Repost IBM Insights blog: Super Bowl, the power of connecting

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 date: February 10 2012

Food for thought… Super Bowl, the power of connecting

by Femke Goedhart, Business Consultant, Silverside
Last weekend I experienced my first ever Super Bowl. “First? Where have you been??” I hear part of the audience thinking now, but yes, my first. Because American Football really is, well…. American. And, as I am, really European….a place where American Football is, at best, a niche sport. So I had no clue about Super Bowl Sunday and everything it stands for in American culture.
That is, until Twitter
In my social network I’ve accumulated a large number of American contacts over the last few years and a part of that group are avid Giants fans. So when the Giants made the Super Bowl, my Twitter stream exploded with NFL-related content. Not afraid to get into a conversation, I mingled in and before I knew it I was being educated on the merits and fascinating aspects of the sport… eventually getting invited to a real American Super Bowl party. Not one that would require me to hop on a plane and fly over, but a virtual party, through a Google hangout (multi-person video chat) on Super Bowl Sunday watching the game together (while apart) with a bunch of other American and Australian football fans.
Of course I accepted! This was just too much of a chance to skip. Not just to watch the game (I really had no clue about it anyway) but more as a great social media experiment. Plus I’m always in for trying out something new and uncommon, and doing a virtual video Super Bowl party with people from three continents certainly qualified as such.
But I also quickly realized that I needed to at least get a basic knowledge of the game, and so I dared my Twitter friends to train me.
For the next two weeks I got relevant information and links through Skype chats, pop-quiz question tweets and even LotusLive meetings with diagrams full of arrows and marks. By game night, I was prepared to watch my first ever American Football match.
I loved it!
So what does this have to do with social business?
Well on first face, probably not a lot. But what it showed me was that by building a network and interacting with people, I was able to get information and training (in this case on American Football) in a way that made it accessible and manageable to me — personalized to my needs and geared to the info I was going to need (I surely didn’t have time to learn all NFL rules in less than a week).
And, interestingly enough, also from sources that weren’t always obvious. One of the people to get involved in contributing to my knowledge turned out to be an Australian – not the first person I would have turned to for knowledge on something so typically American! It turned learning sports rules (something I’m usually absolutely not interested in) into a great adventure.
But how would this apply to a social business environment?
Finding relevant and to-the-point information in the vast amounts of information that is offered to us today can be daunting. Lots of people nowadays struggle with information overload. And distinguishing between relevant and irrelevant information can be a problem. It’s not just a question of getting information. It’s often a question of getting the right bits of information. I found the NFL rulebook on my first query, but dismissed it more or less right away because I was never going to be able to finish it, let alone understand it, in less than a week.
And that’s exactly where social business comes in, because it offers ways of connecting to people who know where to get information that can be relevant to you and that know how to prioritize the information you are after. Building networks and making connections is invaluable to tapping into that knowledge. But it also means creating a culture where not only sharing, but asking too, is stimulated.
From sharing to interacting
The mistake sometimes made is thinking of social business as a culture of sharing.
It is, without a doubt. But it’s only part of the equation. It should be just as much about a culture of feeling safe to ask for help. Sharing alone is not enough to start a real dialog. You don’t want people to just share information; you want them to interact on that information with others: with peers, but also, and maybe especially, with those who need the information to learn from. That way it gets challenged, tested for relevance and enriched. To get that interaction, however, people will need to feel comfortable asking for help and admitting they lack certain knowledge —something that isn’t natural to a lot of us, especially in highly competitive environments with strict role divisions.
But, it’s also where companies stand most to gain. Getting people to step outside their own little bubble and learning from others directly, eventually enriches all involved. It makes inventions and process improvements possible and encourages personal growth. It does, however, involve changing the culture. And that is something that won’t happen overnight…something that was clearly demonstrated when years of training, and instinct to always go for the touchdown, caused running back Ahmad Bradshaw to make the most awkward and unwanted winning touchdown ever…
So, is your company ready to change the rules of the game?
For a more detailed account of my Super Bowl initiation, go to my Virtual Super Bowl party.

The Virtual Super bowl party – game time the social way!

Yesterday (or should I say last night) was an absolute first. Attending my first ever real American Super Bowl party and watching the game with a group of Americans and Australians. So did I fly over for a quick weekend break?!? Nop, I attended right from my own couch in my own living room.

It all started a couple of weeks ago when my twitter stream exploded on NFL tweets by @CuriousMitch  and me reacting to that

Before I knew it I was involved in a whole conversation stretching out over multiple days about the merits of American Football and culminating in getting myself invited for a Super Bowl party to be hosted by Mitch. He was having some guests over to his house and invited a bunch of others to join in through a Google hangout so that we could all enjoy it together from our respective living room (and time zone!).

Now I did have to think about it for a minute as I realized I would have to take a day off (game started at midnight Sunday night and was going to last at least 3 hours according to those who knew). But I was more then willing to do that, seeing it as a great social & cultural experiment to see if Social Media really could make this possible. Plus anyone that knows me knows I’m always in for something crazy and this one certainly fell into that category!
There was only one problem, I had absolutely no clue about American Football!….And so I was drilled and grilled over the last two weeks through Twitter and Skype by several people about everything NFL and American Football. Waking up to tweets like this

And even getting a visual demonstration with diagrams and lots of arrows through a LotusLive meeting & Skype.

All leading up to the big event: The game.

 A multi layered play in 4 acts played out on the field, in a Google Hangout, on Twitter and on Facebook.

I loved it! 

Not just because I like being part of big parties (which the Super Bowl certainly is) but also because it shows the power of Social Media and the cultural shift it is bringing about.Who would have thought 10 years ago that something like this would even be possible and that I would be able to enjoy a ‘cold one and a game’ from my living room in The Netherlands with people in Australia and the USA? Allowing me a very personal and up close glimpse into their worlds, living rooms and passion for American Football.

So what have I learned from all this? 

  • Taco’s & Chili in at least 5 variations seems to be the favorite US Super Bowl party food 
  • American Football can be fun and exciting once you get a basic grip of the game rules. Even if they drag out a one hour game to 4 hours easily 
  • Australia really is sunny this time of year (Yes, I know mentally that it’s summer over there right now but seeing it just makes it real) 
  • Getting a social crash course on game rules through Twitter, Skype and LotusLive works and is much more fun then learning the old fashioned way!
  • Google Hangouts actually lives up to what it says it does (really impressed after 5 hours of continuous and error-less ‘Hanging out’ with 6-8 others) 
  • I have friends here in NL that were watching the game as well (found out through Facebook halfway through the game). Setting up a date to do next year’s Super Bowl together 
  • I should never drink Redbull at 3:30AM if I want to have any chance of sleeping anytime soon (couldn’t fall asleep until 6:30)

So…. having a ‘virtual’ party like this doesn’t necessarily trump the real live experience and might, by some, be considered really geeky. But getting this group from 3 continents together otherwise would have simply been impossible. It just added a whole new layer to being social, showing how Social Media and online collaboration tools really do stimulate cultural learning and exchange. And in doing so making the world a smaller place.

Thanks guys for making this an experience to remember! 

The Twitter censorship storm: Hype or reality wake-up call?

A storm has been raging on Twitter today after it announced on its corporate blog that it will implement an option to re-actively censor tweets or twitter accounts for readers in specific countries if a valid request to do so has been made by a legal entity. The example was given of France and Germany using this to block prohibited pro-Nazi statements.

It caused a host of blog posts and tweets from people strongly opposing this and calling it an infringement on the freedom of speech. Some better researched then others. Now Twitter certainly didn’t do itself any favors announcing it the way they did and corrected it by adding more info about the solution to be implemented after the storm erupted but what does it really mean??

A lot has already been said about this so I’m not going to repeat it all but in short it boils down to this.

  • Legal entities will be able to report Twitter accounts and individual tweet messages to Twitter and ask them to censor those to readers in a specific country based on local law.
  • After reviewing Twitter might decide to honor the request. The specified Tweets/Accounts will not be deleted or blocked from posting but readers in the specified country will get a replacement text stating the account or tweet was blocked for that country. The text will still be available to readers in other countries.
  • Censoring is done on a per request base, meaning tweets will not be blocked automatically but after they’ve been placed (except when accounts are blocked) and reported to Twitter.
  • Determination of the users country is made based on IP address but can apparently be overruled by the users own country preference settings in the Twitter settings (I predict this option will be restricted pretty soon by the way if it is a working work around).
  • Twitter is doing this to comply with local law but at the same time more or less says this doesn’t mean it feels it has to agree with all regimes ideas of freedom of expression: “…we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression. Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there….“.
  • Some call Twitters’ action a way of actually ensuring its existence as an activist platform in oppressive countries (link). Given the previous statement I doubt that. If regimes find that it is to much of an opposition platform they will block Twitter regardless of its policies.
  • A large group of Twitter users is opposing this change by calling out for a #TwitterBlackOut on January 28th.

Ok, to be honest it really doesn’t set off any alarm bells to me right now. I actually think Twitter has found a pretty nifty way of working around something that would have inevitable come around anyway. What some seem to forget is that Twitter is not an idealistic or activist entity that transcends laws, it’s a company. With people working for it, offices, accountability and (uhoh… blasphemy) a goal of making money. That means it is required to obey the common law restrictions imposed on it by law makers as would any other company. And operating globally means being globally accountable.

The other thing that really intrigues me here is the fact that most people automatically associate this with the freedom of speech restrictions in oppressive countries while in fact most countries (including Europe and the United States) have certain restrictions on the absolute right to Freedom of Speech as well. Mostly when it comes to things like racial or religious hatred, discrimination and slander. So it isn’t just about protecting itself and its employees from prosecution in rogue states and dictatorships, it’s just as much a way of complying to the rules in open minded regions like Europe and the United States.

So do I think that what Twitter announced is a bad thing? Not necessarily. I regret it, but having to obey to law restrictions is an inevitable fact of live if you operate a company and at least they are making an effort to be open about it.
Am I opposed to the boycotting Twitter for a day (#TwitterBlackout)? No, but I think it should be about an awareness call to address the universal Freedom of Speech rights. Not to address a company trying to walk the tightrope between upholding the ideals of Freedom of Speech while obeying local law restrictions at the same time.

Confumbled – Social Media breaking down language borders

So I’m Dutch and I’m in no way a native English speaker. I do ok, blog in English, get myself understood and can even be relatively ‘witty’ in my Social Media responses. It has allowed me to interact and connect to numerous people around the world and it has even given me some new friends. Ok, yes, I know. How can you call them friends without ever meeting them?!? But with some of them they really do feel like friends.

And in about 48 hours I’m flying out to Lotusphere to actually meet them….

I can’t wait! I look forward to really meeting these people but at the same time I’m a bit apprehensive too. Truth is that connecting over the internet really isn’t the same as connecting in real life. Apart from the obvious facts that Social Media allows you to filter out the less attractive and boring elements of your personality it also helps eliminate language borders.

Again, as a non-native English speaker I think I do pretty well, but I do mess up…. regularly…. This has lead to several funny (and embarrassing) instances and confusions where I tried to express something which actually came out as something totally different.

My Dutch colleagues would now argue I don’t just do that in English, bytheway…

Saving factor here though is that as Social Media is mostly a ‘written’ form of communication it has something of a grace period. Allowing you to at least think for two seconds and read back that post, tweet or chat message (as well as having a spelling control) before clicking the ‘send’ button. Believe me, I’ve become a regular speed-Googler over the last few months and have Urban Dictionary bookmarked as a favorite.  Problem is though, these don’t yet come as build in options for my mind and so I will have to do without my regular safety nets next week…

….So that’s why, even with all my enthusiasm about going to Lotusphere I’m also still feeling a bit apprehensive about talking to all of you with whom I’ve been chatting, Tweeting and Facebooking. Not knowing, whether I will be able to actually have the same kind of spontaneous interaction without having Google & spell checker at my fingertips is daunting….It almost feels like sitting my high school exams again.

Luckily for me I’m also pretty sure most of you guys will forgive me for my little language-mishaps. And if I do ‘confumble’ my English big time and mess up I can only hope you guys will look through it and have a laugh with me about it. It’s all in good spirit!

Burning the midnight Soc'oil

To be Socially engaged on online Social Networks into the wee hours of the night.

The incessant staying up not to miss out on all the social fun. Often caused by having a very lively online Social Network that is mostly located on the other side of the pond and the abundant availability of devices that make accessing ones social tools (Skype, Twitter, Facebook, etc) possible everywhere and anytime (eg. in bed). Doing it long enough could have detrimental consequences for sleep patterns and cause the subject to dream in ‘tweets’. (Though that could be seen as a good pre-Lotusphere training where sleep is hard to come by anyway).

Derived from a combination of the word ‘Social‘ and the phrase “burning the Midnight Oil“: To work late into the night. Originally this was by the light of an oil lamp or candle but is nowadays replaced by the blueish shine of electronics and iShinies, hence the figurative terminology.

Related terms:
Insomniac, hermit, Twitter-critter

Instagram – Let's capture the LS12 mood!

I stumbled upon Instagram a while back. A nifty little iPhone app (I don’t have an iPhone but use it on my iPad) that lets you quickly share photo’s that portray your mood of the moment to the world. Not whole series but snapshots that really give others a quick glimpse of what you’re up to. The simple interface and the nice filters let you enhance the pictures before posting them and make it a joy to work with.

I love it! It’s just another form of social Media but in some cases a picture says more then a 1000 words and as it allows you to post the pictures to Twitter and Facebook as well it’s a great alternative if words fall short (or inspiration is lacking).

Last Week, after posting an Instagram picture, Bruce Elgort DM’ed me a link with the text “Working on this….“.
On opening the link I got a collection of Instagram pictures for Lotusphere and IBM Connect….. Now I didn’t realize immediately what I was looking at and as the pictures were from previous Lotusphere’s it took me a while to realize what he and Serdar Besegmez had been working on. A site that collects all the Instagram pictures (regardless of who’s posting it) that contain the #ls12 tag and shows them in one big photo album overview. Of course the current selection is very limited but come Jan 15…..

So I love this initiative. We’re all going to follow what is going on around Lotusphere on Twitter, on Facebook, on the communities but what better way to portray the mood and excitement of the community coming together then pictures!
So if you’ve got an iPhone or iPad then download instagram and start posting. And while at Lotusphere take a picture of what Lotusphere is to you and post it to Instagram with the #LS12 tag. It’ll be a great way of looking back on the event of the year!

Serdar & Bruce thanks for coming up with this!

social fun risks

I can be kind of goofy. Love a good laugh and am always in for a joke. So when someone starts a Twitter meme by tweeting a picture of his feet while in a meeting with the hashtag #TweetYourFeetFriday I will join in. 
Just for fun, I mean how detrimental can a picture of two feet be?
Well…. I got told about the risks quite soon when someone who saw it pointed out the risks of certain fetishists picking up on it….

Mmm… ok yes. The idea actually had passed my mind when I was posting it but somehow I really didn’t fear that too much. Does that make me gullible? Probably, but at the same time I really don’t want to live my life looking over my shoulder every second for alternative motives. Do I expect them to be out there? Sure, do I want to mind? Nop. 
So call me crazy but I will do (good natured) crazy stuff some times. I do it in real life (ask my colleagues) I do it online (follow my Twitter). Most times it’s received as intended (good natured), sometimes its not. 

So does it mean I sometimes hit myself on the nose? Yes it does. Still I refuse to be anything less than the spontaneous, sometimes slightly crazy me!

ps. Why a picture of shoes and not the one of my feet? Well, I’m not that gullible as to putting the words ‘feet’ ‘fetish’  and a picture of my feet in one blog post. 🙂

Trusting the social way

In 2009 I was on a IBM Redbook team, today I am again.

I love it. This is such a great opportunity to learn, to meet, to share and to get a glimpse into how other people topple topics like Social, Collaboration and connecting at the business level.

I’ve come a long way over the last few years. Back then I arrived in Cambridge, MA for a three week Residency not knowing anything about the people I was about to experience a very intensive three weeks with. Being hesitant and even feeling a bit awkward. Apart from their names I didn’t have a clue who they were and what they did. Getting to know them took several days.

This time things are different, totally different.

Right from the moment I got my acceptance letter I started connecting. Googling the names in the mail, finding, following and interacting with them on Twitter, trying to get an idea who they were from their Social profiles and reading up on blogs and published materials. Now not all of them had an online (public) presence but in general you can find a lot. And so it was that when I flew out to Raleigh, NC on Saturday I’d already arranged to meet up for dinner that night through twitter and spent the rest of the weekend exploring Raleigh together.

No, not people I had previously met but people I only knew from twitter and who’s only connection with me was that we were all going to be on the same Residency. By using social tools to connect we got a head start in talking about the things we were going to talk about in the Residency, getting an idea of each persons specialties, interests and areas of expertise and doing exactly what we where there for: Share & learn.
So when I tweeted about being in the ITSO Redbook facility with the Social Business Social Media team today and got this tweet reply:

@FemkeGoedhart LOL why does the “social team” need to get together in person…or even use email for that matter? #justteasing

I couldn’t help but reflect on that. Because although I really love and ‘live‘ the Social ideal, I also believe that it is NOT a replacement for face-to-face meetings in doing business. It’s not there to take over or replace. Its simply a strategy to build stronger ties, be it active (by engaging with people) or inactive (by sharing so people can find you and learn about you). But more importantly it is about building trust. If you would have said three years ago that I would fly half across the world, arrive, meet up with this person I’d never seen or talked too before and had only exchanged about four 140 character messages with and go out for dinner 3 minutes later…..I think I would have declared you crazy.

Social has come a long way in making this possible and we’re only at the beginning. It is about being out there and being true to yourself and your environment. It’s about accountability that fosters trust and its about enjoying that human need for connection.

So call me an idealist but in a world torn apart by wars and mistrust  the ‘Social’ revolution clearly proofs that that fundamental need for a human connection is as strong as ever. Especially in Business.

Google+ Ripples #2

In October I wrote a blog on Ripples a Google+ feature that shows you how your public posts are being shared accross yours as well as others networks. I loved it (and still do) but somehow I never got to see the Ripples link when I was browsing my stream.

As I knew a workaround by getting the post id and copying it into a Ripples URL I could use it but that was far from easy and I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t get to see the Ripples option in the post menu’s. Today I finally figured it out.  

Could it be it simply wasn’t available for my language? Nah…surely not

But to make absolutely sure I tried setting my Google settings language from Dutch (my native language) to US English and bingo there was the “View Ripples” option.

Apparently Ripples is only there for the English speaking folks as its not showing up if you set your language to Dutch, French or German (didn’t try any other languages but pretty sure most wont work either). I’m reporting this to Google, let’s see why they aren’t showing this to us. If it’s simply a question of translations then surely 6 weeks should have been more than enough to translate that 1 paragraph of text on the Ripples page. But even without translation I really would have liked having this so please open it up!

The class of 2011… media