The Normal Business Person’s Guide to Blogs, Wikis & RSS

nocats

  • “I have too much to read – I can’t keep up”
  • “E-mail has stopped being productive for me, but I don’t know what else to do”
  • “Communication’s really bad around here, nobody knows what’s going on.”
  • “Oh God, I didn’t know we had a project team working on that.”
  • “Advertising just seems to have stopped working for us”

You’re not alone. These are some of the things that made me tear my hair out as a manager (in the end I just had to shave it all off to stop myself doing it) – and these problems seem insoluble – worse than that, everything you do just seems to make it worse.

Geeks to the rescue!

Luckily, some very clever people with rather variable social skills have created a bunch of tools that seem to deal with these problems very well (Hey, you’re reading one now!). What’s more they’ve made them pretty much freely available – all you have to do is know what you want to do and work out how best to do it.

If you’ve been reading the right papers, you’ll have heard of blogging some time ago – what you may not realise is that blogs can be more than a teen-angst diary or a place to add more hilarious pictures of your cat – they are also a business tool that can be applied to marketing and communications, project management and improving the productivity of individuals and teams.

You might even have heard of a mysterious relation of blogs – RSS. Really Simple Syndication is increasingly being used to help people both focus their own reading, but also reach their audience much more effectively. RSS is also spawning a new generation of search engines that can help you find the very latest web-based information while also letting new readers find your stuff much more easily.

Those who really should get out more will have heard the word Wiki. A wiki is a very simple website that anyone (yes anyone) can edit – they are very useful for collaboration, helping people who may be geographically separate to work up ideas, create and edit documents and to organise events. Take a look at my wiki if you like

These tools together can boost your productivity enormously whether you choose to use them over the internet or within your corporate network, but if you’re not a geek and you don’t know any geeks (or perhaps you’d just like to keep your geek-related activity quiet)how can you relieve some of the frustrations of coprorate life? What could your organisation do with them? What are others in your industry doing with them? Just how do you get started?

“The Normal Business Person’s Guide to Blogging, Wikis and RSS” is a one-day workshop that I’m offering now to help people look at these issues and work out how they can benefit.

Who should attend?

There are three key criteria:
Are you a person? Good, ‘cos there’s no cats allowed.

Do you do business? OK so the definition of business is pretty wide here – I work with lots of public-sector people who do lots of “business”.

Now here’s the clincher… are you normal? I think this pretty much comes down to “Do you need to communicate better with people inside and outside of your organisation? Do you want to serve your customers better? Must you have value for money?” If you’re shouting Yes! Yes! Yes! then you’re normal enough to attend the workshop.

What’s in it for you?

If you attend, you will come away with a better understanding of:

  • What these tools are and what they can do.
  • How the tools are being used already by your customers, suppliers or competitors.
  • The risks of not adopting these tools.

You will also see:

  • How ridiculously easy it is to start and maintain a blog.
  • How blogs encourage conversations that can turn prospects into customers.
  • How a wiki can be used to jointly create something useful.
  • How RSS can speed up information flows while improving how well that information is targeted.

Finally you will have the opportunity to talk about how best you could use these technologies to improve customer relations, internal communications and (if that’s the bag you’re into) sell more stuff!

The workshop is best suited to a small group of people (6-8), in a single organisation, or who otherwise have to work together. Contact me in the usual way (lloyd AT perfectpath DOT co DOT uk) to set up a day’s session for your team.

tags: & & & &

The Normal Business Person’s Guide to Blogs, Wikis & RSS

nocats

  • “I have too much to read – I can’t keep up”
  • “E-mail has stopped being productive for me, but I don’t know what else to do”
  • “Communication’s really bad around here, nobody knows what’s going on.”
  • “Oh God, I didn’t know we had a project team working on that.”
  • “Advertising just seems to have stopped working for us”

You’re not alone. These are some of the things that made me tear my hair out as a manager (in the end I just had to shave it all off to stop myself doing it) – and these problems seem insoluble – worse than that, everything you do just seems to make it worse.

Geeks to the rescue!

Luckily, some very clever people with rather variable social skills have created a bunch of tools that seem to deal with these problems very well (Hey, you’re reading one now!). What’s more they’ve made them pretty much freely available – all you have to do is know what you want to do and work out how best to do it.

If you’ve been reading the right papers, you’ll have heard of blogging some time ago – what you may not realise is that blogs can be more than a teen-angst diary or a place to add more hilarious pictures of your cat – they are also a business tool that can be applied to marketing and communications, project management and improving the productivity of individuals and teams.

You might even have heard of a mysterious relation of blogs – RSS. Really Simple Syndication is increasingly being used to help people both focus their own reading, but also reach their audience much more effectively. RSS is also spawning a new generation of search engines that can help you find the very latest web-based information while also letting new readers find your stuff much more easily.

Those who really should get out more will have heard the word Wiki. A wiki is a very simple website that anyone (yes anyone) can edit – they are very useful for collaboration, helping people who may be geographically separate to work up ideas, create and edit documents and to organise events. Take a look at my wiki if you like

These tools together can boost your productivity enormously whether you choose to use them over the internet or within your corporate network, but if you’re not a geek and you don’t know any geeks (or perhaps you’d just like to keep your geek-related activity quiet)how can you relieve some of the frustrations of coprorate life? What could your organisation do with them? What are others in your industry doing with them? Just how do you get started?

“The Normal Business Person’s Guide to Blogging, Wikis and RSS” is a one-day workshop that I’m offering now to help people look at these issues and work out how they can benefit.

Who should attend?

There are three key criteria:
Are you a person? Good, ‘cos there’s no cats allowed.

Do you do business? OK so the definition of business is pretty wide here – I work with lots of public-sector people who do lots of “business”.

Now here’s the clincher… are you normal? I think this pretty much comes down to “Do you need to communicate better with people inside and outside of your organisation? Do you want to serve your customers better? Must you have value for money?” If you’re shouting Yes! Yes! Yes! then you’re normal enough to attend the workshop.

What’s in it for you?

If you attend, you will come away with a better understanding of:

  • What these tools are and what they can do.
  • How the tools are being used already by your customers, suppliers or competitors.
  • The risks of not adopting these tools.

You will also see:

  • How ridiculously easy it is to start and maintain a blog.
  • How blogs encourage conversations that can turn prospects into customers.
  • How a wiki can be used to jointly create something useful.
  • How RSS can speed up information flows while improving how well that information is targeted.

Finally you will have the opportunity to talk about how best you could use these technologies to improve customer relations, internal communications and (if that’s the bag you’re into) sell more stuff!

The workshop is best suited to a small group of people (6-8), in a single organisation, or who otherwise have to work together. Contact me in the usual way (lloyd AT perfectpath DOT co DOT uk) to set up a day’s session for your team.

tags: & & & &

Ugliest Dog ever

I wouldn’t normally be interested in dog sites, especialy ugly dogs. Personally, I aspire to having a cat blog, perhaps one like Gia’s.

But there’s a special reason for linking to The Ugliest Dog in the world (WARNING: link is nsfgosm – not safe for granny or small children), and it involves an upcoming talk called Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts & RSS – what do they have to do with your future?

Darn. I was going to use that title (the talk one, not “World’s Ugliest Dog”)

Shut up.

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Open Tech 2005

open tech 2005God what a geekfest. The upside of today was that I got to hear people more obsessed with media hacking and social software than I am – talking tech. The downside was that personal hygiene isn’t high on the agenda for quite a few members of this community. I came away not sure whether my head was aching from brain-overload or the heady mix of sweaty NTK t-shirts and Asda’s own-brand deodorant.

I got to the venue, at the back of Charing Cross Hospital, more quickly and easily than I thought, so had time to go and stock up on mineral water, which helped with the headache.

Cool stuff I saw/heard about was:

Science Commons – like Creative Commons…only for science.

Openstreetmap – which seems to be gathering momentum, though it still has a lot of usability issues.

Podzilla – using Linux on an iPod with applications including a video player player and a ZXSpectrum emulator.

MythTV – open source PVR

backstage.bbc.co.uk – including new feeds for weather and TV schedules and, I almost forgot, Matthew Somerville’s very excellent ‘diff’ for BBC News frontpage

That’s not to say the other stuff wasn’t cool, but a lot of it just went over my head.

I took some time out in the afternoon (I’m getting on, you know), which turned out to be a great opportunity to sit and chat with the fragrant Gia Milinovich about the cool work she’s doing, and about podcasting and television and all.

I then went in and listened to my final session with a nice summary from Tom Reynolds on how to blog without losing your job, Paul Mutton on Social Network Analysis based on inferences drawn from IRC conversations and Paul Lenz who is following up Who should you vote for? with What shall I read next? (He also threw a novel out into the audience which I caught – I started reading it on the way home…it’s crap)

After which, I really couldn’t take any more and escaped to the relative fresh air of the Fulham Palace Road.

Too late for linking, piccies or tags.

Another bunch of bombs

Two weeks after the last lot, the tube network was at standstill again because of explosions. Thank goodness they were smaller and relatively insignificant. Still enough to seriously put the wind up you if you were involved.

Here’s just hoping that this isn’t going to be a repeat of the IRA tactics when they found the way to bring London to a halt just about every week. That’s going to get really boring.

Geeking & Eating

London continues to welcome a stream of geek-beloved names. This Friday, 22nd July, Lee Wilkins has organised a special night with Jeremy Zawodny of Yahoo! [ sign up in the comments to Lee's post on geekdinner.co.uk ]

Lee sez: “Venue is the luxurious Bar Blanca, 3/4 Sherwood Street, London W1 [map]. We have hired out the whole bar! As with previous Geek Dinners [last 2] £20 will be payable on the door to cover cost of food.”

Jeremy’s here for the feverish geek excitement that is OpenTech 2005 which takes place on the following day.

Be there, or be quietly sniggered at in binary, hex and l33t.

tags: & & & & &

Geeking & Eating

London continues to welcome a stream of geek-beloved names. This Friday, 22nd July, Lee Wilkins has organised a special night with Jeremy Zawodny of Yahoo! [ sign up in the comments to Lee's post on geekdinner.co.uk ]

Lee sez: “Venue is the luxurious Bar Blanca, 3/4 Sherwood Street, London W1 [map]. We have hired out the whole bar! As with previous Geek Dinners [last 2] £20 will be payable on the door to cover cost of food.”

Jeremy’s here for the feverish geek excitement that is OpenTech 2005 which takes place on the following day.

Be there, or be quietly sniggered at in binary, hex and l33t.

tags: & & & & &

Holy theatrical blogsites!

Another blog-baby so cigars all round – I can’t take full responsibility for this one though, Noël clearly just needed a gentle push in the right direction.

So the production journal for Holy Ghost is up and running, and taking comments. The hope is that this will be a full company affair with contributions from as many people as possible. You’ll be glad to hear that there are RSS feeds both for entries and for comments. They know their RSS from their elbow down in the Carolinas, I can tell you.

Forget the blog for a minute and read the synopsis of the show:

“Set in Lowcountry South Carolina, this remarkable new play brings together a Nazi prisoner of war, American soldiers and Gullah sea islanders during World War II. Trustus Playwright-in-Residence Tuttle brings to life an incredibly relevant story. Be among the first to see a future American classic!”

Attendance at at least one performance is mandatory for all Perfect Path readers to the South and East of Nashville, though readers deep in the Florida panhandle may be excused under exceptional circumstances, such as a poorly leg, a bad cold or hurricane-induced homelessness. Residents of elsewhere in the United States are encouraged to holiday in Columbia, SC this year (right now, I hear it’s 100°F and 100% humidity… so goodness knows what it’ll be like in mid-August!)

While you’re waiting for the next instalment, you may marvel at the power of my mighty googlejuice whether using the British or the American spelling. Mwah hah!

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Blogging a theatrical production

I came across an interesting discussion thread on the excellent Soflow network yesterday (you may have heard Robert Loch, founder of Soflow, admiring my t-shirt on the podcast).

A young lady in South Carolina was asking about advertising for theatre. It struck me as ironic – and I said so – that just as advertising and marketing folk are realising that they have to go for authentic emotional engagement and telling a good story, theatre people, for whom this is their stock-in-trade want to know from advertising bods how to go about it.

Obvious to me it is that a blog about the production would be a really cool way of generating and sustaining buzz. So I stuck my oar in.

These thoughts are where I’m at with it so far – I’m aware that my knowledge of the business is not what it was and that I’m overflowing with ignorance and prejudice in this area, but this is what I think:

What is success for a theatre PR campaign?

I’m guessing #1 is derrieres on the plush velvet seats. Preferably derrieres belonging to people who will love what you do, tell their friends, become patrons of your little theatre, come to every show, tell their friends to become patrons of your little theatre, tell their friends to come to every show.

You also want some press coverage, maybe local TV and radio. The best of this will be persistent stuff on the web, so that whenever someone’s looking for theatre anywhere in SC, say, they see the glowing reviews of your baby and the really, really cool way you went about producing it.

So how could a blog help with that?

Blogs build buzz. By talking everyday about what you’re doing with the production, and inviting people to comment and contribute, you’re giving yourself a platform for building a community of people who are already (positively, I hope) engaged with you before you even try to sell them a ticket.

What I was thinking was of a kind of collaborative production journal, where everyone contributes. This may be too much for you, especially with a small, poorly funded company that hasn’t been exposed to this sort of thing before, but think “The Making of…” fly-on-the-wall documentary style, only on the web, and released in chunks as they happen, day by day rather than being stitched together after the show has closed.

What do we have to work out first?

Who’s going to contribute? Ideally, (ie if I were running the project!) everyone would submit their own little diary pieces (or not) every day as they go along. Now of course a theatre project isn’t the same as, say an IT implementation project – you don’t have everyone working at a computer all day everyday. So it might be worth appointing someone as your blogger-in-chief, someone whose job it is to document some of what happens in the course of the day – maybe you could get a talented grad student from a nearby university who has a love of theatre and would do it on a kind of intern basis for the privilege of being involved. Maybe your PR person should be doing this and nothing else.

I think it will be richer the more people you can involve. I think it would be a mistake to just focus on the director’s view, or an actor’s, or the stage manager’s, or the wardrobe mistress’s – it would be great to see all the facets as they come together – but you might find the only thing you can get done is the diary of a struggling theatre PR assistant!

What media will you use? I think the barest minimum is text and pictures. You should also consider getting some video footage and some audio (rehearsals, performances or interviews with people who don’t like having a camera shoved in their face)

How much of the life-cycle are you going to cover? You could just cover rehearsals or from day 1 or rehearsals to opening night or all the way through from the initial commissioning meeting through to striking the set.

Will you allow comments? I’d strongly recommend that you do – this is where you start to engage with people and show them that you’re real people yourselves, just trying to make a piece of art. You may get abuse – we all do – how you deal with it will also be a measure of your success.

Who is already passionate and authoritative about this play, it’s subject matter, your theatre, the people involved in the production. These are the people that you want to draw into being involved. They may keep you on your toes from time to time, but they can also be a great help, because they already care. If they’re already online, where do they hang out? Go there yourself and politely introduce yourself – you know how to do this already.

How do we go about it?

You can set up a free or cheap blog at lots of places – typepad.com is popular, so are blogger.com and livejournal.com. They are all straightforward to set up – all you have to do then is start writing :o)

You can host photographs at flickr.com or buzznet.com You can host audio and video cheaply at libsyn.com

You can tag your content so that it can be easily found through technorati and other blog-based search engines. These tools will also help you monitor whether anyone else is talking about you.

You can get free statistics on how much traffic you’re getting and who is looking at your site. I use statcounter.com for this.

If you’re new to all this and your head is starting to swim, you might enlist the help of a friendly, experienced blogger who doesn’t mind sharing what they’ve learned (if you’ve ever come across someone like that).

Oooh, what might the grouches say?

There will doubtless be people who are negative about this, both within the company and outside. There’s the whole technology kills art thing. And then there’s the simple fact that this opens people up to some sort of scrutiny and that can be uncomfortable. If you’ve worked in theatre for long, you’ll already know how to deal with grouches – don’t imagine that they’re any more powerful just because they’re online.

Whatever you do, it must support and facilitate both the creative and the commercial processes. I’m sure that, done well, it would add to the overall success of the production, not just the PR side.

There are, of course, no guarantees – this is a new area and it might all go horribly wrong – I’ve only done some quick googling, but I couldn’t find anything like it straight away so you’ve also got the advantage of not having to live up to any expectations.

Anyone in the UK doing anything like this? Anyone want to?

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Photograph by Bev Sykes on flickr

Night of the long noses part II

All Marketers are LiarsSo after Seth Godin had sat down, crumpled in a heap after his marathon hour and a half talking and answering questions, I popped around the room to find out what people in the audience thought.

Quite a few people left straight away (well it was after 9pm – gasp!) but I’m sure you’ll agree a significant part of the cream of the crop remained. Here you can hear from (roughly in order of appearance):

Geoff Jones, Rachel Clarke (saying hello again and nothing else), Paul Birch, Michael Smith, Robert Loch, Helen Keegan and Sarah Williamson, Alistair Shrimpton (sorry still on 3.17 here) and Simon Christy, Max Niederhofer, Loic Le Meur, Andrew Carton, Alison Whelan, Andy Bell, Matt Drought, Feena Coleman, Deirdre Molloy, Charles (?), Mark Rogers.

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