31st March 2007

Community helping Community: SBSMigration…

Well, I simply can’t resist this great story.  Check out this personal invitation from Small Business Server MVP and New Orleans resident, Jeff Middleton.  Jeff is hosting a conference focused on his community which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.  Certainly every resident suffered from this event, but perhaps no group as devastated as small businesses; the long term life blood of every community.  New Orleans and the legacy of Katrina seems an ideal backdrop for talking about IT responsibilities in crisis planning, business continuity and disaster recovery.

I’ve known Jeff for several years.  He and I spoke many times immediately following Katrina as I tracked his efforts to both personally recover and contribute to his fellow residents.  While too many of us have moved on and news coverage has abated, those in New Orleans are still living with the realities of what is a very long term recovery.

I was inspired to see so many of Jeff’s fellow MVP’s volunteering their time to this worthy event.  So, I encourage you to check out the links and help re-ignite some attention on this topic, this part of our community, and the event itself.

Welcome from Jeff


A little help from friends




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posted in Examples, Influencers, MVP | 0 Comments

29th March 2007

Time to consider the Pareto Principle…

Better known as the old 80/20 rule.  In the web world this still applies.  Read up on Italian economist Vilfred Pareto to get some of the history.  I haven’t directly discussed this principle here yet and how it applies to Community insights and research, but I thought it was about time.  This principle is often used in quality assurance or quality control planning and is a fundamental tool in Six Sigma.  Below is a sample Pareto Chart that looks at the hypothetical data relative to frequency of reasons for arriving late at work (thank you wikipedia for the exhibit).

Simple example of a Pareto chart using hypothetical data showing the relative frequency of reasons for arriving late at work.

So, why am I talking about Pareto Principle?  I thought this a timely follow up to my post on Community Segmentation.  I don’t want anyone following my blog or thinking about Web 2.0 to think of it as a replacement for market research, user acceptance testing, focus groups, or anything else you may do today to aid in the decision making process.  Your communities can massively augment and improve your customer/user intelligence, but make no mistake it can’t be your only source.  Your community participants may represent a selection bias in your research.  Your elites are a selection bias.  If only a few % of your total users are active in your communities, is it a statistically significant sample? (I did NOT just say that the feedback/insights from these segments is NOT SIGNIFICANT!!!  It most certainly is.  It just isn’t the whole picture).   The largest source of "listening" for many companies is their call centers.  How do your # of callers and your # of community participants compare - are the insights gathered from these two sources different?  In what ways and what might that tell you?  This isn’t an either/or - it’s about building a strong story through all your insight sources.

Consider these questions as part of how you think this through?

  • How will your online community investment inform your market and product research processes?
  • Do the users in your communities represent your broader set of users?
  • What user segments are not well represented?  Why not? How will you understand them?
  • Is your community insight capture focused only on "power users"?  If the BBQ company I love only listened to users like me, they would build an amazing BBQ for high end users, but may price or feature themselves right out of the market for the masses.  Who do you want to be?
  • When your elite contributors give you feedback, are they representing themselves or the users they are helping?  Ask them.  Generally they know the difference.

I worry about those talking about web 2.0 as the dream "listening system."  If you are doing this right, you need to Pareto and consider all of it.  Most common sources of defects, types of defects, causes of complaints, recommended features, etc. against all your segments and your audience all up.  Then decide based on your goals how you prioritize.  Where Web 2.0 then circles back again is on the need for corporate transparency…sharing how and why you made these decisions.  This is where a bit of courage will be necessary as not all your users will agree with you and in particular, some of your most valuable users won’t agree - but you owe it to them to be open on your process.



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posted in Social Media, Voice of Customer, web 2.0 | 1 Comment

28th March 2007

How do you segment your community?

At the end of "Your Community already exists," I promised a follow up on segmentation.  So much has been written about this that I hesitate to add my own spin, but I’m resisting re-researching the topic to pick who I think did it best.  My goal here is not to create the "industry standard" taxonomy, but to set a framework for how I’ll discuss it overtime here at Community Group Therapy.

If you really want to explore this topic fully, it is likely well worth exploring my blogroll for others points of view on this.

So here goes.  This is essentially how I think about online communities from a segmentation standpoint:

  • Internals:  Often forgotten in the taxonomy - but CRITICAL.  Who are the internal employees in your company that are participating (or need to participate).  What are their roles?  Do their roles reflect your community goals (Do you have aspirations for product improvement insight, but only marketing participating)?  Are they "volunteers" or is it their job to be in the communities?  Are they there because they want to be or because they were told to be?  You’ll have all of this - map it, plan for it, reward it if necessary, negotiate for it as needed (carrot and stick), develop your pitch to convince as needed - Just make sure you pay attention to it.  Your community without participation from across your company will not achieve its potential.
  • Moderators:  These are sometimes employees and sometimes community volunteers.  They’re critical to the tone, manner, health and managing the "norms" of the community.  They need to be empowered, but very cautious in using their power.  Moderation is part art, part science.  Consistency is key.  They need to be a very well known and respected participant in the community.  Oh..and some personality helps:)
  • Elite contributors:  NOT to be confused with Moderators.  These are your most active 1% of unique users (or even less in Microsoft’s case).  This is the steep part of the curve where a small percentage of users are massively…even shockingly active in your communities.  Reminder, I’m very biased, but to me, this is job #1.  This is the segment that you have to deeply engage.  (For Microsoft, these are the MVP’s).  Their reasons for their level of activity are largely their own, but it is never (or rarely) about helping you…it is about helping other users.  Their "ROI" could be described as learning, socializing, helping, "Pay it Forward," or simply as altruism.  Misunderstand the motivations of this audience at your own peril!!
  • Active Participants:  Often described as the next ~20% of active participants.  They represent the next most active (though significantly different than elites)group of participants.  They are predominantly "askers" but are also "answerers" and some % of them will someday be your Elite contributors.  These are your "regulars" - they come back because it was good last time. 
  • Lurkers/Consumers:  These are the masses.  They probably found you via search.  They may or may not come back.  In the end they have utilitarian needs from the community.  This is over-simplified to be sure - in fact I’d love your input on how to break down this group a little further.  Somewhere in this group are participants I’d call "curiosity seekers."  They are circling the pool and looking at all the fun…building up their courage to jump in.  The tone/manner/approachability of your community will determine how much courage it takes.  This group I think is particularly critical to the long term vitality of your community.
  • Non-Users:  Well, all of the above are probably a small percentage of all your users…so you have A LOT of work to do.  It is equally important to consider your non-users.  Why are they non-users?  What can you do to attract them?  If you attract them too fast, might they damage your community.  What are you doing to drive awareness of your community resources?  Ease of discoverability?  Re-use of the content?  Remember…Field of Dreams was just a movie!

Now that you have a taxonomy (mine or another you like)…what to do.  Just ensure you check your plan, end to end, against this taxonomy.  If you design your community with lurkers in mind, will elite answers dislike your design.  If you design for elites, will curiosity seekers ever get in the pool?  Are you differentiating services and/or benefits by segment?  Let’s face it, you will have budget constraints.  Some services may have cost you can’t scale beyond your 1%.  Consider the currencies ("coined" by my friend Lee at Commoncraft) that benefit each segment.

Whatever you do, don’t go and build your community strategy without considering segmentation.  Even if you get some things wrong, having the context will allow you to identify and troubleshoot your errors much more quickly.



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posted in Business Strategy, Community Development, Social Media, web 2.0 | 4 Comments

26th March 2007

"Your Community Already Exists"

Lee Lefever recently posted Online Community Lessons from SXSW and Community 2.0.  It’s a nice summary and well worth reading.  One piece jumped out at me in particular:

Your community already exists: Know that your customers are already a community. You have an opportunity to offer something to customers that other web sites can’t: access to the people and news that have the power to change the products and services they care about. Serve the community that exists and offer them access to things they cannot get elsewhere. This was partly a point from John Hagel’s keynote, well documented by Patty Seybold.

I really like the simplicity and the depth of this quote and wanted to explore my interpretation just a bit:

1)  Know that your customers are already a community. 

I liked this in particular because it acknowledges an often missed core principle of community development.  Take a look at the shear # of posts and discussions about "building an online community" (here are 3.7m hits on search.live.com).  The point here is that you are not building a community because your users don’t have one…they do.  In fact, I’d say by definition, a group of individuals who have purchased your product/service are a community.  They may have very loose ties to one another (and you), but they do share something in common - they use your stuff.  Your opportunity is to explore how deepening those ties between them AND with you creates a win/win situation.  Remember, they don’t need you to commune with fellow users - those communities already exist.

Test yourself here:  Does your company see 3rd party community sites about your products as "competitive" to your own community plans/desires?  If yes, why?  This is a warning sign you should explore more.  Imagine why those sites developed - someone was SO passionate about your products that they built a destination to gather and discuss with other users - they should be your best friends!  Yes, it’s independent content and may not always reflect positively on you - but that is the point…that’s part of why it is good - and be honest, not everything you do is a good idea.  Caveat: Some 3rd party communities morph into something more like journalism than users helping users.  This is a topic for a future post - these situations require additional consideration. 

2)  You have the opportunity to offer something to customers that other web sites can’t:  access to the people and news that have the power to change the products and services they care about.

This is where you have the opportunity to deliver on the win/win.  The formula here might be different based on your business/product/industry - or maybe not.  But you need to write down what you get from developing your community and what your users get - the old give/get framework - and if it looks out of balance - you have a problem.  If it benefits you too much - your users won’t stay.  If the balance is too much towards your users, you may not stay.   If you have a home run on your hands - you’ll see some of the same things written on each side of the balance sheet.

To me, the ultimate destination is to earn an emotional connection with your users (recommended reading:  Kathy Sierra).  Of course, this is much easier said than done, so I’ll apply my translation.  You have to participate.  You have to listen.  You have to embrace criticism.  You have to accept input.   And maybe most importantly, you have to be a PEER in the community.  Bottom line:  You have to demonstrate respect - when you’ve done this, you earn trust and the community grows.  This won’t come from a good speech or blog post, but is only earned by the actions you take in supporting your community.

How do you know when you’ve won their hearts?  They recommend you.  They stand up for you.  They offer solutions or suggestions with their criticisms.  You’re talking "with them" vs "at them." They are no longer "them."  In other words, you know their names, interests and specialties and they are learning yours.

In the end, it’s not really that complicated.  What you uniquely have to offer your users are relationships - bi-directional connections that listen, respond and make changes based on the conversations.  They bought your "stuff," so isn’t this the goal.  Yes, we are all afraid of the scale challenge - you can’t have a relationship with everyone - but there are ways to manage this once you’ve decided on your intent.

3)  Serve the community that exists and offer them access to things they cannot get elsewhere.

Remember, don’t look at those 3rd party communities as the enemy…look at them as part of the portfolio of options that exists for your users and decide what you can add to the portfolio?

  • Specialized content
  • Access to experts
  • Escalation to formalized support
  • Pre-release (beta) access
  • Feedback systems connected to the decision makers
  • Indemnification - this one is tricky - but some advice in some situations will require you stand up and assure your users of the advice they are getting.
  • Aggregation:  Of all those 3rd parties we were talking about:)

Coming soon:  We need to talk more about "segmentation" of community users.  Much has been written on this, but I think it’s an important follow-on topic as it can help you with scale and may dictate how you structure your give/get framework as well as the add on services I described in #3 above.



Popularity: 12% [?]

posted in Business Strategy, Community Development, Influencers, online communities, web 2.0 | 10 Comments

25th March 2007

I’m definately geeky…this cracks me up - web 2.0 video

Deborah Schultz posted a great link to a Supermarket 2.0 video…well worth the visit.

I really loved all the tagging!!


Popularity: 5% [?]

posted in Social Media | 1 Comment

24th March 2007

The Business Case for Community and Web 2.0…Sharing some useful links

Useful nuggets to be shared…Thanks Dion Hinchcliffe at zdnet:  Does every organization need a Web 2.0 strategy?  Dion is essentially reacting to Gartner’s 2006 Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle.  Overall, I think this is a worthwhile review, though in my opinion it talks a lot more about the what and the how from a technology perspective, than the business, organizational or social reasons that address the questions of why web 2.0 matters to business.

The key element to me is the discussion of the notion of "collective Intelligence" which has been a core topic here at Community Group Therapy.

Coach Wie at Web2.0 Journal has another good contribution worth reading:  Every Organization Should Have a Web 2.0 Strategy.


Popularity: 7% [?]

posted in General Community Discussion, web 2.0 | 2 Comments

20th March 2007

Finally revealed!!! The secret criteria for the Microsoft MVP Award!!

Ok, this may be my last post for a little while on anything explicitly MVP as that is not the point of this blog.  But, on the heals of the MVP summit, I’ve decided it’s finally time to come clean on the "official" criteria for the MVP Award program.  I’ve revealed these super TOP SECRET criteria only privately to some of the MVP’s in the past, but at some urging and with tongue firmly planted in cheek, I give you the following.

Before proceeding, please put on your best Jeff Foxworthy voice…now, here goes:

  • If you have more computers than rooms in your house…you might be an MVP
  • If your family members learn about your life from your blog…you might be an MVP
  • If you’ve ever synchronized your smartphone in a bathroom…you might be an MVP
  • If you don’t think of Starbucks when someone says to meet you in the coffeehouse…you might be an MVP (only MVP’s will get this)
  • If you’ve ever been introduced at a party by your online name…you might be an MVP
  • If you’ve ever "thrown down" in a bar over which developer language is the best…you might be an MVP
  • If you plan your day around wireless hotspots…you might be an MVP
  • If your wardrobe prominently features computer industry logos…you might be an MVP
  • If your spouse gets jealous of your laptop…you might be an MVP
  • If you spent more money on hardware than the car you drive…you might be an MVP
  • If you can quote a KB article, but have no idea who won the last season of Survivor…you might be an MVP

:)  hope you enjoy and thanks to all the MVP’s and Microsoft personnel that made this years MVP Summit the most interactive summit ever with over 1700 MVP’s and over 1000 Microsoft personnel involved.

If you’d like a little more formal take the program and background, read here.


ps…for the record, 7 of 11 apply to me (if you substitute BBQs for Hardware on one - well, not quite, but disturbingly close enough!!)

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posted in Influencers, MVP, Microsoft | 22 Comments

18th March 2007

MVP Summit Opening video…

For those that asked…here you go…

MVP Summit 2007 Opening

Popularity: 15% [?]

posted in Influencers, MVP, Microsoft | 13 Comments

17th March 2007

Tom Gruber on Collective Intelligence…

Not new, but new to me, so maybe new to you too.

First off, I like this site in terms of lecture/educational content:  http://videolectures.net/.

More specifically, I’d point you at the Interview on the Semantic web of Tom Gruber (of Realtravel), but it looks like many worthwhile listens on this site. 

His message to the community:  "Be relevant" - A nice, simple bumper sticker for Web 2.0.

Note: Most useless interviewer question:  "Will the semantic web still be the same thing in 100 years?" - in the pace of change in this industry?  Waste of a question…let’s think out 5/10/20 years…but 100??

There’s also a Tom keynote:  Where the Social Web meets the Semantic Web

This is a great listen in terms of fundamental principles on the social web and the power of collective intelligence.  He identifies 5 roles for technologies in the semantic web:

  • Capturing everything
  • Storing everything
  • Distributing everything
  • Enabling many-to-many communications
  • Creating value from the data

It’s this 5th dimension, creating value, where the real work remains, but the above would provide a nice frame for developing a plan for moving your current approach from Web 1.0 to 2.0 and beyond.

Hope you find this valuable if you didn’t discover already.


Popularity: 6% [?]

posted in General Community Discussion, web 2.0 | 1 Comment

12th March 2007

Are you CURIOUS enough to be a Web 2.0 Leader??

It’s a fair question whatever your personal or professional pursuit.  I’ve thought about it a lot the past month as I’ve become a more "semi-public" persona around community work.  I’ve also been thinking about this because at Microsoft, this is the time of year we go through a process called Mid Year Career Discussions.  This is a formal process where every employee pulls together and reviews their own personal development plan.  So, advice for the day…or I should say…your critical personal question:  Are you curious enough to drive community work? 

If my blog is the only blog you read on the topic, the answer is definitely no - not curious enough…check my links for fellow recommended bloggers.

Next, are you playing with "stuff?"  Trying things out?  Forming opinions?  Right or wrong - at least getting your hands dirty enough to speak first hand about them?  Below are some the things I’ve been trying and/or using to various degrees.  What follows is NOT really a product/service review - with many, I’m hardly far enough along the path to have firm opinions yet.  But, I have included a few "impressions."  I hope you might point me at other things to try and/or comment back on your opinions of these and other resources.

So, here goes:

Ning - I recently posted about Ning - I’m leaning towards an "I don’t care" point of view.  I like the concept and usability.  But I’m struggling with the idea of all these different social sites for personal community building.  The "killer app" for social networking is the network - critical mass of engaged participants.  It’s not the UI (or craigslist wouldn’t be so awesome!!).  For what I’m interested in, the destination that houses the community seems irrelevant.  If the content is good, I’ll grab the feed and participate as interested.

- hmm - still playing…click the link and help me think more on this one.  I give it some points for being different and potentially fun - kind of a group IM, but not so invasive!!  Don’t think it will change my life and to be determined if it just becomes a fad and then disinteresting as life gets busy.

- For me, I would call it "mywaste."  I had to try it out.  I’m too old and maybe too married to appreciate it.  I set up a profile (married, kids, looking for business networking).  Within 48 hrs, I had been contacted by someone looking for a "relationship" (yes, you know what I mean!!) and the largest ads appearing on my page were "Meet Singles in Redmond."  Myspace makes me feel dirty.  And yes, I know I’m not the target demographic for myspace.

Wallop - kinda interesting…I do like the UI, though like my comment above regarding Ning, the UI won’t win me over.  This is a closed beta, so may not be easy for you to tour.  What seems different to me (and better than ning or myspace or…) is that it feels like my community there is My Community.   Think of it this way.  In Ning, I feel like a hotel guest.  I have a room amongst a whole bunch of other co-habitants with whom I may or may not share any interest.  Wallop feels more like a home.  I invite in who I want and the rest can be fairly invisible to me.  I kinda like that.

delicious - Changing gears - I’m all for social bookmarking - looking forward to consolidation/aggregation around this.  Anything that helps groups of like interested people swarm to more interesting/valuable content I’m in favor of.  For what I am interested in most, this is more useful to me than a search engine.

technorati - I like Technorati.  I tend to use it as a tool for being a "gracious guest."  Meaning, I look for people who have linked to me and I go visit them.  I say thanks and more often than not find that I just found someone else who I’m interested in following.

mybloglog - I quickly lost interest…someone tell me what I missed.

Digg / coRank - I really like this concept.  I was surprised by the traffic that found me once I added Digg on some of my posts.  I really thought that given my niche that my Digg ratings (7 is my all time high on a post) would always leave me invisible in Digg.  I stand corrected.  Clearly people are using Digg to search topics and nav to sites of interest.  I still think these services are too expensive.  As a blogger I don’t like taking the extra steps to use Digg or coRank.  I look forward to an alternative.

- what’s not to like.  I will add a lot more photos the next few weeks from the MVP Summit.

- I like facebook, though likely not enough to use it much.  I mean really, why do I want profiles, friends and photos in so many different places?  It’s a hassle.  I will use this passively to network, but likely will need to be pulled there, vs proactively going there.

- Full of recruiters!!!  But I guess that is to be expected.  Join my network if interested.   On the surface, I think Facebook might be a "better" Linkedin, but I can’t yet say enough better that it is worth the time it would take to move over and I don’t really want two of them!!

OpenID - Still not sure why Microsoft took so much grief years ago over Hailstorm.  I wish I had it now.  I feel like every new social site that opens requires me to goldrush to it to get my same ID so I don’t have to keep track of different ones.  I hate that not all sites require or even support "hard" passwords (special characters) as it means I maintain multiple passwords.  I like the idea of OpenID - I think it will fail though.  I signed up anyway and wish them well - goldrush!!

cocomment - I like it a lot, but for whatever reason don’t use it really religiously.  For those of you that occasionally post in others blogs and think: "how am I going to remember to go back here to follow this conversation?"  CoComment is for you.  Very useful for this, but, as I said, I don’t find myself using it religiously.  If I’m that into the conversation I’ll grab the feed and hang on for awhile.

MSN Spaces - a beautiful thing for ease of use.  Bar none - Microsoft employee bias out front - it rocks for ease of use.  see my post on why I left spaces for wordpress here.

LiveQnA - Nice.  I use it infrequently and for very random things, but I like it.  Example.  I have a home deep fryer.  My wife asked me how we get rid of the left over oil we change every once in awhile…I checked the book: nothing.  Quick online search: nothing that helpful.  Posted the question in LiveQnA:  6-7 answers in a few hours - several good, one we used.

Wordpress - Truthfully, I have not looked a lot at others, so no comparison here…but I am happy with it.  Made MUCH more happy through the use of Live Writer. 

There are others, but these are the ones most top of mind as of late.  Feel free to add.


Popularity: 13% [?]

posted in Social Media, Web 2.0 and corporate HR, web 2.0 | 18 Comments

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