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“Collaboration Now!” on CNBC Oct. 12th

Donny Deutsch, host

When a topic is worthy of a television show, you know it’s hit the mainstream of business consciousness and is one you should sit up and take notice of right away.

Collaboration Now! is a new show on the business channel, CNBC, hosted by Donny Deutsch. This is a successful advertising guy I’ve come to admire through one of the most positive, uplifting and motivating entrepreneurial shows on television he hosts, The Big Idea, and this new show looks to be just as instructive, informative and intriguing. 

Here’s the premise:

Collaboration is essential to compete in the global arena. In order to stay ahead of the curve, organizations need to redefine the rules of collaboration, build trust in new ways, collaborate in virtual environments and partner with those who help make it happen.

Find out how Boeing’s global partners are building the airplanes of the future, Cisco is helping companies collaborate from remote locations in real time and how NFTRA is working together to enhance trade, not restrict it.

Does your collaboration have the right ingredients to succeed?

With upcoming shows about collaborating in human resources, social responsibility, the future of tools, technologies and approaches, Collaboration Now! will undoubtedly be one that you will want to set to record on your DVR like I did last evening.

In my talks, attending conferences and interacting with my client executives, there seems to be a surprising leadership reluctance to focus resources on collaboration (or, by extension, any crowdsourcing initiatives) and too strong a need to have teams create elaborate business and use-cases in order to justify collaboration software or services within a company.

Sadly in this time of high oil prices, collapsing financial markets and a near capital lending freeze — all making collaboration software, services and training more imperative and yet tougher to invest in and move forward on — there seems to be a new openness to embrace it as the recognition sinks in that we’re living in a time of the greatest shift in human connection ever and finding ways to collaborate with one another is already a critical success factor.

If nothing else this show will certainly provide strong evidence — and do it with well produced, slick and entertaining segments — that you can use to help justify having collaboration be a much higher priority and worthy of investment.

If you’re a leader in your company, an entrepreneur delivering any kind of web applications or social media, or just a frustrated functional area leader who sees the need for more impactful collaboration, then you’ll certainly absorb some key ideas from the topics they cover and the guests they invite on.

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Moodle Makes Its Mark

Today’s accelerating adoption of open source software (OSS), and the shift from desktop to web applications increasingly built on top of OSS, is being embraced by individuals, the non-profit sector, small, midsize, and even enterprise businesses.

As more of us get connected via the internet and through web applications, seek ways to make our collaboration more powerful, shift our old serial and linear processes to ones that are parallel and associative, OSS is a key building block of internet and web technologies and applications. OSS is also gaining momentum globally and affecting all industries and institutions, even educational ones.

That said, educational institutions often lag the private sector in adopting new technologies until proven, especially the Kindergarten through senior high school (K-12) levels. K-12 is often seen as risk-averse and needing clarity about the efficacy and pedagogy of using any particular technology. It must be proven and the benefits to learning and student achievement crystal clear before any technology is implemented, especially OSS.

On the flip side, higher education is a hotbed of OSS use and many projects have origins in colleges and universities. One could argue that our public institutions taking risks, researching new possibilities, and pushing against the membrane of the future is at least as important as their educational mission and has contributed code and thought leadership in OSS.

Though I’ve been aware of the OSS learning management system called “Moodle” (Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment) for some time, I was both delighted at what I discovered at the U of MN and surprised (stunned might be the better word) by its adoption within Eden Prairie schools where my son attends high school.

There are lessons in this story for all of us about how two very different educational organizations recognized that collaboration, human connection, and the move to parallel and associative learning is at the core of education going forward, and took calculated risk with the OSS Moodle to meet new needs.

[Read more…]

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Web Content Container Companies: Let *Us* Make Money Too!

Over and over again I’m delighted by the phenomenal offerings on the Web, specifically in the areas of content creation and delivery. Most of them seem to be looking at the YouTube model of delivery: Make it free; make it (and all the content produced) public; and wrap advertising around the critical mass of users that flock to what you’re offering and make bazillions.

The problem? Any person, company or organization serious about investing time, effort, energy and resources building atop them — and delivering their content in an embeddable container on their website, blog, “FaceSpace” page or elsewhere — need to find a way to make money.

Now before you get all riled up with, “Hey Borsch, you numbskull. Haven’t you heard of the freemium model or that giving content away drives other business?” hear me out.

The answer, of course, is “yes” as evidenced by clients I’ve recommended implement a free/paid/pro version of what they offer online, as well as the huge success I personally experienced when giving away my report, Rise of the Participation Culture (RPC). With the latter example, for me to continue to carve out the time necessary to create quality deliverables like a line of social media ebooks, videos or presentations, there needs to be a way to make some dough off of them.

Arguments like, “Just give your stuff away and people will find you and new markets and opportunities will open up,” is mostly bullshit or a far too optimistic generalization for all but a few who do it. Yes, I believe that there is validity to “free” or otherwise I wouldn’t give stuff away (like free speaking engagements, free initial consultations, pro bono work, or free reports like RPC) but I limit those to 10% of my time or otherwise I’d get nothing else done.

There’s a real crazy-maker though, with licenses, and the fact that these offerings are geared so that YOU as a user, generating content, make NO MONEY and that THEY benefit from your effort.

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Virtualizing Your Organization as a Risk Management Strategy

Depending on where you live or work, chances are natural disasters, avian flu pandemics, earthquakes or other catastrophic events won’t impact you, but have you done any planning for the possibility something could happen besides making certain you’re in good standing with your insurance company or that you can locate a copy of the organization call tree so you can notify others of a business or organization work stoppage?

Over two years ago, I had the privilege to be a leader of a session at the Collaborative Technologies Conference in Boston (now called Enterprise 2.0) on “Business Continuity and Collaboration” which focused on what are typically two discrete and separately funded initiatives in any company.

At the outset, I laid out my premise that business continuity investments are usually made to ensure that information technology and telephony systems have backup, failover and redundancy so the company isn’t suddenly out of business if disaster strikes. To a very limited degree, work processes (and the people that perform them) are detailed along with possible ways in which they could continue to function in the event of a disaster, all in an attempt to ensure the business keeps going.

Continuing on with an overview of collaboration investments, I briefly laid out how these are typically driven by the desire to make work processes more efficient and reduce cycle times, but also to find ways to drive more innovation with people that connect and work with each other.

The problem? In almost every single organization I’ve been a part of or involved with as a consultant, these two don’t intersect and leaders don’t seem to realize that unless the people in their organizations have the company, directory, work processes and information at-their-fingertips and are using these systems day-in and day-out, if there is a disaster there’s no way they’ll be learning it then!

The opportunity? That these systems should be ones that are funded together as both innovation infrastructure as well as business continuity systems, and that people should be using them all the time. If virtual collaboration systems such as VoIP, groupware, web conferencing, webcams, and other “2.0-like” communication methods are something that everyone uses and knows how to work with at home or within the organizations walls, then if disaster strikes they’ll simply find an internet connection, log on and do their work.

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Will Comcast crush internet innovation?

If you’ve been following the story about net neutrality, Comcast’s games with bandwidth throttling and the FCC rebuke of these practices, then you’ll really want to know about Comcast’s decision to place a 250GB per month ‘cap’ on your use of bandwidth.

My favorite blog that discusses this issue, Om Malik’s GigaOM, had these two posts that are a must-read if you care at all about this issue:

a) 5 Questions About Comcast’s New Bandwidth Throttling Plan by Stacey Higginbotham

b) Memo To Comcast: Show Us the Meter for Metered Broadband by Om Malik

While I completely understand that Comcast has a business to run, shareholders to please and profits to make, it is also crystal clear to even a casual observer that they now hold too much power in residential broadband.  [Read more…]

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OnePlace: Manage, Share, Collaborate & Execute

In a time when energy prices are accelerating, threats from terrorism and epidemics (e.g., avian flu) are driving companies and individuals to better anticipate and manage risk, and the people with whom collaboration is critical might be in the next town or half a world away, the timing for an easy to use, fast and intuitive collaboration suite seems perfect.

A successful entrepreneur and chief technologist (he was formerly CTO of HighJump Software), CEO Steve Kickert’s Riverock Technologies is soon to launch OnePlace, an online collaboration (and personal organizational) tool that has a good shot at being a hub positioned directly in the sweet spot of what’s needed.

I had a chance to grab coffee with Steve last week, and what is usually a one to one-and-a-half hour discussion turned into three hours! We hit it off and delved deeply into collaboration, the participation culture that’s emerged on the Web making hosted Web applications strongly desired by increasingly always-on and always-connected people, and went off on lots of tangents about technologies, Minnesota and what’s needed to make OnePlace the gold-standard of collaborative apps.

[Read more…]

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Relying on Applications in the ‘Cloud’

If you have been a Twitter user for any length of time, you won’t be surprised that Twitter is down right now for the umpteenth time this year.

In a recent presentation and ideation with a client, one of the company functional area leaders leapt in with this question: “Twitter is getting so much buzz in BusinessWeek and on blogs, is this something we should make key to our social media strategy?

I did a bit of a humma-humma and ultimately advised them to have an account, begin to participate, watch it (especially for their brand mentions), but make it very peripheral to the rest of their strategies since the service simply isn’t reliable. Many people I know are slowly moving off of it as the ongoing service interruptions are maddening and not worth the effort.

The more time you and I invest online means we’ll actually experience periodic and lengthy outages that heretofore only the hardcore users would. With Amazon’s S3 storage outage taking down Web 2.0 sites that relied upon them, Apple’s botched launch of MobileMe (which now is running perfectly, I might add), Gmail‘s periodic (but quickly repaired) outages, to my own experiences with MediaTemple whom I rely upon to serve a dozen sites, relying upon applications in the cloud that fail is making many of us skittish.

Once per quarter for the last 11 quarters I’ve invested some time each day to look at every one of the “Web 2.0” applications in the cloud off of lists like this one.  I’ve learned that many with an appearance of a strong value proposition, solid and scalable technology, are in the deadpool or been acquired.

Will this cause you or I to eschew apps running over the internet? Nah. I know that I’ll continue to invest more and more of my participation and functionality on the ‘net since it’s just simply too useful…especially with my mobility demanding constant access to my data. You’re probably like that as well, especially if you’re a member of the smartphone club.

Choose wisely though. Don’t overinvest or map mission-critical processes to applications in the cloud that you’re not certain will function, scale or be acquired in the near term. I know that’s hard to do, but it’s also why the big-get-bigger since they have the resources to keep our fear at bay and ensure apps will run.

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Social Publishing Systems: What about We, the Participants?

We’re living in a time of the greatest shift in human (and machine) connection and communication any of us over 30 years old will experience in our lifetimes. Social media is proliferating, networks of people exploding, self-publishing, microblogging and new communications channels like Twitter emerging, and for the most part, the enterprise isn’t playing in most of these areas.

As a former content management systems (CMS) guy (was with Vignette during the dotcom heyday), I’m in an interesting spot between grassroots social media use by individuals, non-profits and small business and my enterprise clients trying to determine how to play in this shifting landscape. These clients are trying to figure out how to engage all of us connecting and communicating, and just finding more efficient ways of publishing content with a CMS or portal isn’t cutting it.

Social publishing systems are needed.

This morning I read Jeremiah Owyang (Sr Analyst at Forrester Research: Social Computing) who had this post entitled, “Social Software: Here Come The CMS Vendors.” He begins by discussing his oft-repeated theme of the volume of white label social networking providers, and ends with a premise about the major CMS vendors, “I’ve started to notice more of the ‘traditional’ CMS and Portal players that already have deep footprints into the corporate web teams that are inching into this space.

What are the trends, what are CMS vendors likely to do and what should be offered?

[Read more…]

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Minnov8: Showcasing Minnesota Innovation in Internet & Web Technology

If you’re out in the Bay area or on the other coast in New York or Boston, it’s pretty easy to be smug about your culture of risk-taking, pool of top talent, and strings of successful, world-changing innovations. But as the world continues its acceleration to one that’s increasingly connected and ways of collaborating make distance irrelevant, smart people will pop up everywhere and I’m convinced we’ll see a flattening of the geographic advantages these pockets of innovation represent.

Six of us were bugged that there was so much going on in Internet and Web technology innovation right here in Minnesota, that when I suggested we start our own blog to showcase that innovation, there were nods of agreement and a willingness to dive in and make it real.

The biggest reason we were all interested in this blog is that these showcases and interviews are what we wanted to read and there wasn’t anything like it out there.

The result is Minnov8: Minnesota Innovation in Internet & Web Technology. This past weekend was the biggest Barcamp yet, Minnebar, and over 400 people showed up to present, learn and participate. Rather than recreate everything on this blog, why not take a peek at Minnov8? This and this post are ones that will recap what took place.

Wherever you live and whatever space you care about (e.g., technology, education, greentech, etc.) and where there are a critical mass of people willing to leap in and work together as multiple authors, I’d encourage you to start one of these…it’s pretty simple to do and fun to boot.

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Virtual Communications: Using Lessons Learned Elsewhere

Moviemakers of the suspense, horror and drama genres learned long ago that in order to build tension in the audience, slowly lowering the sound makes moviegoers start to strain to hear the dialogue (and yes, music and other sound is added to build to a crescendo). Tension builds, the muscles in the bodies of the audience tighten, they begin to lean forward slightly and THE HAND FLIES INTO THE SCREEN, GRABS OUR HERO AND THE AUDIENCE JUMPS IN THEIR SEATS SCREAMING!

Works every time.

Now take a technology we’ve used for a long time — conference calling on the Plain Old Telephone System (POTS) — and realize that people calling in on a variety of devices (headsets, cell phones, office phones) add noise and the telephone system (and conference bridge) sample at only a measly 8khz. The result? Tension builds, our muscles tighten and we actually shift our attention (you know who you are….you surfin’ the web folks when you’re supposed to be listening to us on the call!) and the quality of the conference and what we’re trying to communicate to one another suffers.

Let’s look at Skype and how using it decreases tension and increases the quality. Sampling at 16khz means the quality is substantially higher than POTS and is so good that you can hear people breathe, move something on their desk or even click their mouse. The “resolution” of the audio is much higher and thus the call quality is better. The result? Lower tension (or none at all), the callers are relaxed and the communication is higher. Thankfully there are emerging conference bridges that can handle call-ins via Skype and sample at 16khz to maintain call quality (e.g., HighSpeedConferencing).

Let’s take this one step further to other forms of social media: Imagine you hosted a party and when your guests arrived, no one greeted them at the door, clusters of people were broken up into little cliques ignoring them, and as you glanced over at them in the doorway thought, “They’re on their own and are just going to have to figure out how to participate.

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