E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

Travelling

“Ficciones y Aflicciones” By Ernesto Uria

Mussles and Brugs in BrusselsSummer is over and that, basically, means that I have just kicked off the next round of business trips from now till year end. And, indeed, I just did that, as I came back yesterday from my first one of those, this time around to Brussels, Belgium, where I had a wonderful time participating in a customer workshop talking about The Social Enterprise and its own wider adoption of social software. Fascinating and rather enlightening discussions, on both ends, over the course of 4 hours, no doubt!, but more on that later… For now, this is going to be just that unusual blog entry where I will be talking about something else, completely different, from the regular topics I cover over here. And all of that because of something that happened yesterday, on my way back home, that I guess is going to be difficult to forget any time soon.

I have been doing business travelling over the last 15 years and, as most of you folks out there know already, some years more often than in others, but in most cases rather regular scheduled trips all along. Well, for the first time in those 15 years of being a road (Errr, I mean, air) warrior, yesterday I had the longest layover I have ever experienced at any airport. I was stuck in Madrid (In T2) for 9 hours non-stop. Yes, you are reading it correctly. 9 hours.

Now, I can imagine you may be wondering why didn’t I hit the road, grab a taxi and head downtown to enjoy what promised to be a rather gorgeous autumn day, right? Initially, I thought about doing just that, but then again, coincidences in this world teach you that some times whatever you may have planned doesn’t always work out the way it is supposed to. Like this time. Just as I was on my way to Brussels on Thursday last week I found out that one of my former team colleagues, and rather good friend, who enjoys, just as much as I do!, a lovely glass of red wine over a delightful conversation, was also arriving, around the same time as me, at the same terminal, at the same airport where I was. What are the chances of that? She was flying from Milán, and I was coming from Brussels, so we decided to get together, catch up with each other properly face to face for a good couple of hours, enjoy the one or two glasses of red wine and just let part of the afternoon go by enjoying catching up after not having seen each other for a good while.

And we just did that! We went to one of the bars at the T2 terminal, grabbed something quick to eat, and, of course, got ourselves a good supply of wine. That part of the afternoon was just absolutely brilliant! Believe me, don’t ever let people tell you that social interactions through the Web are just as effective, engaging and nurturing as those face to face, in real life. No way! There is no substitute at all for them! So whenever you have a chance to reach out and cultivate them, by all means, go ahead and do it! We had a wonderful time catching up with each other on what we have been doing the last couple of years and it was rather refreshing to see how that pure chance got us together in the first place while in Madrid’s airport. From there onwards, I shared with her a few tips on what to do in Madrid for the remaining time that she is going to be there, and we both departed to our usual schedules for the day. Hers to hit town and enjoy the lovely weekend before work kicks in next Monday. Mine, wait for a little bit longer and make my flight home after a few days away. And that’s where things went awry.

What was supposed to be just one more hour before departing, it turned around into becoming a 5 hour delay before our plane finally took off! Goodness! I guess technical faults in an airplane about to take off can cause that kind of trouble. Anyway, if you are a frequent traveller you know how things go from there. First they tell you 30 minute delay, then 60 minutes, then we move into two hours, and, finally, on the 4th hour waiting there, things are now ready to head back home! That’s the kind of suspense I am not very keen on experiencing and living through on a Saturday afternoon, don’t you think?

Anyway, a long time ago, after a continuous and rather frustrating experience, as a business traveller, of delayed flights, missing them altogether for whatever the reason or just about whatever other complication, one gets to learn that no matter how angry or upset you get about things, never mind picking up useless arguments with people, the delay is still going to be there, or if the flight is cancelled, there is nothing you can do at all either. So I tried to make the most out of my afternoon at Madrid airport and I think I reached the conclusion I need to pick up another one of my hobbies from all along that, lately, I had it almost abandoned: Read fiction. And a lot of it! Specially, when you are stuck at the airport with a bunch of hours before your next flight takes off.

I love reading. I have always enjoyed it quite a bit, even when I was a whole lot younger and perhaps my mind should have busier with something else. However, as of late, perhaps in the last few years, I have neglected reading fiction for far too long, focusing, almost exclusively, around business reading, specially, around the top of the Social Web and the Social Enterprise. My iPad Kindle is ful with books around these business topics, and while I was listening to Spotify on my iPhone (Something for which I am very very grateful, since it made for a wonderful afternoon listening to some of my favourite #elsuastunes), I realised I didn’t have enough fiction materials. And, funny enough, while I was pondering about that and sharing the odd tweet here and there (Guess that’s what happens when you get stuck and bored at the same time!), a good friend of mine, Rogelio Pérez-Bustamante, gave me a quick phone call where we talked for a little bit.

I tell you, things don’t happen just like that, without any purpose. There is always one. You just have got to go, figure out and find it! And seize the opportunity. For this time around, Rogelio actually told me that a rather good friend of his, Ernesto Uría, was just about to present live, this coming week, at 19:00pm CEDT on Tuesday, at the Ámbito Cultural of El Corte Inglés, a new book of delightful short stories under the suggestive title “Ficciones y Aflicciones” (“Fictions and Woes”). The book is in Spanish, and I have yet to find a copy of it for my iPad Kindle or buy it at the recently launched over here, in Spain, Amazon. But right there, while I was talking to him and he was sharing with me plenty of his notes about the short book, and how much he enjoyed it, I just realised I needed to read more fiction. It would have made for a fantastic and delightful afternoon, right there, if I did have a copy of Ernesto’s book and read through it. Somehow it just hit me.

You know, with all of the stuff that’s happening out there, in our now more complex than ever world, a world in where we all know, and are starting to realise, that things would never be the same anymore, it still pays off to have some brilliant fiction reading sitting right next to you, whispering in your ear, enticing you to leave everything behind, “pick up” the book, and start reading, letting your mind do the rest. Yes, indeed, I do need to read more fiction, I do need to find a way to evade myself from being stuck at the airport for so long and don’t feel much into business reading, really (Hey, it was the weekend, remember?!).

But it gets better, because while I had been pondering and musing further on about it all, and perhaps re-start that fiction reading with a splash and get a copy of Ernesto’s book, Rogelio shared with me the speech he himself is going to deliver on Tuesday’s public presentation of “Ficciones y Aflicciones” (“Fictions and Woes”). And goodness! Right there, it blew my mind away! What a surprising, refreshing and staggeringly good read! It’s just 8 pages long, but I can tell you they will certainly trigger that inner urge to want to know more. To get busy and start reading Ernesto’s book right away! Yes, I know, I know, you would probably be expecting by now to have a disclaimer or something, right? Well, here it is. Rogelio is a good friend who is now just starting to dive into this whole world of the Social Web and social networks; we have been having a bunch of conversations on why social networking is taking everything by storm, and how it is changing us all as a society altogether, and I can tell you his opinions about this financial crisis, as well as what he thinks of Europe, would probably make for one of the most fascinating reads out there on the Spanish blogosphere… Not to worry, I’m working on that! I mean, helping him out get his own blog going 😉

The truth is that I hardly know Ernesto (Here is a short, but rather good interview with him, in Spanish, if you would want to read more about him and his work), but you know how it goes, the friends of my good friends are also my friends, so pick perhaps this unusual blog entry with a pinch of salt or two, or, better, go and get a copy of the book and then let me know whether you like it or not. From what I have been talking to Rogelio about it, he just confirmed it would be one that I would enjoy to dive, back again, into the world of reading fiction. And after reading his opening speech, I would probably have to agree with him on it… Ohhh, and he’s been rather generous to allow me to publish it over here, before the book’s public launch on Tuesday. So go and grab a copy of it, in Spanish, at this link and start reading. You will enjoy it!

See? This is probably what happens when you have far too much idle time in your hands, and brain!, on a Saturday afternoon, while being stuck at an airport for a few hours, wanting to find a way to successfully escape, for a while, from everything that’s happened around you. And somehow, yesterday’s experience has confirmed as well that perhaps every odd weekend I may post another entry on something rather unusual, not very much related to the topics I usually cover over here in my blog. They may make up for some interesting and serendipitous new findings and somehow I am starting to feel I may be enjoying it quite a bit! Hopefully, you, too, folks!

(I will let you know, by the way, what I thought about the book itself myself, once I get my hands on a hard copy, but guess what’s going to be the first thing I’m going to be suggesting Ernesto pretty soon… Indeed, where is the eBook for me iPad Kindle? :-D)

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#e2conf 2011 Highlights – 10 Reasons Why I Enjoyed the Event

#e2conf - Harvard on a Lovely Sunday Summer AfternoonI know that plenty of folks out there are probably waiting for the next blog post in the series of #e2conf 2011 Highlights from the Enterprise 2.0 conference that took place in Boston, MA, a few days back, by yours truly, but the truth is that in the last couple of days I have been distracted by what seems to be raving the Social Web as of late: Google’s attempt to get social with Google Plus.

A bunch of people have asked me to share across what my ¢2 worth of commentary would be like on that new social networking site and while I am working on that blog post already, I can certainly share with you folks that so far I feel, rather strongly, that it could well be the integrated, pervasive and circling around user experience I have been waiting for to kiss good-bye to all of the others. Including Twitter, which, for those folks who know me, would come as a big surprise, I am sure.

But so far on the first iteration of G+ I can see how all of the issues and bugs that I have been experiencing with Twitter over the years are now long gone! Forgotten altogether! But anyway, that’s not the purpose of today’s blog post. I thought I would go ahead and resume the #e2conf 2011 Highlights posts with this one where I will be sharing My Top 10 Reasons as to Why I Enjoyed #e2conf, this year more than never! The purpose of this entry is to capture all of those loose ends about the conference, before I go ahead and dive into the actual content of keynotes and breakout sessions, which is what the next series of articles would be about. So let’s go and do it! Let’s see all of those reasons…

  1. The Conference Venue:

    In the last few years, the #e2conf event used to take place at the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel and although the venue may have been rather appropriate, by moving it this year to The Hynes Convention Center, the difference has been tremendous! As a starting point, a lot more space to mix and mingle, or have private conversations as you may see fit; then closer to downtown, which means having proper food for lunch while still networking with attendees, or for those lovely walkabouts feeling you are *in* the city! Hosting an event in such a large venue allows for participants to feel there are plenty of folks, but without that sense of being overwhelmed, in fact, at times, it was quite the opposite! That all was quite a nice change from previous years and I, for one, welcome the switch for future editions as well.

    Did I mention as well how the conference venue was just right opposite the Apple Store? hehe Yes, I know, you can’t beat that either, if you are an Apple Fanboy/girl! 

  2. The Wi-Fi:

    You would remember how last year the wi-fi worked really really well and provided us with a unique experience of staying connected to the event itself and not only those who were present with us, but also engaging virtually through our favourite social networking sites. Well, this year we had a new venue, so we were all, probably, a bit too skeptic that it may not work as designed / expected… The end result was phenomenal though! It worked rock solid for the entire conference event and it surely gave us all, conference attendees, a huge opportunity to share the excitement with those who couldn’t be with us in real life. Just wish Twitter would stop being so silly and not allow us to keep track of hash tags and previous events through the search engine, so that folks would be able to check the life tweet that went on throughout the several days it lasted.

    Thank goodness for the wonderful piece of hard work done by Jim Worth, who managed to capture all of the live tweeting that went one during that time and shared it across over at the Enterprise 2.0 Boston Social Web Coverage June 20, 2011. Like I said, over time, one learns how to survive without wi-fi connection, while at a conference event, but when you have it, boy, does it make a difference in providing an immersive online learning environment where everyone benefits from?!?

  3. The Keynotes Format: 

    That’s right! The Keynotes new format was probably one of the most refreshing changes coming along from #e2conf and a clear sign the conference organisers are listening and engaging actively, because last year the feedback was rather brutal on the ill effects that vendor-driven keynotes would have for the audience. So this year they changed the format to make the keynotes less vendor-driven, much shorter!! -15 minutes maximum!, although I would have loved for 20 minutes; that’s probably the ideal format, in my opinion, for an engaging keynote without deviating too much into off the track talk and demo pitches. 

    One of the other things I really enjoyed about the keynotes is that they are all recorded and made available at The Brainyard and open / public to everyone to watch. Some of my favourites that I would strongly recommend folks to take a look at and watch through those precious little gems of 15 minutes would be: John Hagel, Mike Rhodin, John Stepper, Sameer Patel, Andy McAfee, Bryce Williams, Lee Bryant, Ming Kwan, Sara Roberts, Ross Mayfield, Bert Sandie and Deb Lavoy.

    Not to worry, on my next round of blog posts I’ll be putting together some further thoughts on the content shared during these keynotes as well as what I learned from them, where I will include full links to their online presence, if you would want to follow up further with any of them. Stay tuned, but overall the content of those keynotes was just outstanding! True love and passion for the subject! (And I will come back to this point later on …) 

  4. The Quality of the Breakout Sessions: 

    While I was in Boston, and throughout the entire week, I kept mentioning how the quality of the presentations was incredibly high; the highest I have seen in the several years I have been there. To the point where some of them were the best of their kind in the last 3 to 4 years! So to make them justice I will be blogging separately about each and everyone of those breakout sessions that I thought were wonderfully engaging learning experiences so that you could have a glimpse on what was shared and discussed further along. 

    Another key item that surely highlighted the success from the overall quality of the breakout sessions was the fact that there were a bunch of different tracks that certainly helped orient folks better on what to attend and what not: Analytics and Metrics; Architecture; Business Leadership; Community Management: Engaging External Audiences; Community Management: Inside the Enterprise, Governance, Risk & Compliance; Mobile Enterprise; People, Culture and Internal Communications; Sales and Marketing; Social Apps and Platforms; Sponsored; Technology Leadership and Video and Unified Communications.

    Yes, I know you could say there was a bit of everything for everyone, which, I guess, is what every conference event should be aiming at eventually, don’t you think?

  5. The Big Shift:

    This is probably one of the main reasons why I enjoyed the #e2conf event this year; more than anything else, because it, finally, showed good, strong, healthy indicators of maturity within the industry and how not only the technology is maturing, but also us, as knowledge workers, and the companies we work for. From a technology and social tools perspective to a pure social one, one where culture and other business related issues were almost omnipresent. All over the place!

    Thus during the course of the week we saw how we have been shifting from that mentality of “What is Enterprise 2.0?“, to the “How do we do Enterprise 2.0?“, to this year’s “Why does our business need to live social? What business problems are we trying to address eventually? How can I benefit the most from Enterprise 2.0 to help my business thrive in the 21st century by going social?“. Indeed, quite refreshing, if you ask me! And about time, too!!

    Now, we need to move further on with that prediction I did at the beginning of this year, where I mentioned that by 2012 we would all stop using terms like “Enterprise 2.0” or “Social Business” to just call it Work! Because that’s essentially what we are doing: smart work through social networks and communities.

  6. The Networking:

    Well, after the first of the series of blog posts I put together with these highlights, which you can catch up with over here, if you haven’t read it just yet, there is very very little I would probably need to add, for sure! It was quite an experience, this year, like no other! Not only from the perspective of meeting up some good old friends with whom we all keep sharing our favourite war stories on Enterprise 2.0, but also new friends whom we could share our experiences with and learn from theirs! My favourite part of it though? Well, something that doesn’t seem to be happening at other conferences … The lack of competition and showing off you are doing things better. Just a pure sharing and learning experience on all things 2.0, although that may well be my own perception… what do you folks think?

  7. The Extra-curricular Activities: 

    It was rather interesting to see how, this year, compared to other occasions, the number of cocktails, receptions, after the conference day local gatherings, dinners, parties, pub crawl activities, etc. etc. had gone up sky high! At times those of us who were attending the event were even triple or quadruple booked for a single afternoon / evening! To the point where you would need to split up your presence in between events, so that you could hang out for some time without disappointing everyone. Tough to do, I know!, but GREAT fun! Although after I came back from Boston I realised I may have had far too much fun, as I keep trying losing those extra few pounds I brought back with me from the US 😛

    But from here I would want to share a special and warm thanks with all of those folks who hosted such events for us and made them all lots of great fun! I can assure you we had plenty of good laughs, good food, great company, and even better conversations! And you all know who you are … if you can still remember, right? hehe

  8. The Amazing and Immersive Learning Experience:

    Was, indeed, bigger than ever! Now, I can imagine how most folks would think very fondly of the Enterprise 2.0 event as the place where they would go and find out more about what’s happening in the industry, talk to their already existing customers and new prospects, see what other vendors are doing in this 2.0 space, listen to what industry analysts would be talking about, network quite a bit with other conference attendees, etc. etc. But, to me, it’s all slightly different. To me it’s that yearly pilgrimage to meet up with fellow 2.0 practitioners, share back and forth our own experiences in helping drive social computing within the enterprise, AND as a result of it, learn and absorb, A LOT!, what other folks have done so that you could reuse it and re-apply it when you get back!

    That learning experience is priceless. That, to me, is what makes it worth while going back to Boston, and Santa Clara, year after year. It’s those first hand exchanges of experiences with people who know exactly what you are going through that makes it all worth while. Yes, I know that plenty of people would say it’s a lovely echo chamber and everything, but, I am actually probably one of the very few who may feel very grateful for such echo chambers, because if there is anything out there that they are very good at is recharging your batteries, so when you come back in full force it would last you for a few months no end to keep gently pushing and become that trust agent who keeps aiming at making a difference at the company you work for!

    It’s that adrenaline rush you know you need, but never dare to ask too often, because you may like it a bit too much. I actually did this year and I had a total blast, even though it took me a couple of days to recover my own voice as a result of it! Totally worth it, though!

  9. Good to Be Back in Boston!:

    Of course, who wouldn’t, right?!?! I have been coming back to Boston to attend Enterprise 2.0 a few times already, but this year it was rather special. The weather was just stunning (At least, for the first couple of days), encouraging everyone to be out there, mixing and mingling with people, hanging out on the streets, at the local bars & restaurants, watching the world pass by, thinking how we may not be that different all of us altogether from one another. The fact that the venue was very much downtown surely made a huge difference in enjoying a good couple of summer days in Boston!

    I also spent Sunday afternoon at Harvard, with a couple of good friends, and we enjoyed one of the most pleasant walks-around-town I can remember! Pictures, of course, will be shared shortly at my Flickr account. But don’t worry, later on in the week Boston showed us all the other side of things, when it wouldn’t stop raining for a day or two! Goodness! Hope next year it will hold up for a little bit longer! Boston in the summer can surely be as gorgeous as they say!

  10. The Love Fest Atmosphere: 

    And, finally, something that I may have hinted in a good number of the reasons I mentioned above, but which I think still deserves its own space over here. Heading back to Enterprise 2.0 every year has become that massive love fest of 2.0 practitioners who embark on that “fantabulous” activity of group hugs, lovely cosy dinners, pub crawling to interesting places, etc. etc. whenever they bump into each other, wherever that may well be!

    There is no competition; there is no show-off; there are no intentions of diminishing one company over the other’s business; there is a fair amount of knowledge sharing, collaboration and learning, without ever asking anything in return; there is no knowledge hoarding where you try to absorb and suck on everyone else’s knowledge and experiences instead. I am not sure whether I am alone in living that perception, but, I, for once, appreciate it very much, because even if your competitors, customers and business partners are there, that whole aspect of open knowledge sharing, collaborating and learning, will make us all better, much better, at what we already do. And that’s something that, on its own, makes it totally worth it for me the over 30h+ of travelling, back and forth, time and time again. 

Thus, as you can imagine, and after another one of those massively long and meaty blog posts, I will surely be looking forward to the next #e2conf event that would be taking place in Santa Clara, in November, even though I won’t be able to make it there I’ll be following it virtually, in anticipation for next June, when I will be heading back to Boston and revive an overall even better conference experience!

From here onwards, folks, we will be moving right into the overall content of the event and what I learned during those 4 days. Thus stay tuned for more to come! We are only just getting started! 🙂

#e2conf - Harvard on a Lovely Sunday Summer Afternoon

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#e2conf 2011 Highlights – Offline Social Networking Still Rules!

#e2conf - Offline Social NetworkingOnce again, it’s been a little while since I put together a blog post over here, but this time around for a very good reason. As most of you folks know by now already, I have just returned back from my last business trip, one of the longest this year so far, for sure!, as I got to attend the Enterprise 2.0 conference event (a.k.a. #e2conf) in Boston, MA, the whole of last week. One of the most wonderful experiences I have enjoyed so far in attending a tech conference. And I do realise that I keep saying that very same thing year after year, but this time around I can certainly confirm it 100% it’s been one of the best I can remember and for a good number of reasons! Yes, I am now back to work, back to the social grid, back to carry on with my usual blogging mojo. And that means it’s time to kick off another series of blog posts where I am planning to share some of the major key highlights from the overall event itself, as a way of sharing with you folks a few glimpses of what I found the most interesting this time around.

Thus from here onwards, and over the next few days, I’ll be putting together a series of entries, where I will talk about the conference itself, i.e. keynotes, breakout sessions, workshops, networking opportunities, etc. etc. And will try to mix it all with a few other interesting things I have bumped into over the last couple of weeks, so it won’t bore most of you folks. I will also share with you all some links of the phenomenal live blogging that happened throughout the event, specially, coming along from very talented, and good, friends like Mary Abraham, Emanuele Quintarelli and Bill Ives. And at the same time I will be pointing you to some of the great highlights and write-up blog entries that a bunch of other good friends and thought leaders in the 2.0 space have been putting together in the last few days. It’s going to be a busy time, but with plenty of good fun!

However, before we go into all of that, I thought I would resume my regular blogging activities sharing with you folks the inspiring video clip of the week mixed with what’s been one of my major highlights from the overall Enterprise 2.0 conference event for yours truly: the offline social networking interactions! Indeed, if there was a single key highlight I would want to stress out from the event itself, is how, once again, the offline networking was absolutely fantastic! Superb!  … To the point where I think it was the very first time at a tech conference, that I can remember, that I spent more time talking offline to folks than being online, both, before, during and after the various speaker sessions I attended. And that’s a new one, to be honest, because time and time again I always had that urge of wanting to check things online, see what people were thinking and commenting on, catch up with blog posts, etc. etc. And it surely was quite an exhausting activity. Well, not this year!

That’s right! A couple of days before the event I decided I was going to change things slightly on how I would approach attending the conference. So, except for the live tweeting I did for the various presentations I attended, I was basically offline for most of the time, talking and connecting with people in the real world! And, boy, was that such a wonderful experience?!?! My voice struggled quite a bit trying to keep up with the pace of conversing with some many good old and new friends. I am also ok with the fact that I gained a few extra pounds after all of those wonderful conversations over coffee breaks, lunches, networking gigs, dinners, after dinner drinks, late night drinks, etc. etc. It was totally worth it! Big time! #e2conf - Offline Social Networking

That’s something that I should probably be grateful to the Social Business Forum event, held in Milan, Italy, a few weeks back, because, once again, it showed me how important, and critical, it is to converse, share and learn from those around you, face to face, at such events. It’s amazing how the Social Web can take you away from those offline interactions, just because you may want to be in the know, when what really matters, probably, in most cases, is those very same face to face conversations we do with people who share the same common passion we have for all of this social business stuff. It’s true that I knew I would be capable of catching up with the online Social Web thanks to the absolutely wonderful piece of work from Jim Worth who created, once again, the Enterprise 2.0 Boston Social Web Coverage June 20, 2011, but this time around I thought I would try to be as disconnected from the online world, as I could, specially, before and after the main agenda was covered and dealt with.

And, goodness, did I make the right choice?!?! It was brilliant just hanging out with plenty of good friends whom you have kept in touch with through the Social Web over the course of time, as well as meeting a bunch of news ones during the event!, and do real, proper catchups! I wouldn’t change that for anything, to be honest! In fact, if there is something I have learned from that whole offline networking experience from last week is that I need to learn to become less dependent on the Social Web, and, instead, converse more with people in real life. Face to face interactions still do have a place, even in the workplace!, and they are critical for us all to build better, more trustworthy relationships, that we can then continue to nurture and cultivate online till we meet up again! And that whole experience was quite an eye opener to me, to the point where as I was coming back home, playing that catchup I mentioned above, I decided it’s probably a good time to start now break loose from the dependency on the Social Web and continue to enjoy those offline interactions, even while at home!

Which is why I am going to make a connection with the inspiring video of the week to show you what I mean with this. Yes, you all know, it’s now summer time! The weather is gorgeous probably in most places where you are, but instead of enjoying it all going outdoors, mixing and mingling with other people, you decide to stick around your computer for that little longer, which, eventually, turns out to be a couple of extra hours, here and there! Well, not anymore! At least, for me! And here is the main reason why:

You may be wondering why I am sharing such a lovely musical video clip titled Something Good Can Work from Two Door Cinema Club, right? Yes, I know! It’s not a summer song, by far, but, hang on for a minute, if you listen to it carefully and let yourself go for a bit, it does sound like perfect for the summer. Even more when you watch the video clip and you come up with some of those wonderful imageries, which is why I wanted to share this video clip this week, because the footage from the entire video, except perhaps the first few seconds, has been done in the island where I live: Gran Canaria!

In fact, a couple of the places shown throughout the video clip are just like 5 minute drive from where I live myself, which, making a connection with the rest of this blog post, you would understand what I mean with spending a lot less time online than what I am doing now to enjoy those outdoors. Who wouldn’t, right?

Well, they say that striking a good balance between work and life is perhaps one of the biggest challenges knowledge workers, specially, remote ones!, face in today’s working environment; there is no easy solution, for sure. In my own case, I have learned to switch gears and move away from that balance and, instead, strike for that work, life full integration. And I’m surely finding it somewhat ironic that I had to travel over 5.000 KMs away, to attend #e2conf, to realise what I really have been missing over here in the last few months with all of that frenzy happening at work and elsewhere on the Social Web…

So a big highlight for me, from the Enterprise 2.0 conference, is a big Thank You!, to everyone I conversed with, learned from, shared common experiences with, etc. etc. yes, you know who you all are!! (Too many to mention all of you over here in a single paragraph! And to those other folks I never managed to catch up with, unfortunately!! Will need to fix that next time around!), who showed me how important and incredibly paramount it’s to nurture, cultivate and enjoy to the highest level possible, face to face conversations and interactions with those close to you. Even if that means on the way back (I enjoyed a delightful weekend in Madrid, in between, as well!), or even closer: at home!

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Social Business Forum Highlights – Social Business on the Shoulders of Giants

Social Business Forum - #sbf11 - Andrew GilboyContinuing further with that series of blog posts detailing some of the major highlights for yours truly from the recent Social Business Forum conference event in Milan, Italy, I thought I would go ahead and share with you folks today the next installment where I would focus on the first part of the day, the one with all of the keynote speaker sessions, detailing some of the major key learnings and ah-ha moments I experienced throughout that morning. Then in later blog posts I will share some more thoughts on the various breakout sessions I attended and perhaps I will put together one final blog entry where I will link to the recordings of the presentations, once they are all made available. So, let’s get things going! How can I summarise an entire morning of inspiring keynotes in a single sentence or two. Let’s see… How about Social Business is not something entirely new, we already knew about it from before. Welcome to the 2.0 Awakening of Business!

Yes, indeed! That would pretty much nail it, as far as I can see, for those couple keynote speaker sessions that kicked off the event to a great start! At first, we had Emanuele Scotti and Rosario Sica (From OpenKnowledge) who spent a few minutes going through a fancy and elegant Prezi presentation (“Social Business on the Shoulders of Giants“) where they quoted a good number of great thinkers from our recent history, going as far back as Newton (Stayed tuned, because this reference will come up again!), sharing further insights which mimic, almost too close, plenty of the main thinking behind Social Business from all along, even for Social Computing and Enterprise 2.0. With a couple of those quotes as some of my own favourites. Like Fernando Flores’ Trust is the main ingredient necessary for creating and sustaining a solid business relationship” or that other one from Rita Levi Montalcini: “Above all, don’t fear difficult moments. The best comes from them“.

That short session clearly highlighted how plenty of the same thinking that has been inspired and provoked for Social Business has got plenty of deeper roots, throughout the years, in how business used to run in the past, but that we seemed to have forgotten, or neglected, in the last few decades altogether. Great refreshing reminders that confirm how we may not be inventing anything new in here, maybe just an evolution, but perhaps going through that full awakening stage of reminding us all who we really are and what we do for business on a daily basis. Good stuff! Here’s the embedded Slideshare deck, so you can catch up with some of the remaining quotes they shared across:

Moving on into the next keynote session we had the great pleasure and true honour of having with us Bill Johnston, Director of Global Community at Dell, who under the very suggestive title “Paving the way to Social Business” did a fabulous job at describing how Dell has progressed from pretty much ignoring social media to become a full powerhouse leading the way in the consumer space in just over 3 to 4 years. I told him (half jokingly), at the end of the session, how much I enjoyed it, to the point that if it weren’t for the OS running in Dell machines I wouldn’t mind purchasing one myself just to experience their customer excellence! 😀

Indeed, the set of slides that Bill put together were amazingly insightful and very much spot on in helping define what are some of the main challenges and great opportunities for businesses with a common goal: delighting their clients. And he basically shared plenty of insights on how they go about it over at Dell. You can have a look into the slides over at Slideshare as well and I strongly recommend you spend a few minutes going through them, specially, check out slide #6 on a rather inspirational holistic approach towards networks of value, which I am sure is going to resonate, quite a bit, with those folks who advocate, very vehemently, where the final frontier for Social Business is at the end of the day.

Or check slide #8: one of the most brutal slides you will see available out there and which describes, pretty nicely, how Dell came on board the whole social media bandwagon to be one of the industry leaders in this space at the moment. It’s a rather bold move to come out there and share stories like that one from that slide and how that evolution on wanting to become better will require an extra effort and lots of learning. Pretty much along the very same lines that we, over at IBM, experienced with Jams, back in the day. Just brilliant!

The rest of the slides are pretty interesting detailing as well several of the Dell initiatives they have got in place, like SMaC (Social Media and Community Team), or the Social Media and Community University, which comes pretty close to the same beliefs behind our very own BlueIQ Adoption and Enablement Programme, IdeaStorm, etc. etc. Worth while looking into! Just as much as the part dedicated towards the holy grail of social media; of course, I am referring to figuring out the ROI of these social tools as well as some very interesting piece of advice on “Planning for Social Media & Community Engagement“, where Bill shared plenty of good practices on how to get things started with plenty of pragmatic approaches and sound advice (Check slides #22 to #26).

However, if I were to highlight the one favourite slide from his presentation that would be, without a doubt, slide #10 where Bill just mentioned how critical listening is for any social media strategy. In fact, to Dell it’s “The Heart of our Social Strategy. As it should be, for sure! That’s what we keep on insisting ourselves, social computing evangelists, as well that before you dive right in, check out what’s happening out there, listen to what people are saying, get to learn and absorb how they interact and from there onwards figure out and find a way that would suit not only you and your own needs, but those of your customers, which is what matters at the end of the day. And active listening is the perfect activity to get the ball rolling!

Here you have got the embedded code of Bill’s great presentation, so you can quickly flip through the charts and get a glimpse of what you can look forward to whenever the recording of his keynote becomes available at a later time:

Social Business Forum - #sbf11 - Andrew GilboyAnd, finally, the last one from the morning keynote speaker sessions. This time around with the rather provocative, but very insightful Andrew Gilboy, Oracle VP E2.0 EMEA, who covered “Social Business, it’s also about the Processes“. And I do realise I am describing his session as rather thought-provoking and eye-opening from the perspective that anyone out there who may be involved with the whole concept of creativity and the arts, i.e. musicians, authors, play writers, filmmakers, etc. etc. must go through the first few slides (From slide #8 to #slide 20) to find out, in a very helpful manner, the state of their own industry and how if they continue to think along the lines of the 20th century business models they are bound to suffer quite a bit, if not disappear altogether! And all of that through a wonderful trip down the memory lane of the music industry in the last decade! A must-go-through, for sure!

From there onwards, Andrew covered that important aspect of identifying new social business processes that would apply not only to the music industry, but to multiple other industries as well. Just loved his distinction of how those (social) business processes have been working out their magic for both “left” and “right brainers” (Slide #23) to present a rather interesting and immersive landscape that no business should ignore, nor neglect.

Finally, another worth while paying attention section from his presentation was that part where he covered Opportunities and Threats with plenty of examples from other businesses who have already taken a potential threat and converted it into a huge opportunity, helping define the landscape of how business will be conducted in the near future. Really worth while having a look, if only to check out how those other businesses are becoming, and living, social.

Here is the embedded code of Andrew’s slide deck, so you can have a look into it right away as well:

And that was it from me for now! As you can see, plenty of great food for thought on what it means to become a successful and sustainable social business with lots to digest and think through. But overall quite a line-up of rather relevant, interesting and inspiring keynote speakers who definitely helped set the stage for a good bunch of great conversations we all had throughout the day. But that would be the time for another blog post, where I can talk about the remaining sessions, as well as those other conversations on the side … Stay tuned for more to come!

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Social Business Forum Highlights – Reinventing Conference Events

Social Business Forum - #sbf11As mentioned in previous blog posts, here I am, once again, putting together this particular series of articles detailing some of the various highlights from the recent Social Business Forum event held in Milan, Italy, on June 8th, that I attended and presented at. Now, I won’t be able to detail most of what happened during the event, since there were lots of things taking place all over, but I am hoping that these few notes would help folks get a glimpse of what it was like, what I learned during the event and what I thought were some of the best keynote and breakout sessions altogether. To kick things off, this blog entry will focus though on my overall impressions of the event itself and what I thought about the whole atmosphere altogether, and if I were to summarise it in a single sentence I would probably say that the #sbf11 event has just redefined, for me, the way conference events should be like. In a single word: Converse.

That’s right! Over the last few years I have attended quite a few technical conferences and time and time again the main issue I keep bumping into is not having enough time to converse with fellow attendees to continue learning from one another. So whenever I am given the chance I go ahead and take it. I mean, what are the chances of meeting up the same group of smart, talented folks at another tech event like that one? Very minimal, to say the least! So I was very glad to see how the good folks over at OpenKnowledge took good care of the details and decided to give enough importance to the whole concept of entertaining conversations for those attending the event.

For us, keynote and breakout guest speakers, it all started the previous evening, as we were all invited to an evening reception, where both the food and beverages, as well as the venue, were rather accommodating and inviting. Perhaps, too inviting! (I still remember very fondly that delightful white wine and the gorgeous food coming along with it!). The end result was, eventually, meeting up with folks who I have known for a long while and with whom it was fabulous to catch up with again, but, more interestingly, meet up new friends who share a common passion, like most of us, for Social Business and the Social Web.

And that’s when it turned out to be rather interesting and exciting to get to know them a little bit better and find out that we are not all of that different altogether at all, regardless of the company we may work for, and have the perfect evening arranged to confirm that! How come very very few other conferences do that for guest speakers? There is probably nothing more accommodating than receiving a nice and warm welcome when you arrive in a foreign city to deliver a presentation the next day, I can tell you that! Even more, when a good number of the conversations I had provoked multiple follow-up ideas that shaped a few last minute changes in my own presentation incorporating a good number of new thoughts, ideas, and mind-blowing concepts that are still lingering in my mind… Priceless!

Then we move on to the day of the event itself … Now, I *do* realise how the conference wi-fi was not there as pervasive as most folks would have expected from a technical event, for whatever the circumstances. And contrary to how I would usually react in previous occasions, it didn’t bother me this time around. At all. Ha! Yes, can you imagine me saying that after all of what I have said and written about in the last few years? Well, I came to the conclusion, and rather interesting ah-ha moment, that not having wi-fi allows you to talk more, face to face, with people who are right in front of you waiting to engage. Physical interactions are still irreplaceable. No doubt! I mean, conversing over the Social Web is just such a wonderful thing that we have all have gotten so accustomed to it that we have been rather spoiled altogether. Yet, there is nothing like talking to people and participating in conversations, right there, as they happen, and you get to interact with others. Well, the Social Business Forum event allowed for plenty of that and so much more! To the point where I came to the conclusion of not worrying about wi-fi at conferences any longer from there onwards. If it works, it works, if it doesn’t, let’s talk face to face and enjoy the ride! I bet it will be much more interesting and fruitful eventually,… At least, it was for me!

The conference event took place at the Marriott Hotel in Milan, Italy, and, once again, I would have to confirm how important and critical it is to have the perfect venue for it. This hotel was just it! Absolutely wonderful! But not only because of the lodgings and the logistics, but also because of the superb catering service. This is one of my big pet peeves at conferences, how over time and as the years go by the quality of both food & drinks has deteriorated quite a bit to the point where it’s almost non-existent… And this is just such a missed opportunity. Now, I *do* realise it may well be just my Mediterranean / Latin side of things, but having the right catering service is not only going to be very beneficial for us all (Why would we need to give up on our own health and healthy habits, while attending events! Right?), but also for the overall conference. Having the right combination of food & drinks, both during lunch and breaks, is going to help people become more comfortable, more chatty, more at ease with the environment they are immersed in, to the point where they would engage much more in those already on-going conversations. Why not embrace it, like the #sbf11 folks did? I mean, as an example, I extended, on purpose, a good number of great conversations while I was enjoying that second, extra creamy, white coffee going beyond the senses!

I guess what I am trying to say with all of this is the conclusion I came to towards the end of the event that perhaps it’s time for tech conferences to slow down a bit. And let us enjoy the pace of being humans again, while we talk to other fellow humans, face to face, without having to rush off to the next scheduled session. Now, I know that some of the breakout sessions hardly had any space to mix and mingle along the lines I described above, but overall I think the pace of the event, as well as lunch and coffee breaks were just right. And wish other conferences would take example and further notice and allow their attendees to see and witness the world slowing down a bit for a change. Somehow I feel we would all be much better off altogether! And come back for more! I surely will …Social Business Forum - #sbf11

Ok, by now I am sure you have realised how this blog post with some of the highlights on the event itself have got very little to do with both the content and the speakers. Yes, that’s right! I thought I would get things started talking about looking after the details of making a great event a superb one. And that’s exactly what I witnessed four years later after my first, back then, Enterprise 2.0 Forum in Italy. Emanuele Quitarelli, Rosario Sica and their wonderful entire team at OpenKnowledge hosted a fantastic event, even though it’s not their specialty! I wish others, whose entire specialty is that exact same one, would pick up on some of their ideas to help revolutionise the way we engage and participate in tech conference events.

To me, eventually, it all felt like being part of a big family of good old & new friends, with a shared common passion around Social Business wanting to network, connect and converse with one another, learning from each other, without double agendas, second intentions or whatever other hidden purposes; just basically, conversing and sharing for the sake of wanting to learn more. And the fact that the evening of the event got a bunch of us together going out for dinner and a drink or two clearly indicates how most of the times it pays off being in good company, engaging in real conversations wanting to find out and learn plenty more about that person sitting right next to you, instead of trying to find a good excuse to go and grasp your mobile gadget to snoop around a way to make a move and leave that space.

That’s not us; that should *not* be us; we need to start humanising conference events once again. Forget about big, impersonal, mass media driven events. They are just so passe. The Social Business Forum has just shown us, if anything, the way we all have got ahead of us… Hope other tech conferences would do the same… and take their lead…

(Not to worry, on follow-up blog posts I will be cutting to the chase and focus plenty more on both content and keynote / breakout sessions… This one was just a little bit of an appetiser… hehe)

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The Mountain by Terje Sorgjerd

There is probably nothing better, and perhaps even more adequate, than getting started another week at work with something really inspiring that can get you going off to a great start, don’t you think? That’s why as I am about to get things going with what promises to be another one of those rather hectic and buzzing weeks, I thought I would create this short blog post with a link to one of those video clips that has been making the rounds already all over the place, but that one cannot stop watching over and over again. Of course, I am talking about “The Mountain” by Terje Sorgjerd. Can you spare a bit over three minutes as you get started with your own week at work? Not to worry, it will be worth it, I am sure. It is that good and so much more!

Terje is already a well known photographer, and film maker, after the stunning “The Aurora“, which I can also strongly recommend you have a look into, if you haven’t seen it just yet, but this time around with “The Mountain” he has surely raised the bar on redefining the concept of wonderfully beautiful. A couple of weeks ago he visited Tenerife, one of the neighbour islands from Gran Canaria, where I live, and certainly one of my favourite Canary Islands as well, to “capture the beautiful Milky Way galaxy along with one of the most amazing mountains I know El Teide“. And the end-result would probably exceed the expectations from anyone out there, even the most demanding. If not, judge for yourselves… Here’s the embedded code of the video clip he put together with some fantastic music that surely fits in right along with the overall theme and be ready to be wowed big time!:

The Mountain from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.

Pretty amazing, don’t you think? I have watched it a few times already, and I am certain you would do, too!; and cannot help but remembering a whole bunch of great memories from when I was there a couple of years ago, on a short holiday break, enjoying one of the most wonderful and humbling life experiences I can remember having visited a couple of times Mount Teide and its truly inspiring National Park . Back then I went a bit crazy and took a whole bunch of photos (That I have put together in my Flickr account under the Tenerife set), so I couldn’t help it this morning, as I was sipping my cup of coffee, to go through a bunch of those pictures in the context of Terje’s video and remind myself I need to visit the island, and father Teide, once again. So this year, I am planning already on coming back very soon for plenty more and I can certainly recommend that if you haven’t been there just yet, make some time to spend a few days there, because I can guarantee you it would be totally worth while the visit … and the stay altogether.

Tenerife - Los Roques De García & Mount Teide

Tenerife - Los Roques De García & Mount Teide

Tenerife - Los Roques De García & Mount Teide

Happy week everyone! 🙂


Update 26/04/2011: And my good friend Ed Yourdon just tweeted across this particular article, where it is mentioned how Terje put together the final video clip having to work with up to 2.4 terabytes of data, to create one of those gems that one learns to treasure and love more and more every time you keep hitting the Play button. Mind-blowing probably falls very short on the description of Terje’s hard work. Well done and thanks much, Ed, for sharing it across! Much much appreciated!

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