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Archive for September, 2004

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B2.0 On Blogging…

Nice piece in Business 2.0 on blogging featuring our very own Jonathan and James.

Have Blog, Will Market
Business 2.0, 9/30/04; Thomas Mucha

Jonathan Schwartz is a blogging addict. He is also the president and chief
operating officer of Sun Microsystems (SUNW) — a company at the forefront
of a new marketing and communications trend that mixes blogging with
business. (For the rapidly shrinking minority who don’t know what I’m
talking about, a weblog — or blog — is a personal journal on the Web
that’s devoted to politics, science, product reviews, or just about anything
else you can imagine.) In his corporate blog, Schwartz, naturally, covers
the world of Sun. In his latest entry, which focuses on a trip he took last
week to Wall Street, he juxtaposes snippets of his Manhattan dinner
conversations with Sun’s recent work on “radical form factor compression.”

The Sun president’s Web writing style — open, honest, ever geeky — is a
hit. Schwartz’s blog reaches more than 100,000 readers per month, a number
that has grown exponentially during the blog’s three-month existence. “I’m
stunned by the breadth of it,” he says. Surprise aside, it’s easy to see why
a busy bigwig like Schwartz might take the time to operate what some view as
a nerdish hobby. “It is an efficient way for me to have a focused,
one-on-one conversation with thousands of people — shareholders, customers,
employees, and the digerati that circle this industry,” Schwartz explains.

The blogging COO is not alone, even at his own company. Sun’s chief
technology officer, James Gosling, runs his own blog too. So do the
company’s top marketing manager, chief technology evangelist, and hundreds
of other lowly Sun employees. Technorati, a San Francisco-based company that
studies traffic on the emerging “blogosphere,” reports that today there are
about 5,000 serious corporate blogs that, like Sun’s, have the backing and
at least some participation of senior management. The blogging trend itself
is pretty mind-boggling: Technorati tracks more than 4 million blogs and
says a new one is created every 5.8 seconds. And a study by the Pew Internet
and American Life Project found that more than 53 million people — 11
percent of all Internet users — have read or contributed to blogs. So it’s
no surprise that marketers want a piece of the action.

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Shankland Speaks…

Got a few responses on my earlier blog on how news makes the front page. The smartest of which came from Stephen Shankland of C/Net who disagreed – sort of – with my comments on Google news.

“In some ways, Google News is richer than any single news outlet, but the flip side is that Google News favors stories that are widely reported. It’s a convenient algorthim that screens out a lot of fringy bunkum, but it also means you miss stories that are important but that the media herd hasn’t trampled to yet. In other words, you only get the news that’s already a commodity. I’m not sure that disadvantage offsets the advantage of seeing a broader pool of editorial sources.”

He’s right – You get the news everyone is reading when everyone is reading it, but you don’t get the news first. So for us news hounds the onus is still on to dig for news sources that have a tendency to break the news rather than aggregate it. And as far as breaking the news go, Shankland along with Ashlee Vance at El Reg, are amongst the best. No pandering to PR people there – they actually clock the hard miles looking for news…

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Speaking Without Powerpoint…

I recently spoke at an IABC conference on Six Sigma in communications. A few of the audience weren’t too keen on my dislike for the Sigma obsession sweeping corporations. The “Hate it, Hate it, Hate it” comments really set them off. That didn’t surprise me – after all, they’d paid to here someone wax poetically and enthusiastically on Sigma. (Don’t get me wrong, you should use Sigma!)

What did surprise me were the comments on the feedback forms that I should use PowerPoint. No particular reason. I just should. Afterall, that was what they were paying for! Take notes? Forget it, I want slides to take home. (Quick reminder folks… most of us speak for free.)

PowerPoint has become an unnatural obsession of communicators. We’ve totally lost track. What we have to say can only be supported by what we have to show. What we show can’t be what we have to say.

Bibek reminded me of my frustration with slideware over real content (just imagine the Gettysburg Address as Powerpoint). And Tufte nailed it. You should definitely buy/read/steal (not from my office) any/all Tufte’s books.

Wired also said it well. PowerPoint Is Evil. Power Corrupts. PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely.

“Yet slideware -computer programs for presentations -is everywhere: in corporate America, in government bureaucracies, even in our schools. Several hundred million copies of Microsoft PowerPoint are churning out trillions of slides each year. Slideware may help speakers outline their talks, but convenience for the speaker can be punishing to both content and audience. The standard PowerPoint presentation elevates format over content, betraying an attitude of commercialism that turns everything into a sales pitch.”

Tufte uses an excerpt from Louis Gerstner’s Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? to illustrate his thesis,

“One of the first meetings I asked for was a briefing on the state of the [mainframe computer] business… with Nick Donofrio, who was then running the System /390 business. [I] found Nick, and we got started. Sort of.

At that time, the standard format of any important IBM meeting was a presentation using overhead projectors and graphics that IBMers called “foils” [projected transparencies]. Nick was on his second foil when I stepped to the table and, as politely as I could in front of his team, switched off the projector. After a long moment of awkward silence, I simply said, “Let’s just talk about your business.”

… By that afternoon an e-mail about my hitting the Off button on the overhead projector was crisscrossing the world… It was as if the President of the United States had banned the use of English at White House meetings.”

Jonathan Schwartz, our COO, has a great eye for his presentation graphics. Every slide is just reduced, reduced and reduced to it’s Zen-like esennce. They support what he has to say. They aren’t what he says.

Other great presenters – at least in my books – Scott McNealy (ok – I’m a little biased on the first two), Steve Jobs … send me thoughts on others…

So – stand up and speak.

(and anyway don’t use PowerPoint, use StarOffice!)

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Aware Networks…

Coverage of RFID is on the up with all kinds of new buzz words and phrases emerging. Sensor Networks being the latest. Competitive differentiation in tech is incredibly dependent on identifying and owning the language surrounding emerging markets – as Sun so aptly demonstrated with the ‘dot in dot com’, and, IBM with it’s now defunct eBusiness campaign. Greg Papadopolous – Sun’s CTO – put RFID and sensor networks in context about a year ago at Sun’s analyst conference, referring to this broader trend as Aware Networking…

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Let Me Get This Straight…

You can build an unsecure OS (Windows) and applications (like Internet Explorer) and then effectively force folks to buy a safer version in order to correct the errors of previous versions. I am soooo glad not to be living in a Windows world…. Gillmor is absolutely right in that it wouldn’t seem a leaf has been turned – if in fact they want to charge us for their errors… Microsoft’s behavior makes the clear case for individuals and enterprises to immediately use an alternate browser and then start doing the same on the desktop. I’ve got the Java Desktop System running on a new Tadpole and just love it. It’s got a few quirks but is more than adequate for everything I need – with the added benefits of no viruses and no Microsoft taxes. I use my Mac at home for all my personal stuff and love that too. It’s the perfect personal computer but way to expensive in my mind for businesses to deploy and maintain. As soon as I can use my SunRay at home I will slip my Java card in and enjoy the virus free world of Solaris at home. Can’t wait.

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