Friday, April 28, 2006

27 Million People Podcast!

According to a report from Arbitron, 11% of Americans (27 million people) have listened to an audio podcast as of February 2006.

RSS Going Corporate... Quickly

If you want some more evidence that RSS is the fastest growing technology trend for communicating information inside the organization (behind the firewall), check out this post by Brent Martin on generating RSS feeds from financial reports from within PeopleSoft.

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.

CCM Conference

This years CCM conference - the annual gathering of the Council of Communication Management - was one of the best in years.

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 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

Internet Explorer 7 Beta Just Released

Microsoft just released Beta v2 of IE7 and announced it on the IE blog.

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: The Next Generation of Employee Portals

If you're wondering what's next for employee portals, the answer is "Mashups".

Mashups are websites, blogs or web applications that seamlessly combines content from more than one source into an integrated experience.

Content used in mashups is typically sourced from a third party via a public interface or API. Other methods of sourcing content for mashups include Web feeds (e.g., RSS) and JavaScript.

In the same way blogs are revolutionizing online publishing, mashups are revolutionizing web development by allowing the ability to combine existing data from disparate sources in innovative ways with far less technology heavy lifting that was the previous case in early portal products.

Posting To A Blog From Your blackberry

I just did - with this post. Works great. Right from my trusty Blackberry.

The only thing better than blogging while sitting on the runway waiting to take off would be food on the plane (one can only wish).

Swicki Search

If you look at the right sidebar you'll notice a new search engine I just added to my blog. It's a swicki search, which shows search terms used by visitors to the blog.

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 Is Going Corporate

If you've ever heard of MySpace, you know it's the most popular way for college kids to keep in touch. Well now it's moving to the Corporate World.

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, 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

The Practical Side of Social Media

With all the buzz around social media these days, one of the most powerful elements may be upon us in a most mundane tool - the calendar.

Google launched their Google calendar yesterday ( And wow, what a nice job they've done.

Coupled with their recent purchase of, 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.

Back To Blogging

Some people blog daily, others less frequently. I've been on blogger hiatus for a while - attempting to get back into the swing of things.

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.