Role of Blogging in Partner Development

In this article Gilmore, Shipwire’s VP for marketing and business development,  provides useful tips for partner development. At the end he touches upon the payoff of blogging:

“We want to be a thought leader,” Gilmore says. “We want to be a visionary. We want to get our ideas out there.”It’s also a very easy way for us to put out a position and keep our customers and partners up-to-date. It also gives us feedback from them. Blogs can start anywhere in or outside the company, and some of our best have come from our customer support team. They’ll ask, ‘Can we write a blog about how to do XYZ? A lot of customers are asking about it.’ Sure, put it up.

“Finally, the more information you put out there, the better you’ll do with search engines. The more content you have, the better.

“You do have to know who the audience is, and get relevant information out there to start or join a conversation. We had a forum for awhile, but we turned it off because it wasn’t getting a lot of traction — there weren’t enough people involved — but we might go back at some point.”

Having the customer support team blog on how to do ‘xyz’ is a great idea. This article is a great read.

We Make Tools

A quote from Steve Jobs (source: Beahm, George (2011-10-19). I, Steve: Steve Jobs in His Own Words)

We make tools for people. Tools to create, tools to communicate. The age we’re living in, these tools surprise you.… That’s why I love what we do. Because we make these tools, and we’re constantly surprised with what people do with them.

Until a Thing Becomes Tangible…

Tangibility gets on the same page.

Until a thing becomes tangible, multiple people can have radically divergent interpretations of the same conversation, ideas, and experiences. Tangibility brings people from all disciplines and backgrounds together around the same object, drawing, animation, or whatnot, and highlights where your visions converge and diverge.

That  is why wireframes, prototypes, simulations help. So before you want to discuss an idea, or concept, start with a few sketches and keep refining them till you have enough to communicate your core idea.

My Ideal Twitter Client

Having used Twitter for a while, I am slowly reducing the amount of time I spend on Twitter clients. I feel some times that I am missing out on good stuff. I started thinking about an ideal Twitter client for my needs. Here is what I came up with.  Some of it is being done by other clients but I do not know of anything that does it all.

My ideal twitter client will have the following features:

  1. Gather all tweets from my timeline and store them in my own infowiki (and expand the links). Automatically link related tweets, retweets, conversations.
  2. Automatically select the ones I like and create a special page (based on my likes both implicit and explicit)
  3. Allow me to schedule tweets and repeat tweets (based on a set of rules)
  4. Will save my tweets in my infowiki
  5. Will track conversations around my tweets and my favorites in other places
  6. Let me easily tweet from any device with the same functionality
  7. Let me set rules for notifications, filtering, clustering, interlinking
  8. Let me tweet from multiple Twitter accounts
  9. Will bring back discussions around my tweets from FB and LinkedIn
  10. Create a trending topics page for me to view (it will look nothing like the stuff that Twitter does now) based on my interest graph
  11. Create a recommended list of people to follow (by using Twitter search to track my extended profile)
  12. Identify lists and influencers relevant to products/business
Can this be done? Sure. Does a client like this exist? I do not know. It will be nice project to try out a bit of text analytics, machine learning and a mashup using several APIs.

Resource Links for Micropreneurship, Niche Market Finder

Links on Micropreneurship (courtesy Micropreneur Academy)

Micropreneur Manifesto
Start Small, Stay Small
Lessons Learned by a Solo Entrepreneur

Links for Niche Research

Free Niche Market Finder

Google Insights for Search

Taking a Quick Look At a VC

At TiEcon, we have a Pitch2VC session. We have over a dozen VCs to whom entrepreneurs can pitch. So if you are an entrepreneur to pitch to vc, how would you go about looking at them? What if a VC had to pitch to you? I took the easy way out and did a small test. I went to a VC’s website, in this case Canaan Partners and did the following:

1. Copied the home page text

2. Copied the text from all the pages under About Us

Took this text and gave it to Wordle to create a tag cloud. Here is the result.

3. In addition I went to Hubspot’s Website Grader and graded their site. I will let you do this on your own, but there were some pretty impressive stats.

Why did I do this? I consider the home page and About page as two most important parts of a VCs pitch. How can this be improved?

1. Get the text for the whole site (or some of the pages that you think will be useful – like portfolio companies).

2. Automate this process of gathering information and creating a tag cloud. I think it will be an interesting mini-project.

Wish List for Twitter Enhancements

I use Twitter more than anything else nowadays.  More than any other social media – facebook, linkedin, Google Reader, Wikis, Social bookmarks or even podcasts.  I use all these, but the links actually seem to generate from the tweets I read.

Twitter is my quick environmental scanner. Twitter stream brings me nuggets of news, opinions, humor and recommendations. Why it is even my medium for mini-conversations and a source of discovering some cool people and products.

This wish list is really me thinking aloud. Some of them may be Twitter enhancements. Others may come from Twitter clients.

1. I get follow notifications by email. So I would love to see an email plug-in (Gmail preferably) that provides a tag cloud of the recent tweets by the person who follows me. And an interface to follow right there and add them to one of my lists would be a bonus.

2. I would love to consume tweets by email (that way I have one universal client) but many people may not really like this. If it comes to email, I can do some clever filing with rules. I am sure one exists. I may just need to find one that works.

3. I would love to have a twitter client or intermediary with a rule engine support. A little more powerful than the rules you find in Gmail today. There are lots of interesting possibilities here.

4. I would love to have as an email client too. In fact, Google should borrow Curated by chromium extension’s tagging functionality for Gmail. I know I am digressing a bit here.

5. I would love to get tweets in a different priority order, sorted by a retweet count (from my friends).  This should be alternative to a chronological order. Just another view.

6. I would love to see a visual social graph on twitter – a static connection graph and a dynamic one based on active conversations.

7. I definitely would like a better search engine. Since I am dreaming, I may as well ask for one with better contextual and semantic search. This keyword search does not do it for me.

I have a few more (a template tweet for conferences for example), but will keep it as material for another post.

What are your wish list items?

Exploring Semantic Media Wiki

Semantic Media Wiki is an extension to the Media Wiki, a wiki engine used by Wikipedia and lots of other public wikis. I have been watching Semantic Media Wiki for a while but never really spent time thinking of how we can use it. Today I spent a couple of hours reading the introduction to SMW and its extensions. Here is a brief summary:

  1. SMW is built on top of Mediawiki engine and is free
  2. SMW uses an innovative feature of Mediawiki called extensions
  3. Mediawiki extensions allow you at add new functionality to mediawiki without touching the core
  4. SMW adds the ability to annotate wiki content so that you can view the content in many different ways but also have a bot extract, export data from inside the wiki
  5. There are several cool and extremely useful extensions to SMW like Semantic Forms, Halo etc.
  6. Ontoprise even produces a package called SMW+ which includes the basic mediawiki engine + semantic media wiki extension + many other useful extension and calls it enterprise wiki
  7. There are several SMW hosting sites (in case you do not want to go through the process of installing it in your host)

I know this is a very short summary, but I hope to come back and gush about how cool SMW is someday after I use it for a while. Right now, I am thinking of using it for the following.

1. For a new public website we are creating.

The advantage of using a wiki for a website are many. You can make portions of website protected so that no one can change it. But open up other portions of your website for community participation.  You get a lot of benefits. Easy content management, templates, category pages, built in search, automatic revision control, easy editing. With SMW you get a few more features like semantic annotations, easy publishing of machine readable data. To me the most exciting part is the ability to dip my toes in the semantic web technology which will change the web experience dramatically over the next few years.

2. Create a few  learning spaces

I have a tried a couple of learning portals with pbwiki (now called pbworks) and am very happy with the experiment. Pbworks folks are great in terms of support, make it easy to create wikis and maintain it and even provide some nice wysywig tools for editing. Now I want to go to the next step and figure out how we can use some of the capabilities of a semantic wiki to build collaborative learning spaces (lekis).

3.  Build an internal Knowledge Base

We already use a wiki as an internal knowledge base for projects, resources and managing project logs and learn logs. There is a lot of content that can benefit from more structure and easy reuse across our website and internal wiki. We also want to build a few bots that do some of the more mundane work for us. For example extract information from project log and add it to internal timesheets. Another would be to crawl requests for changes both internally and externally and create list views. For example, I can write in my project log that it would be nice to support this feature and annotate it so that it automatically becomes part of a feature list.

4. Manage a bunch of evolving microdocuments

Ever since we started using a wiki internally, our need for using products like Word or Google Documents has come down dramatically. Since micro documents by nature are small pieces of text (often a page),  lists and links, we start off incrementally building them. Often we just start with an intent expressed in title and some todo items in a page and come back to fill it later. Creating a document like this is way more satisfying and lot easier.

How Many Programmers and Other Queries

Just too good of an information fragment to pass up!

A Fermi estimate usually seeks to measure a quantity that would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to actually measure. “Piano tuners in Chicago” may have fallen into that category several decades ago, but as Wolfram|Alpha can now demonstrate, things have changed

I got pretty excited and started trying a few queries on my own and quickly found some limitations. You can try them too. But it is fascinating to see how these queries work.

How many programmers are there in the “SFO bay area”

How many progrmmers are there in “silicon valley”

How many programmers are there in SFO

It would be fun to try these queries in other popular search engines (they come nowhere close). Let us imagine a world where search engines see queries the way you do and can get you answers. Won’t it make secondary research a lot easier?