Monday, October 24, 2011

Throughout my career, I have seen several fads come and go in software development methodologies, tools and processes:
  • Structured programming, Object-oriented Development, Aspect-oriented development
  • Methodologies like Waterfall, spiral, iterative development cycles, Agile, SCRUM, CCM 
  • Fully integrated development environments like visual studio, eclipse.
  • Languages like ADA, Fortran, C/C++/C#, Java, Groovy/Grails, .....
After years of management and organizational behaviorist trying and figure out how to harness the ever changing requirements of product development, dynamic competition, and the innovative energy of software engineers, they finally gave up! Gave control to the engineers! And we always deliver on time, with high quality, and with all of the features the customer wants. Ok not really, but with some of the new methodologies like Agile and SCRUM appear that way at first glance.
Agile is really not that new. The Agile Manifesto came out in 2001. Just after the great Dot Com boom and bust. The group that came up with the manifesto came from several different software anarchist individuals that wanted to give more power to the engineering teams and get away from the arcane methodologies that produced more paperwork than source code. Words like self-organizing; cross-functional, adaptive-development came out of this group of 17 software developers. The key values that the Agile Methodology focuses on are:
  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan
Many of these values fly in the face of micro-managers of the middle management ranks today. Think about the last time you sat down with your manager or director and they said they wanted a plan, documentation on how everything was to be done and then you could start doing your work. These software engineers came up and told management enough we know if we focus on these key items then we can deliver.
This great experiment in software development started to take hold and there are several case studies out there for agile development in small teams < 20 people. The same is not true for larger teams. Products that have large teams suffer from too many communication channels, distributed teams, and too many moving parts to keep control of. Although it appears that agile breaks down with larger teams, there are some groups trying to introduce agile methods and principles into large teams by mixing Methodologies. This is still a very new area in Agile and organizations are still trying to figure out how to make it work in a predictable manner. With being so data driven that is probably why it has not moved as quickly. Also many of our teams are larger than the 20 or so that agile seems to work best in. When was the last time you saw a development/validation team that was < 20 people. It does not happen very often.
One of the ideas that is floating around is a hybrid plan that allows for high-level planning, architecture and design, and allows for the smaller teams to value the four key values of agile, like working software, customer collaboration, responding to change and valuing the individual. The idea behind this methodology is to break the product up into components that can be developed, tested and delivered independent of each other. The combination of components together makes up a complete product which is delivered by an integration team that is agile itself. This is not an easy endeavor and requires great communication, face-face team, tracking of component and their progress, and trust. Let me say again Trust. Trust that all of the individual development teams are gathering requirements from their customers, other development teams, or the integration team. Trust that teams will deliver on time and what they said they would deliver.
I am working on writing up our experiences from this hybrid approach which should be coming in another blog soon.
Helpful links:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Social Media Campaign Tips

As a political candidate, your online presence is one of the most important things you can control. Your public image can be heavily affected by the way you appear on the Internet. We've looked at candidates' pages, and found the following tips for establishing a solid web presence.There are three primary networks you should focus on as a political candidate, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Each of these sites target a different demographic, and require different tactics to utilize them properly. The following are a few tips we found while searching through some candidates' pages.

Most political campaigns already prepare TV ads, expand your reach by uploading all of your materials to YouTube. Not only does it increase your online presence, it gives media outlets an official source for campaign materials. Plus, it provides an easy way to add video capability to your campaign site, all hosted for free and integrated with minimum effort. Posting regular updates to YouTube is important, updates are pushed out to all followers of your channel.
Remember that there is no distribution cost for videos placed on YouTube, use this to your advantage. Upload anything that might be of interest to the public relating to your campaign, whether it be recent speeches, a response to a statement, or clips from a recent interview. Having your videos up for public consumption allows you to appear more transparent to the public, and it costs next to nothing. Additionally, news stations have picked up the trend of using YouTube as a source for videos on candidates in the running. The videos you upload to YouTube just may get some free airtime.
Additional Tips:
  • Upload often. You want to give the impression that your campaign is active. Uploading videos of events, campaign ads, and speeches raises online awareness of these events.
  • Highlight videos are good. Ordinary YouTube accounts are limited to 10 minutes, but most viewers just want to see the good bits. Uploading long passages in multi-part formats is acceptable, but make sure you have something to placate the less interested user.
  • Embed your videos into your campaign site. Videos are a good way to get your message across in a quick, condensed form. Your landing page should have some sort of introduction to yourself as a political candidate, with recent video updates off to the side. Just make sure to avoid auto-playing videos—these are likely to turn off visitors very quickly.
So far, Twitter has shown to be a primary gathering spot for media outlets and people dedicated to particular causes. Twitter is nice because it gives you easy, direct contact with your supporters and followers, via @ replies. Additionally, the mainstream media has been using Twitter as sources for stories; it’s hard to take something out of context when it’s only 140 characters.
Additional Tips:
  • Don’t feel obligated to follow anyone outside of direct campaign workers. You can still see what people are saying about you in your replies. You should almost always have more followers than people you’re following.
  • Not everything you say on Twitter has to be important. Updating like a normal person helps people relate to you more. You might want to run two profiles, one for personal use and one for your campaign.
  • Add images. Services like Twitpic, yfrog, and tweetphoto add some flair to your stream, again helping your followers relate to you as a person in addition to the campaign. Sending a few candid pictures of various events on the fly helps people stay interested in the events at hand. (It’s really easy to update these from a BlackBerry, iPhone, or Android device.)
Facebook’s public pages are a great way to communicate with a mass audience. In many ways, a public facebook page serves as a sort of minisite for your campaign, allowing you to post links to your blog posts, videos, and status updates. There’s a good chance that many visitors to your facebook page are not the same type of people that frequent your campaign page. Make sure that your posts, links, and videos show that you are an active candidate on the scene, and that the overall feel of the page matches your agendas. It’s relatively easy to update Facebook with your activity on other sites, having your other sites update Facebook is very useful in keeping your followers up to date.
Additional Tips:
  • Update often, but not as often as Twitter. You might want to link your Facebook page with the campaign page I mentioned earlier, as opposed to your personal feed. Facebook users like to see occasional updates from the pages they are following, but they’re primarily interested in their friends. Twitter is much more even as far as engagement rates for followers.
  • Link your page to important events, videos, and blog posts. While twitter is handy for this, Facebook serves better as a hub for information, as you’re given much more space on your profile page. Fill it up with campaign info, upcoming events (don’t use invites, just post them), and videos about your campaign.
  • For the most part, disregard comments made on posts. This sounds awful, but really, those threads get large and off-topic. Twitter’s @ system is much more focused, as someone has to take actual effort to mention you. Their comments could be good for analysis, but other than that, there really isn’t much to them that’s worth replying to personally.

    Friday, February 26, 2010

    Creating Mindshare & Market Share in Tough Times (Tech Coire Event Review)

    I went to my first networking event in the Sacramento area last night sponsored by Tech Coire. I recently joined Tech Coire on the advice of a HR recruiter. I am glad I took the advice. The group was very well rounded. Not everyone there was a techno geek. There were the techno geeks there for sure, but there where bankers, businessmen, VCs, CPAs, and geeks. Good mix of people and the networking opportunities where great. About 100 people there at the event which in my mind is just right for networking.

    The guest speaker was the primary draw for the night. I think if the guest speaker was Linus Torvalds the bankers and CPAs would not have shown up. But the guest speaker (Libby Gill) had something to say to everyone. "Branding, Branding, Branding". There was a good interaction with the group and her presentation. She knows how to involve the group in her presentation which made the presentation very informative, hands on, and fun.

    Libby first showed us several brands and the characteristics of great brands. Then she gave five strategies make brands great: Live and breathe your Brand, Stand out from the Herd, Craft a "Sticky" Message, Blast your Brand, and Expand your Brand.

    Characteristics of a Great Brand

    • Authenticity
    • Reliability
    • Consistency
    • Deliver your Message, Make it clear
    • Confirm Credibility
    • Connect Emotionally
    • Motivate the buyer
    • Create consumer habits

    Live and breathe you brand

    You need to figure out what the core business purpose is and make your brand shout that message. This is not a trivial task for many people. It takes time and introspection. You need to write down your values, beliefs and passions. What is your real purpose of the company. Once you do that take a survey. Ask someone you trust will be honest with you. Ask them the following question, "Describe me to someone that does not know me." The hardest part about this is just keeping your mouth shout, your ego at check and your pen moving.

    Stand out from the herd

    Identify your ideal customer. Now how do you reach you ideal customer. What motivates them? Next who is your primary competitor? What differentiates you from your primary competitor? What are your unique selling points? You need to stand out. Take your uniqueness and flaunt it. Make the forefront of who you are. Take your liabilities and create assets from them. A great example was what Libby did for Dr. Phil. At first his handlers wanted to diminish his big bald head. Her idea was to create an asset from the liability. So the brand became a close up shot of him and his big head.

    Craft a "Sticky" message

    You need to have a good elevator pitch and tagline. This is when the talk became interesting as she let people interested in putting themselves out there give their Tag Line. Everyone then got to guess what they did. No company name just the tagline. After a minute or so of guessing and comments, you then got to give a short elevator pitch to see if your tag line matched.

    So how did "Get Social Centered" do? Not to bad. Many people picked up that Yoly was a social media aggregator. After the presentation and several people came up to me and talked about the idea. So in those terms it seemed to have worked.

    Make sure the your website fits the brand. The website should be visually appealing, clean, simple, one message and give the visitor a call to action. Testimonials on the site are great and you need to be boastful about you/your company.

    Blast your brand

    Social Media (Yoly's sweet spot J ) is where it is at now. Use the social media sites don't let the social media sites use you. Check out the previous post about Engage PRs webinar. She basically said many of the same things that were said in the eBig webinar. Although she did bring up It is a place where you can reserve names on several social media sites. Looks like another tool to integrate into the Yoly technology.

    Expand your brand

    This last strategy I think is what many people forget. You cannot ignore your brand. You need to continually improve on your brand. Kaizen your brand. Follow the customers' needs as they change and adjust to their needs. Another great example of a disaster of thinking they were following the customers' needs was Coke/New Coke. Need a say more.

    This was great event with good conversation and great mix of people. If you are in the Sacramento area next month come and join the next Tech Coire meeting. I know I will be there.

    Wednesday, February 24, 2010

    PR and Social Media (EBig Webinar review)

    I attended an EBig webinar today on PR in the age of Social Media. It was given by Jeannette Bitz from Engage PR. The presentation was enlightening. She documented a strategy on how to integrate Social Media into your PR Strategy. Most of it is common sense, but if you are not familiar with social media it would be very foreign to you.

    Before the strategy there are some interesting statistics. 2/3 of publications are now vender and user generated content (Sam Whitmore Media Service 2008). Wow, that is lots of self-serving generated documentation. This is good and bad as customers now have a very large soap box. So having a strategy to working with social media in your company is important. Even if you ignore it you are participating. One of your customers will blog or tweet about your company, services or products. So you and your company are participating whether you ignore it not.

    So on to the strategy – Five Steps to integrate social media into your Marketing campaign: Develop Strategy, Identify your Social Media Audience, Solicit Support, Get Started, Measure and Evaluate.

    Develop Strategy

    You need to determine the message that you want the world to see in social media. Remember that social media is like anarchy. The rules are established by the mob. So you need to have a plan or your message will get blown around like a ship without a rudder. Establish a communication process for employees or your social media voices.

    Identify your Social Media Audience

    You already have a social media audience. You may not think you do, but you do. You need to find out who is your audience, your competitors, who are the social mavens (key influencers), what social media sites are best for you market. Once you wrap your head around that you need to identify what social media networks you will be going after and who you need to build relationships with.

    This may seem like an insurmountable task, but it has to be done. Back to the boat analogy. You have a rudder now, but you need to know where to navigate the ship. When the winds of change come and you get attacked it would be good to know who is there to give you points of reference and protection.

    Solicit Support

    If you cannot tell already, working with social media is not something you do once in a while. It will take time and effort. You need to prepare your resources for the time it will take. Spread the love. Make sure you don't drop your social media work on one person or one department. It is good to have a cross section of functional organizations participate.

    Once you have established a virtual cross functional team ( I love buzz words), you will need to feed the team periodically. Periodic brainstorming session keeps the team fresh as well as adding and removing team members periodically. It gives people a chance to get involved and have a break if they are getting burned out.

    Get Started

    One of the biggest problems to getting started is knowing where to start. Here are some tips that Jeanette gave in here presentation.

    • For blogs develop a list of topics
    • Create a library of videos prior to making a YouTube Channel (3-4 minutes tops)
    • Have some kind of internal review and approvals for linkedIn pages and twitter accounts.


    Now that you are generating content, you will find that people will comment. You need to respond to the comments. Nothing tells a customer that you care when you respond. Ask Toyota. Who decided to ignore problems and not communicate with their customer? Look where they are now. You should respond to posts within 24 hours. Remember that it is a community. Much like the community yellers in the 17th and 18th centuries, we have it again in cyberspace.

    Measure and Evaluate

    Now that you have things running you need to measure and evaluate how you social media strategy is going. Easier said than done. Every social media site has different types of measurements and ways they interact with users. You will need to analyze what social media outlet is working best for you, and which ones are liabilities. Time is important to all us and we don't want to waste time working on a social media site that 2 or 3 people are looking at.

    The Shameless Pitch

    I really liked the approach that Engage PR is using to work with companies. I really see a sweet spot for Yoly. Yoly helps people and companies get socially centered. In the initial planning Yoly can be used to find the social media key influencers, most influential social networks and blogs, and competitors. Once their strategy is working, Yoly can monitor and measure the effectiveness of their campaign.

    Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    Electronic Minutemen Fire a New Shot Heard 'Round the World

    Social Media gives the Power of the Pen to Everyone

    Social Media has become an important tool in American Politics. In an increasingly super-charged political atmosphere, a campaign's social media strategy can make or break a candidate. The Brown verses Coakley campaign for Senator Ted Kennedy's seat is a watershed example of how social media impacts the outcome of a race. We can learn a lot from how these campaigns used Social Media, how effective their use was, and the ultimate impact Social Media had on the outcome.

    Both candidates used the most popular social media tools: Flickr, Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter. Both campaigns appear to have understood how the tools work and what they had to offer. However, what is clear is that understanding how to use the tool and how to leverage the tool effectively in a campaign are very different things and the Brown campaign had the advantage and won the election.


    Flickr allows for the storage of photo albums with the feature that people can see the photos and write comments on them. Flickr has become the new way of sharing pictures with friends, family, and strangers all over the world. Both the Brown and Coakley campaigns uses this tool to show themselves with the common people.

    Statistics for Brown's use of Flickr:

    • Uploaded – 137 pictures no galleries.
    • Comments from people – 18
    At a high level, Brown's team appeared to use Flickr as a repository of pictures. It did not appear that the pictures were well and there were not very many pictures. However, one thing that they were able to do is to get comments on pictures, which indicates there was an active community reviewing their pages. This is a critical issue in Social Media - active communities.

    Statistics for Coakley's use of Flickr:

    • Uploaded – 6,648 pictures in several galleries
    • No comments from people.
    Coakley's team seemed to have a good understanding of how to use Flickr. The pages were very well organized and easy to navigate, which was important due to the significant number of pictures. Despite this, there were No comments and therefore no active community.


    YouTube has become as well known as TV in today's society. As such, as certain as candidates must have media spots on television and radio, they must also have media spots on YouTube. Evaluating Brown and Coakley's YouTube results give us a interesting picture of how Social Media impacts a campaign. In order to understand YouTube statistics, a few terms need to be defined:

    • Number of Videos – Number of videos loaded by the campaign into their YouTube channel.
    • Comments – Number of comments from people on the channel
    • Followers – Number of people registered to automatically receive updates when new videos are uploaded to the channel.
    • Channel Views – Number of times the channel has been visited by people.
    • Upload Views – Number of times a video has been seen on the channel.
    • Ratings – Number of people that have left ratings of the channel.
    YouTube Statistics for Both Campaigns
    Number of VideosCommentsFollowersChannel ViewsUpload viewsRatings
    With regard to the Number of Videos uploaded to the respective channels, Coakley used YouTube more than Brown with 71 videos compared to Brown's 59. But just as with Flickr tool, more does not appear to mean better. In this campaign, the number of Channel Views and Upload Views are overwhelming in favor of Brown with nearly ten times more views than Coakley. The key statistics are the nearly ten times the number of followers and the significant number of comments compared to Coakley. This demonstrably shows that Brown had an active YouTube community. Coakley, again, did not appear to have a community at all.

    Clearly, the Brown campaign built a community within YouTube and promoted the site with comments and downloads that created a buzz around the candidate. Another interesting technique that Brown's team used was automatically play one of the videos when the channel was clicked. This increased the Uploaded Views dramatically, which moved the video to the front of the search list on YouTube and other search engines.

    As with Flickr, Coakley appeared to have the content, but her team was not successful in building the community. It's not clear whether they didn't understood the need for community or didn't understand how to build one. Either way, with very few followers and very few comments, there was no vibrance in the community. Rather than a vibrant community, the YouTube channel appears to have just been a storage area for videos.


    Facebook is currently the undisputed king of Social Media. However, it only recently surpassed MySpace in usage and there are many competing Social Media sites coming on line everyday each with a unique set of features that attract new ways of interaction. Understanding each tool how it is used and how it can be leveraged to get your message out and get your vote out is critically important.

    Brown had over 150,000 fan page followers, 2,223 links, 212 discussion threads, and over 948 fan pictures including some not too flattering photos of his earlier modeling career. But the important thing was that there where a significant number of photos indicating a vibrant, active community. This leads to an important consideration in Social Media communities. Brown's campaign appeared to have a kind of "wild west" mentality and it appears that they did not control, or couldn't control, the community as much as Coakley appears to have done. Additionally, the famous thumbs up "likes" icon and comments on each post was always in the multiple thousands, which is further evidence of a very active community. His following was significant, active and as a result evangelized the candidate, promoting his ideas and encouraging others watching the community to get out the vote.

    Coakley had only an 1/8th of the number of followers Brown had. Comments and "likes" never exceded a couple of hundred and thus the community portrayed an unenthused, flat, and perhaps censured group. Coakley's message was very controlled, and with no real excitement or activity in the community there was no evangelizing. The key difference was the amount of participation allowed. Brown did not appear to censure his following, which appears to be a key factor in the vibrance his community had especially in comparison to Coakley.


    Twitter has become extremely popular over the last year with companies, state and local governments, news stations, and even some local bakeries finding useful ways to use Twitter to share information with their communities. The candidates did not ignore Twitter in their campaigns and appear to have used it to promote their message. Consider the following statistics:

    Brown's use of Twitter was consistent with his overall Social Media strategy and his campaign was able to build a vibrant Twitter community. More importantly, it is also clear that the strategy crossed the tool boundary. In other words, Brown's community wasn't limited to one Social Media venue. It becomes clear that a Social Media strategy transcends the tools.

    Coakley's team appears to have understood how to use Twitter and used it effectively. They promoted their message with a good, steady stream of tweets and with a reasonable following. What starts to become clear in analyzing their use of Twitter is that there was a lack of cross tool promotion. Perhaps this was a result of the lack of community to promote with or it might be have been the result of a disjointed Social Media strategy that focussed on each tool independently. In other words, it is not effective to have a Facebook strategy, a Twitter strategy, or a Flickr strategy unless there is a overriding Social Media strategy that help promote community across the spectrum of tool choices. Viral social marketing depends on empowering the community to infect others with excitement for your message.


    Brown used another popular social media site called Ning. Ning allows users to create their own social media network, and gives them controls, tools, and forums that they can customize and control. Brown's Ning network was very active and geared toward his foot soldiers. His team used Ning to coordinate the rest of his social media activities. Talking points, event coordination, blog posts etc... were all found on Brown's Ning site. The user's on his Ning network where the most commonly commented posters on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

    Personal Web sites

    Most campaign managers focus on the website for the campaign. This is still a key important aspect to the social media campaign, but it should not be the only focus. This most evident when you look at the numbers from Alexa. (Alexa gives many different statistics about website page hits, time online etc..)

    As you can see in the pageview hits Brown's website that he more than doubled the number of page hits over Coakley. Not only was Brown's peak in Page hits higher it started it climb much earlier. But this only shows part of the story. The most interesting part of the website story is the amount of time people spent on each site.


    The graph shows that Brown's campaign made adjustments to their site so that people did not spend as much time on the site. You would think that this would be bad, but it shows that his information was easier to get to from the typical user. I attribute this to summation of information being on his website and real-time dynamic data being on his social network accounts. This is evident when you look at the "clickstream" of Brown's website. The highest linked from site to his website was Facebook. He drove traffic effectively from Facebook to his website. For Coakley it was Google.

    Another statistic that tells the story is the number of page views per user. At first thought you would think the higher the number the better. You want constituents on your website longer right?


    Both websites matched pretty closely until mid December. Then Coakley's pagviews per user increased while Brown's decreased. Again considering that Brown had almost double the number of pageviews overall. This shows that the actual number of users was approximately 50% higher. Why the change? Information was easier to get to on fewer pages with Brown's compared to Coakley's website. And Brown was driving more traffic to his dynamic and active pages on Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook.


    Brown may not have won because of his social media strategy, but his campaign strategy included effective use of social media tools. Coakley also used social media but her campaign used the tools as individual tools. And despite clearly understanding how to use the tools the strategy did not create or drive a community. Where there was some community, it appeared restricted and flat. On the other hand, Brown's community seemed to be more of a wild west, anything goes type of community. The people spoke in his forums and comments where authentic, or appeared to be. Understanding the balance of controlling the message while giving the community its voice is the way to propagate the message and increase involvement and vitality in an active community.

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010

    Social Media key to Brown win in MA

    Just saw this article about the rising importance of social media in political campaigns: MA Senate Race Poll- Scott Brown trounces Martha Coakley The numbers they show are interesting, but they only look at Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube statistics.

    If we go by the article's numbers, Scott Brown should win by a landslide, but the polls show a much more balanced election. This shows that rough statistics aren't very reliable as far as determining a candidate's chance of success. What's more important are the finer details.

    Numbers only show the number of followers/mentions that the politician has generated. What they don't show is where these followers come from, who these people are, or what these mentions were referring to. In many ways, this particular election is a good case study, since it's a local election with a national reach. Many of the followers and mentions on these pages are very likely to have come from places outside of the voting districts, seriously skewing the results.

    However, the raw data still shows some interesting trends. Political momentum is important in running a successful campaign, and the immediate availability of the data allows for fast political action. In the fast-moving political landscape of today, monitoring these statistics is vital.

    For more on social media and politics, please check out our web site at:

    Friday, October 9, 2009

    Yoly Week 2

    Marketing and Brands

    It's been a great week for us. We now have over 200 people on all of our social networks that are following our news streams. We have also gotten some people volunteering their expertise to help out with our effort. Thanks to all of you that have given your time and energy to our efforts. Don’t forget to tell your friends about Yoly and get them to start following our progress!
    We just received our stickers for our marketing campaign this week. The stickers and the T-shirts from the previous week are part of our push for the Beta Launch next month. Exciting times. As you can see from the photos we already have some great models for the shirts. All of them are Darren’s nephews and a niece. Walking billboards have already been seen with Yoly on their shirt in Idaho, Utah, California,
    Dallas, Houston, Missouri and Illinois. The word is spreading.

    Partnerships and Video

    We had a great meeting with another startup that is further down the road than we are. It was great to hear their startup story and learn from what they have already gone through. We are partnering with them to co-market Yoly and RezBuzz, an all-video resume service. They have a focus on colleges and helping college students differentiate themselves in this tough job market. They have had tons of press on NBC, CNBC, Fox news and several local stations all over the US. We will be working together to help promote Yoly and RezBuzz as tools that can help college graduates find opportunities for work.

    Development update

    We had another release this week. We have made improvements in performance, integrated Facebook contacts, improved the contact application, and changed the interest elaboration user interface. One of the coolest new features is a mashup with Wikipedia to suggest additional search words for an interest. We have also added the ability to filter results based on words or phrases. You can check out the latest release at Register today and give us some feedback.

    Banking and accounting

    Every startup needs to save money and spend money. It is best to keep things separated from your personal money. It can be difficult to work out what money went to the company and what you spent on your own. So we opened up an online bank account, which cost us nothing. Another startup move since money is tight. To do our bookkeeping we decided on Quickbooks basic which gives us the basic functionality that we need to keep our books. Keeping the money separate is the only way to go.  I look forward to another productive week this week with another release and the start of our marketing campaign at the beginning of next week. See you next week.