Meet Greg Meyer: A Maven & a Mensch

I learned this when reading Guy Kawasaki’s Reality Check:

Leo Rosten, the Yiddish maven and author of The Joys of Yiddishdefines mensch this way:

Someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being “a real mensch” is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous.

Read more: How to Change the World: How to Be a Mensch

Prize Ribbon
Prize Ribbon

Background

While trolling Twitter for #custdev, I came across You don’t need a business plan yet: 7 ideas for Customer Development « Information Maven: Greg Meyer. I read it, liked it and retweeted it. Shortly after words, I got a thanks mention from @grmeyer. Soon enough, one tweet led to another and then Greg asked for an interview.

Maven

The first thing Greg asked was “What can I do to help you?” – which surprised me because I thought Greg wanted to talk about my Nordie experience he posted on Deliver The Awesome.  Not so. Greg explained he likes being an Information Maven – “a trusted expert in a particular field, who seeks to pass knowledge on to others” – as described in his About.

Within moments, Greg was describing and offering to connect me with four, or, five contacts whom most likely share AnotherSocialEconomy’s Where Demand Comes to Meet Supply vision.  And while it’s always nice to get feedback and introductions from someone who “gets it”, it’s even more of a delight when they come through.

Mensch

Usually, someone coming through with an introduction takes the form of an email with contact info.  But not from the guy who runs a site called on Deliver The Awesome. Within a very short time, Greg sent out emails like:

[contact-name], meet Steven Milstein. Steven is a Montreal entrepreneur. You should know Steven because he’s working on a way to match up qualified buyers with qualified sellers for speciifc commerce / e-commerce needs.  Find out more at http://ReverseTheSearch.co.

Steven, meet [contact-name]. [contact-name] is [title / role]. You should know [contact-name because he’s a good guy and has lots of experience thinking about bringing concepts to market. Find out more at [useful link].

I hope this introduction proves useful!

Regards,
Greg

Networking User Stories

Now that’s an introduction! They remind me of User Stories that take the form of:

As a <type of user>, I want <some goal> so that <some reason>.

Not only were the introductions short & sweet but each were custom wordsmithed, hoping to capture how this introduction may be helpful to it’s recipients.

Mensch-wannabe

To all my friends out there, please follow @grmeyer and @DeliverAwesome, visit and offer up your own service, or, retail experience that made you feel great. You can also follow @GregAtGist, the product marketing guy for Gist – a wild product that melds all your contacts social streams in your own Dashboard, or, my fave, email Inbox.

Update

I’ve been practicing my @grmeyer inspired Networking User Stories whenever the opportunity arises & have to report, if nothing else, it is gratifying.  I’m not good at following-up, maybe because, I know people are inundated with others trying to connect & I don’t want to put anyone in the uncomfortable position of feeling they have to explain their actions, or, lack thereof to me.

But  based on all these networking experiences and months of various styles of breakfast meetings & coffee meetings,  even this post by James Altucher – The 9 Skills Needed to Become a Super Connector Altucher Confidential, I’m really pleased to say that we’re taking apart our startup’s lego blocks & reassembling them to service the needs of power networkers. Once relaunched, we’ll be “taking the mundane out of making it rain” by facilitating half of the skills James mentioned.

Getting my affairs in order – If this were Twitter, I’d just say “Thanks”

My First Profile Image - The Happy IBMer
My First Profile Image - The Happy IBMer

Social Values 2.0
Its more about the folks in your social network than the technology that enables your social network. Its the value they can spontaneously and casually generate with a simple click of a button.

The rumors were true. There are layoffs & I’m among them. I have until 6 Feb 2009 to find a new job within IBM, or, yada yada yada. This is the first of two posts I’d like to share with you about my experience inside Big Blue. It’s all good. Here is a cleansed version of my 19 Sep 2008 internal blog. (All internal links have been removed.)

I hear the train a comin’
About mid-September 2008, I was informed my current role as Lead Business Analyst (aka Product Manager) in Rational Portfolio Manager (RPM) has been discontinued. I have until the end of October 2008 to find a new job inside Big Blue, or else, yada, yada, yada. Now the truth is, this wasn’t a big surprise to me. RPM sales to new customers was halted back in Q1 2008 and for now, there will be no further releases – just iFixes. So managing requirements & providing demos is just not something the business needs.

Gotta get out of this place
So back in Q1 2008, I started improving my skill-sets and finding news ones. There’s loads of stuff out there & I chose to invest my time in learning about Agile software development. Almost immediately, I got into Outside-in Software Development: A Practical Approach to Building Successful Stakeholder-Based Products by John Sweitzer and Carl Kessler of IBM SWG. It’s a great read & if you’ve been in software development long enough, can easily relate to the experiences they write about. I was so inspired by the book, that I decided I needed to put my Agile education and outside-in software development knowledge to practice. Unfortunately, this was not going to happen back in RPM-land.

So on the advice of my manager Robert St-Laurent, I looked into “Blue Opportunities” (a way to temporarily join another team to gain new experiences) to see if there was anyone out there looking for this kind of help. I couldn’t find what I was looking for so, I simply created my own custom made opportunity. All I had to do was shop it around and see if I could get any takers. But where? These development practices seemed so foreign from where I was coming from. So I took a shot and sent an email to Carl Kessler, John Sweitzer & Scott Ambler asking if they knew of any teams already well experienced in outside-in agile software development & if they would be OK with me shadowing the process and more specifically the product manager/owner.

Now this was a sort of Hail Mary for me but, you never know if you don’t ask. Less than two hours later, Carl Kessler answers me & within days I’m hooked up with the Search and Discovery, ECM team from Information Management shadowing Jake Levirne & Rishi Patel. In the end, I had a better understanding of their environment and provided them with a proof-of-concept where I mapped their current tools & process into that of the Rational Team Concert (beta 3 at the time).

Funny, eh?
Trying to leverage my experience, I used my new found connections to go after a few new product manager/owner opportunities with the IM group. I thought it went well but nothing materialized & heard recently that they were not able to hire outside of IM. Get it? The group practising outside-in development couldn’t hire from outside. 🙂 Nonetheless, it was a phenomenal experience & to this day I get great mileage out of the whole story.

Giveback
If you’re interested, I blogged (internally) the entire Blue Opportunity, presented a Lunch & Learn back in the RPM lab and just a few days ago, was given the opportunity to repeat (no pun intended) the Lunch & Learn at the Disciplined Agile Development Work

How to be a hero with stuff like Twitter, Facebook, blogs, delicious, wikis and more

Hint #1: The monkey was right.

The monkey was right
The monkey was right.

Look beyond what you see
Are you trying to convince your friends, or, colleauges that they need to get into Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, wikis, instant messaging, etc. Worse yet, have you convinced your boss that these tools of social software are not developed and promoted by the Axis of Evil for the purposes of killing our productivity?

Don’t get me wrong. Look at what I blog about. Look at my photo. Do I look like a member of the Axis Of Evil Social Software Society? Look back at my Starting My Own, Thanks to … post & you’ll see that at one time, I too didn’t see the business value of this stuff. However, since then I can honestly say, that I don’t recall ever learning so much from some many different people – absolute strangers yet, in such a short period of time. Oh yah, did I mention that it was all for free? All thanks to social software, social networking, social media and most importantly the folks that provide the intellectual property – the content. Now that’s just my experience. And it may be just yours too. But it may not be your colleagues’, or, boss’. So the big question is; “What did your organization gain?” Where’s the business value for social software?

Enterprise 2.0
The originator of the phrase “Enterprise 2.0”, Professor Andrew McAfee defines it as

the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers”.

Oddly enough, he specifically states that

Wikipedia, YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, etc. These are for individuals on the Web, not companies. Some companies use sites like YouTube for viral and stealth marketing, but let’s explicitly put these activities outside our definition of Enterprise 2.0.

Dion Hinchcliffe, in his The state of Enterprise 2.0 post, reminds us of the primary concern of business

Whether Enterprise 2.0 brings real bang for the buck by making the daily work of organizations measurably more productive, efficient, and innovative.

Is it just me, or, don’t you find that a little bit funny? In my opinion, I think these examples of social software actually feed and drive Enterprise 2.0. I think its more about content than tools. But it’s Andrew’s phrase so I guess I’ll have to come up with my own. How about “ Social Content 2.0“?

Hint #2: What starts with someone requesting something & ends with someone else delivering it? (And it’s not pizza.)

One Smalll Step for Man
Find a cause. Remember

Step 1: Find a cause
Now, if we could see beyond all those tools, beyond what is and what is not Enterprise 2.0, and simply concentrate on the content, then I think we’re well on our way to becoming that hero. So find a cause. Find something you need to deliver. Something that you can’t do on your own. Something that cries out for collaboration, sharing, communicating. Use the tools to help you achieve your goal. Sound a little too abstract?

 

How about a project?
Projects start with someone asking for something and end with someone else delivering it. Projects are very social. So we’ve got our cause now. Now let’s look at our tools. We already have enough examples of social software, so now let’s consider our tradtional project management software.

The problem with projects
I’m in the middle of reading Chip and Dan Heath’s book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die and came across the following passage:

… “No plan survives contact with the enemy,” says Colonel Tom Kolditz, the head of the behavioral sciences division at West Point. “You may start off trying to fight your plan, but the enemy gets a vote. Unpredictable things happen – the weather changes, a key asset is destroyed, the enemy responds in a way you don’t expect. Many armies fail because they put all their emphasis into creating a plan that becomes useless ten minutes into the battle.”

Now replace some of the key words – like “enemy” for “customer”, “armies” for “software labs” and “battle” for “development”. Sounds like the Colonel and I have been on a few software development projects together. And I doubt we’d be alone in that analogy.

Step 2: Get social
IBM’s Carl Kessler and John Sweitzer wrote Outside-in Software Development: A Practical Approach to Building Successful Stakeholder-based Products which contains some great examples of things going wrong and how to rectify the situation. For me, outside-in software development is really about mixing the social process into the software development process.

In my previous The Role of Social Software and Outside-in Agile Development I discussed how we are moving away from the Waterfall Model for software development towards Agile. Coincidentally, I also illustrated how we are moving away from the stoic/static Ivory-tower based tooling to the outside-in community-based ones. And finally, I tie it all together with an illustration of how you could use Rational Team Concert, the Agile/Scrum Process and IBM’s Lotus Greenhouse for outside-in software development.

I then followed that post up with Whiteboarding about Social Maps and Software and sketched how various communities of Stakeholders can form ad hoc social networks through the use of social software, (read IBM’s Lotus Greenhouse).

Step 3: Find a project management tool that’s sociable
Flip through Leisa Reichelt‘s presentation about how project management is evolving.

Social Project Management 

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: collaboration process)

Here’s a few other opinions and possible tools to help you on your way to becoming that hero:

  • Andrew Filev, founder and CEO of Wrike, Inc. writes that “Project Management 2.0” is based on

    Collective intelligence … is a form of intelligence that emerges from the collaboration and competition of many individuals.

    and

    Emergence … is a form of collective behavior, when parts of a system do together what they would not do by themselves.

  • Bruce P. Henry, a founder of Liquid Planner writes in his Social Project Management post that

    … project management is about people making commitments to other people to work with still other people to get something done or built for perhaps some other people. Project management is about people. If that’s not social then I don’t know what is!

  • Rick Cook in his post Jazz in Concert—Jazz Platform and Rational Team Concert Make Sweet Music for Development Teams writes

    Collaboration in software development isn’t a luxury—it’s a necessity that software teams have to figure out how to do better. With the right tools such as IBM’s Rational Team Concert built on the Jazz technology, any size software development team can stay in sync in real-time, regardless of location.

Superman
Be that hero. Put Social Content 2.0 into your next project.

Step 4: Get viral
Take a look at Business Week’s Social Media Will Change Your Business By Stephen Baker and Heather Green. You don’t have to read it. Just look at the number of comments it solicited. At the time of this post, it was at 3110! Now that’s social. That’s viral! That’s Social Content 2.0. And apparently, it doesn’t even matter how accurate, or, truthfull some of those comments are. According to Rubicon Consulting & Online Communities and Their Impact on Business: Ignore at Your Peril, 10% of the community members contribute 80% of the content. These Most Frequent Contributors (MFCs) are second to word of mouth when it comes to influencing others. So while having Web 2.0 technology features in your project management tool may make it more social, it’ll never make your deliverable more viral.

The Sweet Spot – Social Content 2.0
Dion Hinchcliffe’s #1 prediction from his 8 Predictions for Enterprise Web 2.0 in 2009 Enterprise Web 2.0 post, states

1. Tight budgets will drive the adoption of low-cost Web 2.0 and cloud/SaaS solutions. This seems like an obvious prediction but how it plays out will be very interesting. This could end up actually helping the smaller Enterprise Web 2.0 players as companies look to get away from the big-ticket, enterprise-class offerings from major vendors like IBM, Oracle, and others. But in reality, once enterprises make the decision to move to platforms for wikis, enterprise mashups, cloud services, SaaS enterprise apps, and so on, they may find the one-stop shop of pre-integrated solutions from entrenched software providers more than they can resist. Make no mistake, however, IT shops and businesses alike will be looking to cut costs and I expect a lot of IT and business downsizing to happen in a surge of “Economics 2.0″.

Did you catch that? The “pre-integrated solutions” part? To me, that’s the sweet spot. Whoever can, not only integrate Web 2.0 technologies into their project management tools, but integrate that viral Most Frequent Contributor Social Content 2.0 into the products developed by those tools will rule.

Reflection
Do you have any experience with any of the products in this space? If so, I’d love to see your comments. If not, are you a traditional project management type? Do you think this is just one of those phases & in the end folks will return to the classics?

In the spirit of openess, I’m going to reach out to some of those mentioned above. In addition, I’ll ping someone at Basecamp and Cynapse who I know do great things in collaboration software but am uncertain about the extent of their project management features.

Your opinion along with any constructive feedback is much appreciated.

Photo credits, click on images to find source.

IBM Lotus Greenhouse Connections, Stickmen and Communities

How a social networking stickman can use IBM’s Lotus Connections to better server a community, or, enterprise – for free

Social Networking Stickman
Social Networking Stickman
Who

In my previous post – My Five Ws of IBM’s Lotus Greenhouse in less than 10 minutes, I introduced you to Greenhouse and hopefully, got you underway in the registration process. So now, for all you would-be social networking stickmen out there, let’s see what free tools we can exploit.

Getting Into Connections

What

For starters, once you log into Greenhouse, click on the IBM Lotus Connections link and you’ll brought to a typical portal looking page. The page should resemble familiar sites like Yahoo! with the added usability of customizing your page like iGoogle.

Here’s what you should be seeing:

  1. Profiles: The Facebook of Connections where you maintain your own profile, network with others and link with colleagues and their content. Take a few extra minutes and check out Chris Brogan‘s advice in Write Your LinkedIn Profile for Your Future. My personal favorites are about describing more about what you want to do most and your choice of photos.
  2. Blogs: Personal journals sequenced by most current entries that potentially allow readers to leave comments.
  3. Communities: Your own collection of member profiles sharing discussion forums, bookmarks and feeds, as described in My Five Ws of RSS in less than 10 minutes (video included)
  4. Activities: A novel alternative to email where you can share content, documents and comments around a specific activity, including To-Do’s with dates.
  5. Dogear: You can share, or, not, your choice bookmarks – just like Delicious, or, Digg, but integrated with your community.
Where

Now keep in mind where you are at this point. You logged into Greenhouse and as a result anything you do inside Greenhouse will not show up when you Google for it. Perhaps more importantly, all the Greenhouse feeds available to you are pretty much restricted to internal Greenhouse use. The problem is typical news readers – like Google Reader do not account for credentials – no pun intended. Go ahead and try adding one of your Greenhouse feeds to Google

Google Reader and a Greenhouse Feed
Google Reader and a Greenhouse Feed

and please let me know if you have better results than I do.

When

Don’t get me wrong. This is not a showstopper and should not prevent you from moving forward now. As a matter of fact, anyone wanting to adopt social software in the workplace will have the same issue. This is a good thing. Enterprises and Information Technology (IT) folks call this Security and once you’re logged into Greenhouse your entries are encrypted with something called Secure Sockets Layers (SSL), which means, among other things, unintended eyes cannot see what you post. Notice the “s” in https://greenhouse.lotus.com?

Why / How

Perhaps the most compelling reason for me to use Greenhouse Connections is the concept of community which I hope is communicated in my following video.

Now in order to have a Community, you need to have Members. You can only select Members from existing Greenhouse Profiles. Once you have your list of folks who can access your content, you can then determine what privileges they have. privileges depend on the Memberships Roles you assign and vary among Owners, Authors and Readers.

So how do we work around the problem of getting the most out of feeds if we can’t add those from Greenhouse to our readers? Here’ one I’m experimenting with a start-up project. Since all the members are into, or, are getting into Twitter, I set up a FriendFeed account and created a private Room for the members to communicate. We keep all our community-related content inside our members-only Greenhouse Connections Community and only use FriendFeed for notification purposes. It’s going OK, but I thinking of switching over to GroupTweet because its simpler. Sometime less features is just better.

Reflection
Please let me know if you have any trouble following my instructions, hit a snafu along the way, or, simply have any of your own suggestions / alternatives. Especially if you have alternatives 🙂

My Five Ws of IBM’s Lotus Greenhouse in less than 10 minutes

Use IBM’s Lotus Collaboration Products for free, including Lotus Connections for social networking.

Inside Registered Greenhouse

Who

I’ve been blogging, or, talking about IBM’s Lotus Greenhouse for a while now, but have yet to deliver a scenario that folks can relate to. So for all of you out there that have a desire to know more about social software and maybe even start testing the waters, this series of posts is for you.

Why

Most of my friends and colleagues think social software is limited to blogging. Some consider video sharing like youtube. Some know about bookmark sharing like delicious. Some may consider podcasts in there. Perhaps even fewer know about slideshare. I don’t know of any them that consider leaving comments on retailers’ site as being “social”. And again, none of them would consider some form of project management as a social activity.

Now, what’s nice about IBM’s Lotus Greenhouse is that it offers all of these capabilities and more, for free. Why? I can think of two good reasons why IBM let’s you use their production, backed-up software for free:

  1. Outside-in software development: There’s a big push within Big Blue to get more feedback from stakeholders outside the lab into the lab. Greenhouse has a whack of forums for members to provide feedback, or, get help. This goes hand-in-hand with another big push in Big Blue: Agile, or, scrum software development. In very brief terms, this means developing high value chunks of executable software in short iterations cycles – like two weeks, demonstrating it to stakeholders, getting feedback, reflecting on the experience & then moving forward. The objective is to mitigate the risk in developing software no one except the developers think is necessary. (Perhaps now’s a good time to point you to the Disclaimer on my sidebar.)
  2. As the site says:

    Bluehouse is the code name for a first-of-its-kind, IBM® software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering. “Bluehouse” is an innovative and powerfully intuitive set of business services integrated with robust social networking capabilities, which enable users to collaborate quickly and efficiently work with others outside or inside the firewall.

    So my guess is, if you get hooked on Greenhouse & are reaping the benefits from it, then you would consider going for the full-meal deal with the Bluehouse hosted solution. Makes sense to me!

What

Glancing at the Inside Greenhouse image above, you can tell there’s a lot going on here. But I did say in my last The Funny Thing About Leaving Comments post that I was going to use Chris Brogan‘s Question for You While Preparing for 2009 getting started scenario. So that’s what we’re going to focus on moving forward – for now.

Where/How

Join Now In order to move forward, you do need to register by clicking Join and filling out the Self Nomination page. Now there’s a few things you should be aware of when registering:

  1. You cannot change the following after you register:
    1. E-mail address
    2. First Name
    3. Last Name
  2. I honestly don’t know if it helps any of us, but I can’t imagine it could hurt, so, feel free to use my name as Your IBM Contact

The first point really tripped me up. As a result, I now have an account with my IBM email address, first & last name and another one with my stevenmilstein.com email address with first name “S” and last name “StevenMilstein”. I’m trying to get this resolved since I have more control over the fate of my stevenmilstein.com email address, as opposed to, my IBM one.

When

Registration is not automatic. I think there’s a human intervening on the other end. So the sooner you register the sooner you can get started.

Please let me know if you have any trouble following my instructions, or, hit a snafu along the way.

The Basis for a Social Experiment

Agile Social Software Compass
Agile Social Software Compass

Basis for my outside-in social software experiment, benefiting non-techies and the developers who write this stuff.

The Basis
In the spring of 2008, I read Outside-in Software Development: A Practical Approach to Building Successful Stakeholder-Based Products by John Sweitzer and Carl Kessler of IBM’s Software Group and having a software developer’s background myself, was truly inspired. So much so, that I reached out to Carl Kessler (one of the huge perks about being an IBM’er – we can do things like that) and asked him if he knew where I could gain some practical experience as a Product Owner with a team actually practicing outside-in agile software development. I was hooked up with a team in a matter of days and truly had a great experience.

The Social Aspect
Since then, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time following the Forward Thinkers on my sidebar to the right, as well as, a few of the books (under Pivotal Moments) they introduced me to. Pretty soon I noticed the connection between outside-in software development, the agile/scrum software development process and social software.

Without getting into the specifics of each, the one common thread shared by all was that true business value, or, success, could only be achieved when the community/tribe worked together to achieve their common goal.

The state of affairs
Now while I work for IBM, I don’t work for Lotus – the keepers of IBM’s social software, nor do I work in the brand of the VPs mentioned above. I’m not in sales, nor am I in marketing. Take a look at my brief About – I’m a business analyst in Rational. I have no sphere of influence on any of those other brands

The experiment
So what I’d like to do – with your help of course, is starting from outside of Big Blue, put together a simple scenario where we feel social software will provide true business value for all stakeholders concerned. And by Stakeholders, I mean you, me, and the community/tribe we assemble. Since I am outside the trusted firewall, have my Disclaimer in the Sidebar and am secure with our Business Conduct Guidelines, this tribe is not restricted to IBM’s software development community. Anyone from any software development community can become a stakeholder.

Defining success
Like any experiment, or, project, we need a deliverable – something that can be measured. Something that we as stakeholders can say defines success. Here’s my suggestion: We, as stakeholders, want to deploy a social network with a specific non-technical mandate, using IBM’s social software, so that we can achieve our goal while contributing to the greater outside-in social software development community.

Up Next
In the coming posts, I’ll describe the non-technical mandate I have in mind and then how we’re going to experiment with IBM’s latest social software offerings – for free, no obligations, no spam, no hardware required.

Until then, if you already have a simple, non-technical goal you’d like to achieve by implementing a social network, please let me know so we can compare notes.