So if it isn’t obvious yet, I’ve been kept away from my precious blog! Woe is me, et cetera. Infections are a pain and so forth; but commitments must be fulfilled, and this blog will be finished! Eventually.
Straight to it then, throughout these weeks we should have driven home the point that engagement with consumers online, when done right, will be equally beneficial to both your business’ reputation and revenue, and help to meet the consumers’ expectations. Waiting for them at your home page with archaic email feedback does not help, bring your message to where they nest, and let them talk about you (hopefully in a positive way).
To that end, Origami Bears, our wonderful game development group, has set up a number of services for this express purpose located at:
A strong connection with customers is usually important, but much more so in the games industry, where fun is not a set formula, and pleasing the crowd IS the business. Gathering continual feedback on what people like and don’t directly from them, via social media, greatly helps to that end. Good word of mouth also helps, as anyone on the internet would have experienced; even outside of the usual gamer population you may have heard of minecraft, if not for its absurd take on gameplay then at least for the millions of dollars it’s making every day. These and various other reputation/knowledge issues compound on the importance of a social media presence and regulation.
So of course, for Origami Bears, this means continual publishing on these platforms to receive feedback and communicate with fans, releasing news and teasers, discussions in directions of development, collection of ideas, and at a further stretch, a possible hiring platform should the opportunity arise. There is also the potential for running promotional events via them, such as special additional content being made available via these outlets, in order to attract and build up the fan base in these circles, which will in turn have a chance to attract others via these fans’ activities related Origami Bears’ page, whether for curiosity or genuine interest.
Continuation at this point would just be mostly rehash of previous points, such as linking in the development team for fans to see their opinions or creating spaces in these social media platforms for use as communication tools et cetera; for those details, simply refer back to previous weeks. For now, let’s look forward to the future developments and releases from Origami Bears!
There’s an often heard saying that two minds are better than one, and in most situations it could be, so when we replace two with as many as we can find, theoretically it will be exponentially better. Going further, as it’s generally difficult to be the master of every subject in existence, having an easy way to record and share the knowledge and experience of every expert’s discoveries should help everybody else. That’s the basic idea behind wikis, barring any human flaws introduced.
When set into action within an organisation it’s an even more powerful tool, replacing complicated and hidden data records and ideas, serving as a collaboration tool rather than a simple record. This improves over more basic forms of record sharing, such as forum boards and meetings, due to proper organisation, being easy to update and readily available (dependent on server), while disputed points can still be maintained in discussions for further refinement. The connectivity of the documents in the wiki to relevant pages also helps to better clarify any points, reducing confusion about discussions.
When put into the context of Origami Bears, the wikis help improve on:
- Development of ideas; central point of discussion that can be updated after inspiration and development after any other methods
- Define points and terminology; communication between members made easier as unclear points are explained, very important as members come from different fields and likely to use different terminology for the same/similar things
- Collaborate/Develop documents; working on creative projects tends to leave large margins for differences to occur, but a common consensus must be reached, an easily shared and editable document which everyone may discuss and dissect helps to specify and clarify what is happening and going to happen
Normally this is where I’d advocate the organisation to follow through the advice, but they’re already running a wiki, so my job was over before it started. From what I hear it’s quite successful, so this could go on as a further recommendation to all other development teams that haven’t started using a wiki as a development aid.
The age of the Internet brought along many newer aspects to recent generations, one of them being efficiency. If you want to know something, google it; want to buy something, probably on eBay or Amazon; talk to your friends, instant messages. It’s pretty much expected for things to be quick and to the point, and when carried over to other aspects of life, it can be troubling. For example, when was the last time you saw a young person read a book, of their own volition, without it being an academic or work requirement? I have to make trips specifically to the library to see that, and even then I’m not sure they chose to, or their parents decided they should.
Point is, convincing people to read your blog is harder than ever. Long speeches and walls of text are much more likely to be ignored; at most your title and first paragraph will be read, if that. So when all the gimmicks of keeping interest is lost, how do you get your message across? One way is micro blogging, or “brutally shred apart your blog until 140 characters remain standing”, our topic for this week. Sound familiar? If you’re still on the internet, it should. Sites like Twitter enforce a strict limit on your message, forcing you to adapt and be ADD friendly for the fast and critical reader.
Even then it might be a stretch to convince people to read, and even more drastic measures might be needed. How can your message be even shorter than 140 characters though, and still give enough detail to communicate what you want? Well there is that old proverb, “A picture speaks a thousand words”; image based micro blogs have been quite popular as well, with words limited to micro format, captions only, bound within the picture, or in some cases, none at all. A popular service for such blogs is Tumblr, which already offers endless samples on its front page of the above.
We are nowhere near the bottom yet though, far from it. Even picture blogs require additional mouse movements every now and then. To get to the core of the substance, video logs must be mentioned. Requiring no further input after it’s running, you may combine words, images, sound or even animation; pretty obvious stuff. Though this format has a higher chance to retain attention, for its lack of interaction if nothing else, caution should still be exercised. Long videos that take forever to get to a point are moot when viewers may quit at any time, and in keeping with the micro theme, 15 ~ 60 seconds should be more than enough; obvious host would be Youtube.
In the earlier years, email would suffice to alert everyone to updates of any of these channels, but nowadays when even checking emails could be considered a mundane task, the challenge is to bring this news straight to the user’s face; facebook, that is. Besides tying in all of the above channels and more, and with functions to double for all of them, having a centralised page that could be used to notify users immediately on a platform they use is much more effective at spreading the message across, with extra supporting functions that allow the users themselves to propagate the message further if they find it interesting enough to do so.
Though it could be easily left at an official fans page on facebook, an actual official home site would not hurt; being able to control everything directly, and secure your own data feed feels much safer than leaving it to an external organisation. That said, it’s not a replacement for having the fan page, but rather a complement/supplement relationship. Only the more faithful and willing of users may take the extra step to check the official page, but having a notification and motivation from a facebook status update makes the move much easier.
Now a slight change up from the usual blogging, we’re going to cover a different organisation, an upstarting indie games development organisation by the name of Origami Bears. If you’ve been following origamijoe’s blog you will know exactly what they are, for the others, in short, they’re not supported by any major organisations and they make games. They’re relatively new and as such, would benefit greatly from any form of publicity that could be granted by Enterprise 2.0 techniques, such as micro blogging.
Fortunately, a large number of the above listed services are already employed, such as the Facebook fan page, Twitter page, Youtube channel, and their Official page; they don’t have a tumblr yet, but that can be easily created at any time. So with everything already set up, all that is required is some furbishing with the appropriate content. When talking about video games, this comes in the form of trailer videos, updates on titles and people, teaser images and discussions with fans, all of which can easily be done via these micro blogging channels.
So when the time does come, when a title in the works is ready for public scrutiny, which anywhere from a year to three months before release, depending on the size of the title, the survival strategy can be initiated. Quite a simple and often used strategy in relation to video game releases by any company, it starts small, with off hand comments and hints, little notes and one or two teaser images. A continual drip of information throughout the weeks leading up to the release, with bigger gambles being controversial news and/or images related to the game, things that would spark interest and discussion in potential fan communities. Basically, teasing. The aim is to make the community talk about your game, rather than you talking about it yourself. The more discussions spread, the further the word of mouth carries regarding your game, much further than traditional advertising at a tiny fraction of the price. Micro blogging itself is in turn a rather good conduit for this, as it naturally limits the amount of information you may release, creating the gap in understanding that allows for deeper discussions. But as with anything, this must be done the right way, releasing high quality information that people are curious about and so forth.
So here’s to the success of Origami Bears via Enterprise 2.0, and for further reading about them, head over to OrigamiJoe’s blog and Darren’s blog, feel free to comment here as well as on their blogs!
A sound solution to most issues unless it’s money issues. Getting back your perceived worth in investments is usually not as straightforward as waiting for your annual interest; and even that itself is not guaranteed with the previous instances of financial institutes crumbling practically overnight.
Understandably so, now more than ever, investors would like to be promised and guaranteed that, if they DO throw their money at you, that they WOULD get a return. But how do you reassure them of that when what they’re investing in is a concept, a digital work, a process to improve the sharing and accumulation of knowledge, for people to collaborate and advance; things that simply cannot be physically grasped and next to impossible to evaluate?
So that nasty term is our discussion this week: ROI, return of investment. Otherwise known as, the art of convincing the rich to share, in order to push out projects that would never exist in any other way. With physical artifacts, production and value can be easily measured, if a million phones were made for $10 of material and sold for $500 due to exploiting branding and stupidity, even taking away labour or machinery costs there’s a measurable return for the investors.
But to invest in a collaboration tool, a wiki or a shared updated document system, in order to allow 500 employees around the world to work on and share information on how to design a new phone, how would one go about valuing that kind of arrangement, when the office of 25 working internally and occasionally emailing ideas appears to work at the moment?
According to this article, it’s basically Increased Employee Engagement, Decreased Turnover Rate, and Sales. The official explanations are on the page; so onto the interpretations.
Employee Engagement: Involving the employees beyond usual employment terms, to make employees feel like they’re able to contribute and control their career more than in standard jobs. It gives them the opportunity to have their say on matters, contribute to things they usually would not in traditional cases, and feel that they’re important to the company.
Utilising employees beyond their usual capacity while not having to pay anything extra is usually considered a positive thing to investors.
Turnover Rate: Following on from their engagement, the sense of belonging and bonds they develop would help to dissuade them from looking elsewhere for opportunities, as they would feel that they belong where they are currently compared to a more alien environment elsewhere.
Experienced employees remaining and continuing their work are less likely to produce errors and so forth, while new employees would require training and adaption, which would cost extra money.
Sales: I find this title quite ambiguous, a better title would be market insight. Being able to see what their customers want and what competitors are doing, stock availability etc. This would help every employee who utilises these tools to adapt quickly in response to various situations and aid in customer retention/engagement.
Knowing how to keep current customers and attract fresh customers is quite the obvious positive point to make towards investors.
In addition to these three points, there are also the savings in time and money over the traditional cases on things like distribution of information, no need for meetings/company announcement papers/emails, collaboration on projects beyond given work, and other side effects of adopting this technology. Though it must be noted this is all assuming best case scenario, and proper management would still be required to ensure a positive and timely ROI on the use of collaboration tools.
Because investors require rather bold evidence to be convinced. Image from http://www.funpeak.com/totally-unusual-a-lion-riding-a-horse/
Usually a millionaire leader of a monolithic company in possession of certain albino dragons would not have to care much for anything, as most issues could be solved by either of their mentioned qualities. But what happens when one of their employees make a derogatory remark in conversation online, either in relation to their company or a member of the public? Then somehow or other said remark progresses to the wider public’s attention? Similarly, what of the public that makes similar remarks on social media platforms related to the company? There are some things that take more than money and dragons to fix.
Well before we delve too far, let’s see what a Social Media Policy (SMP) is first. The good gentlemen over at Dundas Lawyers have a very clear and legal description of what a SMP is, but in keeping with the mission of conciseness, an interpreted self described summary: Rules regarding use of Social Media for employees, enforceable by law, part of their employment contract, breaking it may result in being fired.
SMPs aim to avoid legal issues for the company caused by employees, along with taking all other reasonable steps to avoid said issues. Whether that’s possible depends on how it’s written, and how it’s interpreted by law. Obviously if it goes against local laws then it’s useless, thus a thorough understanding of said laws, or the assistance of someone well versed in such, is vital to drafting a SMP, lest cases like this occur to your company; where a company’s SMP is overturned by court for going against its employees’ rights.
Now that we’ve mentioned the internal risks, we turn to face the public; again the good gentlemen over at Dundas Lawyers have helpfully highlighted a wide variety of legal risks from exposing your company to social media, and in turn the public. Aptly interpreted: various local and international laws may be applied to internet usage depending on various interpretations.
As such any action you, or an employee representing your company, takes on the internet should abide by the law, as you would in real life; an example in one such article. Similarly, any discussion and forum hosted in relation and controlled by your company, may be held liable to you; an example etc.
Now to put that in a practical context example; rolling with the theme that I inadvertently created and should most likely rename my blog for, no prize for guessing which company: Valve, in particular its Steam environment.
So Valve, been around since 1996, and in turn Steam since 2003, with over 35 million active users according to the former link, a digital distribution platform for games and soon for other applications as well (see last week’s blog post), with both a Facebook and Twitter presence, more so on the former. It sells games, advertises them, distributes them, let’s you play through them, communicate about them, make communities, etc etc. It even sometimes sells games for way cheaper than anywhere else (as long as you’re not paying the nice beaches tax), making Steam pretty much the one stop for gaming nowadays.
So, onto the risks that they may face:
- Confidential Information Leak: this one has actually happened, though they did take appropriate measures to contain it, and did follow up with more details to keep users informed. It is currently still unclear what the results are but they’re working on it; and there does not appear to be many, if any, complaints about misuse of users’ credit cards.
- Wrongful Dismissal: I’m not even sure how this one might work for them, with their lack of bosses to dismiss people; firing workers is joked about now and then on their blogs but I don’t really know how this would work at all. Maybe due to that, this issue will never arise without a shift in operation procedures?
- Technology Risks: A rather risky issue for Steam; as Steam is a cloud distributor if viruses or malware to infect the system, and thus distributed, it would be a major disaster both for their PR and possibly on the legal side too. But to date, over nine years, this has not happened, most likely due to the diligence of Valve’s employees in securing their servers, services, connections etc.
- Statutory Risks: Having been involved in games distribution for this long, they should be well versed in matters of copyright and privacy, and if the handbook is to be believed, fair work. With all the benefits and selection criteria, defamation most likely is not an issue either. But then one can never rule out the chance of an oddity, so they must remain diligent in these regards.
- Reputation Risks: “the customer is boss” (p6), with an apparent lack of a boss in tier, if they maintain that mindset when interacting with customers, they should have no issues, unless they’re prone to lash out at their bosses; so far that does not appear to be the case.
There are most likely points that I have missed, but overall I think Valve’s Handbook covers for most issues. Image from http://kotaku.com/5903955/read-valves-employee-company-handbook-its-amazing.
If you feel I haven’t covered anything or have anything interesting to point out, please do so! Otherwise stare at my cat about to yawn.
Finally managed to get a picture.
Unless you’ve been conditioned from birth/creation to obey certain keywords, I doubt most companies would oblige to such a request; the very idea of sharing what you made, your intellectual property and tools which may value in the range of millions, for free I must note, sounds completely absurd if not crazy.
Yet that is exactly what some companies are doing. Without being asked nor forced, they are willing to supply the world without a qualm; some even going so far as to not ask for a donation! Surely this is some kind of plot of theirs to take over the world?! (possible) Or their CEO is not feeling quite right? (also possible) Though it may also be that they have discovered something many other have overlooked? (read on!)
Now it could be any combination of the above but let’s just go with what I’m implying already. The potential benefits, as well as the potential disasters that may happen if not handled correctly, when a company decides to spill its guts and share with the world:
Expand your knowledge, expand your mind, or to be precise, HIVEMIND: The opportunity to freely access and use data and tools that would otherwise require millions to obtain or to be an employee tends to draw in crowds of all sorts. When that number comes in the million to billion range (i.e. the internet), all kinds of experts could be drawn, whether to solve issues or innovate.
Though it may also help your competitors, with the proper terms and conditions to control use, the amount of positive knowledge influx should far exceed any negative exploitation. (if people like you; see reputation)
Extend your production line, around the entire world, several times: When you’ve these people who are genuinely interested in using your products on board, any unresolved issues and progress on work should speed up. Generally people tend to work better when they like their work, and within this large crowd, the chances of someone with the knowledge (see knowledge) to complete these tasks would show up.
If this data and tools are properly secured and distributed, there shouldn’t be any negative effects to the company’s state, even in the case that no positive progress is made. There is the risk though that content generated may provide negative attention (due to their controversial state or otherwise), thus some monitoring and control must be regulated, though sparingly whenever possible in order to not stifle creativity.
Engage thy neighbour; all of them: Again with the generality, people tend to like companies that share, simply due to the fact that they are not forced to receive nor pay, yet could gain so much for nothing. In turn, the company gains loyalty of their consumers, who are now also partly producers. With their extra involvement and investment of time in producing things, the community that results would be much more robust, due to their sense of belonging, than those that simply provide.
Arguably this may also raise issues of loss of control on certain aspects (e.g. whether works contributed belong to the creator, the company, both or neither), though again this could be minimised with proper terms and conditions of agreement (within boundaries of the law of course).
Last but not least, the word on the street, your Reputation: In fact, a rather important one. As noted in most of the above points; generally a move to share will result in an improved reputation. However, free things can still go horribly wrong, such as in these articles. Though not specifically web 2.0, these examples do highlight how things can go wrong even with the promise of free items.
Having said that though, generally sharing of data and software tools are free of those consequences; unless the terms and conditions demand your soul. Even then not many people care so this company I observed for this case appears to be safe!
A company that does this stuff right:
It is rather convenient for me that just last week this post appeared on Valve’s team fortress 2 blog. Its been a while since they added the Steam Workshop to invite players to create content for the game, and rather recently that they released Source Filmmaker, their in house tool for creating movies in the source engine. This along with their generally welcoming attitude for people to modify and play with their IP definitely helped in garnering that 89 million+ user content, which little other games, or even companies outside the field, can boast about. These moves, along with switching to free to play, allowed Valve to use the community to perpetuate the game’s longevity via content, engage even wider audiences, and boost their reputation. A prime example of employing enterprise 2.0 tactics if any. To expand even further though, in the coming weeks, Valve intends to expand even further, to territory beyond games. I guess they took notice of people collaborating on Steam chats for work after all.
Originally I was going to discuss a mining company that released all its mining data since 1948 to the public, along with the promise of a reward of $500,000, to find ores where their own people failed to do so. The result was rather tremendous, with 80% success in the results they got back, saving the company from going down, to becoming a billion dollar industry lead. However that article vaporised along with any traces and leads to it on my browser, so Valve takes the limelight yet again. I blame this mysterious disappearance on the Organisation, but I digress. If anybody sees that article, share the link please!
And if people don’t like your company, a wad of kittens may help. Image from http://xanadu0515.blog.fc2.com/blog-entry-401.html
No I haven’t slept yet,
Though that’s not much different from the usual. So what’s gotten to me this time around, I would imply that you’re asking as you awkwardly try to avoid eye contact, well it’s quite simple: people with tablets have left me in despair!
Well hey, tablets have been around for a fair while now, but this week’s topic has made me that much more aware! Use of web 2.0 tools to boost productivity; it’s not necessary at all to have a tablet or smartphone for this, but been able to easily remotely access said tools without having to pull out and boot up a comparatively bulky laptop is much more productive. This is comparing around 3~5 minutes to boot up and load the necessary programs to start working, versus a few taps of 3~5 seconds. So whilst not a necessity, it is a pretty huge advantage; though I’m still not likely to fork out the hundreds to get them, just saying.
Ranting aside, onto the tools I’ve been using to make life easier! And possibly yours too, if you’re willing to digitally sign a waiver or two, I’m sure they’re in the terms and conditions.
Personally I haven’t had any issues with moving files to places and people; when email doesn’t work there are countless file hosting services around, with many supporting large files or even entire folders. Some of these are even, surprisingly, free. So what’s the point in Dropbox, eh? Well the main utility I find in it is that it will update your hosted content immediately.
Traditional methods require you to make the effort, to properly package and reach out to them in order to deliver files, while shared folders on dropbox does this for you. It serves the dual purpose of sharing the most up to date files, as well as being an effective backup server. Then there’s the event tracker, for noting during collaboration who edited what (excellent for when you want to know who to blame for deleting everything) as well as being able to be installed on mobile devices. Including those evil, evil tablets and their users. Yes, you!
It’s not without its downsides though; as an avid user for its collaborative advantages, there is always the reoccurring issue of multiple users writing to the same file, overwriting each other’s work and breaking things. Thus all collaborators on the same project must swear before a giant brick to notify others when they are editing which file, lest that brick meet their face rapidly.
As a regular user of Google’s services, I can say Google Docs has practically carried every project I had so far (that could be handled digitally). Being able to see and chat with collaborators in document, leave comments on sections, see others’ work as it is been produced and edit while it’s going on, everything about it just works. One of the most important features though is the revision history; unlike a giant undo button, you can simply select the parts you want and paste them into the current document, though it can still function as an undo. Why the stress on this? Even when working in relatively small groups of 5, differences in opinions, judgement in editing, or the occasional mistaken slip can ruin a document, however with the revision history, precise repairs can be done. So not only does it allow speed (via collaboration) it also prepares for imminent doom.
Its use isn’t just limited to collaboration though; a most recent example would be my acquirement of a new laptop that simply refuses to install openoffice. Now I was stuck with using notepad for recording things, or finding another office replacement (office itself is never the right option). Luckily, Google Docs has everything I needed to continue avoiding office itself; all the fancy powerpoints and spreadsheets can be uploaded to it and be edited within it. An effective and free replacement that also allows for collaboration? Why wouldn’t you use it?
Really Simple Syndication; or as I like to call it, cram as many words as you can into the title to make it look interesting so people will read your thing. I used to be quite resistant against these, as right clicking on a folder and opening 50 tabs simultaneously to see what’s new on the sites I visit used to be quite easy. But somewhere after the 200 tab mark, firefox told me to stop that crap by repeatedly crashing when I try. So I figured that having a way to see what sites are updated, then only opening those up, might help quell this browser’s silly unwarranted tantrums. RSS feeds do just that; subscribe to those 9000 sites and the ones with updates float up, reducing time wasted on individual checks and loading! There are also some nifty tricks to hook them up with other programs to do things like playing alarms or automatically downloading the page’s updated contents, which I should get around to learning to increase my productivity. Also it seems to work with just about everything that updates regularly so why not.
Instant Messaging Programs
I wouldn’t have thought of these as web 2.0 tools if I hadn’t seen it mentioned over at Adam’s blog, and seeing as I’m using one right now, let’s throw it into the mix too. Originally I was an avid user of MSN messenger; mostly due to it coming with every computer I had, but due to their policy of forcing its users to update or be refused service, coupled with each update making it worse and my laptop’s refusal to install things, I have now mostly migrated to Steam instead. Though it’s technically a cloud distribution platform, it supports instant messaging, and thus fits this category. My main use for it, in terms of messaging, has to be the group chat feature. Users part of the same group can join the group chat room at any time, whether to collaborate on work or in game.
Now I wouldn’t really recommend that platform for instant messaging, as notifications of your friends playing games could be distracting from work, however the general idea for collaboration is there, and I have, rather surprisingly, used it for actual work as well. Having an entire group shouting ideas over mic is rather absurdly akin to regular brainstorming sessions, and eerily as effective. But I guess for the more casual user, there’s always Skype and those other IMs.
And just to be more self serving and drag this out a bit more; a most wonderful tool is this very blog you’re reading. Anyone can read it (until I slap down some visibility controls) and comment (to shout at me for not having a tablet). A much grander scale of people’s thoughts and ideas have been released to the world thanks to this tool, though your mileage may vary with usefulness and satisfaction.
The much delayed cat image (due to things and stuff). Image from http://vraiefiction.blogspot.hk/2012/01/of-cats-and-crocs.html; along with some depressing stories, read at your own digression.
Brian (dropping dead into bed)