Gathering 11


By Gavin Heaton


Next month in Melbourne, leading thinkers, change-makers and collaborators from across Australia and around the world are gathering to explore whatʼs possible, and to develop ideas on how we can best solve todayʼs most pressing social and environmental challenges. It’s a great chance to share your brain with some super smart folks!

There are some great participants including:

  • John Hagel: co-chair Deloitte Center for the Edge (USA) and co-author of The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion
  • Michel Bauwens: Belgian technologist, theorist and researcher on culture and business innovation and founder of the Peer to Peer Foundation (Thailand).
  • Venessa Miemis: futurist, digital ethnographer and writer at Forbes.  Blogger at Emergent by Design, founder of Open Foresight and producer of The Future of Money (USA).
  • Pete Williams: social web revolutionary and CEO of Deloitte Digital. Helped rebuild Flowerdale after the 2009 Victorian bushfires and is #hannahsdad (Australia).
  • Kate Carruthers: Marketer, technologist, educator, blogger. Co-Chief Changemaker at Social Innovation Sydney (Australia)
  • Christine Egger: champion of social innitiatives and former Co-Director of Social Actions (USA).
  • Stephen Johnson: Social Enterprise Evangelist and Community Catalyst. Head of Social at Community Engine (Australia).
  • Jean Russell: collaboration catalyst and founder of and (USA).
  • Kristin Alford: Futurist and communicator at Bridge8. Exploring the role of science & technology, in innovation, economic development, social change and sustainability (Australia).
  • Tim Longhurst: Futurist, speaker, minimalist and activist (Australia).
  • Ehon Chan: Researcher, teacher and change agent. Co-founder News Unlimited and YESBrisbane, Board Member at PlanBig (Australia)




Pro Twitter Accounts

by Lisa Barone

If you follow me on Twittersubscribe to the Outspoken Blog or hang out at any of the other sites I write for like SmallBizTrends,Copyblogger or Duct Tape Marketing, you may feel like you know me a little bit. You may not have grown up with me or know the name of my first grade teacher (Mrs. Pizzardi), but you have a sense of what it’d be like to grab a beer with me. You know I have horrible taste in both TV and music, that I kickbox regularly, and that I use my Twitter account for equal parts educating and amusing. Because I tweet like a human, there’s a relationship where you’d recognize me in a dark alley or maybe a different blog. And through it, you begin to trust me, my content, and the SEO consultingcompany I represent more than you would if this connection didn’t exist. That’s how you use social media.


And it only works because I’m not full of shit.

It works because the version I present to you is authentic. When you talk to me, you get Lisa – the good and the bad, the useful and the ridiculous. You get all of it.

Every Monday night at 9pm EST business owners and marketers swarm Twitter to participate in #SocialChat. If you’re not familiar, Social Chat is an hour-long discussion hosted by Alan K’necht and Michelle Stinson Ross where attendees and a guest host talk about all the different aspects of social media and marketing. Last week’s chat was hosted by our friend Hugo Guzman and focused on basic Twitter etiquette and how businesses can avoid common social media missteps.
Here was one of the topic points and part of Hugo’s response from the chat highlights:

Q2. What is the most important thing to keep in mind that is different between personal tweeting & tweeting for a brand?

@HugoGuzman: “That really depends on the nature of your brand (and employment). Some people like @lisabarone have the luxury to tweet as they please and it connects with her audience… Generally, the agreement was that, when tweeting for a brand/business, it is best to maintain a reasonable degree of professionalism. The human connection and conversation is important, and it’s not wise to become overly stiff or robotic, but there’s no need to pour out your hear to your customers, either.”

I get where Hugo was going and I don’t entirely disagree, but can we stop pretending that it’s possible to have a corporate Twitter account? Because it’s not.

I recognize that I tweet differently than a lot of other brands. My tweets are honest, routinely unprofessional, and range in topics from SEO to social media marketing to the killer tacos I just had for lunch. But I still wouldn’t call my Twitter strategy a luxury. It’s a necessity. It’s how the audience around my brand and my content is built.

We are officially beyond the days where you can have a distinct “personal” and “corporate” tweeting style. You must decide who you are and bleed it. From all accounts.

Matthew Ingram nailed it over at GigaOm last week with a post called News Editors Still Don’t Want Journalists to Be Human. In it, he breaks apart the social media best practices document created by The American Society of News Editors, arguing that most of it teaches the OPPOSITE lessons we want to sharing, perpetuating the “don’t be human under any circumstances” approach to social media.

The problem is that approach doesn’t work. It’s tired, it’s boring, and it’s bullshit.

You cannot expect people to form a relationship with you if you’re not willing to share part of yourself with them. This isn’t rocket science, its human relationships 101. Surely, we’re not so void of real person-to-person contact that we’ve forgotten this. To make a friend, you have to be a friend. Otherwise, WTF are you doing?

My tweets are probably more ridiculous than yours. And that’s fine. I would not encourage anyone to mimic the way I tweet. What you need to do is find your own naked superhero. That’s how you should be delineating; it has nothing to do with what jersey you’re wearing.

That doesn’t mean you need to start filling your Twitter account with the most ridiculous news and tweets you can dream up (really. Don’t do that). It means that you need to decide which version of you is the BEST VERSION of you to get your message heard and out. What parts of your personality make you perfectly suited to excel at your job and to connect with people in the process? What version of your real self can you share with people to do your job better? What traits do you need to amplify to increase your value?

Once you know – that’s your naked superhero and the person you should be – whether you’re tweeting for yourself or a company.

If you work for someone else, define your presence and present it to your boss. Explain why this authentic version of yourself is going to make you a much more powerful evangelist for them and how it’s going to generate interest in your brand because you’re GIVING people something. You’re giving them you. Let them see there’s a thought-out strategy here and you’re not just tweeting your lunch because you went off the deep end. If you do that, a company that’s serious about its social media activity is going to at least give you a shot. Maybe they’ll ask to see a somewhat toned down version until they trust you, but they’ll give you the opportunity. If they don’t, consider why you’re there, what you’re doing, and why you’re investing in a company that won’t invest in you back. [#justsayin]

Social media isn’t a free-for-all for engagement. Not at all. It’s about deciding who you are, how you can best support the company and being that. Therein lies your strategy – regardless of whether you’re tweeting as yourself or a representative of a brand. But you’ll never accomplish anything by cutting the YOU from your social media persona. It’s your job to figure out how to blend it all in a way that benefits everyone.

You want to be successful in social media?

  • Find your naked superhero.
  • Play nice in the sandbox.

There’s your free piece of social media consulting for the day. Because the days of keeping completely separate personal and professional identities are over. It’s all blended and it’s either interesting or it’s not.

About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone is the Chief Branding Officer of Outspoken Media. She’s also a very active Twitterer, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

Get social with Lisa at Twitter


The Absurdity Of Yielding Your Presence To The Stream

by Adam Singer

You would have to be crazy to completely yield your digital presence to services owned by other people.  There are so many reasons you should maintain an independent presence, and most of those who have been active digitally well before the popularization of privately (vs. independently) owned web services know this.

Yet still, there are tech-savvy people who get caught up in the hype and forget the benefits gained by maintaining an area all their own.  Leo Laporte recently succumbed to this, as noted in a recent post at his blog.  What happened is his content accidentally stopped being  imported into Twitter from Buzz for 16 days (he stopped using Twitter and was just bringing content over from one service to the other).  And not a single person noticed.  Not one email or comment to Leo about it.  Even Leo didn’t notice.

It makes me feel like everything I’ve posted over the past four years on Twitter, Jaiku, Friendfeed, Plurk, Pownce, and, yes, Google Buzz, has been an immense waste of time. I was shouting into a vast echo chamber where no one could hear me because they were too busy shouting themselves.

Indeed.  While there are many reasons to maintain an independent presence (as linked in graph 1) Leo is experiencing the poor signal to noise ratio within these networks, and the fact that they simply are not places to carve out a voice for yourself.

The best part about this, Leo has a wildly popular digital radio show that is produced and broadcast via its own network.  And he clearly articulates how the benefits of this have increased over time:

Thank God the content I deem most important, my Internet and broadcast radio shows, still stand. I believe in what I’m doing there, and have been very fortunate to have found an audience. I’m pretty sure I would have heard from people if there had been 16 days of dead silence there. Hell, if we miss one show I get hundreds of emails. But I feel like I’ve woken up to a bad social media dream in terms of the content I’ve put in others’ hands. It’s been lost, and apparently no one was even paying attention to it in the first place.

You would think that due to this, Leo would understand the importance of self-publishing all his content and simply using things like Twitter as outposts to grow interest there.  Building up outposts is not nearly as important as maintaining a place where you control the vertical and horizontal (this builds both equity and leverage).  Anyway, let’s wish Leo luck on his journey back into self-publishing and not simply working in a space where even with 200,000 followers he’s not listened to.

Meanwhile, The Next Web reported on this story and missed the point entirely:

Laporte says that from now on he’ll be concentrating on his blog….

It’s hard to believe Leo will stay away from social media for long. As someone who makes a living from discussing the latest developments in the tech sphere, he simply can’t maintain credibility is he isn’t active on at least some social media platforms – how will he know what he’s talking about if he doesn’t take part?

What?  Yet again more writers don’t understand that blogs are social media.  In fact, a majority of links in both independent and public platforms simply work to drive links and traffic to blogs.  Wouldn’t you rather be what the end goal is rather than just someone else pointing to that content?


Startups in 13 sentences

by Paul Graham, February 2009

One of the things I always tell startups is a principle I learned from Paul Buchheit: it’s better to make a few people really happy than to make a lot of people semi-happy. I was saying recently to a reporter that if I could only tell startups 10 things, this would be one of them. Then I thought: what would the other 9 be?

When I made the list there turned out to be 13:

1. Pick good cofounders.

Cofounders are for a startup what location is for real estate. You can change anything about a house except where it is. In a startup you can change your idea easily, but changing your cofounders is hard. [1] And the success of a startup is almost always a function of its founders.

2. Launch fast.

The reason to launch fast is not so much that it’s critical to get your product to market early, but that you haven’t really started working on it till you’ve launched. Launching teaches you what you should have been building. Till you know that you’re wasting your time. So the main value of whatever you launch with is as a pretext for engaging users.

3. Let your idea evolve.

This is the second half of launching fast. Launch fast and iterate. It’s a big mistake to treat a startup as if it were merely a matter of implementing some brilliant initial idea. As in an essay, most of the ideas appear in the implementing.

4. Understand your users.

You can envision the wealth created by a startup as a rectangle, where one side is the number of users and the other is how much you improve their lives. [2] The second dimension is the one you have most control over. And indeed, the growth in the first will be driven by how well you do in the second. As in science, the hard part is not answering questions but asking them: the hard part is seeing something new that users lack. The better you understand them the better the odds of doing that. That’s why so many successful startups make something the founders needed.

5. Better to make a few users love you than a lot ambivalent.

Ideally you want to make large numbers of users love you, but you can’t expect to hit that right away. Initially you have to choose between satisfying all the needs of a subset of potential users, or satisfying a subset of the needs of all potential users. Take the first. It’s easier to expand userwise than satisfactionwise. And perhaps more importantly, it’s harder to lie to yourself. If you think you’re 85% of the way to a great product, how do you know it’s not 70%? Or 10%? Whereas it’s easy to know how many users you have.

6. Offer surprisingly good customer service.

Customers are used to being maltreated. Most of the companies they deal with are quasi-monopolies that get away with atrocious customer service. Your own ideas about what’s possible have been unconsciously lowered by such experiences. Try making your customer service not merely good, but surprisingly good. Go out of your way to make people happy. They’ll be overwhelmed; you’ll see. In the earliest stages of a startup, it pays to offer customer service on a level that wouldn’t scale, because it’s a way of learning about your users.

7. You make what you measure.

I learned this one from Joe Kraus. [3] Merely measuring something has an uncanny tendency to improve it. If you want to make your user numbers go up, put a big piece of paper on your wall and every day plot the number of users. You’ll be delighted when it goes up and disappointed when it goes down. Pretty soon you’ll start noticing what makes the number go up, and you’ll start to do more of that. Corollary: be careful what you measure.

8. Spend little.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for a startup to be cheap. Most startups fail before they make something people want, and the most common form of failure is running out of money. So being cheap is (almost) interchangeable with iterating rapidly. [4]But it’s more than that. A culture of cheapness keeps companies young in something like the way exercise keeps people young.

9. Get ramen profitable.

“Ramen profitable” means a startup makes just enough to pay the founders’ living expenses. It’s not rapid prototyping for business models (though it can be), but more a way of hacking the investment process. Once you cross over into ramen profitable, it completely changes your relationship with investors. It’s also great for morale.

10. Avoid distractions.

Nothing kills startups like distractions. The worst type are those that pay money: day jobs, consulting, profitable side-projects. The startup may have more long-term potential, but you’ll always interrupt working on it to answer calls from people paying you now. Paradoxically, fundraising is this type of distraction, so try to minimize that too.

11. Don’t get demoralized.

Though the immediate cause of death in a startup tends to be running out of money, the underlying cause is usually lack of focus. Either the company is run by stupid people (which can’t be fixed with advice) or the people are smart but got demoralized. Starting a startup is a huge moral weight. Understand this and make a conscious effort not to be ground down by it, just as you’d be careful to bend at the knees when picking up a heavy box.

12. Don’t give up.

Even if you get demoralized, don’t give up. You can get surprisingly far by just not giving up. This isn’t true in all fields. There are a lot of people who couldn’t become good mathematicians no matter how long they persisted. But startups aren’t like that. Sheer effort is usually enough, so long as you keep morphing your idea.

13. Deals fall through.

One of the most useful skills we learned from Viaweb was not getting our hopes up. We probably had 20 deals of various types fall through. After the first 10 or so we learned to treat deals as background processes that we should ignore till they terminated. It’s very dangerous to morale to start to depend on deals closing, not just because they so often don’t, but because it makes them less likely to.

Having gotten it down to 13 sentences, I asked myself which I’d choose if I could only keep one.

Understand your users. That’s the key. The essential task in a startup is to create wealth; the dimension of wealth you have most control over is how much you improve users’ lives; and the hardest part of that is knowing what to make for them. Once you know what to make, it’s mere effort to make it, and most decent hackers are capable of that.

Understanding your users is part of half the principles in this list. That’s the reason to launch early, to understand your users. Evolving your idea is the embodiment of understanding your users. Understanding your users well will tend to push you toward making something that makes a few people deeply happy. The most important reason for having surprisingly good customer service is that it helps you understand your users. And understanding your users will even ensure your morale, because when everything else is collapsing around you, having just ten users who love you will keep you going.