For Ada Lovelace Day: The other Esther Dyson

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stewtopia/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

It’s hard to not think of Esther Dyson on a day that recognizes women in Science and Technology.  I’m not the first to write about her for Ada Lovelace day, but I hope to reveal a side of Esther that will serve to inspire women everywhere.

I first met Esther in 1989, I believe.  I was working for CMP (Now TechWeb/UBM) on Long Island, and my boss asked me if I wanted to join him at a lunch date with her.  “Absolutely!” I said.  There was no equivalent back then to Esther (and probably hasn’t been since.)  She was a bona fide tech icon.  Even then.  Without Twitter and Facebook, even.

What I found most curious about our lunch was, in addition to sharing morsels of wisdom, she took the time to speak to me personally, in earnest.  She told me to check out a few women in technology organizations and offered to introduce me to some contacts that shared some of my interests.  I never forgot that meeting.  (I’m sure she did.)  What was memorable was her kindness and instinctive generosity, in addition to her intelligence and confidence.

Over the years, I kept in touch with Esther mostly as a reporter/researcher.  She never hesitated to return an email or give me a quote.

In 1998, when I decided to launch a business, I reached out to Esther to become what I cleverly described as an “e-Advisor.”  Essentially, my pitch was that I would only contact her if it was absolutely necessary, and all she’d have to do is return an email with her thoughts.  I still have the original email I sent her.  It’s a little over-the-top, but to her credit, she not only agreed to be an “e-Advisor,” she agreed to meet me in her office in New York to review my business plan.

Long story shorter, over the years, Esther has always (always) been there when I’ve reached out.  I most of the time can’t believe it.  Her advice has saved me from some pretty dumb amateur mistakes, and her insight has opened my eyes to considerations I never would have recognized on my own.  I once sent her a Van Morrison CD because I felt I needed to do something to thank her for all her support and help.  It wasn’t much, but I couldn’t really think of anything she could possibly need, so I sent her something I liked.

The lesson in this story for women everywhere– and all professionals young and old– you’re never too famous or too special to show a kindness to a stranger.  Share what you’ve learned over the years with someone who’s still learning.  Just this week, Esther has been helping me sort out a business opportunity.  Once again, I begged her to let me do something for her.  To this she responded:

For this reason, in addition to being a brilliant technology and science icon (who happens to be a woman), I celebrate Esther for being just a really great human being.  May we all (attempt to) emulate her.

Checkmate

Enterprise 2.0 is a Crock!!! says Dennis (the 2.0 Menace).

Here’s who says it isn’t:

Accenture+

Adidas Group+

Alcatel-Lucent+

Alcoa+

Allstate+

Alstom Power+

AMD+

AT&T+

Bell Canada+

Booz Allen Hamilton+

British Petroleum+

CapitalOne+

Cardiff University (UK)+

Chubb+

Cisco+

Compagnie de Saint Gobain+

Compuware+

Corning+

Covidien+

CSC+

Deloitte+

Deutsche Bank+

The Disney Corporation+

DuPont+

Electronic Arts+

Eli Lilly+

EMC Corp+

European Central Bank+

FDA+

Ford Motor Company+

GDF Suez+

General Mills+

General Motors+

GlaxoSmithKline +

Goldman Sachs+

Hatch Associates+

Hewlett-Packard+

Honeywell International+

HSBC+

Humana+

IBM+

Intel Corporation+

International Paper+

Johnson and Johnson+

Juniper Networks+

Lockheed Martin+

Lowe’s Companies+

Lyonnaise des Eux/Suez Environment+

Massachusetts Institute of Technology+

McDonald’s+

McKinsey & Company+

Medtronic, Inc.+

Mercer+

Merck+

MetLife+

Microsoft+

NASA+

Nike+

Nokia+

Océ+

Penn State University+

Pitney Bowes+

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne+

PricewaterhouseCoopers+

Procter & Gamble+

Progressive Insurance+

Raytheon+

Research in Motion+

SAP+

SAP BusinessObjects+

Schlumberger+

Seagate+

SK Telecom+

State of Maryland+

Sun Microsystems (Oracle)+

Swedish Armed Forces+

Texas Instruments+

The Washington Post+

United Business Media+

Wells Fargo+

Wipro Technologies.

And we’re just getting started…

The Urgency of Now

Picture 1The news about Sarah Palin broke today while I was working.  Where did I see the news?   Twitter (of course).  Seconds turned to minutes, and I found myself impatient with not knowing the inside scoop on the why behind the resignation.  What was the target of my impatience?  The Twitter community.  Seems ridiculous, but it’s just expected these days that you’ll get to the heart of a breaking story within seconds.

To that end, it reminded me I wanted to write a post about the “unbearable heaviness of not-being” current.  Way, way back around the Christmas holidays, I was flattered to be one of only three reviewers for Andrew McAfee’s book on Enterprise  2.0 by Harvard Business Press.    They asked me to review the manuscript, and I accepted (for a small stipend).  They gave me a couple weeks to review it, and I submitted my comments in mid-January.

At the back of mind, however, and something I probably should have included in the review and regret now that I didn’t was a lingering doubt.  “This book will be obsolete before it’s published for the community of folks who track this sector.”

When Andy and I caught up at the Enterprise 2.0 conference, he told me that he too is really troubled by the delay on the publishing schedule.  He had hoped the book would have been published by the conference deadline (June), but it is now pushed back until December.  December?   You’re kidding me.

The demand for Andy’s book is today, not six months from now.  I’m wondering if, as a community, we can lobby Harvard Business Press to move the publication date up as its value is inextricably tied to its timeliness– especially in this fast-moving space.  The Editorial Director in charge of the publication timeline is Jacqueline Murphy .   I urge you to contact her and express your support for moving the book up in Harvard Business Press’ publishing queue.  I also started a Facebook group with the same goal.

ITSinsider is looking for love not work… :-)

humptydumptyI read an old-fashioned user-generated column in Newsweek this week where a young woman quoted her mother as saying, “…finding a job you love means never working a day in your life.” For the past nearly two years, I’ve had the special privilege to cover the Enterprise 2.0 sector as an employee of nGenera. Hands down, I have had the best job in the business. I’ve met extremely bright people and have had the opportunity to listen to real Enterprise customers as they struggle with the choices related to introducing 2.0 into their large enterprise environments.

I will continue to work with nGenera, as the company continues on its journey. But I will continue as an independent, not an employee. Although, admittedly, it’s scary facing the prospect of not having a salary during oh, say, the worst economic crisis ever in my adult life time, I remain optimistic. Let’s just say I’m taking a huge leap of faith that dictates when I jump off this ledge, there will be a large, strong net– the social web– ready to catch me. I’ve been inspired by so many in the 2.0 community to trust, to share, to work together to achieve common goals. Now I’m putting my own rhetoric to the test. Is there a market here or not?

I hope you’ll help me prove there is. If you’re interested in speaking to me about any way I can help your organization grapple with 2.0, or if you’re a vendor who feels misunderstood and under-appreciated, you know where to find me– I’ll be home, here on the social web. I look forward to having a conversation.

And, if you really want to help, but don’t have a budget (lol), do me a social networking solid and leave me a recommendation on LinkedIn.

ITSinsider Annual Gift-Giving Suggestions

All righty fans of e2.0, there are some great books coming out or are already out that I wanted to bring to your attention, in case you’re looking for that perfect gift for your E2.0-loving loved one or friend/colleague.

Not in any particular order, here goes:

Tara Hunt needs no introduction in the ranks of the social media elite, but may be less known in the corporate community of Enterprise 2.0 enthusiasts. I’m particularly looking forward to her book because I admire Tara for her unshakable faith regarding how social networking is bringing out the best in us. Tara’s thesis (and it is proven again and again) is the currency of the 2.0 economy is not $, but rather social capital, which conveniently leads to $. (I’m paraphrasing, but I’m sure Tara will correct me if I’m wrong.) You can pre-order the book today, but it won’t be shipping until Q2. And might I remind everyone, by Q2 in this economic downturn, we all may be very interested in increasing our net worth in social capital. So, do something good today for the world and pre-order Tara’s book, “The Whuffie Factor. ” I did. (I also ordered Paul Gillin’s Secrets of Social Media Marketing. Gillin is one of the very best writers on social media marketing. Another great suggestion, and it’s available now.)

Read this great story on Whuffie in action; be sure to read the comments.

For hard-core e20 fans and wouldbe practitioners, make sure to pick up a copy of Jeremy Thomas and Aaron Newman’s Enterprise 2.0 Implementation. It’s written more-or-less for an IT audience, but there is a trove of great information in here for business unit managers and evangelists too. Sarah Carr from the Deki open source wiki vendor, MindTouch, does a great wrap-up on its contents:

The book highlights the facilitation of collaboration and fosters internal innovation by integrating next-generation Web 2.0 technologies throughout your enterprise IT framework. Packed with real-world examples and timesaving tips, Enterprise 2.0 Implementation shows how to use viral and social networking tools to gain the competitive edge. Get full details on managing corporate blogs, wikis, mashups, RSS feeds, tagging and bookmarking data, and RIAs. You’ll also learn how to maximize ROI, use Semantic Web technologies, and implement security.

Some additional concepts are included, as well:

  • Expand corporate presence to Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Ning
  • Build internal social networks using open source and commercial applications
  • Reduce infrastructure and IT costs through SaaS vendors
  • Consolidate disparate information using Enterprise 2.0 Discovery
  • Manage wikis, blogs, mashups, and RSS/Atom feeds
  • Set up Rich Internet Applications
  • Develop security, risk management, and disaster recovery strategies

(p.s. The publisher asked me for a quote for this book, and there is a comical story surrounding that, if you’re interested. Who knew they’d publish the quote on the FRONT COVER?!! Net result: I’m learning this celebrity endorsement stuff the hard way.)

I just started reading Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom, by Matthew Fraser and Soumitra Dutta. I am thoroughly enjoying it so far. It’s a sweeping trends analysis on how 2.0 is changing society and commerce. Written by two bright guys from the prestigious international business school, INSEAD, it’s high on my list for this year’s recommendations. The publisher describes the book as, “Combining a pop sociology approach with rigorous analysis rich in economic history and organizational behaviour.” Fraser specializes in the intersection of pop culture with industry and Dutta focuses on IT and innovation.

Check out my personal blog for an excellent video from these guys too.

Next, and somewhat out of the ordinary, is a friend’s book, The Cure for Jet Lag. I promised my friend Lynne I’d give the book a plug. As I watch my life-streaming social tickers on Friendfeed, Facebook, Twitter, etc., I’m always hearing someone or other complaining about jet lag. Lynne’s book has sold over a hundred thousand copies and offers an all-natural prescription to tackling jet lag by “tricking your body clock.”

If you’re into publishing or interested in getting published, start feeding Lynne’s blog, The Publishing Contrarian. She is self-described as the “Wicked Witch of Publishing,” but don’t let that scare you. She is alarmingly witty and oftentimes outrageous.

Last on my list are three books I have not read, but are on my shelf for reading this year. Tammy Erickson’s “Plugged In,” Don Tapscott’s “Grown up Digital” and Austin’s own Dave Evans’ “Social Media Marketing in a Day.” Both Tapscott and Erickson are nGenera gurus and these books specialize specifically in the GenY/Digital Native cohort, so I’m eager to dig into them. Dave Evans is really great, smart guy here in town specializing in social media at Digital Voodo. I’m also currently reviewing Andrew McAfee‘s book manuscript which will be published sometime this spring. With all this reading to do, will one of my beloved readers please buy me a Kindle for Christmas??

Finally, if you’re really interested in worthwhile gift-giving, consider gifting a donation in someone’s name to Wikipedia, WordPress, or your favorite shareware product. And finally, finally (Charlie tells me I can make money on this) if you know a mac person who loves their google calendar– give them a life-changing gift: Spanninc Sync. It syncs your google calendar with ALL your mac products (notebooks, desktops, iphone, etc.). It will be the most appreciated $25 you ever spent, much better than a few lattes at Starbucks. Oh, you need to use this code: XK4HHR if you order so I can get my vig. 🙂

Happy Holidays everyone, and I will be back in the New Year with big news…

A Year’s Summary of Personal Reflection II

It’s that time again when I feel compelled not only to wrap up highlights of the Enterprise 2.0 conference, but to divulge my thinking on where we are in the progression of widespread 2.0 adoption — in our personal lives and at work.

It’s hard to top my impassioned first post on this topic from last year: A Year’s Summary of Personal Reflection. Not only was I drinking the Kool-aid, I was mixing the powder and stirring the pitcher. Where last year I was overwhelmed with the newfound freedom that comes with social networking and collaboration, this year I’m focused more on the practical application of how these tools can drive productivity gains and measurable improvements in business performance.

This year’s Enterprise 2.0 conference highlighted several themes I’ve seen over the past year. 1. frustration, 2. abundance of choice, 3. breaking out of the echo chamber, and 4. dividends. Here we go:

Frustration Canyon

The frustration story comes from two directions ending in the same place. Atop one mountain, we have so-called “evangelists” (like me) who are frustrated with the slow pace of adoption in the ROW (the Rest-of-World who is not gung-ho for e2.0). The adjacent mountain has a crowd of interested observers that can’t see the landscape clearly, are somewhat intimidated by the pace of change, and question the utility behind the hype. In the middle is a canyon of confusion. During the latter half of 2008 and by next year’s conference, we should see this gap closing. As more case studies emerge, and more business cases get approved, the evangelists will no longer seem so freakish, and the potential buyers of e2.0 technologies will have settled into a sensible course of action to web-enable their workforce.

Rejoice in Choice

I caught up with Ismael Ghalimi recently who said he is tracking nearly 800 products in the Office 2.0 database. Agile development methods and low-cost cloud computing alternatives are turbocharging startup activity, breaking down time/cost barriers to product development and release. With the welcome addition of major enterprise vendors introducing 2.0 features and product suites, the choices are ever-abundant to start experimenting with these tools at relatively low and sometimes no cost. I was amazed at number of players I had never heard of at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference… and even more amazed at what they could demo. Standouts for me included Newsgator’s Social Sites, Trampoline Systems, Groupswim, Igloo, and Socialcast. The barriers to adoption may be steep, but the barrier to entry in this category is below sea level. Take some of these products for a spin.

The Echo (Prison) Chamber

Whether it’s Twitter, Friendfeed, Plaxo Pulse, blog posts, or the ever-languishing Facebook… the 1% continues to talk to itself and hone the global agenda for Enterprise 2.0. The goal this year is to do the hardcore missionary work and break out of the echo chamber. If you fancy yourself an e2.0 expert, start investigating industry trade shows (like retail, entertainment, banking, hospitality) where you can illuminate the non-converted. The blogosphere has spawned web celebs in various circles and enterprise 2.0 is no different. It’s important to remember that everyone tracking this space or participating in it is dwarfed by the number of people who don’t even know it exists.

And finally,

Lifetime Dividends

I may be taking a more sober, Realpolitik approach to 2.0 evangelism, but I’m still a die-hard believer. Through the pages of this blog, you can see how my life has irrevocably changed since I started tracking this sector. The reason my life changed so dramatically is due entirely to the rich, personal relationships I’ve formed over the course of a few years. I challenge everyone reading this blog to calculate the economic value of their own social network. Contacts and rolladex’s have been driving business for decades, but the deep, penetrating personal understanding we have for each other is unparalleled in modern history. In other words, relationships scale. With each new Twitter follower, with each new blog reader, I compound the likelihood I will achieve some personal or business benefit from simply connecting to a stranger. The 2.0 web begins and ends with people. Imagine the possibilities when everyone in the world is socially connected. That day is coming. I can only imagine it will yield a greater humanity.

Photo credits: (canyon) John Donahue, (night shot) Nosterdamus on Flickr.