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Legal Ramifications of Social Media in Enterprise 2.0

We all know social media is difficult to “control,” from a central corporate location. It has gone way beyond the marketing department, where it started as a means of listening to the customer and responding with carefully crafted “messages,” into a free-for-all in which digital natives come in to corporations with expectations about what they can say on their Facebook and Twitter pages, and what opinions they are entitled to express. Life isn’t always divided into home and enterprise, nor is the enterprise with its increasingly flattened management and instantaneous internal communications, separated into the former operations v. marketing silos.

At the same time, large companies, especially public companies, are still guided by SEC regulations. This leads the CEOs of many publicly traded companies to fear social media, which can be a valuable marketing and customer service tool, and shy away from it. The SEC, however, changed its rules to include blogs as a means of disclosure, so there’s a real reason to be proactive in the IR area, if only to create another arena beyond the Yahoo Finance boards that challeneged companies in previous decades. Sun Microsystems has been a pioneer here, and the National Invetor Relations Institute had a program about how Sun, whose CEO was one of the first CEO bloggers, evolved its IR portal. EBay went so far as to Tweet its earnings calls, which brought the company to the attention of the SEC and forced some guidelines.

But truthfully, IR is perilously close to marketing, and a perilously small part of any enterprise. The PR/IR people are the “controlled” bloggers and tweeters, who have absorbed the caveats and best practices of social media, and can probably (if they are good) get away with a fairly wide social media presence without running afould of rules.

It’s when we get into the employee guidelines for social media that we can get into trouble in the enterprise. Every company now needs policy guidelines as to what an employee can and cannot say on a social media platform, and those are probably best developed in conjunction with HR, and disseminated when the employee is hired as part of orientation. Policy guidelines could include how an employee represents the company outside the work environment, what the company policy is toward certain language, and certainly instruction on how to represent the company’s values and corporate culture. This will become increasingly necessary as ordinary employees begin to monitor sites like UserVoice and GetSatisfaction and participate in dialogues with customers around issues like product development, product roadmaps.

These are not simple questions, and this is an evolving arena. It’s complicated. I need your help here, especially the help of people who are in HR or legal at large corporations, or who have been on the employee end of some good policies. How is this evolving? How can it evolve? Are there any “best practices” that are enterprise-wide rather than just marketing-centric?

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MC Hammer Talks Twitter

OK, I’m a groupie. I fell in love with @mchammer at the break at #twtrcon. He was standing in the hall in a beanie and a tshirt talking about music and social I overheard him say that he was studying social media because it was useful in music, because music is an inherently grass roots and social activity.

He thinks that social media takes music from the real world and naturally extends its reach.

Speaking at #twtrcon, he tells how he started writing his autobiography on Twitter.  “Between 1962 and 1970, every male leader I knew was assassinated. Where were you?”

He says he never uses a ghost for a personal brand.  His whole concept is to “remove the velvet rope.” He doesn’t broadcast and he wants to engage the average person and get their feedback — about life in general, not just about specific projects.

I’ve been following @MCHammer since he got on Twitter. It was easy to see he was authentic.

For him, as a content creator, the objective is to shorten the distance between the content creator and the consumer without the middlemen.  He’s excited about rich media — movies marketed on Twitter, with revenue sharing with cable companies, saving millions in marketing dollars.

Hammer now has a voice: without paying fees. @mchammer knows who is tweeting and who is not among the celebrities. “If you tell me to view this with Ajax, I know you’re not understanding that so you’re not tweeting for yourself. But I’m not gonna blow your cover.”

What the platform does is take away the shield. You’re out there without the perception management that has been created by handlers or teams. And to  Hammer, this is good. People who are serious about Twitter are real, without ghosts.

He thinks perception is more important than reality. Tweeting that you are getting drunk changes the perception of who you are. Could take away the value of an endorsement.

“One of the things that’s intriguing is that social media is not from Pluto. There was socializing before there was a platform. Social groups are just an extrapolation of life into the digital world.”

How do you protect yourself from digital squatters? “Be an early adopter. Get to know the founders early.” –But he also says he deals with things like that with lawyers.

MC Hammer has watched himself in newspapers and magazines for twenty years. What he is finally able to do is define himself.  He says Twitter is exciting because it allows him to take back control of the perception of himself. He tweets about himself. “Big Hammer meets Little Hammer” in his tweetstream is about when  @mchammer met Hank Aaron in 1975.

He can’t answer everybody, but he tries to respond generally to questions.

You can tell that this man has given a lot of serious thought to social media. More impressive. He has been blogging for five years!

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Urban Luxury for Desert Dwellers

I haven’t been to a real estate event in a couple of years, so I thought I’d catch up with the market at the Third Annual Urban Living presentation for  the Scottsdale Luxury Home tour. Disclosure: I am a licensed Realtor myself, and I hang my license at a little shop called Infill Realty that specializes in downtown Phoenix.  I’m sure the people here at the Wrigley Mansion have never heard of us.

I am here in my yoga clothes among a group of well-dressed men and women who used to sell high end homes when people were still buying them:-) Now they are trying to figure out what *might* sell to their high-end clientele if it’s not a house in North Scottsdale. There’s about a 7-year supply of those on the market and they’re not moving swiftly.

These Realtors do not make it up in volume–one home sale can support them for a year. Or not. Here in Phoenix, the bottom end of the market is selling very well, but downtown Phoenix and downtown Tempe have had only 9 sales last year of homes over $800,000. You can buy almost anything for $50,000 and investors are rolling in and scooping up rental properties by the dozen. I’ve seen all this before.

The first speaker makes the case for living in an urban environment by  saying that “people love to hate living in cities.” He points out that people are renting in droves downtown, which he thinks  means they will invest soon. I just think they can get a hell of a lot more condo for half the price by renting. And they don’t have to make a commitment to a building that may go into foreclosure or run out of reserves in the HOA.

Most of these Scottsdale Realtors have never been on the light rail and don’t know how to sell downtown. They don’t understand why people would like to give up their cars, participate in the arts, and meet their neighbors. But the speaker makes a good point: since it takes three years to build a high rise, eventually there will be a supply and demand issue and the investment will be good. Oh, by the way, this speaker is British, which means he’s used to urban living.

Some of the numbers downtown are shocking. Prices are great. 44 Monroe and Century Plaza seem to be the speaker’s favorites for value and price, although financially they are not in great shape. If you’re not risk averse, you can buy into one of those buildings for far less than replacement cost per square foot (one measure used by Realtors to define value).

A welcome interlude  is the preview of the new plans for Mountain Shadows, a venerable Paradise Valley resort that designer Dodd Mitchell is buying and transforming into a green 5 star hotel with, of course, golf condos. And teak handcrafted bathtubs from Bali. Reminds me of a blast from the past: I’ve seen so many of these developer presentations, and so many of the resulting projects. Timing is everything; he’s got to hit it on the upturn. I wish him well.

Last is my friend Keith Mishkin, who is the original “urban” broker.  He grew up in New York. He gets it about who the market is.  He has  the numbers. Last year in the Valley, there were 70,000 closings.

The luxury market represented  .1% of them.

The previous year, a luxury home was one for which the buyer paid $600/sq.ft. This year, we redefine luxury as $500/sq.ft  There were 77  of those. Million dollar homes? 71 closings. Some of the people in the room didn’t sell a home last year, that’s for sure.

But Keith, who is growing his hair long until the market turns, is guardedly optimistic for the short term and very optimistic for the long term. Our urban market only has 4300 units. 70% have been absorbed.
So for 4,2 million people, there are only about 800 units.Las Vegas and San Diego have 4x our supply of condo unitsphoto, and since it takes two or three years to build a high rise condo building and no one is starting them now,  what looks like oversupply will turn into a big undersupply. After all, aging buyers are looking for maintenance-free fun.

Keith is incorrigibly optimistic. He says you can now buy luxury high rise in Phoenix for below replacement cost. He talks about the place I used to live, the Camelback Corridor (I lived in the first luxury high rise built in Phoenix, until my dog bit a neighbor’s dog and I came to my senses).  He says there are “only 71 resales.”  To him, that’s next to nothing. But to some of my former neighbors, who would love to sell after the inevitable changes that occur in life, it seems like a great many.

Half empty? Half full?


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What is Yoga? You’d be Surprised

A beautiful Friday evening in Phoenix. But I’m not at Happy Hour, I’m laying on my back on a mat in a crowded room in Scottsdale, my right hand on my belly and my left hand on my heart listening to my breath.

The guru begins talking about his own life, and how he started his first yoga studio right out of college,which he refers to as “before the Internet.”  However, he went to college in 1994. I hate to tell him I was on the Internet by then, even connected by broadband cable modem.

He talks about how we are all constantly off in a corner on the Blackberry, texting and checking email and not present to the people in the room. Yes, by 1994, I was like that, too. Constantly connected.

The guru begins to read aloud from a book. But it’s not the Bhagavad Gita or anything profound and ancient; it’s an excerpt from his own writing, an anecdote about going to the pound to adopt a dog and coming home, not with a labrador or a mastiff, but with a one-testicled toy poodle that attached itself to him.

As we wind through the various postures in a flow yoga practice, David talks more about disconnecting, about being present, and about getting into the moment and experiencing life through the senses. He talks about his own weaknesses a lot, and reminds us of  the importance of scent by recalling his use of Drakkar Noir in 10th grade at a semi-formal dance (he thought it would help him score). Like everyone else in the class, I have my own Drakkar Noir story; it reminds me of my foster son, who is getting married today, trying to become a man using the same smell.

David sprays lavendar into the room. The music plays everything from reggae to T.I.‘s anything you like, to a song I don’t know called “I  Love College” by Asher Roth.

Welcome to “Yoga , Wine, and Chocolate,” the creation of my friend and teacher David Romanelli.

For two hours I disconnected, from the flow of my own life, and entered the flow of David’s. It was like going to the movies, attending a concert, taking a nap, going to the gym, and getting a massage simultaneously. And it finished with three wonderful pieces of Vosges chocolate, which was founded by a cloassmate of David’s, and two wines imported by our friend Ian, the other founder of AtOneYoga.

These guys have created their reality, and shared it with me. And that’s where the yoga really is.–in manifesting your reality and in connecting mind, body and spirit.

Namaste. Check your BB for this email, Dave. You’ll be happy.

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Ten Companies You Need to Know About

When I became involved in the American Biofuels Council three years ago, the push for biofuels was at its highest point in the technology hype cycle. Now, in Arizona, under the aegis of the Desert Biofuels Initiative, a non-profit social venture advancing sustainable regional biofuels,   companies in the state are collaborating to produce and sell real products.

As everyone knows, after every  hype cycle is the disappointment: in the case of biofuels, that disappointment came from soaring world  food prices — due to the diversion of corn and soy from food stock to biofuel, and the concomitant grain shortages and rise in prices. Falling swiftly into disfavor, ethanol and soy-based biofuels declined in popularity, and the entire midwest suffered job losses.The same media that hailed biodiesel as as means to energy independence derided it as consuming more energy in its production than it saved, and causing the global poor to head for starvation.

But all biofuels are not made of food stocks. At the 2nd Annual Desert Biofuels Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona, I heard about biodiesel companies making fuel from many different non-grain sources. Many of them are already successful; others are starting in the unique collaborative, open source environment provided by DBI.

Here’s a summary of companies that presented today, although not all of them.

Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO) Companies
1.Arizona Biodiesel, makes B99 biodisel from waste restaurant grease. Its CEO,Dan Rees, believes the biofuels industry was founded to be local and use local waste materials. He believes biodiesel should use local resources to benefit the local economy and benefit the local environment.

2.Amereco Biofuels Corp. was developed to meet the standards for soy diesel. Its plant is geared for 15 million gallons a year. All its products are made from recycled ingredients.

Algae and Jetropha Companies:
3. Biofeedstocks Global LLC, a startup, is planning nursery operations to plant jetropha in Arizona, and is in R& D working with a closed loop algae system.

4. Algae Biosciences, part of the Northern Arizona Center for Emerging Technologies, produces algae in contaminant-free salt water aquifers near Holbrook, AZ, where there’s a pristine salt water aquifer from a long-dried up sea!. The company is producing a wide range of products, of which algae-based biodiesel is  a byproduct.

5. XL Renewables, in Casa Grande, AZ. is a renewable energy innovation company focused on the large-scale production of algae biomass and the development of integrated biorefinery projects

6. Energy Derived is dedicated to the development of energy efficient algae production systems for the creation of algae-based biofuels.. Their goal is to have every farmer grow an acre of algae and produce his own fuel. Apparently, drying  algae is a relatively energy-intense issue; the company has attacked that problem.

7. Diversified Energy Corporation is a privately held company specializing in the advancement of a series of promising alternative and renewable energy technologies, including a biofuels conversion process that can take any renewable oil and produce transportation fuels that are physically and chemically identical to petroleum, and an algal biomass cultivation system that is scalable and economical.
8. PetroSun – is an example of a company that originated as an oil and gas exploration company, but and went from there into using microbes for cleanup and enhanced oil recovery, and from there into bacteria and algae as sources of fuel.  By no means a startup, they have a million acres of land leases in Arizona and New Mexico to cultivate algae for biofuels.

9. Desert Sweet Biofuels is another company that has changed its focus. It will use the facilities and work accomplished by Desert Sweet Shrimp to pioneer the husbandry and production techniques required for the economic production of algae Biofuels and biodiesel. Involved in aquaculture for 14 years, the company managed fields in Ecuador, and has switched to Arizona because of its warm dry climate, perfect for growing algae.

10. My personal favorite, although perhaps not the biggest investment opportunity: Verde Biotrailors, which produces pre-engineered mobile biofuel processors that can be located on a job site, handle smells and spills better than a processor located in a building, and can be cleaned up at a car wash. The units sell for $12,500 and bring biofuel processing to the people.

Some of these companies are not startups by young people; I’m also seeing a group of middle-aged scientists trying to commercialize technologies they’ve been working on for years out of true conviction. There was so much energy around the Workshop that I can’t believe there isn’t more support for these obviously important companies.

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Yoga, Wine and Chocolate. Really

Twelve years ago, I started practicing yoga. One of my first teachers happened to be David Romanelli, one of the co-founders of AtOneYoga in Phoenix. I didn’t seek him out as a guru; he just appeared in my life because I had a bad back and yoga was recommended as an alternative to surgery (by everyone but the surgeon, who is still waiting for me).

Now you have to understand that David was about 25 at the time, and I was 55. I was accomplished materially, but I was miserable physically and emotionally. I has just been widowed. I thought my life was over.

David, on the other hand, was just starting out.  He was a fugitive from an aborted Hollywood acting career, and he and his college classmate, a fugitive from an equally unsuitable legal career, had decided to open this business in Phoenix. They were on a road trip to maturity through entrepreneurship. I thought I could help them run their business, but it turned out they helped me more.

David had a great collection of music. I went to his 6:00 flow classes a couple of times a week just to hear Simon and Garfunkel, Willie Nelson, and the other funky stuff he played in class, which seemed retro to him,but familiar to me. I was on a road trip back to my youth.

David was also brutally honest. In class, he spoke about his sports addiction, his love of big boobs, his dissatisfaction with his own body, and his propensity to fall out of the yoga lifestyle into decadence. He also told me not to struggle to wrap my arms through my legs and around my back in humble warrior, since my arms weren’t long enough. And never would be.

Years passed, and David decided to leave Arizona and go back to L.A. where he could take  his forays into decadence to new heights, developing yoga workshops on the relationship between yoga and chocolate, and yoga and wine. These have been fantastically successful; yoga,wine, and chocolate are not as immiscible as you’d think. David gives each student one piece of really good chocolate at the beginning of the class, and teaches the class to savor the taste, smell the chocolate, feel it on the tongue, and use all the senses to be in the moment with the chocolate.

For someone who eats bars of chocolate at a time, this was a wakeup call. And David does the same with the wine at the end of class. And the music during class, which now comes on an iPod.

He has learned, and has helped teach me, how to live in the moment and savor it. And now he has written a book called Yeah Dave’s Guide to Livin’ the Moment. You should read it. Dave has a lot to teach you.  The book is a series of small vignettes and anecdotes that illustrate the difference between living in the moment and not.

One of the chapters I liked best was about his attempt to do a silent (Vipassana) meditation workshop that lasted eight days. David’s very peripatetic, and he knew he couldn’t do it unassisted, so he took a bunch of muscle relaxants with him. The guru found them, and kicked David out. He learned something about himself; that not everyone can handle Vipassana, and that you can meditate driving around your neighborhood listening to music on your car radio if that’s your thing.

I loved this book.

Buppy Liked it, Too

Buppy Liked it, Too

David shows, through accepting himself and publicly admitting his sins and faults (he has man-boobs), how everyone ought to be on a path to self-acceptance. He’s genuine, he’s authentic, and if he doesn’t remind you of a yogi from India, well…he shouldn’t. He’s from Los Angeles:-)

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“Intimate” Lounge with Tim O’Reilly

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I get to ask Tim O’Reilly the first question in the bloggers’ lounge at Web 2.0 Expo. So of course I ask him how it feels to be a grandfather, and I’m thinking I’m making a joke.

But he is answering my question. And he says it’s really strange, because he has only seen his grandchild via Skype. He’s got a cold, and his wife won’t let him near his daughter and the baby.  He has bonded with the other set of grandparents, who are from Australia and haven’t seen the baby either — except via Skype.

Do you realize how incredible that is?

Now we are on to Government 2.0. Mary Trigari has asked why Tim is spending so much time in Washington. He’s really trying to stir people up to use technology. He says Washington is full of people with high ideals that are buffaloed by old regulations in goverment that were put it place before technology. So many of the things to modernize government will have to come from outside, as the Edgar database did.

The developer who created has done twelve more cities with a minor grant, so why can’t he just start a company that sells a product like that to the government.

This leads into a discussion of how to sell to the government, and how to dislodge the existing contractors or make them do more for the money they get. Tim is hoping to raise the bar on government contracting.

Shannon Clark asks the question “Where do you think the line is for a print publication?” What works in print and what doesn’t?

Print consists of many drivers: distribution and visibility (a magazine appears in an airport rack). Visibility helps a book. Print is another user interface; you’re not willing to take your laptop into your shop around your wood shavings (Make Magazine). There’s still demand for information; a book is a souvenir.  Whether print works depends on what kind of job you are trying to do for the reader.

Tim says he has learned a lot about publishing from Twitter: he re-tweets a lot. That’s the most minimal form of publishing.Huffpo is the voice of the community; the New York Times is still broadcasting.

Will conferences go away? No. O’Reilly says you want to see the people and take part in the hallway conversations. Only the keynotes wind up online. And conferences curate content and curated context.

Every aspect of O’Reilly’s business is changing. But the future of all media is curation.

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