Cavemen At The Fire

Originally uploaded by Beej Jorgensen.

The title of this post was cribbed from one by the same name by Chris Brogan. In it, Brogan ponders why he writes, why he creates, why he does things that oftentimes seem to have no direct monetary outcome. What did he realize?

“We go off all day to hunt the mammoths, but at the end of the day, we gather round the fire to tell stories.

One pays the bills (we eat the mammoth); the other feeds our hearts (storytelling). It’s a reasonable thought.

I was talking with my wife about this last night. I said, ‘I’m questioning why I’m throwing so much effort into my own website, the three others I’m providing content for, the podcasts, the video, and all the various projects I’m doing. It’s not like I’m being paid.’

But the truth is, I’m getting value. I get value in talking with you. I’ve met so many engaging people, and every time one of you risks delurking and sending me an email, I meet a new friend. I’ve met people who’ve helped me build websites, people who’ve joined with me on Advisory Board discussions about what we should do with our careers. I’ve met fascinating people with passions for their own projects, and whose sites I read religiously now.

I feel that every day I post something new is another micro resume. I’m telling people out there what I stand for, how I think, what matters most to me. Some days, that’s probably not going to land me a job. Other days, it’s something that people might relate to.”

The whole post is here.

On a related note, had a great lunch on Thursday with Heather Gold. One of the key points we agreed on:

In an increasing number of situations, the personal is the professional.

In other words, the person, the whole person, should be able to show up at the office. Not just the cookie cutter caricature that is playing the role, but the whole person and all of his or her skills and perspectives and even weaknesses. More thoughts on this from Heather here.


Paul McNamara has put together a set of incredibly well-researched and thought-provoking posts on how technology adoption occurs within businesses, and does a helluva persuasive job challenging some of the legends and lore that have built up over the past couple of decades (example: Why did the PC win the enterprise in the early 80’s? “The spreadsheet,” you say? Wrong.). Here are a few excerpts; I encourage you to check out the whole series. (n.b. If you got value out of Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm, you’ll likely learn a thing or two from Paul’s series as well.)

Part 1: What is a “p-wave?”

“Shifts in technology use in the business world often happen like earthquakes. At first, they are felt suddenly, like a p-wave. After the technology p-wave, things continue to shake in the industry — often for several years — like an s-wave. But it’s what happens during the p-wave that can determine winners and losers.”

Part 2: The PC Revolution and the Forgotten Killer App

“Conventional wisdom holds that the spreadsheet (Visicalc for Apple and Lotus 1-2-3 for the IBM PC) was the killer app that got PCs into big companies. It’s true that lots of PCs got sold into the Financial Services sector because of the spreadsheet. But this explanation is somewhat incomplete. Outside of the Financial Services sector, a less recognized force was also at work. A small spark had ignited big sales of PCs to Fortune 500 businesses: it was the introduction of the lowly 3270 emulator.”

Part 3: Linux Displaces Unix and the Myth of the Basement Hacker

“The Linux p-wave hit in 1998/1999. It wasn’t until halfway through the p-wave that we even realized what was going on. The way we found out was a story in itself. Our engineers had put a signature deep inside the OS that enabled a web-server to respond to a network query by saying “I’m an Apache web server that is running on Red Hat Linux”. Mike Prettejohn had formed a business called Netcraft which routinely pinged millions of web servers to gather statistics about the Internet and had figured out a way to read these signatures. Mike called me in late 1998 and said, ‘are you guys aware that Red Hat is about to overtake Microsoft in the number of web servers on the Internet?‘”

Part 4: Technology P-Waves — Jolts to the Market

“I’ve described how earthquakes happen in two phases — the p-wave (a short powerful impulse) and the s-wave (the sustained shaking). In reality, the p-wave and the s-wave emanate from the same spot. The reason we experience them as two different events is because they travel at different speeds. The p-wave travels much faster than the s-wave. How far you are from the epicenter will determine the time interval between when you experience the p-wave and when you experience the s-wave.

A technology shift happens the same way. The p-wave of a technology shift is characterized by large numbers of smaller-scale decision makers (individual contributors and first line managers) nearly simultaneously deciding to adopt a new approach. The technology p-wave travels fast because biz-sumers decide and act faster than larger-scale decision makers. They are closer to the problem and their decisions carry less risk.”

Part 5: Software Simplified — The Next Technology P-wave

“The truth is that if you talk to just about anyone on the front lines today, whether they are in sales, finance, manufacturing, marketing, or any other operating group, you find remarkable similarity in the stories they tell. They all feel like they’re not getting the applications they need to do their job well…If you talk to the IT guys, they are also frustrated. Deep down they understand the needs of their internal customers, but they simply don’t have the time or the budget to respond.

These are exactly the conditions that are ripe for a p-wave shift. And new generations of Web-Service approaches are exactly the right kind of solutions to start the cascade.”

I’m still wrapping my head around the whole thing, and I really like the metaphor of different types and speeds of adoption happening in parallel, via the p-wave and s-wave analogies. Good stuff, Paul.

(disclosure: coghead is a client)

Two Minute How-To: Adding Social Networking To Your Basecamp Implementation

As a way to jointly manage and track projects with customers, Basecamp from 37Signals is currently the program to beat. However, it would be nice if Basecamp had a richer set of capabilities for understanding the “who” behind the people on the project.

So, fresh off a great time at Maker Faire a couple of weeks ago, we decided to poke around a bit and see if we could easily connect Basecamp with Haystack. It ended up being significantly easier than we thought. Got two minutes? Here’s what it takes:

Integrating Basecamp With Haystack To Enable Social Networking

1) Set up your Basecamp project

2) Set up your company’s Haystack

3) Go into the “People” tab in Basecamp, and click “Edit” under the person whose profile you want to connect


4) Scroll down to the “optional” section in the Basecamp person information. Choose a field (the “title” field works well) and enter the following single line of HTML:

<a href=”“> My Haystack Profile </a>

(where x in the link corresponds to your Haystack profile number…you can find this in your profile permalink; in this example the number is “1”)


Click “Save Changes.”

5) That’s it! Seriously.

Now, your Basecamp profile connects directly to your Haystack profile via its permalink.



All Business Is Personal

I don’t understand why Seth didn’t link to the Lynx Transport website in his recent post, 478-PETE. It really is a great example of something that we’ve been talking about for a long time…everything commoditizes over time except for you.

Differentiating on your product speeds-and-feeds? Any viable competitor is “close enough” in capabilities, and can likely do the job well enough.

Differentiating on your processes? There are only so many ways to do things, and processes can be replicated. (They’re probably hardcoded into your ERP system, anyway.)

Differentitating on your infrastructure? Another competitor can get the same hardware and software from the same vendors that you did.

I’m not even going to talk about competing on price.

There really are two big long-term differentiators. One is execution, naturally.

The other is the people in the organization, the unique collection of personalities and personal reputations that are the soul of the business.

What Pete at Lynx Transport has done is bake his personality and his personal stake into the organization, and that commitment rings through, loudly and clearly. The company’s about page reads like a blog entry. It’s refreshingly basic and B.S.-free. First person writing. Firsthand accounts of what’s gone on in the company. It’s a glimpse into the “who” and the soul of the organization.

All business is personal.

UPDATE: Just found this in Pete’s FAQ list

Q: Pete, could you sum up your business philosophy?

A: I’m glad someone asked that question. We work hard to please our customers. We have experienced employees and purchase and maintain a fleet of late model trucks. We have all the boxes, packing supplies, moving pads, dollies, ramps, liftgates, etc. to do your job professionally.

I, as president of Lynx Transport Company, try to put myself in the customer’s shoes. I try to service their needs and address any problems as if I were the customer. This has proven successful since I started the business in 1981 – Good ideas don’t go out of vogue.

Go, Pete, go.

Acquired? Or Expired?

Ah, names from yesteryear. Webvan. Boo. Kozmo.

George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” So…with all of the Web 2.0 hype currently happening, let’s see what lessons we learned from the dot-com boom of the late 90’s. Here are 25 companies that were dot-com darlings but are no longer with us. Can you tell if they were…Acquired or Expired?

Take the quiz.


A Conversation With Eric Mattson At MarketingMonger

Eric Mattson of MarketingMonger is on a mission to have 1,000 conversations with marketers, and to present them all as podcasts. Eric writes:

“For the 20th podcast in my project, I connected with Chris Carfi of Cerado.

I first ran across Chris’s blog when he published his original Social Customer Manifesto.

Then I heard interesting things about Cerado’s Haystack social networking software for businesses.

So I was excited to get a chance to talk with Chris about his social customer philosophy, his entrepreneurial efforts with Cerado, Haystack’s success to date and more.”

A link to his summary of the call here, and have a listen to the mp3 file here.

Thanks for the invitation, Eric!

Haystack Updates – May 17, 2006

Some news, hot off the presses on the Haystack front. Two big new capabilities to note this week: Multiple Haystack Support and RSS Feed Integration. Here’s the skinny.


Multiple Haystack Support

We’ve implemented capabilities that allow a single individual (or, more correctly, a single digital identity as represented by an email address) to belong to multiple Haystacks. This is a big one. We realized early on that we are all members of multiple groups, and various aspects of “who we are” are relevant only in context. More importantly, when an organization is setting up a Haystack, that organization may only want certain traits to appear.

For example, profiles that are in a Haystack that’s set up for a local bookstore might include favorite authors, whereas a Haystack for a medical office would likely want to have a tag category set up for specialty of practice for each doctor in the practice. Since a single individual might belong to both of these Haystacks (let’s say the doctor volunteers at the bookstore on weekends), the profile the doctor needs to put in the Haystack for her medical office is going to be quite different than the one she puts in the one for the bookstore. This new capability easily allows this, and allows different Haystacks to easily capture different “facets” of a personality.

Here’s an example of an individual who belongs two Haystacks, one for the BrainJams unconferences, and one for the recently-concluded MeshForum.

RSS Feed Integration

One capabilty that Stowe Boyd has noted is missing in other enterprise social networking systems is the ability to integrate “live web” aspects into a profile; a profile is typically a “static” construct. (I agree, this is critically important. Since “who we are” will be increasingly defined by the digital artifacts we produce, integrating feeds into your digital identity is a critical capability to have.) Stowe notes that he sees a need for:

“…importing RSS feeds of outside information into the profile (I’d like to link my blog, for example)”

Stowe, ask and ye shall recieve. (Check danah’s profile in the Speaker’s Haystack for an example.) Haystack profiles have the ability to pull in an RSS 2.0 feed, and the feed parser is even all AJAX-ified and stuff, so that a customer or prospective business contact can view your tags and the rest of your profile while the system goes out and grabs the most recent headlines from your feed.


Recent related items:

Podcast: Customer Relationships, Communications and Enterprise Social Networking
Haystack Updates – April 26, 2006

Personal Journeys and The Cult Of Paper

Neat collision of a bunch of things happening here. My friend Ron “Chai Guy*” Tetirick is walking the Pacific Crest Trail from end to end, a journey of about 2,650 miles. On foot. Solo.

Dave Gray, who regularly appears in this space, is all about the cult of paper. He even has a hipster PDA.

The neat collision: Ron can’t always post to his blog since he’s, you know, dodging rattlesnakes and bears and stuff. But he’s still keeping a journal. He’s sending the pages to his friend Blue, who is posting them for him on his blog.

(click pages to view Ron’s entry)

Great stuff. And, yes, sometimes paper is better.

* – if you’ve gone to that thing in the desert any time in the last couple of years, Chai is responsible for the “Free Chai Revolution” that takes place near Center Camp.


John T. Unger responded to the post on creativity in the comments. He’s so spot-on that his whole response is reproduced here. John writes:


I think my take would be that there’s no point in even doing something if you don’t in some way improve on the existing concept or structure or practice… I mean, who wants a motorcycle that’s only as good as new or maybe not even quite that good? *I* want a motorcycle that does something the others don’t do, whether that’s flying, making espresso or shooting jets of flame from it’s headlight. My basic criteria for accepting a new design brief is that it should at least in part be “impossible” or inconceivable. Where’s the fun in doing something you know will work? The learning curve is all about doing something that should never work, and doing it in an elegant way.

Conservation of mass? Pshaw. I make something from nothing all the time… In fact, the world is so full of nothing, I find that using it as my primary source material gives me a constant supply. Not nothing in the sense of a lack of atoms, but nothing in the sense of matter undesired by the masses. There’s plenty of that stuff, and I can make it very desirable with a little application of creative reorganizing.

The first rule of creative living is that breaking the rules is the first step to fixing the problem. When you can break the higher order rules of physics, or at least bend them a bit or make them dance unexpectedly on pins, you’re almost certainly on to something.”

What does John create out of “nothing?” Things like the Great Bowl of Fire, and things like these.

Bonus question: What movie inspired the headline of this post, as well as the original one?

Podcast: Customer Relationships, Communications and Enterprise Social Networking

Had a great conversation on Wednesday with Shel Holtz, on the For Immediate Release podcast. We chatted about the link between communications and customer relationships, and the importance of communication within an organization. We also talked at some length about where things are going with Haystack, Cerado’s enterprise social networking tool.

Would love your feedback! Click here to listen.