Archive for the 'Community' Category

Mar 30 2009

The Auteurs

Published by under Community,Movies

The Auteurs

Criterion launches a social network for film geeks.  One of the best implementations I’ve seen.  Forums, reviews, friends, pay per view.

I like niche communities — a lot — and I like them seperate and not under a big tent like Facebook. Reel-Time for saltwater fly fishing. The Auteurs for art films. Chowhound for food. I know there have been an attempt or two at a rowing network — but it fell flat for me.

Anyway, I’m dying to figure out the engine under Auteurs. It’s a nice piece of code.

2 responses so far

Dec 09 2008

General Mills’ Pssst… is a Weak Stab at Branded Community |

Paul Gillin takes General Mills to task for its branded community. Begs the question of who does a decent job with a branded community — aside from the usual product support forums, etc. — I can see some reasons for stumbling, but begs the question: who joins a community about bad yogurt?

“I just signed up for General Mills’ Pssst… membership club because I was interested in seeing how a big consumer products company assimilates all that we’ve learned about online communities and applies it to a super-brand site (plus, I love Lucky Charms!). It’s still early, but this site is off to a very weak start.

Pssst… is intended to bring fans of General Mills products closer to the company by inviting them into a members-only space where they can receive inside information, get coupons and samples and share their opinions about the company’s products. This is all the stuff that I preach organizations should do with branded communities. The site is produced in collaboration with GlobalPark, a company that manages online panels.

Pssst… is good in concept but bad in execution. I would not have launched the site in its current condition:

General Mills’ Pssst… is a Weak Stab at Branded Community |

3 responses so far

Nov 30 2008

MediaPost – Facebook, MySpace Aren’t Making the Marketing Cut –

From colleague Gary Milner, further dour sentiment towards Facebook and Myspace as marketing vehicles (see my earlier pointer to P&G’s new CMO saying essentially the same thing — marketers aren’t that capitvated by advertising next to photos of frat boys doing keg stands).

“However, more than half (55%) of the 180 responding chief marketers–representing brands with revenues ranging from $250 million to more than $10 billion–indicated low current interest in actually incorporating the networking sites into their plans.

“One-third said they’re “not interested at all” in getting Facebook and MySpace into their plans, and 22% said they’re “not too interested,” while 35% are very or somewhat interested.”


One response so far

Aug 07 2008

Malware Attack on Facebook – CSO Online – Security and Risk

Somehow this news from CSO Online that Facebook is a possible malware venue doesn’t surprise me. The number one annoyance in my experience is the incessant app downloads that ask a user to spam their friends to enable it for themselves. The app Lenovo is using during the Olympics from Citizen Sports is not malware, but, any perceptions by users that applications are risky is going to quickly injure confidence in the Facevok platform. IMHO.

“August 07, 2008 — CSO — The popular networking site Facebook is the target of a new attack that is spreading messages with malicious links.

Boston-based IT security and control firm Sophos is warning users about the problem. Sophos said Facebook user’s computer can be infected after they view a video that is infected with the bad code.

According to Sophos, messages left on Facebook users’ walls are urging members to view a video, which appears to be hosted on a Google website. But users who click on the link are taken to a site which urges them to download an executable file to watch the movie, according said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. The file downloads malicious code and displays an image of a court jester sticking his tongue out.”

Sophos: Facebook Malware Attack Puts Work Computers at Risk – CSO Online – Security and Risk.

No responses yet

Apr 15 2008

Digital Influence Mapping Project: Lenovo’s Social Score

Digital Influence Mapping Project: Corporate Blogging Grown Up

John Bell — he who helped us launch in 2006 and is now helping us with the Lenovo Olympic Blogger program, gives us a score in the company of other brands who are blogging:

“The Social Score (how connected are they: 1 to 5)

Lenovo gets a 4.5

Lenovo Blogs is growing in depth and breadth. That means they continue to add bloggs and bloggers. Unlike Wells Fargo, they tend to limit the number of bloggers on a single blog to somewhere between 1 and 4. The breadth part includes adding other social features like the Flickr gallery and feeds. I would guess we will see a YouTube gallery soon, Dopplr and other features.

No appreciable blogrolls anywhere. That seems to be a common issue with “official” corporate blogs. Linking feels like endorsement no doubt and that causes anxiety. Also, corporate blogs don’t jockey for popularity the way personal blogs do through link-baiting and eventual link-love. They rely more clearly on search results to connect with readers. Lenovo blogs shows up on the first two pages of Google results for Lenovo (but not ThinkPad).”

Thanks John.

One response so far

Apr 14 2008

Blog Aggregation Pages — best practices?

Published by under Community,Olympics

The challenge is to tie together 100+ blogs authored by Olympic athletes, coaches, friends and family into a single page.

Purpose of the page is:

  • Highlight the “post of the day” as determined by a blogger-in-chief
  • Permit the reader to scan the latest posts from the bloggers
  • Permit the reader to manage subscriptions to the RSS of those blogs to their preferred aggregator (Google Reader, Bloglines, etc.)
  • Publish Tweets
  • Publish latest shared media
  • Flickr/Picasa Photos
  • YouTube Videos
  • tags

Esteban Panzeri is on the job, and I suggested Alltop as one example of an interface example, but no one (Bhargava and Bell) seemed overly excited. And having visited Alltop a total of two times, I was stupid to reference something I don’t even use.

The ideal would be a shared Google Reader interface — all the functionality but constrained to a managed blogroll/OPML file. Public Google Reader. Possible? Second question is how to incorporate reader inputs. Third question: is it still too early to present a consumer web user with a call to action to click on an orange RSS button to subscribe to a feed? Are most consumers accustomed to a direct blog visit? I must dust off aggregator and feed reader adoption statistics.

Know of any good examples of blog network homepages? Should we be looking at HuffPo? CapeCodToday? Mark Cahill and I tried to tackle this with a community of saltwater fly fishing bloggers in 2003-2004, but it was too early to get much traction.

9 responses so far

Mar 02 2008

Social Media 201

I guess I stepped in the big cow-pie last week when I called out the SMM Pundits for overworking the elementary level of social media discourse – “be authentic!” “be transparent!” “it’s a conversation!” – as 101 Thumbsuckers. Now I am officially Mister SmartyPants 201 and feel compelled to play the part of know-it-all weenie. I guest blogged on a sample “201” topic for Jeremiah Owyang at Forrester on how to avoid blowing a corporate policy through a private action. I also threatened to give Jeremiah a list of example topics I want to see more discussion on. Here we go. In the Kawasakian Tradition of Blog Lists: here are ten random things that I don’t see a lot of discussion about:

  1. Tool and platforms: what tools a corporation uses for its social media platform says volumes about its credibility. I look at the footers: Is it a WordPress blog? Do they use Flickr for their photos? Do they license those photos as Creative Commons 2.5? Do they use MediaWiki for their wiki platform? Do they launder their feeds through Feedburner? Are there Digg and tagging tools? There are smart tools which to me indicate a deep understanding of certain basic precepts crucial to effective SMM. Are the tools favored by the organization also widely adopted by users or did the company seek a commercial vendor relationship and non-standard proprietary tools? Is an agency supporting and providing sysadmin functions?
  2. Pronouns: I have a bug up my you-know-what about the overuse of the Royal We in addressing one’s audience. Am I alone in viewing “we” as an attempt to dilute personal accountability for an organization’s actions? How many corporate SMM, community managers take accountability and responsibility on their shoulders by using “me” and “I?”
  3. Metrics: this is a 101 topic that is a 301 headache. SMM has no Internet Advertising Bureau or Web Analytics Association to codify a set of uniform measurements, and as all of us have to bow to the God of Accountability, how ROI is proven is going to be debated forever and ever. Let’s get off the “engagement” thing and go to the next level. Is it comment counts? Rank and influence? Pageviews and gross tonnage? Net Promoter Scores gathered through surveys?
  4. Rogue SMM: what do you do when a member of the organization launches into a blog brawl by stepping into a customer’s comments and says, “Blow it out your #$%, you have no idea what you are talking about you whiny $*%#%$@!” How can you manage the unmanageable? How do you keep you employees from editing the Wikipedia entry for your brand? What do you do when legal and security ask you to help them track down the identity of an anonymous employee blogger who is leaking company secrets? How do you educate rather than discipline?
  5. How to do SMM/SEO right: how do you promote favorable expressions about your brand and should you? When is it ethical to promote a piece of social media (e.g. “Digging”) and when is it unethical? (demoting a negative comment or flagging a negative comment as “objectionable” without identifying yourself. Knocking off hats to draw attention to yourself (something I a good at, it would appear.)
  6. Going Uplevel: what are your escalation paths? When do you pull the fire alarm? When do you declare Code Red and ask for all hands on deck in resolving an SMM crisis? Have you established crisis “service level agreements” with the legal and PR teams? Is there a formal mechanism for bringing an issue to the attention of an owner and getting a public statement out within a reasonable amount of time?
  7. Organizational Ownership: where does SMM belong? Customer service? Marketing? Public relations? All three?
  8. One vs many: a single corporate blog or many? How does SMM loosen control without losing control over the organization’s burgeoning ranks of bloggers? Where do you drawn the line between corporate and personal blogs.
  9. Review mechanism and buddy systems: how do your SMM statements (blog posts, forum discussions) get vetted and approved? Should they? How do you make your bloggers sensitive to the “RSS is eternal” phenomenon so that there is no such thing as a “deleted” post. Do you use a buddy system.
  10. The politics of being a know-it-all: okay, you’re the authority. You’ve done the Social Media 101 stuff, you’ve read the books, you went to the conference, you have all the right pundits in your RSS. You can b.s. about transparency and Marketing 2.0 and the ClueTrain with the best of them. You get your wish and now you’re the SMM person. How do you deal with those less enlightened recesses of the organization that view you as a loose cannon? Who do you threaten? How do you navigate the shoals of internal politics?

I could do ten more – throwing out topics is easy — delivering something substantial and actionable is another issue altogether. If 101 is theory and broad practice, 201 is operations and execution, the sort of stuff you’re going to stumble into as you go along. Dealing with customers and partners, critics and competitors – that stuff is either natural or it isn’t. Writing a solid corporate Social Media Marketing strategy document, knowing the difference between it and an SMM policy document, building a strong operation without paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in licenses and agency fees …. That’s SMM 201. I’ll try to tackle one of these every week – amidst posts about clams, the King Phillip War, sculling, and interactive/digital marketing. And, in the spirit of 101 advice, always end your blog posts with a call to action to your audience: tell me what is on your mind.

7 responses so far

Jan 14 2008

Ford: Car owners are pirates if they distribute pictures of their own cars

Published by under Community,WTF?

Ford: Car owners are pirates if they distribute pictures of their own cars – Boing Boing
Fester points at this legal head-scratcher on Boing Boing.

“Josh sez, “The folks at BMC (Black Mustang Club) automotive forum wanted to put together a calendar featuring members’ cars, and print it through CafePress. Photos were submitted, the layout was set, and… CafePress notifies the site admin that pictures of Ford cars cannot be printed. Not just Ford logos, not just Mustang logos, the car -as a whole- is a Ford trademark and its image can’t be reproduced without permission. So even though Ford has a lineup of enthusiasts who want to show off their Ford cars, the company is bent on alienating them. ‘Them’ being some of the most loyal owners and future buyers that they have. Or rather, that they had, because many have decided that they will not be doing business with Ford again if this matter isn’t resolved.””

I’d send 8 x 10 glossies of laptops, keyboards and towers to Lenovo’s fans if they wanted to have a calendar printer. Better yet, go to our Flicker stream and take what you need.

6 responses so far

Dec 16 2007

Sometimes the old tools are the best tools — Lenovo Forums launch

Most everyone is familiar with the online forum, the threaded discussion list, that foundation of online community that personified the concept in the Web 1.0 decade before blogs and wikis were understood or even discovered.

I got into the forum business in 1995 with two buddies, Mark Cahill at Vario and Thorne Sparkman, then an MBA candidate at Berkeley’s Haas School. We launched a simple online forum called Reel-Time for saltwater flyfishers, partly because all three of us were saltwater flyfishermen and also because I was making an extreme long tail point in 1995 that the web opened up infinitely discrete niches — hence one could form a community around fishing, then saltwater fishing, then saltwater flyfishing, then saltwater flyfishing on Cape Cod.

The system we used, at Thorne’s suggestion, was a freeware app called HyperMail used by nerds to archive and share email discussions (listserv). Thorne hired a geek to modify it and we launched it at Reel-Time as one of the first discussion systems on the net.


I was the sysadmin, or moderator, and every month I had to archive the posts and start a new month, usually opening the month with these simple rules and guidelines:

How to use this forum
David Churbuck (
Sun Jan 11 10:41:43 EST 1998 Welcome to the latest installment of the Reel-Time New England BBS.

Regulars to this forum can ignore these instructions, but if you are new, here are some simple tips.

The sort-by-date function is broken, always has been, always will. Therefore

This makes life much easier for everyone who wants to see what’s new and what’s not.

Don’t worry, your words are being written to the server. Press the button four times and guess what, your post will be written four times and you will look like a dolt. Don’t look like a dolt. Press the button once and be patient. As more messages are written, the posting process takes longer.

Third rule: Eat your peas and sit up straight and don’t try to sell stuff in here. Reel-Time depends on advertisers who pay their bills, people trying to slip in a freebie for their guide service, miracle lure, or naked bait girls want to meet you website get away with it once. only once.

This forum will go until it gets too big to handle, at which time it will archived.

Have fun, tight lines, and happy posting …

David Churbuck

That was it. Tools to delete posts, ban users, or otherwise “tend the virtual garden” were nonexistent. Chaos ensued but the community lives on, now on an up-to-date system called vBulletin which is still managed by Mark Cahill at Vario Creative Design.

Anyway — when I got to Lenovo two years ago there were no forums for users to discuss our products or seek technical guidance. There had been, in the old IBM PCD days, but it was a custom solution that was discontinued a few years before my arrival. I thought it would be a good idea to bring it back, if simply for the reason that I preferred to get my technical advice from other helpful users than an unknown tech support person who had to follow scripts that usually began with the helpful question: “Is the PC switched on?”

Mark Hopkins, who leads our social media efforts and blogs at Lenovo Connections, put together a strong case for investing in the return of a classic user forum. We considered a self-hosted model, using a program such as vBulletin, but in the end decided it would be more stable and secure if we teamed with an organization that specializes in corporate communities, Lithium.

It took a few months and a few presentations, but Mark made a masterful case for investing in the Lenovo forum project and with the assistance of Esteban Panzeri and Tim Supples, launched the forums earlier this month. Assisting in the creation of the forums were the moderators at, who lent us their valuable time and expertise in setting up the discussion areas and policies to govern their operation. Bringing the experts in from the beginning was probably the smartest thing we could have done, and already it’s paying off in terms of a high caliber discussion.

So, there it is. Check them out at I’ll post more on our strategy and how we intend to reward people for registering, participating and assisting.

3 responses so far

Dec 06 2007

“He Loved a Sunny Day, A Lobster Dinner, and Never Joined a Committee”

Published by under Community,General

That’s the epitaph my spiritual mentor, the late Rev. George Vought of The Brooks School, wanted carved on his gravestone. I can attest to the first two, and wish I could say the same about committee work. When I first moved to Cotuit full-time I was a 30 year-old sitting duck with a strong back and a weak mind, and within a year was sitting on the board of the local library, was secretary to the yacht club’s parents association, and spending a night every other week on the local historic preservation district planning board.

Running the annual July book fair for the library was the killer and within two years I was off of all boards, panels, and committees and haven’t sat on one since.

The same goes for professional awards, contests, and industry associations. My college advisor, the late John Hersey, told me writing contests were especially pernicious and said anyone who wrote fiction with a prize in mind was doomed to never receive one. Apparently Thomas Pynchon felt the same way, when the rarely photographed author’s publisher hired Professor Irwin Corey to accept the National Book Award for Gravity’s Rainbow in 1972.

Industry associations are the real killer these days. I won’t name names, but there has been an increasing number of bureaus, boards and associations — most with membership fees — crossing my radar, none of which are worth attending for free (in my snobbish opinion) let alone pay for. Hey, if it’s an international standards committee and the company needs to engage in arm wrestling to establish some tech spec as the de factor or de jure standard, great, sign us up. But if it’s the Society of Corporate Underachieving Marketers (SCUM), devoted to “a knowledge exchange between like-minded individuals in a secure community environment” I rather contract a case of jock itch (and why do I despise the term “like minded?” Perhaps its because of a former Teutonic boss, the perfect James Bond villain — up there with Blofeld — who used the phrase in every other speech and pronounced it “wike-minded”) or join the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes.

So, save the invite. I am not going to my boss to ask for $5,000 to join a dinner club to discuss stuff I know about with other people who may not know the same stuff. I keep my recipes to myself or blog about them here.

No responses yet

Oct 02 2007

Social media marketing in Facebook

My Facebook activity — and I suspect yours — has stepped up over the past four months, seemingly due to a tipping point of sorts being reached in the late spring as more Forty- and Fifty-Somethings in the interactive/tech space flooded the former college network looking for insights and value.

As I told the audience at last week’s WPP Strategy meeting, you can’t accurately fathom the essence of Facebook unless you are a 19-year old freshman and are using the system at its naturally intended level: a replacement of the paper facebook that was de rigeur in the freshman welcome packs when I arrived at college in the fall of 1976.

My college roommate — a professor of archeology at the University of Kansas — actually uses Facebook the way a contemporary student would, posting pictures of our 25th Reunion (which I blew off), staying in touch, sharing videos of Burning Man, and adopting and rejecting new applications at a furious clip. But the rest of my network …. with the exception of some natural networkers like Forbes publisher Rich Karlgaard, and interactive marketing pundit Joseph Jaffe, the typical Facebook friend in my network seems to be using the system as a semi-rolodex replacement, or a scalp-collector the way early Linked-In fanatics collected gross contact counts as a validation of their self-importance (until Linked-In wisely capped the reported contact count at 500+)

The usual cliches about Facebook being a time sink are true, and even though I compulsively check the thing, and even listened to a Jaffe podcast through it this morning (Across the Sound), I haven’t felt the utility of it click the way other addictive online apps (Google Reader, Google News, my own blog) have hit me.

I have spent a lot of time analyzing the economic value of marketing within Facebook, requesting rate cards and looking at the efforts of competitors and top brands such as Southwest Airlines in creating sponsored groups. While I have subscribed to, and monitor relevant grassroots groups that have cropped up around our brand terms, I haven’t seen a large amount of activity nor urgency in diving in with a seven-figure investment.

One thing is perfectly clear to me as I use it — display advertising has a very very hard time vying for my attention inside of a tool that is all about news and utility tailored to me and my interests. That same display advertising, in the context of a flat media page — say a news story on — is slightly more compelling or attention getting given the linear, one way experience of an HTML web page impression. If I can’t engage with the content then the ads pop out a bit more. Put that same ad in the middle of my profile page, and it suddenly is competing for attention with everything from my iTunes utility to my Facebook inbox.

I won’t delve into MySpace as a) that rivalry is overstated in my opinion, and b) I don’t use MySpace enough to feel informed about it.

I know I embarrass my daughter to no end by being on Facebook — I was her “friend” for about a month before she “unfriendeded” me — and I don’t blame her. I’m an invader, not a native, and nothing is uncooler than inviting a parent to a party. I guess if I want to understand how to market in Facebook I need to hire her or her ilk to insure it is done properly, otherwise the brand could come off looking like an old lady in a mini-skirt.

Now, to see if there are any Facebook gadgets so I can integrate WordPress ….

11 responses so far

Jul 30 2007

Democratic design: Yipes Stripes

Design Matters » Blog Archive » Yipes Stripes

David Hill is VP of Design at Lenovo and the company’s first blogger. It’s been a great experience launching the Design Matters blog and getting David’s voice out into the world. Early on David requested a poll so we provided him with one. He quickly learned the best way to earn engagement from his readers was to ask them a question. Do you like wide-screen or 4:3 aspect ration LCDs? Do you use the page-forward/page-back buttons? Earlier this week he posted about an issue that came to our attention in early 2006 when customers complained about the stripes being removed from the front of the two ThinkPad mouse buttons. So David asked (John Bell at Ogilvy’s Digital Influence Mapping project might classify this as an example of customer co-creation) and the crowd replied.

I’ve been long interested in a more formal customer collaboration — something beyond a suggestion box approach — something tangible where the customer could get some true skin in the game. I have looked at Slim Devices as a great case example of how it could be done. The question is what is the right coillaboration infrastructure for getting it done? A straightforward wiki perhaps? Something more iterative, like a threaded bulletin/forum? While David shows the possibilities, I don’t think a WordPress blog with the Democracy plug-in is the solution. There must be something more robust, something used in software development perhaps, or the open source community, which would be easy and sophisticated enough for a layman or a serious human factors engineer to work within.

“Now we are reconsidering this change, perhaps we went too far in simplifying the interior. Although the utility can be argued, the familiarity is also important for a brand so strongly connected to it’s design as ThinkPad.I’d love to get your feedback on this topic. We’ve included a new poll to make this easier.

David Hill”

No responses yet

Jul 02 2007

Cahill on the 2% “Answer People” in Social Media

Published by under Community

Vario Creative Blog » 2% “Answer People” in Social Media

Mark Cahill is an old hand at interactive community building and gardening, having tamed and developed the saltwater flyfishing mob at for the past decade and having built more than his fair share of social networking platforms. At his Vario Creative Blog he discusses an important academic study of USENET and the findings that 2% of the users answer the majority of all questions, acting, in effect, as mentors for the other 98%. This is a very good study, one that aligns with the anecdotal evidence that other content-driven phenomena, such as Wikipedia, are driven by a tiny, devoted core.

“Indeed there are people in most successful communities who answer a majority of the questions, and they tend to answer them authoritatively. The quality of the community is often directly related to the quality of the answer people, especially in small niche communities.

“I have always attempted to recognize these answer people for what they truly tend to be, mentors. They generally have expertise, and gain little from interaction with the newbies in the crowd. They’ll take the time to answer the same question on the 50th time around, just as they did on the 1st.

“How are they served by the network or community as a whole? Prestige and vanity enter in for some, but for others the knowledge that they indeed fulfill that mentor role is enough. I can think of several archetypal “answer people” who actually use screen names and have over as long as a decade kept their true identities generally secret.”

No responses yet

May 08 2007

When to engage?

What is the threshold for a person in charge of blog monitoring to step into a comment string and try to contact an aggrieved customer?

The notion of influence and “rank” has been used in the past to differentiate between bloggers, but for some online marketers, any negative comment from an upset customer can represent a permanent scar in the search index, something which, if left unanswered can linger, or, if ignored, flare into something more significant than the initial detection might predict based on the user’s Technorati rank or known influence.
Yet, what are the rules of thumb for engaging or ignoring?  If one takes the approach that all expressions of unhappiness – be it from a blogger on their blog, or from a commenter on another blog, or a commenter on an official corporate blog — are bad, then one can quickly project an extremely busy, extremely challenged operation trying to respond to all inquiries or complaints. Extend that to a multi-language operation and the challenge compounds quickly.

Triage, that emergency room cliche, carries a huge amount of risk. Some incidents, left untended, will flare into something dramatic. And, there is the Heisenberg principle of measurement — that detection and measurement of online community sentiment leads to a change in the nature of that sentiment, and indeed, encourages it to bloom as users quickly understand that a blogged comment can expedite resolution faster than the anonymity of a service phone call.

Just some random challenges I’m wrestling with these days.

7 responses so far

Apr 16 2007

Om launches FoundRead

Published by under Community,Journalism

Introducing FoundRead – Found+READ

Good buddy and former colleague Om Malik has launched — auspiciously on Friday the 13th — a new blog under the GigaOm umbrella for entrepreneurs.

“While growing our little publishing company has been a thrill-a-minute, it has also been an educational process, one that Harvard Business School can’t teach you. I have been scribbling some of my lessons, hoping to someday turn it into a book. How analog for a digital guy – quipped a friend who also was responsible for the title of my first book, Broadbandits. Why don’t you start a blog about it, after all you are good at blogging – he said.”

One response so far

Apr 12 2007

Corporate Blogging in China – part 1

Where to begin on this topic? The title is intimidating enough, but here goes. I’ve been living the topic this week, so this post will be a multi-part brain dump.
In terms of large numbers, China leads the world in a lot of counts. The landmass is big. The population is big. Growth rates are big. Historical tradition is big. And the number of blogs is reported to be big and getting bigger, but I’ll defer to Sino-net experts on adoption rates and trends.
The big issue is whether any Chinese corporations blog. I’ll duck that issue for now, because I honestly can’t say, but will assume the answer is yes. The question is whether they blog globally, which is going to force me down the rabbit hole of digression to tackle the bigger issue of blog translation, something I’ve been discussing with John Bell at Ogilvy’s Digital Influence Project, and who recently returned from China himself.

I’ll dismiss, right off the top, the notion of machine-translation. Yes, a google on “WordPress Translation” will yield a number of sidebar plug-ins which will accomplish the act, but I will assume they are no better than Babelfish in terms of fluency and accuracy. I’ve tried using machine-translation to read what others are saying about me, in say Italian, and the result is barely understandable.

So, human translation is required and that is easily worked — find someone with the skills and have them monitor the originating blog for updates, perform the translation and post it.

Okay. Where do they post it? In the originating blog, right adjacent or following the originating blog post? In an entirely separate, cloned translation of the originating blog? Now you’re managing two blogs. One owned the originating blogger/bloggers and a second managed by the translator. Do you put a language selector on both so users can self-select the language they want?

Questions. Questions and more questions. What about the comments? Do they get translated? Would I want someone translating my commentary on my behalf, without my permission?

This is the stuff I’m coming out of Beijing wrestling with. My first resolution is to provide global web services from one centrally managed, self-hosted WordPress platform. Where will it be served? Good question — probably in two data centers to provide some mirrored redundancy and content distribution. Where will it be managed? Doesn’t matter. The sysadmin can be anywhere. Is there a Chinese version of WordPress so my China bloggers can easily work the administration dashboard?

This is going to be an interesting challenge over the next few weeks. I need to get one out the door like yesterday so time to write the brief and identify the talent.

Flight is being called, so I need to steel myself for a coma flight to San Fran, then Boston. Weekend in Cotuit decompressing, then off to Raleigh next week.

Stay tuned for more, I’ll try to put something more coherent together on the flight and post from home.

One response so far

Mar 13 2007

Community 2.0 Conference Las Vegas 3.13

Shawn Gold, CMO of MySpace, is on stage talking about the MySpace phenomenon. I go on at 1:45 to talk about “lessons from the trenches” from a corporate point of view.

I can’t put my finger on it, but the term “community” hasn’t sat well for me since a Jerry Michalski retreat in 1995 when one woman said the word made her think of community gardens, hemp clothing, and socialism. Indeed, “social” came along in Web 2.0 and things like MySpace and LinkedIn are cited as embodiments of the concept. I don’t know why it doesn’t sit well. John Bell cites David Weinberger’s redefinition last week in San Francisco: something to the effect that communities are places where people care more than is normal about something. [I need to find the backchannel transcript for the accurate quote, it’s lost somewhere in Google Reader].

Found it thanks to Lee LeFever by way of Chris Heuer’s post at the Future of Communities : Weinberger said: “I want it to mean a group of people who care about one another more than they have to.”

Back to Shawn Gold — basically a history of MySpace — I don’t have an accurate read on the audience as I missed yesterday and have yet to hear any questions, but the participant roster shows a heavy dose of corporate attendees from the likes of Microsoft, Levi Strauss, PetSmart, State Street, etc. etc. and few community vendors — so Shawn is giving a good backgrounder on what is erroneously assumed to be a teenager phenomenon.

“MySpace made it a great time to be lonely on the internet,” Gold.

“Digital cameras changed the face of self-expression on the Internet.” Gold

Chris Heuer — he of the Social Media Club — just introduced himself and asked me to define “community 2.0” into his podcast capture device. I babbled I fear.

This place is packed. I just turned around and nearly every seat is taken. 500 people? I stink at crowd estimates.

Max Kalehoff just nailed it — communities represent the most loyal customers around a brand yet those customers are generally served by service organizations judged on how fast they can spin people “through the revolving door.”

Community ROI track

I am such a metrics geek, therefore I am listening to metrics and roi.
Matthew Lees from the Patricia Seybold Group is presenting on ROI and metrics — topics dear to my heart. Smart presentation where he lays out some good, sensible KPIs to follow. He cites Cingular, which is a case example I am fond of.

Thanks to Lee LeFever for pointing me at the backchannel transcript noted above.

Bill Johnston, from Forum One Communications, is presenting on Autodesk’s approach to community/forum metrics. Interesting hybrid of quantitative and qualitative analysis with moderators tagging and scoring threads and resolution. He is a Hitbox guy. Interesting how he used Hitbox to count stuff like signups, referrals, posts, comments, tagging, networks and tag clouds — all great manifestations of engagement (citing a community site called Area which featured users creative efforts). Zero to 100,000 members (not users) in nine months.

“As we were able to communicate value we were able to convince stakeholders to write us bigger and bigger checks.”

Anders Nancke-Krogh from Nokia is presenting. He heads the online gaming community N-Gage.

Great Q&A on the topic. I am dying to ask a question about blog metrics, most of the discussion has been about forum measurement and business metrics. Looks like I won’t get a shot — want to know what these guys think are the KPIs for blogs.

Size of community and activity of community are key to Anders. I call these “gross tonnage” metrics. Innovation coming from the community — that’s a provocative KPI to say the least.

Customer “Self” Service

An area close to my priorities — Patricia Seybold and Scott Wilder from Intuit talking about the creation of self-service communities.

Intuit has their act together in a major way. I was just on a panel with George Jaquette, and Wilder confirms Intuit is doing customer community the right way with a big commitment.

Have to cut things short to get on the phone with Asia. Good conference.

8 responses so far

Jan 05 2007

I wish the world had a account

Published by under Community

I live in I tag with the tool like a compulsive maniac, I want to use it to share stuff, anyway I can, with everyone I know.

But not everyone is there yet.
If you want to share links — I am “dchurbuck” — please join my “network.”
If you want me to share them with you, please get an account.

Here’s the official FAQ: is a collection of favorites – yours and everyone else’s. You can use to:

  • Keep links to your favorite articles, blogs, music, reviews, recipes, and more, and access them from any computer on the web.
  • Share favorites with friends, family, coworkers, and the community.
  • Discover new things. Everything on is someone’s favorite — they’ve already done the work of finding it. So is full of bookmarks about technology, entertainment, useful information, and more. Explore and enjoy. is a social bookmarking website — the primary use of is to store your bookmarks online, which allows you to access the same bookmarks from any computer and add bookmarks from anywhere, too. On, you can use tags to organize and remember your bookmarks, which is a much more flexible system than folders.

You can also use to see the interesting links that your friends and other people bookmark, and share links with them in return. You can even browse and search to discover the cool and useful bookmarks that everyone else has saved — which is made easy with tags.

All you need is a browser and an internet connection. Sound good? Here’s how to get started. If you’d like to find out more, keep reading.”

6 responses so far

Jan 04 2007

Fool me once …

Last summer I was leaving RTP for the flight home to the Cape and did my obligatory 3:30 pm quick stop at the Shell station on the corner of Rte 54 and Miami Blvd. to top off the tank and spare myself the $9 per gallon gouging the rental car agencies hit the clueless with when they return with less than a brimming tank.

I popped into the mini-mart for a bottle of water. On my return to the car a nice looking lady towing a forlorn looking six-year old came up to me and told me a roadside story of woe.

“I hate to bother you but my son and I are traveling to Fayetteville to see my husband who is home on leave and our car has broken down and AAA would only tow us as far as this gas station and we need money to get the alternator replaced but Traveler’s Aid won’t give anything but a reference to a battered woman’s shelter….”

She started crying. Honest to sadness tears of frustration and heat. She totally convinced me. Nailed me. Me, the man who knows how to repel Manhattan bums with Churbuckian mind bullets. A guy who tells panhandlers on the subway: McDonalds is Hiring.

I gave her a twenty. Her face lit up. She was happy. I was happy. I’ve never parted with more than buck in the past, but a twenty? I drove away thinking: “Dude, you just got taken down.” But I felt Christian and all eelemosynary and Mr. Pay-It-Forward-Like. It felt good. I felt special.
Tonight, same Shell Station. Get out of the car. See a van that looks like rolling squalor. Think immediately of last summer’s charitable act and think, “Nah. Not twice. No way.”

Get a bottle of water, pay, come out. Dawdle a little bit in opening the water, swallow an Advil, tempting the fates to bring out the Ambrose Bierce that runs deep within us all.

I’m standing right next to the van of squalor and nothing happens. I unlock the door. Get it, start up, turn around to back out and …

There she stood. Same kid. Same face. Only this time the window between was closed and was going to stay closed.

I flipped her the bird, let her read my lips, and drove away. She didn’t bat an eye, just moved onto the next mark, knowing she had hit the same well twice.
And I was twenty dollars poorer none the same and vowing to launder my charitable contributions through the United Way from now on.

6 responses so far

Dec 18 2006

A historical look at why face-to-face is vital to online communities

This one is from the archives. Enjoy:

” Following is the article that appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer last
Sunday about the Cape Cod conclave. Many thanks again to David Churbuck,
and it was a pleasure meeting all those who attended.


Fen Montaigne

The Outdoors/ By Fen Montaigne

CHATHAM, Mass. — We had gathered, techno geeks and fish freaks all, for a
night of “extreme” striped bass fishing here on Cape Cod. But by midnight,
the only extremes our band of a dozen had experienced were those of
exhaustion and utter befuddlement: Where were the fish?
Our commander-in-chief for the expedition was David Churbuck, a
writer and on-line editor at Forbes magazine, over-the-top fisherman and
Internet wonk. Churbuck and Devon, Pa., native Thorne Sparkman had recently
launched their World Wide Web saltwater fly-fishing home page, and to honor
the publication Churbuck thought it might be nice to hold a fishing
conclave not far from his home on the Cape.
So Churbuck put the word out to the farthest, fishiest reaches of
cyberspace about a night of “extreme” striper fishing near Chatham
lighthouse. “Extreme” as in standing all night long in the pounding surf in
the dark, casting with a fly rod for phantom fish. “Extreme” as in
extremely challenging.
“Extreme” as in extremely dumb.
At 6 p.m. on an early fall evening, the gang showed up in the
Chatham light parking lot as the sun set tranquilly in the west and a big
blow lumbered in from the east. It was a jovial crowd, and one that took
its fishing seriously. Churbuck, a strapping, handsome fellow with
shoulder-length brown hair, had warned me about them earlier.
“It’s totally twisted, one of the most Fellini-esque experiences
you’ll ever have,” he said. “It’s geeks on the beach. I thought I (ital);
had a fishing problem! You should see some of these guys! They’re more into
fishing than they are into computers. In fact, they got into computers so
they could get more information on fishing. They’re deranged.’
Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. After all, it was
Churbuck who had told me earlier in the day, “We’ll fish most of the night,
sleep on the beach a few hours, grab a couple of Jolt colas and head out
again before dawn.”
With the conclave, Churbuck explained, we were making the
transition from cyber space to “meat space”. As in rubbing flesh.
“Everyone said the Internet and World Wide Web would turn people into
vidiots, that they’d get lost in cyberspace,” Churbuck, 37, said as we
talked in his rambling home in Cotuit. “But the ‘Net has really increased
the value of meat space. Like this conclave. It’s a great chance to meet
people I’d never have met otherwise.”
Our group — software engineers, international business
consultants, hospital workers, etc. — walked down the steep steps and onto
Chatham beach. Fishermen were filing off the sand — fishless, biteless,
glum-faced. Clouds had covered the entire sky and the wind was whipping
into our faces at about 15 miles per hour — not friendly conditions for
saltwater fly-fishing.
For the next five hours we endured what has come to be known in
fish-head realms of the Internet as the Chatham Death March. We fished a
little — with stunning lack of success — but mainly we trudged in bulky
waders over endless miles of Cape Cod sand looking for greener fishing
grounds. At one point, six of us got separated for a few hours, and cries
of “Dave! Dave! Is that you, Dave?” were swallowed up by the black night
and howling wind.
Returning to Chatham light utterly dehydrated, soaked with sweat
and chafed like babes with terminal diaper rash, we cursed Churbuck. Then,
around 1 a.m., we fell dead asleep in our cars.
Stretched out in the front seat of Churbuck’s battered Volkswagen
Fox, I drifted off to the sound of Dave snoring like a train wreck. The
next thing I knew, Churbuck was muttering, “Hey, it’s 4:15,” and we were
rousing ourselves for the dawn fishing patrol. We breakfasted heartily —
Coke, strawberry Twizzlers, extra crunchy Reese’s peanut butter cups,
Oreos, Cheeze-Its and jalapeno-laced Monterey Jack cheese cut with a rusty
fish filet knife. Well fortifed, we donned our waders and hit the beach
once again.
* * *
Churbuck and Thorne Sparkman are on the cutting edge of something
that may either become the publishing phenomenon of the future or that
might, as Sparkman quipped, “go the way of the CB radio.” The World Wide
Web — a massive, amorphous, chaotic and fascinating conglomeration of
interlinked computers — is still in its infancy, and Churbuck and Sparkman
are groping to figure out where this beast is headed. Things are changing
so fast, said Churbuck, “you’ve got to burn your hut as soon as you build it.”
What the two men are building is something called “Reel Time”,
which they describe as the “Internet Journal of Saltwater Fly Fishing.”
(For those who can find their way around the Web, Reel Time’s address is At this point, Reel Time concentrates on
saltwater fly-fishing in New England, and mainly on Cape Cod, Martha’s
Vineyard and Nantucket.
It provides the latest information on fishing conditions, news on
fishing derbies and other events, articles and essays, on-line videos,
photos of the fish readers have caught, archival material and Internet
links to fishing guides and tackle shops. Reel Time is, at the moment, a
hobby for the two men, what Churbuck describes as a “completely non-profit
ordeal.” Neither is contemplating quitting his day job — Churbuck at
Forbes and Sparkman at business school at the University of California-Berkeley.
Eventually, they may make money from advertisers, but for now they
want to make a name for themselves as the best location on the Internet to
read about saltwater fly-fishing, a rapidly-growing sport. Already, they
are getting 6,000 “hits” — visits from readers — a week on Reel Time.
“There are few times in your life when you feel you’re in the right
place at the right time,” said Sparkman, 29, who grew up in Devon, attended
the Shipley School and St. Pauls and graduated from Harvard. “I feel this
is right. The Web is touted as everyone becoming their own publisher, and
that’s one of the problems. There’s so much junk. But there are people who
will survive by estalishing a brand name, establishing a community that
lasts, a place that is really worth going to.
“You have to understand that to capitalize on the net you have to
enrich it.”
Sparkman, whose father practices internal medicine at the
University of Pennsylvania, has fished hard his whole life. But he moved
into the fish junkie category in college when, after a serious car
accident, he took a year off and fished his way around the world —
Iceland, Equador, New Zealand, the Florida Keys. Before heading to Berkeley
this fall, Sparkman was working as a consultant to Time Warner for their
on-line publications.
Churbuck, a Yale graduate, covered technology for Forbes magazine
before taking over their on-line publications. He works out of a sprawling,
shingle home near here that has been in his family for six generations. He
and Sparkman had known each other for several years before deciding to
launch Reel Time, which first appeared in July.
“It’s gone beyond a labor of love,” said Churbuck. “Reel Time is
kind of on-the-job training for my Forbes on-line job. It’s a stalking
horse. I don’t want to learn the lessons of electronic publishing with the
Forbes name on the line. It’s too high stakes. But hey, if this screws up
+- the Internet Journal of Salwater Fly Fishing — who cares?”
* * *
The wind had not died down. If anything, it was worse. Churbuck and
a handful of conclavers trudged in the darkness to the semi-circle of beach
below the lighthouse and cast gamely — and futilely — into the wind.
Seaweed clung to our flies on every cast. At one point, a monster roller
broke at my feet on the steeply-sloping beach, soaking me.
Dawn broke gray and nasty, and we walked a few hundred yards out
onto the spit of Chatham Beach. It should have been perfect striped bass
fishing, for we were at the peak of the fall migration in one of the
hottest striper spots on the East Coast. But once again, we got skunked.
We repaired to Larry’s PX for some cholestoral and post-game analysis. A
dozen people who had known one another only on a computer screen took
pleasure in finally meeting.
“I really like it — putting names and faces together,” said Scott
A. Sminkey, a software engineer from Littleton, Massachusetts. “I was
getting to know some of these people as if they were my good and close
friends and I had never met them.”
For several days afterwards, discussion of the no-fish conclave
hummed over the Internet. Juro Mukai of Seattle, who did not attend, sent
his congratulations.
“I say three cheers’ for Dave and the attendees,” he wrote on one
discussion forum. “As every wise fisherman knowns, not catching is as much
a part of fishing as catching, and comradery more than either . . . I know
that it doesn’t require fishing to have a great outing. Kudos to Dave and
the gang!”
Hope springs eternal in the bosom of the fisherman. Even computers
can’t change that.”

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