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Archive for August, 2009

How Things Are Supposed To Work …

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The title of the blog post (excerpt below) says it all. 

Kudos where kudos due, this short story show how customer support is supposed to work today.

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A Grateful Customer

24 August, 2009 (19:28)

This weekend my laptop had a total meltdown on the drive and I lost all my data (may still find a way to get it back – yet to be determined) due to a combination of a Windows update gone bad (first one in 14 years) and the incomplete removal of Linux (Grub boot loader remained.) For whatever reason the .net framework update completely munged on my computer and in doing so it wiped out the MBR (master boot record). Now normally that’s not a big deal you simply …

[ Snip ...]

Now I need a Windows computer for work and I needed to be at work this morning so I thought well screw the data I’ll go buy a copy of Vista and install it. Off to the only local store open on a Sunday …

[Snip ...]

Enter my new HP G60-439CA

Well I’m back up and running and if I can get XP installed on the old one I might still retrieve my data as I have XP backups on an external USB drive but Vista does not know what to do with them.

[ Snip ...]

Anyway to the title of this post. The one thing that had me sweating bullets was the loss of Quicken.

Now I regularly back it up to an external USB drive and when I bought Quicken 2009 I saved the downloaded install file to that same drive. So after I got my new laptop up and running I went to reinstall Quicken from the saved file and uh oh I got file corruption errors.

After buying the laptop I have no funds left to buy yet another copy of Quicken – especially since they forced me to upgrade just two months ago when they expired online banking in my 2006 version. So I visited their site and contacted their email support team, explained my problem, used all the same contact info I had used when buying from them and waited hopefully for a positive response.

That was late yesterday afternoon and this morning I received an email from them with a link to download a fresh version of the install file, no questions asked. It installed perfectly and I was able to import my data from the 2 day old backup with no problems at all. So I want to take this opportunity to really thank Intuit software and the Quicken team for coming to my rescue like that.

I’ve been a Quicken customer since the mid 90’s and I will stay one for as long as I can now. It’s the best money manager out there and that was tremendous customer service.

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(Disclosure: Intuit is the spnsor of this blog)

The moment where the customer gets real and satisfying service .. what hundreds and sometimes thousands of people in a single company strive for. 

It’s a real, and randon, blog post from a guy I know who has no incentive whatsoever to post this story on his blog.  That’s why I noticed it, and why it’s such a good example of doing things the right way, the customer-centred way.  Well done.

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Tap the Collective: An Open Innovation Turning Point?

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Is anyone planning to attend the Tap the Collective event in Washington DC this coming Wednesday, September 2?  There’s an impressive presenter list:

  • Don Burke, Intellipedia, Central Intelligence Agency
  • Ryan Hahn, The World Bank
  • Robin Hanson, George Mason University, Chief Scientist of ConsensusPoint
  • Shyam Sankar, Palantir Technologies
  • David Resseguie, Sensorpedia, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • Emma Antunes, Spacebook, NASA

Sensorpedia, “a program initiated by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to utilize Web 2.0 social networking principles to organize and provide access to online sensor network data and related data sets” particularly interests me.   If I’m correctly understanding the next generation Web,  as promoted through Tim  Berners Lee “Linked Data“  and the new “Web Squared” O’Reilly white paper,  Sensorpedia gives us a glimpse into the future.  The site description explains:

“Instead of networking users based on mutual personal interests, Sensorpedia networks users based on mutual information interests. It provides near-real-time collaboration among communities with requirements to share sensor information.”

From my summer reading including papers:

Harnessing Crowds: Mapping the Genome of Collective Intelligence” from Tom Malone et al at MIT

“The New, Faster Face of Innovation” by Erick Brynjolfsson &  Michael Schrage in MIT Sloan Review

Open innovation: where do french companies stand” by Thierry Weil

and recent business press stories including

The Corporate Lab As Ringmaster” (New York Times)

Big Blue’s Global Lab“  the Business Week story about IBM’s “collaboratories” about which Patti Anklam writes in her post here,

I’m wondering if we’ve reached an open innovation tipping point?

It’s 36 years since Bob Metcalfe invented Ethernet and laid the foundations for always-on global connectivity and the power of computer connected minds.  Has recognition of the power of openness, mass collaboration, crowdsourcing and “collaboratories” to solve problems and innovate become just the way we work?

~ Jenny Ambrozek




Collaboratories

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Business Week’s current issue is focused on changes in R&D, by which the future of Innovation.

IBM, which has maintained its R&D spending at a steady rate despite the economic downturn, is now launching a global initiative to work with other companies and countries in what it calls collaboratories: partnerships aimed at generating more product ideas while establishing long-term relationships. Here’s what the article says:

The attraction for IBM is clear. The collaborative strategy snags more research with roughly the same amount of IBM money. Performing research with a variety of partners in many locations also exposes IBM to science challenges and ideas that it might not otherwise encounter.

There it is again: IBM is putting itself at risk of good ideas. It’s just sound business. In one example, IBM has established a nano-technology partnership with a ETH Zurich, a Swiss government funded university. The value to the countries is the potential to launch new industries while its universities can “attract the best faculty and students.”

IBM is literally covering the globe with the collaboratories. Each project meets a complex set of criteria, which I assume has a heavy dose of value network analysis (even if they don’t call it that).

The initiative is not without the issues that confront networks (intellectual property negotations can bring a project to a halt) and economies (why should IBM be focusing outside of the U.S. at a time of great economic need here?). But it is a network vision of amazing reach.




How to backup your social media accounts

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A few months ago I wrote articles on how to store a backup of Google Docs and Gmail accounts – both quite helpful as these services sometimes go down when you need them most. These are great for saving documents, but you might ask, what about your other data stored online, say on social media sites?

Here are various ways in which to keep a local copy for the most popular services’ contents:

TWITTER

Why create a backup: Twitter only archives your latest 3,200 tweets, and past this limit your earlier tweets are automatically discarded. If you’re a heavy user it’s easy to exceed this in a few months.

RSS – Simplest method is to grab your own tweet feed via a locally installed RSS reader like Feed Demon or RSS Captor.

Tweetake – Allows backup of followers, friends, favorites, and of course your tweets by compiling them into a CSV file.

Backup My Tweets – A free web app that does what its name says. It’s main advantage is that it allows you to export a summary of your tweets in HTML, PDF, and JSON.

FACEBOOK

Why create a backup: Just for posterity, or just in case your account gets deactivated. Plus, who knows if Facebook will still be around after 10 years?

Social Safe – A powerful paid application (just $3) based on Adobe AIR that it backs up most of the things inside your Facebook account, including your profile, pictures, and friend list. One glaring limitations is that it doesn’t (yet) provide a mechanism to backup status messages and their accompanying comments.

Photo Download – Photo Download allows you to get both tagged photographs and photo albums that you and your friends have uploaded to Facebook on to your own computer. Compatible with both Windows and Mac OS X.




Notable + Quotable: Leadership best practices, breakdowns in communication, and knowledge complacency

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10 great ideas from five great bosses
Jody Gilbert lists what she’s learned over the years on how top leaders deal with problems in Tech Republic. “Become a small picture kind of boss. It’s critical that you help everyone understand the overall goals and objectives of the organization. But don’t forget that the best leaders also bring those goals down to the smallest details of individual jobs. Learn to help everyone, at every level, understand how his or her specific contribution can make the whole organization more successful.”

Are we solving the same problem?
Discussing the real issue at length is essential to finding a common acceptable answer, says Seth Godin. “This is the biggest disconnect I know of. It happens all the time in B2B sales, in service marketing, in getting along with your boss and even in hiring someone. One side thinks they have figured out a solution. They spend a long time talking about the solution, architecting it, refining it, pricing it, pitching it, delivering it. The other side ends up not liking what they get. The disconnect: the first side says, “this solution is exactly as we described it!” the other side says, “it doesn’t work right.”

How Knowledge Can Hurt Innovation
Scott Anthony of Innosight and HarvardBusiness.org warns about making assumptions that can blind managers to opportunities and threats. “Chip and Dan Heath described the curse of knowledge nicely in their 2007 book Made to Stick (highly recommended to all innovators). The basic problem: people who have deep knowledge about a topic sometimes assume other people have that same knowledge. That can lead to major missteps.”

The Big Question: Are You Better Than Yesterday?
In his guest post on Four-Hour Workweek, Chad Fowler shares an excerpt from a book that aims to sharpen problem-solving skills. “How have you taken better action today for improving your career than you did yesterday? Make one more contact, submit a patch to an open source project, write a thoughtful post and publish it on your weblog. Help one more person on a technical forum in your area of expertise than you did yesterday. If you every day you do a little better than yesterday toward improving yourself, you’ll find that the otherwise ocean-sized proposition of building a remarkable career becomes more tractable.”

Work as Play
Leo Babauta writes his ideas on how to make work fun for yourself or for others in Zen Habits. “Turning work into play doesn’t mean you don’t work hard, or that you never do boring tasks. If you’ve ever played a sport, you know that you work as hard as anyone when you’re playing or practicing — but that’s no problem, because you’re having a blast doing it.”

Fake Rocks, Salami Commanders, and Just Enough to Start
Merlin Mann’s 43folders has an article on perceived barriers to getting started and how to get past them. “It’s not that successful and productive people don’t see those same barriers or feel that same fear—it’s just that most of the good ones have figured out how to either accept the fears as a natural part of the process, or they just choose to ignore each fakey barrier the second it appears.”

Breaking free from the Web: New rehab caters to Internet addicts
Lynne Peeples reports on a facility that seeks to cure individuals from too much Internet dependence on Scientific American. “The retreat’s founders think that Internet addiction is a serious problem, affecting between 6 and 10 percent of the online population. But how do you know if you are an addict? A list of 12 “signs and symptoms” appears on the new reStart Internet Addiction Recovery Program’s Web page—from a “heightened sense of euphoria while involved in computer and Internet activities” to “being dishonest with others” and “physical changes such as weight gain or loss, backaches, headaches, [and] carpal tunnel syndrome.”




Novell Teaming 2 Brings a Richer Collaboration Feature Set

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A few months ago I wrote about Novell GroupWise, their collaboration and productivity application (see Novell GroupWise 8 Brings Enterprise 2.0 Capability to Personal Productivity Functions). GroupWise allows for sharing tools such as calendar, task management, and email.

Recently, I spoke again with Novell about their companion product Novell Teaming. It allows for such capabilities as online secure team workspaces, document management, expert identification, and process automation. I wrote about an excellent case example of Novell Teaming at the Kempinski hotel group (see Novell Teaming Brings Kempinski Hotels into Enterprise 2.0). Now Novell is releasing a new version of Teaming with a number of new and upgraded features. Travis Grandpre, Product Marketing Manager, and Tracy Smith, Product Manager walked me through the changes with Novell Teaming 2 and their plans for the future.

Travis first said that Novell has a plan for bringing its GroupWise, Teaming, GroupWise Instant Messenger, and Conferencing applications together. So far the first three are integrated. They will also be providing bidirectional data integration of GroupWise with SharePoint, Sugar CRM, and Salesforce.com later this year. Then future iterations will have integration with ActiveSync enabled devices, Documentum and SAP.

I asked Travis about the SharePoint integration. He said they will enable file exchange for people who want to use GroupWise for collaboration and SharePoint for document sharing. Next year, you can also migrate WSS, the free version of SharePoint that comes with Windows Server, into Teaming to retain any work done in WSS.

We went over the capabilities that come with Teaming 2. There are customizable workspaces, enterprise search and social networking tools, user-based access control, business automation, file sharing, and a library of templates. The templates allow for quick starting specific use cases. They have thirty so far and are adding two to three a week. Examples include: bug/issue management, daily time card, employee help desk, expense report, injury report, medical history, meeting minutes, and pricing proposal. I think these are a great idea. You can use them as a starting point for customized versions without having to re-invent basic features. Down the road, the Teaming Library will include examples of Landing pages, articles, customization and integration examples.

Future plans for Teaming include further user interface enhancements, business application integration with Novell DataSync, enhanced mobile device support, cloud based offerings and integration with other applications like MS Office, Open Office, Outlook, Notes, Documentum, FileNet and more. Travis covered the Kablink Open Source Community that feeds development of Novell Teaming. It was launched in 2008 with downloads and activity continuing to increase.

Tracy next walked me through a demo. There are two core concepts: workspaces and entries. There are three versions of workspaces: personal, group, and global or enterprise. I like the concept of a personalized workspace. Tracy said that one of the main applications of Teaming is for knowledge management. In the past applications that supported personal knowledge management were generally nonexistent so this really appeals to me. You can make content in your personal workspace private. There is a relevance dashboard that provides a filter to all the activity in the system. You can see what’s new in the teams you belong to through an auto-generated stream of actions. Access controls allow you to only see what fits your access profile. You can select the people and teams to monitor [relevance dashboard is a productivity tool in the Personal Workspace].

The team workspace is where most activity occurs. You can see members and their profiles, post discussion items, and create content folders. There is also a separate micro-blogging capability. You have the option of adding the auto-generated activities flow into the micro-blog stream along with what you enter manually. Workspaces can contain shared files, wikis, blogs, discussion groups, surveys, shared calendars, project tasks milestones and more.

As you move through activities and parts of the Teaming application, you see a history of your actions so you can easily go back to prior work. This is a nice feature. They also added a series of brief video tutorials to cover key features. In the future they are going to add greater ability to customize landing pages with drag and drop organization.

Tracy said that the top application of Teaming is knowledge management. You can also create forms or use templates for forms and then align them with workflow to both automate and knowledge enable work processes. This is my preferred type of knowledge management, embedded in work processes rather than as standalone repositories. I like these improvements and see Teaming as an excellent support for both personal and team productivity. It embodies principles of enterprise 2.0 and furthers the early visions of what knowledge management could and should do.

Teaming, was also recognized as a leader in the August 2009 Forrester Research, Inc. report, The Forrester Wave: Collaboration Platforms, Q3 2009. I have seen the reports and will be writing about it soon.




Breaking down Twitter messages

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What do people really tweet about? Is it what they had for breakfast? Is it the latest breaking news? corporate marketing? Do people talk to each other or do they just throw random stuff out there? Pear Analytics sought to answer these questions once and for all.

First, let’s look at the demographics. A previous study by Quantcast showed that Twitter reaches 27 million people every month in America. Of these, 55% are female, 43% are between 18 and 34, 78% Caucasian, and with an aaverage household income of $30K-$60K. A dedicated one percent of all users are responsible for 35% of the visits, 72% are passersby, while only 27% are regular users.

Pear’s methodology involved random sampling of the public timeline. Every weekday for two consecutive weeks from 11:00am-5:00pm, they took a look at 200 tweets – or a total of 2,000 tweets in 10 days. These were grouped into six different categories: News, Spam, Self-promotion, Pointless Babble, Conversational and Pass-along Value.

The result was that what they rather derisively defined as Pointless Babble comprised the biggest share of tweets at around 40%. This includes random musings and shares things without necessarily looking to get anyone engaged in a conversation. Coming in at a close second with 37.55% is actual Conversations. These are made up of @replies and questions that seek others to share their own thoughts. Pear Analytics says that if the sample size were bigger and the polling was held longer, these two categories would probably even out.

Pass-along Value, or retweets, came third with a far lower 8.7%, while Self-promotion (corporate marketing and the like) was at 5.85%. Spam came in at 3.75% and lastly 3.6% was mainstream-type News. According to the research firm, “We thought the News category would have more weight than dead last, since this seems to be contrary to Twitter’s new position of being the premier source of news and events. Self-promotion was also less than expected, [which] may be enlightening to some folks, as there appears to be a flurry of companies and businesses joining Twitter to promote products and services.”

Another interesting result from the study was that the best time to go viral with your tweet is to send it on Mondays, preferably at 11:30am CST. Meanwhile, news peaked around 2:00pm on Tuesdays. Conversations, on the other hand, really get going in the afternoon, and more so during Tuesdays. Pear surmises it may be due to people trying to catch up with work in the morning and on Mondays before freeing time to tweet for fun. Sadly, spam tweets are constant every hour of the day.

Pear Analytics will regularly repeat the study every quarter to spot emerging trends. I do hope that in the next iterations, they’ll be able to include weekends, expand the hours, as well as increase their sample size considerably.




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