Ten Tips for Leveraging Blogs and Wikis in Your Consulting Practice

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

Is my topic this Thursday, February 15, at 7:00 PM, at the IEEE-CNSV meeting at KeyPoint Credit Union, 2805 Bowers Ave., Santa Clara, CA. The event is free. I will cover a number of practical suggestions for using blogs to promote a consulting practice and wikis to foster project team collaboration against a deadline.

Blogs and wikis are two “new” social software technologies that have been deployed in production use now for more than a decade. It’s time to move from a focus on technology and features to methodologies and business results that can be achieved.

You will leave with a better understanding of why your blog is the dial tone for your website. I wrote in Welcome Entrepreneurs that “I think a blog also acts a dial tone for a website in that it signals a commitment for interaction and participation on the part of the authors. And that’s certainly the case here.”

You will leave with a better understanding of why most wikis are private, unlike the Wikipedia or many open source project wikis, and why they uniquely support an extremely fast methodology for project coordination and collaboration that enables project teams to reach a working consensus on deliverables against a deadline. If you, your prospects, or your clients are relying on an email inbox as the primary filing system for keeping a project organized (e.g., “who has the most current version of a this project document?”), this talk will provide insight on new ways to get your proposals accepted and your final work signed off for payment.

As I mentioned in my overview of Nancy Blachman’s Google Guide talk at CNSV: if you are a technical consultant in Silicon Valley, the IEEE Consulting Network for Silicon Valley frequently runs useful and informative events and is an organization you should consider joining.

Interesting Discussions From Fast Forward 2007

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Blogging, Events

I attended FASTforward ’07, this week. There were some very interesting talks:

  • John Battelle, author of Searchblog: Search is a conversion. Search becomes a way to have a dialog with your customers.  Interaction with your website should mirror a conversation. Batelle offered the New York Times site as an example of one that did not seem to value their customer’s contribution to the site.
  • Jeannette Borzo of the Economist Intelligence Unit reported on a study on Web 2.0 .  She delivered the most surprising news: CFO aren’t Web2.0 friendly. But CEO believe Web 2.0 will increase innovation as well as decrease innovation cost.  It will be interesting to see the CEO and CFO’s views evolve.
  • John Markus Lervik, Fast CEO, Search is connecting people with content.  Results from a search might answers, concepts, people, or facts.
  • Tim O’Reilly: Power of Web 2.0 is collective intelligence.  The Internet is a platform. How do we turn data into knowledge?
  • Zia Zaman, SVP at FAST: Search is about making connections and business decisions. It is about finding answers not results. An answer can be fellow expert or a better understanding of the problem you are trying to search for.

The conference expanded my thinking about about search technology and it’s impact on business. At the end of the day, there is still a huge difference between Internet search and enterprise search. On the Internet, authors spend a lot of time, money, and energy making their pages easily found. In the enterprise, authors spend little or no effort to make them found. Cleaning up data quality issues is still 2/3 the effort involved in making enterprise information searchable:

  • Many documents are missing title, authors and other meta tags.
  • Often dates are the same on an entire set of documents.
  • Because documents don’t cross-link as often, page rank and relevance algorithms give way to keyword counts that are not as useful. More effort is required to indicate valuable or useful reference material in the enterprise.

Greg Knauss on Bloggers: Experiential vs. Referential

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging, Thought Leadership

Greg Knauss was a guest blogger on kottke last year and ended his two week stint with this observation on referential and experiential blogging:

There are two kinds of bloggers, referential and experiential.
[…]

The referential blogger uses the link as his fundamental unit of currency, building posts around ideas and experiences spawned elsewhere: Look at this. Referential bloggers are reporters, delivering pointers to and snippets of information, insight or entertainment happening out there, on the Internet. They can, and do, add their own information, insight and entertainment to the links they unearth — extrapolations, juxtapositions, even lengthy and personal anecdotes — but the outward direction of their focus remains their distinguishing feature.

The experiential blogger is inwardly directed, drawing entries from personal experience and opinion: How about this. They are storytellers (and/or bores), drawing whatever they have to offer from their own perspective. They can, and do, add links to supporting or explanatory information, even unique and undercited external sources. But their motivation, their impetus, comes from a desire to supply  narrative, not reference it.

SKMurphy Blog is A Blend of  Referential and Experiential

I think we tend to blend these two styles on this blog. We do a fair amount of “reporting” on events that we attend, particularly when we think we heard something useful worth sharing and the event was lightly covered, if at all, by other bloggers or press. To the extent that we are trying to offer advice, we try and back up our prescriptions with reference to both supporting and contrasting perspectives in the blogosphere or in other reference material.

Experiential Blogging Key to Startups Telling Their Story

As you think about your own blog for your startup I think it becomes more compelling to the extent that you talk about

  • real experiences with customers,
  • interactions with prospects,
  • internal issues including team discussions and different perspectives,
  • the decisions you’ve reached and why you’ve reached them,
  • the decisions you’ve revisited and why you’ve revisited them.

Power of Website Content

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Blogging, Consulting Business

Here’s a good blog post on website content. How Can 10 Simple Articles Change Your Life? In his post Chris Pearson, recounts a story about a friend who creates a website (nothing fancy) but has wonderful content (10 articles). He kills his competition with his content. If you are selling your expertise, try promoting yourself with articles that satisfy your prospects’ needs. They will search the web looking for information and find you. Articles posted on a website can provide leads years after the initial posting. Don’t forget to submit them to industry websites. If your website provides a service, people will find you.

Nusym De-cloaks 4

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

Venk Shukla, CEO of Nusym, commented on Nusym De-cloaks 3 on Dec 4

We had met a long time ago but lost touch afterward. The points you make about website credibility are valid. We will measure the information we put out against this criteria once we decide to emerge from the shadows. Thanks for paying attention, anyway.

I think Nusym has emerged from the shadows because Richard Goering, the dean of EDA journalism, has just posted an entry about Nusym called “Tracking an elusive verification startup” on his new blog, that includes an interview with Shukla.

Veteran EDA user and consultant Sean Murphy brought Nusym to light earlier this year in his blog, which covers a variety of topics including EDA. Murphy has some interesting comments about the claims made in Nusym’s web site.

See also Nusym De-cloaks from Oct 21 and Nusym De-cloaks 2 from Oct 22 for a critique of the site and some suggestions for other startups. But the next sentence shows the difference between a journalist blogging and a consultant blogging: Goering picked up the phone got an interview.

Intrigued, I put in a call to Venk Shukla, Nusym CEO. I asked him about the claim that Nusym’s technology will be as revolutionary as logic synthesis. “With logic synthesis, instead of focusing on individual gates, people started focusing on the outcome, and the tool did the rest,” Shukla said. “With verification also, our goal is to make this more of an outcome-oriented tool than the input-oriented effort that people have today.”

Shukla said that Nusym is focusing on “simulation or the tools that work off simulation,” and is just now going into beta sites with its technology. The real value, he said, is not so much simulation speed as completion and coverage. “What’s important is how much more quickly you can complete simulation,” he said.

Certainly the folks who started O-in and Silicon Sorcery would agree, as well as the folks at Verisity and Systems Science. It’s actually hard to argue with. Richard Goering continues

What else do we know? Google Nusym, and you’ll find documents that name Woodside Fund, Draper Richards, and Silicom Ventures as venture capital investors. Shukla said that Lucio Lanza and John Sanguinetti are investors in Nusym, and he said that about $6 million has been raised so far. Nusym currently employs around 20 people, he said.

Goering has some interesting speculation on what Nusym may really be doing, and he then offers another quote from Mr. Shukla.

“What attracted me is that this is the first genuinely good idea we’ve heard in verification for a long, long time,” said Shukla. “There’s been no innovation in that space for the last 10 to 12 years, and the problem is getting worse.”

I think that there has been a fair amount of innovation in the verification space in the last decade. It’s an odd position for Venk to stake out, that there hasn’t. It also neatly sidesteps the specifics of the insertion point in the flow or the actual nature of the benefits they hope to deliver. Cutting time to achieve high verification coverage is a generic promise at this point. For example, Cadence, a potential exit for Nusym, makes the following promise for their Incisive platform:

The Cadence Incisive® platform delivers the fastest and most efficient way to verify large, complex chips. It ensures that your product will meet specifications, ship without defects and arrive on time by removing productivity, predictability and quality risks in the development process.

Ann Germany and Shankar Hemmady, writing at EDACafe on “Verification Languages: 3 points to ponder beyond which one?” list this as their second point:

2. Is there a way out of this mess?

Deploying thousands of simulations, directing resources across geographically dispersed teams and achieving total coverage across the block, chip, system and project levels are today’s verification reality. Exasperating isn’t it? With modern SoC’s consisting of one or more processors, embedded software, instruction and data caches, large register sets, multiple buses, dedicated hardware accelerator, and a dozen or more interfaces to industry standards, simply keeping track of where we stand and what comes next becomes a problem on its own. How can we capture the verification process and what can be done to automate this process? What if the specification changes in the middle of the project? What if a critical bug is identified a week before tapeout? How can we manage the verification process to gain control over this flood of information?

Nusym should consider situating their brand promise in the realities of design and verification as outlined above. This is also an approach other software startups should consider as well: don’t try and position yourself as bringing fire to the savages, acknowledge the challenges and real pain your prospects are experiencing and offer a specific measurable benefit that differentiates you from other potential solutions.

3 Tips for Blogging

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Blogging

  1. 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.
  2. Pick a focus or related set of subjects for your writing.
  3. Inject your perspective and where appropriate include direct reporting of events, talks, conferences, or meetings that you have attended.

Welcome from Theresa Shafer

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Blogging

I will be offering practical advice to startup entrepreneurs in this blog. I am a hardware engineer and a mom, so I like lists with a do-it/done methodology. My post are short and to the point. Hopefully you will find them useful.

“It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little. Do what you can.”
Sydney Smith

“Do small things with great love.”
Mother Theresa

Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth

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

Bruce Mau wrote 43 statements in 1998 to articulate his beliefs, motivations, and strategies in what he called “An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth.”

His focus is on “growth” in the sense of increasing both craftsmanship and artisanship. I have selected eight that I think are are the most applicable to folks in software startups. I kept the numbers from the original, adding comments and some hyperlinks not in the original because that’s what bloggers do.

Blogging From KMWorld 2006

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging, Consulting Business

There is a wiki for the conference at http://kmi06.pbwiki.com/ where I will also be doing some gardening (which I think sounds better than gnoming).

We are also helping out New Idea Engineering with their booth; if you get a chance drop by booth 200 and say hello to Dr. Search, who first appeared in Issue 6 of the Enterprise Search Newsletter (and bears a remarkable resemblance to Theresa, at least on the show floor). If your job involves the care and feeding of an enterprise search engine it’s worth subscribing. There is also a Yahoo group for Independent Search Engine Developers

A technical and business discussion group for developers, consultants, IT people and managers who work with Enterprise Search Engines such as Autonomy (now owns Verity and Ultraseek as well), Endeca, FAST, Google (Enterprise), IBM Omnifind, Nutch, Oracle Text, and Lucene. While some engines already have specific groups, most large companies own more than one engine; vendor selection and integration can be rather complex, and of course each vendor pushes their own solutions.

Full disclosure: New Idea is a client, I like wikis, and everyone remains fully clothed at all times while visiting Dr. Search on the show floor.

Tags:

Born with a Face Made for Podcasting

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging, Events

So we were up at Office 2.0 last week and Mike Masnick from Techdirt announced that a new offering, the Techdirt Insight Community, was in beta.

I stopped by their booth pedestal in the exhibit area and was surprised to see that I had been selected as a spokesmodel for their new service as I have only been blogging on business topics for two weeks. And yet there I was in the picture on the front cover of their brochure.

Mike assured me that I would be in the “Special Highly Interactive Techdirt” section of the community. I was taken aback because my mother had always assured me that I had a face for podcasting and I assumed that it was there I would ultimately be able to make my mark. It wasn’t until I was in the bar a little later drinking some ice tea, imported from Long Island of all places, that I was able to summon my marketing imagination and jot down captions that Techdirt should consider adding to the flyer when they exit beta. I put them in an e-mail to Mike and then realized I should share them with the four of you reading this blog:

Techdirt Version SKMurphy Version
Take part in interesting discussions with your peers “Maybe if this guy had written this monologue in a blog we might have had the last 30 minutes of our lives back.”
Interact with companies who want your opinion “Is this you, holding forth to a roomful of three people on an arcane topic? If so, you can join our blogging network and double your audience.”
Get paid for your insight “Ever feel like the guy at the whiteboard isn’t really capturing the depth and breadth of your insights? Our blogging network allows you to capture and expose all of your thoughts on a topic.”

Mike offered some clarifications on the program and it’s structure in the comments in response to some speculation by Anne Zelenka.

Details as they are stored in some post-Apocalyptic reliquary whose display case for the 20th century might house a fist sized chunk of the Berlin Wall, a charred fragment from Skylab, and the test tube that contains Edison’s last breath.

Philipp Lenssen’s Tips For Crafting a Linkable Blog Post

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Blogging

The prolific Phillip Lenssen has leveraged his Googleblogoscope experience to create an extremely useful diagnostic quiz for assessing if you’ve written a linkable blog post (how likely it is that other bloggers will link to your blog post). He advises that

Linkability shouldn’t be your main goal when blogging, but it’s a good indicator of how approachable and interesting your writing is.

Some of his key points that I find useful to remember are:

  • Make sure you write something original, and not just a few sentences. Write about what you know.
  • A small illustrative or explanatory image can go a long way to improve your post. This is great advice that I have yet to follow. I am continually impressed by Dave Pollard’s ability to express his business insights in graphics:
  • Blog daily. I still struggle with this, but I am discovering that forcing myself to write every day, even if I don’t get is finished enough to post, forces me to clarify my thinking on an issue, which is valuable in itself.
  • Re-read and revise for clarity and offer a perspective for someone new to a topic.

The best thing about the http://www.howlinkable.com/ quiz is that it prioritizes it’s advice to offer the top ten add suggestions for improvement; once you have addressed the basics you see more. Also, not everything you can check off will improve your score (something Fleming Funch overlooked); sometimes you need stop doing something to improve. My current linkability is 45% and I need to blog daily, use more illustrative examples and images, and add my photo to my about page to get it to 54%.

One suggestion that Lenssen didn’t make directly that I think is a useful perspective comes from Useful Saheli S.R. Datta’s article “7 Habits of Highly Effective Blogger

Think of your blog as database, not a newspaper-like collection of dispatches. your archived posts should be easy to find through Google and Technorati, so cite authors and publications by name, and use tags, categories, and keywords consistently.

Mr. Aridewa at the Moojik Times  also has a excellent summary and elaboration of Lenssen’s advice.

Here is a list of the questions courtesy of Fleming Funch, for clarity I have added “[Negative]” to those practices that detract:

  1. My post title includes a pun [Negative]
  2. My post title includes more than 10 words
  3. I start off by explaining the post’s core idea
  4. My post contains more than 3 paragraphs of my own writing
  5. I spell-checked my post
  6. The post’s idea was “sleeping” inside my head for several weeks before I wrote it down
  7. I was the first to report on this (as far as I know)
  8. This post might have profound implications for a company, celebrity, or politician
  9. This post might have profound implications for my readers
  10. This post is in-tune with the overall topic of my blog
  11. I illustrated my post with screenshots, drawings, or clip art
  12. I end the post with a “bang”
  13. I use the Creative Commons license to share my content
  14. I emailed friends to let them know about my article
  15. I validated my blog’s HTML after posting
  16. I use a standard blog template
  17. I read my own post for clarity at least twice
  18. I use links, bold/ italics, or lists
  19. I’m blogging daily
  20. My blog is read by many people
  21. My post is English
  22. I’m reporting on first-hand experiences
  23. The subject I’m writing about is close to my heart
  24. My post includes a video, audio file or ZIP download
  25. Readers can comment on my post
  26. I submitted the post to Digg
  27. I submitted the post to Metafilter
  28. I submitted the post to Boing Boing
  29. I sent the post to a mainstream news source
  30. My post is above 250 KB (including images) [Negative]
  31. I checked my blog’s appearance in at least 2 browsers
  32. I include a large ad on top of the main content [Negative]
  33. My ad colors resemble my main content [Negative]
  34. I decrease the font-size quite a bit to make the layout look better [Negative]
  35. I’m citing my sources and delivering proof for what I say
  36. I’m using affiliate links inside my post’s content [Negative]
  37. My post might be considered controversial by many
  38. Some parts of my post make people laugh
  39. My server is fast to deliver pages, even under heavy traffic
  40. My full name is included at the beginning or end of the post
  41. My “About” page is linked in the navigation
  42. My “About” page includes my bio and photo
  43. I’m using several JavaScript widgets (like counters) in my blog [Negative]
  44. I’m checking my blog statistics every few days
  45. I consider myself an expert on this post’s topic
  46. My page includes animated ads [Negative]
  47. My page includes an ad that pops up or is overlaid on the content [Negative]

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