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Month: December 2008

Carol Singing


I’m just back from an evening singing carols around the wards at St George’s hospital in Tooting.
I’ve spent an awful lot of time in and around hospital wards this year, and much of that time hasn’t been very happy. So it was really great to spend some time bringing a little bit of festive cheer into the hospital on Christmas Eve.
Have a very Merry Christmas everyone.

2008, Journalists & Blogging: A Parting Shot

Christmas in ParisSo, today’s my last day in the office this year. I’ll write more about the ups and downs of the editorial development effort here at RBI during my OM&HB review of the year next week, but I have to say, this has been the single hardest year of my working life. 

A recent e-mail conversation reminded of how difficult it can be doing a job like this in a traditional publishing company. I asked one of my colleagues the reason behind a comment here that seemed, to me, unusually hostile. And he replied that he was merely playing devil’s advocate to my remarks. And in that moment, he caught exactly why I feel so very tired right now.
If you spend your life teaching people in media about social media, about conversational publishing and genuine online community, you will spend a good percentage of your time being told you are wrong. Sometimes it’ll be in small ways of the “interesting but… nah” way, and sometimes in all-out confrontation, which I rather like. And sometimes it’ll be in the soul-sapping “I’ll be all nice to your face and undermine you and your work behind your back” kinda way. But you’ll get some element of it every single working day. 
And sure, there’s nothing there that isn’t just part of office politics generally. But you don’t get into a job like this unless you’re passionate about the thing you’re evangelising, and constantly having to defend it against a barrage of negativity can get wearing. Having to defend what you’ve done is one thing, having to continually defend the existence of your own position is quite another.
So, this is Christmas. I’m off to spend time with my (sadly diminished) family, eat and drink, and rediscover my enthusiasm for this fight. And I really, really need to do that, because 2009 is going to be the hardest year in memory for publishers. And I still, quite genuinely, believe that mixing good, original journalism with genuine community interaction for professional communities is the way that we’ll survive this. And that it will be an even tougher year for me than 2008, because the stakes are so very much higher.

A Lesson Learnt

What I have learnt since Wednesday:

Being smug about not catching the various bugs that have been flying around your office and family is a good way  of generating enough hubris that karma feels the need to take you outside for a good kicking.

And yes, I’m feeling a wee bit better, thanks. 🙂

How The CEO’s Kids Drive Adoption

Great post from Lee Bryant at Headshift looking at the evolutionary pressures around Web 2.0 tools in the workplace:

What I really like about the consumer Web 2.0 world is the fact that it has given us an amazing experimental laboratory for new tools and communication techniques. It has produced a Cambrian explosion of start ups, tools, features and buzzwords, each of which has evolved very quickly through exposure to rapid feedback at scale. Conversely, in the enterprise tools space, users are of secondary importance and therefore there are few evolutionary pressures that can improve the generally poor quality tools and systems that IT departments force on the business. This is starting to change as more and more senior people ask why their children have access to more effective tools on their home PCs than they have access to in the office.

Time to be proactive in providing stuff, before the CEO comes asking some hard questions…

Making Users Happy with Social Software

As part of a post looking at predictions for 2009, Ross Mayfield of enetrprise wiki provider SocialText presents som interesting figures about making social software projects successful:

Line of Business implementations not only experience growth, but greater success. According to this year’s McKinsey survey on Building the Web 2.0 Enterprise, IT-driven implementations had 60% user dissatisfaction, whereas LoB-driven had 74% satisfaction.  Part of this is vendor selection, but LoB implementations have greater engagement and adoption.  I believe the best approach is to partner LoB with IT, what I once called middlespace, for the benefits of top down and bottom up adoption.

However, at least one group is finding that wikis are slow to catch on internally

Reasons for B2B 2B Cheerful

John Welsh, of United Business Media has a list of 15 reasons that B2B media should survive the transition to digital. I like 11 and 12 particularly:

11. Clients know they must move their marketing online. They, like the media, are just struggling with the cultural changes necessary.
12. B2B sales teams have a relationship with clients that allows them to mentor them as they learn about digital together.

Save B2B Publishing By Loving People

Naked bloke on a horseMore WIN from my feeds. Ross Mayfield has been posting about the different styles of relationship between users that various web tools promote. One post had this wee gem:

Consider a 1.0 community feature, Forums. Forums are topic-centric instead of people-centric. There isn’t the notion of following people, or leveraging the social network as a filter. You have to sift through what everyone is saying regardless of who they are, which I find tremendously inefficient. This also means that if someone is truly obnoxious you can’t unsubscribe from them.

Now, forums are beginning to evolve away from those roots, by grafting social-network-esque features onto their platforms, so the role of forums is not really the point. The point is that the shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 was the shift from topic-focus to person-focus. That’s why blogs lead the charge – they are a transition technology, in that they’re still (usually) topic-focused, but that the person writing the blog is as important as the topic and often more so. 

However, traditional B2B publishing companies are still, structurally, topic-focused. Our business is built and arranged around topic silos. But people don’t live in topic silos. They have more than one interest, area of expertise and desire to communicate. And the more we try to shove those people into our pre-designated and easy-to-sell (for now) silos, the more we’ll hasten our own demise. 
We need to shift the balance from topic first, person second, to person first and topic second in every element of our publishing process. Until we do that, I don’t think we’ll every escape the trap of sprinkling a wee bit of magic community dust on fundamentally Web 1.0 offerings and wondering why we struggle.