Facebook Developers | Facebook Developers News

Congratulations to my friends at Seesmic for being at the front of the Facebook Open Stream…

To get things started we’ve worked alongside a few beta partners to test the Facebook Open Stream API. For example, Seesmic Desktop is now a full-featured client for the stream and Adobe has created a simple stream Notifier using the AIR development framework.

[From Facebook Developers | Facebook Developers News]

I’ve been using Seesmic Desktop since it’s launch, and loving it. It doesn’t support all the services I’d like, and maybe could have a few other features, but what they have implemented has been done well. Keep it up!

ProjectVRM Blog » VRM and the Four Party System

I’m not sure I like “4th party” as a description. We spent way too much time at the VRM West Coast Workshop wrangling over the naming of firs, second and third. But when you get past all that, this key idea is really something big:

VRM is about enabling the first party. It is also about building fourth-party user-driven (and within that, customer-driven) services, which make use of first-party enablement.

Fourth parties will provide many services for first parties. In fact, VRM should grow large new fourth party businesses, and give new work to large old businesses in the same categories. (Banks, brokers and insurance companies come to mind.) Native enablements, however, need to live with first parties alone, even if fourth parties provide hosting services for those enablements.

Fourth parties also need to be substitutable. They need service portability, just as the customer needs data portability between fourth (and other) party services. That way whatever they can provide can be swapped out by the user, if need be.

[From ProjectVRM Blog » VRM and the Four Party System]

The combination of service portability and data portability doesn’t just put the user in charge, it also makes the data better. Companies should be very interested in that.

Stereotypes…

Stereotyping is easy for all of us. Our brains are categorizing machines, shoving every thing we see and do into tidy little boxes within boxes. A stereotype that conjures fear is even more powerful, because nothing gets our attention faster than danger – this also is built-in our wiring.

So it’s great to see more diverse presentation of Muslims in the media.

For an excellent point-of-view on this, check out Time’s Mona Eltahawy on video,

[From Latest Videos from TIME.com]

Apple netbook/notepad

“It’s not a surprise if you’re paying attention,” says my wife. Of course, when it comes to new sexy toys from Apple, we want details and dates. We know it’s going to come… eventually. It’s fairly obvious that the Macbook Air was the first step. This is the product development process we’ve come to know. And when Steve Jobs says, “We don’t know how to make a $500 computer that’s not a piece of junk… ” we all know to add the implied “… yet.

Still, I was pleased to read Jason O’Grady’s article in the WSJ this morning:

Less than a year after Apple dismissed netbooks as a “wait-and-see” product it may be getting upgraded to an actively-developed project overseen by none other that Apple’s mercurial CEO Steve Jobs. According to the WSJ the Apple’s netbook-like device will come in at a size larger than the iPhone/iPod touches, yet smaller than any of its laptops.

Wall Street Journal reports that while Jobs is technically on medical leave from his duties as CEO, he remains actively involved with business decisions and has completed a 180-degree turn and is taking a more critical look at a netbook device.

[From WSJ: Jobs heading up Apple netbook project | The Apple Core | ZDNet.com]

Will we see this before WDC? I doubt it. I’m guessing the new iPhone will be first and this netbook/notepad won’t be until summer, at the earliest.

Performance and Failure

Some things that seem to be good are actually failure.

I’ll use an example tech support pros will all know: A customer calls, you know the answer, you give it to them and it works, and everyone is happy. Simple, straightforward, case closed. Right?

No. This is a failure. Simply put, if you knew the answer then why did the customer need to call you for it? Why wasn’t the answer quickly available to them? Why wasn’t it already fixed in the product?
The answer immediately at hand for tech support tells you that something else has failed to work, or isn’t completed. Measure it, for sure, but you must drive those known answers out of your system.

In your business, what is it that looks on the surface like a good thing, but is actually an indicator of a more fundamental failure?


Craigslist Foundation’s Boot Camp – June 20th, 2009, in Berkeley, CA

My wife and I founded Square Peg Foundation in 2004, the same year Craigslist Foundation had their first “Boot Camp for Non-profits.” That first Boot Camp was an amazing experience for me, and since then I have only missed one.

As Craigslist Foundation describes it:

Boot Camp is an inspiring and unique community effort that connects people to the resources they need to help build stronger and healthier communities. Our focus is simple – to connect, motivate and inspire greater community impact.

[From Craigslist Foundation’s Boot Camp]

If you work at a non-profit, volunteer, serve on a board, or have always dreamed of starting something that really matters, you should join us at the Craigslist Foundation Boot Camp for Non-profits! I hope we’ll see you there.

Difficult people… or worse.

A few days ago, someone walked up to Michael Arrington and spat on him. For those who missed this news, here is an excerpt and link from Michael’s own blog:

Yesterday as I was leaving the DLD Conference in Munich, Germany someone walked up to me and quite deliberately spat in my face. Before I even understood what was happening, he veered off into the crowd, just another dark head in a dark suit. People around me stared, then looked away and continued their conversation.

[From Some Things Need To Change]

This isn’t about Michael Arrington. Or Techcrunch.

There are many people who have inexplicably aggressive or even violent responses to what most of us would consider everyday frustrations. So what can you do? In the heat of the moment, it may be hard to choose your response because you be too shocked, confused or furious to think straight.

I’ve found myself distressed and frustrated after these encounters, even ruminating over the response I should have made, or the visceral reaction my ego would have enjoyed. But sometimes I manage to handle something really well. This doesn’t happen because I’m brilliant or cool, but because I’ve spent years working in support and service professionally.

In the support and service business, the customer who flies off the handle shouldn’t shock you, and certainly shouldn’t make you react angrily. You’re dealing with people, so it’s just part of the job – but too many companies don’t give their teams the training and support they need to handle tough customer situations.

The typical class on handling difficult customers is a couple of hours of role playing where people give rote responses to faked aggressive behavior. This can be great for giving your team basic ideas about what’s acceptable, but it’s not going to be enough to build the poise and professional manner that I see in the best teams. To do that you need ongoing refinement and support. You need some way of making it interesting. Most importantly, you need to reinforce in your team these key ideas:

  1. Stay calm. It’s not about you. This person’s behavior is completely out of proportion to the situation. There is something else going on, which you have no control over. Stay calm.
  2. If they are abusive, ask them to stop, so that you can both focus on fixing the problem.
  3. Whatever it is that you did do to contribute to the problem, fix it. Make sure they understand that you are working to make it right.
  4. Get someone else involved. This may mean getting your supervisor on the call, or even handing the customer off to the boss, or it may be just a debrief with a senior teammate after you get off the line with the customer.
  5. Follow up with the customer. This is something every company needs to do better. make sure the customer knows that it matters that they were angry and that you want to be sure you have done everything you can to make them ok with the outcome. We’re all human, and this is a human process.

This is the same stuff you would teach in one of those role playing classes. But the key is to continue to build a more sophisticated response to difficult behavior into everyone in your team. You need to keep the momentum; keep your team talking about difficult situations and how they have handled it. This process has these aims:

  1. Keep the learning positive
  2. Reinforce the basics (the ideas listed above)
  3. Ensure the team fixes anything that’s broken and is contributing to these conflicts

Whether you do this sharing as part of regular team meetings, or posting a “Story of the Week” on an in-house blog (comments enabled!) the secret is to make this an ongoing learning experience that is fun and positive. You want this to be part of your team culture.

Arrington is taking a break, which is for him probably a good idea, so he can relax and get his head straight after such a personal attack. I wish him well.

Focus and Priorities vs. Turf

When dealing with complex issues that spread across functional lines, a senior executive focusing on the issue can being important focus and coordination to the effort.

But too often, people are paying more attention to the politics of Turf instead of the value of that cross-organization emphasis.

I started thinking about this after reading a piece by Jonathan Martin of Politico. He may be right about Obama’s strategy. He believes he’s bringing power in closer to him and taking authority away from Cabinet positions. For example:

“Czar” Carol Browner will head up Obama’s fight on global warming, where once his energy and environmental chiefs might have stepped in.

[From West Wing on steroids in Obama W.H. – Jonathan Martin – Politico.com]

But the spread of authority on some issues, such as global warming, is exactly the problem that needs to be fixed. These problems need focus and it helps to have someone focusing on the issue and actively figuring out how to bring together the disparate objectives throughout the administration.

The same applies to any organization. This approach can be great for everyone involved. But infighting and turf battles do happen.

What’s the key? How does it all come together? What is it that really makes the difference?