2765 Words

For various reasons, I am on another sabbatical from Twitter. This is not my first, and I dare say not my last. Duration, unknown. Frankly, I am boring myself and slowly sticking my foot in my own mouth. To fill the now empty space, I have spent more time thinking and writing. So, for instance these are some raw numbers from the last few days. This is by no means scientific.


Average Tweets per day: 100
Average size of each tweet: 100
Total Words: 10,000
Estimated Percentage valuable (ie: valuable content): 10%
Words of Value = 1,000


Average Tweets per day: 100
Average size of each tweet: 100
Total Words: 2,765
Estimated Percentage valuable (ie: valuable content): 90%
Words of Value = 2,488

So, the question remains: are the conversations on twitter worth 2.5 times the publishing via blogs?

Matt Bai, US Political Blogger in Australia


Join Government, business leaders and political bloggers for Australia’s inaugural Politics & Technology Forum, brought to you by Microsoft Australia.

Quick details: Date: 25th June 2008, Time: morning, Location: Hyatt, Canberra

For the first Forum, Microsoft is hosting keynote speaker Matt Bai, author and political writer for New York Times magazine. Matt will address the rise of political movements in the internet age, with a focus on new forms of Information Technology and how they fashion or replicate the political debate and trends.

In the midst of the neverending US Presidential Primary Season, and just prior to the Party Conventions: Matt visits Australia and provides a vision of the future of politics in the age of Hyperconnection.

Seats are complimentary and strictly limited. To reserve your place, RSVP by 11 June 2008 and quote event ticket code‘BAI’.

Bloggers do get Writer’s Block




This posting on http://on10.net/ : “64bits. More than 2 times 32” has been in my Windows Live Writer drafts for too long. Sitting there, looking at me.

The topic was easy. I knew I was going to write something about Vista x64. Not that I am the world’s expert: and that was half of the problem. Researching, reading. Trying things out.

Writing it down, well that is another matter.

Some days writing is easy. It just flows. From your brain through the keys. Music going to get a steady rhythm. No-one in the house interrupting your thoughts.

Other days, you are not in the zone. Watch some video. Listen to some Podcasts. Twitter a little. Twitter a lot.

And twitter, my friends, is sucking the words from my brain. That’s it. Twitter is a word-sucking-vampire of thoughts.

Using your name wisely

Des Walsh, the doyen of Australian Blogging, is now using his strongest brand: his name.

Your parents give you a name. Most people live with this name for the rest of their life. Unless you are Reginald Kenneth Dwight, now Sir Elton Hercules John, CBE. (Oh, there’s a whole Psychiatry conference in that name change alone!)

As alpha bloggers and all successful people know: all you really own is your name. This is the label to your reputation. Own it, defend it, market it.

Successful blogging is composed of authentic personal voice, from you underneath your name. Use it wisely.

Blogging from a Corporate Perspective

Questions my AIM Presentation Last Week:


A big thanks to Stephen Collins of acidlabs for his detailed response. As an expert who speaks to senior decision makers daily on Web 2.0 and social-networking, he’s an excellent resource.


1. Susan asks: Does Microsoft have a Corporate Blogging Policy?

For me, it’s encompassed in this simple phrase: “Don’t be Stupid

However, the more formal policy is embodied in some more formal bullet points:

  • Above all, “Be smart.”
  • Respect existing confidentiality agreements
  • Don’t break news; don’t disclose confidential information
  • Be cautious with third-party information
  • Respect prior employers
  • Identify yourself
  • Be cautious in how you offer support or advice
  • Speak for yourself
  • Think about reactions before you post

This Wired article on Jeff Sandquist, the quiet uber-boss of Microsoft’s community sites provides another perspective from an independent point of view.


2. Susan asks: what about visibility of your history as an Employee?

Question from employer’s perspective is that they already have the ability to openly vet potential employees: references, word-of-mouth. Many of the questions are related to whether a potential employee will fit into the organisation’s culture.

From an employee’s perspective: I cannot stress enough that you must own your own digital identity. It’s better to call out what might be out there, and explain your perspective. Thankfully, Australia has strong Equal Opportunity laws that protect employees.

Another question I would ask is was is the fact that “it” was done, or that its is suddenly searchable that makes you uncomfortable? Much more of a moral question, I suppose.

Where you draw the line? It depends on the individual. Blogging and participating as an individual just for work purposes is appropriate. Locking down your pictures and other personal information for your own family and friends and separating your identities is also appropriate. Noone should ever be forced to write to the web against their own personal values.

The final point I would make is that the internet is a public place.


3. Question From Phil: Thanks for a very informative presentation. I was interested in a somewhat “off the cuff” comment you made about your title being made “professional geek” after some debate with your employer, Microsoft. Do you want to elaborate on the discussion you had about this and whether it caused any consternation? It strikes me as interesting if it was hard to convince people that a title like this might fit on an org chart in the brave new web world!


This post has the evidence. A proud moment when the cards arrived, and my former boss Frank Arrigo changing the HR system.

OK, the story.

My official title is Enthusiast Evangelist. I love what I do, but this title is too marketing-title for me. I do work in the Evangelism team.

On my fourth day at Microsoft, the global team met Rory: a http://channel9.msdn.com/ host and a character. His central theme is “create a persona”

I decided my persona is myself. Be a geek. Be an accessible geek for those who are enthusiastic about technology. A Professional. Hence Professional Geek.

So, next step: ask for the business cards. Title: Professional Geek.

The internal order was quickly rejected by Purchasing. Why? All titles printed on cards needed to be reflected in our HR system. After 3 weeks of backwards and forward email (low priority in my list of things to do) – Frank found a work-around. All it needed was an email from him “OK-ing” the non-standard title, and all is OK. I also remember sending an email to Microsoft HR asking for a title change. To no avail. Being in Frank Arrigo’s team at the time, I think they expected some iconoclastic requests.

Later in the year, Frank found he could freely change titles in the HR system.

The univseral response of people when they see “Professional Geek” is one of glee. I starts a conversation, and truly reflects what I am, do and stand for.

Microsoft is so cool to permit this.

So, how do you get this through your organisation?

Really, its about what you do for your organisation and what that represents to the outside world. Enthusiast Evangelist was too inward looking.


4. Freedom of expression. Does the blogging influence what I write?

Yes, it does influence what I write, record and publish. I am an employee of Microsoft; but context is also important.

For instance, there are personal entries on my blog – and entries from when I was not an employee of Microsoft. The reality of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs drives us all; and this will influence what and how I write.

In March 2007, Munir Kotadia on ZDNet blogged how a Mac user’s cat had broken MacOS X security.  Now I am a sucker for cat stories. And as a Mac user, I had seen our cats sleeping on our PC and Mac laptops around the house. Where there is warmth, there is cat.

My mistake was blogging a reference to this article on http://on10.net/ with a picture of one of my cats. This blog entry was pulled within a few hours. It was a stupid, rush-of-blood to the head post that added to value to the world.

How many rules I break above? About 4 or 5.

The cardinal rule is sensitivity to security as an issue. I wasn’t thinking, and was stupid.

Thankfully, Microsoft permits mistakes. And admission of mistakes. Learnt my lesson, built a bridge and I am getting over it.

I still think the story is cute, and in retrospect it deserved at least a LOLcat.

Underdog Blog


Swollenpickles (swollenpickledonions?) rates this blog, and 24 others as “underdog blogs.” The article is positively titled “25 of the lowest ranked top 100 Australian blogs”

What’s more, I loved to watch Underdog on the TV. Now there is a lame-arse Disney movie coming in August. Another of my childhood icons destroyed!

Great way to link link backs and boost yourself above that fateful 75th position, I reckon.

Interestingly, this blog is categorised as “geek stuff”. KTHXBAI

Scoble on Write-only Marketing

Robert Scoble, now earning a living dealing with PR people in the ‘valley, understands the difficulty of blogging from within large organisations. Robert refers to one of the 4000-or-so bloggers at Microsoft: David Weller.

The best way to learn about an organisation, its plans and products is with a search engine. Marketing and product teams are absolutely scared witless of the transparency that blogging provides. It’s not evilness, it’s the fear of informing the competition. Especially in the online world where the small is as powerful as the large, and products live and die within a 24-hour cycle.

Marketing and PR prefer a “write-only” internet. Sadly, the internet as we see it today is read and write, read and write.

Maybe Microsoft is not “ubercool” because it’s not obscure enough. Too much transparency, too many eyes, too many mouths. Please don’t forget for each one of these mouths, there is a matching set of ears. We are listening too. Bloggers write, and see the response, feed this back into the cycle of product development.

One wonders about other organisations, and if the “eyes” to “ears” ratio also applies. Read and Write.

Tool of choice: Windows LiveWriter

I’ve been dog-fooding (that is, internally testing) Windows LiveWriter – for creating editing and posting to my three Blogs. Install, and it just works.

Tim Heuer’s Flickr4Writer plugin is a must-have. A major time saver.

There are many positive stories about LiveWriter, this however James Clarke’s takes the cake: JetFuel: Silverlight plugin for LiveWriter.  Something else to play with!

Follow the Eyeballs. And the Money.

Breakfast Bytes

At the Hill and KnowltonSurviving and thriving in the next decade – Technology PublishingBreakfast Bytes this morning, a group of eminent panelists in picture above, from the left:

  • James Tuckerman – Publishing Editor, AntHill. New relatively magazine about ideas, money and skills. Previously more print than online, but adding new online projects later in 2007.
  • Heather Craven – Director of Marketing & Communications, Circulations Audit Board,
    Australian Circulation Bureau. Sub-committee researching digital.
  • Brian Haverty – Editorial Director, CNET Networks Australia : Readers first, video and text style publishing.
  • Tony Sarno – Editor, APC. Adding new online APC projects later in 2007.
  • Peter Roberts – Managing Editor, BRW. Part of the Fairfax group, around since 1857. Noted that http://www.afr.com/ relaunched this week, and closed content model AFR Access continues.
  • Andrew Kirk, Hill and Knowlton: Chair

The theme from the morning’s panel and Q&A is that “there will be a mixture of online and print” and that “online and print” readers are treated as different readers by the big-names. My perspective as a corporate online/citizen journalist is slightly different.

Like the quintessential investigative journalists: Woodward and Bernstein learnt: follow the money. In the above listing of panelists, notice where their stated investment is going. It’s online.

From a traditional publisher’s perspective, the business is about employing journalists to gather hidden facts, connect, analyse and write stories. People buy the paper (atoms) to read the stories and maybe their eyeballs will stray onto an advertisement. The marketing groups of companies buy these positions on the paper in the hope that the right eyeballs are enthralled by the product and/or service – and buy the product. The core of a publisher’s job is managing the compelling content such that a specific audience is created that advertisers value.

The web is no different, except that anyone can be a publisher, and outsource the revenue side (advertising) to Microsoft or Google. Large publishers, such as Fairfax, are unhappy that their expensive infrastructure is subverted online: Peter Roberts mentioned twice that Google made $200 million in Australia without investing in the content-side.

Peter Roberts also commented on one of his competitors, Alan Kohler’s Eureka Report, having only an online mechanism but successful business model. My perspective is that Alan’s business is successful as he is seen as a respected and independent entity within Australia’s financial community. Alan Kohler is a trusted brand.

The Gadget Guy, Peter Blasina’s question near the end summarised the morning for me: What does the future really look like? Each of the represented panelist’s organisations (maybe with the exception of cnet) have their business strategies weighted toward print, and the brand-value that print brings.

Peter Blasina comes at this with credibility as a true multi-channel brand and personality: print, online and TV – and surmised that the coming generation will change the face of the print publisher’s world. And they know it.

The future for publishers is where the eyeballs are. And eyeballs are not going to be in print, it is going to be online. Eyeballs stay longer where this is trusted value, and most importantly where there is a community. Reading a magazine is an almost high-latency feedback medium; where two-way interaction is slow if attempted at all.

Demographics of the eyeballs are changing to more online: younger readers being digitally native and older generations having more time to explore online; with more females than males desiring a community and interaction rather than passive acceptance; high bandwidth connection to permit TV, Radio and Print being equal online mediums.

Whilst I have no research to back this up, I am going to state it here. A common refrain from print publishers is that “Radio did not replace newspapers, and TV did not replace radio” as their backwards looking perspective on why online will not replace these old media. My argument is that the internet can replace the media styles: with web pages, podcasts and vidcasts. As Rupert Murdoch is quoted as saying: “Big media no longer controls the conversation” 

James Tuckerman knows his readers, and I think has a plan to create value in Anthill’s community. He understands the emotional connection that he has with his readership. James also stated there are “population lumps” at birth-years of 1949, 1974 and 1985. According to the ABS, there is another population lump in the 2005-7 range too. My suggestion is to watch Anthill as a publisher. They are starting a conversation with their community.

A Question about SecondLife, the current “craze” in Australia potentially due to a visit in meatspace by a Linden Labs persona, resulted in Tony Sarno saying that “many PBL management have visited SecondLife”. I fear it is because of the gambling dens rather than the community aspect. About 20% of the audience of largely PR and technology industry attendees had logged into SecondLife, of which most had logged in once.

So, in industry parlance, what is the tip-on for online? It’s the community. Community is the new Brand.

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