Tag Archives: blog

Announcing A New Blogging Relationship with Forbes

A few weeks ago, I posted an update on my blogging activities that explained why I was blogging less here. That post also promised some additional news in the near future about a new blogging relationship.

I am happy to announce that I am now a Contributing Writer to Forbes. I will be starting a new blog there next week, called Networked Business.

Neither the term ‘networked business’, nor the concepts behind it are new. However, much of the previous work on the topic has been done in academic circles. My new blog will attempt to free the subject from the ivory towers in which it has been imprisoned, so more people will be familiar with, and have active discussions about, networked business.

I will post a link to the new blog here when I have finished configuring the site and published the first post. I will also link to the next few posts as they are published. Unfortunately, my legal agreement with Forbes prohibits cross-posting of content for several days, so I will not be replicating my complete Networked Business posts here. I hope you will choose to subscribe to that blog after you’ve read a post or two.

This blog was my first, and I started it as much (perhaps more) for me than for you, its readers. It has been a good place for me to express thoughts on collaboration and content sharing, but never achieved the readership that I had hoped for to create either the volume or diversity of feedback desired on those ideas. I expect that the Forbes brand will help solve that issue by drawing a significantly higher volume of traffic to my new blog there.

I do intend to continue blogging here, but only sporadically. I will, of course, promote those posts via social media, so you can become aware of them as they are published. However, most of my blogging activity will be on the Forbes site and on the Dow Brook Advisory Services blog, so please be sure to subscribe to those.

Let me close by saying ‘Thank You’ to everyone that has ever read a post on this blog and by giving an especially heart-felt thanks to anyone who has commented on a post here. I hope you will come back when there is fresh content.

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Where Is Larry?

I realize that it has been quite a while since I’ve posted on this blog and many of you may be wondering why. I have been publishing my thoughts on my business’ site instead, concentrating on collaboration- and content-related topics that will increase the audience there and help grow the business. Please explore and subscribe to Meanders: The Dow Brook Blog, so you may read it in your favorite RSS reader.

I intend to continue to blogging here, at Together, We Can!, but only sporadically. I will soon be announcing a major blogging relationship, which will, almost entirely, replace my former activity here. I am very excited at the incredible visibility and credibility that this partnership will provide to my thoughts and personal brand. I hope that you will read my posts on that site, once the relationship is contractually completed. Stay tuned for more details.

FINRA Affirms Regulation of User-Generated and Social Content

In a Regulatory Notice released earlier today, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) opined that brokerage firms and their registered representatives must retain records of all communications related to the broker-dealer’s business that are made through public blogs and social media sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

“Every firm that intends to communicate, or permit its associated persons to communicate, through social media sites must first ensure that it can retain records of those communications as required by Rules 17a-3 and 17a-4 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and NASD Rule 3110. SEC and FINRA rules require that for record retention purposes, the content of the communication is determinative and a broker-dealer must retain those electronic communications that relate to its “business as such.”

Brokerage firms will now be required to archive and make discoverable business-specific content produced by their employees. They will also have to establish and maintain procedures that ensure a supervisor has either approved an interactive electronic communication before it is posted, or that a “risk-based” method of post-communication review exists and is exercised.

“While prior principal approval is not required under Rule 2210 for interactive electronic forums, firms must supervise these interactive electronic communications under NASD Rule 3010 in a manner reasonably designed to ensure that they do not violate the content requirements of FINRA’s communications rules.

Firms may adopt supervisory procedures similar to those outlined for electronic correspondence in Regulatory Notice 07-59 (FINRA Guidance Regarding Review and Supervision of Electronic Communications). As set forth in that Notice, firms may employ risk-based principles to determine the extent to which the review of incoming, outgoing and internal electronic communications is necessary for the proper supervision of their business. “

In addition, FINRA’s guidance states that all organizations under its purview must establish and communicate social media usage guidelines for their employees, and that those individuals must also receive employer-provided training on those guidelines.

“Firms must adopt policies and procedures reasonably designed to ensure that their associated persons who participate in social media sites for business purposes are appropriately supervised, have the necessary training and background to engage in such activities, and do not present undue risks to investors. Firms must have a general policy prohibiting any associated person from engaging in business communications in a social media site that is not subject to the firm’s supervision. Firms also must require that only those associated persons who have received appropriate training on the firm’s policies and procedures regarding interactive electronic communications may engage in such communications.”

FINRA’s guidance marks the beginning of a new era for financial services companies and their use of external social media. However, the Financial Services sector is not the only one that will be subject to regulation of communications made via blogs and other types of social software. An IBM Senior Product Manager related last week at Lotusphere that IBM customers in the Healthcare and Utilities industries were also beginning to ask about the management of user-generated and social content.

If your organization is currently required to comply with regulations pertaining to the use of email and instant messaging for business communication, expect to see similar requirements placed on your management of external blog and social media site posts in the near future. At some point, it is likely that these regulations will also be applied to internal communications conducted via enterprise social software.

Back In The Saddle Again

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I am pleased to share with you that I have rejoined the workforce today, after having been unemployed for 3.5 months. I am now Lead Analyst, Collaboration and Enterprise Social Software Practice, at the Gilbane Group. I am honored and thrilled to be associated with Frank Gilbane and his stellar roster of analysts and consultants.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Gilbane Group, they are one of, if not the, preeminent analyst firms focused on Content Management practices and technologies. In my new role, I will be heading up Gilbane Group’s Collaboration and Enterprise Social Software Practice. As a practice, we will be working with many constituents to define and deliver on a research agenda examining industry trends related to enterprise collaboration tools and social software. However, our analysis will be different from others’ in that it will focus intensely on the content management aspects and implications of collaboration and social software.

I am very excited to have been blessed with this opportunity to lead a practice, especially at a firm of Gilbane Group’s caliber. I will have much more to say about my new job, collaboration, social software, and content management in the days and weeks to come. I will continue to blog here about the broader aspects of collaboration and social media, but you will also be able to find my thoughts on the content management angle of those technologies at the Gilbane Group Blog. I will, of course, continue to use Twitter to publically explore these subjects as well.

Here is how you may contact me at the Gilbane Group and the URL for the company’s blog:

email: larry@gilbane.com

phone: 617-497-9443 x154

blog: http://gilbane.com/blog

Taken Out of Context

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I had the good fortune to be interviewed for a Wall Street Journal article that was published yesterday (Feb. 3). The story discussed how recently unemployed individuals are filling their free time with Internet activities. Unfortunately, much of the piece was devoted to online gaming, in which I have not participated before or since the day I was laid off.

It would have been nice of the reporter to inform me at the beginning of our interview that Internet gaming and entertainment was the central focus of the article, but she did not. Part way through our conversation, she did ask me whether or not I played online games. The question seemed odd — out of place — given that I thought we were talking about how recently unemployed people were using blogs and Twitter to forge and maintain relationships, create and enhance personal branding, position as an expert in a particular subject matter area, and even land a job.

I’m writing this post because I felt a strong need to go on the record and state that the section of the article that references and quotes me (see below) only scratches the surface of what the reporter and I discussed during our 22+ minute conversation. We did talk about how I was staying in touch with former IBM colleagues via Twitter and how that was proving to be valuable. However, we also talked about how social media can connect unemployed individuals with work and new business opportunities. We discussed how blogging and Twittering can make an individual’s expertise known to a peer community, which is especially useful for someone whose previous job did not afford that kind of visibility outside of the company for which he worked. And we talked about how great it is that these social networking and media tools are free — an attractive proposition for someone who is unemployed (see my previous post, Social Software: The Unemployed Knowledge Worker’s Best Friend)

I am very pleased to have made the editor’s cut and been included in any article in such a respected and widely-read publication as The Wall Street Journal. I just wish that my story and remarks had been placed in an article that took a different, less frivolous, look at how recently unemployed folks are using the Internet.

Larry Hawes, 47, was laid off from his job as a consultant at International Business Machines Corp. in November. But he has never lost touch with his former co-workers. The Ipswich, Mass., resident spends a lot more time building up his personal blog, which is dubbed “Together, We Can!” He also sends out more Twitters, a service for broadcasting short messages to a circle of friends and associates. He says he is on Twitter all day, sending out about 10 posts a day to a group of 137 people, including former IBM colleagues and other friends. In total, he adds, he’s sent out 652 “tweets” since October.

“I’m maintaining relationships with IBM-ers because I don’t work there anymore,” says Mr. Hawes.”

Social Software: The Unemployed Knowledge Worker’s Best Friend

layoff-headlineReading headline after headline announcing new job cuts has sparked some thought regarding what’s different between this nascent recession and the last economic slowdown of the early 1990s.  Several things, to be sure, but the most important one may be the ability of the unemployed knowledge worker to connect with others to mine employment and new business opportunities.

I predict that we will remember the the 2008-2009 recession as the time when the public availability of free social software proved to be the unemployed knowledge worker’s best friend and savior.  And, perhaps, the global economy’s as well.

When I was laid off in 2003, after the Internet bubble burst, I had several tools with which to stay connected with my professional and social networks.  Telephone and e-mail were the primary communication vehicles, of course.  Instant messaging wasn’t as pervasive then as it is today, but I used it to stay in touch with a few people in my network.  The best method to network was — and still is — by meeting with someone face-to-face.  In fact, it was an in-person conversation that triggered the chain of events that lead to my employment at IBM in 2004.

Knowledge workers in this economic downturn have all of those tools available, plus several more.  Online profiles (LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace), blogs, microstreaming (Twitter, FriendFeed), content sharing (GoogleDocs, Box.net), bookmarking (Del.icio.us, Digg), and other species of social software have greatly increased our ability to stay connected and work with others in our professional and social networks.

As I’ve noted previously on this blog, we rely less and less on employers to provide the communication and collaboration tools needed to connect and work with others.  That’s great news for those who have, or are about to, become unemployed!  Knowledge workers in 2008 have so many more ways to mine their contacts to find regular or contract employment compared to those who lost jobs five years ago.  The ability of unemployed knowledge workers to explore business ideas and start new ventures has also been increased by the public availability of free social software.

I am optimistic that the current recession, as painful as it will be, will breed the kinds of opportunities that will leave all of us better off in the long run.  There is one caveat to my optimistic outlook though.  If you haven’t been maintaining and building your professional and social networks all along, your ability to leverage them to find employment or start a business will be very limited.  It’s not too late to start building networks now via social software, but don’t expect to harvest immediately from a plot that you’ve just sown.

Autonomy in Collaboration

handcuffedIt hit like a flash of lightning.  I was hanging out in the Twittersphere yesterday, as is normal while working at my desk.  Then, right in the middle of one of the lulls in Twitter traffic that seems to occur every afternoon, I was rocked by a singular tweet posted by Stowe Boyd.

Stowe was in attendance at the Defrag conference, in Denver.  He had overheard a conversation and tweeted a simple, but striking comment on it:

“When collaboration people start talking about motivating people to participate it means the tools don’t provide enough autonomy.”

In one short, clear sentence, Stowe summed up much of what I believe is wrong with Enterprise 2.0.  Too much workplace collaboration is too tightly controlled by corporate IT.  Not only do they choose which collaboration tools employees can use, but they also (in most cases) prescribe and limit how those tools will be used.  Sometimes this constriction of usage is unintentional (poor product choice), but often it is intentional (policy and business rule choices.)

Here’s a hypothetical, but plausible example.  The CIO of Acme Corporation was concerned because a large number of employees were using external blog providers to publish information and opinions related to their work and the corporation.  Acme had no way to identify and monitor all the external blogs, and the company’s leadership was concerned that the Acme brand was taking a hit as a result of comments made in public by employees.  Acme was also terrified that employees might carelessly divulge confidential information on external blogs.

In order to accommodate employee eagerness to blog, Acme deployed an internal blog network, based on software purchased from Vendor X.  The intranet blog facility was established behind the corporate firewall, effectively excluding all non-employees from reading posts and commenting on them.  Acme’s CIO believed this solution would be a win-win; employees could fulfill their desire to blog, and the corporation could be certain that its brand reputation and confidential information would be protected.

The existence of the new intranet blog was heavily publicized, both before and after launch.  Training was provided on the use of the blog environment to any employee that registered.  Acme’s CEO and CIO even started their own blogs in an effort to lead by example.  However, six months after go-live, the number of blogs established and the number of posts and comments created were dismal.  And, despite the money, time, and effort spent to motivate employees to shift their blogging to the internal environment, anecdotal evidence suggested that even more Acme employees had started external blogs!

Why did the Acme internal blog fail?  It did not provide the autonomy needed by employees.  Acme employees wanted and valued feedback from their customers, business partners, and industry peers and analysts.  The intranet blog excluded those external collaborators, thereby limiting the value created by the blogging activity.

This is a very simple, hypothetical example, and I’m not at all sure that it represents what Stowe Boyd was expressing when he tweeted yesterday (I apologize to Stowe if I’ve misinterpreted his line of thought.)  However, I hope it illustrates the issue as I construe it.  Savvy employees know why and how they want to use specific collaboration tools.  Corporate IT must listen to its constituents and work with them to meet their requirements, rather than imposing solutions and trying to motivate adoption.  Providing autonomy hinges on one thing — TRUST.  Show me an organization that isn’t willing to trust its employees to use collaboration tools appropriately and provide them the autonomy to do so, and I’ll show you a collaboration failure about to happen.