Twitter

  • May 9, 2013
  • Have you seen this?  I’ve noticed lately that Twitter is suggesting I follow people who I thought I had been following for years.  Seems the links break but why?  It also seems like the incidence of broken links is rising.  Something like this makes it difficult to treat social media, especially Twitter, like the industrial strength product it wants to be.

    Published: 10 years ago


    I went to Oracle OpenWorld as a guest of Oracle and came away with a variety of observations that I can share.  Some of what I saw was under NDA and that will remain undisclosed though I have to tell you that I did not see any labs or next generation products beyond what my colleagues saw at the show.  My secret experiences revolved around customer stories.  I also went to an America’s Cup qualifying race as a guest and had a great time on San Francisco Bay.  The only reason that matters is in case you think I’m cutting Oracle some slack.  I won’t do that but I will say that I was treated well all week, thanks to the efforts of Susie Penner, who runs the influencers program and does a bang-up job, and others.

    Some of my colleagues were grumbling, and perhaps have done so in print, that they didn’t get enough time with executives — or any at all in many cases (me included) — and that their experience was diminished by the lack of a good séance.  I can only observe that with 50,000 or so customers and press in town your executives can only be spread so thin.  More importantly, I have always found that when I call up I can speak with the person I need to find plus or minus some obeisance to the gods of Wall Street and the public company’s quiet period.  My take on meeting with executives is to make a call when I need information and not to expect so much from a conference like this.  To that point we had a good meeting with executives and product managers in May when Oracle held an analyst day.

    I must also say though that the company makes an unnecessary distinction (my humble belief) between an analyst and an influencer.  Analysts seem to get greater access and are sequestered from the influencers in part because they work for brick and mortar analyst firms while people like me who are analysts, bloggers and occasionally journalists, get lumped into a separate but equal program.  But, as I say, I can always pick up the phone.

    As a CRM guy, the show was a bit light on information and the impression I have is that Oracle is only two or three years into a transformation that starts at hardware and moves steadily up its stack to applications.  The hardware announcements at OpenWorld were superb and I can see a bright future for all of computingdom (a new technical term to be sure and evidence of continuing innovation in Silicon Valley) with Oracle’s devices.  But I have been saying this for three years.

    Each year the Exa-hardware line (Exadata, Exalogic, Exalytics) gets more robust. This year the company finally aimed Exa-hardware squarely at cloud computing to claim a spot as a serious infrastructure supplier.  It also announced a new version of the database (Oracle 12c) for its public/private/hybrid cloud strategy to complete the picture.  I am not much of a fan of private clouds because they seem oxymoronic, like jumbo shrimp as Steve Martin used to say.  But for many, the idea of a private cloud is what will finally get them to cloud computing and sooner or later true cloud computing will break out as hybrids die a natural death.  But also, I see great gains for sustainable computing with these announcements and with them lower operating costs for users.

    The private cloud, seen for what it is, is a transition state.  Neither fish nor reptile, it is an amphibian capable of adjusting to multiple surroundings and it will be the parent of something better adapted to an energetically more stringent environment.  This is the greatest differentiator between Oracle and all of its much further progressed competitors in the cloud in my opinion.

    Oracle has hundreds of thousands of customers and most of the biggest companies in the world use its products.  It will not turn on a dime and it will need to support its customers and their older products for many years as they transition to cloud computing.  So, Oracle’s strategy cannot be the same as a pure SaaS player and I believe the two should not be directly compared without caveat.  In fact, I think Oracle’s next big innovation will not be hardware or software related.  It will focus on the high-wire act of changing its business model to subscriptions while encouraging its customers to do the same all while running full tilt into the future — just what you’d expect from a company headed by a yachtsman captivated by speed.

    I was not impressed by the front office applications and they fell into three buckets – new product acquisitions, existing products i.e. those bought in 2005 and Fusion.  The products that Oracle bought last year are all up and running as they were when they were purchased but they are only lightly integrated, I think.  The glue that is supposed to hold them together was hardly in evidence.  I am talking about Fusion.  Whatever Fusion is going to be is still in the future as far as I can see and I can’t say much more than that because I didn’t get to see much.  The older applications are quite literally getting older and the race is on between them and the new acquisitions to see if the new apps can spin up quickly enough.  Fusion is a very important of that dance.

    On the other hand the company has adopted RightNow’s customer experience or CX mantra completely and did a reasonably good job of introducing its customers to those social ideas.  Unfortunately for me — and many of my colleagues who have been swimming in the social soup for many years now — Oracle’s CX Summit was aimed at its legion of neophyte customers.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  It accurately shows where everything and everyone is relative to social. But the net effect of it all is that we didn’t see behind the curtain and didn’t get a glimpse of what’s ahead in social for Oracle.

    We did hear about the importance of social networking and collaborating and how Oracle Social Network (OSN) fills a void etc., etc.  But I have profound doubts.  I consider social as a recently blank canvass, which has been filled by things like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and, yes, Chatter.  In each case, creative types tried to paint it with transcendence and visions of what can be.  Then consider OSN, a plow horse of a name that says “we checked off another box,” and you get an inkling of where Oracle is in its social rollout.

    On applications, my net impression is that Oracle has not yet generated a lot of thought leadership.  There are times when thought leadership is not as valuable but we are at a crossroads and the signs point to cloud, social, mobile and all of the above.  The Oracle messaging was long on “here are the facts about our new products” but relatively short on the part that says “and here’s why that’s important to you in today’s economy/market place/world” pick one.  Oracle wants to be the go-to technology business partner but to achieve that goal in a new generation they need to throw some fastballs down the middle of the plate.  Every year I see progress and maybe next year they’ll get the thought leadership.  It will be vitally important as the company moves not just into the cloud but more and more into the subscription economy and expects its huge customer base to follow suit.

    Published: 10 years ago


    There’s been a lot of activity on the Web and in our industry in the last week and I thought it might be fun to try and tie at least some of it together.  Much of it in one way or another involves Facebook—or FB as the proposed ticker symbol suggests.

    Part of an email from John Borkowski of WebiMax reads:

    “Kenneth Wisnefski, online marketing expert, and founder / CEO of WebiMax, suggests Facebook will not be worth the investment.  “In the first few days of trading, I expect the stock price will soar due to social-media hungry investors,” states Wisnefski.  (We saw this with LinkedIn’s IPO).  “However, once the market absorbs the emotions and begins to invest based-on fundamentals, it is clear Facebook will not be a solid investment.”

    “Wisnefski refers to Facebook’s few revenue streams.  Given the fact that 85% of their revenue is dependent on ads, the company is not diversified enough to generate income from additional streams.  EMarketer reported that Facebook’s ad sales grew 104% in 2011, but are only expected to climb 58% in 2012, and 21% in 2013.  The diminishing growth stems from intense competition from Google and Bing and suggests advertising on Facebook may be – simply put – a fad.

    Facebook a fad?  You mean like CocaCola and cheeseburgers?  I wrote back:

    “Thanks for this information.  There’s a lot to agree with but I am not sure I agree with your conclusions.  In any investment scenario you have to consider the time horizon.  FB will be an interesting flip for those lucky enough to buy at the offering price and if history is a guide it will settle down as more value conscious investors refuse to pay the premium and pick it up after it settles.

    “Longer term you are right, the company has a structural issue with its markets but the thing your analysis omits is the potential the company has for growing new markets as well as for capturing share of what’s there already.  It’s risky in investments to take into account futures that are not even or barely imagined but I suspect that someone buying FB after the hoopla and who holds the stock for a number of years will discover they’ve bought the next Apple and they will be amply rewarded.

    Reasonable people can disagree.  They should too because I am not licensed to give financial advice—keep that in mind.

    Salesforce announced desk.com, a rewrite of Assistly on Force.com, which the company bought in September.  Desk.com is Salesforce’s entry into SMB support.  It’s quite a trick and I like the idea, especially the innovative pricing model, which is custom tuned to SMBs.  For more of my analysis, you can go here.

    Then there’s the broader world, there always is.

    In Friday’s New York Times (I should say that I will always be a Red Sox fan, but the Times rocks) there was a lead article that brought social media into the public square for the second time in a couple of weeks.  The breast cancer advocacy organization (I guess that’s really anti-breast cancer if you want to get technical) Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation announced it was no longer funding breast exams through Planned Parenthood.

    A viral digital uproar ensued.

    Apparently the Komen people were getting nervous about being singled out for supporting Planned Parenthood by Republican presidential candidates and their mysterious Super PACs that Mitt Romney seems to think are people too.  There’s precedent for this case of jitters.  Look what happened to the community-organizing group, Acorn, in the last election when it was linked to that radical socialist Barak Obama.

    But four years is a long time in politics and it is practically a geological era in tech.  Four years later we have FB, Twitter, LinkedIn as mature products and as I wrote recently, ordinary people are regaining a sense of the commons and commonwealth as a result.  The people have their soapbox now.  It’s electronic, digital, mobile and global.

    And speaking of global, back in the Middle East Iran actually tried to rebrand Arab Spring for its own purposes.  In a ham-handed effort reported in the Times, “More than a thousand young activists were flown here earlier this week (at government expense) for a conference on “the Islamic Awakening,” Tehran’s effort to rebrand the popular Arab uprisings of the past year.

    Didn’t work.  Not even close.  Thumbs were typing and unless the clerics in Teheran wise up they could be next.

    Finally, by now the Super Bowl is old news but as I write it, everything is in the future.  One thing that’s not in the future and which is again brought to us by a combo of social media and YouTube are the Super Bowl ads, which started leaking out weeks ago.  Another article from the Times  discusses them and more importantly, references many a big agency that brought them to life.  It seems you can’t swing a proverbial dead cat without finding some social media expert these days.

    Good on them all.  What did we do before social media?  It’s now embedded in our lives with no sign of going back.  It’s certainly made our lives richer and more productive and it’s brought us together on important issues.  But now we need to stay vigilant to prevent it from being completely co-opted.  The attempt to rebrand Arab Spring might have been ham-handed but it could happen anywhere.  And as far as the FB IPO naysayers are concerned, we’ll have to wait and see.  But I’ll sleep well.

    Published: 11 years ago


    David Nour, the founder of Relationship Economics, publishes an interesting and articulate newsletter.  I don’t always agree with him but even when I don’t we aren’t that far apart.  His latest post on “Tomorrow’s Social CEO” is an example.

    Nour correctly observes (and laments) that few of the current batch of corporate leaders is socially connected.  According to his post, “Eric Schmidt (Google) is an infrequent Twitterer and not a blogger; Steve Ballmer (Microsoft) does not blog or have a Twitter account; Michael Dell is on Twitter but is not an external blogger.  It is also remarkable that neither Steve Jobs (Apple) nor Larry Ellison (Oracle) have a Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or blog presence that we could find.”

    My facile observation: Yes, and look where it’s gotten them.

    Seriously, though, I agree that the executive of tomorrow will be much more of a social animal but as they say in court rooms from time to time, absence of proof is not proof of absence.  What I mean, and this is almost pure hypothesis, is that organizations are becoming more social but perhaps the right application hasn’t come along yet to enable a CEO to be more social in a professional setting.

    To borrow a regrettable phrase, the CEO is the decider.  He or she spends the day making decisions for the organization so that it can continue on its mission of maximizing shareholder value and serving the customer.  Other people in the enterprise do the social work for the organization for a very obvious reason—doing it right requires capturing a mountain of data, analyzing it and only then taking action.  CEOs don’t have the time.

    CEOs are great at analyzing data once it’s captured and presented to them.  I once knew a guy who could scan a balance sheet, no matter how complex, and in a matter of moments begin making cogent observations and recommendations.  He was murder on finding misspellings on a lunch menu too.

    I think the blog might be the natural social medium for today’s CEO.  Since Reagan, even U.S. presidents have made weekly radio broadcasts—a social outreach, albeit one way—a standard part of the job.  My preference would be to change that to a weekly newspaper column though.  Written words are more accessible and longer lasting and enable you to elaborate a complex idea but that’s a subject for another time.

    So, why aren’t CEO’s more social?  If it’s because the right social medium hasn’t come along yet, there’s good news on the horizon in the form of a new generation of collaboration software and I think of Chatter from salesforce.com as the example.  Though currently only available as a tool for filtering the social stream within an enterprise, I can see a day when that restriction is lifted.

    A collaboration product like Chatter does the necessary work of filtering the social stream so that only what’s most important to the decider gets in front of him or her.  That makes socializing the CEO possible.

    Eric Schmidt is on friendly terms with Marc Benioff, who is very much socially adept, and I don’t know if Schmidt has tried Chatter.  Michael Dell already has a Chatter deployment measured in the tens of thousands at Dell, which is a big Salesforce customer.  It’s hard to say if there’s a possibility of Steve Jobs adopting Chatter and, of course, Larry Ellison and Steve Ballmer will likely have their own brands of collaboration software before they’d use Salesforce.

    So my mild disagreement with Nour is really one of timing.  Yes tomorrow’s CEO will need to be social and maybe collaboration software is the way they’ll get there.

    Published: 12 years ago


    It’s often hard to maintain high visibility in the marketplace if you happen to be a private company and for good reason.  Private companies tend to be small and they often do not attract the attention of the financial press precisely because the financial press thrives on the transparency and numbers that small companies prefer to keep to themselves.

    But some of the most interesting large companies can also be privately held and while they might be known to the press and analyst community they give the finance guys little to write about.  Too bad too, because you can miss a lot if all you’re looking for is numbers for the shareholders.

    Take SAS Institute for example.  Founded in 1976, SAS is a pioneer of the analytics market, has a thirty four percent share—more than any other vendor—generates about $2.3 billion in revenues, never had a down year and has always made a profit.  But they’re private so the numbers don’t get the same attention a public company’s numbers would get because you can’t buy the stock.

    According to the company, SAS spends about twenty-four percent of its considerable revenues on research and development, and their eleven-thousand plus employees in over four hundred global offices treat customers like customers think they should be treated.  This alone should be enough to draw some attention but then if you add in the recent award from Fortune magazine for being the best company in the U.S. to work for you get serious wow factor.

    James Goodnight co-founded the company with three other people, two of whom left the party early, too bad for them.  Goodnight is the CEO and technical soul of the operation and this week I had the good fortune to attend an analyst and media briefing at their headquarters in Cary, NC.  That was followed by something called the Premier Business Leadership Series event in Las Vegas, a business conference presented by SAS that brings together more than 600 attendees from the public and private sectors to share ideas on critical business issues.

    I know what you’re thinking, but it’s been more than three hardware generations since I’ve been to Vegas and I routinely avoid conferences there but I went this time because SAS had some interesting things to say.  First off, they made two product announcements that I can resonate with because they involve social media and more importantly, they make great strides in helping people use social technologies for business purposes.

    I’ve been a fan of social networking since 2003 when I wrote about the the Kevin Bacon game and the original research by Harvard University psychologist Stanley Milgram in the 1960’s that began it all.  But social networking and its enabler, social media, entered a lag period at about that time and they didn’t emerge from it until Facebook overtook MySpace.  Meanwhile blogs became popular and we learned to wiki, which begat an orgy of tweeting and the rest as they say is history.

    Lost in the social frenzy, in my humble… is the idea that social technology is a good listening tool, or ought to be.  Social technology after all is a surrogate for an interaction with someone, a way to be present when you are not.  In short it is a way to gather input from other people before launching our latest discourse about our favorite subject—us.  SAS gives me hope that this might actually happen.

    Exhibits A and B come in the form of two SAS product announcements—SAS Conversation Center and SAS for Customer Experience Analytics.

    SAS Conversation Center most interests me.  The conversation center measures the level of influence that a Tweeter has by analyzing the volume of content the person generates as well as how often the person is included in conversations.  It then compares this information with a company’s taxonomy of topics to determine which area of the business the tweet is aligned with.

    This analysis can help a company to determine what’s being said about it and determine which topics to pay attention to and to address.  It may not be as good as a direct conversation but doesn’t have to be.  It need only filter out the majority of tweets that are not relevant and it will be a powerful tool.

    I would like to see the conversation center quickly evolve to track other social media, especially Facebook and it would be nice if a control center evolved with it so that a single interface could monitor the social sphere.  We’ll see.

    The second announcement, SAS for Customer Experience Analytics is a cloud based application aimed at providing predictive analytics to help companies present customers with the best offers at the right time.  That sounds easy but it is not. Customers, especially when surfing have short attention spans and one chance may be all a vendor gets so the stakes are high.  While other companies have similar offerings, one that has the SAS analytics engine behind it will be an interesting addition.

    SAS for Customer Experience Analytics is the latest addition to the SAS cloud suite which includes 19 other analytic applications including SAS Social Media Analytics and SAS OnDemand: Campaign Management.

    These products come along at a good time for the evolution of social technologies.  In addition to new products SAS announced the results of a significant study it sponsored.  Conducted with Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, the study’s findings are too long to list here so check the company’s web site.  One example will have to suffice till the next time.  Despite social media’s potential to enable companies to listen to and understand their customers, 75 percent of the companies surveyed did not know where their most valuable customers were talking about them, or what was said.

    More than anything, these results show that social media is still clearly still in its infancy but solutions like these may be the killer apps that turn social curiosities into the tools we always believed they could be.

    Published: 12 years ago