Friday will be my last day at Telligent

photo (2)Three and half years ago I left Microsoft to join Telligent.  At the time, Microsoft didn’t seem interested in being a player in the social software space, and I decided—to get the opportunity I was looking for–it was time to leave.   Telligent represented a tremendous opportunity to be part of the leadership for a growing company that has a truly rare opportunity to be very disruptive, dominate the social software space, and make a real difference in people’s lives.  It’s incredibly difficult to find a combination as cool as that in the software industry, and that remains true today.

In my time at Telligent, I’ve had a chance to ship 1.0 versions of the Telligent Enterprise, Analytics and Mobile products and continue to grow the Telligent Evolution platform with the addition of wiki, social profiles, and QnA applications.  Along the way, I’ve also had an opportunity to implement developer quality standards and introduce Telligent to the Program Management and Quality Assurance disciplines.

I’m grateful to Rob, Patrick and everyone else at Telligent for the opportunities I’ve been given and the wonderful people I’ve had the chance to meet and work with here.  I’m so incredibly proud of the work we’ve all accomplished as a team to get Telligent into the position it’s in today.  From the outside, I’ll be rooting for everyone’s continued successes. 

My co-workers, friends and the opportunity have made this an incredibly hard decision for me, but I’m making the choice to join the entrepreneurial scene and develop some projects and business ideas I’ve been putting off for a while.  In the end, it was a decision that really came down to a lot of personal timing and stars aligning.  I’ll miss everyone almost as much as I’ll miss ordering Texas meat by the pound. Smile

If you want to know what I’m doing next, you’ll have to follow my blog or twitter feed.  My personal email address is  jledgard@gmail.com and my business address after Friday is josh@evolvingwe.com.  This will get interesting.  Smile

Favorites of 2009 – Telligent Style

Jana sent around a set of questions to the Product PM team at Telligent today that made me write up this blog entry about some of my favorite 2009 things related to our work life.

1. What was your favorite work-related or field related or technical read for 2009 (white paper, book, etc)

imageMy favorite read this year was Predictably Irrational.  It is a great follow-up to Freakonomics that was better than SuperFrekonimics.  They explore some great topics such as…

 

  • Why we like Doing something less (often) if we are paid… which really helps explain why money is NOT the only motivating factor managers have at their disposal.
  • Why people are drawn to “Free” even if it costs more.
  • Why a 50 cent aspirin works better than a 1 cent aspirin.

 

Runners up: Art of Agile Development & SuperFreakonimics

2. What was your favorite new Telligent feature for 2009?

Easily enterprise microblogging and activity streams with replies. The simplicity of a service like this really drives up adoption.

image

Runners up: Drag and Drop to build themes – Embed Reports from Telligent Analytics like youtube videos in your sites.

3. What was your favorite enhancement for Telligent products in 2009?

V2 of our Web services API. Lets me do all sorts of cool things like build a Social Connector for Outlook 2010 in a much simpler, less chatty way.

4. Favorite external app/product/feature you used in 2009?

imageProbably Tokbox.  As a team we’ve become dependant on the real time video communication it enables. You can also embed it into Telligent Evolution pages to create virtual meeting rooms. I can’t imagine our remote developemt working as well as it does without this service.

Runners Up:  GoWalla & Twitter

How would you evolve Community Server?

Last week, at the In.Telligent conference I gave the keynote on our product roadmap.  It’s rare that I have so many customers captive in one room so I used the opportunity to gather some feedback in real time.  I distributed a list of features broken out by theme and told everyone they had $100 virtual dollars to distribute between the features. 

I excluded most of what we have planned for CS 2009 in February to get a little more forward looking.  I promised I would post the results on this blog. Here is the breakout…

image

It verified a lot of things we’ve assumed. When we looked closer at the breakout it was clear:

  • Mobile is hot. Everyone wants visitors to take their communities with them.
  • Calendars were seen as a critical tool that enables people to link virtual interactions to the real world.   Group calendars, event management, & calendar synchronization were all in the top 5.
  • Conference goers didn’t consider social tools in the intranet as task management applications.
  • Everyone I talked to on the subject seemed to validate that social tools need to add content management or Vica Versa if you are a CMS vendor.  Our embeddable comments feature received an ovation during the demo portion of the roadmap and that also seems to validate this.
  • There was a surprising lack of passion around social bookmarking tools.

Overall we received votes back from 91 of attendees and I’m looking forward to taking this exercise to a broader audience online in the future.  Thanks to everyone that contributed!

Nominated For Reader’s Choice : Graffiti CMS

Passing the news. If you are enjoying your Graffiti experience you may want to consider giving it a vote for asp.netPro Readers Choice Awards.

Nominated For Reader’s Choice : Graffiti CMS

Graffiti CMS has been nominated for a 2008 asp.netPro Reader’s Choice Award in the CMS category.

We (Telligent) have won in the forum category for the last couple of years, but we are a rookie in the CMS space. If you have a moment, please take a second to give us a quick vote (and don’t forget Community Server as well!). Thanks!

Announcing Graffiti Beta 2 : Graffiti CMS

We Telligenti have let Beta 2 of Graffiti out the door today.  For those of you that don’t know Graffiti is a hybrid CMS & Blogging engine. Perfect for individuals or small businesses that want to manage both relatively static and dynamic content pages.  The article below gives a full list of improvements, but my personal recommendations would be to download it for…

Tools for controlling sort order – We’ve added some drag-and-drop tools to make it really easy to create/define your own custom sort order for content. This is especially important when using Graffiti as a CMS.

Versioning support added for Themes – We’ve added version support for themes, so now you can make changes, review them and easily revert back to what you used to have.

Announcing Graffiti Beta 2 : Graffiti CMS

Are You Ready for Smarter Spenders Bursting Your Bubble?

Is your company, web site, or business model ready for the smarter customer spending habits being created by data transparency?  The world of data transparency is one where anyone can access, slice, dice, pivot, and extrapolate on their own about your products is almost here. The cost of doing so, like other commodity driven resources is quickly approaching zero. If your business doesn't embrace it then you are going to be one of the people complaining about the "bubble bursting" on Web 2.0. 

What's happening right now is that businesses and customers are on the precipice of learning how to thin slice through what's been labeled "information overload".  Here are eight things you need to know in order to thrive in the age of information transparency and smarter customers.

  1. Your customers are only going to get more access to data every day and never less.
  2. Data is going to become increasingly consumable to people that don't know anything about how to create pivot tables in excel.
  3. Every new bit of data will encourage humans, who naturally seek connections and meaning, to to ask ten times the questions they may have previously.
  4. The data is going to be used poorly while people learn to correctly thin slice.  You might not like the stories customers tell on their own to answer the aforementioned questions.
  5. You will be as unable to control access to the data, metrics, and subsequent analysis as you are able to control your singular corporate messages an PR today.
  6. Because information is so cheap to distribute through the series of tubes it will only take one person to discover and aggregate this kind of information. Really only one customer needs to be smarter and the rest will just listen to the "smart ones", but you knew this already.
  7. The flow of information goes can go two ways.  This presents an opportunity to learn as much or more about your customers than they know about you. 
  8. Thin slicing the data will open more doors to micro-message and micro-target your features, services, or brand to customers.

Here are some examples and trends that demonstrate the approaching freefall in the cost of public data mining.

  • Search engines will make collecting hard data simpler.  Most of them already returns hard numbers instead of guesses in the form of links.  Today you can search for APPL and get a stock price back instead of a link to a page that references the stock.  You can search for ichiro and see his career statistics. How long before "Baconader calories" returns the nutritional information directly or "Xbox Failure Rate" returns the total unique number of "red ring" incidents and the failure rate?
  • Technologies like wiki's make collaborative document editing simple.  Google Spreadsheets has taken the first strides toward collaborating numerical analysis.  What happens when someone opens wikipedia for data  mining?
  • Currently sites are now popping up that encourage this sort of data collaboration. Check out http://www.voterwatch.org/ & http://www.revenuewatch.org/ for collaborative pollitical dirt digging, http://www.plebble.com/analysis.php for public data analysis, or http://www.kidsdata.org/ for examples of public health records data aggregation.  The next logical step is for these aggregation technologies to improve over time and enable the users themselves to submit and refine the data.
  • Communities are already starting to do their own data mining to enable self policing. Wikiscanner is a good example of this. How long before they are policing your products, communities, and marketing efforts.

The first question to start asking yourself is what will happen to your business when your clients and customers can go beyond user reviews and can become immediately familiar with your failure rates, cost of goods, how popular your site is, percentage of other customers who repurchase, and how many people actually click through the average ad on your web site?  It's common sense to be looking at these numbers anyway, but the twist is now realizing that this sort of information either is or soon will be public knowledge. 

The next set of questions you should be asking is how can you take advantage of the data transparency. Here are some untested suggestions to think about. 🙂

  • Your own data mining needs to be taken to the next level.  You need to go beyond answering the basic questions and start performing trend analyses and attain the ability to predict what bits of information (good and bad) your customers will discover next. If you don't already have, for example, a tool/process that lets you find out what people are doing and saying in your customer communities then you need one.  It may not seem that way, but there is still a delay between the first person that says "I have a red ring", the next fifty, and it becoming front page news.  The data can just about predict what's going to go from 1 to fifty to millions.
  • A risk/reward analysis could be performed on the data that will be uncovered.  What will happen if the exact failure rate is known or if people know how willing your site visitors are to convert into paying customers? On the other hand; Is this data something that you should be sharing more broadly because you know it's better than the competition?
  • What data and models can you be transparent about? It's may no longer be acceptable to throw out a great customer satisfaction number without showing the numbers used behind the figure.
  • You should consider enabling your own public data aggregation initiatives. Look at how Ideastorm took loud, but separated voices, and gave them lightening rods focus their energy.  Because they are hosting these conversations the cost of data aggregation about customers suggestions went from wildly expensive public surveys and "buzz metric" analysis to near zero in comparison.

What do you think?  Are your customers and clients getting smarter with cheaper data?  Do you see an "adjustment" in spending in the "Web 2.0" space coming?

Have I mentioned we're working on a Reporting Server?

OCS 2007 Breakout – Mobile Communities

Question: What does a mobile community look like? What is the toolset and what are the enablers?

  • Small bursts of activity and information seem to be working best.  Lots of information doesn't translate well.
  • 60% of people with a handset have access to the mobile Internet. 30% of those people use it.
  • Text messaging, games, and cameras are key. "There is a phone 2.0 happening."
  • "Its about me and my presence information that can be updated and read on a mobile device. "
  • There is lots of money going into the location based services.
  • "Not many community opportunities in the mobile space."
  • Multi-user gaming is happening via mobile spaces.  In the next year you'll start seeing some more interesting stuff happening with geopresense.

Question: Where do they intersect with or extend existing communities?

Question: What is the ROI of mobile communities?

  • Tremendous ecommerce opportunities.
  • Twitter and facebook can't monitize it.
  • Status updates make facebook sticky. You can monitize the "passive intimacy".
  • The idea is that it's "I am the news".
  • Commerce and fundraising are extremely restrictive so it would be hard to leverage mobile devices.
  • Text messages from grandchildren and photo-sharing from children.

Question: What if it never had a connection to the web? What is the difference?

  • The mobility is the difference. You don't take your laptop with you. But your phone goes everywhere.
  • The input constraints screen size, keyboard, etc.
  • Some people have mobile phones that don't have a connection elsewhere.
  • Nokia is supposed to call them "Multimedia Computers"
  • Who is to say that screens will be a constraint in 10 years?
  • Designing for each and every browser is a nightmare problem.
  • 128×128 up to 640×480 devices. If you offer a service you have to deal with that.
  • Could a wifi network displace the carriers?
  • If you are in a space where more than 50% of the people are updating presence and twittering.
  • There is a huge potential for apps to leverage the strong ties contained in the address book. What about the weak ties?
  • What are "mobile only" communities? Mobile home users that never connect for real? Dodgeball?
  • There is nothing that is better than the PC experience. It's obvious that there are possibilities, but there is no glue or service that exists soley in the mobile space.
  • "The thing that's coming next from mobile isn't really here. "
  • Location based services could be huge, but it's hard to get the data. Until you get location there is less available than a PC.
  • e911 doesn't know where you really are. But your phone is always broadcasting your location. Any phone that doesn't have geo-location won't be turned on from verizon. The FBI, however, knows where the phone is.

Question: Mobile community and real world geographic communities?

Question: How do you work with or around device constraints? What is a minimal acceptable experience and what would be ideal. What do the curves for technology?

  • Operators are a constraint. They don't open up the devices. Apple is the most recent to lock down. 
  • When will a phone know where I am? The carriers want to charge 25 cents to let your location out to you or other applications. 

Question: Do political campaigns leverage the mobile space?

Some space in "action alert" mobiles to get people to call up their congressmen. They are also used for event organizations like "get out and vote" or campaign rallies. 

Question: What apps or services or sites to people in this room use?

  • Facebook status
  • google maps
  • Google reader
  • Twitter people
  • Flicker to upload flicker
  • Frucall – Sign up to use cell phone to get pricing about objects. Just enter the product number. Local comparison shopping and reviews.
  • Witsets is an RSS aggregator.
  • Use yahoo IM via a blackberry/java application
  • Yahoo go

Question: Is there a service that you can use to manage massive group texting?

There is a free service where people can sign up to make a group where they all share messages. There are some web sites.

Example: http://www.zemble.com/ and www.textmob.com are free services.

Group text message admins.

Question: What would be a geolocation community that you could imagine?

  • There is real interest in disaster response to find people.
  • Broadcasting your dating preferences and matching you to people near you.
  • Geo-games ala pac-manhatten.

Fixing The Problem with Niche Communities and Sub-Groups

In the next release Community Server will support "Groups".  I love the feature, but it could create a new problem for community site managers.  How do you manage the creation and population of these sub-communities on your site? 

I tend to agree with Sean and believe that Facebook does a terrible job of this.  And it’s surprising to me because of the way they manage some of the groups functionality.  For example:

Several Telligenti have submitted a request to create a private e-mail based group ala the @Microsoft.com group for folks at Telligent. We don’t get any reply to our request. No follow-up, explanation, or guidance on how to proceed. Facebook is clearly protective about allowing more .com groups on their site outside of the big guys.

The counter example to this controlled growth is found in their general groups functionality where anyone can create, join, and manage their own group.  I think about the only value here, from my experience, is the often humerous group titles that show up in your news feed when a friend joins a group like "When I was your age Pluto was a planet".  After that initial set-up nothing generally happens in the group.  So what’s missing?

What’s missing is one part crticial mass and one part being drawn back into groups like you are drawn back to your facebook profile. Group specific events rarely show up in your news feed and that means you don’t tend to go back.  That problem is easy to solve, but what about the critical mass question.

Lets say, for the sake of argument, that I’m a Red Sox fan.  Lets search for a group to join.  there are over 500 results in the group category of search results. The first page of results is a scattered mess with indistinguishable groups that range between 7 to 5000+ members.  Which group should I join?  Facebook, or any other site that allows groups needs to solve the problem and there are several ways to do it.

1. Allow groups to be sponsored and show them on top. 

This may sound like selling out, but there is value to this. The Red Sox would probably pay Facebook handsomely to sponsor a group. Their official fan groups would be on top of the search results, fans could connect to the Red Sox more closely, and it would probably get critical mass to of people to create interesting discussions and content quickly. 

2. Stop letting people create stupid groups or just delete them.

Or at least put some sort of gates around it. Your group inactive for weeks on end.. it gets deleted unless you do something. The "controlled growth" clearly worked well for facebook as the opened from college to college and from corp to corp… why not use that same request methodology here?

3. Strongly suggest merging groups or joining an alternative.

There is plenty of meta-data available to a social site like Facebook that would allow them to create good recommendations of alternative groups to join if you want to create a public group. The group creation page should show people existing groups that match your request at every step of they way.  This could head off the creation of the the 500th Red Sox group.  Once you do create your group how about comparing the properties of that group with other similar public groups and suggesting a group merger?

4. Improve Search Result Ranking.

I’m not sure how Facebook decided to rank the search results, but it’s clearly not by members or activity since there are several very active large groups on pages 3-10 of the search results of my Red Sox example. There are also dead groups on page 1.  People are going to pick a group on the first page… make it the right set. It would be really simple to rank groups by size. People are drawn to a crowd and the problem might solve itself.

So my advice to community managers it to be careful about how you allocate your niche community groups. It can be a powerful feature for both public and private sets of people, but niche doesn’t have to mean zero activity.

Should there be a link between Facebook and Community Server Sites?

I didn’t go to the Facebook developer garage last night in Seattle. Honestly I don’t have a laptop yet I can take that’s not pink and the geeks would have laughed at me. (Update – Realized it’s next tuesday.)

But if I did go I was going to look into building a quick connection point between my Community Server site at Ledgards.com and facebook. The article below suggests that it would actually drive traffic to ledgards.com.

How would you want Community Server and Facebook to play nice? How could www.Asp.net users for example meet up on Facebook and Vica Versa?

 

 

via VentureBeat by Eric Eldon on Jul 24, 2007

 

Slide, Rockyou and HotorNot, three companies with the largest number of users on Facebook, are showing continued traffic growth on their own sites.

quant2.jpgThe finding, reported by Quantcast, a service that tracks traffic trends for Web sites, suggests that sites failing to embrace Facebook may be missing out on potential growth.

For some, this is also encouraging evidence that Facebook’s platform, launched in May, isn’t necessarily weening users entirely off their own Web sites. While Facebook allows third-party sites to advertise on their applications on Facebook, many sites prefer to maintain control over their users’ experience, and are hesitant to trust Facebook’s promise that it will remain hands-off. Despite the pledge by Facebook’s executives that sites are free to make money on their apps within Facebook, its terms of service says Facebook can change its policy at any time….