Friday, April 4, 2008

Fear of Web 2.0

It's uncommon to go more than a few days without seeing new statistics released detailing corporate adoption of Web 2.0 technologies. Usually the numbers demonstrate that rates of adoption are overwhelmingly underwhelming. Articles generally discuss how most executives don't even consume social media, let alone participate.

Headlines are rife with decision makers - ranging from managers to CIOs to CEOs - banning their employees from using networking sites such as Facebook and Digg, and even those executives' own LinkedIn profiles - more often than not created by tech-savvy assistants and to the ambivalence or outright duress of the executive himself - languish in an unupdated, unleveraged state of being for months at a time - assuming they're not forgotten outright. If you don't read blogs, it stands to reason that you'd probably have a harder time appreciating the value of writing a blog. If you've never been notified of an important event or met someone great through Facebook, you're unlikely to understand its value.

Most recently I read this article which offers more of the same: CIOs are afraid of social media and they shouldn't prohibit employees from utilizing Web 2.0 technologies. I absolutely agree with this. Unfortunately, the vast majority of this vein of literature - this post included - fails to pull the trigger on how that is to happen. The important thing to note from these unimpressive trends of (non)adoption of social media is not the numbers themselves, but on what causes those numbers to be so lackluster. Not the fear itself but the causes of those fears.

People are afraid of things because they don't understand them. Executives don't know what they should be doing with or about Web 2.0 technologies so they do what comes naturally; ignore them and focus on the more traditional tools that they know. While this may be a soothing short-term approach, it will scarcely suffice in today's rapidly evolving marketplace that rewards openness, collaboration and innovation - the very pillars of Web 2.0.

It is far too easy to dismiss these fears as the irrational and unwarranted paranoia of a bygone generation of fuddy-duddies. Rational or not, it is a key barrier to Web 2.0 adoption. The tools are usually simple and intuitive to use, many of them are free but for the temporal opportunity cost and they are proliferating at a more rapid rate than ever before.

That having been said, it is not a difficult barrier to overcome. As social media practitioners and even some savvy vendors have long purported, the solution is education. The more that these decision makers know about Web 2.0 technologies with regards to how they're being used, what they are being used for, who is using them and how the company can employ them to achieve real business goals, the more open to the use of these technologies within their organization they will be. True, it would be ideal for them to drink the cool-aid themselves, but until then it would be an enormous leap forward merely to quell their fear-mongered opposition to social media.

Knowledge is power.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Beijing Olympic Dreams - Going Down in a Blaze of Glory?

This morning I read three more articles about San Francisco's hotly-contested decision to allow the 2008 Olympic torch to be toured through The City.

At their most benign, the complaints regard the recent decision by a sub-committee of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors to reject language that would have condemned China for its human rights abuses - particularly in Tibet.

Two out of the three Supervisors on the sub-committee voted against the resolution - preventing it from being considered by the full Board.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom - who supported the sub-committee's decision - stated “If folks want to beat up China, beat up China but don’t beat up the spirit of the Olympics.”

While I agree with the Mayor's words, I don't believe that they encapsulate the question at hand. As the only American city to host the Olympic torch, San Francisco is in a unique position to at least express its concern with the human rights violations of which China is guilty in Tibet and elsewhere as well as with China's contribution to the atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Let me be clear. I do not believe that the city of San Francisco should insist that the Olympic torch not be taken through its streets. I think that the people who have planned to protest against San Francisco's decision to hold a parade featuring the torch would do better to use the increased media attention to protest against the Olympic games themselves.

A balance needs to be struck.

Just as boycotting the games is too extreme a measure - and one that would ultimately punish the athletes who have devoted their entire lives to Olympic dreams more than it would punish the Chinese government - failure to mention the myriad concerns regarding China's human rights record is too extreme in the opposite direction.

We must strike a balance. France is in the process of doing this as the first nation to publicly consider attending the games but boycotting the opening ceremonies.

One of the basic tenets of social media is engagement - and engagement requires give and take. You can't have a conversation with someone if you refuse to acknowledge them them. Similarly, once they're engaged, you need to be able to leverage that engagement to accomplish goals. Otherwise one entity dominates the conversation. What started out as dialog becomes monologue and ideas are no longer exchanged.

This may not always be a terrible thing. Perhaps a one-sided conversation is okay because the other side has nothing to say. When egregious human rights violations are involved, however, an imperative emerges.

Refusing to engage China is a mistake. The Olympics represent a celebration of something that is greater than any one nation or conflict. They acknowledge that it is more honorable to outrun, jump, swim or throw someone than it is to kill them. That having been said, after someone has been engaged, failure to exercise that engagement in order to make a statement that must be made is wasteful and makes the engager indelibly - if tacitly - responsible for the consequences of that failure to act.

By hosting the Olympic torch, we have engaged China. San Francisco should make it clear that it is hosting the Olympic torch out of respect for the hallowed tradition of the Olympic games and the honorable ideals for which it stands. Just as Mayor Newsom said that people should feel free to beat up China but not the Olympics, San Francisco should make it clear to the world that by hosting the torch, it is the Olympics that it supports and not the Chinese government and its actions.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Healthcare 2.0

I was at the hospital the other day because I was experiencing a pain in my right foot that my doctor said might be a stress fracture from overtraining. As it's only a few blocks away from my apartment, I opted to go to St. Mary's Medical Center.

They have a pretty clever advertising campaign on the streets near the hospital where the theme is a quote that you would hear right before someone is about to do something dangerously stupid, for instance "The expiration dates is just a guideline, right?" Followed by information on how to make a quick appointment.

They also have a pretty catchy slogan of "get in. get better. get going."

They make it remarkably easy to make an appointment, if you don't feel like spending hundreds of extra dollars unnecessarily by going to the emergency room. Not only can you go to to book an appointment, but you can send an email to and expect a speedy response.

In addition to a contact phone number to book appointments, you can text, that's right, send a text message that says "SEEME" to 89183 and book an appointment that way.

I was impressed. Even when they flaunt their hipness with the following: "P.S. We may be 150 years old, but we're very Web 2.0. To see what they're saying about us on, search the keywords, "St. Mary's Medical Center."

The hospital's advertisement of its Yelp presence impresses me. By directing patients and potential patients to Yelp, the hospital is entrusting its reputation to the only people that it makes logical sense to entrust their reputation - their patients.

This also happens to be a group of people who - with few exceptions (IE having a baby) are probably extremely unhappy to be at the hospital and whose negative experience of injury, sickness, death, etc. can't but have a negative effect on their experience and thus likely their review.

Even the best restaurants receive the occasional poor review from an unimpressed or offended Yelper, but that doesn't keep Yelp from being an extremely positive force for most restaurants that pay attention to what its customers are saying - both at the restaurant and online. The same applies to St. Mary's Medical Center.

By directing us to Yelp, they implicitly advertise that they have confidence in their facilities and quality of service and urge us to discover their quality from other people's first hand experiences.

With Yelp, they're saying "Bring it on."

Friday, March 14, 2008

Pi Day and Johnny Cash

First off, it was a pretty good Pi Day. I was forced to make do with a slice of pizza pie this afternoon although I spent nearly an hour traipsing about the financial district looking for a bakery that sold pie - either by the slice or the whole thing - without success.

I found this vignette of a couple who decided to name their baby Pi, because of the "infinite possibilities" he will have in his life.

Although part of me thinks that Pi is a pretty wonderful name for a kid, I can't help but think that he will experience infinitely more harassment and verbal abuse because of it.

I'm reminded of the great Johnny Cash song, A Boy Named Sue.

Mark's Myopia

Mark’s view of blogging as it relates to journalism is a myopic one.

His proposed alternative to NYT blogs – regarding so-called RealTime Yankees, City Hall, etc. – fails to address one of the most intrinsic and valuable elements of blogging. Yes, the ability to break and update events in near real-time is part of why people are increasingly turning to blogs for their news. When evaluating the merit of journalistic blogs, of equal or greater importance to real-time news updates is the ability of readers to respond to that news.

Blogs not only allow readers to respond to news items with their own updates and opinions, but readers can submit their own news items as well. Rather than being passive consumers of content, blogs enable a conversation that allows readers to focus on issues and events with which THEY are concerned.

Mark’s point of “brand equity” being diminished as a result of the user-generated content relies on the misconception that blog content will be indistinguishable from the rest of the site. This is obviously not the case. With a clear delineation between what is and is not UGC and guidelines and permissions, this basis for opposition disappears.

This two-way flow of information provides the blog’s host with valuable insights into its audience and – more importantly – engages the audience to an extent that wouldn’t be possible without the interactivity, accessibility and empowerment of blogs.

Far from diminishing the NYT “brand equity,” the NYT’s willingness to truly engage in conversation demonstrates its awareness of the importance of conversation and the wisdom of the crowds.

The Beatles are Bigger than Jesus

It's official, according to Twitter anyways.

Jesus v Beatles
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

I Prefer Pi

(A palindrome)

Happy Pi Day!

To go to the official Pi Day website, please click on the wonderful Pi limerick (Pi-merick?) below:

If, in a circle, a line
Hits the center, and runs spine to spine,
And the lines length is D
The circumference will be
D times 3.14159.