Friday, May 19, 2006
It's an great way to keep tabs on thousands of blogs and websites related to HR without having to set up your own RSS feeds.
Maybe that'’s a bit of an exaggeration -– some might say satellite radio is really taking over, but it'’s less so than you might think for the podcast.
I was in a local ice cream shop last weekend after my daughter'’s softball game and, low-and-behold, the shop was promoting their podcast series on new ice cream flavors. I kid you not. Take a look, I mean, listen for yourself.
One of the benefits of podcasting is that it's audio -- —and an attribute that'’s shared by no other communication medium is the ability to listen while you'’re doing something else. Unlike video or text, you can listen to podcasts when driving, surfing the web, or working out (I don'’t do the latter as much as I should).
A few interesting stats on podcasting:
- the creation of podcast feeds has averaged 15% growth month over month
- podcast circulation is consistently growing nearly 20% per month
- iTunes is the clear favorite for podcast subscribers, a healthy 43% of the market (even thought an iPod is not required for listening to a Podcast --– any mp3 player will do).
A medium that'’s less than two years has already amassed a lot of media coverage and a listener ship of close to 1 million; Forrester Research expects that number to grow to 12.3 million households by 2010. A year ago Business Week covered Podcasting with equally optimistic estimates.
These estimates may be low, since more and more mainstream media outlets are podcasting their recorded content and will undoubtedly promote its availability.
In briefings and clients meetings of late, most of the discussion about podcasting has focused on what to use it for, who would listen, how long the podcast should be, and how to download a podcast. What most people haven't asked much about is how to create a podcast in the first place.
So let'’s take a look at some if these issues
While company news or CEO broadcasts are commonly thought to be good candidates for turning into podcasts (they are), there are other uses that will be particularly handy as we move into benefits enrollment season this fall.
HR can use Podcasts to discuss upcoming changes to the benefits programs, and use voice -- which his a powerful communication medium -- to reinforce messaging around health care "‘consumerismÃ" issues, escalating costs, and how employees can get the most our of their benefits plans.
Another good use is in the retirement area. Stats show many twenty-somethings don'’t enroll in their company's 401(k) plan, and miss out not only on the company matching funds, but on starting to build their retirement accounts in their early working years --– ever more important for those without a tradition defined-benefit pension plan. A podcast series is a great way to explain why enrolling in a 401(k) is so important, no matter how young an employee may me.
Unlike broadcast voice mail,– which can do double duty for some of these uses, the podcast can easily be replayed, forward or reversed, and saved far more easily than in a voice mail system. And for those employees who donÃ’t work at a desk, or may not have voice mail, it'’s one of the only ways to receive verbal communications from the company
So now you're geared up and ready to make a podcast about the latest changes to the annual performance review process (how much fun is that!), or that new policy on use of the corporate jet (still paying attention? Good).
Creating a Podcast
Let's take a look at just how easy it is to create a podcast -- with the understanding that the most difficult aspect of podcasting (like blogging) is the content --– the script or plan for what you want to say,– not the technology to record it. Two good podcasting tutorials are How To Podcast or on Feedburner.
If you want to create a podcast for an external website (maybe to go along with your blog, or as companion for all those vacation pictures you just uploaded for your relatives), there are many free services, including Yahoo! and Podcast Alley.
If you want to create a podcast within your company, for posting on your intranet or internal blog, you'’ll want an enterprise version (which isn'’t free, but is amazingly inexpensive). Some options include www.podcasting-tools.com/podcasting-software.htm, www.podcastingnews.com/topics/Podcasting_Software.html and www.podshowcreator.com/.
Here'’s another novel way to create a podcast -- Skype. That'’s right, Skype. The free computer-to-computer (and until year end, free from computer-to-regular telephone) service (which eBay bought last year for $2.6 Billon) has the ability to record conversations (and so does services like WebEx) .
Once recorded, turning the recording into a podcast is as simple as using the aforementioned podcast creators to ‘"convert" the recording into a podcast format.
Now that you know what software to use to record your podcast, all you'’ll need is a microphone for your PC or laptop.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Last year a few brave soles started blogs - GM, Boeing, McDonald's have been widely highlighted as pioneers (for good or bad).
Business Week covers the issue head-on in the "Managing" column (not the technology column!) about what Boeing did, the push back they got, and how it's helping turn around a secretive, traditional old-line manufacturing company.
If traditional companies like Boeing and GM, both operating in highly competitive and often industries like aerospace and automotive can find value in using blogs for internal and external communication, just about any organization should see the potential for this channel.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Now you can give it a try at: http://184.108.40.206
While the banner doesn't hint at anything special, go ahead and search for anything health related, and see how the search results are categorized.
For example, when I searched for "Sore Throat", the listing at the top of the search results page said
|Refine results for sore throat:|
|Treatment||Tests/diagnosis||For patients||From medical authorities|
|Symptoms||Causes/risk factors||For health professionals||Alternative medicine|
Sore throat is a symptom of many medical disorders. Infections cause the majority of sore throats and are contagious.
www.entnet.org/healthinfo/throat/sore_throat.cfm - 41k -
And, of course, the sponsored links were just what you'd expect:
Wild Cherry Coffaway
Natural Cough Syrup Formula
by 7th Generation Cherokee
Get rid of Sore Throat
Complete treatment for common cold,
flu & fever. Homeopathic Medicine.
"This Magic Tea Cures"
Research shows this rare Okinawan
tea has magical curing properties.
Wow, what a radical move! OK, seriously, this has been going on in mass all over the net for quite some time- except on sites from major content publishers (except such experiments like Newsweek private label version of NewsGator).
Clearly the pressure from MySpace (and alike sites) is pushing hard on these publishers to move a step closer to the 'self-publishing' aspects of the social media sites.
Friday, May 05, 2006
Some interesting stats:
While 79% are aware of blogs, only 17% read them.
1/3 say they aren't sure how best to describe voice over Internet protocol (VoIP).
More than 70% have never heard of Really Simple Syndication (RSS).
And about 1/2 said they don't know the definition of Internet tagging. (Tagging is similar to the bookmarks people make on their personal Web browsers, except that tagged Web pages are stored on the Internet and can be accessed from any computer at any time).
Thursday, May 04, 2006
While all daily news organizations have moved fully onto the web while continuing to print, many monthly feature magazine had not enbraced the web until quite recently (The New Yorker didn’t have a website until 2001, and Vanity Fair until 2004, according to Business Week). Even today, Business Week noted, most Time, Inc. magazine websites (Time, People, etc.) have little more than text and pictures (no video, no sound, no interactive games).
And the connection to employee communications? Well, remember the old days of four color employee publications full of well photographed, meticulously edited 3000 word feature stories? OK, it’s been a while. But you know what I’m referring to.
Well, you also know these print publications were replace by content on early Intranets and now on today’s employee portals (Watson Wyatt’s Employee Communications ROI study shows that the use of print media is down 30% and the use of electronic media up 75% in the past two years). And anyone that's ever written for the electrnoic medium knows the content (mainly on intranets) is most often of the time-sensitive news type.
Here’s where the world of teen magazines and employee communications have something in common: The desire of both publishers (that latter being employee communicators) to keep readers’ attention without fighting it out on the sole issue of raw speed (at some point in the not-to-distant future the speed of employee news will be maxed out at real-time – it's already happened for external news).
Condé Nast’s has a fancy name for their experiment with Elle Teen - “user-generated content.” Maybe that's another way of saying, “subscriber blogging.” The plan is for Condé Nast to “let its teen readers create content to a degree previously unseen.”
Could employee communicators take a lead from this by turning over content creation to the employee population? You bet. If you look at what IBM, Intel, Cisco and other high tech companies have done with their massive internal blog network, it sounds quite similar.
And it's already happening in certain circles (hint: my previous post on social media such as myspace.com and facebook.com)
One explanation for the “user-generated content” approach is the simple fact that users are more engaged when they participate in the creation of the content to which they’re reading.
Of course, the stakes are quite different for Condé Nast. Commercial publishers need eyeballs to drive ad revenues (and they are keenly aware that Google’s revenue, which is almost all ad generated, was up 79% last quarter). Employee communicators measure success far differently. But they, too, know that their readers have shifted dramatically from paper to online and may be less engaged as employees than before.
BTW - retired GE CEO Jack Welch recently wrote that the #1 measure of a companies success is employee engagement! He said, "If you're running a business, though, whether it's a corner store or a multi-product multinational, we would say there are three key indicators that really work: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow."
In the end, the common thread for all publishers is attracting and keeping their reader/users base – and their interest in logging on and getting users engaged. The difference going forward may very well be the definition of a publisher - from a content creator to a provider of a framework into which users (aka readers) do more or most of the content creation themselves.
Monday, May 01, 2006
Facebook is now allowing new users from a select group of corporations to join their social network, including: Accenture, Amazon, Apple, EA, Gap, Intel, Intuit, Microsoft, Pepsi, PWC and Teach for America. And Techcrunch says Facebook may add another 1,000 companies on this week.
Since over 85% of college students have signed up for Facebook, one can only wonder how many corporate user will try out the service.
What does this mean for corporations?
For starters, the ability for employees to share information and best practices quicker and easier than ever. It will also likely spur easier recruiting.
Of course, without policies and guidelines created by 'member' companies for their employees, what their employees post on Facebook and how these employees use Facebook are entirely up to each user.
If you're not familiar with either of these sites, they connect users together in a community who share attributes. Facebook says it's an "online directory that connects people through social networks." Myspace says it's a "private community where [users] can share photos, journals, and interests with a growing network of mutual friends."
Facebook and Myspace started with the college market - users need an legitimate .edu email to sign up (this supposedly kept the registrations limited to actual college students). They moved to add the high school market and now Facebook is going corporate.
It's worth noting that Facebook has chosen to seed the corporate market: instead of focusing on one sector or industry they’ve chosen leading companies in several industries that typically hire top-caliber grads (consulting, software development, hardware development, consumer products).
Friday, April 28, 2006
And SAP's Jeff Nolan follows up with his own post on some top of mind applications of RSS within the enterprise.
In the internet space RSS has mainly been associated with "blogs" and news-related websites.
However, with Microsoft, SAP, Oracle (and PeopleSoft) and others making it easy to create RSS feeds from their systems (as opposed to reading RSS feeds, which Microsoft just enabled in the new Beta launch of IE7), the shift will be not only in how information is consumed but how information is being shared.
The focus of the two day retreat in Santa Fe covered many topics related to corporate and internal communications, from leadership to grass roots communications, mentoring to employee health & wellness. And of course, technology (I participated in a lively panel discuss on corporate blogging, what RSS will do once it moves behind the firewall, and the potential impact of social media on employee communications - more on that in a future post).
One of the most interesting observations from the conference involved the 2004 presidential campaign. Former Clinton Press Secretary Mike McCurry, who was a part of the Kerry campaign, discussed the campaign communication strategy and how the two parties approached the effort differently.
Post election analysis showed that the Bush team had mobilized far greater numbers of grass roots supporters in key battleground states. A core tenant of this strategy was segmentation of the voter audiences to target each group with tailored messaging and support. Not unlike the approach starting to be used for employee communications today.
An observation that highlighted how much the internet and then-budding social media is changing politics was summed up with the view that Kerry ran the "last conventional presidential campaign of the 20th century," and that Bush ran the "first of a new style campaign of the 21st century."
One of the best stories that highlighted how much the media landscape has changed revolved around how the media teams treated the national media. The Kerry team had a 7:30pm call each night to review that evening's coverage on the network evening news shows. The Bush team didn't have such a call because they didn't spend much time or energy concerning themselves with the network news.
There's been plenty published about how the under-30 population doesn't read newspapers, the demographic of the evening news being well beyond the 18-49 group, and that the internet has become the preferred source of news and entertainment (so much so that the BBC announced a major strategy change earlier this week on the subject).
Now the influence of social media - and the metoric rise of sites such as myspace.com are having a dramatic effect on not only how people recieve one-way communiations (from their politicians, their executives, their local governments and their kids), but how groups of people truely interact.
This change is happening in our society far faster even than the impact eCommerce has had on retail sales. This evolution is also happening within our organizations and has a direct impact on how people manage, and how organizations communicate and operate.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
They’ve also announced toll free phone support and other feedback and support products for users of Beta 2.
It's a quick download and I'm using it now.
There are many major changes, one of the biggest being the ability to subscribe to RSS feeds (a feature that other browsers, such as Opera, Firefox and Apple's Safari have had for quite some time).
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Mashups are websites, blogs or web applications that seamlessly combines content from more than one source into an integrated experience.
in innovative ways with far less technology heavy lifting that was the previous case in early portal products.
A swicki is new kind of search engine. Unlike other search engines, the user community has control over the results and uses the "wisdom" of users to improve search results.
The swicki shows the search results, which are constantly updated, in a nice 'buzz cloud' of search terms.
What's cool about this?
Sometimes, looking for specific information has that needle in a haystack feeling. Not only can you get 6,000+ results from a simple query, the most relevant data for you can be buried way down the list. Swickis let you slice and dice and customize your search query so that you can specify the most relevant sources, then get further refinement of the results once like-minded users start engaging with the results. Every click refines the swicki's search strings, creating a responsive, dynamic result that's both customized and highly relevant.
What is a buzz cloud and why is it cool?
Buzzclouds are a list of search tags that are popular or recently typed into the swicki. Its a bit like overhearing your community's conversation at a water cooler - the buzzcloud shows what is going on in their searches. This is useful as it drives more traffic by surfacing what is already at the top of your users' minds, and suggesting interesting things to look at.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
A BusinessWeek article reports that that Venture giant Kleiner Perkins is backing Visible Path in its bid to take social networking corporate.
Now a startup called Visible Path is hoping to harness the popularity of Web-networking to create a tool for businesses. The closely held company in Foster City, Calif., has just raised $17 million in a second round of venture-capital funding, BusinessWeek Online has learned. The fund includes $10 million from Menlo Ventures, $5 million from Kleiner Perkins, and $2 million from Integral Capital Partners, according to Visible Path CEO Antony Brydon. The deal will be formally announced in the coming days.
The article says:
Visible Path isn't the first social networking site to target Corporate America. LinkedIn also courts the business and professional market (see BW Online, 04/10/06, "How LinkedIn Broke Through"). The hope is that social networking will follow the trend of other communications, such as e-mail and instant messaging, which got a foothold among tech-savvy youngsters before gaining traction in business.
EMPHASIZING ENTERPRISE. But Visible Path is taking a different approach. While LinkedIn is aimed mostly at individuals who pay fees depending on the level of service, Visible Path sees companies as its main market. "Our business model is different because the enterprise pays, not the individual," says Brydon. "The value in our case accrues to the enterprise, although it also accrues to individuals who comprise the enterprise."
Classic social networking sites like MySpace and FaceBook include millions of home pages featuring member profiles and photos (see BW Online "Users Crowd into MySpace," and "Socializing for Dollars"). Members spend hours surfing the pages, checking each other out, and exchanging messages. Advertisers populate the site with ads and promotions. LinkedIn, aimed at a more mature business audience, relies on subscriptions for revenue. But it, too, is built on home pages with member profiles.
Visible Path looks different from other social-networking sites. Users don't create home pages or profiles on Visible Path. The site instead keeps tabs on whom its users communicate with by e-mail or through other means. And it ranks the strengths of those relationships based on how often people communicate. Then it helps users find common sources and contacts so they can approach one another to do business. "Social networks have an increasingly obvious model on the consumer side, and we think the model on the business side will be increasingly obvious, too," Brydon says. "Social networks have great value."
MULTIPLE PATHS. Here's an example of how the site works: Let's say a salesperson at company A wants to contact the chief information officer at company B. The suitor could make a cold call, but that's not a very good way to get through the front door. Visible Path would let the salesperson seek a colleague or business associate who has a connection to the CIO. He or she may find multiple "paths," in fact. The site also will compile publicly available research on the CIO, tapping resources such as Google (GOOG ) or Hoovers.
Brydon is drawing on a background in social sciences. He studied social networks as an undergrad at Yale in the early '90s, and has a background in statistics. He headed to Silicon Valley after college and applied his psychology degree to business. He spent about five years working as a business consultant for R.B. Webber, taking on clients such as Compaq, Sybase HP, and Avant Go. Then he left to launch an early digital music site called the Internet Underground Music Archive, or IUMA. He sold it to eMusic in 1999, and Vivendi (V ) acquired eMusic two years later.
When it came time to launch his next venture, Visible Path, he used his personal social networks to raise money. He picked up $250,000 in seed money from several individuals, including one at Vivendi. He later raised $500,000 in angel funds led by Esther Dyson, and $5 million in initial venture capital from Kleiner Perkins -- also an investor in Friendster.com, an early social networking site that has since been eclipsed by MySpace and its ilk.
PRIVATE MATTER. Brydon, 34, won't reveal too much data about the privately held Visible Path. He says it isn't profitable yet, but that he believes the current round of financing will be sufficient to take it to profitability. He won't disclose the number of corporate customers or users, but he says they include Fortune 50 companies, smaller enterprises, and law firms. Deployments range from hundreds to thousands of users, he says.
Visible Path and other sites that want to bring social networking to the business sector are in uncharted territory, though. So far, all the successful companies, from MySpace to Facebook, have evolved at the grassroots level. They have evolved outside of the tech establishment of VCs and business experts, growing by word of mouth. No one ever has built a successful social networking site in the tech lab. And the record of any company getting individuals, let alone enterprises, to pay for such a service is sketchy at best. That doesn't mean it can't be done, but there's no precedent to fall back upon.
Brydon hopes that will change soon. No one ever will confuse the plain, uncluttered appearance of Visible Path with a page from MySpace or Facebook. It doesn't feel like a party. It feels like a quiet, corporate conference room. Users see a long, vertical window on the left side of their screen. There's a box there they can punch in names of people they are trying to find. And a map quickly appears, literally sketching a "visible path" to their prospect.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Google launched their Google calendar yesterday (calendar.google.com). And wow, what a nice job they've done.
Coupled with their recent purchase of writely.com, Google has married two of the most powerful Microsoft apps (word processing and scheduling) with gmail to form a killer toolset. All free and available on the web.
Back to Google calendar.... There are a whole slew of cool features, but those that really set this apart from anything else around are:
Manage Multiple Calendars (work, personal, etc) and view them separately or together.
Sharing - Calendars can be shared with others, and you can subscribe to othersÂ shared calendars. Read/write permissions can be granted on a per user basis. Calendars can be published via a web page or via RSS, so readers do not need to be on the Google Calendar platform.
Importing - You can import events from other calendar programs, including Yahoo Calendar and Microsoft Outlook.
These 'integration' features take many of the benefits we've come to love in the enterprise version of outlook and move it from behind the firewall.
Now families can really have a LCD on the refridgerator with a consolidated calendar of each family member's schedule - sync'd with the parents office calendar and the kid's gmail accounts.
My take on all this is simple - if you're reading this via RSS, then not receiving a feed of new content for a while wasn't an issue. If you're still surfing individual blogs, time to get RSS.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
This is a major step not only because IBM is embracing the many free IM services out there, but also the recognition that IM is here to stay as not only a business tool, but a way for employees to easily IM people outside their workplace (via the free IM services).
Actually, IM is simply following the pattern set by email. If you recall, when email first started - before the advent of the Web it only worked within an organization. Remember, the internet is not the world wide web - the www was enabled only after Mark Andreessen invented the first Browser, called Mosaic, while in college in the early 1990's (and then went on to found Netscape). Today it's incomprehensible that one couldn't email to someone 'outside' their workplace. How far technology has come in 10 short years!
For the record, IBM claims 20 million users inside companies currently running Sametime, with 60 of the companies being in the 100 largest in the world.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Imagine creating your own personal home page - full of new feeds and applications you want and use - in literally less than 30 seconds. And all without a lick of technical skill.
Or using a word processor or spreadsheet over the web, for free, with the same functionality as Microsoft Office. And then being able to share that word "document" via the web to collaborate with others, before publishing it to a shared site or blog. Sure beats emailing around a word document with the annotation feature turned on.
Next, imagine news and data literally streaming through your browser, updating in front of your eyes without the frustrating need for the webpage to refresh.
While AJAX is the term for a relatively new programming language (technically a combination of existing protocols), it's implications can be enjoyed by everyone who uses a web browser. In short, AJAX enables webpages to change instantly without having the whole page refresh.
This sounds like a small nuance, but in reality, it's enabling applications to be delivered literally as webpage in a way not possible before. Airline prices change instantly as you choose different routes, maps zoom in or out instantly. Changing text from bold to italic instantly. And that's just the beginning.
The two areas in which AJAX is making most inroads today is for personal home pages or start pages, and as a web-based alternative to Microsoft Word. Both of these items have sent a chill through the folks in Redmond (see what Bill Gates & Ray Ozzie told MS employees) - as they threaten Microsoft's grasp on basic Office apps, as well as outlook and the browser.
Why? Because today there are a small number of start up's offering Word-like functionality, over the web, for free (revenue comes from advertising, not software license sales).
Check out http://www.writely.com/ and you'll see what I mean.
I'm sure it's not long before Google buys them, and takes a run at Microsoft. Or MS buys them and moves Word into a free-for-use model.
Then there's the new phenomenon of personal start pages. There are probably more AJAX 'start page' products out there than RSS readers. And of course, all these AJAX start pages function as RSS readers.
I've been testing a few of them, including Google and Microsoft's "live.com," as well as a cool one called Netvibes.com. Others include:
Goowy (Flash, not AJAX)
The differences appear minimal at this point (most of these have been in existence for only a few months), other than the integration with email.
Google seamlessly shows your gmail inbox, and Microsoft's live.com shows your MSN mail box. They all have ability to load basic content like stock tickers, weather, news and alike. At this point, though, I'm torn between using an AJAX start page, and a stand-alone RSS reader.
While the start page is great for viewing my gmail inbox, stock list, and RSS headlines, I'm finding I like my RSS reader (I use Newsgator) better for RSS feeds, as there is more content scanable without clicking - and simply have my gmail email sent to my outlook client.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
The practical implications of this for you and me is simple and direct - you'll get your RSS feeds as emails right in your Outlook - and file RSS feeds in folders, just like other emails. Interestingly, Yahoo! has already done this in Yahoo! Mail - that is, you can get RSS feeds right in your Yahoo!Mail inbox - and file them in folders, just like Outlook works.
While this technique is possible today in Outlook by using such third-party products from the NewsGators and Attensas of the world, users won't need them and will go directly with the built-in Microsoft option.
Robert Scoble, blogged about this in late December with a key point - users like to get their RSS feeds in many ways. Some like it in email, some in a web-based news reader, some in their blackberry, etc. And with podcasting on the rise, some like it on their iPods.
What's clear, however, is that being able to synchronize (e.g., only show RSS feeds you haven't read yet - regardless of where you first read it - in outlook, on a website, etc.) is a key feature that might give the current niche players a chance to survive the Microsoft onslaught. Of course, that's what people said about Netscape back when Microsoft first introduced Internet Explorer. Remember Netscape? Not many do.