Twitter friends

Once people have used Twitter for a while they often ask: How can a very large number of people be your friends?

The truth is they can’t all be your intimate friends but that there are degrees of friendship just as exist in real life.  And on Twitter the term “friends” is often applied to mutual followers, i.e. people who follow you and whom you follow back.

Strangely enough Twitter is like real life in a number of ways!  In  our everyday lives we have many contacts that, while friendly, are not close friends.  Twitter is like this too.  There are degrees of contact from close friends with whom there is regular contact through to sporadic contact that is similar to running into an acquaintance in the street and stopping for a chat.

Some people like to allude to Dunbar’s number of 150 people when discussing online friendships.  But I prefer to allude to daily life.  Most of us are acquainted with large number of people on a fairly casual basis – to say hi in passing or to chat when buying our morning coffee.  Then there’s the slightly closer acquaintances with whom we work or participate in recreation.  Then even closer are our intimate family and friends. Thus we organise our friendships into concentric circles of increasing or decreasing intimacy.

As with any social interactions there is also an interplay between the personal and work relationships.  A big question we need to consider now is: How and when do we draw the boundaries between these spheres? Once we went home and took off our suit and everything that happened from then until next morning when we donned the suit again was personal. But online social networks like Twitter blur this old boundary in ways we have not yet assimilated into our cultural practices.

The big difference between Twitter and other forms of offline social interaction is that (a) it is public; and (b) a permanent record remains available.  This means that conversations of the kind that were once held casually and ephemerally (perhaps over a beer or a coffee) are now available for later scrutiny and potential use or misuse.

Twitter is not the only technology that raises these issues – Facebook and other social networks give rise to similar challenges.  One thing is certain, if we don’t find ways to accommodate this new way of life there are going to be some messy situations that could potentially harm both individuals and organisations.  I don’t have the answers but I do recognise the importance of this question. If you have any ideas for how to manage this feel free to add a comment.

Here’s a great way to visualise your Twitter friends from sxoop:
[HT: @servantofchaos]

You can get your own twitter mosaic here

Picking a message to fit the medium

So many people ask me about how to manage or create rules of engagement for social media and social networking for their business and staff. Usually I direct them to some good resources like these as a starting point:

Then I recommend that they consider their own specific culture and environment to determine the best rules of engagement for them.  There is really no out of the box or one size fits all solution, and what works in one workplace might be a dismal failure in another.

However, many workplaces generate huge policy documents that govern their social media and networking activities. I’m not sure anyone actually reads those things & thus remain unconvinced as to their utility.

But I recently came across a really good Twitter policy – from a law firm no less – that explains the rules in 140 characters. This is a great approach as it shows how to use the medium itself to share the message, and their rules of engagement are easy to understand.  From Jay at  Shepherd Law Group:

Our Twitter policy: Be professional, kind, discreet, authentic. Represent us well. Remember that you can’t control it once you hit “update.”

You can follow Jay Shepherd on Twitter at @jayshep

#katebreak @ ad:tech sydney

A while back Kate Kendall wrote a blog post that noted a number of women named ‘Kate’ or ‘Katie’ who are involved in Australian women in online marketing movement (WOMM).


Coincidentally a bunch of women named Kate/Katie were attending ad:tech Sydney and were all tweeting as one does at conferences nowadays.

The idea that came up was for all the Kates to get together during a coffee break – it was quickly termed #katebreak. It was closely followed by requests by non-Kates to join us for coffee. Thus a meme was born.

We enjoyed a nice cup of coffee & cupcakes, it was pleasant to catch up with folks in real life (and it was easy to remember everyone’s name 😉

Handing Your Brand To The Consumer

We had a really good discussion on this topic in our panel session this morning at ad:tech Sydney. The topic was Handing Your Brand To The Consumer: Are You Willing To Let Go?

The distinguished panel members were: Charis Palmer, Managing Editor, Online Banking Review; Jackie Maxted, CEO,; and Gareth Llewellyn, Corporate Communications Manager, Oracle Australia.

Starting with the proposition that any control over brands in the past was merely an illusion we heard some case studies from Gareth & Jackie. Then we segued into an interesting conversation about some of the issues.

The wide ranging discussion covered areas such as risk and resourcing for online activities like blogging and social networking for business.

Another important topic was getting the tone right and the importance of a relaxed culture vs. corporate tone, and informal vs. formal messaging.

Other considerations included transparency versus legal & compliance issues – especially for banking and other highly regulated industries.

The consensus was that brands are out of our hands to a certain extent anyhow, so it is better to engage on your own terms and start a conversation with consumers. And listening was seen as a critical starting point to the dialogue.

A big thank-you to the panel, they did a great job in bringing out key lessons learned and issues for consideration before embarking on this kind of corporate journey. Will try to blog some more about this later as the panel had some good ideas.

International Women’s Day 2009

Most years recently I’ve avoided IWD lunches in Sydney by the simple expedient of being on vacation in north eastern Canada.  But this year it was not possible to squeeze in a late February – early March vacation due to my business trip in December.

But there was one thing that was certain – I did not want my celebration of IWD this year to be a very corporate style expensive lunch at a big hotel.  This year my focus has been on simplicity, frugality and reducing my impact on the planet.

Sharing these feelings recently at lunch with some friends we resolved to create a different kind of IWD celebration.  Something simpler, with a more human face, without experts telling us stuff, and inclusive of girl geeks.

Thus was born the IWD Brown Bag Lunch on 6 March.  It was an experiment to see if we could really get a bunch of women to bring their own lunches and get together to network and raise some money for charity.

The result?  About 20 women & one of my brave male friends turned up to share a meal, talk and share ideas.  It was great fun and we collected some money for IWDA.  Will post some photos of the lunch on Flickr once they’ve been uploaded.

Key attitudes for Enterprise 2.0 success

There is a lot of focus on all the technical stuff around Enterprise 2.0 – the platforms, open source v. proprietary, etc. But achieving success with Enterprise 2.0 can actually come down to attitude as much as anything else.

My top 5 attitudes for Enterprise 2.0 sucess follow. Again this is not an exhaustive list, merely some notes I’ve made based on conversations at the recent Enteprise 2.0 Executive Forum.

  1. Collaboration – building a spirit of cooperation and sharing of ideas and input is important because with Entperprise 2.0 we are moving away from familiar routines of application development and deployment.  We need to ensure that all stakeholders participate and have a voice.
  2. Dialogue + feedback loops + listening – collaboration is enabled by listening, dialogue and feedback loops.  For it to work we need managers to model this kind of behaviour and the rest of the team will generally follow.
  3. Fail early, fail often – permission to fail is an important factor in eventual success for Enterprise 2.0 as there are many unknowns.  The idea of failing early and at low cost can be a difficult one to come to terms with for managers who are used to the false security of waterfall projects.  But it is important to study the failures, they are packed with information for future success.
  4. Pre-determine no-go points – pre-determined decision making processes and schedules are very important. Just like climbing Mt Everest knowing when to stop can be the difference between mild disappointment and disaster. But disaster can be avoided by taking the time to agree go/no-go points upfront for projects.
  5. Usability above all – we know from user responses to web 2.0 applications that they will accept less functionality as long as what they have is usable.  This means getting the designers and UX people involved as part of the core team and not excluding them until the last moment.  More usable applications usually equal better uptake.

more animals

Key enablers for Enterprise 2.0

– some more thoughts following on from the Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum.

Here is my list of the top 10 enablers for Enterprise 2.0 – this is not an exhaustive list merely my notes based on sessions at the forum and various conversations with participants.

One thing that is important to note is that many of these are not technical.  These enablers are about process, decision making, and governance.  The more technical enablers are things like agile methods and virtual sandpit environments.

I count these as enablers because we need to develop new mindsets about technical environments for innovation.  I have worked with clients who have no production environments that can be used for innovation.  In many places all production systems go through a 6 week change cycle and deploy onto expensive tier-1 environments.  This kind of thing just stifles innovation and makes it almost impossible to experiment at a reasonable cost.  We need to move away from that using virtualization and lite processes to support innovation.

This does not mean putting core business systems at risk, and that is why another key enabler is stage containment. Protecting business assets on a risk assessment basis is an important capability.  But we need to balance that with the need to prototype, fail fast and at low cost, and to adopt perpetual beta type practices to assist innovation.

  1. Agile methods
  2. Clear goals & responsibilities
  3. Content
  4. Flexible governance
  5. Information architecture
  6. Internal evangelists
  7. Stage containment
  8. Start small, no big-bang
  9. Tiger teams
  10. Virtualized sandpit environments

Cranky girl geeks

Caught up with Pia Waugh on the road trip to Yass the other day.  We were talking about girl geeks and some really annoying things we keep hearing.

And we’re not the only ones. A number of my geeky girlfriends have been discussing women and technology for a long time.

We’re all a bit annoyed that we keep hearing messages like:

IT is a masculine area‘ – no it’s not! There is nothing inherently masculine about typing on a keyboard or fiddling with a screwdriver.  Just because there has traditionally been a preponderance of men working in an area does not mean the job requires a lot of testosterone.

Girls don’t want to be technical‘ – actually some of us do, we like to learn how things work and tinkering with hardware and software.  Some of us learn new programming languages just for fun or decide to learn all about Linux because it seems cool to us.

It’s OK to say you work in IT if you don’t know any technical stuff‘ – actually if you work in sales, marketing, HR, etc related to technology but don’t know anything about technology then you don’t really work in IT.  You work in sales, marketing, HR, etc – and there is nothing wrong with that.   How would you like it if all the geeks started saying they worked in sales, marketing, HR, etc?

Anyway we’re planning to do something about it – so keep an eye on things over at Silicon Federation, e.g. International Women’s Day 2009 lunch on 6 Mar 2009.

UPDATE #1: OMG it’s not just me! Check this out –
It still Sux to be a woman working in IT (Subtitle: Catherine has a rant)
UPDATE #2: Those people in the picture are from left to right – Pia, @Stilgherrian & @ApostrophePong