Archive for December, 2006

Competing with giants – Wikipedia's got guts

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

If you ever worry about your competition getting ahead, you’re not alone. But how’s this for an example of how to believe in your own knowledge and capabilities? Wikipedia, the folks who’ve created the most extensive repository of human knowledge ever online, are setting their sights on beating Google and Yahoo at the search engine business.

I mean, this is chutzpah of the first order. But they’ve already got the presence online–and the investors, including other giants such as Amazon. But this is the exciting premise. The idea is that this new search engine will use human brain power combined with open-source technology to find the truly most-relevant results to an inquiry, not results that are influenced by how popular something is to other people (not counting how many incoming links a page has, as is now done with Google’s algorithms).

This could be revolutionary stuff–removing the popularity-contest aspect from the formula for determining the value and/or validity of information. Could dramatically change the search engine optimization business as well–a welcome change from the mysterious, hide-your-secrets game now played by many SEO companies.

Though this is still a way off. it’s an interesting strategy for Wikipedia to announce it far ahead of even knowing how they’re going to do it. Undoubtedly Google is going to sit up and pay attention. And I’m going to guess that well-written blogs full of value-add content will assume an even more critical role in determining search engine rank. However they set it up, they will always have to watch the human element–where people have power, money can buy influence. But I’d say this is a great day for deciding to start your company/corporate blog. Give me a call with questions.

Take a page from the Big Guys

Monday, December 18th, 2006

Even if you’re not like Google–with pockets deep enough that you’re able to scout out and buy just about anybody out there whose stuff you take a shine to–you can still take a page out of their play book.

Google is out to terrorize Microsoft. First, they bought a program called Writely that “competes” with MS Word®–and Microsoft would be right to be worried. I can tell you I’ve already set up a significant portion of my collaborative projects out on their new online software Google Docs and Spreadsheets–it makes it so easy to share information and have more than one person make changes/suggestions, etc. without having to constantly email different versions back and forth. And, folks, it’s free. I had already tried several options for similar functionality, paid for them, and found them lacking. So far, I’m satisfied just fine with Google’s stuff.

Anyway, now Google’s negotiating with a Korean maker to possibly buy its MS-Office®-like suite. If they do (though the article indicates the Korean maker isn’t anxious to give up total control but is looking rather for an alliance), Microsoft’s halls are gonna be dancing up and down for quite a while.

The point for your corporate blog is that if you have any feature, service or extra of any kind that rivals what a big-name competitor does, write about it and use the big-namer’s name. A colleague of mine has been creating brilliant ideas non-stop for several years, but recently he found one that he’s marketing as a competitor to Google’s Adwords–just using the giant’s name in his campaign automatically gives his service more credibility. You can do the same. Think creatively about how your product/service is different from/alike to the big guys–and take a little free ride of their mountains of advertising output.

To attract good people, measure the right things

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

This Washington Post story points out that even in hospitals that get top “quality” ratings, rates of death are not significantly lower than those that get bottom rankings. And it’s safe to say this doesn’t just apply to hospitals.

The rage to measure things has been good in some ways, but like the quantum physicists who finally pointed out through their experiments with light as waves and light as particles, you find exactly what you’re looking for. So if you’re measuring process X because you think it relates to outcome Y, you may get some correlation, but not necessarily the one that’s most likely to give you the truth about results.

For example, let’s say you measure how many minutes it takes team B to produce a widget. And when you measure team A, it turns out they can make the widget in 2 minutes less. You may think, okay, now let’s measure each and every step that team A does and find out where we have to improve team B’s performance. Yeah, you’re going to find some items that you can a) throw training at, b) give incentives, or c) threaten with penalties to get team members to do better on individual performance measures.

But you might be missing a much more important factor. For example, how do you quantify intangibles like, say, team A’s leader listens to fellow team members’ ideas (even if they’re not implemented very often), and team B’s leader is a task master? How do you gauge the effect when one or two A team members went bike riding this morning, and one or two B team members went out on a binge last night?

For best results, don’t just start measuring. When you think of performance, think about the individual–the whole person–who’s doing the job. Think about what motivates people. Once you get those kinds of measures and incentives in place, write about them in your corporate blog. You’ll start attracting more of the highest quality job candidates than you can possibly use. And you’ll keep the good ones you’ve got.

Playing the numbers game

Saturday, December 9th, 2006

Truth in numbers? In this Washington Post story the numbers of the jobless in the U.S. are said to have gone up, but only slightly and only because the overall number of employed went up. Somehow that feels like playing with smoke and mirrors–you know the old saying ‘statistics can be made to say anything you want them to‘ (requires free registration).

If you’re going to report industry statistics or numbers for your production or other items of interest to your corporate blog readers, don’t play games with them. Yes, it’s okay to report things that are favorable to your company, but you’ll gain a lot more credibility if you balance it with honest numbers in a number of areas. And if you’re going to report certain kinds of statistics (as in this story, how many people are actively looking for work), try to say how those numbers are determined.

It’s all about respecting your readers.