Friday Networking Field Day Thoughts

I’m wrapping up Networking Field Day 30 this week and as is always the case there was a lot of great discussion from both the presenters and the delegates outside of the presentations. It’s one of the reasons why I love doing this job even after almost ten years. I get to meet fun people and have an impact on so many things in the tech industry.

  • Network-as-a-Service is coming. We recorded a roundtable discussion about it and I think the impact that it’s going to have on mid-sized businesses is massive. It’s going to be like cloud. Not just in operational capability. It’s also going to be a huge driver for what you can do with your network in support of applications. The snowflakes may melt under the weight of the cookies we make from the cookie cutter deployments.
  • It feels like a lot of companies are trying to find what’s next. Part of that is coming from the ways that organizations are changing their outlook for what an office should be after the pandemic shutdowns. But still others are realizing they can’t use the same revenue stream for the next five years and hope to survive. This isn’t simply a game of trying to find an adjacent market to move into to drive growth to keep shareholders and investors happy. This is more about finding something that needs to be done because the alternative is no longer having a company.
  • Sadly, it looks as though third party Twitter clients are gone for good. This is beyond irritating to me because of the way that I choose to consume Twitter. I’ve seen a lot of chatter in various comment threads about third parties making money from the good graces of Twitter but the fact is that those programs drive a LOT of the way that power users interact with the system. If the exodus wasn’t already accelerating I would imagine you’re going to see a lot more coming very, very soon.

Tom’s Take

Stay tuned for all the great info from Networking Field Day on the Tech Field Day YouTube channel and don’t forget to thank your networking team today. You may not need to call them today to tell them something is down but trust me they will appreciate you calling just to say you appreciate them.

Controlling Your View of the World

Straw Bales on Hill Landscape, Tuscany, Italy

As I’m writing this it looks like Twitter has made some changes to the way that third-party clients interact with service. My favorite client, Tweetbot, is locked out right now. The situation is still developing but it’s not looking pretty for anyone using anything other than the web interface. While I will definitely miss the way I use Tweetbot I think it’s the kick I needed to move away from Twitter more than before.

A Window on the World

The apps that we use to consume and create content are the way that we view things. Maybe you prefer a webpage over an app or the way that one client displays things over another but your entire view is based on those preferences. If the way you consume your media changes your outlook on it changes too.

I didn’t always use Tweetbot to view Twitter. I tried using the standard app for a long time. It wasn’t until the infamous “Dickbar” incident back in 2011 that I broke away for something that wasn’t so slavishly dependent on ads. The trending topic bar might not have been specifically for ads at the time but the writing on the wall was there. The way I chose to view my content wasn’t compatible with the way that the service wanted to monetize it.

Fast forward to today. Instagram doesn’t show you time sequence posts. Neither does Facebook. Twitter now defaults to an algorithmic timeline. Apps like TikTok are built on their algorithms. It’s all a way to show you things the system thinks you want to see with a sprinkling of ads mixed in whenever they want to show them to you. Could you imagine a TV channel where the ads were just thrown in to the show whenever they wanted you to see one as opposed to more of a standard time? You probably can imagine because that’s what it feels like to watch platforms like Youtube.

Platforms cost money to operate. That fact isn’t lost on me. What is annoying is that trying to change the way I access the platform in order to serve more ads is going to cause more damage in the long run. Given the choice between using the web version of Twitter and just not using it I’m more inclined to the latter. I want a timeline that shows me tweets in chronological order without the need to change to that format every time I open the page. I want to see what I want to see without being forced to view things that don’t interest me. Forcing me to use the web app to see ads is almost as bad as forcing me to follow people that you think are interesting that I have no desire to interact with.

The Only Winning Move

I’m more than a passive participant in services like Twitter. I create content and use them to share it. I participate actively. And I don’t like the way I’m being forced to play.

I started a Mastodon account many years ago the last time Twitter looked like it was making changes. In the past few months I’ve migrated it to a new profile. The Mastodon interface has robust apps and a great way to interact with people. It may not have the numbers that Twitter does right now but it won’t take long for a lot of the best creators to go there instead.

More importantly, choosing an open platform over a monetized nightmare gives me hope that the real value of what we do on the Internet isn’t selling ads. It’s creating valuable things that people enjoy and sharing them with a receptive audience. That may not be the millions of people on Twitter right this minute but those millions of people are about to find out what it feels like when the best reasons to be on a platform are gone.


Tom’s Take

I want to choose how I see the world, not how someone wants me to see it. I want to decide how I share what I’ve made with people and when they see it, not have it placed behind other things a software function decides are more likely to be clicked. If the future of social media is endless ads and trickery designed to make me spend more time fighting through the timeline instead of consuming it then I guess my view of the world is outdated and needs to change. But it will change on my terms.

Cisco Live 2019 – Rededicating Community

The 2019 Cisco Live Sign Photo

Another Cisco Live is in the books for me. I was a bit shocked to realize this was my 14th event in a row. I’ve been going to Cisco Live half of the time it’s been around! This year was back in San Diego, which has good and bad points. I’d like to discuss a few of them there and get the thoughts of the community.

Good: The Social Media Hub Has Been Freed! – After last year’s issues with the Social Media Hub being locked behind the World of Solutions, someone at Cisco woke up and realized that social people don’t keep the same hours as the show floor people. So, the Hub was located in a breezeway between the Sails Pavilion and the rest of the convention center. And it was great. People congregated. Couches were used. Discussions were had. And the community was able to come together again. Not during the hours when it was convenient. But a long time. This picture of the big meeting on Thursday just solidifies in my mind why the Social Media Hub has to be in a common area:

You don’t get this kind of interaction anywhere else!

Good: Community Leaders Step Forward – Not gonna lie. I feel disconnected sometimes. My job at Tech Field Day takes me away from the action. I spend more time in special sessions than I do in the social media hub. For any other place that could spell disaster. But not for Cisco Live. When the community needs a leader, someone steps forward to fill the role. This year, I was happy to see my good friend Denise Fishburne filling that role. The session above was filled with people paying rapt attention to Fish’s stories and her bringing people into the community. She’s a master at this kind of interaction. I was even proud to sit on the edge and watch her work her craft.

Fish is the d’Artagnan of the group. She may be part of the Musketeers of Social Media but Fish is undoubtedly the leader. A community should hope to have a leader that is as passionate and involved as she is, especially given her prominent role in Cisco. I feel like she can be the director of what the people in the Social Media Hub need. And I’m happy to call her my friend.

Bad: Passes Still Suck – You don’t have to do the math to figure out that $700 is bigger than $200. And that $600/night is worse than $200/night. And yet, for some reason we find ourselves in San Diego, where the Gaslamp hotels are beyond insane, wondering what exactly we’re getting with our $700 event pass. Sessions? Nope. Lunch? Well, sort of. Access to the show floor? Only when it’s open for the random times during the week. Compelling content? That’s the most subjective piece of all. And yet Cisco is still trying to tell us that the idea of a $200 social-only pass doesn’t make sense.

Fine. I get it. Cisco wants to keep the budgets for Cisco Live high. They got the Foo Fighters after all, right? They also don’t have to worry about policing the snacks and food everywhere. Or at least not ordering the lowest line items on the menu. Which means less fussing about piddly things inside the convention center. And for the next two years it’s going to work out just great in Las Vegas. Because Vegas is affordable with the right setup. People are already booking rooms at the surrounding hotels. You can stay at the Luxor or the Excalibur for nothing. But if the pass situation is still $700 (or more) in a couple of years you’re going to see a lot of people dropping out. Because….

Bad: WTF?!? San Francisco?!? – I’ve covered this before. My distaste for Moscone is documented. I thought we were going to avoid it this time around. And yet, I found out we’re going back to SF in 2022.

WHY?!?!?!?

Moscone isn’t any bigger. We didn’t magically find seating for 10,000 extra people. More importantly, the hotel situation in San Fran is worse than ever before. You seriously can’t find a good room this year for VMworld. People are paying upwards of $500/night for a non-air conditioned shoe box! And why would you do this to yourself Cisco?

Sure, it’s cheap. Your employees don’t need hotel rooms. You can truck everything up. But your costs savings are being passed along to the customer. Because you would rather them pay through the nose instead of footing the bill yourself. And Moscone still won’t hold the whole conference. We’ll be spilled over into 8 different hotels and walking from who knows where to get to the slightly nicer shack of a convention center.

I’m not saying that Cisco Live needs to be in Vegas every year. But it’s time for Cisco to start understanding that their conference needs a real convention center. And Moscone ain’t it.

Better: Going Back to Orlando – As you can see above, I’ve edited this post to include new information about Cisco Live 2022. I have been informed by multiple people, including internal Cisco folks, that Live 2022 is going to Orlando and not SF. My original discussion about Cisco Live in SF came from other sources with no hard confirmation. I believe now it was floated as a trial balloon to see how the community would respond. Which means all my statements above still stand regarding SF. Now it just means that there’s a different date attached to it.

Orlando is a better town for conventions than SF. It’s on-par with San Diego with the benefit that hotels are way cheaper for people because of the large amount of tourism. I think it’s time that Cisco did some serious soul searching to find a new venue that isn’t in California or Florida for Cisco Live. Because if all we’re going to do is bounce back and forth between San Diego and Orlando and Vegas over and over again, maybe it’s time to just move Cisco Live to Vegas and be done with the moving.


Tom’s Take

Cisco Live is something important to me. It has been for years, especially with the community that’s been created. There’s nothing like it anywhere else. Sure, there have been some questionable decisions and changes here and there. But the community survives because it rededicates itself every year to being about the people. I wasn’t kidding when I tweeted this:

Because the real heart of the community is each and every one of the people that get on a plane and make the choice time and again to be a part of something special. That kind of dedication makes us all better in every possible way.

Fixing My Twitter

It’s no surprise that Twitter’s developers are messing around with the platform. Again. This time, it’s the implementation of changes announced back in May. Twitter is finally cutting off access to their API that third party clients have been using for the past few years. They’re forcing these clients to use their new API structure for things like notifications and removing support for streaming. This new API structure also has a hefty price tag. For 250 users it’s almost $3,000/month.

You can imagine the feedback that Twitter has gotten. Users of popular programs like Tweetbot and Twitterific were forced to degrade client functionality thanks to the implementation of these changes. Twitter power users have been voicing their opinions with the hashtag #BreakingMyTwitter. I’m among the people that are frustrated that Twitter is chasing the dollar instead of the users.

Breaking The Bank

Twitter is beholden to a harsh mistress. Wall Street doesn’t care about user interface or API accessibility. They care about money. They care are results and profit. And if you aren’t turning a profit you’re a loser that people will abandon. So Twitter has to make money somehow. And how is Twitter supposed to make money in today’s climate?

Users.

Users are the coin of Twitter’s realm. The more users they have active the more eyeballs they can get on their ads and sponsored tweets and hashtags. Twitter wants to court celebrities with huge followings that want to put sponsored tweets in their faces. Sadly for Twitter, those celebrities are moving to platforms like Instagram as Twitter becomes overrun with bots and loses the ability to have discourse about topics.

Twitter needs real users looking at ads and sponsored things to get customers to pay for them. They need to get people to the Twitter website where these things can be displayed. And that means choking off third party clients. But it’s not just a war on Tweetbot and Twitterific. They’ve already killed off their Mac client. They have left Tweetdeck in a state that’s barely usable, positioning it for power users. Yet, power users prefer other clients.

How can Twitter live in a world where no one wants to use their tools but can’t use the tools they like because access to the vital APIs that run them are choked off behind a paywall that no one wants to pay for? How can us poor users continue to use a service that sucks when used through the preferred web portal?

You probably heard my rant on the Gestalt IT Rundown this week. If not, here you go:

I was a little animated because I’m tired of getting screwed by developers that don’t use Twitter the way that I use it. I came up with a huge list of things I didn’t like. But I wanted to take a moment to talk about some things that I think Twitter should do to get their power users back on their side.

  1. Restore API Access to Third Party Clients – This is a no-brainer for Twitter. If you don’t want to maintain the old code, then give API access to these third party developers at the rates they used to have it. Don’t force the developers working hard to make your service usable to foot the bills that you think you should be getting. If you want people to continue to develop good features that you’ll “borrow” later, you need to give them access to your client.
  2. Enforce Ads on Third Party Clients – I hate this idea, but if it’s what it takes to restore functionality, so be it. Give API access to Tweetbot and Twitterific, but in order to qualify for a reduced rate they have to start displaying ads and promoted tweets from Twitter. It’s going to clog our timeline but it would also finance a usable client. Sometimes we have to put up with the noise to keep the signal.
  3. Let Users Customize Their Experience – If you’re going to drive me to the website, let me choose how I view my tweets. I don’t want to see what my followers liked on someone else’s timeline. I don’t want to see interesting tweets from people I don’t follow. I want to get a simple timeline with conversations that don’t expand until I click on them. I want to be able to scroll the way I want, not the way you want me to use your platform. Customizability is why power users use tools like third party clients. If you want to win those users back, you need to investigate letting power users use the web platform in the same way.
  4. Buy A Third Party Client and Don’t Kill Them Off – This one’s kind of hard for Twitter. Tweetie. The original Tweetdeck. There’s a graveyard of clients that Twitter has bought and caused to fail through inattention and inability to capitalize on their usability. I’m sure Loren Britcher is happy to know that his most popular app is now sitting on a scrap heap somewhere. Twitter needs to pick up a third party developer, let them develop their client in peace without interference internally at Twitter, and then not get fired for producing.
  5. Listen To Your Users, Not Your Investors – Let’s be honest. If you don’t have users on Twitter, you don’t have investors. Rather than chasing the dollars every quarter and trying to keep Wall Street happy, you should instead listen to the people that use your platform and implement the changes their asking for. Some are simple, like group DMs in third party clients. Or polls that are visible. Some are harder, like robust reporting mechanisms or the ability to remove accounts that are causing issues. But if Twitter keeps ignoring their user base in favor of their flighty investors they’re going to be sitting on a pile of nothing very soon.

Tom’s Take

I use Twitter all the time. It’s my job. It’s my hobby. It’s a place where I can talk to smart people and learn things. But it’s not easy to do that when the company that builds the platform tries as hard as possible to make it difficult for me to use it the way that I want. Instead of trying to shut down things I actively use and am happy with, perhaps Twitter can do some soul searching and find a way to appeal to the people that use the platform all the time. That’s the only way to fix this mess before you’re in the same boat as Orkut and MySpace.

Are Your Tweets Really Your Own?

new-twitter-logo350105_lg

We’ve all seen it recently. Twitter bios and blog profile pages with some combination of the following:

My tweets are my own.

Retweets are not endorsements.

My views do not represent my employer.

It has come to the point where the people in the industry are more visible and valuable than the brands they work for. Personal branding has jumped to the forefront of marketing strategies. But with that rise in personal branding comes a huge risk for companies. What happens when one of our visible stars says something we disagree with? What happens when we have to pull back?

Where Is My Mind?

Social media works best when it’s genuine. People sharing thoughts and ideas with each other without filters or constraint. Where it breaks down is when an external force starts interfering with that information exchange. Think about corporate social media policies that restrict what you can say. Or even policies that say your Twitter handle has to include the company you work for (yes, that exists). Why should my profile have to include miles of disclaimers telling people that I’m not a robot?

Is it because we have become so jaded as to believe that people can’t divorce their professional life from their personal life? Or is it because the interference from people telling you the “right way” to do social media has forced people to become robotic in their approach to avoid being disciplined?

Personal accounts that do nothing but reinforce the party line are usually unimportant to the majority of social media users. The real draw with speaking to someone from a company is the interaction behind the message. If a person really believes in the message then it shows through in their discussions without the need to hit all the right keywords or link to the “right” pages on a site.

Voices Carry

If you want more genuine, organic interaction with your people in the social world, you need to take off the leash. Don’t force them to put disclaimers in their profiles. Don’t make them take up valuable real estate telling the world what most of them already know. People speak for themselves. Their ideas and thoughts belong to them. Yes, you can tell the difference between when someone is parroting the party line and giving a real, honest introspective look at a discussion. People are not robots. Social media policies shouldn’t treat them as such.


Tom’s Take

I find myself in the situation that I’ve described above. I have to be careful with the things I say sometimes. I’m always ready to hit the Delete button on a tweet before it goes out. But what I don’t do is disclaim all over the place that “my tweets are my own”. Because everyone that I work with knows my mind. They know when I’m speaking for me and when I’m not. There is trust that I will speak my mind and stand by it. That’s the key to being honest in social media. Trust that your audience will understand you. Have faith in them. Which is something that a profile disclaimer can’t do.

 

Twitter, Please Stop Giving Me Things I Don’t Want

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Last week, Twitter confirmed that they will start injecting tweets from users you don’t follow into your timeline.  The collective cry from their user base ranged from outrage to a solid “meh”.  It seems that Twitter has stumbled onto the magic formula that Facebook has perfected: create a feature the users don’t care about and force it onto them.  Why?

Twitter Doesn’t Care About Power Users

Twitter has an interesting mix of users.  They reported earlier this year that 44% of their user base has never tweeted.  That’s a lot of accounts that were created for the purpose of reserving a name or following people in read-only mode.  That must concern Twitter.  Because people that don’t tweet can’t be measure for things like advertising.  They won’t push the message of a sponsored tweet.  They won’t add their voice to the din.  But what about those users that tweet regularly?

Power users are those that tweet frequently without a large follower base.  Essentially, everyone that isn’t a celebrity with a million followers or a non-tweeting account.  You know, the real users on Twitter.  The people that make typos in their tweets and actually check to see who follows them.  The ones that don’t have a “social media team” tweeting for them.  Nothing wrong with a team tweeting for a brand, but when they’re tweeting for a person it’s a little disconcerting.

Power users keep getting screwed by Twitter.  The API changes really hurt those that use clients other than the official ones.  Given that Twitter has killed most of it’s “official” clients in favor of pushing people to use the web, it makes you wonder what their strategy might be.  They are entirely beholden to their investors right now.  That means user signups and ad revenue.  And it means focusing on making the message widespread.  Why worry about placating the relatively small user base that uses your product when you can create a method for reaching millions with a unicast sponsored hashtag? Or by injecting tweets from people you don’t follow into your timeline?

The tweet injection thing is like a popup ad.  It serves the purpose of Twitter deciding to show you some tweets from other “users”.  Anyone want to bet those users will quickly start becoming corporate accounts? Perhaps they pay Twitter to ensure their tweets show up in a the timelines of a specific demographic.  It makes total sense when your users are nothing but a stream of revenue

Making Twitter Usable Again

I mentioned some things the other day that I think Twitter needs to do to make their service usable for power users again.  I wanted to expand on them a bit here:

The Unfollow Bug – Twitter has a problem with keeping followers.  For some reason, your account will randomly unfollow a user with no notification.  You usually don’t figure it out until you want to send them a DM or notice that they’ve unfollowed you and mention it.  It’s an irritating bug that’s been going on for years with no hope of resolution.  Twitter needs to sort this one out quickly.  As a side note, if you run a service that monitors people that have unfollowed you, consider adding a digest of users that I have unfollowed this week.  if the list doesn’t match those that I purposely unfollow, at least you know when you’ve been hit by this bug.

Links in Direct Messages – Twitter disabled the ability to send a link in a direct message a few months ago.  Their argument was that it cut down on spam.  The real reason was Twitter’s attempt to turn DMs into a instant message platform.  Twitter experimented with a setting that enabled DMs from users you don’t follow.  They pulled it before it went live due to user feedback.  One of the arguments was that spam accounts could bombard you with URLs that led to phishing attacks and other unsavory things.  Twitter responded by disabling links in DMs even though they removed the feature it was intended to protect.  It’s time for Twitter to give us this feature back.

Token Limits – This “feature” has to go.  Restricting 3rd party clients because they exist destroys the capabilities of your power users. I use a client because it gives me easy access to features I use all the time, like conversation views and muting.  I also don’t like sitting on the garish Twitter website and constantly refreshing to see new tweets.  I’d rather use some other client. Twitter has a love/hate relationship with non-official clients.  Mostly because those clients strip out ads and sponsored tweets.  They don’t let Twitter earn money from them.  Which is why Twitter is stamping them out for “replicating official client features” left and right.  Curiously enough, I’ve never heard about HootSuite being hit with user token limits.  But considering that a lot of Twitter’s favorite celebrities use it (or at least their social media teams do), I’m not shocked they’re on the exempt list.


Tom’s Take

I still find Twitter a very useful tool.  It’s not something that can just be set into automatic and left alone.  It takes curation and attention to make it work for you.  But it also needs help from Twitter’s side.  Instead of focusing on ways to make me see things I don’t care about from people I don’t want to follow, how about making your service work the way I want it to work.  I’m more like to use (and suggest) a service that works.  I barely check Facebook anymore because I’m constantly “fixing” their Top Posts algorithm.  Don’t turn your service into something I spend most of my time fixing.

Twitter Tips For Finding Followers

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I have lots of followers on Twitter.  I also follow a fair number of people as well.  But the ratio of followers to followed isn’t 1:1.  I know there are a lot of great people out there and I try to keep up with as many of them as I can without being overwhelmed.  It’s a very delicate balance.

There are a few things I do when I get a new follower to decide if I want to follow them back.  I also do the same thing for new accounts that I find.  It’s my way of evaluating how they will fit into my feed.  Here are the three criteria I use to judge adding people to my feed.

Be Interesting

This one seems like a no brainer, right?  Have interesting content that people want to read and interact with.  But there’s one specific piece here that I want to call attention to.  I love reading people with original thoughts.  Clever tweets, interesting observations, and pertinent discussion are all very important.  But one thing that I usually shy away from is the account that is more retweets than actual content.

I don’t mind retweets.  I do it a lot, both in quote form and in the “new” format of pasting the original tweet into my timeline.  But I use the retweet sparingly.  I do it to call attention to original thought.  Or to give credit where it’s due.  But I’ve been followed by accounts that are 75% (or more) retweets from vendors and other thought leaders.  If the majority of your content comes from retweeting others, I’m more likely to follow the people you’re retweeting and not you.  Make sure that the voice on your Twitter account is your own.

Be On Topic

My Twitter account is about computer networking.  I delve into other technologies, like wireless and storage now and then.  I also make silly observations about trending events.  But I’m on topic most of the time.  That’s the debt that I owe to the people that have chosen to follow me for my content.  I don’t pollute my timeline with unnecessary conversation.

When I evaluate followers, I look at their content.  Are they talking about SANs? Or are they talking about sports?  Is their timeline a great discussion about SDN? Or check ins on Foursquare at the local coffee shop?  I like it when people are consistent.  And it doesn’t have to be about technology.  I follow meteorologists, musicians, and actors.  Because they are consistent about what they discuss.  If you’re timeline is polluted with junk and all over the place it makes it difficult to follow.

Note that I do talk about things other than tech.  I just choose to segregate that talk to other platforms.  So if you’re really interested in my take on college football, follow me on Facebook.

Be Interactive

There are lots of people talking on Twitter.  There are conversations going on every second that are of interest to lots of people.  No one has time to listen to all of them.  You have to find a reason to be involved.  That’s where the interactivity aspect comes into play.

My fifth tweet was interacting with someone (Ethan Banks to be precise):

If you don’t talk to other people and just blindly tweet into the void, you may very well add to the overall body of knowledge while missing the point at the same time.  It’s called “social” media.  That means talking to other people.  I’m more likely to follow an account that talks to me regularly.  That tells me I’m wrong or points me at a good article.  People feel more comfortable with people they’ve interacted with before.

Don’t be shy.  Mention someone.  Start a conversation.  I’ll bet you’ll pick up a new follower in no time.


Tom’s Take

These are my guidelines.  They aren’t hard-and-fast rules.  I don’t apply them to everyone. But it does help me figure out if deeper analysis is needed before following someone.  It’s important to make sure that the people you follow help you in some way.  They should inform you.  They should challenge you.  They should make you a better person.  That’s what social media really means to me.

Take a look at your followers and find a few to follow today.  Find that person that stays on topic and has great comments.  Give them a chance.  You might find a new friend.

Is The Blog Dead?

I couldn’t help but notice an article that kept getting tweeted about and linked all over the place last week.  It was a piece by Jason Kottke titled “R.I.P. The Blog, 1997-2013“.  It’s actually a bit of commentary on a longer piece he wrote for the Nieman Journalism Lab called “The Blog Is Dead, Long Live The Blog“.  Kottke talks about how people today are more likely to turn to the various social media channels to spread their message rather than the tried-and-true arena of the blog.

Kottke admits in both pieces that blogging isn’t going away.  He even admits that blogging is going to be his go-to written form for a long time to come.  But the fact that the article spread around like wildfire got me to thinking about why blogging is so important to me.  I didn’t start out as a blogger.  My foray into the greater online world first came through Facebook.  Later, as I decided to make it more professional I turned to Twitter to interact with people.  Blogging wasn’t even the first thing on my mind.  As I started writing though, I realized how important it is to the greater community.  The reason?  Blogging is thought without restriction.

Automatic Filtration

Social media is wonderful for interaction.  It allows you to talk to friends and followers around the world.  I’m still amazed when I have conversations in real time with Aussies and Belgians.  However, social media facilitates these conversations through an immense filtering system.  Sometimes, we aren’t aware of the filters and restrictions placed on our communications.

twitter02_color_128x128Twitter forces users to think in 140-ish characters.  Ideas must be small enough to digest and easily recirculate.  I’ve even caught myself cutting down on thoughts in order to hit the smaller target of being about to put “RT: @networkingnerd” at the begging for tweet attribution.  Part of the reason I started a blog was because I had thoughts that were more than 140 characters long.  The words just flow for some ideas.  There’s no way I could really express myself if I had to make ten or more tweets to express what I was thinking on a subject.  Not to mention that most people on Twitter are conditioned to unfollow prolific tweeters when they start firing off tweet after tweet in rapid succession.

facebook_color02_128x128Facebook is better for longer discussion, but they are worse from the filtering department. The changes to their news feed algorithm this year weren’t the first time that Facebook has tweaked the way that users view their firehose of updates.  They believe in curating a given users feed to display what they think is relevant.  At best this smacks of arrogance.  Why does Facebook think they know what’s more important to me that I do?  Why must my Facebook app always default to Most Important rather than my preferred Most Recent?  Facebook has been searching for a way to monetize their product even before their rocky IPO.  By offering advertisers a prime spot in a user’s news feed, they can guarantee that the ad will be viewed thanks to the heavy handed way that they curate the feed.  As much reach as Facebook has, I can’t trust them to put my posts and articles where they belong for people that want to read what I have to say.

Other social platforms suffer from artificial restriction.  Pinterest is great for those that post with picture and captions or comments.  It’s not the best for me to write long pieces, especially when they aren’t about a craft or a wish list for gifts.  Tumblr is more suited for blogging, but the comment system is geared toward sharing and not constructive discussion.  Add in the fact that Tumblr is blocked in many enterprise networks due to questionable content and you can see how limiting the reach of a single person can be when it comes to corporate policy.  I had to fight this battle in my old job more than once in order to read some very smart people that blogged on Tumblr.

Blogging for me is about unrestricted freedom to pour out my thoughts.  I don’t want to worry about who will see it or how it will be read.  I want people to digest my thoughts and words and have a reaction.  Whether they choose to share it via numerous social media channels or leave a comment makes no difference to me.  I like seeing people share what I’ve committed to virtual paper.  A blog gives me an avenue to write and write without worry.  Sometimes that means it’s just a few paragraphs about something humorous.  Other times it’s an activist rant about something I find abhorrent.  The key is that those thoughts can co-exist without fear of being pigeonholed or categorized by an algorithm or other artificial filter.


Tom’s Take

Sometimes, people make sensationalist posts to call attention to things.  I’ve done it before and will likely do it again in the future.  The key is to read what’s offered and make your own conclusion.  For some, that will be via retweeting or liking.  For others, it will be adding a +1 or a heart.  For me, it’s about collecting my thoughts and pouring them out via a well-worn keyboard on WordPress.  It’s about sharing everything rattling around in my head and offering up analysis and opinion for all to see.  That part isn’t going away any time soon, despite what others might say about blogging in general.  So long as we continue to express ourselves without restriction, the blog will never really die no matter how we choose to share it.

Under the Influencers

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I’ve never really been one for titles or labels.  Pejorative terms like geek or nerd never bothered me growing up.  I never really quibbled over being called a technician or an engineer (or rock star).  And when the time came to define what it was that I did in my spare time in front of a monitor and keyboard I just settled on blogger because that was the most specific term that described what I did.  All that changed this year.

When I went to VMware Partner Exchange, I spent a lot of time hanging out with Amy Lewis (@CommsNinja) from Cisco.  Part of this was due to my filming of an IPv6-focused episode of Engineers Unplugged.  Afterwards, I spent a lot of time as a fly on the wall listening to conversations among the assembled folks.  I saw how they interacted with each other.  I took copious notes and tried to stay out of the way as much as possible.  Not that Amy made that easy at all.  She went out of her way to pull me out of the shadows and introduce me to people that mattered and made decisions on a much grander scale than I was used to.  What struck me is not that she did that.  What made me think was how she introduced me.  Not as a nerd or an engineer or even as a blogger.  She used a very specific word.

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It took some time before the enormity of what Amy was doing sank in.  Influencers are more than just a blog or a Facebook page or a Twitter handle.  They take all of those things and wrap them into a package that is greater than the sum of its parts.  They say things that other people listen to and consider.  The more I thought about it, the more it made sense.

I think of influencers as people like Stephen Foskett (@SFoskett), Greg Ferro (@etherealmind), or Ivan Pepelnjak (@IOSHints).  When those guys speak, people listen.  When the publish a podcast or write a product review that turns heads.  Every field has influencers.  Wizened people that have been there and done just about everything.  Those people then spend their time educating the greater whole to avoid making the same mistakes all over again or to help those with ability to find the vision needed to do great things.  They don’t hold that knowledge to themselves and use it as capital to fight political battles or profit from those that don’t know any better.  Being a blogger or technical person on the various social media outlets invovles a bit of give and take.  It requires a selfless type of attitude.  Too many analyst firms live by the maxim “Don’t give away the farm” when it comes to social media interaction.  Those firms don’t want their people giving away advice that could be locked into a report and assigned a price.  In my mind, true influencers are the exact opposite.

It struck me funny when Amy referred to me in the same way that thought of others in the industry.  What had I done to earn that moniker?  Who in their right mind would listen to me?  I’m some kid with a keyboard and a WordPress account.  However, the truth of things was a little beyond what I was initially thinking.  It didn’t really hit me until my trip to Cisco Live.

Everyone is an influencer.

Influencers aren’t just luminaries in the industry.  They aren’t the wise old owls that dispense advice like a fortune cookie.  Instead, influencers are people that offer knowledge without reservation for the sole purpose of making the world better off than it was.  You don’t have to have a blog or a Twitter handle to be an influencer.  Those things just make it easy to identify the chatty types.  To really be an influencer, you only need have the desire to speak up when someone asks a question that you have insight into.  If two people are having a conversation about the “best” way to configure something, an influencer will share their opinion freely without reservation.  It might not be much.  A simple caution about a technology or an opinion about where the industry is headed.  But the influence comes because those people take what you’ve said and incorporate it into their thinking.

I’ve been trying to champion people when it comes to writing and speaking out on social media.  I want more bloggers and Tweeters and Facebookers.  I’ve taken to collectively calling them influencers because of what that term really represents.  I want more influencers in the world.  I want intelligent people giving freely of themselves to advance the industry.  I want to recognize them and tell others to listen what these people are saying.  Sure, having a blog or a Twitter handle makes it easier to point them out.  But I’m not above telling someone “Go talk to Bob.  He knows a lot about what’s troubling you”.


Tom’s Take

It doesn’t take a lot to be an influencer.  Helping someone decide between detergent at the grocery store makes you an influencer.  What’s important is taking the next step to make it bigger and better.  Make your opinions and analysis heard.  Be public.  Sure, you’re going to be wrong sometimes.  But when you’re right people will start to listen.  Not just people wanting to know the difference between Tide and Gain.  People that have C-level titles.  Product managers.  People that want to know what the industry is thinking.  When you see that something you’ve said or done has a a real impact on a tangible thing, like a website or a product look, you can rest easy at night knowing that you have influence.

Cisco Live 2013 Tweetup

CLUSSignIt’s down to one month until Cisco Live 2013!  As usual, this is the time when the breakneck pace of updates starts coming out.  Whether it be about discount Disney World tickets from Teren Bryson (@SomeClown) or the comprehensive update from Jeff Fry (@fryguy_pa), you’ve got your bases covered.  One of the events that I’m most excited about is the official Cisco Live Tweetup.

Twitter has become a powerful medium in the IT industry.  It allows people from all around the world to communicate almost in real time about an increasingly broad list of subjects.  Professionals that take advantage of Twitter to build contacts and solve problems find themselves in a very advantageous position in relation to those that “just don’t get it.”  When a large group of IT professionals gets together in real life, it’s almost inevitable that they all want to get together and hang out to discuss things face-to-face instead of face-to-screen.  That’s the real magic behind a tweetup – putting a living, breathing face to a Twitter handle or odd avatar.

The 2012 Cisco Live Tweetup was a huge success.  Many of us got to catch up with old friends, make some new friends, and generally spend time with awesome folks all over the industry.  The social corner was the place to watch keynotes, troubleshoot problems and even talk about non-nerdy stuff.  After the end of the event, I couldn’t wait to try and top it in 2013.  Thanks to some help from the Cisco Live Social Team, I think we’ve got a great chance.

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The 2013 Cisco Live Tweetup will be held on Sunday, June 23rd at 5:00 p.m. at the Social Media Hub.  It’s on the first floor of the convention center right across from registration.  We’ve got some prime real estate this year to check out all the happenings at Cisco Live!  That also means there will be curious people that want to check out what this whole “social” thing is about.  That means more people tweeting and sharing, which is always a win in my book.  Jeff and I will also have a limited supply of the coveted Twitter flags for your Cisco Live name badge.  While there may be a printed version on the main badge itself, nothing shows your social media plumage quite like a piece of name badge flair.

The 5:00 p.m. start time was chosen by popular vote in an online poll.  I know that there are lots of events that typically run during Sunday, like labs and Techtorials.  In particular, there is a Cisco Empowered Women’s Network event that starts at 4:00.  I don’t want anyone to feel slighted or left out of all the fun at Cisco Live from the need to leave an event just to run to another one.  To that end, I plan on being at the Social Media Hub starting around 2:00 p.m. on Sunday and staying as long as it takes to meet people and welcome them to the Twitter family at Cisco Live.  I want everyone to feel like they’ve had an opportunity to meet and greet as many people as possible, especially if they have to leave to attend a reception or are just coming out of an 8-hour brain draining class.

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Remember that the fun at Cisco Live doesn’t just end with the Tweetup.  We’re planning on having all kinds of fun all week long.  I’m working on the plans to get a 5k run going with Amy Lewis (@CommsNinja) and Colin McNamara (@colinmcnamara) for those out there that want to stretch their legs for some great charities.  There are also a couple more surprises in store that I can’t wait to see.  I’ll drop a few hints once those plans come closer to fruition.  I’m really looking forward to seeing all of the people on the Cisco Live 2013 Twitter list as well as meeting some new people.  See you there!