Diary of an Asian Swing: Day 3

This was a day of transition. No meetings in Hong Kong, so after a leisurely breakfast and a look at the news, I settled down for a rare session of uninterrupted writing. It was still Sunday back home, so the email was relatively caught up and I could focus. Finished first drafts of some Gartner Magic Quadrant DW DBMS content and sent them off to colleagues for review and assembly into our eventual document.

This MQ is my second, and I’m really enjoying the process this time now that I’m not trying to figure out what happens next. I’m especially pleased with the process of combining interview data from customer interviews and analysis of our inquiry traffic – hundreds for each of the four authors – with surveys we conducted specifically for the report.

Mark Beyer built a fantastic link for feeding survey criteria measured by numeric scores from customers directly into relevant cells on our underlying spreadsheet. We had already done some collective scoring of our own in those cells, and the new exercise showed us how customers read the same issues. And it moved some of the scores significantly, with some vendors doing better than we expected in some areas, and others getting hammered. When a sizable number of survey respondents highlight an issue like support as a serious weakness, one has to take notice.

Several hours of uninterrupted time, a luxury that made the work move quickly, gave way to a decision about what to do with a free afternoon. I decided to use it for more work, so instead of an excursion I headed to the airport hours ahead of schedule to work in the attractive Cathay Pacific lounge. But I was surprised by a helpful check-in agent who told me there was an earlier flight I could get onto. As a result, I arrived in spectacular Singapore late in the evening instead of well into the night, and was in my hotel for a good night’s rest before early morning meetings the next day.

And of course, working on the place – even without wi-fi – was just as good as working in the lounge. So I had the chance to complete a new draft of a forthcoming Hadoop Pilot Best Practices piece and send it off to a collaborator. A good day indeed.

Twitter Drafting – Marketing in the Tweetstream

Racing fans - cars or bicycles – are familiar with the concept of drafting – travelling close behind another vehicle to reduce wind resistance. The concept is sometimes applied to marketing by savvy practitioners who use the spend of others to multiply their own impact in public consciousness. In recent months, I’ve noticed a growing use of twitter by companies – including research firms – to exploit the new social channel this way.

It’s not new. Back in the days when Comdex was the biggest, most interesting show in IT, one could sometimes find the most intriguing offerings, especially from small firms with correspondingly small budgets, in hotel rooms nearby. Rather than paying the sizable fees required to participate officially, these nimble players bypassed the show entirely and found ways to reach attendees and draw them to parties, chili cook offs, etc. to get their message across.

The age of twitter, and especially hashtags, has created a new opportunity. If you don’t know what a hashtag is, they are words preceded by the # sign, a convention that allows an event – like #IBMPulse or #OracleOpenWorld – to sustain what is known as a tweetstream of messages the community interested in the event can follow. (Hashtags are used for other topics too, but that’s not relevant here.)

How does the crafty practitioner use hashtags to get an extra kick for his or her message? By putting out their own tweets and using someone else’s hashtag. Examples: tweeting about your competing product during a vendor show, or in a tweetstream that has sprung up around an event like a product intro or news story.

Analysts can jump into a tweetstream to promote their own work inside the stream around a vendor’s show. I’ve done that myself – it’s a great way to find new followers.

Some have gone further still – lately I’ve seen twitter-savvy analysts like Ray Wang promote their firm’s work even inside a competitor firm’s event tweetstream.  It’s a great way to find the right audience at the right time, and another powerful example of how twitter and other social media challenge existing business models.

Update: in the day following this post, I observed two more instances at the Gartner MDM event I was attending. Another independent analyst used the hashtag to add commentary – on the mix of attendees of the event, which he was not present for. And a vendor, not sponsoring, retweeted something I said, adding a link to their own website. What’s your opinion of these tactics? Leave your comments below – I hope to have a lively discussion. 

Blogging and Branding, and Learning about MX Records

Where to host your blog? Do it yourself? Let your blog provider (like WordPress) do it? Use a hosting company? I was struggling with these ideas last week, and ultimately came up with a very simple model. If this is not of interest to you, stop reading now. It’s just a little personal tale.

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You Know You Have Big Data When…(Humor)

One of the more philosophical questions analysts like to ask is “What is Big Data?” It’s relative – it begs the question, “what’s big?” And that is a constantly moving number, and always assessed by comparison to the ridiculous amounts some companies work with. But Big Data as a concept in IT parlance today tends to mean something fairly specific, not just about size but also about composition and the nature of the processing. So I considered a serious attempt at a fairly rigorous discussion about the nature of the workload, structure of the data and the kinds of analytics that comprise what people think of as Big Data….and then I thought of Steve Martin, who would have considered this carefully and then looked into the camera and said “Naaaahh.” So I determined to emulate him and have a bit of fun instead, by crowdsourcing some help completing the sentence “You know you have Big Data when…” Here’s what some Twitter folks said> Some are funny, some more serious … Read more of this post

Safeway Bushwhacks Its Customers, Laughs It Off

Beware if you’re shopping at a Safeway and attempt to exit with a shopping cart – you may get a severely bruised shin. Or worse, if you’re older with fragile bones. Most likely you can avoid the problem if you don’t patronize the Starbucks counter. (I’m sure Starbucks will be happy to hear that.) Expect no sympathy; the company evidently has not trained its people to deal with what must be a frequent occurrence with any grace whatsoever. Read more of this post

Include All Comments on Blog? No. But Please – Jump In!

I post and respond to all substantive comments.  But I’ve had questions from readers who didn’t see theirs. Understandably, they wanted to know why. Here’s how I handle comments:

  1. If they are about the content - they go up. Agree, disagree, it’s all good. Dialogue is exactly the point.
  2. If they are just “I liked this” (or not) they rarely do. If they are clearly not spam they might go up anyway, but the spammers tend to fall into this category. How can I tell? Specificity – a reference to the actual content. Might I be wrong? Unfortunately, yes. But there’s no information loss leaving these out.
  3. One exception to the above: a few come from rebroadcast mechanisms like topsy. I don’t know much about them, but assume my readers may want to, so I leave them in – you can follow the links to find out if it’s a service you want.

That’s it, except to say that I still have a low enough volume of comments that I look at every one, and respond if a response is indicated. I look at all the spam so far too, though that gets harder. WordPress seems to do a good job – when they say it’s spam, it has been so far. And they haven’t allowed much through, either.

Please comment if you have anything to say, anytime. That’s why I’m doing this – I can hear myself anytime I want to.

Dell Marketing Gets It Right

I ignore virtually all the marketing emails I get, even from folks whose offerings I tend to like – Apple, musicians I follow, baseball teams…. But today, I got a great note from Dell that started with a guaranteed stopper: Happy Birthday, Merv! Yup, even a jaded old analyst like me will stop for a moment. Read more of this post

40,000 Hits – Thanks for A Great First Year of Blog Success

I posted my first entry here on March 7, 2009. At the time, I was newly independent after 13 years in the big research firm analyst business. I was optimistic about my prospects, but certainly nervous. I had a few firm convictions about the importance of collaboration, some great mentors and some ideas I wanted to float into the blogosphere.

A year and 130-some posts later, I can hardly believe what a ride it’s been. A steady build with a few amazing days – the best was one 650 hits. By midday I was looking at the stats every hour; I just couldn’t believe it. I’ve had comment traffic and dialogue I could only hope for. Great connections with interesting people. And learning – every day, the blog is a source of new ideas as I deal with the traffic, the tips and tricks of the WordPress world, and more. Read more of this post

PDF X-Change – Still The One

Nearly a year ago, I mentioned a wonderful product called PDF X-Change, from Tracker Software,  in a post. It allows me to annotate PDF files, which many vendors maddeningly insist on using for briefings. Why “maddeningly”? Because for me at least, the best place for my notes is in the presentation – it provides the context and I don’t need another window open. In PowerPoint I just use the notes at the bottom of the window. PDF X-Change is a free download, and takes care of the rest of the pitches I see. Read more of this post

Anonymity Is A Coward’s Cloak

Some people choose not to identify themselves when they leave blog comments. I recently had a twitter conversation after finding myself dismayed at some particularly inappropriate statements from people with “cute” screen names discussing a vendor who has recently undergone some business transitions. Assertions about the company and alleged co-workers were made that would be fighting words had they occurred in the open. Chris Bird, enterprise architect and blogger, made the comment: “anonymity is a coward’s cloak.” (Chris’ blog, by the way, is well worth reading if you care about software architectures. Follow the link. ) He’s spot on. And he’s made me think about how I manage comments on my blog. Read more of this post

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