#StuffIBMersSay: testing IBM's social elasticity

A while ago I wrote a blog post about a twitter meme that was going on where people were tweeting funny things IBM’ers had said with the hashtag #stuffIBMerssay. It became hot real fast and got over 3000 tweets and retweets before it died out after about a week. In my post I did that first day when it all started I stated “ps. Seeing a perfect opportunity here for IBM to use it’s new Analytic tools to analyze this social phenomena!” and well, it seems they have.

I knew they were working on it but hadn’t seen anything made public about it yet until I saw a blog yesterday from Keith Brooks with a link to the research report IBM did on this, the official research page for the meme and an interview with the researcher. It’s really interesting to read and I can see how analyzing this kind of social meme’s can help understand sentiment and feelings within organizations as well as how the rest of the world perceives an organization.

But what this impromptu phenomenon and IBM’s response to it showed best to me is that IBM really is striving to be a truly social organization. Being a social organization isn’t just about providing the tooling and ‘talking the lingo’, it is about recognizing and empowering the individuals within the organizational eco-system so that they can leverage their strengths to get the organization to a next level. That also implies allowing yourself to be viewed through the eyes of those individuals both for the good as well as for the bad and both on the inside (employees) as well as on the outside (partners, customers, contractors, etc). A daunting thing to do, especially when it happens unexpected, unplanned and uncontrolled, which is exactly what happened here. The fact that over 75% of the people who participated were from within the IBM organization itself and that they felt save to tweet about this and inject a lot of humor and banter without feeling they were harming the IBM organization or their own career shows a remarkable openness and engagement. I think that is exactly why this whole thing grabbed me the way it did back then…. and still does!


Nicely said but the real proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say and for me that proof was that seven months on, the two people who unleashed it all, and whom I’ve been closely following ever since, still proudly list “Working @IBM” in their Twitter profile 🙂


Especially had to smile while reading this:

“Second, the qualitative analysis suggested that contributors to the #stuffibmerssay thread were also able to poke fun at the bureaucratic nature of a large global enterprise. We termed this “the Dilbert effect” where tweets served as satirical observations of how the processes within a large organization could be bewildering.”


So fitting with one of the tweets I quoted back then!

@FlemChrist: I swear that guy writing the Dilbert cartoon works here. #stuffibmerssay


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.

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.


Hot trending topic around the Lotus community on twitter tonight: #StuffIMBersSay. All kinds of things IBM people have said that are silly, funny or simply plain absurd. Good fun and definitely worth reading! It was started by two IBM’ers as a joke apparently but spread around the world in hours, reaching thousands of IBM’ers, business partners and customers.

Humor is the best way to communicate, Social Media is the perfect platform. That was definitely proven tonight!

Small selection of those tweets below. Spotting a trend here….There is a lot of web and phone conferences going on!

@DelphineRB:  Do you mean 3pm ET or GMT or EST or CET ? #stuffibmersay

@kate_motzer: “Someone is breathing heavy into the phone – can you please go on mute?” #stuffIBMerssay

@seralewis: Did anyone hear the recording start? #stuffIBMerssay

@FlemChrist: I swear that guy writing the Dilbert cartoon works here. #stuffibmerssay

@creckling: sorry i’m late, i was looking for a hotspot. #stuffIBMerssay

@ragtag: “Larry? Larry? I think we lost Larry” #stuffIBMerssay

@Chappers5: Can everyone on the call press *6* please as there is a dog barking in the background #stuffibmerssay

@wesmorgan1: Working as designed. #stuffibmerssay

@tpeisel: I can do that @2 …i’m only doublebooked then #stuffibmerssay

@FemkeGoedhart: “Let me just mute my cat for a moment” #stuffibmerssay

@HP_Dalen: Will you action these deliverables? #stuffibmerssay

@linny2777: well – we have beaten that horse dead #stuffibmerssay

@wesmorgan1: We’ll do a 360 postmortem on that… #stuffibmerssay

@mmoyer: We’ll start as soon as the speakers join the call. #stuffibmerssay

@mmoyer: Who’s on the call but not in the meeting? #stuffibmerssay

@blm849: Let’s put that in the parking lot and then circle back at the end of the call #stuffibmerssay 

@lina_farr: Can’t do that right now, I’m in a sea of red! Ping you when I’m free… #stuffibmerssay

ps. Seeing a perfect opportunity here for IBM to use it’s new Analytic tools to analyze this social phenomena!

Get in touch!

You would think that getting in touch with people has become a whole lot easier since we’ve all become so ‘social’. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Connections, IM, chats, etc. You could even say that in some cases it’s hard NOT to. But still I find that really getting ‘in touch’  sometimes is a challenge. Take a recent situation I encountered.

I wanted to ask a distant social business contact something that required some delicacy and a personal touch. I didn’t know the person ‘in person’ (there’s an ocean between us) but I ‘knew’ her on Twitter, Facebook, through Connections, Sametime and even through a persistent Skype chat group. More then enough venues I guess to contact her. But this was harder than I thought.

First I considered the Connections link I had to her. The question was related to that anyway so this seemed logical. The problem though was that she hadn’t listed her contact details and I wasn’t about to put my question on her public message stream.
Next was twitter but that is mostly public and even when I had used a DM I couldn’t really get my question into a 140 character text anyway. So that one was out of the question too.
Facebook wasn’t ideal either. On reviewing her Facebook stream I figured she used it strictly for non- business related stuff and as it was a business related question I didn’t want to use that route (DM or Chat) for a business related question. Even social business has its etiquette…..

So I looked on. She didn’t have a blog (I knew about or could find) and on LinkedIn I found several people matching here name, most without pictures, so no luck there either.
My last chance seemed to be the Sametime and Skype chat. Not ideal but it would at least allow me to ask her for her mail address.  The problem was though that she wasn’t online much and by the time she was, I wasn’t (that darn ocean again!).

This was frustrating! Here I am, connected to this person on at least 3
social networks and 2 IM systems and still I had trouble getting in
touch with her! Having this persons email address would
have saved me a lot of trouble. In stead I had all these social links
but no decent way of getting in touch.

So in the end I solved it the old fashioned way. I called her company switchboard and asked for her.

Ironic isn’t it? That even with all these digital channels and links to her I
finally had to resort to the old fashioned phone call to really get in

Social media frenzy and Obama's death

So the last few weeks we’ve been seeing somewhat of a Social Media frenzy among Social Media users. With Google+ going live (nicely hyping it by limiting access calling it a ‘beta’), Facebook reacting with its new Video chat functionality and Twitter…. Well Twitter kept silent. The only news on that front: the hacking of a Fox News account starting to proclaim Obama’s death.

Still that last titbit of information intrigues me… Not because a Verified twitter account was hacked or that twitter is staying remarkebly silent about Google+ but because the ‘Obama news’ generally didn’t cause much of a stir at all. In fact, reading the different reactions I’d say people mostly just shrugged it off.

There used to be a time that when a renowned or at least well known media source or paper would publish something everybody would simply believe it. If the morning paper or the tv-presenter said so most people wouldn’t doubt that. They had limited resources to verify and generally just trusted the journalists to have done their homework.
Ok, yes I know this was more then a decade ago but still you’d be surprised how many people still believe in the integrity of journalism and regard a well known news agency, network or newspaper name as an instant proof of validity.

So when the FOX account started spewing out messages about Obama’s death I kind of expected a certain part of the internet population to start blindly retweeting this, like they retweet all kind of nonsense…. It didn’t happen (or at least not as blindly as I would expect it)! In fact the tweets I saw about it all identified the fact the account was hacked.
I think that’s great, it proves we’re starting to mature into the new age of unlimited access of information. Instead of blindly believing and following what others say or write we try to verify. We take a more sceptical approach to news and news suppliers and check up on more sources before believing it. And… we’re more aware about the dangers of hacking.

I know most of you won’t see this as anything special but I really think it is. Not so long ago I tutored a group of senior citizens on using a computer. This was a challenge to say the least. For their age these people were advanced as they actually were interested in learning this new phenomonon. In all truth though some of them struggled to even grasp the simplest concept of mail or internet information. Teaching them to be vigilant with what they could and what they shouldn’t believe (phising, hoaxes, spam, unvalidated information) really was a hell of a job. They were used to libraries with books that had been edited, scrutenized and categorized into nice definitive catogories like ‘science’ and ‘fiction’. So all that unvalidated info confused them.
Similarily intriguing I think is the group of youngsters, that although generally pretty well aware of the lack of validation on certain internet information still choses to believe blindly sometimes. Is it stupidity or lazyness, I’m not sure but I do find it fascinating how easliy they sometimes just take the internet info as fact.

So the lack of response to the Obama news shows we’re getting there. We are learning how to digest the info that is out there in cyberspace and when a supposedly verified Social Media account starts announcing the US president’s death we are critical and don’t get into a frenzy.

Now if we could only do the same when a major internet company announces the hottest new Social Media network….

Twitter DM's not private…. Weiner watch out!

Applications can use the Twitter API  to get you to grant them access to your twitter account without having to share your username and password. You would expect your DM’s to be excluded though by default from the information (eg. Tweets, Favs, Lists, etc) that applications can than access or at least make it configurable. Apparently this is not the case! See this blog by Tweetster.de (in German) in which they unearthed it. It means that as of day 1 any application you granted “READ + WRITE” access to your Twitter account had access to your DM’s and potentially could even send them out on your behalf…..?!?
Twitter seems to be aware and working on a solution (planned for the 30th of June) and has added a notification to the Access granting page:
I’m feeling a perfect ‘Weiner‘ – excuse popping up here. ” No sir, I didn’t put those pictures up, it was a twitter app that I authorized to access my Twitter account! It took pictures while I was drying myself after a shower without me even knowing it and posted them to my DM’s…It wasn’t me, I swear!“. Oh wait, too late, he admitted to putting them up there themselves…..
It just shows. Leave your Frankfurter out of it or the Germans will find it!
Thanks to @ThomasBahn for bringing it to my attention by tweeting about it!

Error handling

Love this! Something goes wrong while writing a DM on twitter and in stead of deflecting blame (“Something went wrong”) or assigning blame (“Oops, it seems you did something wrong”) it simply takes full blame for the problem. Wish more sites / software would be so insightful!

So Twitter, now you’ve got the error message right….. please solve the problem too!

Smart ways to use Twitter commercially

Twitter is a lovely tool to keep in touch with your friends, customers and contacts and learn what they are doing. But how can you use it for business purposes? I had a discussion with some of my colleagues and a fellow Business Partner recently about this. Because there certainly are opportunities!

Ok, yes I know. There are some nitwits out there that think that blasting spam-like tweets across their networks with advertisements links is a good way of using Twitter commercially but I block those immediately and so do most of the people I know. Not interested in those and in my opinion certainly not a good use of twitter! If anything, those tweets put me of from using that companies products or services at all. So how can you use twitter then? Well you can use it to interact with your users. Don’t forget: With hundreds of millions of people on twitter this is is an amazing channel to use for name building and branding.

I love twitter and use it regularly in my own personal and business life. So I tend to tweet about the things that happen to me. I recently installed a Beta release of Firefox because I wanted to try out a cool new feature that was in it (Tab Candy but that is a totally different story). While doing so I found out that my favorite Firefox add-in “Yoono” wouldn’t support the Beta release causing it to cease working. Bummed out by this I tweeted the following:

This was just an observation. I wasn’t actually addressing anyone. I took it for what it was and thought I’d have to use an alternative tool in the mean time and was tweeting this. But within 10min I got the following tweet:

Well, nice” you might say but at that moment I was seriously contemplating to use an alternative which would have meant I would have ditched the Yoono tool all together and installed a competitors product. By simply tweeting me a link though, they helped me with my problem, gave me the feeling I mattered to them as a customer and kept me on their product. Effectively they gave me the ‘warm, fuzzy feeling’ that ensures I will not forsake their product any time soon!
Commercial? I would say so, I’m even writing this blog about it!

A second way of using Twitter is by letting your users do the talking. This example is again taken from my personal experience.

Earlier this week I did a session on social plugins for Lotus Notes including a product called Gistat the NLLUG event. One of the attendees tweeted about this:

A couple of hours later this was retweeted by one of the engineers at Gist:

Very clever. They simply retweet a tweet from a user that is appreciative about the product and that mentions it is being talked about at an official event. This gives the product an objective credibility outside of the Gist companies claims. Again, is this commercial? Well I think so! Customer loyalty and credibility ensure people stay with your product and might even recommend it to their contacts and getting your customers to talk positive about you in their network is the best advertisement there is!

Tips on using Twitter for your product/company:

  1. Have a company Twitter account (company or product name) and post on it regularly. Mention updates, enhancement, future developments, etc.
  2. Obey twitter etiquettes, this is important!!
  3. Follow what is said about your product on twitter. They might not always directly mention your twitter account or hashtag so use filters and search tools to search for variations of your products name. In the Gist example above for instance the @Gist name tag or #Gist hashtag aren’t used at all but the name ‘Gist’ and in this case even the site ‘www.gist.com’ are. Both should be included in your search filters.
  4. Retweet positive feedback about your product but don’t overdo it. If you retweet every mention of your product your followers might get annoyed. Try to limit it to one positive tweet every couple of days. That will keep the good vibe without it looking arrogant or becoming spam like.
  5. Answer tweet questions on your product if you can and think they could be relevant to others. It shows goodwill and commitment and your network is assured you take them seriously. At the same time, don’t try to answer all. Your network is following you, not every user that might tweet a question or remark about your product. So they will only see what you answer, not what is being asked/said (unless you retweet them). Answering tweet questions shouldn’t become a day job in itself, you probably have some formal support channels for that.
  6. Use DM (Direct Messages) to communicate with people if you don’t want the rest of your network to see a certain conversation.
  7. Use personalized or support accounts for answering questions. In the above example Gist has a company Twitter account for general messages and updates but the retweet was done by an actual employee called Greg whose twitter account conveniantly is GregAtGist ensuring the link with the company. In the Yoono example a YoonoSupport account was used. So split support tweets from marketing tweets in this way and give your responses a personal feel (people like that).
  8. Be appreciative and generous. Thank people for their compliments (which in itself is a way of retweeting the message) and suggestions (if they are valid and on your roadmap).

And a final one that might be out of your hands already….. Make sure your company or product name is unique because otherwise following it on twitter becomes a whole lot more difficult!

Silly Season – Breaking news

The one thing that Social Media has tought us is that you can never predict what is hot or not. Even the most trivial thing can be made into a straight out hype on the Internet within a day.

Take the infamous “Blumenkübel”. Now you might think ‘What?’ and yes I thought that as well. But still this word made it into the WorldWide Trending list on Twitter, has a Facebook page with thousands of followers and was mentioned on major news sites. It has been one of the topics for the last two days on the internet.

So what is it all about then?
Well simply put Nothing really. It’s a non-story, something to talk about in the absence of serious topics (summer recess). ‘Blumenkübel’ means flowerpot in German and refers to an article in an obscure local German magazine two days ago about a flower pot outside an elderly home that got broken by vandals.

Someone started twittering about it and within hours this story just got totally hyped. Worldwide people were twittering about……. a broken flower pot.
Some of them not even knowing what the word meant at all. Al thanks to social media. Would you have predicted that a broken flower pot would have gotten that much attention??

Funny detail, the author of the article just started and this was one of her first articles. Now that’s a way to make an entrance!