Important condition to being a social media manager: 1000 followers on Twitter

Social Media Manager qualification: minimum 1000 followers on Twitter

A few weeks ago I tweeted:

New rule: if you want to be a social media manager, get 1000 Twitter followers first. The experience is rewarding, esp if you do it well.

If your organisation is looking to hire someone to run your social media presence, I recommend, among your requirements and qualifications, that you require candidates to have at least 1000 followers on twitter. Because it’s the easiest and clearest way to ensure your candidates know the minimum required about social media. Read more »

What the non-profit sector could learn from the tech boom & bust

When the solutions aren’t otherwise obvious, the “Startup approach” can be the push for non-profits to innovate and solve problems.

When the “tech boom” hit (aka “Dot-com bubble”), tonnes of money propelled tech companies to new heights of possibilities, even companies that didn’t exist yet. Hoping to capitalize on a pool of investment with few strings attached, creative techies coalesced to hammer out prototypes, proofs of concept, or even mere business plans. When the tech bust hit, it pushed the tech industry to trim the fat, get heads out of the clouds and focus on real deliverables. Now, over a decade later, we still benefit from how this boom and bust that kickstarted phenomenal advances pushing the Internet to new heights. This period cemented the valuable role of the “startup” approach to not only quickly develop business lines but also for big businesses to build highly-adaptable and independent teams and inject needed innovation during times of crises. The startup approach broke the mould for workplace culture and changed the rules for doing business too. The non-profit sector could benefit a lot from this. Read more »

The “Potatoes” approach to organising events

3 parts to an event: the plate (logistics), the potatoes (content), and the gravy (nice-to-haves)

3 parts to an event: the plate (logistics), the potatoes (content), and the gravy (nice-to-haves)

Organising an event can be daunting. The sky’s the limit, there’s an empty canvas, anything and everything is on the table. There are a lot of tasks to complete, material to develop and people to pull in a hundred directions. Inevitably I see events being organised that require too much resources, time, effort, for very little return beyond the enjoyable day gathering people together, when all the while more common events are going on all around us with little efforts in the way of preparation. Read more »

Tips for when you’re starting that new job

Jack totally bonded on his first day at work they commemorated by taking a photo. Some rights reserved by janwillemsen

Starting a new job in an office? Great! Here’s some advice I give to friends:

  1. Meet everyone you can on your floor. 
    And why not? It’s your first day. Too shy? The introvertive type? Get it done, out of the way. Rehearse the first few lines.
    Find out if they work for your boss, or not. You don’t need to know what you do already, hey, it’s your first day!
    Added tip: after talking with them, write in your little notebook their name, and a little note. Remembering names is flattering to others.
  2. Do not downplay the job. 
    Oh what? It’s a survival job? You’re too qualified? You’ve done this before? Suck it up. Keep those opinions to yourself. You’re not better than anyone else. And even if you are, let others decide that for you because you’ll prove it. Your first week isn’t a time to showboat. Read more »

What is Gov 2.0?

Today I attended the inaugural “Gov 2.0 Meetup” presentation, taking place at City Hall. This is a summary of my reflections.

Gov 2.0 is not Government use of Social media;

The event’s speaker, Wayne Chu, Research Manager at Samara Canada presented what amounted to be a preview to a research paper to be released next month from Samara about political discussions in social media, illustrating the disconnect between legislations and the occupy movement. Yeah, I wasn’t all that clear about the relation to Gov 2.0, but it seemed clear having asked him what the link was, Wayne Chu equated the work of government with politics, political engagement, and political discourse, which is not tangential to the work of government. That’s like saying road deaths are due to the automotive industry. Sure the car hit the pedestrian, and sure that car was built to go fast, but saying that the Ford Motor Company is responsible for the pedestrian’s death is tangential. You’d have to make a leap to that conclusion after rendering the driver, urban planning, and even the pedestrian as responsible. Read more »

Cuts to federal public service has the potential of actually improving how government works

You have less bricks. So build smaller walls that line paths instead of walls that block.

Subtitle: What if 10% in cuts mean a public service that is 10% more collaborative and innovative?

Let me get into a very touchy topic for public servants: their jobs. It’s not a popular point to make that so many public servants need to be employed to the work of government. Isn’t there room for cost-cutting, job-slashing and re-structuring? What if this could be done while improving public services?

To cut the deficit and avoid raising taxes, the conservative government is looking at slashing federal government jobs. More than 10% are slated to be cut, with the unions reacting saying it will result in reduced quality of services from the federal government. Firms studying the issue are concerned for the possibly 22’000 jobs possibly cut from the National Capital Region alone, with others arguing the public is not concerned for the jobs of overpaid public servants while the country’s economy is facing challenges of its own.

Let’s get into the reasons why I think the cuts may not be a bad thing: Read more »

President of the Treasury Board gives no sign of unblocking internet access for public servants

Yesterday, Treasury Board President and Member of Parliament Honorable Tony Clement spoke yesterday about Open government, open data and and open dialogue at a Third Tuesday event in Ottawa. This page has a great summary of the event.

Tweeted photo of Tony Clement talking about Open Gov't

Clement is very knowledgeable about innovation, technology and open government, and certainly demonstrated it.  He underlined the importance of having a “productive, efficient and responsive public service, to deliver services with less resources” like using collaborative tools. These are words I can support! “The greater risk is to ignore it. We have to manage the risks, but the greatest risk is standing still.” Clement made mentions of the irony of some public servants being able to do more at Starbucks than at their desks. Although what isn’t clear is whether he is aware that public servants can be found doing actual work work at Starbucks because it can be impossible at their desk.

Sure, this is a lofty goal, and things take time. What has worried me for several years is that the government may be going in the opposite direction, which I will argue is worse than standing still. As society gets more complex, demands from citizenry get more pressing, and technology advances, here is a government that in practice is further blocking access of public servants to the internet. Unless public servants work harder and longer hours and miraculously more talented, they are becoming less productive, inefficient and certainly less responsive to the public, as access to the information and the tools to do their job becomes harder and even impossible.

I decided to ask Hon. Tony Clement about it. Paraphrased, here is the question I asked:

“I’m glad you mentioned you support a more productive and efficient public service. Of course we know alot of hard-working creative public servants, but increasingly they have to work harder and harder and be more creative with their work to get around blocked internet. I’m glad you pointed out how the new guidelines for the external use of social media support public servants’ use of social media, however before we had them we had more access to the net, and now that we have them we have more blocked internet. I’m interested to know if this trend is going to continue. I’d like to know what advice you have for public servants who want to support your endeavours with Open Government, who want to be more productive and efficient in their work to support Canadians.”

How I could’ve asked the question more honestly:

“How can public servants support you in your endeavours for Open Government if they have blocked access to the net? At my organisation, even the webpage promoting this event was blocked, as are tweets about it. Is it not a slap in the face to public servants who want to do better work to support the public and their ministers are blocked from accessing the very information they need to do their job?”

Unfortunately Clement’s answer wasn’t substantial. I paraphrase again:

“Now that we’ve got a report on how to implement Open Government, it’s still very early. My personal thinking is that the consequences need to be weeded out. We’ll ask staff for process, what the learning is and review.”

That’s quite a non-answer, a very typical “we’re managing it and will manage it further” kind of answer. His answer actually gets me more worried. Not only did he not answer the question (there’s no advice!), but there may be more troublesome times ahead. Will the internet be further blocked? Will more public servants have their internet blocked? Is Starbucks wi-fi going to need locations in government towers? Does Clement see Open Government as an engagement for only the public, not public servants?

I don’t know. And I don’t think I’ll be able to ask him the same question again and expect an answer. All the same, I appreciate the talk.

He did close with an interesting word:

“Reasonable people can disagree, but reasonable people can also change opinions”.

Mind you, there he was talking in defense of the scrapping of the long-form census.

More on what I’ve desperately written about Internet blocking:

  1. The GoC can get on-board to Web 2.0 by first unblocking access to Web 2.0
  2. Thought-experiment: What if public servants’ telephones were blocked?
  3. Strategy to get your Internet unblocked

The tech industry has something to learn from Jerry Yang’s departure from Yahoo

This photo from 2008 tells it all: Jerry Yang (center) hangs his head while talking with Google's co-founders. He had just turned down a very valuable buy-out offer from Microsoft.

I always find it interesting to follow the development tech companies. More than any other sector, the tech sector is a microcosm of accelerated time; you can witness their growth, assimilation and death within a matter of years, months even. It’s hard to write the case studies because before you think you’re beyond the shadow their success (or even death), there they are again, possibly in free-fall, or resurrected.

As the tech sector matured, developing greater rigour and discipline, we have seen digital companies sprout up from its auspices,  still with the same fervour for innovative approaches to engaging employees, creativity for meeting client demands, and capacity to redefine the rules of business. How much of this can you say for other sectors, like textiles, accounting, food & beverage, or consulting?

I was not surprised to hear about Jerry Yang’s departure from the company he co-founded, Yahoo. I’m all for companies taking bold leaps and chances, but the proof is in the pudding, and Yahoo was compromising its decision-making too often. The disturbing part is how often Yahoo could never get a break, either going against the grain and repeating the same mistakes as other companies (such as rebranding itself as a media company after it failed for AOL-Time Warner, sticking to its guns as a directory of the web after Google got out of that business, creating a portal after they had long passed become passé…) or even executing successful practices from other companies (such as becoming a “walled-garden” social network a decade before Facebook, absorbing GeoCities, refusing buy-outs as Facebook has, a Steve Jobs-like second act for Jerry Yang as CEO…). Despite its meteoric rise during its heyday, it just can’ t seem to get a break. But that presumes luck could win out against poor decision-making.

Not only was Yahoo faltering in the execution of its strategies, internally it’s been smoke and mirrors for a long time. Yahoo was well-placed to capitalize on Internet advertising, when the industry was lacking big enough players with the breadth and scope that only a few companies had: there was Microsoft’s MSN, Google and a handful of niche search engines (then called “web crawlers” or “web portals” like Excite, Alta Vista, GO.Com). It was the tech boom, and big media giants and fellow startups were throwing money to get screen space; they had to spend it to get more of it, or save it and lose it. The best time for Yahoo was when the Internet was getting good: in 1998. The best piece to read about this is from former Yahoo programmer Paul Graham, who wrote very candidly back in 2010 about his time with the company when it was very much like Google before Google was.

What can be learned from this? The vital importance for companies lacking strategy to listen to its most valuable resource: its employees. As the book gets written about the tech industry and digital media companies, the patterns remain strong, the players and familiar faces are surprisingly few, and the pace of change continually accelerating. Internal dissent is the canary in the goldmine. Techies love to work at companies they are proud, with uncharted success. They love to be engaged, and they are intelligent and informed not only for their work, but about the sector. They know their craft intimately, and the tech they work on. No single CEO or executive can know everything all the time about their work, internally and externally to the company. If there’s a memo going around, the writing’s on the wall. If you read it (sent anonymously or not),

We haven’t seen the worst of Yahoo, or its best. But Yang’s departure marks a turning point and bold break from the old.

The next shoe to drop will be Research in Motion (“RIM”, the makers of Blackberry). Already an anonymous memo was circulated,  purportedly from an executive writing very boldly and insightfully about the change that is needed. The memo was foretelling of the worse days ahead for RIM, as it faced a network outage, lacklustre sales of its Bold line, and a delay of its launch of its next operating system and refreshed line of smartphones. The canary chirped a long time ago.  I predict we’ll still see much worse days ahead for RIM. And it will be a story very few of us will likely read on Yahoo.

But again, be sure to read Paul Graham‘s piece about what happened to Yahoo.


Federal Liberal Party’s big leadership selection gamble

A party that's easier to join is a better party, right? Microphones for everyone! CC: Some rights reserved by Michael Ignatieff, not present

I was surprised to read that Canada’s 3rd largest political federal party, the Liberal Party of Canada, has opened the voting of its next leader to non-members. Although the party risks being completely infiltrated by any organised group, the real risk lies in the party trading in any respectful leadership selection for modest increase in its broad support. Lowering the barriers for voting (a $10 membership fee) does not result in more votes, or better votes, nor more, better votes.  Read more »

How relevant is the Occupy Wall Street movement to Canada?

Logo for "Occupy Toronto" happening on Saturday

Last Friday I participated in a “General Assembly” for the Occupy Toronto demo happening on Saturday. Discussions and debate led late into the night about political theories and the relevance of capitalism. All throughout I kept wondering; How is this relevant to Canada? It isn’t. Let me tell you why. Read more »