Archive for January, 2009

Yammer is a tool for helping companies and organizations to be more productive through the exchange of short frequent messages.  It functions similar to an instant messaging client, however messages are visible to an entire group of participants, rather than sent as bilateral exchanges between two participants only.  Access to a Yammer group is limited to participants with the same email extension (ex:

yammer-logoThe tool is an invaluable way to collaborate as a team, share quick updates, relevant links and information nuggets, without relying on email.  Yammer can be used to quickly collect a list of useful reference materials; share notices of events; share relevant website links; share short industry-relevant news updates; and many other short pieces of information, opinion and knowledge that are relevant.

The desktop client allows a participant to post and read messages sent to Yammer, and more importantly to be notified of new messages through a taskbar icon.  The desktop client extends the use of Yammer to include more timely information sharing, more dynamic online conversations, and improved interaction, knowledge sharing and collaboration.

I’ve been using Yammer at work since Sept 08, and find it to be a great way to share things with the entire team, and have short quick conversations that would be of interest to the entire team.  Rather than sending email messages cc’d to everyone, yammer is a great way to ensure that everyone can view the message, and can also search through the archive of messages at a later time.  The desktop client certainly extends the value of Yammer, simply because of the notification icon in the toolbar, although the web version does auto-refresh and include a number in the tab-name when new messages appear, which is handy.

ChangeCamp Toronto

Posted: January 26, 2009 in web 2.0
Tags: , , ,

changecamp I had the pleasure of attending ChangeCamp in Toronto over the weekend, and it was an excellent experience.

The event actually came together really quickly – I heard that the organizers started pulling it all together in mid-December – and the end result was incredible. I actually learned about ChangeCamp only a few days before the event through Twitter, and made a quick decision to attend. The (un)conference was very well organized, with some obvious good sponsorship backing to provide the event with an excellent venue (the MaRS collaboration centre), an abundance of support staff, resources, and materials to make everything happen very smoothly. They even had some good food and drinks free of charge.

So what was ChangeCamp? ChangeCamp is a free participatory web-enabled face-to-face event that brings together citizens, technologists, designers, academics, policy wonks, political players, change-makers and government employees to answer one question: How do we re-imagine government and citizenship in the age of participation?

The turnout was impressive, with about 100 people in attendance. They used an open space conference approach – basically the agenda is created in the morning by those in attendance. Anyone can suggest a specific topic (related to the general theme of the conference), and select a time and location to discuss the topic (from a pre-defined grid of timeslots with about two dozen table locations for each time). Once all the times are filled, the event begins, and people self-select the topics of most interest to them to attend. Participants can wander between groups, with the intent that ideas will flow between groups.

All of these sessions were captured using a wiki as the primary central archive, and lots of folks also snapping photos, shooting video, and capturing audio clips. The end result being a large organic collection of discussions, ideas, concepts and action plans.

I found that time was a bit limited to reach the action-plan stage, but there was certainly a lot of great ideas being shared, and tons of enthusiasm to see the ideas turn into actions.

I led a discussion on “how cities can use social media to help manage crisis situations”, from which I took two main points: (1) establish City social media channels for “regular business”, build a strong following and get known in the community so that can be converted to emergency channels during a crisis and reach a significant number of people (including mainstream media); (2) in a crisis have a plan with an elevated, staged approach for using various social media channels to inform & engage people, for example, using twitter for the initial quick reaction, with a blog/audio cast to followup, and a videocast later.

Another key point to raise is the incredible attendance at the event from City of Toronto staff members. There was about a dozen staff members there, including the CIO and the Communications Director for TTC. They are clearly on board with social media, although from my discussions I’d say they are at about the same place as we are in terms of getting their ideas in place.

So it was well worth the journey to Toronto; and I hope to participate in other events like this in the coming days… next one is the Third Tuesday Meetup in Ottawa on Monday Feburary 2nd.

I’m currently reading “Outliers” for the first upcoming Social Media Bookclub (book review to follow later). For now I thought I’d share some thoughts on another wonderful book I read recently.

groundswell“Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies” by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff (Forrester Research) is a great read for anyone interested in social media; or in general how to transform an organization to tap into new ways of collaborating.

For the newbie, they give a good overview of different Web 2.0 technologies, with good practical examples throughout the book. A big focus of the book is on the social behavioral aspects of technology use, and not on the technologies themselves. Technology is an enabler for making improved connections between people – whether an organization connecting with clients, with other partners, or within an organization to improve internal work practices.

The authors tap into the experience and research of Forrester for profiling different types of Internet users – termed creators, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators, and inactives. They draw on some statistical data of demographics based on profile type (gender, location, age, etc), for determining appropriate ways to engage or interact online.

Their recommendations for implementing social media is very strategically driven (to be expected!), with an incremental approach based on goals and various strategies for listening to Internet activity (blogs, discussions, etc); actively engaging people through various social media channels; energizing interactivity and collaboration online through dedicated efforts; and instigating cultural changes to embrace social media. In a true collaborative manner, they invite people to continue the conversation online at:

I think their book further emphasizes the importance of transparency and collective input into organizational communication (both internal and external). Also a good read for marketing and communications folks to think of additional ways to connect with constituents, partners, and each other.

Well worth the read! Have you read Groundswell? What did you think of it?

One of the biggest challenges faced by many organizations trying to introduce social media into the mix is changing some of the ingrained organizational culture practices, and a resistance to change. Changing organizational culture can be a long and challenging process, and involves a series of complex interrelated steps. This is not an attempt to overly simplify things, but more of a summary of some general issues and one approach that I came across about 6 years ago while working for the International Development Research Centre (IDRC): the idea of storytelling to spark change.

Some primary challenges face by a lot of organizations: Firstly an organization-centric approach to business excludes the perspective or the client, and puts up a wall between the organization and the public. But, the public is out there, and they’re talking about YOU, so that wall needs to come down! Second, the degree to which different parts of an organization collaborate (which is often not very much, or not very well), creates silos within an organization, and a reluctance to engage people outside the organization (if it doesn’t happen within an organization, it’s a challenge to get people doing it outside the walls). Embracing a more open, collaborative work ethic requires a shift in both support and incentive from various levels of management to acknowledge inter-unit contributions. Thirdly, related to the issue of collaboration, is the level of comfort to work transparently and openly. If there is a perceived risk of making statements that are visible to the entire organization, and a perceived (real or not) threat of negative consequences for speaking out within the organization, then participation will simply not happen very openly.

These are some large organizational obstacles to collaboration that I’ve observed and encountered over the years – not necessarily the most important or relevant to all organizations – but certainly things that are a serious hindrance to social media adoption.

One idea for cultivating organizational change…

storytellingA few years ago I attended a workshop in Washington D.C. led by Steve Denning, formerly of the World Bank, on Storytelling for Organizational Change. The main concept behind his idea is to use well crafted stories, of which people can take ownership, to instill and spread simple ideas for change around an organization. More powerful than a presentation or document, a story can help people to visualize the relevance of concepts for their own set of problems. It also helps people to easily package the story as their own, and spread the idea around the organization.

Steve’s book, The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations, was published in the pre-web2.0 era. However, I think that the concepts are still very relevant, both in a face-to-face context for sparking org-change; but also as stories are told and shared in an online collaborative environment through various web 2.0 tools.

Storytelling could easily be used to both to spread positive stories about the successful use of web 2.0 tools and social media approaches to adding business value; and as a (web-based) tool or approach in itself – for example, success stories shared through a blog.

Has anyone out there ever used storytelling to spark changes within your organization?

I just discovered the ScribbleLive tool, a great way to simplify the live blogging experience. I think it’s a pretty new tool (couldn’t see how to get an RSS feed, although their FAQ lists RSS as one of the features), so I thought I’d try out embedding ScribbleLive into this blog post, and try to intertwine my twitter posts (pulled into ScribbleLive), and updates posted directly into the ScribbleLive tool into this blog.

  • 1:38 PM citymark – excellent, managed to get an RSS feed from scribblelive as well
  • 1:38 PM citymark – experimenting with twitter & Scribblelive embedded into my blog seems to be working
  • 1:33 PM citymark – Listening to the new station (formerly the bear) … not much different really.
  • 1:23 PM citymark – In my “other life” I help my wife with SimplyRaw < >… helping people to learn more about healthy lifestyle choices.
  • 1:21 PM citymark – they include a raw vegan nut pate in the salad. Tasty & healthy 🙂
  • 1:20 PM citymark – Gonna dig into a delicious raw vegan salad from the Depanneur Sylvestre for lunch today.
  • 1:05 PM citymark – now playing with to try out some of the features … how wide can the topics be cross-posted? RSS?
  • 1:00 PM citymark – Just discovered Scribble Live, so I thought I’d try it out over some tasty vegan lunch.

Powered by ScribbleLive

An interesting mashup of different blogging platforms. Nice to see how easy it is to mash things together. The fewer places I have to go to send out “global” updates across different platforms the better.

Next big thing I’d like to see is RSS feeds of Facebook updates! Anyone know if you can do that already, or if you can pull in updates from other tools into FB?