Shel Holtz Ragan Presentation: What’s Next?

I’ve known Shel for several years, and I try to keep in touch via Twitter, his RSS feed and listening to his For Immediate Release podcast (with his sidekick Neville Hobson.) Still, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve heard him present, and this talk at the Ragan conference with SAS was really interesting and helpful.

As I sit in the Charlotte airport, loving the free wi-fi, I’m taking the opportunity to clean up my liveblogging post from his talk, and to add some links to the sites he mentioned.

The title of the presentation was, “What’s Next?” and he had ten key trends he saw as important. I missed #9, so if anyone else (or even Shel) can fill in the missing info, I would appreciate it. But before I get into those trends here were a few of Shel’s observations.

Shel says the high-end webcast is going the way of the DoDo, because now anyone can do a webcast using Qik or

Seesmic – lets you record videos at your Webcam. Put video up instead. Twitter for video. And WordPress now has a plug-in that lets people comment on your posts via Seesmic.

Integrated social networks. Websites, networks merge. Conversation with customers becomes part of the online presence. has redesigned its Web site extensively to incorporate conversation. All of the content except one cover story is contributed by the community.

Tulane University is using LiveWorld.

Google Open Social will enable you to turn your Website into a social network, just by copying some code.

Shel says Web 3.0 involves these key trends:

Trend #1: Ubiquitous connectivity

  • Broadband
  • Wireless
  • Mobile computing – get to the Web anywhere you have a phone signal. Very few organizations have mobile phone strategies; they (we) really should.

Trend #2: Network computing. Web services, cloud computing, grid computing, distributed computing

Shel uses Live Mesh. I like Dropbox. Google has a video service just for corporations, available only to employees. Videos are hosted outside the firewall. Company IT departments will need to get comfortable with software as service like this. Shel uses Google Docs to develop and store his documents. He mentioned Yammer, too.

Trend #3: Open technologies – APIs and protocols, software, data. This is a huge trend. Why spend a half million dollars on a CMS when you can download a free open source package that is just as powerful, and pay someone $10K a year for support?

Trend #4: Open Identity – Open ID, Open reputation, Open portable identity

Business world doesn’t like this because companies want to gather your info.

Trend #5: The intelligent web. Use Pandora, for instance. It looks at music you like and finds similar songs that are what you’ll like. Recommendation agent. Natural language search instead of keywords. Semantic Web. Check out Twine.

Trend #6: Distributed Databases

Trend #7: Technology Populism: Tech has gotten so easy that you don’t need an IT person to help you implement it. That’s really one of the main ideas behind SMUG. “It’s Not That Hard.”

Trend #8: The information workplace. Getting people whatever information they need when they need it.

Prologue is a WordPress Theme that can be added to a blog you have behind the firewall.

TownSquare is a plug-in for Microsoft SharePoint that adds functionality like Facebook. Not available yet.

As Shel mentioned, FriendFeed is a great way to pull together information.

Yahoo Pipes is a really interesting service and Shel showed a video that demonstrates it. Here it is:


Gotta play with that.

Trend #9: (Updated) Aggregation–Friendfeed, Dubpages, Google Reader, Yahoo Pipes (mashup feeds), Feedburner – (Thanks to sktuttle for providing in the comments.)

Trend #10: Widgets will also increase in importance for distributing your content.

Comcastcares uses to do customer support. Symantec has a fan page on Facebook.

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Yammer 101: Getting Started with Yammer

I’ve previously written about Yammer and how I think it has some neat potential applications. I’m actually writing this post to show some work colleagues how to get started with Yammer and how it could practically help in

  • Limiting the mass e-mails that tend to overwhelm our inboxes,
  • Ensuring that we are included in conversations that interest us, and
  • Making non-confidential information that could help anyone in the organization easily available to everyone in the organization, instead of having it locked in the inboxes of a few.

Here’s a slideshow that takes you through the process, step-by-step, of joining (or creating) your company’s Yammer network.

I had originally planned for this to include a narration track (as you see in this video I shot in the SMUG Annex last night), but I think the slides themselves are fairly self-explanatory.

As we get into some of the subsequent courses in the Yammer curriculum, there will definitely be a place for screencasts and slidescasts. But for now, here are your…


  1. Create or join your work-based Yammer network.
  2. Share your questions or comments about Yammer in the comments below, so they can be addressed in future courses.

Thanks to my colleague, Bob Nellis, for serving as the guinea pig and allowing me to capture screen shots of his sign-up process.

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Election 2008 on Twitter

If you haven’t checked out this Election2008 site on Twitter, you really should. It’s a great way to see a real-time political pulse, although the population of the Twitterverse seems to be pretty skewed to the left/Obama side.

Any Tweets that mention Biden, McCain, Obama, or Palin flow together in a continuously updated river of news. A few minutes ago I tweeted my ambivalence over whether to watch the debate tonight, or instead tune to the Twins-Royals game. With a moment, my post appeared on the page. (Click the image below to enlarge.)

I expect the Twitter pace will pick up through the night.

Meanwhile, for the next 45 minutes or so I’m definitely watching the Twins (and also rooting for the Indians, who are up 1-0 over the White Sox as of this moment.)

Yammer: Twitter for the Enterprise

As a member of the Blog Council, one of the benefits we get is opportunities to learn from colleagues at larger organizations. Another is a chance to be on conference calls like the one we had today with David Sacks, CEO of Yammer.

Yammer is Twitter for the enterprise, and seems to have a business model that could enable it to have more consistent uptime than the site with the Fail Whale. It’s free at first for anyone who wants to join, but if the company wants to take over admin rights for the network, the cost is $1/member/month.

I don’t know whether that pricing model will work with the really large organizations (there have to be some volume discounts if you have thousands of employees), but based on my less-than-a-day experience with Yammer (I joined during the Blog Council call) and its recent TechCrunch50 showing, I think it has a good shot of getting acceptance.

Significant advantages:

It’s not a force-fed “The company has bought this nifty networking software, and we want you to use it” solution. When I started an account by entering a work e-mail address (I was user #1 in the domain), I was asked “Who do you work with?” and invited a few close colleagues. We now have 16 members, as the process has continued. If people find it useful and it continues to grow, the company can take responsibility for the network (and the associated costs.) But at that point it would be a viable, ongoing network. It wouldn’t be starting flat-footed. So you only pay if it’s successful.

The interface is really clean and simple. When you join Yammer, you get an e-mail asking you to confirm your e-mail address. But when you invite colleagues by e-mail (they all have to be in the same domain), their act of responding saves them having to do the confirmation step. The fact that they got your invitation proves that they are part of your company.

You can follow (as in Twitter) certain people whose job function or work interests are similar to yours. You also have access to everyone’s updates through the company-wide timeline.

You can use tags to group updates, and can “follow” those tags. So if you want to create a list of blogs, for example, you could do an update like this:

Lee Aase has a great blog on social media at SMUG. The URL is so it should be part of our #blog-list on #social-media. The #facebook curriculum is particularly interesting.

That’s just a hypothetical example, of course. 😉

But then you would have the start of a list of blogs that would be searchable for anyone within your organization. I would think for PR firms or departments, this could be a great way to crowdsource a list through your own employees.

When someone leaves the company, either the admin can remove her access or any coworker can request that she reconfirm her e-mail account.

For small businesses in particular, Yammer seems like a great way to get everyone on the same page.


Security. Any time a business has employees putting data outside the corporate firewall, there will be privacy and data security concerns. If the Yahooligans could get Gov. Sarah Palin’s private e-mails and post them to the Internet, it could happen to one of your employees.

The answer to that is: Your business isn’t nearly as interesting as Gov. Palin’s. As I’ve said with my advice on secret Facebook groups, don’t put information on these platforms that could lead to severe financial loss or criminal prosecution if it were disclosed. But the overwhelming majority of the things about which you collaborate in your company just aren’t that compelling that anyone would want to hack them.

If word somehow leaked that SMUG is on your company’s list of must-read blogs, it could cause embarrassment, I suppose. But it wouldn’t bring AIG-style financial ruin.

I’m looking forward to giving this a run, and I’ll post on what we learn.

Update 9/18/08: Yammer released an API last night so it can be incorporated into other desktop clients like Twhirl. That will let people use one interface to chat within the company on Yammer while they also use Twitter externally. This post on TechCrunch also has a link to a Yammer demo.

Meanwhile: has anyone else had experience with Yammer? I’d love to hear your impressions.

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Twitter 110: Tools to Automate Cross-Platform Status Updates

Note: Twitter 110 is part of the Twitter curriculum for Social Media University, Global (SMUG).

Here are some great tools that enable you to automatically use one of your social media tools to update others. They save you double-entry of the same information, and also help ensure that your profiles don’t go stale.

Twittersync is a handy Facebook application that turns your latest Tweet from Twitter into your Facebook status update. This is really helpful for me, because I’m notoriously bad at updating my Facebook status. It’s not that I don’t spend time in Facebook; it’s just that I’m doing other things instead of updating status.

Update: See Nathon’s comment below, about why Twittersync isn’t working and the alternative method for updating your Facebook status through Twitter.

Twitterfeed, by contrast, takes any RSS feed, such as this one from my blog, and uses it to create Tweets in an account of your choosing. For Mayo Clinic’s Twitter account, for example, I connected Twitterfeed to our RSS feed of news releases. That way if people want to use Twitter as their all-purpose river of news, we can make sure the Mayo Clinic tributary is flowing into it. And tonight I just added the SMUG feed to my personal Twitter account.

I have previously Tweeted about new blog posts. Now I don’t need to remember to do that anymore. By combining Twitterfeed and Twittersync, I can write a post to my blog and have that fact posted both to Twitter and to my Facebook status.

I like both of these services, and another that’s really helpful is Twittermail. One of the most irritating parts of mobile Tweeting is that when you do it via SMS text message it’s really slow. At least for me. But with Twittermail I have an e-mail address I can use to send a Blackberry e-mail message, which is much faster: unlike SMS, I don’t have to hit keys multiple times to select the right letters.

So, for example, I just used my Blackberry and Twittermail to Tweet the following:

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