Category: Technology

Getting results from crowdsourcing – SME Technology Forum Series

In Sydney tonight a bunch of interesting folk gathered to share their experience at The Insight Exchange’s first SME Technology Forum Series event – Getting Results from Crowdsourcing.  After opening remarks from The Insight Exchange’s Chairman Ross Dawson, keynote speakers include IdeasCulture’s Yvonne Adele, Freelancer.com’s Matt Barrie, DesignCrowd’s Alec Lynch and MediaConnect’s Phil Sim.

What I liked about this event is the focus on an interactive format – the majority of the time spent with the keynote speakers was in conversation:  attendees asked questions and became involved in the discussions.  The interactive component continued with four “expert roundtables” to choose from.   I  facilitated a discussion on how building online communities can scale up your relationships for business success.  The other facilitators were Anjaware’s Graham Dawson, Seggr’s Luke Harvey-Palmer and Lead Creation’s Toby Marshall.

It was a very intense 2 1/2 hour event – great use of time but arguably not the best timeslot for the event given the amount of content to digest: I wonder if a lunchtime event or morning event would be better for people’s attention and concentration.  What do you think?  Fortunately its easy to catch up on some of the key content shared via the live tweet stream.  There are a number of ways to do this.  Thanks to a tweet from Annalie Killian yesterday about a new hashtag aggregator called Tagal.us, I created one for this event: see #TIECrowd on Tagalus for the results.

For now, Twitter Search will also display the tweets (Twitter tends to keep search results for 7-10 days).  Another longer-term way is using FriendFeed.

Perhaps my favourite way of keeping track of the tweets, first brought to my attention by Chris Brogan’s How to Listen for Opportunities on Twitter, is by using RSS to import the search results into your RSS Reader.  Read Chris’s post for the low-down on this.  I’d also like to thank Leslie Barry who participated in my discussion tonight and reminded me about Gist – an interesting content aggregator which purports to help you “build stronger relationships by connecting the inbox to web to provide business-critical information about the people and companies that matter most.” (says their website)  Leslie describes Gist on his blog post as his “Life Dashboard” and invaluable so I look forward to trying it out.  I first signed up to the Gist beta in 2008, received an invite in 2009 which had remained unopened in my Inbox until now!  Thanks again Leslie.

My role in the event was to facilitate a discussion on how building online communities can scale up your relationships for business success.

Firstly I introduced myself and talked about what I currently do.  I “synergise people and technology” – these “share words” themselves are the result of a recent crowdsourcing exercise facilitated by my friend Robin Dickinson, which serves as an excellent example of the power of crowdsourcing in itself.  I’ll come back to this in a moment.

Professionally: I started as a programmer, moved into analytical and client service roles in the business information and market research industry, moved into enterprise software sales and currently am a  freelance consultant.  Right now I’m building startups around a new IBM-powered cloud-computing platform, and online communities.  You can connect with me on LinkedIn here.

Personally: on my Twitter Profile I describe myself as a “Geek interested in: Technology (@AskTonyIT) Food (@AskTonyFood). Family man. Values relationships, community, connecting, sharing, learning & helping others.”

I love connecting people and sharing my knowledge – sharing stories and demonstrating how technology generates business benefits.  In my work with IBM Business Partner Task Exchange:
– I bring interesting people to our door (enhancing serendipity/building relationships and opportunity)
– tell stories about what we do (Twitter, Website, blogs/Marketing/relationships and opportunity)

Now back to crowdsourcing.  The Internet has allowed tools to be built which let us connect, collaborate, converse and build community.  Why build community online?  You can scale up your relationships for business success.   Relationships add value to your network, to your brand, and ultimately your bottom line.  I’d rather have someone recommend me to you, than me having to do all the recommending.  How do you feel about “shameless self-promoters”?  You know you’re good, so my advice is to demonstrate why to others, then they will promote you.

The key: it’s in your sharing, not your selling (thanks to @iconic88 for reminding us of this).  Are you prepared to give before you can get?

Some examples of how you can do this:
– create a Group on LinkedIn and link your Twitter updates.  This generates membership and builds relationships with content you choose to share.   A community manager links people to content that interests them.
– Coffee Mornings: informal networking groups (or tweetups) which meet weekly for conversation and ideas. This builds relationships and opportunity for you.  Have a read of the post and comments on How Twitter fosters good “old fashioned” community on the Northside Coffee Mornings blog.
– Nortshide Coffee Mornings regular Robin Dickinson posted on 5th May – “How can I make it easy for people to recommend you” Today there are over 450 comments.  Yvonne Adele who spoke tonight also participated in this exercise and her share-words “freswhly squeezed briliance” were built with assistance from the crowd on that blog.  An excellent example of crowdsourcing for business benefit.
– use any number of Twitter tools to manage the real-time information and help you build your community.  My current favourite is Hootsuite – popular tools are TweetDeck, Seesmic and PeopleBrowsr.

What are the areas of your business that could benefit from crowdsourcing?  Please let me know if you have further questions about this.

Even more relevant today – Gerd Leonhard’s advice on capturing new opportunities for yourself and your company

Great post from 2008 which business futurist Gerd Leonhard linked to on Twitter again today.  This post was actually created by Hootsuite which allowed me to cross-post to this blog.  The post required tidying up to make sense – which I’ve done here now – so I am thinking that Posterous is probably doing a better job than WordPress of sharing links to to your blog.

Anyway, here’s a direct link to the post from December 2008: 6 survival tips to prepare for a tough 2009: time-wasters will become life-savers

Microsoft catching up to Google? Cloud + Client (Software and Services strategy)

I’m pretty excited to have the opportunity to see Steve Ballmer present live in Sydney next week.  I feel priviledge to have had exposure to and experience with so many technology companies and Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer will no doubt thrill the audience – word is, he’s a great presenter.  Of course I am a passionate user and supporter of Microsoft’s platforms and technology – from the business user’s point I have grown up on Office and Windows so feel comfortable using these tools.  I am not a developer but do enjoy working with and listening to their views – and Microsoft probably more than most companies, supports their developer community and in return has amassed an army of “evangelists” who support their initiatives.  Let’s face it, as blogger Craig Bailey puts it, there is the need to clarify “…the exciting, overwhelming, and sometimes bewildering array of Microsoft products”

On an amusing note, I thought I would remind readers of some of the famous moments Steve Ballmer has been captured on video – these videos have certainly done the rounds, but here are a couple for your enjoyment:
Steve Ballmer: “Developers, Developers…”  

Steve Ballmer “..I love this company”

On a more serious note, I am particulalry interested to see Microsoft’s views on so-called Cloud Computing, which as Wikipedia goes on to explain is simply “..the reliance on the Internet to solve the computing needs of users”  Microsoft was famously late in strategically embracing the Internet, dismissing the web browser’s importance before being brought to trial over its anti-competitive behaviour.  This has all been very well documented – one suggested starting point is Wikipedia to see some of this

As the Internet continues to grow its popularity and usage, and bandwidth increases, Microsoft is reinventing itself and positioning itself as a player in the space arguably dominated by Google.  I believe Google is one of Microsoft’s major threats – Microsoft even alluded to this in their latest annual report, as reported by Brier Dudley in the Seattle Times
It’s easy to be cynical about Microsoft, as in my opinion they are as much a marketing company as a software company – but regardless of what your opinion is, next week’s Steve Ballmer and team presentation will be highly engaging, entertaining and thought provoking.

Sonos Digital Music System – unleash your music

G’day folks, I wanted to share with you a fantastic new music system I’ve recently installed at home. The background to this is that over the years my CD collection’s been gathering dust, as I’ve transferred most of it into iTunes/MP3 on my PCs at home. I’ve been using an iPod to enjoy this music, but that’s usually via headphones. Occasionally I’d plug the iPod into the stereo which is a workable solution but I wanted to enjoy the music in other rooms from time to time, such as outside on warm nights whilst inside others could still enjoy their music/movies/TV etc. In short, I needed to set up a multi-room audio system. Of course most multi-channel amplifiers have multi-zone capabilities these days, allowing you to play multiple sound sources to multiple speaker set-ups. This is all hard-wired usually and requires forethought and often an intricate set up in terms of time and cost. My current multi-channel (surround sound) amplifier still only has one zone, and I’ve added a simple A/B switch (speaker splitter) to let me play sound to a 2nd set of speakers outdoors. There had to be a better way. With the recent addition of a new PC at home, combined with my home wireless network, it got me thinking about how to merge that technology with my dual indoor/outdoor speaker set up. I simply wanted to unleash all that music stored on computers at home by making that music available to play indoors or outdoors, and not on an iPod or from the PC speakers.

I’ve known Nick & Tony at Audio Solutions in Mascot for many years and they are good honest guys prepared to give the right advice. They have a new showroom – it is worth a visit just to see the Sanyo Blu-Ray/HD projector which retails for AUD$5K (3 years ago it was many times that price to get that quality of video) Anyway Nick and Tony have been promoting the Sonos Digital Music System for some time . I have been aware of Sonos for a few years but they were AUD$3K+ then so hard to justify. Well, it turns out they have a bundled package now, out of the box comes an amp and two zones of music with the remote. I took the plunge and bought the Sonos. The Sonos BU130 bundle (this links to a CNET video review – Editor’s Choice) . It took about 30 minutes to set up (including indexing the songs on my PC) and I was then playing music in 2 zones, living room and backyard. Iwas impressed, and excited. We just enjoyed dinner out the back tonight, and it was sweet relief to finally be able to pick and choose music to listen to with the family while we enjoyed dinner “al fresco”, without having to fiddle with iPods or leave the dinner table.

It’s so simply executed it is hard to believe that:
– my PC has about 1000’s of songs, taking up many GB’s of hard disc space (space is not an issue now, the costs continue to fall)
– my PC only has a wireless connection (via a USB dongle/wireless USB adaptor) to my wireless router which plugs into my cable modem
– the PC is the source of the music which I can now listen to on my existing stereo system (zone 1 – living room) and outdoor speakers (zone 2 – backyard)
– remember, the PC has no physical connection to my stereo – it is only connected via a wireless Internet connection!
– the remote which looks like an iPod Video lets me control everything
– I can play music inside and/or outside, either the same or different music in each zone simultaneously.

This is just the beginning. Expansion options include:
– buying a NAS (network attached storage) device (basically a hard drive which plugs into your wireless router) to store all my music and just play off that.
– I can add another 30 zones! 32 zones in total.
– Rhapsody online music service is available (music on demand, unlimited, any music)
– Napster online music service is available (as above)
– Internet radio channels available

I read some Amazon reviews and I have to agree with them. I haven’t been this excited about a home appliance since TiVO. It’s basically an audio TiVo.

Check out: http://www.amazon.com/review/product/B000QU8J8E/ref=dp_db_cm_cr_acr_txt?%5Fencoding=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

How it works at: http://www.sonos.com/howitworks/default.aspx

If you have high-speed Internet at home (ADSL or Cable), and plenty of /iTunes/Windows Media Player/MP3 files, you should check this system out.

$US200 "Network Computer" available

I remember years ago (as far back as 1995 apparently) Larry Ellison touted the “Network Computer” as the way of the future. Well it seems to have arrived now albeit without Oracle’s involvement in the form of the gPC (or “Green PC”), available through Walmart stores in the US (and currently sold out). Matt Cutts, a respected blogger from Google, describes the gPC in more detail here. It seems to be an incredibly cheap way to get online, runs an open-source operating system called gOS, and encourages the use of purely web-based applications from Google. Check out some of the press coverage here. I am not sure if it would work in Australia but I don’t see why not. I am fascinated with Google’s web-based applications, particularly Docs and Gmail, and have been using them for a while. For example, I recently put together a spreadsheet of a budget gaming computer (with thanks to Sharky Extreme’s excellent guides) I am interesed in custom-building.