Social Software

My Five Ws of RSS in less than 10 minutes (video included)

Here’s a great little video explaining news feeds / RSS and how to get started.

Feedburner 101
Who’s this for
Are you one of those folks whose seen these things on web sites & wondered what they’re for? Or perhaps you know what they stand. Perhaps you once were adventurous enough to click one but, then decided to leave it for another time. If so, then this post’s for you. If not, then maybe you can read on anyway & share your thoughts on how to help others benefit from this technology.

Why I like news feeds
Before we get started on our mission, the first thing I need to due is assume nothing. So if I want you to start following, and hopefully contributing, to this social experiment, I need to help make it easier for me to communicate with you. Of course, email is one way. Personally, for things like this, I really prefer news feeds.

A news feed, by it’s own naming, sounds so fresh and up-to-date. But we all know that today’s news is tomorrow’s history. Now, let’s think how that relates to our email’s inbox. I know folks that receive 150 to 200 emails a day. Maybe you’re just like them. Have you ever fallen behind? Even for a day, or, two. How about when you travel, or, go on vacation? Do the math.

200 emails /day x 5 days disconnected vacation = 1,000 emails

When’s the last time you caught up on those emails? In my own case, and I don’t receive anywhere near that volume, I pretty much read the subject and then decide if I need to use the scroll bar.

The beauty of news feeds, is that no matter when you read the content, it always feels like news. At least it does for me. (Feel free comment.) I think its because its there in front of me when I want it. So if I’m reading a post about a particular subject matter, then I know I can I can follow that feed’s timeline, news history, previous postings, etc., to see how that content evolved. I find it a lot easier to get my head around things when in my Google News Reader, than my Inbox.

What‘s a news feed and how to get started
So, if you’re wondering what’s a news feed, or, RSS (, or even ATOM), then take a look at Common Craft’s Lee LeFever’s perfect little video from his “In Plain English” series.

Where‘s my RSS icons
So if you’re convinced, here’s my RSS icons. If not, I’ll be just as happy if you subscribe via email.

When to subscribe
How about trying to subscribe right now and comment below how it went. Was it as easy as described? Did I oversimplify things? Would you like me to find some other helpful pointers out there regarding news feeds, or, readers? You’ll never know unless you ask.

Up next
I’ll post my Five Ws of Twitter next time. So if you have anything you’d like to share along these terms, please comment, or, Tweet me @stevenmistein.

Do you have any of your own preferences, or, RSS links you’d like to share?

Social Software Startup Life

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.

Startup Life

Starting My Own, Thanks to …

Social Networking Stickman

Starting my own, thanks to Mitch Joel, Chris Brogan, Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki.

Why I got started
I only started taking social software seriously after reading Seven Blogs You Must Read And Other Useful Know-How – By Mitch Joel at Twist Image in the Montreal Gazette. For the most part, I’ve been following Mitch Joel‘s advice and listening to him, Chris Brogan, Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki’s How to Change the World and try to keep up with ReadWriteWeb, MobileCrunch and TechCrunch every now & then.

To be quite honest, I never felt a burning desire to spend much time with Facebook and just couldn’t relate to telling the wold that I’m going to have a coffee with Twitter. Now I know that sounds rather anti-social but I really felt there had to be more to it. But then among all of the feeds above, I came across ESME: Is This What an Enterprise Twitter Could Look Like? – ReadWriteWeb and things started to gel for me.

But enterprises come in many forms and I’d like to focus more on enterprising communities – those that are looking for new ways to tackle age-old problems. Those that are anxious to learn as they go along and maybe even contribute to the learning process.

One more Why
Here’s a comment I posted to Start A Blog Today | Six Pixels of Separation – Marketing and Communications Blog and Podcast – By Mitch Joel at Twist Image that explains why I finally got off the sidelines:

Actually, I only “got” social media after reading your post. Just recently, I started blogging myself, also, mainly due to you,, and I most definitely agree with you & the others, that – given the challenges of today’s realities, now is absolutely the best time to show your snowflake. With so many people being batched together in layoffs, people need a way to distinguish themselves.

The light bulb went off for me when I was about to offer the father of my daughter’s best friend an afternoon How-To do it. Fortunately, I realized the arrogance of my offer & held back. I was about to waste 4 hours of his time, my time, completely frustrate both of us and in the end set us both further back from where we started.

That’s why I started blogging. I realized that so many people I know – personally & professionally, have no idea of the social software tools not only available to them, but more importantly, just how beneficial they can be. So instead of inefficiently offering my help one person at at time, I hope to learn & refine the experience in my blog, grow my own social network and help others seed their own.

Here’s my lightning rod
According to Rubicons’ October 2008 report entitled “Online Communities and Their Impact on Business: Ignore at Your Peril”, there’s pretty much two kinds of community members: the most frequent contributors (MFCs) and the ones that read their contributions. By the way, the MFCs represent only 10% of the members but they contribute 80% of the content. If this is true then this is what I’m aiming for:

  1. If we can get just a handful of members, then I’m hoping that 90% of our new community will follow the adventures.
  2. Hopefully a percentage of that 90% will even try to implement their own community
  3. 10% will either let me know of:
    1. mistakes I’ve made, and/or
    2. problems encountered using my choice of software, and/or
    3. let me know how the competition deals with a scenario – whether it be better, or not

So bring it on. Let’s all learn together. Let’s share our experiences with not just this community here, but with any children communities born here, as well as, the developers who write our social software.

Up Next
Over the next few postings, I’m going to explain my niche market, a simple scenario for us to implement and a high-level outline of to-do’s which will ultimately become our How-To’s. You may agree, or, disagree with what I think is niche & whether my scenario has any practical use. But that’s the beauty of this social networking thing – provided you post your comments back.

My Process
There’s nothing truly original here. I’ve seen others do it. So unless anyone has any other suggestions this is how I’ll proceed:

  1. Send a tweet through Twitter letting anyone who’ll listen know what I’m planning on posting next & ask for any insights.
  2. Post my entry, with the first line being the entry’s tweet. If I can’t net out my posting in 140 characters and you can’t “Get it”, then I failed & you shouldn’t bother reading any further.
  3. Tweet that first line and see if anyone “gets it”.

All thoughts are welcome

Startup Life

Lots of Pictures

Reposted from my Lotus Greenhouse 26 Sep 2008 Blog (create a free account)
Dan Roam - The Back Of The Napkin
Dan Roam - The Back Of The Napkin

I’d like to thank Guy Kawasaki for his How to Change the World: The Art of Visual Thinking post and introducing me to Dan Roam’s The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures. If the posting doesn’t inspire you to read the book, take a look at the book’s slick web site for a another perspective. In addition to all the glowing reviews out there, I’d just like to add a few of points that may hit closer to home for all those folks out there engaged in Geographically Distributed Development (GDD):


  1. Not all developers are born public speakers. Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of working with some brilliant folks – from coders to architects. However, there are times when this talented group of people can’t seem to net-it-out. They’re so immersed in their code, or, diagrams, that its difficult for us less savvy folk to get the point. Now even if you never share your picture (which based on my own experience is a giant leap of faith), the exercise of attempting to draw it has huge benefits. With each iteration, you not only clarify the physical image but you clarify the one in your “mind’s eye” – which in the end simply improves your code, or, detailed diagrams
  2. Not everyone’s mother tongue is English! Pictures transcend language. So look upon your creations like the Egyptians looked upon their hieroglyphics.
  3. Not everyone can draw. True. Neither can I. But I still read the book and benefited from it. It’s easy to read – lots of picures!

So read the book anyway and post your thumbs-up, or, thumbs-down comments here, or, on my postings featuring my creations 🙂

Social Software

The Role of Social Software and Outside-in Agile Development

Reposted from my Lotus Greenhouse 26 Sep 2008 Blog (create a free account)

So if you’ve been following some of the folks mentioned in my post About Me – Not, perhaps 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, or are simply into social software and finding its business value in the enterprise, then you’ve probably already thought of this post. But in case you haven’t here’s the main point:

Executive summary

The further software development moves away from the waterfall process, the more we need to embrace customer/stakeholder interactions. Not only on a more frequent basis, but also on a more informal basis. (Think of Twitter’s 140 character limit.)

Like an onion

Armed with Dan Roam’s The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures, I’ve been playing around with this image in my mind’s eye and in the event my artistic skills are somewhat lacking, I’ll explain everything layer-by-layer.

This is my social software compass. To the north, I have customers and the marketplace outside the firewall. To the south, there’s folks like me in the software development labs. On the west side, I have the traditional Waterfall development approach. And on the east side, the Agile process.

Waterfall layer

Now let’s map a simplistic view of Waterfall tools used.
In the In-Waterfall quadrant, I have huge documents and testing procedures. In the Outside-Waterfall quadrant, I have a few phone conversations and face-to-face meetings.

Agile layer

I may have have gotten out of hand on the Agile side of the map so things got a bit messy.

All I’m trying to illustrate here is how all the social software tools have a role to play in our quest for outside-in Agile software development. We could be tapping into Facebook, Twitter, wikis, blogs, news feeds, instant messaging like Sametime and e-meetings like Sametime Unyte. We should be leveraging the social networks for helping us write smaller, more practical User Stories and getting more frequent feedback by getting betas outside earlier & more often.

Mapping the tools and the process

So here’s the suggestion.

Let’s use Rational Team Concert, the Agile/Scrum Process and Lotus Connections for outside-in software development.

Do you have any thoughts, or, experiences you’d like to share? Is this doable,or, suicidal? Can you understand my drawings?