No @zappos Best Practices Don’t Stifle Innovation…

One of the problems with Twitter is that it encourages trite overly-simplistic statements of fact. Hey, here is one from Tony (@zappos) the CEO of Zappos:

I’m only posting about this because it has been re-tweeted like a bazillion times in the last 3 hours by twitterati proclaiming it’s complete and utter truth. And I’ll grant you, it sounds good… but it isn’t true.

Best practices are a good thing. They let you implement known quantities, limit risk, limit costs and establish a baseline of capability without wasting precious cycle re-inventing the wheel. That doesn’t stifle innovation, it increases margins, lowers costs and saves time.

Can it stifle innovation? Sure, but so can just about anything when you do it wrong. 

The point here is that you have to decide what it is that differentiates your business – those things that are your competitive advantage. That is where you want to invest in innovation. Everyplace else – all those things that don’t differentiate you in the marketplace – are ripe for the application of best practices. 

What stifles innovation is the failure to be cognizant of where you differentiate and the failure to invest in innovation in those areas.

The Growth of @DbacksBooth on Twitter

I’ve been watching the Dbacks broadcast team begin to use Twitter to interact with their audience, and I’ve been using justSignal (shameless plug for my product) to track their efforts. Over the last 60 days I’ve watched the effort from the Booth and (I presume) Fox Sports AZ intensify. They’ve been requesting Keys to the Game and answers to the AFLAC trivia question via Twitter.

The early efforts were marked by significant inconsistency and mixed messages both on air, and on Twitter. Just look at the gaps in the graph below.

That being said, it appears that on August 7th or 8th they began to consistently engage. What impresses me is how quickly the efforts bear fruit. 

Download now or preview on posterous

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Look at the growth and the consistency of the growth between August 7th/8th and the 29th. There are consistent jumps of 10 – 20 responses per game. 

Two takeaways from this data:

1) Consistency of interaction on Twitter seems to outweigh the on air requests. 
2) A very small investment of time from the broadcast team (4 or 5 tweets) generates a relatively large and consistently growing response.

I know in terms of Fox Sports AZ viewership the numbers are pretty small, but at this point the real goal should be to move the trend line in the right direction. If you look at the trend line for the responses to @dbacksbooth on Twitter it tells you everything you need to know – steeply up and to the right.

They are on to something… and the small investments they are making in Social Media will pay large dividends if they keep this up. The real question is, what will they do with this engagement? I have a few suggestions if they’d like to give me a call.

Teddy Kennedy and Lessons on Bipartisan Politics

When you think about it, what bipartisan politics really requires is quite simple – and Ted Jr. explained it about as eloquently as possible today.

 It is the simple realization that those with whom you disagree love this country just as much as you do. That we don’t have to de-humanize those with whom we disagree in order to elevate our point of view.

 When we stop dividing the good from the evil based on political philosophy and agree that we all share the same goal – a more perfect union – we can have productive debates about the pros and cons of alternate methods for achieving that goal.

 Personally, I’m done with anyone who villifies those with whom they disagree; I will no longer allow the politics of fear and division to have any sway.

 Won’t you join me?

 Sent from my iPhone

The Trouble with Sentiment Analysis

I’ve been involved with Sentiment Analysis and AI processing of text for years (going on 15 now). It was a huge push back in the heyday of CRM with companies like Kana creating Automated Response Tools for email service and support. They were supposed to be magic – just have your customers free-form email your company and Kana would figure out what they wanted and respond with a Knowledge Base article. It was the service/support holy grail. 

Anyone heard of Kana lately?

Maybe you think I’m being an old guy… and I just don’t get it. Maybe you think the algorithms and increases in processing power have brought deriving sentiment and intent from text into the realm of the completely banal – it is easy, and anyone can do it. Maybe, but I’m a sceptic. And here is why.

How many times a week do you have to have a conversation with a family member, friend or colleague in which you attempt to explain what you really meant in that post, tweet, or email? 

How often do you end up having 30 minute conversations because you were defining a key term differently? 

How many times do you search on Google and get stuff you weren’t looking for?

Here is the thing, text is a HORRIBLE CONVEYOR OF SENTIMENT AND INTENT. The reality is humans have a really tough time deriving sentiment and intent from text – never-mind algorithms. Only the very best writers are able to consistently convey exactly what they meant to convey – and I’ll assure you it is because they used far more than 140 characters.

So when you see sentiment analysis being bounced around the Social Media echo chamber – before you buy in and start judging your company, product or brand based on some number spit out by a website, remember the last time you had to tell someone – “I know what I wrote, but that’s not what I MEANT” and proceed with caution.

The Entrepreneur Game

I’m getting concerned about the state of entrepreneurship – and not for the reasons you might think. The fashionable complaint is that we don’t have enough entrepreneurs, but I’m beginning to wonder if quantity is a red herring.

It seems to me there are an awful lot of people out there calling themselves entrepreneurs. It also seems to me that there is absolutely no agreement amongst all those entrepreneurs about the fundamental goal of entrepreneurship. The result is that there are many kinds of self identified entrepreneurs (argue amongst yourself about which really are and are not). More importantly the “competition” amongst the kinds has created a game… and winning depends entirely on the kind of entrepreneur you are.

The entrepreneur game has three kinds of players:

  1. The Promoter
  2. The Glory Seeker
  3. The Architect

The Promoter is the prototypical freelancer. They practice a form of entrepreneurship that involves creating products/services that are – in effect – marketing material for their skills. Essentially, their “startups” form a portfolio of work they use to demonstrate their skills to prospective clients. They are far more interested in selling themselves (as expert, consultant, speaker, etc) than with the fundamentals of the business model of any product they produce as part of their portfolio. They hope that one of the portfolio products will “be the next Twitter” in much the same way your or I might hope we win the lottery – with long odds, little effort and a lot of luck.

The Glory Seeker is primarily interested in his/her proximity to “the elite” of one kind or another. For the Glory Seeker, being written up by TechCrunch or Mashable is the primary goal. They simply want to see their names on the marque and be spoken of/to by those they consider important/influential. If you’ve ever written some code and and pestered Scoble for a mention – this is you. The Glory Seeker does not waste precious cycles considering things like EBITDA, Operating Income, Revenue Generation or Profit and Loss statements. Their sole calculation regarding any product or service is the likelihood it will garner them personal attention versus the effort required to create it.

The Architect is the person who has the grand plan. The scheme to create a company, and the will to shape a strategy which will not only result in products and services people will want to buy, but which can be delivered profitably. They have no interest in building “loss-leaders” to promote themselves, instead they focus on creating something worth paying for. Their primary goal is the realization of their vision – a vision which is often completely at odds with conventional wisdom. They are the first to admit they lack critical skills required to realize the vision. They understand that the realization of their vision will only occur if they can first find people willing to share it. That is why they annoy you at Social Media Club or AZ Tech Council events by asking what you think and if you’d be willing to help. They annoy the crap out of the Promoters because the Promoter seeks – first and foremost – to get paid for his/her work. They annoy the crap out of the Glory Seekers because what they are doing is both hard and unlikely to get any notice from Scoble.

Here is the problem. From the outside it is very difficult to determine if you are dealing with a Promoter, Glory Seeker or Architect. The Promoter and Glory Seeker will act an awful lot like an Architect if they believe it gets them what they want. The problem is, they are very unlikely to be able to sustain Architect behaviors.

The Promoter begat the Glory Seeker – and together they went forth and killed the Architect.

What concerns me about this trend is that I’m seeing fewer and fewer Architects. The vast majority of those I know are either going “back inside” to lead new product lines or innovation at established companies or becoming consultants specializing in helping Promoters and Glory Seekers once they (or the people who chose to fund them) realize they’ve gotten themselves in over their head.

The behavior of these Architects is perfectly understandable. They realize that in a market flooded with free offerings it will be nearly impossible to generate profit and build a functioning company. They understand that if you can’t charge for it, it isn’t worth investing their effort and money in. The environment is only conducive to business plans that start with large amounts of capital – because you are going to have to give it away until you can outlast or acquire the Promoters and Glory Seekers. This is “freemium”… and it isn’t very attractive when you understand what it really is.

The only winners in this environment are the ones with capital (yep, that’s right, the VC’s). In a Freemium marketplace you need them a lot more than they need you; because in a freemium market the pay as you go startup can’t happen.

I won’t pretend to know how this plays out… but something fundamental is changing in the way we start companies… and I’m not entirely sure it will be a good thing.

Make Mark Reynolds an All Star – More Analysis


Following up yesterday’s post with more data about the effectiveness of the get out the vote campaign to make Mark Reynolds of the Arizona Diamondbacks an All Star.

First let me say this:

MarkReynolds-ASG-Avatar

If you haven’t yet (at least 300 times) stop reading this and go vote RIGHT NOW!!!

Ok… now that we’ve taken care of the important business, let’s get to the data.

Here is the updated Tweets Per day including the full day yesterday (July 8th, 2009)

Tweets-Per-Day-02

Nice spike in volume on July 8th… it looks like the Twitter campaign for Mark is building some steam. Let’s look deeper into the numbers to see if we can attribute this surge in Tweets to the Vote for Mark Reynolds campaign.

Mark-Tweets

Yep, that is impressive. More than a third of the tweets yesterday mentioned Mark specifically. I think it is safe to say the Vote for Mark Reynolds campaign is driving the increased volume… what else can we see…

Vote-tweets

Again, a nice chunk of the Tweet volume were “vote” tweets. This is a nice indication of the viral effect. Or to put it in non-Social Media terms, people are clearly talking about the Vote for Mark Reynolds campaign.

who-is-tweeting

This is the graph the Diamondbacks (and more broadly) MLB should be focusing on. Look at the growth in the number of Twitter users (aka people) participating in the conversation… being engaged with the brand. The raw numbers aren’t as important as the trend line… and the trend line is phenomenal.

The million dollar question is, what now. Can the Dbacks and MLB sustain this level of engagement, or will we see a corresponding drop off starting at 4pm today when voting ends? Stay tuned…

One other thing… I personally would LOVE to see this data correlated with the actual votes cast by day/hour. If you’ve got a spare second send @MLB a message on Twitter… point them to this post and tell them you’d love to see that information too!!! I’d be happy to help them put it together.

Did John McCain’s Tweet help Mark Reynolds All Star Game chances?


Yesterday Mark Grace and Daron Sutton (CORRECTION: Todd Walsh set up and conducted the interview) managed to get Senator John McCain to endorse Mark Reynolds bid to be the MLB All Star Game Final Vote winner for the National League.

mccain-tweet

For reference, Senator McCain sent this tweet out at approximately 4pm Pacific (1600). All times in the analysis below are Pacific.

Today @MLB wondered… did McCain’s tweet have any measurable impact?

mlb-tweet

Well I happen to be tracking all things Diamondbacks using justSignal – my solution for helping businesses both engage and learn from their fans via Social Media (drop me a note if you are interested in signing up). So let’s take a look at the data and see what we can see…

First some background. justSignal collects every Tweet (and YouTube video, Flickr photo, Blog Post and Backtype Blog Comment) about the Dbacks. We cache all this data for 30 days (when you sign up have the ability to download all the data and store it in your own database). So we have 30 days worth of Social Media data stored for this analysis.

The average Tweets per Day for the last 30 days is 334, but to really determine how yesterday (July 7th, 2009) compares let’s take a look at the daily average number of tweets for the last 30 days:

dbacks-tweets-per-day

We can see that yesterday (July 7th, 2009) had a much higher than average number of tweets. As a matter of fact, it is the second highest number of tweets in the last 30 days – only surpassed by June 9th (I really need to go check out that day and see what happened).

We, however, are looking for any specific change in the data as a result of McCain’s tweet… so let’s dig deeper.

Here is the average number of Tweets per Hour of day as measured over the last 30 days:

avg-tweets-per-hour

Pretty clear pattern – the number of tweets ramps up a bit before game time and peaks around the end of the game. The ramp is pretty smooth.

Now lets look at the Tweets per hour for yesterday (July 7th, 2009):

tweets-per-hour-07-07-2009

The first thing we notice is a marked jump in Tweet volume the hour after Senator McCain’s Tweet (1700 Pacific). The average 1600/1700 hours are 19.8 and 21.7 respectively. Yesterday however, we saw a jump from 18 to 45 in the same period. We also see that the peak number of tweets per hour (83) is well above average. The question is, are these levels unprecedented – or simply normal variations from the average?

When we review hours 16 and 17 over the 30 day period we see several other examples of large jumps. For example, on June 13th the values for hours 16 and 17 were 19 and 38 respectively. On June 16th the values went from 10 to 38. Given those examples I think it is safe to say the volume change yesterday isn’t extraordinary.

The peak hour Tweets – 83 in hour 21 – is also not extraordinary in the sample. For example, on June 12th in hour 20 there were 73 Tweets. On June 30th in hour 17 there were 85 Tweets.

One last statistic… in the last 30 days there are only 26 tweets that mention Senator McCain and the Diamondbacks. Two on June 8th, one on June 9th, 15 on July 7th and 8 so far today.

Given that Senator McCain has nearly 1 million followers I think it is safe to say his endorsement of Mark Reynolds had essentially no impact.

I’d love to tell you Senator McCain’s endorsement was enough to put Mark in the all star game… but that isn’t going to get it done.

Cmon Dbacks Fans!!!!

MarkReynolds-ASG-Avatar

06/13/2009 16 19
06/13/2009 17 3806/13/2009 16 19
06/13/2009 17 38

Social Media – Perspective and Predictions

You would assume – since I’m the founder and CEO of a company that is selling a Social Media product, justSignal – that I’m a huge fan of “Social Media”. Perhaps I’m even a Social Media Expert. You’d assume I was going to tell you that Social Media will change everything. You’d assume that I’d tell you that Social Media will force companies to fundamentally change how they do business – they will all have to love their customers, engage them in conversation, make sure their every need is met. You’d assume that I’d be creating products that were directed at companies willing to make the culture change required to excel at Social Media – variously described as a culture of listening or a culture of engagement. You might assume any or all of those things… but you’d be wrong.

Social Media is mired in a massive hype cycle. All of the benefits are massively overstated, the value proposition is stated in only the most vague of terms and everyone is certain they know exactly what the outcome will be – the problem is, they can’t all be right. So, what is someone supposed to think, and why?

So, in an effort to clarify my position for you (and me) – I’m going to walk you through my point of view. You don’t need to like it, and you certainly are not required to agree; but I do hope this gives you some things to think about.

Continue reading “Social Media – Perspective and Predictions”

justSignal Adds More Signal

I’ve been awfully quiet for the last week or so. And there is a reason for that.
I’ve been busily working away to fulfill the vision of justSignal. It was never about (just) Twitter – it was about finding your signal wherever someone chooses to talk about it.

We launched with Twitter and the real-time widget because – frankly – Twitter has the buzz factor and because real-time is compelling. Today we are expanding beyond Twitter and the real-time, with the addition of Backtype (blog comments) and Google Blog Search. These new widgets will be added to the standard justSignal Tracker offering – with no increase in price.

These widgets have all the capabilities of the Twitter Real-Time widget:

  • Auto Updating when new data arrives
  • Fully customizable for your site via CSS
  • Dynamic search/filter terms that can be changed at any time
  • Embeddable in any site/HTML

Google Blog Search Widget:
http://justsignal.com/widgets/brianroyblog/embed-blogsearch.js Backtype Blog Search Widget: http://justsignal.com/widgets/brianroyblog/embed-backtype.js

But wait there’s more!!! And it isn’t a shamwow.

We’ve also added a search widget. The search widget searches within the Tweets we’ve collected based on your filter. The more (default is 2 hours – with options up to 90 days) history you keep the more useful this search becomes. To demonstrate this search capability we’ve launched Great On Twitter. Great on Twitter collects everything said on Twitter when someone thinks something is great, shows those tweets in real time and allows you to search for things that interest you.

For fun try searching for iPhone (note the number of matching tweets), then search for Blackberry. Another fun example is TweetDeck/Twhirl.

We aren’t done… not even close. So stay tuned for more updates.

My Sorry Sick Self…

So today I’m supposed to appear on Furious World – Peter Himmelman’s weekly live music and technology show.

So of course I wake up this morning and my annoying low grade cold has blossomed into full on body achin’, voice losin’, head throbbin’, racking coughin’, sick as a dog-ness.

I know, you are all disappointed… but be sure to tune in tonight at 7PM Pacific to check out the show… I might just pull it off… But even if I don’t you are still in for a treat.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=3075463&server=vimeo.com&show_title=0&show_byline=0&show_portrait=0&color=8f3b55&fullscreen=1
My Sorry Sick Self… from Brian Roy on Vimeo.