open mindedness

Note! I found the text from this post below while cleaning up some folders. It was a text I wrote to post as a blog post almost exactly 3 years ago but somehow I never posted it… I think I wasn’t pleased with it or didn’t think it was of value…. or just too pretentious.

Either way, while reading it back I figured I would post it. Perhaps more for myself than for anyone else as it is a strong reminder of what I hold dearly and something that was also clearly challenged in the last year and a half of pandemic enforced reclusiveness. Replace some of the topics mentioned with ‘vaccination’, ‘covid-19’ or ‘lockdown restrictions’ and it is still just as, if not more, relevant…

The schizophrenia of modern-day open mindedness

(original date 23-08-2018)

I think I’m pretty open minded. I believe everyone has a right to an opinion of their own, is free to adhere to their own religion (and profess it!) and have their own preferences.

But is that enough?

A month or two ago I came across a notice in a local supermarket about an iftar meal being organized for Ramadan open to all who wanted to experience meeting other people over a dinner after sundown. It was organized by the local Muslim community in a community center in my neighborhood. I went and had a great night. Talking to people, having a great meal and while there I got to talk to table neighbor Sukran who happily answered all the questions I had while explaining the traditions surrounding Ramadan, the Muslim faith and most importantly: her interpretation of it.

The thing is, I am not unknowing. I have always had a strong interest in history, culture and religion. Spending several months on a kibbutz in Israel after graduating high school and even studying Religious Science at the University of Groningen for a few years before ending up going into IT (yeah, I know, not the most logical step and a whole different story in itself). This interest though in other people and belief systems has never left me and I continue to read many books about these topics.

My interest with religion, politics and believe systems has always been twofold:

1). What makes that people believe or come to their convictions and what drives them internally;

2). How does what people believe and the culture they live in influence what they do, their surroundings and their choices.

History is speckled with examples of this and there are lots of books, ideas and theories about this. Somehow though my interest has always been not so much with the overall bigger picture, the various cultural groups as a whole…. but with how individuals are affected by and operate in this. You could say I’m interested in the little story.

For instance it is easy to say things like “Those southerners all like trump because…“ or “Those Brits are for Brexit because…” or “Those Muslims think like this because…” but in general these groups do not exist as such but are divided into many subgroups with subgroups with….. individuals. And those individuals are influenced by many internal and external factors and almost never homogenous.

A right to your own opinion doesn’t exclude you from having a duty to try to understand someone else’s opinions

So back to the iftar meal. I had a great night and I wanted to ask many more questions of Sukran because I loved how she talked about her faith. Not because she told me things that were new to me about Islam as such but because her interpretation and way of talking about it (in philosophical metaphors that I had never heard before) intrigued me. I didn’t know though if it would be appropriate to ask her if I could meet her again.

After all, here I am all ‘Dutch’, atheist, in a short-sleeved t-shirt with 3/4 length trousers and open toe sandals (forgive me it was one of those brutally warm summer evenings) and there she was with a head scarf and full-length garment to cover her arms and legs and a very deep religious conviction. So I was hesitant…

Low and behold though, at the end of the evening, while I was still deliberating how I could extend our acquaintance, she asked me if we could exchange phone numbers as she had enjoyed the conversation just as much and would love to meet again for coffee. And that was when it hit me.  Why had I even felt inhibited to ask her? What held me back while she had been friendly and open to all my questions all night. In fact, we had a great exchange about all kinds of topics, not just religion (like diets which we both perpetually struggle with). Why did she see no problem in asking me while I was unsure if I could, simply because I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate? It also opened my eyes to how little contact I have with people in other ‘believe systems’. Whether it is religious or political or otherwise…

So I realized that although I think of myself as open and tolerant, there is still a lot to be improved. And that made me wonder what was causing my self-image to be so off.

Being tolerant should be an active deed, not an excuse to turn away from difficult discussions

As said, I don’t think I’m a bigamist or discriminatory. I think of myself as open, tolerant and more than willing to listen but all of these are passive attributes. It’s easy to say you are tolerating of other people’s religions if you live in a country where religion is mostly a private affair and where less than 50% of people even classify themselves as being religious. It is also easy to not respond to others’ political statements when it’s not ‘your president’ or your ‘governments decision’ or your kid using the word for gays as a swear word in a conversation…. But is that really enough? Is just accepting that ‘that’s their opinion’ or ‘their choice’ enough? Or should we all have a duty to at least seek out to understand why people do or think differently, actively ask questions and try to have a conversation?

I think that real open mindedness is not passive it is active. It is being not just willing to listen but actively seeking to understand and be understood. Not necessarily to agree but to better learn the reasons for the other persons position or statement while also explaining in an open way to them your point of view. It is amazing to see, when you talk to people and really ask for- and open yourself up to their position, how limited your own perspective often is. Like when I talked to an English friend just after Brexit who I thought was against Brexit but who turned out to have voted to leave. I had not expected it and was aghast as I couldn’t comprehend why he would vote to leave while being wholly dependent for his work on open borders. Talking to him though, I could see his point for choosing the way he did. It didn’t mean that I agreed with it, but it certainly taught me there were many more nuances to the story then I had thought until then. Plus, it showed me quite clearly how limited my own understanding of the whole situation was.

Only through conversation can we avoid polarization

But doing that: asking, talking, learning isn’t easy. Because asking for – or discussing someone’s reasoning and thoughts behind their political opinion, their religion or their preferences is starting to become more and more a taboo.  And social media and the internet seems to play a big role in that. The medium just doesn’t really lend itself for balanced and open conversation. Instead, it is like standing in a crowded hall full of strangers and vague acquaintances and yelling your opinion to a friend or acquaintance on the other side of the room. Instead of having an open conversation, people feel put on the spot in front of a large audience of friends and strangers. Having to yell their response across the room with no visual cues from the other party and a large audience of people who butt in and start reacting as well. The result often is that what comes across are short sound bites, memes and statements which are often seen as nothing more than a declaration or defiant ‘take it or leave it’. Even if that was never intended. Resulting in bitter fights, stale mates and troll responses. Or worse…. In people shutting off and unfriending each other. Polarizing opinions on both ends with little or no room for understanding or time for reflection.

I get the feeling that people feel they need to have an opinion on everything so that when someone calls them out on something they are ready with an answer right there and then because not responding is automatically making you look like you agree or don’t have a clue. Leaving less space for people to simply state: “I don’t know” or “I’m still figuring it out”.

Because it is easier to not know then to accept to disagree

Worse yet is hearing how certain topics like politics or religion are no longer discussed anymore when meeting friends or family. Out of fear of starting a family feud or finding out that you really don’t agree… It seems it is easier to not know than to discuss and then accept to disagree. As if we can only function if we agree on all fronts or avoid having the conversation at all. Since when is that the case?!?

All that worries and bothers me. It bothers me to see it in others, but even more to recognize it in myself. I’m doing it too and it’s having a bad effect on me. Social Media is great but not to discuss politics, religion or sexual preferences. That doesn’t make them taboo though, it just means that if I talk to someone and one of those topics comes up, I prefer to have that conversation in a different way. A way that doesn’t include ‘shouting at the top of your lungs from one end of the room to the other’ but allows you to see, feel and experience all the subtle elements of verbal, non-verbal and direct communication.

And it’s not easy to fix. But perhaps by writing all this out I will make others understand why I sometimes ask things you would normally not expect me to ask and that it is not to judge but to learn because I strongly believe that:

if we don’t talk about the hard stuff how can we make it better?

So did Sukran and I have coffee together in town? Yes we did, several times already. We even brought our mothers together! Live is all about meeting each other, and nothing beats that real live experience.

Oh and as side note… why am I posting this on my work blog?

Well apart from this being very important to me from a conscientious point of view this doesn’t only pertain to things like religion, politics and preferences. It applies just as much to the way we work. As someone who’s work it is to get people in different organizations to work together across organizational, cultural and language borders this avoidance to tackle the difficult conversations is something I’m starting to see seeping in more and more in enterprise collaboration too.

image source:

SharePoint Connect 2014 – Amsterdam

Yesterday I had the pleasure of being able to speak together with my coworker André Krijnen at SharePoint Connect 2014 in Amsterdam. An annual event that with it’s 500 attendees is visited by many from the SharePoint community both in The Netherlands and from abroad. With a broad spectrum of sponsors and lots of great international speakers this event is a definite must go for those interested in SharePoint in the Benelux area.

Although I’ve been speaking at conferences for more then a few years now doing it here, for a SharePoint audience was a first and I hope we managed to struck a chord. Our slide deck is added below.


“SharePoint is the complete solution for collaboration, document management and sharing knowledge across our organisation, and even beyond. It will drive our business!” For the last ten years it was this message IT-departments used to get budget-approval to implement the platform we all know and love (and yes, sometimes hate). The reality is though that lots of companies struggle to get beyond using it as an intranet or document file storage. What happened to our promise to cover not just the ‘sharing’ and ‘storage’ part but really enhance our business processes with specific functionality tailored to the collaborative working? Like HR who needs functionality to support annual reviews, quality control who wants to monitor key performance indicators or the support departments who want to gage customer satisfaction? “No problem!”, most IT departments standard Pavlov reaction to these request was: “we’ll build it …!” But that takes lots of time, money and can cause massive delays which often also begs the question: isn’t there another way? Aren’t we inventing the wheel when others surely have already done so?

Dander4Dosh – Break(ing) in the foot

Ok, so people who know me might know that I broke my foot last November. I was training for a 15k race (running) and missed a curb…. Stupid, stupid, stupid…. weeks of a cast, a wheelchair and crutches on I was more then ready to restart my live and decided that I had to get back in the swing of exercising. As running still felt a bit daunting so soon after the break and as I had already kind of committed myself to walk the Dander4Dosh I figured it would be the perfect way to force myself into a regular exercise pattern again. And so it did. For the last 5,5 months I have been walking daily. Doing a morning round before work and an evening round after dinner. I even went up to Northern Ireland for a weekend last March to get some elevation training in (The Netherlands is not exactly big on hills you know…).

Dander4 Dosh… So what is it? Well, figure a team of nerds from all over the globe (Ireland, UK, Netherlands, Portugal and USA) who’ve met each other at conferences or through the social media channels. Not particularly well trained (or at least not all), not at all the typical ‘athlete’ type but with a big dose of humor, a spiderman onsie or two (no not me!), enough connected and GPS enabled devices to get us to the nearest pub and a target to get: Walk 5 days to raise as much money for Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) as  we can!

This isn’t the first Dander4Dosh although it is going to be my first. The team consists of 7 walkers and two lovely volunteers who will most likely have to rescue us and transport us to the nearest pub at the end of the day. ‘Rescue us’ as we unfortunately lost our designated map reader: Eileen, who can’t attend due to work related obligations. The route will take us along the coast line of Wales through picturesque places who’s names I will probably never be able to remember or pronounce correctly and it will be long… very long.

In the run up to this walk there has been some confusion about the total distance we will be walking in 5 days. Somehow someone said it was 85 miles, some thought 92 miles and others said 100 miles. I’m the ostrich type of person so I opted to convince myself it would be the already daunting 85 miles…. Yes you guessed it, it turns out to be the 100 miles (160km). How are we going to do that?!? Well probably with a lot of blisters, aching muscles and some cursing.


Steve has pledged that the more money is donated the bigger the chance of seeing him wear this on route…. Not sure if I like that but it’s all for a good cause!

You can help! As mentioned above we will be raising money for MSF and to do that we set up a donations page. Every cent donated there is another incentive (and stick behind the door!) for us to walk. So help us out and donate on our Just Giving page. The money will be going directly to MSF and will be well used by this fantastic organisation. In return I promise we will be posting lot’s of updates on twitter (follow #Dander4Dosh) and Facebook and Steve will hopefully use his amazing (and slightly deranged!) writing skills to write a day by day review of it all on the blog afterwards. Reading last years blog about D4D2013 was what got me into it this year and is well worth it if you are interested in the antics of a group of otherwise quite normal IT folks in the wilderness of Scotland.

Plus you have my promise that as I will be armed with a smartphone, ipad and a MiFi -which I hope will have coverage in rural Wales-, there will be lots of ‘Spiderman & consorts meet Wales’ updates!

ps. As we speak a second group of nerds is doing a related fund raising tour driving up to the northern most point of Norway on bikes. Check out the journey of the Dash4Dosh boys here!

How to prevent the community manager from exploding


<vent on>

To all organizations who think they’ve got it all sorted out so nicely because they have a community manager MANAGE it all…

Calling them ‘manager’ doesn’t mean they can control everything their community does or say unless you actually:

  • give them managerial rights over their community members (which you can’t if the community is comprised of customers or external parties);
  • inform them of the things you are doing BEFORE you are doing them instead of just dropping a bombshell and expecting them to manage the fallout;
  • understand that their role requires them to build a personal relation with their community which means that they are VULNERABLE when you take decisions that affect those community members without communicating them properly.


And to community members out there that seem to think the community manager is there just to help them….

Loving your community manager is great but that doesn’t exempt you from the responsibility to understand that:

  • your community manager is no philanthropist and needs that pay check their employer sends them every month just as much as you do. It’s not a case of loyalty, it’s a case of simple economics so don’t expect them to take impossible stands against their own employer;
  • the fact that they are called a ‘manager’ doesn’t mean they actually have any real managerial power or influence within their organization. In fact a community manager is by far the most powerless manager in any organizational tree. Don’t expect them to change the world, just ask them to help you find the right tree to bark up;
  • you think you are frustrated by how things go…?!? think again and start realizing they are probably too. Work together and don’t just vent. That’ll get a lot more done.


And to all… give them a bit of respect and TLC and realize they are in general doing a really good job of doing the impossible!

<vent off>

In dedication to some pretty awesome community managers out
there and a few in particular.

You know who you are 😉

BLUG – speaking of social document management

Yet again Theo Heselmans and team have managed to do the impossible: get an absolutely fantastic line up together for the upcoming BLUG event in Leuven, Belgium on March 21-22.

I’m honered to say my session “Folksonomy versus Taxonomy, Social Document management in IBM Connections” about document management in general and the new integration of libraries in IBM Connections (CCM) in particular was accepted and I look forward to seeing so many from the IBM community in just over a month!


Social Connections IV: milestones, challenges and an absolutely awesome team!

It has been a weird couple of months. As some of you might have noticed I haven’t been as ‘social’ as I used to be. Not that I didn’t want to, but simply because I was too busy. Busy with work and busy with organizing Social Connections IV, the IBM Connections user group event that is going to hit Amsterdam in 2,5 weeks time.

Today was a major milestone as with the 180th registration we hit a magical (and unexpected) record number of participants and the maximum we can accommodate this time. When we started organizing this event 5 months ago we set ourselves an ambitious goal to reach 150 participants. Ambitious as it would be almost 50% more then we had ever had before. With a location like Amsterdam though, with it’s international airport and its transport links to the rest of mainland Europe, we felt it was possible. And it turns out it is. Better yet, we passed it and even had to set a maximum at 180! Which we comfortable reached today.

I’m sure it is going to be fantastic. With 34 speakers delivering a staggering 28 sessions to attendees from all over the globe there is going to be enough to keep everyone interested. From deep-dive technical Cognos to High-level community management to practical ‘this is how we do it’ case studies.

The most important to me though is the fact that being at an event like this offers everyone the opportunity to really connect and interact with each other. Being able to share your Social Business experiences and challenges and hearing how others solve them, that is where for me the biggest benefit of attending any Social Connections event lies.

Organizing this has been a real learning experience for me in so many ways too… As a business consultant I’m not exactly used to haggling with event bureaus, ordering booth stands, attracting sponsors and speakers or designing printed materials but over the last few months I’ve done it all… and with great pleasure. It has been (and still is!) a roller-coaster ride but one I’m really enjoying and one I’m not facing alone. The Social Connections team is an amazing group of people without whom none of this would have been possible!

So heading into the last 2,5 weeks before the actual event I can see the finish line, but we’re not there yet. There are still wrinkles to iron out and last minute items to check but overall I think we’re ready. Ready to hit Amsterdam, ready to start Social connections IV.

I can’t wait to see so many of you there!

BLUG for Belux.. ehh BeNeLux Lotus User Group!

Yes, it has happened! As announced yesterday BLUG no longer stands for BeLux (Belgium and Luxembourg) Lotus User Group but now merges with the Dutch user group NLLUG to become the Benelux Lotus User Group!

I think this is great. As most of us who actively visit User Groups know, the one thing that any user group needs is a strong and preferable independent leadership. Someone who will give it their all to make it a success. Sometimes by one person, sometimes by a group of people. Marnix Kemme was that person for the Dutch Lotus user group NLLUG for years. He helped put NLLUG on the map with some really great user group events (who can forget the Keynote in the Amsterdam Arena!) but after he moved to IBM it became silent around NLLUG…. Too silent….

Trying to revive NLLUG a separate track was organized in the IBM Social Business event in Rotterdam last June. Offering user group sessions to customers as part of a larger social business convention. It was great after not having anything since 2010 but it simply couldn’t stand up to the great NLLUG events of 2009 & 2010 and as BLUG was already attracting lots of Dutch visitors it was time to move on. It’s something I’ve personally been feeling very strong about as I really feel that having user groups is important and from experience with Social Connections know first hand how much work it is. I can only be happy that Theo Heselmans and his team are taking on the challenge and I’m sure he will make the Benelux user group just as big a success as the Belgium one is!  At the same time I can only thank Marnix who has always tried his utmost best to keep NLLUG alive and even when his role as an IBM employee meant he had to take a step back still ensured it was not forgotten. From personal experience of working with him on the Social Business event I can only say he truly was Mr NLLUG and I also know he has played a big role in making this user group merger possible.

Times change, we change with them. It’s time for the new and in this case the new BLUG. Leuven prepare for the Dutch because we are coming to BLUG 2013!

red. BLUG 2013 will be held in Leuven, Belgium on March 21/22. For more information keep an eye on the BLUG site!

Saying goodbye to Dublin. Social Connections III truly social!

So it is over, a couple of hectic days are coming to a close in the Dublin airport coffee lounge while I’m awaiting my flight back to Amsterdam.

It was a great event in so many ways…

  • The great venue at the IBM Developer labs and the hospitality IBM and especially Fred Raguillat, Eamon Muldoon and Jon Mell showed us opening up their Innovation centre and auditorium, helping us organize this, navigating the bureaucratic hurdles and making us feel welcome at the heart of IBM’s Connections developers facility
  • Meeting so many familiar and new faces (over 100 people signed up!) from all over the world including places as far away as Norway, The United States, Brazil, Poland and Russia
  • The fantastic line up of speakers, eight of which IBM Champions, who delivered a staggering 21 sessions in 2 tracks all in one day
  • The new technical track that opened up Social Connections to a new more technically focused audience
  • The speakers dinner on Thursday night to thank all those wonderful speakers who invested their time and effort to share their knowledge with the community
  • The support and help we got from so many who make it possible to do things like recording the sessions and manning the desk (thanks to Jon, Jess & Huw)
  • The after event at the Guinness Storehouse where everyone could enjoy a pint & good meal while discussing all they had learned that day and practice that one thing that this is all about: building Social Connections.
  •  And last but certainly not least The absolutely wonderful sponsors: IBM, Sogeti, TimeToAct, TeamStudio, and Collaboration Matters without whom it would simply not be possible to organize all this free of charge to participants.

Organizing an event like this is daunting: “Is there a big enough audience for this to justify organizing it?“, “Will they come to Ireland?“, “Do we get enough good speakers?“, “What about sponsors??” and most importantly: “How do you coordinate something like this while none of the organizing committee are actually onsite, or even in the same timezone, until the day itself?!?

The answer to all this is simple, it’s pure dedication, community spirit (so many people and organizations contributed to this in so many big and small ways I can’t name them all) and using a host of social tools to collaborate. With such a globally dispersed organizing committee organizing something like this would simply not have been possible without the internet, chats, phone conferences, a wiki, communities, blogs, twitter and other social tools. After all, what better way to show the power of social connections and collaborations then to practice what you preach!

So… almost time to board and leave wonderful, generous and social Dublin. But I won’t have to wait for long as I hope Amsterdam will be just as wonderful and social come November 30th when it opens up its doors to host the next Social Connections user group event*!

I hope to see you all there for Social Connections IV!

Kudos to Simon Vaughn, Lisa Duke, Stuart McIntyre and Sharon Bellamy for making it all feel so effortless and making me part of a truly social and dedicated team.


*provisionally, awaiting confirmation of date & venue, keep an eye out for the site or the #soccnx hashtag on twitter!

Deleted tweet and heated discussions

Ok, this one just rubbed me the wrong way.

Yesterday I followed a heated twitter discussion between @MatNewman and @APACloud (Andy Pattinson – ProQuest) on Lotus Notes vs Google Mail.
I’m always interested to learn what makes/breaks the products I work with so I followed the twitter exchange although I must say it all got rather direct… (nasty?)

What I mostly got from it was that it wasn’t a real discussion. Mat, asking (in his own unique enthusiastic way) for substantiation on some statements about Lotus Notes vs Google mail was replied with  statements in which he was called a lunatic and on crack.

Regardless of the form, I think it’s always important to keep the focus on the topic, not on the person.
So, although I must admit I was a bit annoyed by the unwarranted insults (even if meant in a jokingly way), I couldn’t help but wonder whether @APACloud actually had anything to say on the topic (Google Mail vs Lotus Notes) or was just trying to get out of a discussion he wasn’t up for but doing it the wrong way (getting a bit childish instead of admitting he had just made a rash statement he was not about ready to have a debate on).

And to test that I asked him to elaborate a bit on his claims about Gmail being so much better then Lotus Notes. Something that was asked by @MatNewman as well but just didn’t seem to be getting an answer.







Now at this point I kind of got that he really wasn’t up for it and I was about ready to leave it at that when he replied my tweet saying (something like) “Perhaps we could do a call on this, would love to elaborate”. Surprised I accepted.


I was genuinely up for it as I love to get the perspective of someone else. I only have limited experience with Google Mail so having a chance to talk to, and get the perspective of, someone who claims having used both professionally, as well as knows something about Salesforce (a topic I’m also interested in) was something I wouldn’t pass.

Notice how I included every tweet form our little exchange except that one in which he invites me for a call?

Well guess what, this morning, reading back the exchange (yes I do that sometimes) I noticed he had actually deleted that particular tweet. Apparently it was just a way to get out of the discussion and to shush me up. So I expect no call on this and to be honest after this, I’m not even up for it either.

Next time, be a man and just say you’re not up for the discussion.

Repost IBM Insights Blog: Food For Thought – The New Player on Stage

I recently started writing for the IBM Insights blog As part of a team of Redbook Residency bloggers. The aim is to write about anything having to do with Social Business or Social Media. To keep track and a personal log of it all I will repost the blogs I write for the Insights blog on my personal blog as well.

Original Publication:
Original publication date: February 22 2012

Food For Thought: The New Player on Stage 

by Femke Goedhart, Business Consultant, Silverside
So here’s a thought…. At this year’s Lotusphere, IBM’s annual collaboration and social software conference, during that all important Opening General Session (OGS), Who was the real star of the conference?? 
Was it the band ‘OK Go’? Or Michael J. Fox with his inspirational speech? The IBM executives sharing plans for the upcoming year?  The people demonstrating it all?  Or the customers telling their success stories? Or was there another star to this show….. the audience? 
It is interesting to see how social media has changed the role that people are taking while listening to someone on stage. They are no longer a passive audience, waiting to be impressed. They are active participants using social media to hype the event and their fellow audience members, updating those staying at home and in doing so broadcasting their personal expectations, experiences and opinions to the world – effectively becoming a presenter themselves.  
They are far from uninformed either. Social media exposes any news with lightning speed and search engines allow users to quickly proof check any statement made. The audience no longer is a passive listener; it’s a fiercely regarded critic and a channel to reach a much wider audience. A 5,000 man audience in the room easily reaches a hundreds-of-thousands-strong audience outside. A power not to be ignored! 
And a power to be utilized by those on stage as social media is also quickly leveraging the power of peer-to-peer recommendations. An enthusiastic commentary on social networks by the audience members often does more for creating a positive vibe around a product announcement than any official reporter or analyst could ever hope to accomplish with their articles. 
But the audience is also a fickle player to include in the play; one that generally has a short attention span and has a nose for set ups and over-embellishings. One that wants to-the-point information, real demonstrations, interaction and involvement. And one that can make or break an event, a speaker and an announcement. 
Something that was clearly shown at last year’s Lotusphere OGS. The audience did not like the lengthy customer panels and made that abundantly clear on twitter and other Social Media channels – bringing the overall sentiment on the OGS down to an absolute low. Only after a bright new face – Brian Cheng – entered the stage to do demos did that sentiment change — instantly elevating Brian to a Twitter celebrity. However, by that time, some damage had been done.  
It must be hard sitting back there watching all this going on, knowing that there is little or nothing you can do to change it. The scripts are set, the show is staged and you can’t just break into that. At the same time you can’t ignore what’s going on either.
 imageSo this year was different. IBM clearly listened to the critiques and tried to accommodate that all important new member of the cast. Shortening the length of the OGS, dividing it up in short sound bites, acknowledging last year’s missteps, involving the audience as much as possible  and using lots of graphics and live demos to keep people’s focus on the stage instead of on their Twitter streams. Even showing an actual representation of the audience sentiment of the event as it was going on.
And it wasn’t just in the OGS where this was felt. Instead of being afraid of the social backlash that had occurred the previous year, IBM embraced the challenge and invited the audience to be even more ‘social’. Setting up Social Lounges where people could learn how to use social tools, offering communities and apps to connect to other attendees and by actively promoting the use of hashtag #LS12  and showing those Tweets on blogs, Web sites and at the event itself. 
Not just involving the audience, but effectively making them stakeholders in the success of the event.
To unleash and actively stimulate thousands of internet savvy critics to comment on your work is a bold move to take. But Lotusphere this year showed it can work. The opening session was highly appreciated resulting in 3 positive trending topics on Twitter that day. Sentiment was definitely up and it set the stage for the rest of the week. Being heard and being taken seriously meant that the audience, that all important player, was part of the team once more.  
So what is the future of this? This new player to the stage is certainly a force to be reckoned with. Not just for major events like the Lotusphere OGS but within daily business as well. People are utilizing internal as well as external social tools more and more as a medium to not only update their friends of what they are doing but also to gather information, discuss things going on and to gauge opinions. Broadcasting their feelings to their audience and connecting to people and sources both inside as well as outside the company. They are no longer just contributors or consumers of information; they are becoming the main distributors as well.
Ignoring it is dangerous, controlling it often impossible… or is it?

The fear of the unknown and a loss of control is what is holding back many companies in really addressing this. But with millions of people joining social networks each day, it’s a force that can’t be ignored. And even though the company might not be so far, the people often are, branching out on public networks and forging connections to co-workers, customers, friends as well as competitors, building their own audience as they go. It is time to catch up and start talking. Because if there is one thing social media has made clear, it is that individuals love to be part of a social team/network….So isn’t it about time you define your stage team and make them a part of that?Watch the Lotusphere 2012 OGS. Registration required.