Category Archives: conference

Community 2.0 and WebVisions

I wanted to let people know about two upcoming conferences where I will be speaking in the next 2 weeks.

Community 2.0 May 11 – 13 (San Francisco)

I will be on a panel discussion at 2:15 on Tuesday about How to be a Kick-A$$ Community Manager with some rock star community managers:

WebVisions May 20 – 22 (Portland, OR)

I’ll be presenting here in Portland at WebVisions on Friday, May 22nd at 10:30am on the topic of Companies and Communities: Participating without being sleazy and will be covering many of the topics from my book.

The speaker list for WebVisions is a who’s who of cool people, and the conference is really reasonable to attend ($250 and under), so you should register if you haven’t already! They are also offering a very nice combo registration deal for Open Source Bridge if you need to register for both.

There are also a couple of special events during WebVisions that you won’t want to miss – you don’t even need to register to attend these!

I hope to see you at one or both of these events!

Innotech and Social Media Awards

I just wanted to remind everyone that Innotech Oregon is in two weeks! I will be moderating a panel in the eMarketing Summit on the topic of Companies and Communities: Participating Without Being Sleazy on Thursday, April 23rd at 10:00 AM in Portland Ballroom 256. I’ll be joined on the panel by Kelly Feller, Social Media Strategist at Intel; Jake Kuramoto, Product Strategy Director at Oracle; and Dan Divens, Website and Community Manager at Tripwire.

Keep in mind that you have to register for the eMarketing Summit, since it is not part of the general conference fee. Other presenters in the eMarketing summit include: Rahaf Harfoush, New Media Strategist, Member of Obama’s Social Media Team; Carrie Bugbee, Kent Lewis, Ben Lloyd, and more. Speakers in other tracks include Jason Grigsby, Deborah Bryant, Brian Jamison, James Keller, Raven Zachary and many more.

Don’t forget about the  SoMe Awards: Your Social Media Awards brought to you by the Social Media Club of Portland, SEMpdx, the Software Association of Oregon (SAO), and InnoTech.

According to the SoMe website,

The Portland chapter of Social Media Club, SEMpdx and Software Association of Oregon are pleased to announce the first annual SoMē Awards to recognize outstanding Social Media projects and the people who created them.

Awards will be given in 7 categories based on factors such as originality, effectiveness and creativity. At least one member of the team who created the project must reside in Oregon or Southwest Washington to be eligible.

Award submissions must be received no later than 11:59 pm on Saturday, April 11, 2009 to be considered. The awards ceremony will take place on Thursday, April 23, following the eMarketing Summit & InnoTech conference.

It’s not too late! You have until this Saturday (4/11) to nominate your favorite social media project.

I hope to see you at Innotech.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Business Leader NW Supporting Non-Profits

Are you on the fence about attending Business Leader NW here at the Oregon Convention Center on February 25th & 26th?

Here are a few things that might entice you.

$25 of your entry fee goes to a non-profit (if you use a discount code below):

  • SHS199: School House Supplies. A Portland nonprofit that provides free school supplies for teachers.
  • OFB199: Oregon Food Bank. Distributes food to regional food banks across Oregon and SW Washington.
  • CFF199: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Provides funding for research to fight cystic fibrosis.

More details and links to registration on the BLNW blog.

Ask us questions in the BLNW Blogger Pavilion

From the BLNW blog:

The organizers are providing a 400 square foot space for a “Business Blogger Pavilion,” on the exhibit floor at the Oregon Convention Center. The pavilion will serve as a workshop for business people to meet with bloggers, web developers, technologists and a host of digital media and enterprise 2.0 experts. The goal is to connect the business community with bloggers and web experts. Bloggers will be featured in discussions at the pavilion on topics such as starting a business blog, marketing a business video and customer service 2.0.

I will be in the blogger pavilion, so please feel free to stop by and visit or ask us questions! I hope to see you there.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Online Community Manager: Yes, It's Really A Job (Slideshare)

Earlier this week, I did a blog post with this name on WebWorkerDaily talking about community management as a profession in preparation for my presentation at Oregon State University this afternoon.

The presentation covers several topics related to community management careers:

  • Defining Community
  • Community Manager Jobs (examples, job description and skills required, salaries)
  • Guiding Principles and Best Practices

Several people have asked for the slides, so here are the ones I’m bringing with me to the presentation. As always, I may take it in a different direction depending on the questions from the attendees, but at least this gives me something to deviate from.

Social Networking Sites for Conferences

A few days ago, I was asked if I had any thoughts about event-specific social networking services. After responding to the email, I thought that I would turn it into a blog post to see whether people agree or disagree with my views.

I went to a few conferences this year that set up event-specific social networks for the conference. Some I joined and then neglected without contributing anything, and others I never bothered to join at all. I didn’t stay engaged with any of the services.

I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of social networking sites specifically for conferences. There are a couple of reasons:

  • Most of us already belong to more social networks and communities than we can effectively manage. Joining one more social network and maintaining information and contacts in one more place is not something that most people will spend time doing.
  • Conferences and events are bound by time; we attend them for a few hours or a few days a year. We learn new things and meet new people during the event, but few of us will spend time trying to extend this networking time online for any significant period of time before or after the event.
  • There are so many better ways to keep up with people after an event that fit more easily into our everyday lives (Twitter, blogs, Facebook, etc.)

I like the goal of making it easy for people to connect before, during and after an event, but there are better ways to do this:

  • Engage with people on an existing social network that is already heavily used by your audience. Facebook groups, for example, are a good way for a conference to encourage information sharing and networking among 20-30 year olds or people working in technology.
  • Provide a way for members to find each other with an online member directory linking to contact information, Twitter handles, blogs, etc.

Here are my questions for you:

  • Have you ever found an event specific social network useful to you over any extended period of time?
  • If so, how did you use it?
  • If not, why do you think it wasn’t useful?

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Taking Your Idea From Side Project to Startup

I spent last evening and most of the day today at From Side Project to Startup. I had a great time, and I want to start with a huge thank you to Eva, David, the rest of the team at CubeSpace, the volunteers and the sponsors for putting together a great event! Great sessions, cool people, and peanut butter and jelly for my bagel(s).

I also took a bunch of notes during the sessions that I attended. Hopefully some of this will help people who missed the event or those who attended different sessions.

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that these are my notes from the sessions. I tried to capture as much as I could, but I certainly missed a few things, and there are probably a few mistakes in my notes. These are also in the words of the speakers and participants in the sessions, and I may or may not agree with the advice below.

Basics of starting your Business
Led by Jacqueline Babicky-Peterson: Business Advisor at the PCC SBDC

The PCC SBDC and OTBC are good resources in pdx for startup information.

You have to be ready to adapt your plan and never go on autopilot. Planning is helpful in the process to think longer-term, balance alternatives, prepare finances, and remember why you did this in the first place. Many people go the startup route because they want to do things their own way. It’s also very stressful, since you are managing so many things at once and troubleshooting, but many people who start businesses also like this environment despite the higher stress levels. It helps to look at your personal goals and why you started the business. If you started your business for personal or lifestyle goals, you might want to think of the business as a tool to accomplish those goals.

You need to be careful about requests that are outside of your core business. In some cases, they may make sense, but you need to be careful not to let it spiral out of the scope of what you want to do. Sometimes your whole business can shift in a direction that isn’t what you want to be doing. Feature creep can cause this, too. It happens to all of us.

You can easily form an LLC yourself without any professional help; however, if you need a contract, have intellectual property, want to take investments or hire employees, then you should get help from a lawyer. It also helps to have a CPA organize your books while they are still easy.

The Mistakes we made because we thought we were “different” despite the warnings
with Rabbi David Kominsky, Wm Lehler, and Bart Massey

You will make mistakes because you need to take risks, but you should be making new mistakes, not just repeating all of the mistakes others make.

You need way more money than you think you do. A 6 month runway is not enough no matter how unique and cool you think you are with your startup. Don’t invest too much money on things you may or may not need (CubeSpace & too many phone lines) buying for the long haul rather than what you need right now in a cash flow restricted environment (volume discounts are not always great for startups). Similar issues can also be caused by not having a realistic business plan.

It’s a mistake to think that money will solve your problems. You will tend to use all of the money you have available, and some of the companies with the most money have the most difficulties. They start to spend money on stupid things that they don’t need.

Don’t think that being acquired by a big company will solve your problems. They will crush your soul. Avoid those multi-year golden handcuffs if possible.

Funding requires that you give up some control of your company. If you want control, you need to bootstrap. If you need to grow quickly and get big, then you need to give up control and take funding.

Number one indicator of success for a startup is having multiple people involved in the startup (but don’t hire a relative). Never ever hire someone that you can’t afford to fire (whatever the personal reasons).

If the business plan only works if you don’t pay yourself, then it isn’t a valid business plan. If it only works if you work 80 hour weeks, it also isn’t valid. Realistically, you will probably work 80 hours anyway, but if you plan for 80 hours, you’ll probably realistically need to work 120 hours.

When you hire people, you want to hire them for the things that you don’t like to do. You should focus on the things that you love and what to do.

Overprotecting your IP is another mistake: “I have this really great idea, but I can’t tell you about it.” If someone can steal your idea based on a simple conversation, it isn’t a good idea for a business. Networking and getting feedback are too critical to avoid talking to people about your startup. They can also help you find your competition and make suggestions.

If you don’t think you don’t have competition, you are wrong. Find them and learn as much as you can about them. The competition also may not be obvious. For CubeSpace, the competition was mostly coffee shops more than other co-working spaces. Talk to your competition and make them your friends. There should be enough to go around if it really is a viable business. If you have more work than you can do, throw some of that business to other people and you can develop cooperative niches.

Not networking enough is another mistake. You can call almost anyone in town and convince them to have breakfast or coffee. But you have to be willing to give back later and meet with other people to give them advice.

Biggest mistake is not having tiers of savings. It can drain way more quickly than you expect, especially for freelancers. Don’t overspend early and take on debt (especially credit card debt) for things you don’t really need, which creates even more financial pressure. You are better off avoiding debt and giving away equity for startups.

Investing many months of your life to join a startup with no salary can also be a mistake. Don’t ever do this unless you are willing to kiss the money goodbye if it doesn’t work out. That’s why you start these as a side project and turn them into a startup while you still have other income coming in.

Don’t be desperate. Don’t under price your services to beat the competition – it can bleed you dry, drain your finances, and eventually put you out of business. It is better to walk away from this type of business.

Don’t bid on a contract outside of your core competency. Even if you think it might work and you might be able to pull it off. Ultimately, it won’t be a great fit and will cause lots of stress. It takes too much out of you and you start not feeling great about what you do. It’s also related to desperation.

Look at all of the realistic risks and the unrealistic risks. Get help figuring out what the risks are, and have contingency plans for them.

You are not special and you are not different. This is the anti-gen y mindset.

When you price, don’t price it based on what it costs to produce. Find out what it is worth to them and charge that. 2-3x what it costs to produce it is probably what you should charge. Even in hourly rates, if it takes you an hour to do something that takes others 5 hours, you should charge appropriately. Also look at what competitors charge to get a gauge on the market.

Common thread: talk to people every step of the way, and take people’s advice; however, don’t make drastic changes in directions based on every piece of advice. Hear the advice and make corrections along the way based on the common themes that you hear from multiple people. Sometimes smart people can’t always give you tangible reasons why, but don’t just discount it because they can’t give you specific reasons.

You need to be genuine about who you are and what you do. Don’t try to become something you aren’t just because you think it is what people expect of you or your role (like dating advice). Open yourself up to people you work with and form emotional bonds with the people you work with. Don’t try to isolate yourself from them to maintain authority.

Big mistake: Not putting things in writing. Take notes and send them out in writing. Always have an employment contract even for a couple hours of work and specify who owns what intellectual property. Get signatures on documents to avoid legal troubles.

You have to be willing to do sales and marketing (esp for freelancers). If you aren’t willing to go out and sell your services, then you shouldn’t go into business, or you need to bring in a partner who is willing to do the sales. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of other resources (people and infrastructure).

Don’t forgo the good in pursuit of the perfect. Don’t look for the solution that will do everything, unless you are a software company, don’t write your own software. Find something good enough for your purposes.

You will either have engineers who think that marketing is worthless and / or salespeople who think that engineers are interchangeable. Both marketing and technical skills are important.

Go into business with the right person: someone who will challenge you and knows you well enough to call you on your bullshit. Have a board of advisors that are willing to give you advice. Consult them on a regular schedule and give them a little stock / equity in exchange for their help.

What kind of funding are you eligible for?
with Carolynn Duncan

Start by thinking about what type of business you have. Certain types of businesses fit better with specific types of funding.

  • Microbusiness (start on $10k or less, 1-3 employees, $100k revenue) – bootstrap, self-funded, credit cards.
  • Small business (start on $100k, 1-5 people, $1m revenue) – Savings, government (women, minorities, economic dev), credit cards, bank loans, friends and family.
  • Growth business (start needing $500k-$2m, 5-20 employees, $20m revenue) – Angels.
  • Mega-growth business ($2m-$10m to start, bunch of employees, $100m+ revenue) – VC or Government grants (biotech / research at a lab)

Investors will never tell you no. They just stop taking your calls. Need to read their signs to decide whether they are serious.

Steps to get Angel / VC funding:
Note: expect it to take at least 6 months, and think of it like any sales process; you are selling them a part of your business.

  • Meeting: Get an intro from someone or meet them at pitching events. Your elevator pitch in the first 30 seconds can make or break your chances. 1-2 weeks.
  • Marketing: Business plan, financials, and pitch. 2-4 weeks.
  • Selling: Start discussing concrete stuff like percentage of equity. They will start doing due diligence on you and will ask for a million things as part of the process.
  • Closing: If they say yes, they’ll send you a term sheet, lawyers get involved, and you start negotiating. Until the final deal is signed, it could fall apart anytime up to the very end.

Look at economic development development companies (usually county-based) if you need information about micro-lending opportunities.

When someone says no to you on funding, you should get as many specifics as possible about why they said no. Fix those before you move on to the next source. Don’t burn a bunch of bridges with the same mistakes.

What you need before you start:

  • Elevator pitch
  • Balance sheet for 1 year and 3-5 years
  • Cash flow statements
  • Business plan
  • 10 page pitch presentation.

Start thinking about the due diligence checklist to get an example of what they’re going to want after they decide they are interested (Google Due diligence checklist to get examples).


These are only three sessions, and it is quite a bit of information to process. I had a great time and had interesting conversations with fun people.

Feel free to fill in any gaps that I missed in the comments.

Community 2.0 Conference

I wanted to let everyone know that I will be speaking at the Community 2.0 conference on May 13-14 in Las Vegas. I will be joining Silona Bonewald, Bill Johnston, and whurley on a panel about reputation systems: What Do These Points Really Mean? The Pros and Cons of Reputation Systems. If you are interested in attending, I can give you a discount code good for 20% off. A discount AND cool people talking about community AND Las Vegas … how can you beat that?

Leave a comment or send me an email to get the discount code. I hope to see you there!

Social Networks, Relationships, and “Friends”

I’ve been hearing quite a bit of discussion lately about how our relationships and the concept of “friends” are evolving as more people spend increasing amounts of time interacting with social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

In a post on the New York Times today, Alex Wright claims that

THE growing popularity of social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Second Life has thrust many of us into a new world where we make “friends” with people we barely know, scrawl messages on each other’s walls and project our identities using totem-like visual symbols.

The more time we spend “talking” online, the less time we spend, well, talking. And as we stretch the definition of a friend to encompass people we may never actually meet, will the strength of our real-world friendships grow diluted as we immerse ourselves in a lattice of hyperlinked “friends”?

Still, the sheer popularity of social networking seems to suggest that for many, these environments strike a deep, perhaps even primal chord. “They fulfill our need to be recognized as human beings, and as members of a community,” Dr. Strate says. “We all want to be told: You exist.”

(Quote from Alex Wright in the New York Times)

This implication that online interactions are somehow wrong and less valuable than face to face interactions bothers me a bit. Maybe my use of social networks is less typical due to my relatively frequent travel to conferences, but I find that I can keep in touch with people who I may only see a few times a year through these networks. It isn’t unusual for me to spend a significant amount of time with a few people during the week of a conference and then not see them for another 6 months until we run into each other at some other conference. Through Twitter and Facebook, we can keep in touch and continue to learn and keep up with each others’ current projects (work and personal). This helps us pick back up where we left off, but with insight into what each of us has been doing over the past 6 months.

I limit my Twitter feed (which is private) to people that I personally know, which allows me to Twitter more freely about where I am and what I’m doing. With Facebook, I am a little more open, accepting not only people who I know in the physical world, but also people where I have some online connection. Both of these services help me make stronger connections to the people that I know. I learn about local and remote tech events that my friends are attending and share information about community events that I am organizing. I get together with these people (the ones living or traveling in the Portland area) regularly for lunches, dinners, events, werewolf games, drinks, and more. I also learn quite a bit from these people through shared links, stories, posts, and ideas increasing my personal and work productivity as a direct result of the online interactions. I tend to think that I have stronger relationships as a result of these services, not weaker ones. These people are part of a broader community, and our participation in this online community is no less valuable because some of the interactions occur online.

I think that many people see these interactions happening online in social networks and assume that these are replacing our other interactions. In many cases, and in my case, my online interactions in social networks do not replace physical interactions with real people, they simply provide a way to augment the relationships I have with my friends.

Related Fast Wonder Posts:

Everyone’s a Peer. Live with it.

I stole the title of this post from the last two sentences in But Miss, they’re not listening to me, a blog post by JP Rangaswami on Confused of Calcutta.

In his post, JP describes a world where hierarchical command and control structures are being displaced by more democratized networked environments. The days of expert speakers who talk at us while we take notes and passively absorb the information with little or no opportunity for discussion are gradually disappearing.

This post resonated with me and helps to describe my recent thinking about conferences and speaking engagements. I’m finding that I rarely enjoy giving formal presentations where I yammer on and on with a slide deck while people listen to me talk. In these presentations, I don’t get much real time feedback from the audience other than the occasional non-verbal cue (nodding in agreement vs. nodding off, for example), and I learn little or nothing during these presentations.

In contrast, my favorite speaking environment usually happens at unconferences (BarCamp, etc.) where I can lead a lively discussion about a topic of interest by kicking it off with 5-10 minutes of my ideas on the topic and moving quickly to a facilitation role where many people contribute to the discussion. Since each person comes into the discussion with different experiences and diverse views, I learn as much or more from the other people participating as they learn from me.

Panels fall somewhere in the middle depending on the structure. I despise panels where the moderator asks too many questions or where each panel member essentially gives a mini-presentation with little time for audience questions. On the other hand, my favorite panels are similar to my unconference speaking style with a couple of minutes of discussion at the beginning, but opening it up to audience questions no later than in the first 10-15 minutes of the panel. The audience questions help target the discussion to topics that are interesting to the audience, but even more important is what you can learn from the questions being asked. Questions give so much insight into what people are thinking about the topic and what is important to the audience. My Social Networking panel at Defrag was a good example of one that moved into audience questions early, and I think it benefited greatly by the participation.

JP says in his post:

It’s a new world out there. We can’t go around saying “But Miss, they’re not listening to me”. We have to earn the respect of our peers. But remember, in a networked society, everyone is a peer. Your professors. Your children. Your subordinates. Your bosses.

Everyone’s a peer.

Live with it.

(Quote from Confused of Calcutta)

We each come into a discussion with unique and diverse ideas, and we learn by listening and sharing ideas with our peers aka everyone.

Related Fast Wonder Posts:

Macs, Twitter, Social Networks, and more at Defrag

I am always a little skeptical about new conferences. Until you arrive, you really don’t quite know what you will find. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the recent Defrag Conference. In general, there seemed to be a high percentage of really smart people who “get it” in attendance, and I have had some very interesting discussions.

While getting ready for the keynote to start, I noticed that mac users made up almost all of the audience (90%??). I also noticed quite a few screens displaying Twitter and Facebook throughout the conference. I sat next to a group of people from NC State who told me about a Facebook Scrabulous tournament they were participating in that had been organized entirely over Twitter. This was definitely a web 2.0 / social networking savvy crowd. I also saw at least one Facebook group started as a result of the conference.

I was on a panel about Social Networking in the Enterprise along with Charles Armstrong and Aaron Fulkerson. It was very well attended (I’m guessing 100-150 people?), and people seemed to enjoy it. I talked mostly about Social Productivity, which is similar to social networking, but it is framed in a way that is more relevant to the enterprise.

David Weinberger’s talk, The Rise of the Implicit, had some very interesting ideas about how information is taking shape as we web 2.0 technologies evolve. You can read his entire outline of the talk, but a few of his ideas were particularly interesting to me. He talked about how the web transcends the information age by taking what is typically dry, dull information and bringing life to it through the context that eventually surrounds it. Facebook, for example, starts with the creation of a profile with very dry, dull information (name, birth date, location, etc.), but it becomes valuable as the additional context around it builds and takes on a life of its own through participation of friends, applications used, status, groups joined, and more. My take on this idea is that it is another example of how collaboration and community are really one of the defining characteristics of the current web. It isn’t about the basic information; it is about how that information evolves as you collaborate with your community of friends and build context around the information.

The Social Intelligence panel with Jerry Michalski; JB Holston, Newsgator; JP Rangaswami, BT Global Services; and Joshua Schachter, Yahoo! (founded delicious) had some interesting discussions. JP talked about an idea that has been near and dear to my heart lately: the gaming of online systems (like reputation systems). He said that transparency thwarts the gaming of online systems and fosters collaboration, while putting too many measures in place to prevent gaming stifles collaboration. Other community members will gang up on the gamers when they see the behavior helping to self-correct the issues within the community. I have been saying something very similar, so it was great to hear it reinforced. JP also said that his father had 1 job, he’ll have about 7, his son will have about 7 at the same time, which is a really interesting way of looking at employment. I also think that it is absolutely true. I can’t count the number of young people I know who are involved in multiple ventures (jobs) simultaneously. I think the traditional model of a 9-5 “job” is hopelessly out of date, particularly for technology workers, while the freelancer / consultant model is becoming much more prevalent.

We had 2 open spaces sessions at the event. As an organizer of events like BarCamp, I came into it thinking that an hour for a single open spaces session would be a miserable failure. I was right and wrong. The open spaces session on Monday was amazing, and I was absolutely wrong about it not working. More than a dozen sessions were proposed, and people were very engaged in the open spaces breakouts. The ClosedPrivate movement started as one of those sessions. However, by Tuesday when most of us were hopelessly behind on email / blogging / etc., the open spaces sessions did not work particularly well. I think that less than half of the participants were engaged while the rest (me included) used the time to catch up on work. The moral of the story: having open spaces sessions can work as a small part of a traditional conference; however, you have to do them early in the program while people are still fresh.

Dick Hardt gave a really entertaining presentation on Defragging Identity with hundreds of slides in 12 minutes, which makes it really difficult to summarize! One of the key concepts included how predicting future behavior based on past behavior can break down in the digital world as online behavior becomes fragmented. People have multiple logins, many identities, reputations (eBay), etc. that are highly fragmented. We need to defrag this behavior, bind it based on a common identifier (like openid) across sites, and aggregate our identities while still having multiple personas. The key is that we each control those identities so that all the stuff we do across all sites can be aggregated together. I’m a huge advocate of OpenID and would love to see it evolve in a way that allows me to carry more information along with me (profile data, friends, reputations, etc.)

Doc Searls talked mostly about Vendor Relationship Management (see Harvard’s project VRM) with the idea that the market is built for you, the consumers, by the vendors. Here’s one quote (approximate) from Doc, “We are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers. We are human beings.” He asked the question, what if managing worked the other way around – we managed our relationships with producers / vendors; what if we were in charge of our preferences across whole markets?

Andrew McAfee presented on the topic of Defrag and Enterprise 2.0 with the idea that the concept of ties provides a foundation for conceptualizing value, tech selection, drawing borders around tools, adoption & exploitation. New tools are not going to make all ties equal, but tools will facilitate tie creation & migration. His blog on the topic of Enterprise 2.0 sums it up better than I ever could.

All in all, I met cool people, had great conversations, and came away with new ideas to ponder. It was well worth the time spent to attend. I would strongly recommend attending next year if you get the chance.