. What worked, what did not?
2. How did you get 34 blogger’s to link to you and what are the best things that ensure you get blog linked?
3. If you started a new blog today, what would the top 3 things you do.

Thanks for the questions…let me see if I can add some answers.

Answers to 1):  Tell us what you learned.  What worked, what did not?
Learned: I’ve learned I have more to say than I thought.  I’ve learned that writing is a forcing function for thinking.  I’ve learned there is more to learn outside my normal circle than inside. I’ve learned there are lots of interesting people thinking about the same topic.  Per an upcoming post, I’ve also re-learned the value of built-in curiosity.  And I guess I’ve learned the perceived pressure of an unstated publishing schedule – a drive to keep up.
What worked – Follow discussions and see where they lead from site to site to site – keep unwrapping discussions across different blogger’s and when it strikes you, comment there (and include your URL). No surprise here, but see who people you follow, follow.  Schedule time to “research” – my subscribed feeds are now a serious source of weekly research – not a burden. 
What didn’t work – I’m not sure I know yet?? 🙂  Give me a little more time to determine what “worked” means to me.

Answers to 2):  How did you get 34 blogger’s to link to you and what are the best things that ensure you get blog linked?    I did spend some time thinking about this.  At this point, I don’t know how to assess this.  Is 34 good or bad after a month?  How important is it to me?  I hope the answer is by writing content that people are interested in.  That would be the dream that would make me feel the best about what I’ve done.  I don’t know if it’s true or not!!  I think the most important thing to do is somewhat obvious – go get in engaged.  Link to others saying interesting things – ask yourself if you are a blogger: have you updated your blogroll lately?  Comment on others blogs (that’s how I found you:)).  This to me is key.  Go thank people for linking to you – common courtesy (Technorati helps me locate).  Track your disparate conversations (cocomment helps with that).  Like anything, you get out what you put in.  I guess that is it so far. 

Answer to 3): If you started a new blog today, what are the top 3 things you’d do?  Number 1 is that I would look A LOT more before I leap.  I was inspired and rushed to launch – led me to MSN Spaces…then I switched.  That switch was mildly painful.  I’d look a lot more at what other blogger’s are doing that I like and what I could model after.  I would talk to more blogger’s to get their lessons learned.  I didn’t do these things, I dove in.  I think that is what most people do – as there is some story that is important to them they are compelled to tell and thinking through the “platform” feels like it will delay them.  Next, own your URL.  I don’t like the idea of sitting off in someone else’s “place.”  It’s one of the reasons I don’t blog on MSDN (which as a Microsoft employee I could and it would likely be a great way to get traffic).  For good or bad, what I write is a representation of “my brand.”  I want to be responsible for that all up.  #3, play.  Play A LOT!  Try new stuff, get experience.  Some will be good…some not…but play, play, play!!!

Sean

March 10, 2007 at 1:14 pm 7 comments

Are you "Ning-ing"…

Well, I read lots of others posts on Ning and I still couldn’t figure out if I should care.  So, I decided to try it myself.  I like the social notion of being able to create your own tailored community, but stuffing it off in another garden didn’t seem too interesting to me (as opposed to so many other choices).  I created a Ning destination for community group therapy…I’m not sure why, or if you should care, or if I even care…but I think trying things out is important and if you weren’t curious, you wouldn’t be here at all.  More on this notion of curiosity in a few days…

 I also joined (albeit relatively randomly) two Ning communities regarding Web 2.0 (http://web2pointo.ning.com/ and http://webware.ning.com/).  They didn’t seem all that active and I didn’t see yet what I’d get there that I don’t already get from the network I’m connected to, but I’ve come to accept that at 37, I’m often too old to “get it” on some of these social networking sites right off.  So, toes in..perhaps you’ll join me in the experiment.  Or point out to me what I’m missing:)

Sean

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March 8, 2007 at 10:44 pm 1 comment

Microsoft MVP Summit just days away…

Well, I hadn’t planned to blog about this really…as it is my actual day job…but, I have to admit, I’m pretty excited about this.  On March 12th, I get to play host for what I suspect is one of the biggest community parties on the planet! 

Some short background.  In my day job, I’m responsible for the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award program.  The award began in the early 90s to recognize and thank the outstanding online community contributors on CompuServe.  Over the years, it expanded to include both online and offline community contributors to both Microsoft hosted and independent, 3rd party communities focused on Microsoft technologies.  Today, there are just over 3500 MVPs worldwide spanning nearly every Microsoft technology and in nearly 100 countries.  As an example, you can meet some of these experts on the Windows Vista Community page.  You can also search for MVPs here

It’s important to note that MVPs are NOT Microsoft employees.  In fact, I think they would loudly agree with me that they don’t do what they do in communities to help Microsoft, but to help other users.  As independent and highly active community experts on Microsoft technologies they provide amazing insights to Microsoft and more importantly, to millions of users through technical communities around the world.  I’m often asked how “I” can become an MVP and I think what’s important to say to this is that it really isn’t something to be manufactured.  MVPs don’t really try to be MVPs…it’s just who they are – they love to help people with technology.  The least Microsoft can do is reach out, acknowledge, and “Thank” them.  That is the job of my team at Microsoft. 

Now, back to the summit.  Approximately every 12-18 months, Microsoft invites the MVPs to Redmond for the annual MVP summit.  This year, just shy of 1900 MVPs will be joining us, making this by far the largest MVP Summit ever.  Now, I have to admit, I am excited to have Bill Gates keynote and kick things off for us on the 13th, but the real action is the rest of the week where Microsoft product teams will host 533 sessions designed to not only connect the MVPs with one another (a true highlight of the summit), but also with their peers in the product teams.  It’s an amazing site.  With MVPs registered to attend from 88 countries, this will also be the most globally diverse summit in our history. 

So, count on me taking some photos and getting them linked here via flickr.  And if your lucky, no one will catch any video of my annual required turn at karaoke.

Don’t forget to Digg it…

Sean

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March 7, 2007 at 1:55 pm 21 comments

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