Category Archives: Event

Is your company seeing a bozo explosion?

Guy Kawasaki gives some great advice to those of us who work in companies “how to prevent a bozo explosion.”

#9 got a little close to home. ;-) *

Anyway, one thing that I will always appreciate about Bill Gates is that he lets me walk around Microsoft with a camcorder so I get to study one of the world’s best businesses from inside (how many business school graduates get to do that?).

And, even better, I get to meet a LOT of people from a lot of different businesses, so have collected a few of my own rules about bozo explosions.

There are a few other things I’d add to Guy’s list after studying the problem in detail:

#15: If you are a software developer and if you spend more time in meetings than writing code you might be in a bozo explosion.
#16: If the first question out of your manager’s mouth is “can this be monetized?” you might be in a bozo explosion.
#17: If the name for your product is something like “Contosa Bozo Exploder 2006” you might be in a bozo explosion.
#17B: If your product’s box has 45% more text on it than an iPod box, you might be in a bozo explosion.
#18: If, when an employee comes up with a new idea the answer back is an email with the words “business value” repeated 13 times you might be in a bozo explosion.
#19: If, when you ask a business leader “what’s your philosophy?” and they answer “huh?” well, then, you might be in a bozo explosion.
#20: If more than three people have to be consulted to spend less than $100 million to acquire a company, or build something new, then you might be in a bozo explosion. (Committeeism guarantees slowness, lack of philosophy, and lack of creativity).
#21: If your marketing team can change the spec after the development team has started development, you might be in a bozo explosion. (Or, if your development team doesn’t communicate well, or listen to, the marketing team you might be in a bozo explosion).
#22: If your company forces you to work computers built in 1999, you might be in a bozo explosion (you do realize that having two monitors has been shown by several studies to make people up to 15% more productive, right? Are you working on two or more monitors yet? I keep visiting lots of companies and am suprised to see how many companies force their workers to use small, low-resolution, single monitor setups. They are literally throwing 5% productivity down the drain. For what? A $1,000 per worker savings? It gets worse when we’re talking about software developers who have to wait minutes for their companies’ code to compile (I’ve seen so many horror stories here it isn’t funny).
#23: If your best employees leave you might be in a bozo explosion.
#24: If you’re not allowed to write on your blog that you are in the middle of a bozo explosion you might be in the middle of a bozo explosion (hint: we don’t have such a rule at Microsoft).
But, back to #9. You knew I couldn’t resist, couldn’t you? Well, I personally think that a major company (IE, one with more than 1,000 employees) that only has ONE paid blogger IS potentially a bozo factory. I personally believe every employee should blog. But, then, I’m an edge case.

The asterisk is because my employee review goals show that I’m not paid to “only blog.” I’m facing 197 emails tonight (many of which don’t have anything to do with blogging). Tomorrow I’m going to Danny Sullivan’s Search Engine Strategies conference in New York to speak. And, really, my “day job” is to do videos for Channel 9 anyway. I don’t look at that as blogging. Most of my blogging is done at nights and on weekends, so Microsoft gets blogging mostly for free. Who’s the bozo here? :-)

How can you get out of being in a bozo factory? I’m seeing some best practices:

1) Stop having meetings. Put a 23-year-old in charge and let her ship and get out of her way. At Microsoft that’s Sanaz Ahari (and Scott Isaacs and a few others who are just kicking butt). Or, have a “meeting dictator.” At Amazon Jeff Bezos is famous for coming into meetings and challenging the team who organized the meeting “give me the three reasons why we’re having a meeting.” If they can’t answer, he leaves. Hint: it isn’t good when Jeff Bezos leaves your meeting like that.
2) Have your development team over for Xbox and pizza instead of keeping them locked in their offices during ship nights. I watched Jeff Sandquist do this and his team has done magical stuff in just a few weeks. (You’ll see their work real soon now, it blew me away when I saw it last week. It’s amazing what three developers can do in less than a month).
3) Tell your development team to do something better than the competition. Anything. And then fund it. Expect it. I’ve been watching the Virtual Earth team under Steve Lombardi and have been impressed.
4) Listen to your blog’s commenters, even if it hurts. The IE team hasn’t had the public corner turn yet, but those guys respond to every customer’s request I’ve been getting. Often within minutes (you should see the email I get and pass along). At some point that’s gonna mean they get a killer new feature that you weren’t expecting. I remember one post they had had about 1,000 comments. Or visit the IE wiki. That was started by customers. Not done by a Microsoft employee and it’s watched often by the team.
5) If your team blogs, even when it has no customers, or worse, is derided by the community, you’re on your way off of the bozo explosion. Something interesting happens when you have a conversation with people about what they want. It focuses meetings and gets things going.
6) Get great competitors. Seriously. Stuck in a bozo explosion? Watch what happens when your competitors get rid of their bozos. Everyone notices and that pushes management into action. If they don’t, then you really know you’re on a bozo explosion and that’s a good opportunity to leave.
7) Keep people from changing the spec. A few teams at Microsoft are developing by using scrum (an agile development process where you lock down the requirements for a month and keep people from changing them while you “sprint” to complete that work) and are seeing great results. One manager told me this transformed how they worked and got stuff done.
8) Reward good work. Publicly. With cash. Nothing will get more good people to want to join your team. Nothing.

How do you know you’re in a Bozo explosion? Have you been in a company that successfully has gotten out of it?

Back to my passions

Hey, Guy, how come you haven’t invited me over for breakfast? I thought you were my friend! :-)

Seriously, though, if you’re a company or a blogger and want a link, you don’t need to suck up. Just go to my comment and post your freaking URL along with a pitch of why your blog, software, new idea, etc rocks. But more on that in a bit.

Anyway, this weekend was really incredible. Our party was just over the top.

I find myself asking “now what?”

I’m asking myself what’ll get me excited to get out of bed tomorrow. Thanks to Rick Segal for putting that question in my head (he took Patrick and I out for sushi and we spent a bit of time talking life and technology).
Passion. It’s coming up in lots of conversations.

Today I had lunch with the team from Ether.com. I’m not allowed to say what they showed me, but I saw the fire in their eyes (that’s program manager Ron Hirson on left, and developer and co-founder Scott Faber on right). The passion for building something that changes the world. If you’re someone who sells your time and want a new way to do that (like, say, a lawyer does) then you should sign up for their beta.

I love that passion! It’s why I love hanging out with geeks. People who build things. People who put it all on the line. Who risk everything for an idea.

We need more people like that. Enough talking about me. Who’s the geek sitting tonight in a dark room typing code into a keyboard and hitting F5 to see how much further they’ve gotten in their dreams?

But, back to the Guy Kawasaki post: why suck up to anyone? If you are good, people will notice. They’ll stand in line overnight to buy your product. Word will get around. All you need is a few people to kick it off (and they don’t need to be the A list either).

I get bummed out when I hear people assume that getting me (or other A listers, or even someone who really has huge influence like Walt Mossberg or Steven Levy) to write about them will make their company.

Here’s a little secret: want to get me passionate about something? Get every single person in my life passionate about it.

Why did I return my Cingular aircard and buy a Verizon EVDO one? Cause my friends were passionate. My readers were passionate. And they were right. At Oakland my Cingular card would barely work. Verizon has five bars here and is fast, fast, fast.
Why did I try CoComment? It’s not cause Laurent took me skiing. Well, that helped. But I started hearing about CoComment from other people at the LIFT conference. Laurent didn’t come to the “A list” first. He just was passing them out to anyone. Passion. It’s not about sucking up.

It’s about being so excited by what you’ve built that you’ll tell anyone. Remember Flickr? Two years ago Stewart Butterfield was so excited that he was just pulling anyone who would listen aside at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology conference and showing them his stuff. That passion won me over as a customer and continues winning me over to this day. (Although he better watch out, cause Albert Lai of Bubbleshare is even more passionate than Stewart was!).

So, don’t suck up, get excited!

PS: are you excited about something you’ve built? Just post it here. Don’t send me email. If you send me email your excitement might get lost in my inbox. 133 emails to go.

Tips for joining the A list

I keep getting asked “how do I get more traffic?” Or, “how do I get TechCrunch to notice my blog?”

Quick: go to Technorati and do the brrreeeport search. Now, which headline and opening text grabs you? Makes you wanna click? Hint: we’re all being slammed with hundreds of sites every day. The more interesting you can make your headline, the better. Think about what your headline will look like in the search engines and use every one as an opportunity to grab a little bit of traffic.

Now, look at the 98 brrreeeport results on Technorati. All are on the same topic, right? But some headlines stand out from the noise. Which ones grab your eye? The one that says simply “brrreeeport report?” Or the one that says “brrreeeport beats Mohammad cartoon?” Conflict is a story telling device. Use it in headlines!

Also, notice that Technorati has a way to “claim” a blog and if you do that you’ll get a little picture next to every one of your posts. Posts that have pictures win!

One other fun thing? Brrreeeport is a “top search” on the Technorati home page right now.

Need another tip on how to join the A list?

Here’s another one: be different. What do I mean by that?

Well, Dan Wieringa asked me for some help with his blog. It’s a decently written blog, but it isn’t getting much traffic.

First notice how his blog looks very similar to tons of other blogs? That’s hurting him.

One of TechCrunch’s popularity secrets is that he uses lots of graphics and screen shots. Makes his blog more pleasing to the eye. Sorta the way Technorati looks better than Google’s blog search.

Another thing? Dan’s title tag is boring. You need some personality! Look at Darren Barefoot’s title tag. Lots of personality and gives me some sense of who Darren is. Oh, and his blog’s design sticks out too. Different. Clean. Personal. Who wouldn’t fall in love with that smile? Yeah, WordPress.com makes it hard to change the template right now (Matt Mullenweg promises that’s changing soon, but in the meantime you can get ready by doing the other things — come up with a better title tag, write better headlines, work on finding interesting content that’ll help you stick out of the crowd on search engines and memetrackers.

Another way? Steph Booth taught me this one: tag often. Tag frequently. Tag better. In WordPress.com your categories are also tags. Don’t worry about using too many tags. The more tags you use, the more likely someone will find you in a search engine.

Another tip? Make friends with other bloggers. You know, if 15 z-listers link to you, are you a z-lister, or did you just move up to the m-list? Hint: it doesn’t take that many links to be seen as an “authority” on Technorati. Well, unless you’re Om Malik and then Technorati just thinks you don’t have any authority. Yikes. But, anyway, usually you will get noticed if a few blogs link to you and it’s not hard. Got a good post today? Why don’t you email a few people (one at a time, not in a group) and say “hey, I think you’d enjoy my post today on xxxxxx.” Don’t beg for a link, just show some passion about what you’ve written or posted.

Or, heck, do what I’m doing this week — just say screw it all and go skiing. See ya from the slopes tomorrow!

While I’m slushing at Keystone, Colorado as part of the Bloggy Mountain High trip (yes, my way was paid for, so this link is a sponsored link) why don’t you stick in your own URL and toot your own horn and join the A-List! Or, at minimum, post a good tip for getting noticed!

I’m not a Guy kind of Evangelist

You know, my title (technical evangelist) bugs me. It bugs others too (especially in Europe, where people give me very strange looks when they see my business card). Why? Cause of its religious connotations. I didn’t realize why it bugged me until I read Guy Kawasaki’s “Art of Evangelism” post today (he was the tech industry’s first evangelist, worked for Apple).

See, he looks at the products he’s evangelizing as a “cause.” I don’t look at the world that way. If I have a “cause” it’s the digital lifestyle. That’s what I’d like to get people into. Wanna know when the next bus is coming? Here in Seattle you can visit a Web site and see exactly where the bus is (thanks to GPS, servers, the Internet, Web browsers, and such). Did that require any Microsoft stuff? No. (Although it’s easier to use a Tablet PC at a bus stop while standing up instead of a more traditional laptop).

But, go even further. I really don’t want religious customers. I want skeptical, educated, pragmatic customers. This is why I talk about my competitors so much and let you know what they are doing right (just last night I pointed out that the MacBook has a better power cord design than a PC, even if I did it in a snarky way). By the way, business schools teach that you should NEVER talk about your competitors cause your customers might like their products better and leave.

I’d rather have customers who go and seriously consider Linux and Macs first. If I lose them as customers, that’s OK. They weren’t mine to begin with (and they’ll stay my friends). Why? Cause it’s more important to me that they be happy.

But, if they come back and say “you know, that Tablet PC is more useful for me than anything I’ve seen on the other side of the fence” then that customer will be 100x more excited about the products I’m offering than if he or she felt “forced” to use them due to some marketing lockin or scheme or some cultish attitude.

This is why I’m not bothered by what’s bothering BusinessWeek today (that the press hypes up Apple). I find I have more fun with customers who’ve done their homework too and can explain exactly why they bought the machine they’ve bought. That’s exactly what I am asking my son to do. I don’t mind if he buys a Mac as long as he’s done his homework and has considered all the choices on the market. Some people who buy into the “technology is religion” meme think that’s heresy. I’m bringing him a Lenovo Tablet PC tomorrow to take notes on so he’ll know exactly what the pros and cons of owning either machine will be.

Some other things. There’s another reason for an evangelist never to tell a lie. Credibility. Who will listen to an evangelist who tells you something that you already know isn’t true. If, for instance, I told you that the iPod isn’t cool, wouldn’t you stop listening to me? So, when I have something that is worthy of your attention (say a new Xbox, or a new phone) will you have unsubscribed and written me off as a religious jerk?

Not to mention that even if you buy a competitor’s product (like a Mac) we probably will have something else to sell you. Like, say, a new keyboard.

Oh, and Guy says to demo demo demo. Damn straight! I’m taking his advice. I’ll be demoing Windows Vista at the Northern Voice conference in Vancouver on February 10. I’m looking for a few skeptics to be there!

By the way, what Microsoft’s Evangelists mostly do is help software developers build software for the next version of whatever we’re selling. Imagine if Bill Gates says “today we’re shipping Windows Vista but there’s no software that works on it.”

An evangelist in that role needs to be up on the latest technology (for instance, we know that Windows Vista doesn’t run in administrator mode anymore, so that’ll break some applications that software developers wrote for OS’s where they could assume most users would be in administrator mode. That’s why we talk to developers a lot about what that means and how to make their apps take advantage of Windows Vista).

It also means that we need to be great relationship experts. If a developer is having trouble with getting their app to run, for instance, we need to find the right person inside Microsoft who can fix their problems (or, who can explain why that problem is happening and how to fix it).

If you ask around the folks on my hall they are usually very pragmatic and know the market very well. We regularly have engineers here from SAP, Siebel, Adobe, Google, Yahoo, and Apple. You think they put up with religious attitudes? Yeah, right.

So, what do you want from your technology evangelist?

TechCrunch peeks into Picaboo

I was at Picaboo last week and Michael Arrington picks up on that and does a full review of their software. I just emailed all the evangelists at Microsoft and told them that TechCrunch is a “must read.” He’s covering everything hot in the industry, particularly in the Web 2.0 industry. I really like Picaboo. They are a Silicon Valley startup but aren’t afraid to tell the rest of the hype machine to sit down and be quiet. Gasp. Installable software from Silicon Valley using .NET? Funded by Kleiner Perkins? Who’d a thunk it?