The internet of toilets is coming for you

I didn’t know what I was walking into tonight heading to the Galvanize SF space in downtown SF. Quite literally. I thought the memo said I’d be attending a Blumix Girls’ Night

I guess I’ll never know what that would have been. But hell, I got to hear Donnie Berkholz from the mighty RedMonk treat us to a view of the not-too-distant future of the Internet of Things (IoT) during a special Bluemix Garage event.

A future in which our toilets tell us when they need cleaning.

You’ve got ‘people as things’ on the web (to organizations like LinkedIn we’re just data blobs) and ‘things as people’ (fridges getting all conversational).

A great takeaway: real-time data is useless without real-time action. So beware the hype!

Another great takeaway: JavaScript is the language that really enables developers to work at speed. No new skills required. Just stick node.js into your app.

One thing struck me: how IoT is really a story of what we can do if we can effortlessly process info from sensors. Technological/development and societal forces are converging to a point where it makes more sense than not to offer this capability to the greatest number of people at the lowest price (as the pundits say, data does work like oil). What kind of impact could this have? Well, for starters what if all employers do the same thing the sports industry does and optimize the workforce for maximum  performance using data and patterns.

Things could get very odd very fast. We’re talking digital disruption. Or are we?

bluemix garage donnie berkolz dec 2014 copy

[Yay! Donnie posted the slides]

the top hashtags on twitter for startups and entrepreneurs

So where exactly do startups congregate on Twitter? How can you follow along with the broad conversation? If you are looking to get in front of the startup crowd, which hashtag should you use?

Take a look at this ranking report for the last 90 days:

startup hashtags nov 2014

Source: Sysomos

I was surprised to see #entrepreneur outrank #startup. I somehow thought the shorter anglo-saxon term would win out.  Also surprising to see #podcast on the list (although ‘Serial’ may have something to do with that).

So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and plug into these convos now!

Can you #Growthhack Twitter? Day 1

I wanna keep this brief as I really just want to see if you can work out techniques that will help me get more value from Twitter. (I won’t go into here why the focus is on Twitter right now).

  • I want to better understand the environment in which I work (currently tech, startup, social, mobile, cloud – you get the idea).
  • I want to hear from the most provocative minds and build relationships with similar spirits
  • I do want to grow my network appropriately: I believe that the smartest person in the room, is the room, and so I want a bigger room
  • I don’t want to employ spammy tactics or automation to engineer results that don’t give me real value (I come from the SEO world and so have been there in the past)
  • I do want to build on a model I used successfully 3 years ago to grow a developer-focused account from 30K to 60K followers in about a year
  • I want to share as much of what I’m doing as possible in the hope that others will share their advice and I might actually help someone(!)

The initial thesis here goes something like this:

The three Cs of Social Media Marketing

I’ve been working in social media marketing for about the last 6 years (and blogging for the last 10)  and working on some major launches at IBM this year has got me thinking that most activities do fall into those 3 C’s: content, community and celebrity. There may be a fourth that Kimberly Legocki brought to my attention: crisis management. Maybe it does fit in. Right now, it doesn’t seem like too big a problem in the ‘Safe For Work’ environment of B2B (am I cursing myself with that comment?). 

So, for day 1 lets take a look at one area I think often gets overlooked: Twitter lists.

Twitter List Management

This is really a prep exercise, not sure there will be real immediate return here yet. Twitter lists are great when you follow more than your immediate family and want to tame the firehose. I also think they are great to keep abreast of your current interests, or people you’ve met through different engagements.

As I do more of my social interaction on a mobile device, using lists has become more crucial. I’ve been keeping lists for some time, so feel like some serious housekeeping is in order. Today I actually managed to get rid of a load I don’t need.

Currently the kind of lists I have are:

  • Related by topic area (socbiz, startup, education)
  • Related by location (Bay Area, NYC, LA) – I have added some related to parts of the world I know people but we’re on different timezones
  • Work colleagues

Take a look at them here. Now, I’ll continue to develop out these lists and will keep you informed of progress Winking smile,  Or you can just see what’s happening at @CagedEther.

How do startups best partner with big biz? Advice from IBM’s Nigel Beck

In the startup world, the allure of partnering with big business can be tantalizing. You’ve got your killer product but now face problems building a customer base, reputation, and the momentum needed to become continuously and securely viable.

However, as many an entrepreneur or VC will tell you, partnering with big business can be a huge, potentially dangerous, time suck.

Does that mean you shouldn’t even try?

No, said IBM’s Nigel Beck, VP for Ecosystem Development, at a recent talk at the F50 event in SF. The trick lies in figuring out what makes that big corporate decision-maker tick and making yourself notably valuable.

He started by explaining what might seem reflexive but what you shouldn’t do: launch in with a big pitch about how great your product is and how it’s going to transform a market (quite probably one that the big company exec cares little about).

Neither is it worth getting too deep too fast into the economics and showing impressive growth numbers. Let’s face it, you’re David to this Goliath and no matter how much you talk up your slingshot, your words will be met with guffaws.

So, what is a good initial approach?

Do your research and tie your product to the message driving the big business. If they are all about big data, show how your wearable can bring in new inventive data streams. If they are a cloud provider, sell the idea that your app will make their platform look cooler. That’s where they are struggling, and to quote the oft-used adage in the startup world: you need to address their pain point. Quite often that will be getting their message to resonate with a market which barely sees them as relevant.

F50 Nigel Beck Social Card Oct 2014

Just in case the big business you are interested with partnering is IBM, check out the Global Entrepreneur program.

Oh, and if you want to take a deeper look at why big business might partner with startups, check out the Business Tech Trends study which highlights the growing role citizen developers are playing in transforming top-performing businesses.

From STEM to STEAM: it’s a carnival!

Now, if you hang anywhere around the education and tech space, you’re probably familiar with the STEM acronym: science, technology, engineering and math(s) – the core skills on which a tech industry is built. Or so it used to go.

What’s missing from the equation (excuse the pun) is the creative mind. The importance of design and art. Think of how Mr Jobs was more fixated on Bauhaus than physics, and used those principles in his iconic tech designs. Our own Phil Gilbert pointed out that when it comes to technology, the nuts and bolts of development have now been largely commoditized. There’s a service and script for just about everything. So how do you differentiate your product or app?

Design is the answer!

Hence that takes us from STEM to STEAM: science, technology, engineering, ART and math. The Maker Movement on high-tech psychotropics. Burning Man step aside.

The STEAM carnival is coming to LA on October 24-5. To set things off, IBM has teamed up with Tl;dr and Two Bit Circus to throw a hacker preview party on Thursday October 23.

The afternoon program includes:

  • Sneak preview of the games and amusement
  • Networking, entertainment and demos
  • Open bar and cocktails made by our robot bartender
  • An app challenge with $7,000 in cash prizes!
  • Lasers, fire and robots!

Want to come along and show off your inventions?

Check out the event and register for an invite.

And of course, let me know your STEAM creations in the comments here.

SMBEB: Sharon Profis’ expert tips on personal branding

I’ve seen a few talks about personal branding in my time but I have to say Sharon Profis’ presentation this week at Social Media Breakfast East Bay was definitely up there as one of my faves.

It could be down to the fact that it’s pretty much her day job as a tech journalist, and her passion for her day job shines through Winking smile.

So, what were some of her top comments? This is what stood out for me:

  • Interact with your social networks the same way you would with your friends. Don’t just reach out when you need their help. Stay involved. Share often.
  • Remember that this is human2human contact: allow yourself to show your imperfections. Don’t apply too perfect a sheen: remember what we relate to!
  • As a journalist, she’s found value in showing the process behind the creation. Even if that process is messy and not perfect. There’s a great story in the process.

One thing I got to thinking watching this presentation: how social allows us build our own personal brand, and with that personal brand it can change our relationship with our employer. Sharon succeeds as a journalist in part because she has a large social network. A network which also brings value to her employer C|Net (who also help her build her network). A lot of journalists are in the same position.

But as we see the growth in employee influencer programs, we can see this same impact of social celebrity empower those who can master the medium. For instance, think of a professor that offers much of their lectures online. Their relationship with the institution can in fact be weakened and it may be in their interest to be partners with universities rather than employees. Much as we see organizations leverage citizen developers (take a look at the Business Tech Trends webcast).

More on Sharon Profis

Simple use of video to explain the most complex (The School of Life)

Funny, just when I needed it, this video by The School of Life showed up: a glistening example of how simple video can explain a complex idea:

There you go: everything you needed to know about Heidegger in a neat 4.17 min package.

I’m not suggesting this was done on a shoestring, but there’s enough use of stills and tight-shot studio video to make you realize this is within the grip of anyone who has a smartphone and a few well-chosen props. That gives way to a truth of modern life: the technology to produce media is as prevalent (and often the same) as that used to consume media. It’s down to us to explore the possibilities of production and get jiggy with it.