What Happens When 70 EDA Blogs Become 500 in 2011

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging, EDA, skmurphy

I just added Cadence to the list of companies with blogs on my May 28 post “Bloggers Covering Design Automation.” I didn’t see any announcement but they appear to have re-designed their website in the last three or four weeks and now highlight a community of bloggers on their home page.

My simple projection is that within three years every EDA company, large or small, will have at least one blog, and EDA consulting firms of all sizes will add a blog to their website. So that says we are on track to grow from 70 to over 500. I base this in part on the speed on adoption of the web by EDA firms and what’s already happened for web startups and many other emerging technology spaces: entrepreneurs consider a blog a core component of their corporate identity.

Making sense of 500 feeds will be no easier than surfing across 500 television channels to find something new and worth reading. I mentioned David Lin’s experimental Netvibes page in my “Primer on Blogs for EDA Start-Ups” and it certainly represents a good start. But I think an opportunity exists for community lens approach similar to what Hacker News provides web entrepreneurs (which is different in some important but subtle ways from digg and reddit that allow it to avoid the death of the lowest common denominator topics migrating to the home page). Other models are certainly viable as well, based on forums, wikis, and new forms both emerging and yet to be invented.

Paul Saffo’s 1994 Wired article “It’s the Context Stupid” (also available on www.saffo.com/essays/contextstupid.php)  makes the point that the value is as much in providing context as the raw content.

“It’s the content, stupid.” This catchy apothegm [is] now the mantra of an infant new media industry. […] As compelling as this phrase may be, it is also dead wrong. It is not content but context that will matter most a decade or so from now. The scarce resource will not be stuff, but point of view.
[…]
The future belongs to neither the conduit or content players, but those who control the filtering, searching, and sense-making tools we will rely on to navigate through the expanses of cyberspace.

One example of a hybrid model of journalism is what John Byler is doing at Chip Design magazine in adding 8 blogs to complement his print publication. I was particularly impressed by a recent post by Grant Martin on “Leibson’s Law in Action? Cadence returns to ESL with new synthesis tool” because he did something that is natural for a blogger and highly unusual for an article in an on-line paper or magazine: he links to whoever has the best information on the topic, even it’s a competitor to Chip Design. It’s not only a very useful summary that places several recent ESL announcements in context, but Martin links to the source material on-line, regardless of where it came from: EE Times, SCDSource, EDN, and Chip Design Mag. And he has comments from a number of key players ESL.
I was talking to a well respected EDA PR professional recently who was waiting for the EDA blogging ecosystem to sort itself out and pick a dozen “A” blogs so that it would resemble the good old days of print (and EDA PR could “return to normal”). I said I didn’t think that would happen because blogging uses links for context in a way that print didn’t (and can’t). On any given topic there may only be a dozen well respected bloggers, but there would be a lot of topics with different sets for each. It’s different when you have knowledgeable practitioners writing directly on the web.

I believe Grant Martin’s post is a harbinger for a very different kind of “sense-making mechanism” than both traditional EDA print journalism and the press release aggregation model that’s practiced on a number of websites.  Not necessarily better (or worse) but different.

We have time to get ready, and since we are all steering we may end up somewhere else. But I think 500 blogs (plus or minus 250) is likely by 2011 because it they don’t depend upon a business model transition: blogs are like weeds, they don’t require cultivation to thrive. I think they create a substrate that complements and potentially displaces the press release with the RSS/Atom feed as the quantum unit of information distribution for (social) media.

A Primer on Blogs for EDA Start-ups

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging, EDA, Rules of Thumb, skmurphy

After I offered “7 Tips for Encouraging Bloggers to Write About a Conference,” Gabe Moretti, the editor of the DACeZine,  asked me to contribute an article on blogging (I guess that could have been my eighth tip). It appeared in the June 26 DACeZine. What follows is a version of the article appropriate for a blog post: same content, more links. I think these tips are actually useful for any software start-up.

History & Definitions

Blogs are a “new” social software technology that have been in use for more than a decade. The name “weblog” was coined by Jorn Barger in 1997 and shortened to “blog” in 1999 by Peter Merholz. Both describe a website with one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Permalink: each page or article has a permanent URL called a permalink that allows other sites to reference it uniquely for the life of the website. This inhibits link rot and allows useful references and backlinks to accumulate over time.
  • Reverse Chronology: there is normally an index that presents the articles in reverse chronological order (newest first) which answers the question “What’s New?”
  • Comments: each article has a footer that allows readers to add comments. Registration can be required to inhibit spam, but in effect, each article can have a forum thread associated with it.
  • Trackbacks: notifications to other blogs (and content management systems that accept them) that they have been referenced in a published article. These trackbacks may be appended as comments after the referenced article on the remote site to let readers know who else is referring to it.
  • Categories: may be defined in an ad hoc way for a site and appended as tags (metadata) for each article. Sometimes, these tags may be shared between blogs to facilitate easy reference about common events or issues.
  • Syndication Feeds: typically based on one or more versions of RSS and Atom, allow readers to aggregate content from many blogs. They are essentially a machine readable format of “What’s New” that tracks and displays a summary or the full text of the last few articles published.
  • BlogRoll: a list of other blogs that are suggested reading by the blog author(s).

There are many blogging systems and not all of them support all of these features. Not every blog has all of these features enabled, but a minimum feature set would normally include permalinks, a reverse chronological index, and syndication feeds.

EDA Blogs
There are more than 70 blogs relevant to Electronic Design Automation, and the first “EDA Bloggers Birds of a Feather” meeting was held at this year’s DAC. As a part of the preparation for that event, I developed a list of “Bloggers Covering Electronic Design Automation” that David Lin of Denali published on Netvibes.

Starting the Conversation
Tim O’Reilly has observed that a blog acts as a dial tone for a website: it signals a commitment for interaction and participation on the part of the authors. Current blogging activity substantiates that a start-up is open for business. This can be an issue when the website has not been updated for six months!

EDA software and consulting services both require an ongoing relationship for a customer to get full value out of the initial decision to engage. This means that a purchase decision, especially for start-ups, can look a lot like a hiring decision. By exposing your thinking and demonstrating your expertise on your blog, you allow your prospects to get to know you better even before they write that first email or pick up the phone. Whether they see you listed at a tradeshow, see an article you’ve written, or hear about you from a colleague, they will almost always check your website before contacting you. If you let them get to know you and proactively answer their likely questions, you allow them to make more productive use of their time and make your first conversation that much more useful for both of you.

Key Benefits From a Blog

  • Using permalinks for your content means that the highly linked articles accumulate a higher preference in search engines (e.g. Google) which means you are more likely to be found, especially if you are blogging about something of interest to your prospects.
  • Using feeds means that new articles will get into the search engine caches, where they can be found by prospects; in a matter of hours rather than waiting for an indexing spider to visit your site every two or three weeks.
  • A blog allows you to respond frequently and in real time to events, issues, and new information that are relevant to your prospects and your business. News releases still have a role but are better reserved for key communications.
  • A blog also replaces the “What’s New” page for your website with a much more powerful structure that’s better connected with other websites.

Tips for Better Blogging

  1. Plan ahead. Map out a calendar of subjects to cover one or two a week for the next month or two; this will help you focus on these topics in other media and help you avoid writer’s block.
  2. Offer Perspective. Don’t just rehash other articles, blog posts, and news stories. Add your own insights and expertise—and keep the content clear, focused and professional.
  3. Report. Tie your subject matter to topical events such as talks, conferences, seminars, or trade shows you’ve attended, adding your own insights from those events.
  4. Focus for effect. Pick a set of topics that are relevant to your business and your (prospective) customers. (For non-business-related topics, create a second personal blog.)
  5. Do it often. Shorter, more frequent posts are best (around 200 to 400 words and at least once a week). Try making just three points per issue relevant to your intended audience.
  6. Choose clear titles. Keep titles short and use words that are familiar and relevant to your readers.
  7. Cite references. Include links for your citations to increase your credibility and make your blog more useful, reliable and better integrated into the blogosphere.
  8. Write with Integrity. Disclose all relevant information about your financial interests in the topic and only write what you know to be true.

Seven Tips for Encouraging Bloggers to Write About A Conference

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging, EDA, skmurphy

Since I am at DAC this week I will use the DAC website as a representative example.

  1. Add a blog that allows (moderated) comments and (moderated) trackbacks.
    DAC: Not yet.
  2. Give every session and every event a permalink.
    DAC: This is actually true for the last seven and a half conferences (back to 37th post conference site). The URLs are a little funky but here is a pointer to session 1 of the 39th DAC
  3. Give every session and every event trackbacks so that you can see who has blogged about them.
    DAC: Not Yet
  4. Add RSS/Atom feeds for both events and announcements.
    DAC: Not Yet
  5. Link every presenter’s name to their home page (blog, personal site, IEEE personal page, or other they supply) so that it’s easy to learn more about them. Add a link to their affiliated organization (college, university, firm, government entity, non-profit). I actually did this for the 1995 HDLCon (admittedly a smaller show than DAC) and it added a lot to your ability to do some quick background research.
    DAC: Not Yet
  6. Realize that you are writing a website first, with content that may re-purposed into e-mail newsletters and print. This means using hyperlinks to provide pointers to relevant information.
    DAC: Not yet; while the DACeZine is a great addition it’s an on-line magazine that obeys all of the strictures of print.
  7. Make Wifi available ubiquitously at the conference.
    DAC: Yes! (at least for the 45th at Anaheim Convention Center)

Bloggers Covering Electronic Design Automation

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging, EDA, skmurphy

Note: this list updated to more than 200 at “EDA Bloggers 2009

Ever since EE Times laid off Richard Goering (and seemed like it was no longer committed to covering EDA) I have been meaning to map the EDA Blogosphere. When JL Gray suggested a Blogging Birds of a Feather at DAC (scheduled for Wednesday June 11 6pm in Room 201B in the Anaheim Convention Center) I volunteered to help him and Harry Gries organize it, along with David Lin and John Ford. Final details are being worked out but it looks like Steve Leibson, Grant Martin, and George Harper will also be giving 3 minute lightning talks on different aspects of blogging.

There is also an edabloggers Yahoo Group you can sign up for if you want to be notified of updates, if this one goes well we may facilitate others at appropriate EDA-related conferences.

So this event was the spur I needed to uncover about sixty bloggers covering some aspect of electronic design automation:

  1. Achilles Test
  2. Adventures in ASIC Digital Design
  3. All About EDA
  4. Amdahl’s Law
  5. Anablog
  6. Analog Insights
  7. ASIC Digital Arithmetic
  8. ASIC-System On Chip (SoC)-VLSI Design
  9. Brad Pierce’s Blog (EDA Category)
  10. Bugs Are Easy
  11. CAD and VLSI
  12. Cadence Blogging Community (many bloggers)
  13. Chips and BS
  14. Coaching Excellence in IC Design Teams
  15. Cool Verification
  16. CriticalBlue’s Common Thread
  17. Daniel Nenni’s Blog
  18. Darkling Wood
  19. Denali Memory Report
  20. Denali News
  21. Device Native
  22. DFT Digest
  23. Digital Electronics Blog
  24. Digital IC Design
  25. EDA Blog
  26. EDA Confidential 2.0
  27. EDA DesignLine
  28. EDA Geek
  29. EDA Graffiti (see also Green Folder)
  30. EDA Tools on Fedora
  31. EDA Thoughts
  32. EDA Weekly
  33. Ed Sperling
  34. Eric Bogatin
  35. ESL Chat
  36. ESL Edge
  37. The Eyes Have It
  38. Five Computers
  39. FPGA and DSP from Scratch
  40. FPGA and Structured ASIC Journal
  41. FPGA Blog
  42. FPGA Central
  43. FPGA Simulation
  44. FPGA World (in particular forums)
  45. Gabe on EDA
  46. Gary Smith EDA
  47. harry… the ASIC guy
  48. Industry Insights (Richard Goering)
  49. IC Design and Verification Journal
  50. Inside Protocol Verification
  51. IntelligentDV
  52. JB’s Circuit
  53. John’s Semi-Blog
  54. JTAG
  55. Kiran Bulusu’s Blog
  56. Koby’s Kaos
  57. Leibson’s Law
  58. Magic Blue Smoke
  59. Mannerisms
  60. Michael Sanie
  61. Multicore Programming Blog
  62. Nadav’s Tech Adventures (see also C-to-Verilog )
  63. NextGenLog
  64. Ninja ASIC Verification
  65. Oh, One More Thing
  66. On Cores
  67. On Verification: a Software to Silicon Verification Blog
  68. Pallab’s Place
  69. PLD DesignLine
  70. Practical Chip design
  71. Pradeep Chakraborty’s Blog
  72. Reconfigurable Computing
  73. Reconfigurable, Reconshmigurable (see also Impulse Accelerated Technology)
  74. The Sandbox
  75. Scalable Atomicity
  76. SCDSource
  77. Screaming Circuits
  78. Shrinking Violence
  79. Signal Integrity Tips
  80. SKMurphy
  81. Specman Verification
  82. Sramana Mitra on Strategy
  83. Standards Game
  84. State of the Media
  85. System Verification Blog
  86. Taken for Granted
  87. The Tao of ASICs
  88. Techdoer Times
  89. Tensilica News
  90. Testbench.in
  91. Think Verification
  92. To USB or Not to USB
  93. Travelling on the Silicon Road
  94. Trusster
  95. Turning Into Jim
  96. Verification Blog
  97. Verification Guild
  98. Verification Martial Arts
  99. Verification Vertigo
  100. Verilab Blog
  101. View From the Top
  102. VLSI Home Page
  103. The Wiretap
  104. Wizards of Microwave
  105. The World is Analog
  106. The Xuropean

What was surprising to me was how few companies had blogs, but I suspect that will change in EDA as it already has for Software as a Service and Internet/Web companies. If your blog is not on this list (or it’s on the list and you would like it taken off) please contact me. Bloggers and those interested in learning more about blogging are welcome at the DAC Blogging Birds of a Feather Wed June 11 6pm in Room 201B. Other posts about the event:

Update June 16: I continue to add to the list almost daily as overlooked bloggers E-mail me or leave comments. My plan is to keep this list updated here for at least another two or three months.

Update July 22: I added the Cadence blogging community to the list and blogged about “What Happens When 70 EDA Blogs Become 500 in 2011.

Update Oct 13: We are planning another EDA Bloggers Birds of a Feather at ICCAD see “EDA Bloggers’ BoF at ICCAD 2008

Updated Feb-15-2009: changed to a numbered list, re-organized all of the “The …” blogs so that they were indexed by second word in title. Removed Metric Driven Verification since Blogger reports “Blog not found.” There are now more than 100 EDA related blogs.

Strategy is a Hypothesis

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging, skmurphy, Startups

I caught this tweet on the VentureHacks Twitter feed but in checking with Mr. Google I discovered it was part of the Balanced Scorecard methodology. An excerpt from Dr. David Norton’s “Measuring Value Creation with the Balanced Scorecard” a summary is available here.

“Strategy is a hypothesis. Strategy implies the movement of an organization from it’s present position to a desirable but uncertain future position. Since the organization has never been to this future position, the pathway of how it intends to get there involves a series of linked hypotheses.”

And some excerpts from a presentation “Using Balanced Scorecard to Build a Project Focused IT Organization” by Glen Alleman:

Strategy is a hypothesis. Metrics are the data for testing the hypothesis.

Strategy is making a hypothesis about a desired outcome, constructing the measures to test the hypothesis, deploying the experiment to test the hypothesis, then making adjustments based on the metrics.

The concept of strategy as a hypothesis and the experiments to test the hypothesis may be new to many. But this approach puts strategy in a different light. Strategy is not something you do then go off to execute the plan. It is a continuous feedback process. Always testing the strategy with metrics derived from projects.

The take away for startups is to understand how you are going to keep score, measuring both progress and distance to goal. Whatever strategy or mix of strategies you adopt, for each you should define up front and in simple terms how you will track impact on the key outcomes you are trying to achieve (e.g. revenue, profit).

Andrew Olmsted’s Final Post

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging, skmurphy

As Silicon Valley’s economy slows down and expense controls transmute into layoff notices, it’s good to remember what real problems are.

Major Andrew Olmsted was killed in Iraq on Jan. 3, 2008. Olmsted was a blogger who left behind a post for posthumous publication. I am excerpting a couple of key paragraphs to help offer a sense of perspective. Olmsted was a Babylon 5 fan who also blogged under the pseudonym G’Kar, he sprinkles his final post with a number of quotes from the series.

Final Post

“I am leaving this message for you because it appears I must leave sooner than I intended. I would have preferred to say this in person, but since I cannot, let me say it here.” G’Kar, Babylon 5

This is an entry I would have preferred not to have published, but there are limits to what we can control in life, and apparently I have passed one of those limits. And so, like G’Kar, I must say here what I would much prefer to say in person. I want to thank hilzoy for putting it up for me. It’s not easy asking anyone to do something for you in the event of your death, and it is a testament to her quality that she didn’t hesitate to accept the charge. As with many bloggers, I have a disgustingly large ego, and so I just couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to have the last word if the need arose. Perhaps I take that further than most, I don’t know. I hope so. It’s frightening to think there are many people as neurotic as I am in the world. In any case, since I won’t get another chance to say what I think, I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity. Such as it is.

It’s incredibly jarring to start reading and realize that the author is dead and wrote this farewell essay with the intention of having it published posthumously.

On a similar note, while you’re free to think whatever you like about my life and death, if you think I wasted my life, I’ll tell you you’re wrong. We’re all going to die of something. I died doing a job I loved. When your time comes, I hope you are as fortunate as I was.

This is reminiscent of Marcus Aurelius “It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.

I wish I could say I’d at least started to get it right. Although, in my defense, I think I batted a solid .250 or so. Not a superstar, but at least able to play in the big leagues. I’m afraid I can’t really offer any deep secrets or wisdom. I lived my life better than some, worse than others, and I like to think that the world was a little better off for my having been here. Not very much, but then, few of us are destined to make more than a tiny dent in history’s Green Monster. I would be lying if I didn’t admit I would have liked to have done more, but it’s a bit too late for that now, eh? The bottom line, for me, is that I think I can look back at my life and at least see a few areas where I may have made a tiny difference, and massive ego aside, that’s probably not too bad.

Read the whole thing, and bookmark so you can go back and re-read when you are feeling sorry for yourself.

Highlighting Matt Maroon’s “Why Not To Do A Startup”

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging, skmurphy, Startups

Matt Maroon wrote a very thought provoking post on “Why Not to Do a Startup” a little over four weeks ago that I have been meaning to write about. He opens provocatively:

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about startups lately, and I’ve come to realize that they’re really not for most people, probably even most people who attempt them.

I am reminded of Sramana Mitra‘s quote in the Real VCs of Silicon Valley that “The truth is, start-up-land is littered with mavericks, iconoclasts, dropouts and misfits.” (As I read that quote again I think to myself, yes, that’s me, these are my kind of people).

There are a number of people floating around the Valley whose lives are a pretty sad story. Every startup they joined tanked, every one they passed on went public. They went without salary for years, and even when they had one, it was pretty low.

It’s always the one that got away that is successful (probably because so many can get away for every one you take part in).

Even sadder are the people whose startups succeeded but still aren’t happy, because they never learned that there is more to life than making money.

Perhaps we should introduce the first group to the second. But this affluenza isn’t limited to startup founders.

The biggest problem with startups..is the variance. Startups tend to be fairly binary, with you making either a very large amount off of them or nothing at all.

I think this is actually not true, and while many fail, there is a large spectrum of outcomes. Even among founding teams. Even among venture backed founding teams, which I think is the population Matt is describing. Matt’s entire post should probably be required reading for all YCombinator, TechStars, etc.. applicants, because it makes a lot of points that will make founders uncomfortable but that have to be acknowledged and managed.

Some folks win big, but many do well, especially when coupled with:

Benefits to startups other than the money..Working for yourself.

We see a lot of bootstrappers who run “small successful” software firms who are about as happy as they would have been in “a real job.” Some break out and some fail, but many fall into a fairly large middle ground: they achieve modest success but stay below the radar screen of most observers. It’s one of the reasons we facilitate the Bootstrapper Breakfasts as a service to the startup community.

Update Oct 18, 2009: removed all references to “awesome highlighter” and retained focus on Matt Maroon’s article.

Improving The Techdirt Insight Community

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging, skmurphy

I originally wrote this on Wednesday November 28, 2007 in response to a set of questions posed by Mike Masnick to the Techdirt Insight Community. I had applied and been accepted into the community after it was announced at the 2006 Office 2.0 conference (I blogged about in “Born With a Face Made for Podcasting“). Those questions are in bold in the following text. Please note that under the terms of service, each blogger retained the rights to his own words.
Q: How to continue to grow the Community itself?

There is no substitute for a face to face meeting to build a real sense of community. I would suggest that you run a few events in 2008 (perhaps twice a year, perhaps quarterly) where they would be convenient for Techdirt folks and the blogger members of the Insight community to meet and get better acquainted. I think you might find that unleashes a lot of creativity around how to grow the community.

The competitive mechanism you have chosen doesn’t seem to foster as much discussion within the community on the topic. And frankly for the dollars you have put out there I am not sure I am as motivated as I would be by the opportunity for further on-line or face to face discussion with the blogger community you have brought together.

I also wonder if your Techdirt Greenhouse format might be appropriate for a set of your customers: have them present an issue, break up into smaller groups for focused discussion with two or three teams addressing the topic (perhaps two to three topics in parallel) and then come back to the main group for a summary and briefing. Obviously not every issue will be appropriate for this approach, but many of the “what’s going on in this market” or “how to you see things evolving in this technology landscape” questions that are more open ended or exploratory may be a fit.

Q: How to get existing customers to become repeat customers or regular users of the community.

What’s their perspective on the benefits they have gained from putting a question to the community?

One benefit a community model might offer is an ongoing surveillance of an issue from a variety of perspectives. In other words, instead of trying to reach a conclusion, use an insight community as more of a “what are recent developments in…” and let a number of folks submit links (perhaps rated/sorted/ranked/tagged by the community) in addition to their own comments/posts to provide their context. This might have the additional advantage that you could sell the same feed to several clients, and then sell a second tailored offering that addressed their particular situation. But ongoing surveillance of an emerging technology or market space is something that a community of interest does well.

Q: How to get more companies aware of what the Techdirt Insight Community can provide.

I think you have to use references/testimonials and find a way to offer a version of the service that is more general, such as the community of interest model I suggested above, so that they can get some idea of what’s involved.

Q: How to keep bringing in additional customers.

You have to expose some aspect of this “blogging ecosystem” on your site and in your ongoing marketing efforts. I worked on a project at Cisco about a decade ago to add a filtering/ranking layer on top of an incredible amount of analyst research that we purchased that was used by hundreds of marketing folks across dozens of business units. The challenge your clients may be facing is that they are getting too much insight and they need more sensemaking. I don’t know enough about your mainline services and how they are marketed and deployed to be able to comment effectively on how to generate additional synergies between the Insight Community and your other services, but it seems to be that you need to determine in your sales model what is the “portal” or “thin edge of the wedge” into a new customer and what’s the add on. Another way to think about it is how to re-purpose the existing content that’s been created over the last year, perhaps paying an additional success fee to the bloggers, to go after new customers. It’s a little hard to determine the “shelf life” or “half life” of some of the content, and longer half life content probably addresses different questions than gathering info to make a decision in a few months. I guess I don’t understand your current model to be able to suggest how to better integrate TIC capabilities and content.

One final challenge I have with your mechanism is that it does not foster interaction between the community members, I might have written this much sooner if I knew that other folks might read it, comment on it, and help me to evolve it. I think a wiki would be complementary to this forum of blog posts as refinery for issues that we all have a stake in, such as the continued health and growth of the Techdirt Insight Community. But I don’t think that it’s a technology issue as much as the natural consequences of the incentive set or mechanism you have established.

Postscript added as a comment to the forum “How to Improve the Techdirt Insight Community”

I guess I have reluctantly concluded that community is the wrong word for Techdirt Insight effort. The mechanisms established to make clear who owns each individual insight work against again real collaboration or shared contribution. It’s become a rolling essay contest more than a blogging community, which probably better suits Techdirt’s business needs but it’s not the reason I joined. I have appreciated the opportunity to take part and contribute.

Net Net: I have asked Techdirt to delete my account and donate the $18 credit I have earned from my contributions to the Salvation Army. At it’s root the Insight Community is a zero sum game, and this mechanism works against collaboration and community building.

ANZA Tech’s Gateway to the US Summit: Marketing Business Forum

Written by Francis Adanza. Posted in Blogging, Events

While at the ANZA Technology Network2007 Gateway to the US Summit, I attended the Marketing Business Forum panel discussion. This was a question and answer session on how emerging technology companies can gain traction using innovative marketing tools and tactics.

The moderator: Chris Shipley, Co-Founder & Editorial Director, Guidewire Group

The panel speakers:

The two hot topics of the hour were “Social Media” and “Blogging.”

Mike’s thoughts on social media:
Traditional, yet still highly influential, social media mediums include message boards, user groups, and forums. However, blogs, vlogs, podcasts, and wikis are becoming the more popular social mediums of today. If done correctly, social media can be an effective marketing strategy to reach larger audiences. Mike believes that the various mixes of social mediums is developing a new brand of influencers, enabling companies to pinpoint smaller niche audiences.

Buzz shared a story on how blogging helped him enhance his relationship with customers:
Buzz believes you cannot afford not to blog. While working with his technical team, he realized they were the only ones using a certain type of terminology. Through blogging he was able to have conversations with customers and learn that his messaging was wrong. Additionally, he was able to find someone who became their biggest evangelist. Blogging allowed him to obtain feedback from prospects and incorporate features into the product roadmap.

Sean and Ann Marcus have written an article on How Do Blogs and Wiki Help Me Collaborate With My Customers that has some tips that are relevant to this topic, three key ones:

  • Plan Ahead: schedule your level of effort and some publication targets and stick with them.
  • Focus for Effect: pick a few topic areas that are relevant to your prospects and explore them.
  • Cite References: so many new bloggers write as if they were distributing hard copy; link to your sources.

Is Blogging Worthwhile?

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Blogging

Here is one question I get asked all the time:

Is Blogging worthwhile way to promote your business or just a big, newfangled time suck?

Our short answer is that you need a website for your business: one of the easiest ways to manage it and keep it up to date is to use a blogging platform to manage your site. Instead of a “What’s New” page just say “Blog.” Once it’s set up you should have a simple editor available to edit any page on your website or add new pages.

GABA Panel on Communication Wrap Up

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging, Events, skmurphy

I had mentioned that I was going to be on a panel at a GABA event on “Communications Today: Blogs, Email Etiquette and More” that was held tonight at SAP on Hillview Avenue in Palo Alto. It addressed a broad theme with four speakers (Jennifer Lankheim was a no show) from fairly different backgrounds in front of an intimate audience of about 35. E. J. Dieterle, the CEO of YES Partners was the moderator and he asked a couple of “show of hands” background questions of the audience. Most folks were consultants who found perhaps 50 new e-mails a day in their inbox. I handed out a hard copy of our new article Blogs & Wikis for Better Collaboration.

GABA Panel on Communication

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging, Events, skmurphy

I will be a panelist for a GABA event on “Communications Today: Blogs, Email Etiquette and More” that will be held tomorrow night at SAP, Hillview Avenue, Palo Alto CA 94304; the event starts at 6:30 with networking–complimentary appetizers, beer, wine and soft drinks will be served–and the formal program at 7:30.

Moderator: E.J.Dieterle, CEO, YES Partners (Inc.)

Panelists:

Agenda:

  • 6:30 – 7:30 pm Registration / Networking
  • 7:30 – 9:00 pm Program
  • 9:00 – 9:30 pm Networking / Reception

My focus will be on the blogging issues. I hope to address at least some of the following:

  • What are blogs? What does the word mean and where did it come from? How new is blogging?
  • What does a blog have that a basic website doesn’t?
  • What is the “blogosphere”?
  • Why do small firms blog? What advantages does it offer them?
  • What’s the easy way for a small firm to get started blogging?
  • Why do large firms blog? What advantages does it offer them?
  • What are some examples of Fortune 500 firms with blogs?
  • Are there government blogs? Are there IT blogs? How many blogs are there?
  • Why does Google index new blog posts in minutes when it can take days or weeks for them to add my new webpage?
  • Are there special search engines for blogs?
  • What does the death of print magazines like InfoWorld and the shrinkage of magazines like Computerworld and EE Times mean for corporate blogs?
  • Computerworld published “Blogger Beware: The Legal Risks of Blogging” a list of ten allegedly worrisome issues related to blogs. What’s the difference between posting on your website and posting in a blog?

I will also be handing out an article on How do Blogs and Wikis Help Me Collaborate with My Customers? we recently published.

I hope to see you there if you have questions about how to leverage a blog for your business.

Triples, Inspired by Dorai Thodla

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging, skmurphy

Inspired by Dorai Thodla’s “Triples and Congruence.

  • Budget, Quality, Time
    (project parameters aka “Iron triangle” pick any two, solve for third)
  • Expert/Technician, Manager, Entrepreneur
    (E-Myth roles in a business)
  • Beginning, Middle, End
    (elements of a story)
  • Early Adopters, Mainstream, Laggards
    (measures of risk aversion in a population)
  • Team, Technology, Traction
    (VC tests for quality of a business plan)
  • Men, Money, Machines
    (old business model formulation)
  • Financial, Intellectual, Social
    (three key forms of capital)

CINA Blog Panel Wrap Up

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging, Events

I had the pleasure of being on a panel on blogging last night as a part of the CINA Technology/ Innovation Program. There were two other bloggers on the panel, Zoli Erdos and Henry Lu, and it was chaired by Hao Lee of Oprices.

Some quick impressions of the audience:

  • Normally CINA attracts an audience that’s 60-70% men, this one was predominantly women.
  • About 1/6 to 1/4 were reading blogs regularly (by show of hands).
  • About 1/6 to 1/4 were already blogging (also by show of hands).

It was a very interactive session with many questions from the floor and some lively interaction on the panel.

There was a spectrum of opinion on using blogs “to get famous.” My sense was that it was better to consider a blog just a better way to manage your website (almost everyone in the audience worked in a company with a website, by a show of hands more than half had not been updated in the last three months).

The panelists all agreed on the importance of writing in a way that was personal and authentic, but mindful of your reputation. As the Roman poet Horace advised “Littera scripta manet” (the written word remains). Nothing is as hard to throw away as electronic text (except when you don’t want to, then it can be gone before you know it) and your words can always come back to you at a later time.

Two references I suggested for background during the panel were:

1. Markets are conversations.
2. Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
8. In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.
10. As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.
11. People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.
12. There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies
17. Companies that assume on-line markets are the same markets that used to watch their ads on television are kidding themselves.
18. Companies that don’t realize their markets are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation are missing their best opportunity.
19. Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. If they blow it, it could be their last chance.
20. Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them.
61. Sadly, the part of the company a networked market wants to talk to is usually hidden behind a smoke screen of hucksterism, of language that rings false­ and often is.
62. Markets do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters. They want to participate in the conversations going on behind the corporate firewall.

Getting Started

CINA Panel on Blog: What It Can Do For You

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Blogging, Events

Sean Murphy is on a panel at the CINA Technology/ Innovation Program tonight (Thursday March 15, 2007). He joins expert bloggers Zoli Erdos and Henry Lu in discussing how to use blogs to benefit your professional and personal life. They will share with you their successes, walk you through the maze of online blogs, and provide tips for developing a plan to start blogging.

Blogs

Blogs are now ten years old. Some early tools were Xanga (96), OpenDiary (98), Pyra (99) LiveJournal (99)

What are they?

  • A blog allows anyone to create and update a website without having to learn HTML or hire a webmaster.
  • Normal organization is reverse chronological (most recent at top) with permalinks (links that don’t expire or get overwritten with completely new content).
  • Blogging systems allow you to reedit or update an entry, the permalink stays the same but content is updated.
  • Blogging systems also encourage asynchronous conversations by allowing readers to comment on an entry and by tracking what other blogs have referenced or commented upon an entry (ping/trackback)

Uses for Blogs

  • Websites for small firms or consulting firms
  • Intranet departmental and project sites
    • These are a useful alternative to e-mail for audiences inside your firm.
    • Each blog entry comes with a permalink,
    • You can include by reference instead of copying text from other e-mails
  • Nonprofit and open source sites
  • Caveat: every successful system invites parasites; you must install comment spam blockers.

Tips on Blogs

  1. Seth Godin outlines what makes a good blog post:
    “An appropriate illustration, a useful topic, easily broadened to be useful to a large number of readers, simple language with no useless jargon, not too long, focusing on something that people have previously taken for granted, that initially creates emotional resistance, then causes a light bulb to go off and finally, causes the reader to look at the world differently all day long.”
  2. Map out a calendar of subjects to cover. Just planning one or two a week for the next 2 months will help you avoid writer’s block. This still leaves room for “inspired” work but can give you some structure.
  3. Tie it to something topical. Write about events you have attended:  talks, conferences, seminars, trade shows, etc.
  4. Read blogs for several weeks before you actually write one. Some good places to look for good blogs include
  5. Pick a set of topics that are relevant to your business and stick with them. Create a second personal blog if you want to offer non-business related writing. But keep your blog focused on your business and topics that are relevant to your customers and prospects.
  6. Shorter and more frequent is better than longer and less frequent: 200 to 400 words is a useful length. A shorter post that just makes three points is also useful, providing there is a connection to an issue that’s relevant to your intended audience. You should try and post at least once a week.
  7. Add your own insights and point of view. Don’t just rehash other articles, blog posts, news stories; add your own perspective and provide context. Compare and contrast other perspectives. Stay practical.
  8. Titles are important: keep them short, use words familiar and relevant to your readers
  9. Always provide links for your references and citations where possible. This increases your credibility and makes your blog more useful. Remember that you are writing hypertext, and it’s quicker for your reader to follow your link to an article than have to go to the top of another site and search from there (or re-enter text into a Google search).

See also Ten Tips For a Better Weblog ( http://www.rebeccablood.net/essays/ten_tips.html) by Rebecca Blood

Upcoming Workshops

Peter Cohan’s Create and Deliver Surprisingly Compelling Software Demonstrations Thursday, March 29 8am-12noon, San Jose $120
This is an interactive workshop with Peter Cohan. Bring a copy of your demo and be prepared to present it.

SKMurphy’s Getting More Customers

Wednesday, April 18, 2007 8am-12noon, San Jose early bird $160/ After April 3 $200. We will cover a variety of proven marketing techniques (including blogs) for growing your business: attendees will select two or three that fit their style and develop a plan to implement them in their business in the next 90 days.

Clark Dong: Software Startups Don’t Need VC’s To Start

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging, Startups

Clark Dong gave an interesting demonstration of a new action item tracking tool for startups called TaskPick at last night’s SDForum Startup SIG. He came on after my show and tell on how and why we use Central Desktop in our practice. He was articulate and energetic and I was very impressed with his approach.

Software Startups Don’t Need VC’s To Start

I did some Googling and came across a long comment Clark Dong made on VentureBeat last week that I wanted to highlight (this is an excerpt from a longer comment, text was not bold in original).

Last fall I started a new web 2.0 company in the team collaboration space. And for this new company I have chosen not to go the VC route. Why? They are asking for way too much (50% off the top) and frankly I can get it going without them (i.e. I don’t need to kiss up to them). The VC model was created in the early days of the semiconductor era when an entrepreneur needed millions of dollars of startup capital before they could can make a run at it. That is no longer the case. It is now possible to start a play, tighten the belts a little, and reach revenue. The capital equation of the new startup world has changed.

So what is my current view on VC?s? I think they are a dying breed. It is now easier than ever to start companies in the web space. Open source tools and nearly free on-line services means you can become very productive quickly without needing lots of money to spend on development tools or infrastructure. Hosting services are almost free and will only get more reliable, faster, and have larger storage. For those venture funds that can not adapt quickly and add more value to entrepreneurs, they will find themselves with lots of money but not able to participate in this new round of web innovation (sure, the semiconductors and the networking plays will still need startup capital). VC served a useful function back-in-the-day, but the clock is ticking for them.

My Take: Return to Normal From DotCom Bubble

I think a lot of folks got into Venture Capital during run up to the last bubble who had fewer skills and less experience than was required for them to be successful in the much less hospitable environment that developed after 9/11. But I look at it more as a correction back to more “normal levels” of active VC’s than their incipient extinction.

Implication: More Competitors

I haven’t worked out all of the implications for the dramatically lower cost of starting a new software/SaaS firm, but to a first order it would seem to place a higher premium on strategy and business development: in particular the need for differentiation is now greater because you are likely to be faced with more competitors.

9 From Greg Knauss’ “An Entirely Other Day”

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging

Greg Knauss wrote “An Entirely Other Day” sporadically from 1994 to 2006 (with five year or so gap between 2001 and 2006 and who knows, he may start up again). It’s experiential blogging at its finest, with some sharp observations–some introspective–of work, marriage, children, illness, aging, and death.

Experiential Blogging

from Art, Schmart comes a engineer’s vision of hell: a cocktail party at an art gallery. The phrase “pulped animal spread” is memorable. And wouldn’t the walls of hell be covered by pictures of lawyers? Maybe some marketeers as well.

Hip people mingle around and munch on some sort of pulped animal spread on some sort of multi-grain cracker. There’s generic jazz fusion playing. And the walls are covered with pictures of lawyers.

from At Play in the Fields of the Lawyers I guess they didn’t ask him “Which side do you wear it on?”

We had spent a good week scampering around to every tux shop within a twenty mile radius of our house trying to find something that fit me. As delicate as these salesmen are, you think they could come up with a better euphemism than “barrel-chested.” And, dammit, if another guy with a tape measure around his neck gives me the once over and says, “There’s plenty of room in the crotch, but the seat’s a little tight,” I’m going to throttle him.

from There Goes Your Tip is a description of another problem for the aging male: excess dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

So I’m at the barber shop, perched awkwardly in a red leatherette chair, with little bits of hair crawling down the back of my neck. As the barber finishes up the sides, she asks me to skootch down a little so she can reach the top of my head.

“Oh, this will go much faster,” she says. “It’s a lot thinner up here.”

From I made someone disappear yesterday comes a meditation on sudden loss and the evanescence of life.

I made someone disappear yesterday.

Late last week, my father-in-law’s girlfriend died suddenly. Heart attack. One day she was there, the next day she wasn’t — blam. I went to the funeral, but that was the first time I had ever seen her, lying in her casket.

Yesterday, I helped clean out her apartment. It was a small place, a studio, and the work mostly involved stuffing things into plastic bags for Goodwill to come pick up. Shoes: bag. Clothes: bag. Bedding: bag. Books, knickknacks, art: bag. Every material possession she had: bag, bag, bag. In two hours, it was all gone. Wiped clean. Erased.

There were little things all around — a mug that said “My Next Husband Will Be Normal,” an ab workout tape, a styrofoam box of leftovers in the fridge — that whispered the same lie that each of us tell ourselves every day: Of course I’m going to be here tomorrow. Of course. I’ve got plans. Where would I go?

From Man, Do I Miss Those Days a vision of giving over completely to the task at hand. Now days I can’t make it much past 4am: I find I have been sleeping sitting up, or I try and hit a number of keys at once with my forehead and wake myself back up, or I’ve been sleeptyping several hundred keystrokes (hold down to repeat) of the same character). I get the sense that Greg was lucid and entirely immersed in his task until something, either the cold or hydraulic pressure, took him out of flow.

Once, years ago, I had a morning deadline, a lot of code to write and a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew. Around 4am, I realized that the window was still open and I was freezing, I hadn’t gone to the bathroom is something like fifteen hours and I was having trouble hitting the keys because my hands were trembling.

Man, do I miss those days.

From Things Fall Apart points out obliquely how we spend most of our time denying our mortality. I think for engineers the hope is to transcend through our work (as he outlined in Man, Do I Miss Those Days), and in startups in particular we feel that we can break any rules that we want to. But ultimately, nature cannot be fooled.

Plans, friendships, schedules, jobs, lives, loves, bodies — things fall apart.

Joanne’s dad moved out of the ICU today and into a rehab facility, still paralyzed from the neck down and still without a real diagnosis. He woke up one morning four weeks ago and by noon he couldn’t move. The doctors have no idea why. Transverse myelitis — more of a generic catchall than a disease — is what they’re calling it, but that’s only because they’re out of ideas. “Sometimes these things happen,” one of his doctors told me, matter-of-fact.

from I Remember Bachelorhood If he substituted diapers for the beer he could be a family man.

The guy in line in front of me at Costco has two things in his cart: a case of beer and a pre-cooked chicken.

I remember bachelorhood.

from Because Life Loves a Challenge

“Well, at least now things can’t get any worse”
is the most dangerous sentence in the English language.
Because Life loves a challenge.

From How We Influence Our Children a parental epiphany “so that’s how other people see me.”

I walked outside to get something from the van this morning, and across the street was a neighbor, out for a walk with his toddler. I smiled and waved and noticed that they were dressed the same, his boy and him — they were wearing shorts and t-shirts and both had baseball caps on.

And I thought about how we influence our children, how they’re tiny mirrors of everything we are, consciously or not. How we dress them and teach them and show them the world will influence how they live the rest of their lives.

And I turned around to head back inside and Tom was standing in the doorway, wearing a ski cap, waving my lightsaber TV clicker and without his pants.

Which pretty much confirmed my theory.

All in all it’s worth reading for the insights of someone who makes his living as a software engineer observing the vicissitudes of life. It’s not really about work, but more catching yourself in the act of having an epiphany. It would actually make a nice book since there are so few outbound links (and almost all to other pieces/posts that he wrote).

Quick Links

Bootstrappers Breakfast Link Startup Stages Clients In the News Upcoming Events Office Hours Button Newsletter SignUp