Curiosity and #telstradesire

Like Mark Pesce and Chris Rowland, I think I should make abundantly clear my reasons for getting involved in Telstra’s Social Review program, not least because of some of the bile that’s being sprayed about on Twitter.

Like the others, it’s not a ridiculous purchase for me to go out and spend between $700-$1200 on a smart phone I use for work. It strikes me as a reasonable spend. I was, and may still, use my iPhone 3GS as a device to keep me connected while I’m away from my office. The way I do my work makes having a smart device that keeps me connected to all the networks, feeds and information I consider valuable for my job.

I don’t need a free HTC Desire from Telstra for that, I can afford it myself.

I’ve got a pretty decent public profile. I don’t really need to build it up any more than it is.

I don’t need a free HTC Desire from Telstra for that, I have a rich, working, growing network.

So why get involved in this exercise. Well, the answer is simple, really.


I’m curious about the device itself and how it, as an alternative to the iPhone, fits my connected life as a device with which I can conduct my business.

I’m curious as to how Telstra came up with the idea of the Social Review and how it reflects on and blends with the work I do with clients. It’s an interesting hybrid of crowdsource, crowd wisdom and careful selection through and open application process (which all the reviewers did).

I’m curious about how different types of users will use the device. I’m certainly coming from a geek and business point-of-view, others definitely are not.

Mostly, I’m curious as to how all these moving parts fit together in a hyperconnected world and what that might mean for influence, for social media marketing, for relationships. What it means to do something like this together and what sort of benefit to decision making that might offer the rest of you.

That’s new and interesting and why I’m involved.

I’m sure Telstra are being smart about this; they know what they’re doing, they know they have a reasonably good device on their hands and they know they’ll get a level of benefit out of the program. After all, that’s the point, right?

However, we’ve all been tasked with reviewing the Desire any way we like, using social channels to do so. That’s happening, and it looks to be working.

There’s always more… Fake Stephen Conroy, Leslie Nasser and Telstra

I’ve spoken to a couple of the people involved in dealing with this (although not Leslie) as well as several people in the Australia tech and social media industry who are qualified to comment thanks to their expertise. I’m left with a raft of my own questions, as I think everyone, for one reason or another isn’t telling or hasn’t told the entire story.

Obviously, this leads to speculation, as we can see here on my friend, Bronwen Clune’s blog. It’s educated speculation, but speculation nonetheless. If we’re to report on this issue, we need the entire story. From both sides and from all the players.

I’d like to hear straight from David Quilty, as Leslie has suggested he “had a fucking stroke” when he found out about Leslie’s identity as Fake Stephen Conroy.

I’d also like to hear more from Mike Hickinbotham. In all my dealings with him, and they have been several, Mike’s been a stand up guy. He knows and understands social media, he respects us as a community and he simply doesn’t strike me as a “voice of management”.

The fact is that Leslie’s been outed as Fake Stephen Conroy. He outed himself.

Telstra has said, and it’s been reported widely, that Leslie won’t lose his job over it. That’s a good thing. But there’s disagreement over whether Leslie was directly silenced, asked to exercise judgment on continuing as Fake Stephen Conroy, or has simply chosen to hand over the mantle (after all, he wasn’t, by his own admission, the original). That’s a bad thing, and we need clarity.

There’s also some pretty valid speculation as to whether Leslie‘s latest tweets, effectively calling out Mike Hickinbotham as a management mouthpiece, are more or less a career-limiting move. Certainly in some industries, they’d make him unemployable. I wouldn’t have had the nerve to make the comments if I were Leslie.

What this all leaves us with is several things:

  • if Leslie loses his job today, it’s arguable he brought it on himself.
  • Leslie has strong support in the community, particularly the tech, web and media communities, for what he did as Fake Stephen Conroy. He was funny, enlightening and insightful. There’s no question.
  • Telstra can look really good or terribly bad out of all of this. It all comes down to what they actually do today. If Telstra choose to let him go, they look pretty nasty and they rapidly undo all the goodwill they’ve built in the social media user base over the past year or so.
  • Telstra could retain Leslie and use him as a public face. He’s obviously whip-smart, has a way with words, and can crack a funny. Last night, Gavin Heaton (@servantofchaos) speculated on Twitter that Leslie could become Telstra’s Robert Scoble. This morning, he asks on his blog whether Leslie will be given that chance. I hope so.

But what’s more important, and I don’t think anyone is adequately looking at this, is why has this come about? Frankly, there’s just one answer. The Australian social media and IT media communities conducted a hunt that forced Leslie’s hand.

We hunted him down and forced him to out himself.

If Leslie loses his job today, who’s really to blame? It’s us. The people who made it necessary for him to reveal who he was. Because if he hadn’t been forced to reveal himself, none of this would have happened.

So, yes, Telstra should be the good guys and keep Leslie on staff. Maybe even reinvent his role and make use of his cleverness. But if they don’t, which one of us that shares culpability for this is going to give Leslie a job?

Social Media Club Canberra launches

SMC logoThis Friday, the first ever Social Media Club Canberra breakfast will be held. As a member of SMC, I’ve been keen to make something happen in my town and it looks like we’re really getting started with this event.

It’s very lightweight – bring yourself, bring a friend and user pays – but it’s a chance for anyone in Canberra interested in social media to get together with a bunch of like minded folks over a cup of coffee and a great breakfast. Details below:

  • Where – CREAM Cafe, Corner Bunda Street and Genge Street, Canberra City
  • When – 8:00AM-10:00AM, Friday 16 January 2009

If you’d like to come along, please RSVP for the event on Facebook or email me if you’re not on Facebook.

Oh, and since it’s the launch of SMC in Canberra, we have a Facebook page for the group. Please join!

Truly a thing of beauty – First Dog on the Moon Twitter avatars

@trib by First dog on the MoonSocial media is a strange thing, particularly when it comes to the notion of memes, those little outward-reaching, super-powered thoughts that pervade our online life. Just look at Ken Lee, Matt, the Dancing Guy, or Numa Numa, or the Star Wars Kid

Hell, look at them all!

As with all memes, sometimes, something gets a little out of hand in a good way. If you’re a Twitter user, you may have noticed that a fair number of the Aussies now have these odd little cartoon avatars. They’re all drawn by our favorite political cartoonist and Crikey (if you don’t read Crikey, you should) contributor, First Dog on the Moon (@firstdogonmoon).

It’s all a consequence of a minor action on Twitter itself:

I should be cleaning my office. But here is my hand knitted twitter aggregator and diy electronic whiteboard. #

That link led to a picture of a whiteboard covered in sketches of several Twitterers as imagined by First Dog. Naturally, we all begged, pleaded and bitched until we had our own First Dog avatars. You can see the results for Mark Pesce, Stilgherrian, Jo “Mediamum” White, Sean Carmody, Dekrazee1, Zuzu and others.

EDIT: More for the list – Andrew Barnett, Kate Carruthers, Pete Davis, Linda Gehard, Jinjirrie

And, as is often the case with social media involvement, First Dog is doing this for us because he wants to and because we asked nicely (mostly). Of course, there are larger consequences. First Dog built on the already substantial social capital he has in our community. People like me blog about it, introducing others who might not be familiar with First Dog to him. People start wondering where all these weird little anthropomorphic drawings came from and go looking, discovering First Dog for themselves. It’s all very self-feeding and virtuous and a living example of the power of these tools and the way we live our lives through them.

Wild prediction for 2009 – (at least in Australia) First Dog becomes the #1 Twitter cartoonist, eclipsing @gapingvoid himself, Hugh McLeod.

I’m getting a copy of mine for the office – printed, signed and framed, no question

What does a social media consultant do?

This morning, my Kiwi compatriot, Simon Young (@audaciousgloop on Twitter) answered the question in the title on his own blog, predominantly in the context of explaining to people how his company, iJump, makes money.

I figure as there is growing interest in the business value of social media, I would have a lash at the same question. So, here goes nothing…

3007094100_23b26c5c8d.jpgI talk. A lot. I listen more. Two ears, one mouth used in that proportion. By doing this, I can build an understanding of my clients’ business and get across the problems they face – whether it’s collaborating internally, talking to their customers and stakeholders in the right way, or understanding how the market works in the social media world to name a few common issues.

I talk and listen some more. Strategising with my clients on building an understanding of their problems and the possible approaches they might take in addressing them is a core component of my work. From these discussions, which range from one-on-one with the CEO or mail room guy to large workshops with the entire staff, we’re able to build a list of issues to be addressed and some thinking about what we can do to address them. Sometimes it’s quick fixes we can start on tomorrow. Other times, we build a six month to one year plan.

I research and write. Lots. For myself and for my clients. Those issues that need solving? Sometimes that very issue has been tackled before. I want to know when, how, why, who did it and with what. So do my clients. I also want to know what the latest thinking and case studies on business use of social tools is. It’s my job to do that research and help my clients understand what it all means.

So, what words might be used to describe all this stuff? Innovation, change management, cultural change, mentoring, teaching, consulting.

The technology part of this equation, as Simon said in his post, is the least complex part. Understanding organisational culture, readiness for change and what motivations might bring about that change in individuals, groups and organisations are the bread and butter of my work. How do we flatten corporate structures? Encourage fast, cheap and innovative experimentation and failure? Change the management mindset from command-and-control to conversation, collaboration and community?

That’s the cool stuff. That’s the stuff I love. That’s why acidlabs is unique.

BarCamp Sydney #4 – Saturday, 15 November 2008

The (un)organisers of BarCamp Sydney have let me know that they are preparing for yet another festival of creativity to engage and excite the Australian tech and innovation community. Details below.

Date: 15 November 2008

Venue: UNSW Roundhouse

Time: 9:00AM-5:00PMpm (registration starts at 8:30AM)

Register: Do it yourself on the wiki

If you’ve never been to a BarCamp before, I highly recommend it. Make some time in your schedule. For those that have been before, I needn’t remind you how great BarCamp is. Take a look at my tag list below to see just how much of your life this might touch.

Hopefully, I’ll see you there. I’m not sure how my timetable is yet.

What inspires me to blog (and a short rant)

Laurel’s pressured me and now Lee has too! What is it with you people?

There are a number of triggers, I guess, that will get me to make those particular mouse clicks and keyboard strokes. I’ve never really thought about them clearly before now. Like Laurel and Lee, I’m pretty much on a theme here. There are occasions I drift off topic, or am tempted to put something more personal in a post, but they are very much that – occasional.

So what are my motivators? Let’s see:

  • business value for problem solving using social tools as a supporting technology – it’s about the problems, culture and practices, the tools simply make it easier
  • how business can get social tool use right, both inside the wall and across it – openness, honesty, humanity, fairness, values, equality
  • the flip side of the last point, how not to use social tools in your business – sock-puppeting, dishonesty and the like
  • social web strategy for business – folding the culture, practice and tools into your corporate DNA
  • products I use and enjoy using for some reason (not necessarily online) – if I like it, maybe you will too, and I want you to know
  • things I’ve read that I think others should – interesting, exciting, groundbreaking, stimulating

Scarily enough, like my friends (and competitors, so back off you pair!) Laurel and Lee, I’ve got to do this in such a way that it generates leads for business for me where it can. I can’t be giving away all my IP.

And now, the tangential bit… public speaking – which is akin to being with me as I blog. With pictures. And sometimes video.

Again, like Lee and Laurel, this blog generates a lot of speaking opportunities – and like Lee, I’ve about reached the end of where I’m prepared to speak gratis.

I am flattered that you think I’d add value to your event, but I have an established brand and reputation to which I attach some value. Yes, I’ll meet some new people at your thing, but I rarely generate work (have I ever?) from conferences. So, “it’s good for your business, think of the networking opportunities”. Not so much.

There are a few events I will always consider doing just for expense coverage, the organisers know who they are.

However, if you’re charging your attendees more than $1500 to attend, I think you should probably send some of that my way for the time it takes me to prepare and the work I couldn’t do in the meantime. I have even engaged a very highly regarded speakers’ bureau (thank you Mr Pesce) to help me out. If you ask me to speak and you’re running a commercial event, I’ll probably send you their way.

Here’s the math. Not including the days of distracting brainstorming I go through, a half-hour talk takes me two days to prepare. Minimum. And it scales somewhat more than linearly from there. Plus there’s rehearsal time. I need to do my talks half a dozen times at least in rehearsal before I can give you a good performance.

That’s got to be worth something, no?

Dear Hugh Martin, why didn’t you call?

Hugh Martin of APN Online has commented on the ongoing artificial journalist vs. blogger thing. His post seeks to establish him as both experienced professional journalist and experienced “online guy”. I’ll pay him on both accounts.

However, his post exhibits some of the worst traits he and the other professional journalists have accused bloggers of perpetuating – failure to research adequately, failure to contact the subjects of criticism for comment and unsubstantiated op-ed. As far as I know, Hugh didn’t contact any of the people he criticises – me, Mark Pesce, Stilgherrian and Chris Saad. He accuses us of generalisation, laziness and, remarkably:

… not to have the first clue about the way MSM actually works, and [clinging] violently to a set of pre-ordained notions about said MSM.

I say remarkably as at least three of us have mainstream media experience of some significance – Stil is an experienced journalist and broadcaster, Mark an often-published author and my background is as a tertiary-trained journalist who hasn’t worked in the industry for some years (I didn’t enjoy the grind enough). If Hugh had called, emailed or researched any of us properly he’d have known that. I think it might have put quite a different spin on his post.

Certainly, I think my post responding to and commenting on the Future of Media Summit was reasonably balanced, so to be accused of laziness, generalisation and not having a clue kind of annoys me.

What bugs me most is the ongoing, patently ridiculous, artificial dichotomy, perpetuated by individuals on both sides of the argument that journalism and blogging are diametrically opposed. The attitude exhibited by both Jane Schulze and Stephen Quinn on the panel; an attitude that suggests a belief that true journalism can only be done by those properly trained, vetted and edited by their publishers is patently rubbish. Equally, the hard line taken by some bloggers that all MSM is evil and a dead medium is ridiculous.

My position, as:

  • a trained journalist and reasonably successful blogger (in terms of readership)
  • someone who who consults on issues around corporate comms, social media and social networking and connecting with stakeholders by using these tools
  • someone who is sought out by journalists for expert comment or covered by them based on my public speaking on this stuff, and
  • someone who researches, interviews and comments (sounds like journalism to me) in his field of expertise

is that there is a place for both professional and amateur, journalist and blogger, new and old. What there’s no place for is bigotry, elitism, low quality, sensationalism and unprofessionalism on either side; and both sides are lousy with each. To say otherwise is to be disingenuous at best.

I don’t know why Hugh’s research didn’t extend to flicking a quick email to some of us, but I don’t think he’s done himself any favors with this piece.