Category Archives: authenticity

Lessons From the Crowd

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It was an amazing event. About 125 Social Media experts, novices, and curiosity seekers came out this past Monday for BarCamp Doylestown, an “Un Conference” on Emerging Social Business. It was great. The excitement and energy in the room was something we had only dreamed of. In fact one on-site tweeter summed it up aptly tweeting: “Presentations in the main room of #barcamp18901 are very much like twitter –many voices at once; easy to be drawn in another direction

Rather than write about the event as many others have, I’d like to write about how the event came together. For those of us organizing it, I think it is safe to say, none (or maybe few) of us has ever been involved in anything quite like it.

But first, here are the lessons we learned:

  1. It’s all about losing control. A crowd organized project is about letting go and watching what a group of motivated people can do with a common goal and clear guidelines. In the right environment, the crowd will act productively in creative ways to meet that goal.
  2. We work because we want to, an all volunteer team is the best.
  3. Anyone can organize a meeting, but only as a last resort. We can work very effectively through transparent online information sharing using twitter and a wiki
  4. “Work out loud” by default, sharing every idea and thought openly, and move to private messages only when absolutely necessary.
  5. Skip the kickoff meeting, let the event kick itself off online, let relationships form, watch the group form, and watch it “gel” a little into the project
  6. Let people volunteer and then hold them accountable for decisions and actions
  7. Anyone can speak up when uncomfortable, listen to their suggestions
  8. Anyone can act in the group’s best interest and on the group’s behalf. They can act on their own, or choose to gain consensus. It’s their call.
  9. Anyone can join. The group becomes self selecting and people rise and diminish based on their choices and preferences.
  10. Spread the celebration for the victory to everyone in the crowd who contributed to the success.

If this piqued your interest, please read on for the context and how these lessons were learned.

Like a fire that starts from a tiny spark, this BarCamp started with a simple tweet

Within just a few hours, all 5 had answered back with comments like:

  • “I have been wondering about that, too”
  • “Happy to explore with everyone”
  • “I’m in”
  • “I am in we need a location and a date”
  • “Sounds great! I’ll check out the link

We agreed quickly on a hashtag because the tweets with the names of the organizers started getting unwieldy. We chose #barcamp18901 (for the local zip code) and started to tweet publically about our plans to organize the event. We put the hashtag in each tweet and the initial group and soon other organizers could monitor the conversation.

After a week, we decided to have a face to face planning meeting. We picked a Starbucks for its convenient location and it’s free wifi. Still no email or phone calls had taken place. A few had met for lunches to talk about the ideas, but there was no formal organizing. The tweets with the #barcamp18901 hashtag continued.

Expanding on this transparent communication, we decided to set up a public wiki page to organize our thoughts. Using the incredibly powerful and simple wiki from pbworks.com, we created a planning page with a strawman proposal for the event. The page has gone though 84 edits since that initial strawman, but if you follow the link, you will see how we listed the ideas, crossed them off, improved them, documented tasks, asked questions, and generally kept all our notes out in the open for full visibility and transparency.

This transparency proved to be quite valuable. We were all busy people with jobs, families and other responsibilities. We had very little time to get together and even less time to meet up in person. Throughout the day on our iPhones, Droids, and laptops, we monitored the #barcamp18901 hashtag and went to the wiki page to organize our thoughts.

One week after that first tweet, we were meeting at Starbucks at 7am for the first of three face-to-face meetings, a timeslot that soon gained the nickname of “the new noon”. It seems we all enjoyed getting together early before the start of our day.

With iPads in hand, we went over the wiki notes, we captured new notes, and then updated with wiki later that day. We all had our assignments, and began to take them on, crossing them off on the wiki as we made progress. A few got started on the venue, others set up the Posterous blog, Facebook page, Youtube channel, Flickr, twitter, and gmail accounts.

I took on the ticketing with a recommendation from a friend to use eventbrite.com. Wow, that was easy. I created an account and started to poke around the site to see how I would set up the event and the free ticketing. As I experimented, I quickly realized, it was all ready to go in just about 10 minutes. I kicked off the event, created an initial “Announcing BarCamp Doylestown” blog post and we were off and running.

For the next few weeks, we continued to tweet, update the wiki, and count the registrations as they trickled in. We promoted the event through the @BCdoylestown twitter account and then through retweets from the organizers. It came together very quickly and by mid August, we decided to meet again and see how it was going. Back to Starbucks at “the new noon” and this time we picked up a few new organizers. Sponsors were beginning to appear and it was coming together. @markmag suggested we update the registration site to ask a few extra questions as the attendees registered. So we started gathering an interesting fact about each attendee, and also asked if they would like to lead a session and if so, on what topic.

More promotion followed, we moved to email lists, linked in connections, and more tweets and retweets. Something snapped by Labor Day and on some days registrations were coming in as many as 5-10 per day. We began to get worried that it would sell out 3 weeks before the event and started wondering if we should raise the attendee limit from 160 to 180. We had picked the magic number of 160 based on the advice of @markmag and @the_spinmd. They said we should register 2x the number of attendees we wanted. The logic was based on their past experience with Barcamps in Philly where usually only 1/2 the number registered showed up when the price was “free”. We were wondering, given all the excitement, that maybe we would get better than the anticipated turnout.

We continued to promote, tweet and organize the meeting in the public eye on twitter and the wiki. We shared the password so each of the organizers had the ability to post on our channels. Several people posted on posterous, several on twitter, and one even set up a LinkedIn group.

On Sept 7, just 2 weeks before the event, we had our final planning meeting. It was then that we started organizing the topics and learned that @mannyrechani had secured Newsgator as the food sponsor. We already had a venue sponsor, a soft drink sponsor, and a snack sponsor, but were really looking for someone with deeper pockets to cover the local catering that @nickeyh had worked out. Newsgator came forward and for about the price of a coast-to-coast airline ticket, covered the food and locked up the prime sponsor position for the event.

For the final week, we worked to organize the topics. We used the wiki again to build on the topics. We asked potential presenters to fill out more details on the wiki (not a big response rate), and also asked participants to help us pick the better topics through an online voting tool donated by AppFusions. That proved to work nicely in learning what was of most interest to the attendees, but in reality, the best voting is onsite at the barcamp itself.

@chuckhall printed up large poster pages of the topics and we created a voting process (on the wiki again) that all the organizers agreed to. We broke down and had a few conference calls for final logistics and declared on Friday afternoon that we were ready to go for the Monday event.

How did it go? Check out the site for full coverage.

For all of us, it was a rewarding and educational experience. Specifically I learned:

  1. You can lead without having any authority
  2. “Working out loud” is a very effective way for the crowd to self organize
  3. Transparency and Trust can enable anything
  4. Viral online promotion works
  5. Free online tools are mature and powerful enough for effective collaboration: eventbrite.com, twitter.com, posterous.com, appfusions.com, youtube.com, linkedin.com, gmail and google docs just to name a few
  6. The four pillars of Social Business were lived out: Trust, Transparency, Authenticity, and Collaboration

If you want to see or shape where we go next, just join the conversation by monitoring #barcamp18901 for BarCamp Doylestown.

Thanks to the organizing crowd: @bsdalton @ChuckHall @jimworth @NealWiser @MRubillo @MannyRechani @markmag @cariofthevalley @the_spinmd @Nickeyh @barrypeters there is a new understanding and appreciation of Emerging Social Business right here in our town of Doylestown, PA.

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2000 Tweets

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Yes, I’m closing in on 2000 tweets. It’s at 1997 as I write this and I didn’t want to just let the milestone pass with no recognition.

It’s really not such a big deal. I’ve seen many others with many more tweets. And just saying a lot is not really a reason for celebration, but somehow, I think hitting this milestone says something about how I’ve embraced the social web, how I’ve opened up and decided it’s OK to share many of my thoughts, ideas, and opinions on a very public stage. In fact, I understand all my 2000 tweets along with the other 20 Billion out there are being archived in the Library of Congress. It would make the first time, to my knowledge, that the Library of Congress cared anything about what I had to say. That’s for sure.

So, what goes into 2000 tweets? I remember my first tweet, something like this. “I just set up my twitter account, now what.” I remember the response I got from an experienced friend. “Tweet”, he said.

And tweet, I have. It started as a trickle. I found about a dozen friends to follow. I kept my tweets protected. I would only accept followers if I knew them. I continued this way for about 7 months then something snapped. I had about 40 followers at this time and was starting to get engaged in a global crowd working on enterprise social media applications. I was beginning to have some interesting conversations and meeting like-minded people all over the country and soon all over the world. I’m not sure why, but all of a sudden, I decided to open it up. I remember another friend said (through a tweet), go for it. You’re in for a fun ride.

So what have I tweeted about? Funny, they come and go so fast, I don’t really remember most of them. There are a few however, that seem to endure my memory. Most of them are interesting observations that my “following” crowd has sent my way. I find many of them useful and add my 20 character analysis and send them on. Most of these have something to do with new developments in Social Media, Social Networking, Enterprise 2.0, and Social Business in general. I’ve found so much information in blogs, articles, surveys and such that have enriched my understanding of this quickly changing landscape.

Then there are the Apple tweets. You see, I got an iPhone about 16 months ago and have been enamored with advances in mobile technology ever since. I followed closely the announcement and then the hoopla around the release of the iPad (ending up buying mine on day 1 from the tweet peer pressure). Then there was the leak on the iPhone 4. I remember tweeting something like “I wonder of this was an accident, or some marketing ploy by Steve Jobs”. I continue to listen to and chime in on the iPhone vs. Android debate. I don’t really care which is best, but rather enjoy the advances brought on by competition.

Then there was the Google Buzz debacle. I remember ranting about how the introduction of Google Buzz exposed the private mailing list of the early adopters. In some cases revealing secrets that were best kept secret. That was the time that @jowyang tweeted that Google Buzz was like an old girlfriend. I chimed in that it was more “like a spited girlfriend who shared all your secrets with the world”. That one got lots of mileage and all of a sudden Jeremiah and I were sharing the RT rounds. It was nice, if only for a brief few days, to be in the same company Mr. Owyang.

I started noticing some of my peeps tweeting about their political views, their religious views, and many topics that would be too sensitive for the office, or even for happy hour. But I found that they tweeted nonetheless and the community embraced their openness, sometimes agreed, but never chided anyone for truly speaking their mind.

I thought, heck, I should share some ideas too. That’s when the Sunday Series started. So, 31 of my 2000 tweets have been links to weekly mp3 messages, sharing the simplicity of the Christian Gospel. They go out each Sunday Morning as a nice diversion from the normal flow of tweets. Hopefully, the messages have spoken to someone with what they needed to hear at that moment.

Then, there have been the foursquare tweets. I really enjoy experimenting with location based technology. Foursquare and Gowalla came along at just the right time, making it fun to tell the world where you are and what you are doing there. I don’t tweet all my foursquare updates, but each of my 30 or so mayorships have been tweeted, along with the subsequent oustings. It’s harmless fun.

The conference tweets have been engaging. Taking part in the “back channel” during a webcast or a conference session is invigorating for a wise cracker like me. In the past, I had to whisper to a friend and snicker. But now with twitter, I can make my comments and often times they are picked up in real time. I remember a webinar when it moved from education to sales talk. I tweeted “Uh Oh, I hope this doesn’t turn into a sales pitch”. That got retweeted a few times with the webinar hash tag, and I think it may have turned the conversation away from where it was going.

I got the bright idea to gather a listing of blog posts from the recent Enterprise 2.0 conference. Using the wiki from pbworks.com, I set up a framework and tweeted it with the conference hashtag. Within 1 week, over 25 people from the conference contributed and it has grown into a very comprehensive summary of the conference.

Then there was the tweet that started a conference. I said something like “Thinking we should plan a Doylestown social business “barcamp” unconf. Any Ideas?” That one picked up very quickly and now we are off and planning our first Social Business Unconference for this coming September.

One of the funniest exchanges was just after I launched a big software system at work. I remember tweeting “I just released my largest software project of my career, on time and on budget”. It got bounced from a friend in Spain to a new friend in Australia. It was a Monday evening for me, and a Tuesday morning for him. I remember he said, something cute about me limiting scope or something, I chimed back with a few explanations and we had a quick round the world conversation right there. That’s the power of Twitter.

Then there was the day that we were all waiting for the Tsunami to hit Hawaii. I remember tweeting a friend on Maui and asking him how things were as they prepared for the waves to hit. We stayed in touch, I followed a few “breaking news” feeds and thankfully saw that it became a non-event for the 50th state.

So, 2000 tweets have come and gone. It is my contribution to the global conversation. 2000 tweets could become a 150 page manuscript. That’s a lot of writing, but mainly, it’s just an extension to the conversations I have every day. What’s great is that these conversations are reaching much farther and returning much more than I could in my limited daily conversations. I think the best thing about 2000 tweets is the many new relationships that have been built. Literally hundreds of new people are part of my social and professional circle now due to twitter. Many of which, I have met face to face and then continue to keep the conversation alive through the tweets. There is something special about having a crowd that I can always talk with and will always be willing to listen.

I’m looking forward now to see where the conversation will go next.

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Boy, it’s been a long time

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Sorry for being so slow to update this blog. It is looking like it has cobwebs. Really, I’ve been very busy implementing and had very little time to write. Over the next few weeks, I’ll hopefully be adding some thoughts. In the meantime, see tidbits on my twitter feed @jimworth.

I’ve been busy engaging with the 2.0 Adoption Council. It is a great bunch of smart people doing similar Enterprise 2.0 work at some of the largest companies in the US and Europe. Look for some more links in the New Year, but in the meantime here’s the latest that contains a small contribution by me: Practical Advice for 2010 on 2.0 Adoption

Happy New Year. 2010 will be a breakout year for Enterprise 2.0 applications!

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Scientists Tweet Too

>A colleague shared a story recently from Nature June 25, 2009 called “breaking the convention?”. It discussed how blogs and twitter are opening up scientific meetings to those not actually there.

It’s a great story. I’ve experienced this at several conferences already this year. I was able to follow based on the twitter stream in real time and then had a transcript of audience comments well afterward. You can do it too. Almost every technical conference today has a hash tag (e.g #e2conf) and every session has a hashtag with session number (#e2conf1). After the conference is over (or during the sessions) go to twitter, search on that hashtag and wallahh!, you have the insight. It’s great to view the twitter log along with the slides to get the full picture.

Some go on to package up the tweets using a tool like printyourtweets.com and end up with a nice PDF suitable for archiving and sharing.

Glad to see this coming to the scientific community too.
Jim.

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How I met Andrew Spong

>I had a great talk with a colleague today, Andrew Spong of the UK. He and I never actually met before, but in 30 minutes had a great conversation and found many things in common. Here’s how it happened.

Back in February, I decided to open a twitter account. After hearing a interesting talk at The Innovators Club in Philadelphia, I began to follow tweets from several of the attendees. It started with 5 or 10 people, I started to comment and before I knew it, I was getting a steady stream of edited and filtered technical news, links, techniques, and general strategic insight on the direction of Social Media and Social Networking.

Fast forward a few months and I started following more and more people in my specific field, application of social media in Pharma. I found @Pharmaguy, then based on his retweets, found @Jonmrich. Jon announced he was presenting at an upcoming Pharma social media conference in NYC on July 23.

I had a conflict and couldn’t attend, but ended up intriged by the tweets coming from the event, all using the hashtag #bdi during that morning. I couldn’t put down my iPhone to pay attention to what I was really supposed to be listening to, so I multitasked and followed the event on the 2.5 inch screen. When I got back to the office, I continued to follow the event on my PC, noticed it was being streamed live on blog talk radio, and now I was really engaged.

When the event was over, I went to printyourtweets.com, (found that from a friend who did the same at the #e2conf in boston) selected a search on #bdi and packaged up all the tweets from the conference. Adding to that, I was able to download mp3s of the entire event from blog talk radio and I re-lived the event the next morning and afternoon on my commute.

Well, what does this have to do with Andrew Spong you say….hold on…it’s coming.

After I had all the tweets in one place, I thought maybe I should reach out to some of the more frequent tweeters who attended the event. I took the tweet transcipt and did some simple excel text manipulation and found about 20 unique twitter accounts representing the majority of the commentary during the conference. I figured these must be interesting people and began following a number of them. Well some were not so interesting, but some were very engaging. Andrew Spong was one of them in the engaging group (31 tweets during the event). We began following each other, and then commenting on each others tweets.

I decided it would be a good idea to make contact, did a DM (direct message), exchanged email addresses and arranged the call that finally occurred today.

That’s how it happens in the world of online social networking. Thanks twitter!

I told Andrew the story when we finally spoke today and he said “hey that would make a great blog post”…you be the judge.

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