Category: Opinions & Reflections

Podcasting… an impulse, a plunge and a lot of sleepless nights!

So those that weren’t all caught up in IBM Connect last week (yes I know, not many of you) might have noticed I did something new. Well not new in itself, but new for me. I decided to try and see if I could do a podcast.

Now a normal person would probably think about that for a while, look into options, investigate Software/Hardware requirements etc and do a few trial runs….

Not me.

On Monday night, 6 days before IBM Connect was to start, I was thinking of having to live through the event without being there (I wasn’t going while all my friends and a good number of coworkers were) and decided that I needed some way of feeling connected as I would go stir crazy otherwise. So what could make me feel more connected? Well talking to people there! But what would entice people to make time for me out of their busy conference schedule….? Hey I know, I’ll interview them!

connect2014

And with that, presto the idea of doing a series of short podcasts about the conference  and all things going on around it was born. I called it “Connecting to Connect” and decided I could do one a day if I kept them to short 15min sessions.

Ignorant naive little me…

The next day I Googled around a bit, asked advice from a few friends, downloaded Audacity to edit my recordings, purchased Call Recorder as it promised to record Skype calls and set up my first call with Stuart McIntyre. Who, kindly enough, had agreed to be my first victim and guinea pig… The idea being: If I don’t crumble into a big pile of “Ehh’s” and “Ohh’s” then I’ll take the plunge and go ahead with it!

And so I did. To be honest, the first one I hardly had to say anything at all. Stuart was a great first guest as he didn’t need much prompting to talk at all and although I still had to edit out a good number of “Ehh’s” on my part it wasn’t too bad and thus I figured: “Yeah, let’s do this!“. I didn’t waste any time and promptly reached out to friends and acquaintances within the community to make arrangements to do one podcast a day for each day leading up to and during the conference: 10 in all.

So one day after coming up with the idea I had committed myself to doing 10 podcasts in just as many days…

oh boy, did I not realize what I had just gotten myself into…

————–

So, ten days on, what lessons did I learn from all this:

  1. Don’t forget to press “Record”!
  2. Don’t start every question with “So!”, respond to every answer with “Ok, ehh…” and end every question with “Uhem,…” (Let’s say, it made me very good at editing)
  3. Make clear appointments and set times…. no seriously, SET TIMES. Saying “Yeah, we’ll do it sometime tomorrow afternoon…” with a guest that is 6hrs behind you in time zones will cause you sleepless nights… literally.
  4. Insight jokes are no fun to outsiders. Doing podcasts with people you consider to be friends is great as it makes you less stressed but you have to be careful not to be too familiar with them (and definitely don’t forget to introduce them!).
  5. Getting people to talk isn’t the problem, getting them to STOP can be a whole different story! (Still learning that one)
  6. Don’t fear sudden silences, they are an editors Godsend (and I know this by experience, believe me)
  7. Don’t try to record a podcast with someone standing in the CGS room while they are rehearsing it and blasting the CGS music in the background. It really isn’t that good of an idea… No really, it isn’t… (that one got trashed unfortunately)
  8. Bet on the conference WIFI to do the interviews over Skype? Yes! It was surprisingly reliable! Apart from one dropped call it held up perfectly all week.
  9. Prepare a basic set of notes & questions ahead of time so you have something to refer to when you get nervous and forget everything, including your guests name… (he didn’t notice)
  10. Don’t get nervous! It will make you start blabbering in incomprehensible Dutch…
  11. Don’t panic if you forget a question. Just ask it again later on and cut it in afterwards. That’s why there is editing software (had to do a good few of those!)
  12. Don’t scratch your nose while you are recording… yeah, don’t really think that one needs explaining…
  13. Don’t set yourself to doing more then you can handle…. Oh boy did I learn that one… Being a total beginner at this I spend, on average 3-4,5 hours per 15min podcast (reading up on the guest, recording, editing & posting). Doing that all week while still also doing a normal (and busy!) work week as well as trying to do my daily exercise routines and cook/clean/other housework definitely broke me up after 10 consecutive days! I will be happily catching up on sleep this weekend.
  14. headsetExpensive software and or equipment really isn’t necessary when you are starting out. Call Recorder cost me 29$, Audacity was Freeware as was Skype of course, and for recording I simply used my MacBook and a little iPhone headset. I did order a real microphone but as I kind of did all this last minute that didn’t arrive until today (day after the conference and finishing the last one, go figure).
  15. Enjoy what you are doing. It comes out soooo much better if you do!
  16. Oh and did I mention: DON’T FORGET TO PRESS “RECORD”!

So will this be a one off? I don’t know. I did like doing it – stress and all – and although I’m certainly not planning on doing so many of them in such a short time frame ever again and absolutely need more training on this, I definitely see myself trying this again in some way or form.

Most importantly though I want to give a big THANK YOU to the people who made time out of their busy work and/or conference schedules to be a guest on the podcast and to all the others that gave suggestions & advise as well as supported me. Without them none of this would ever have happened!

p.s. Personal hat tip to the great podcasters this community has had over the years. I don’t know how people like Darren Duke & Stuart McIntyre, Chris Miller, David Leedy, Bruce Elgort & Julian Robichaux and many others that have done or still do podcasting on a regular basis managed to keep going for as long as they do/did. It takes a lot of effort and dedication and these 10 days have given me a newfound respect for them! Kudos guys!

Times are changing so are the names…!

The anticipation for Connect 2014 is growing. The yearly conference in Orlando that brings together the best of our technical IBM community and an opportunity to meet with experts, build or renew friendships and learn about upcoming changes and improvements in the IBM Collaboration Software stack. I’m not planning on being there this year due to other circumstances (breaking my foot being one of them) but I look forward to reading all the updates and post that are sure to come!

What I most definitely plan on attending is Engage, formerly known as BLUG, the BeNeLux user group that will be hosted in Breda, The Netherlands on March 17th & 18th this year. Knowing the people behind it and seeing the list of sponsors already committed I’m sure that it is going to be another great success and with a location so close to my hometown (30min) and Silverside committed as Platinum sponsor I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

Engage is not the only user group renaming itself at the moment, with INFORM (formerly AUSLUG) the gulf of renames that started with Connect (formerly Lotusphere) and ICONUK (formerly UKLUG) is definitely setting through. On the one hand I feel sad seeing the Lotus brand name slowely disappear, on the other hand, it’s just a name and I’m happy to see that the names these conferences take on now are more general, allowing them to cover the broader spectrum of products and information that is already being handled by them.

Another thing that changed is the names on the list of IBM Champions. After much anticipation the list for 2014 was announced last Friday. I’m feeling fortunate and honored to be named among them and look forward to meeting some of the new names on it as there seem to be quite a few this year!

A healthy community thrives on it’s ability to renew and rejuvenate itself. Seeing all these “new names” is promising, I’m looking forward to see what else 2014 is going to bring us!

 

Social Connections – Zurich

I know I’ve been less than forthcoming with posts these last few weeks, my apologies for that. It has just been crazy busy.

First of all with work, second of all with achieving my CIP (Certified Information Professional by AIIM) certification and lastly by Social Connections.

After a very successful Social Connections IV in Amsterdam the International IBM Connections user group is about to decent on Zurich for a day filled with high level sessions and great exchanges on June 28th. On top of that we will be hosting a great evening program with a dinner at the Zurich lake and the Michael Sampson masterclass on Thursday June 27th. To organize all this and make sure it all runs smoothly needs a lot of organizing as you can understand. Something the Social Connections team has been very busy with and which has taken most of my time.

So hopefully I’ll be able to blog a bit more once this is over. Till then bare with me and if you haven’t done so yet then sign up for Zurich! The event is free and it’s the best opportunity to learn more about IBM Connections and get insight into how Social Business can help your organization take the next step. I hope to see you in Zurich!

How to prevent the community manager from exploding

tug

<vent on>

To all organizations who think they’ve got it all sorted out so nicely because they have a community manager MANAGE it all…

Calling them ‘manager’ doesn’t mean they can control everything their community does or say unless you actually:

  • give them managerial rights over their community members (which you can’t if the community is comprised of customers or external parties);
  • inform them of the things you are doing BEFORE you are doing them instead of just dropping a bombshell and expecting them to manage the fallout;
  • understand that their role requires them to build a personal relation with their community which means that they are VULNERABLE when you take decisions that affect those community members without communicating them properly.

 

And to community members out there that seem to think the community manager is there just to help them….

Loving your community manager is great but that doesn’t exempt you from the responsibility to understand that:

  • your community manager is no philanthropist and needs that pay check their employer sends them every month just as much as you do. It’s not a case of loyalty, it’s a case of simple economics so don’t expect them to take impossible stands against their own employer;
  • the fact that they are called a ‘manager’ doesn’t mean they actually have any real managerial power or influence within their organization. In fact a community manager is by far the most powerless manager in any organizational tree. Don’t expect them to change the world, just ask them to help you find the right tree to bark up;
  • you think you are frustrated by how things go…?!? think again and start realizing they are probably too. Work together and don’t just vent. That’ll get a lot more done.

 

And to all… give them a bit of respect and TLC and realize they are in general doing a really good job of doing the impossible!

<vent off>

In dedication to some pretty awesome community managers out
there and a few in particular.

You know who you are ;)

From describing to applying – user training taken seriously

It still is one of the most common mistakes made ever… Implementing new or updated software without providing user training as the reasoning is: “Oh, we don’t need to train our users. They have been using this (or similar) software for years, surely they know by now how to use it“.

Well, do they really? I’ve recently been involved in several adoption projects where we trained both new users as well as users who had been using collaboration tools for years on how common features in everyday tools like mail, calendar, task lists and contact books can help them become more effective. One of the comments we got back a lot was: “I was aware of most of it but never really applied it to how I could use it in my own job, now I see how it can help me I wish we had gotten this training years ago!“.

The thing is that to those implementing the software it often all seems so straight forward. “It’s mail? How hard can it be?” or… “Come on, everyone knows how to autosum a column in Excel!“. Reality is though – users often don’t.

“I didn’t even know it could do that!”

Often users simply don’t know all the functionalities that the software they get offers because nobody ever showed them. Most times they use only a small percentage of it’s capabilities, not because they don’t want to use more of it but because nobody took the time to set them down and show it.

“I know it can do that, I just don’t have a clue how ‘I’ can get it to do that…”

Without training most users simply won’t know how to use half of what they have.  “Well they can use the Help can’t they? Or ask?“. Yes they can. But asking often implies inadequate knowledge of something and a lot of users don’t feel comfortable admitting to their coworkers not knowing something that others seem to think is such implied knowledge. And Help files? Well,… Ever tried using MS Excel Help to figure out how to create a pivot table?…

The most important one though in my opinion, and one that is often the biggest culprit of failed user adoption is:

“I don’t see how it can help me do my job better”

The mistake made here is that often implementers and trainers focus on showing users HOW to do things without explaining to them WHY this could be beneficial to them. Expecting users to be able to make the leap from seeing a ‘feature’ into applying it to their daily job without helping them to do so is often one step too far for a lot of them. Especially with the wide variety of software and functionalities we have nowadays.

For instance: If you talk to users about the ‘awareness’ functionality in instant messaging software like Lync or IBM Sametime you can simply explain that they can change their status to “not available” or “do not disturb” or you can start a discussion and address the topic of constant availability, where IM stands in the array of options we have nowadays to contact each other (mail, phone, face-to-face, etc), why and where it can be handier to use one over the other and how users can – and should – make choices about their availability to be contacted in that way.

Last but not least:
Enablement, education and training should never be seen as temporary things. Good adoption of technology and methodologies requires repetition and involvement so don’t stop after you’ve implemented the software; done your training sessions and provided reference materials. Reiterate the knowledge by regularly posting small tips & tricks on bulletin boards or intranet sites, by uploading videos, by having users interviewed  – or better yet – stimulating them to write blogs and wiki’s themselves about how it helps them to do their job better and by offering over the shoulder support.

So….

  • Never assume
  • Involve the user to train the user
  • Start with addressing the ‘why’ before going into ‘how’
  • repeat & reinforce

But most importantly have fun doing it… Nothing is more satisfying then seeing that ‘light bulb’ go on in someones eyes when they learn that one thing that will make all the difference to them in their day to day job… :)