Yammer 104: Yammer as GTD General Reference File

In this post I wrote about how a blog can be the ultimate personal electronic “general reference” filing system that is consistent with David Allen’s Getting Things Done, or GTD, approach to life organization.

I still think a blog can be useful for general reference. I often use the SMUG blog in that way. I vaguely remember that I’ve written about something here, and use the search box at right to find the information, often including links to relevant external Web sites.

But that post was written in the pre-Twitter, pre-Yammer era. I think these micro-blogging tools can be even better for this general reference function than a full-blown blog is.

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Arthur W. Page Society and Blue Oceans

Blue Oceans

I’ve been listening to an interesting book, Blue Ocean Strategy, over the last couple of weeks. It’s about “value innovation” that companies use to leave the “red oceans” of cutthroat, bloody competition and chart a course for wide-open “blue oceans” of market opportunity. As the authors’ web site puts it:

The aim of BOS is not to out-perform the competition in the existing industry, but to create new market space or a blue ocean, thereby making the competition irrelevant.

I’ll do a more in-depth review of this book when I’m done listening; it’s one of the most compelling business books I’ve encountered.

As the authors say, Good to Great is, well… great, but they argue that the real unit of analysis needs to be the strategic move. The main point is that companies that succeed in creating blue oceans of relatively competition-free markets identify product offerings that can attract the industry’s previous non-customers. They do this by finding key factors that, if present, would turn these non-customers into customers. Then they eliminate or reduce everything else, to provide great value at an attractive price.

Southwest Airlines, Apple, Casella wines, Novo Nordisk, Home Depot and Curves exercise clubs for women are among the profiled companies that followed this strategic approach.

In every case, the companies needed to think creatively and offer an innovative product or service to find these blue oceans.

In hindsight, their moves may seem obvious. But they weren’t obvious at the time. These companies resisted taking the customary but uncreative approach of benchmarking against competitors and trying to offer a little more at a slightly better price for increased market share, which would have been a recipe for commodity pricing and low profitability.

As the authors indicate, a specific kind of creativity is needed to unlock blue oceans. It finds value innovations that provide compelling value to customers and non-customers. It looks at why non-customers don’t buy from your industry, and what you can do to attract them.

I had planned to wait to do this review until I was done with the book (and I will finish it later), but I couldn’t resist posting this much when I got to the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel for the Arthur W. Page Society’s Annual Conference, and saw the beautiful blue ocean you see in the picture above. The camera phone obviously doesn’t do it justice.

We heard an interesting keynote this evening from Miles White, CEO of Abbott, who kicked off the conference. Laura Hall from Wieck Media will be writing the official conference blog, which will be linked to the Page Society web site. If that blog is available to non-Page members, I will link to it. The conference organizers have asked presenters to be provocative and controversial, and Mr. White certainly fulfilled that goal. As a CEO who has been through some high-profile public controversies, he brought home the fact that “red oceans” aren’t always made bloody by competition within your industry, but sometimes by the agendas of “stakeholder” groups.

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Jott: Phone Blogging

Jott Phone Blogging

Jott is, as I described earlier, a great free service you can use to send yourself (or others) email and text messages. You’re out and about. You hit your Jott speed-dial number on your cell phone. You speak your message, and Jott transcribes your speech reasonably reliably. You get a handy message in your inbox that you can put into your GTD workflow.

Now Jott has announced a bunch of new features, including letting you speak your Twitter tweets (see the example from my test in the graphic above) or your blog posts. You can link your WordPress or Blogger blog to your Jott account, and then when you dial the number and it asks you, “Who do you want to Jott?” you answer “WordPress” instead of “me” and whatever you record is transcribed and posted to your blog.

Here’s what happened when I tried it earlier today. It isn’t perfect, but it does also include a link to the audio file on the Jott site. Maybe it would transcribe better if I wasn’t a Minneso-o-o-o-o-tan.

This has limitations: if you want to include Technorati tags, you need to add those later. There’s also a limit on how long a message can be (it’s longer than Twitter’s 140 characters, but it does cut you off after a few sentences.) I think the post’s title is always the same, too: Jott Blog Post.
But this does further illustrate some of the wonderfulness of Web 2.0. Applications talk to each other. They work together. And they just work. There are WordPress and Twitter applications in Facebook, now there are in Jott, too. Shel Holtz also has a nice Jott review focusing on the Twitter experience.

I think this is a great move for Jott, for search engine rankings if nothing else. When people use Jott to blog, the post includes two links to the Jott.com domain: one to the main page, and one to the audio file of the post. But obviously the main benefit for Jott is the visibility on blogs; as lots more people will run across it and will give it a try.

Jott phone blog

Why don’t you? It’s free, like everything else you see on this blog.

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This Week’s Highlights

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Facebook and The 4-Hour Workweek

Facebook 4-hour workweek
I reviewed Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero talk at Google in this previous post, and suggested that Facebook could help create a new class of messaging, in keeping with the recommendations in The 4-Hour Workweek, that makes less-frequent checking of email a practical reality. I said I would elaborate in a future post. The future is now.

But first, let’s look at the past. Merlin was full of wist as he recalled his first email account in 1993, and how special each message felt because only a dozen or so of his friends had email. Email was a much more personal experience then. Now it threatens to overwhelm everything, with many people living most of their lives in their email inboxes. This should not be. There’s much more to life.
In his New York Times bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss suggests that a key to productivity and a fulfilling life is to go on a low-information diet and eliminate distractions so you can focus on priorities and actually accomplish important things.

One of his key recommendations is to check email no more than twice per day, and to facilitate this and reset expectations among those sending you messages he suggests creating an auto-responder for your email along these lines:

Greetings All,
Due to high workload and pending deadlines, I am currently responding to email twice daily at 12pm et and 4pm et.
If you require help with something that can’t wait until either 12pm or 4pm, please call me on my cell phone at 555-555-5555.
Thank you for understanding this move to greater effectiveness.
All the best,
Tim Ferriss

But what about people who need to be more available, whose success depends on timely response to key customers? What if responsiveness is one of your important priorities? For example, if you work in PR and a reporter with whom you are developing a relationship sends out an email to several potential interview sources, you don’t want to wait a few hours to find out about it. Someone else will have responded and will be in the story.
And sometimes you’re not at your computer. You’re in a meeting or otherwise having a life. News doesn’t happen in a predictable 8-5 schedule. So how do you stay in touch?

One “solution” to prevent missing an important email message when you’re out at a meeting is to have your Blackberry set to vibrate each time you get a new message. I used to do that. It was extremely disruptive. And it’s rude to have the Blackberry on silent mode, and then just pulling it out every so often to check messages. It tells people with whom you are meeting that they don’t have your full attention. Because they don’t.

With Facebook, you can recreate Merlin’s Edenic email world of 1993 all over again, and establish a priority level for your messages that goes beyond flagging in regular email.After all, if you’re only checking email twice a day, it doesn’t matter whether the message is flagged as highest priority or not: you’re not going to see it until you log in. That’s why you need an alternate way for people to get in touch when they really need you urgently.
If you use the Mobile application in Facebook, you can receive a text message delivered to your phone whenever someone sends you a message, or pokes you, or writes on your wall, or sends you a friend request.

So, I’m thinking I might adapt Tim’s autoresponder as follows:

Greetings All,
Due to high workload and pending deadlines, I am currently responding to email twice daily at 11 am CT and 4 pm CT.
If you require help with something that can’t wait until either 11 am or 4 pm, please call me on my office phone at 507-266-2442 during regular business hours, and ask to have me paged if I’m not at my desk.

Another way to reach me quickly any time is though Facebook (www.facebook.com). If you’re not in Facebook yet it’s easy to sign up, and 150,000 people a day are joining. Search for Lee Aase in Facebook (I’m the only Lee Aase there…one of the benefits of a unique name), and click Send Message. I will get an alert text message sent to my cell phone, so I’ll know you’ve sent me an urgent message. I’ll get back to you right away.

Thank you for understanding this move to greater effectiveness. I hope it will mean that I will be able to completely respond to the non-urgent messages on that regular schedule, and give everyone the service they need.

All the best,
Lee Aase

Michael Hyatt says his experience with the 4-Hour Workweek method has made him more productive, and he’s the CEO of a major publishing company. If you click the link above you’ll see how he’s tailored the Ferris formulation of the email autoresponse.

Even someone as promiscuous is accepting Facebook friend requests as Robert Scoble is would not likely be overwhelmed by text messages in this system. I’m one of Robert’s 4,701 friends, but I’m unlikely to send him a message unless I think it will be REALLY interesting.

If someone sends you a message in this way through Facebook that you don’t think was urgent, you can let her know that this was one that could have waited. And if she persists in not respecting the boundary you’ve set, you can block further Facebook contact.

In this way, Facebook can be not only the Spam Killer because it lets you segregate personally meaningful messages from everything else, thereby turning back the clock toward Merlin’s email Camelot; when combined with your cell phone and Facebook Mobile it also can serve as a 24-hour pager that alerts you when someone truly needs to get in touch urgently.

If you’re one of the self-employed “new rich” Tim Ferriss describes, giving your cell phone number may be the best and simplest way to let people reach you urgently. If you work for a company where someone answers your phone when you’re not able to take a call, maybe this work phone/Facebook message option will be a good option, instead of giving your personal cell phone number to anyone, including spammers, who sends you an email. We’ll see.

What do you think?

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