SXSW through the Enterprise Prism

There was something about SXSW that reminded me of trick-or-treating. It’s an amazing opportunity to travel around in groups (in various costumes) and collect delicious bite-sized morsels of innovation. But it reminded me of something my (once) 3-year old son said after he flopped into bed after his first Halloween night, “Let’s do that again tomorrow!”

SXSW is a once-a-year phenomenon, but a great harbinger of trends. Much of the conversation is about web-related design and measurement, politics, the social media revolution, and every-possible-thing-that-could-ever-be-possibly-said about Twitter. In the mix of fun and frolic, there were a couple gems that I picked out that would bring value to the enterprise.


One of the best, IMO, was Pepsi’s sponsorship of the PepsiCo Zeitgeist Twitter Visualizer. This eye-candy visualizer was created by Amy Hoy and Thomas Fuchs, two Ruby on Rails/Javascript knighted heros and the brains behind Freckle and Twistori. Pepsi turned to NY digital strategy stealth firm Undercurrent to link its brand to SXSW. Pepsi had a number of initiatives at the show, but the zeitgeist effort was really interesting to me on a number of levels. Before I discuss how enterprise could make practical use of such a visualizer, I want to highlight how courageous it was for Pepsi to get behind the zeitgeist project. I spoke briefly to Pepsi’s Josh Karpf, Manager Digital and Social Media and Bart Casabona, Sr. Manager, Communications/New Media about it. “It was a leap for us; it hadn’t been done before,” said Casabona. Jordan Berkowitz, Group Director at Undercurrent pointed out that when they designed the application, there was to be, “No filtering based on content.” The PepsiCoSXSW team was integrated into the social media scene and knew there might be objectionable content broadcasting at the event and online, but wanted to create an authentic, digital experience with the Pepsi brand. Even though we were in bluedot Austin, where weird rules, it occurred to me a corporate brand like Pepsi had a lot at risk attaching its logo to random tweets. What I loved about that, however, was the giant brand was willing to move outside of its comfort zone. And the brilliance of the zeitgeist project is Pepsi integrated its brand into the customer experience of SXSW in an authentic and subtle way. “We’re social media folks,” said Karpf. In other words, they get it. Even though the community acknowledged Pepsi was behind the visualization, Karpf pointed out they were saying, “This is a brand, but it’s still awesome.”

The complete visualization can be seen in a series of one-minute videos on the Pepsicozeitgeist YouTube page.

For enterprises, it’s easy to see how this live-pulse tracking visualization could be used during a large Enterprise event such as Oracle’s OpenWorld or SAP’s Sapphire and ASUG events (providing, of course, everyone was a faithful Twitter user). But even beyond live events, the visualization could be customized to monitor conversations among key customers and fed to field sales forces. The location-based data could provide some very interesting G2 for key accounts. HR and internal communications groups could use the visualizer to monitor employee sentiment, as well. The uses go on and on. Worthy of some exploration.


Another impressive tool was Apture. I ran into CEO Tristan Harris at one of the sessions. Harris himself impressed me because he pitched me while waiting in line from his iPhone. He had his demo-to-go all queued up (presumably, in case he ran into, say, a reporter). In the blogger’s lounge, I signed up. I had a little trouble signing onto the demo with Apture because I don’t manage my own blog server files, but it seemed easy enough to install once you got past that hurdle. Apture is a free blogging tool that lets you instantly find any type of media and link them in-place. It’s used by the Washington Post, BBC News, and since SXSW, The New York Times. I see an enormous potential for this product inside the enterprise… again, providing we can get the Enterprise onto collaborative 2.0 platforms.

Check out Apture’s Twitter demo.


I also really appreciated a discussion I had with Marketing Manager, Yvonne Beyer, at iStockphoto. picture-1Here’s a tip for iStockphoto fans: CopySpace (TM). Check it out under Advanced Search. It enables you to “grid” your search by the area where you need room for copy on an image. GREAT tool for those large image slides. Not sure everyone is using iStockphoto in the enterprise, but you should definitely add this to your DIY toolkit. Some quick stats on iStockphoto include the company adds 40,000 new images and other media products a week that are vetted by 100 inspectors around the world. It has paid over $1.1M in royalties to artists, and many members of their community are making more than six figures with iStockphoto. Not really a pure enterprise product, but a great service for business folks who want to create their own visuals coupled with a strong business model that depends on community.

Even though SXSW is in Austin, I’m debating on going next year. There really wasn’t a lot of good enterprise content to be found. My plan is to liven up the Enterprise 2.0 conference (June, Boston), so we have a pseudo-sxsw of our own. I made a recommendation to the Advisory Board that we actively solicit sponsors for more parties and fun venues. Zoho sponsored a cruise a few years ago that was a lot of fun, for instance. Even though the sessions are always great, the best reason to attend events is to network in the traditional sense– meet and greet and share war stories face to face.

Hope to see you in Boston. Pack a lampshade.

UPDATE: Yvonne Beyer pinged me with a staggering correction: iStock pays out around 1.1 million in royalites a WEEK. She also added Lise Gagne from Montreal is one of the iStock contributors disclosing she makes 6 figures with well over 830,000 downloads to date.

Boston in June… Enterprise 2.0 on the Waterfront

e2.0 signIt’s that time again, the hallowed Enterprise 2.0 conference is revving up for early June. I was pleased to work on the agenda this year with Steve Wylie, the conference organizer, along with other members of the advisory board. The conference is in its second year and promises to reflect the maturation that occurred in the space over the past 12 months. Although many first-time attendees to the conference will be new to Enterprise 2.0, the concepts and themes have evolved and been refined over the past 12 months. Three out of the four largest enterprise vendors are big sponsors this year (IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle.) I’m personally hoping we see relevant, interesting developments from these large vendors this year.

We are introducing two new ideas to the conference this year which I’m particularly excited about. The first is Stowe Boyd’s Launch Pad where four (whittled down from a larger number by votes) audience-chosen startups will have an opportunity to demo their products and compete for a winning spot for the best launch pad product/service. As there is such a torrent of new products coming onto the scene, this is a great attempt to filter out the most useful based on collective crowd selection. We are considering doing something very similar regarding sessions for September’s Office 2.0 conference based on the SXSW’s panel-picker software.

The second event, or maybe unevent I should say, is called Enterprise2Open. Modeled after “barcamps and unconferences,” this will be a half-day’s worth of unstructured Q&A and sharing hosted by Ross Mayfield. The unstructured, open-type of event has been popular for some time in the development community, but we thought we’d attempt to try it out this year with a non-technical audience. The format provides a no-hassle, informative forum to ask any and all of your burning questions related to Enterprise 2.0 and get answers from peers and folks in the community who may have experienced the same issues. You may want to consider getting your questions and topics suggested in advance by posting them to the Enterprise2Open wiki. You can actually be a presenter yourself, if you bring your own soap box. Just get yourself on the self-organized agenda. The entire session will run in the afternoon on Tuesday, June 11 from 1-4pm. nGenera is sponsoring the event, so I’ll be there with a few of my colleagues and customers.

Speaking of customers, Rob Carter, CIO of Federal Express is giving the opening keynote. A group of us were in Memphis at Fedex’s central distribution facility in March where we heard Rob talk on 2.0 adoption. Rob sees himself as an evangelist himself for 2.0 in the enterprise. I’m really pleased he accepted the offer to keynote on Tuesday morning. One of the conference themes this year is accelerating user adoption. Having notable icons from the F500 executive board room will go far to lower the barriers of trial and experimentation with 2.0 alternatives.

e2.0 demo pavillionI’ll be at the conference from Sunday to Wednesday. I hope to see many of you there. Please drop me a note or a comment here to let me know if you’re attending. Many thanks to all the folks on the panels I helped arrange.

Photo credits: Jeckman on flickr and Alex Dunne on flickr.

Vertical e2.0: Travel Industry has an e2.0 platform of its own.

cubeless logo

I interviewed John Samuel, head of Sabre Travel Studios at Sabre Holdings, and Denise Fernandez, the Studios’ head of Marketing this week. The Travel Studios functions as an incubator within Sabre, experimenting and releasing innovative new products that don’t fit in neatly within other business units. The first product the group is bringing to market is cubeless, derived from an enterprise 2.0 social computing platform they have been using internally about a year at Sabre called, “Sabre Town.”

Custom-built from scratch on open source tools, Apache and Linux, the software is a Rails application, according to Samuel. Sabre is announcing cubeless as the “industry’s first enterprise 2.0 community platform for the travel industry.” The app was built by less than a half dozen developers and launched within a few months, although Samuel notes parts of the application were built prior to putting it all together for the launch.

Hosted behind the company’s firewall, cubeless enables community members to inquire, in a traditional Q&A format, about ordinary travel questions (hotels, restaurants, etc.) as well as a host of other community topics such as Sabre Town’s private group on Rails development or a lifestyle group on Yoga. The platform fulfills all of the SLATES criteria for a standard enterprise 2.0 platform and excels at sharing advice and recommendations.

Sabre is working with American Express Business Travel on the initial launch of cubeless, scheduled for mid-2008. The focus is on business travelers, offering cubeless as a new module from Sabre’s GetThere which is the world’s leading corporate booking solution and a long-time partner of American Express Business Travel. Examples of how it will be used are explained in a statement by Tom Klein, executive vice president for Sabre Holdings, “It can be anything from finding out about services to support [an employee’s] business trip in a location others have been to, to what nearby restaurants are opened all night for a quick bite to verifying that a hotel they want t stay in has dependable, fast wireless Internet access and a gym that is open early in the morning.” Samuel and Fernandez believe users will make heavy use of the software, acknowledging people tend to trust people in their own organization to provide such personal insight into their travel plans. Fernandez says with Sabre Town, the ratio of questions to answers is running nearly 9:1. They’ve found people are eager to share their experiences and help other travelers.

Through GetThere and its affiliates (agencies and corporate travel departments), cubeless will have access to hundreds of thousands of members. GetThere already serves over 3,000 businesses in 40 countries worldwide and more than half of America’s 100 highest spending business travel accounts. More than half of the F200 that have an online bookincubeless communityg tool use GetThere including Cisco, Oracle, GE, EDS, and Wal-Mart. Sabre has already proven its prowess with online collaboration and community via its IgoUgo with its 350,000 members sharing travel experiences, advice, photos and tips and stories on a multitude of worldwide destinations.

What’s interesting about cubeless is it has an easy, low-risk threshold for engagement for community members with a healthy incentive: self-interest. Everyone who is introduced to the product will “get it.” The benefits to using the social platform are obvious and immediate. In addition, the software scores high on the “fun” factor that facilitates rapid adoption. Sabre reports that over 10,000 profiles have been submitted since the internal launch of cubeless. And in a single month, more than 900 referrals had been sent to others whose profiles indicated knowledge or expertise they could address.

Launching an enterprise 2.0 community platform to suit a vertical market’s needs is innovative and should inspire others to follow suit.

cubeless tags

Rails Rules for the Enterprise

me and Tim BrayI spent Friday afternoon with an impressive technology crowd that gathered here in Austin from Avenue A | Razorfish. I’ve blogged many times over the past few years about how these Interactive Agencies hold the keys to the kingdom on bringing “sexyback” to the Enterprise. It’s been nearly a few months since the blog/firestorm kicked up starting with Mr. Bill (Gates) fueled by Scobleizer.

What I saw with mine own eyes at the AARF gig was red hot enterprise-worthy sexy stuff– borderline enterprise porn. 🙂 The integration was downright obscene!

One of the highlights of the event for me was meeting Tim Bray, pictured to the right here with me. Tim keynoted the event and was described to me by Shiv Singh as one of the original authors of the XML standard. Readers of this blog know what a geek fangirl I am, so I rushed poor Tim at the evening before’s cocktail party and talked his ear off for about a half-hour with mostly nonsense. He kindly took this photo, so I could post it on the blog.

The next day, Tim showed a slide on PHP referencing integration challenges with WordPress and Drupal. My video interviewing skills are (UM) lacking, but I managed to ask him about it, just in case any Enterprise 2.0 hopefuls were considering PHP as their platform choice… You’ll see Tim is very much the Ruby on Rails fan here.

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Incidentally, it’s worth mentioning that BSG’s web site and our e.laborate platform is all Rails, baby. It’s times like these that I wish I were more technical, but to hear a guy like Bray gush over the simplicity and ease of agile development with Rails, makes me feel proud of our apps team. I’ve been on many calls with Scott Brittain, our with customers and with industry insiders.  I always learn something from Scott and enjoy talking to the “apps guys” whenever I can. We talk a lot about how this so-called revolution is not about technology, but hey, the technology is one heck of an enabler, ain’t it?  It’s like trying to imagine the 60s social revolution without electric guitars.

Rawk on for freedom you awesome geek gods.