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ThoughtSummit 2019 Recap

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

Much of the messaging was geared towards first time collaborative intranet admins & corporate comms folks on the ThoughtFarmer platform.

One of the classic moments for me was when someone in the audience asked the presenter (Sean Biehle of MedData) if they just let anyone contribute anything?

To which he answered “well we keep a tight control on our intranet home page and our corporate-comms blogs, but outside of that, teams are free to engage and whatever communication they like, of course following our code of standards. Brought me back….

The whole summit, felt a little like a single-track for new users at an old JiveWorld conference.

Speaking of tracks, there were at least three groups of people from small credit unions or banks from British Columbia and Oklahoma that I know of. In the future they might want to have a speaker who can discuss the successful implementation of a collaborative Intranet in a financial organization. Similarly there was one community manager from a municipal police department in BC, and a two-person team from a small city in Alberta the could benefit from hearing how similar government organizations set up collaborative intranets.

2ToLead gave a powerful presentation on the functional coexistence of a SharePoint / ThoughtFarmer combined Intranet. They also discussed some of the out-of-the-box search adapters ThoughtFarmer offers including the one for Office365.

In Chuck Gose’s and Kristin Hancock’s talk on not “Commsplaining”, they  helped comms people become more self-aware in communicating to elicit better responses from the organizations. Kristen gave one example of creating bridges with IT teams. If I were to add anything to their talk, I think I would add that corporate comms folks are often graduates of English or journalism at university, and hold themselves to a high standard in writing. But when you are trying to evangelize workers to blog more, you need to tone down the rhetoric about following style guides / standards etc. which are irrelevant to people like engineers.

The summit included a few opportunities to change gears and stop talking shop. One was an inspirational talk by Julie Angus and her adventures rowing across the Atlantic, another was our trip up Cypress Mountain and meeting with the owls and bears. And then it was finished off with a happy hour at an intimate bar with great food – and music volume not too loud to continue talking a little shop or really anything. I’m having a little flashback to the Final Night Party at JiveWorld15, where you really couldn’t hear a thing.

Blaine Kyllo gave an excellent talk on how creating quality knowledge articles inside your intranet can help reduce the costs of running a help desk, because agents can get answers faster. With general knowledge workers it is hard to prove that the ROI on spending a little bit more time dumping knowledge into a company-wide knowledge base can actually be huge. However most call centers can tell you exactly how many dollars it costs to answer each phone call, so any measure to cut the cost can immediately be seen.

During the only live demo of the summit, Trevor Allen showed us FormFlow. There were some standard use cases, like ordering business cards etc.. I understand there are similar products for other intranet platforms out there, however I think that ThoughtFarmer’s price point, and ease-of-use make it an attractive option. The 80-20 rule definitely applies, it is a simple workflow application that will definitely meet 80% of the workflow needs of most organizations.

The highlight for me was Chris McGrath’s talk on chat bots. Despite the current state of most chatbots being very hokey information collection systems with a simple chat like interface and little actual value to the user (my take, not his), the vision down the road is more like an Alexa or Google Assistant natural language conversation with your Enterprise systems which would include your collaborative intranet. But even today his company, Tangowork’s product can provide useful information discovery today across multiple chat interfaces (Slack, Skype for biz and many others).

I look forward to the day when I can talk to my intranet on the drive to work and say “Tell me what the top 10 liked blog posts are from the last 7 days” or “Read to me the 2nd last blog post from the CEO” so I can stay up to date on news without it eating into my most productive work hours.

Facebook following and an Anecdotal Story Showing How it can be Misunderstood

Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

Most people know the story of social media, that unlike many online communities, Facebook insisted on real names, later a little relaxed, however during its launch in the universities pre-2007, and then its open launch after 2007, made it effectively kill myspace,, and a number of other pre-existing online communities.

It was known as crackbook to some, as it was addictive to connect with old friends for free, and then let you try to gather as many new FB friends as possible.

Shortly thereafter Twitter was born by focusing only on public microblogging, following and hashtags. Despite the power of the social connection that Facebook was monopolizing, this secondary use case of talking about ideas rather than relationships was enabling Twitter to enjoy its own level of success. As the popularity of the Facebook use cases started to stale, and Twitter continued to expand, Facebook moved to acquire several other key social media platforms, as well as develop their own microblogging strategies, one of these was the follow button.

Facebook Follow Button

Before the follow button, the closest thing FB had was the like button on its product or company pages, so if you liked, for example, Toyota USA, then anything Toyota USA posted, might come up in your news stream. But then they decided to copy Twitter and released their own follow button – both on these public pages and also on personal profiles. As they do, when they introduce new features, these are usually turned off by default. Before the follow button, if you saw a an interesting public post by a stranger, and wanted to see more from them without friending them, you really only had two options, one would be friend them, or the second would be to bookmark them in your browser. But obviously Facebook saw the success of following in Twitter and other social media platforms, so they finally got with the times. I started noticing follow buttons on people’s profiles, and then Googled “how to add a follow button to my Facebook profile”. But it didn’t seem Facebook cared that much about this feature, because in the social groups I was a member of, Facebook was still encouraging me to friend strangers rather than follow them. Still with more concern about personal privacy, I decided to stick to my guns, and follow a strict protocol around connecting with people on social media. In fact when strangers would try to friend me, I would send back some templated responses like:

My basic policy around friending people is,

  1. I have to have already known them, or
  2. chat with them and decide I want to be their friend.

My policy around following people on Facebook, is pretty much the same as Twitter. Basically the person/organization has posted something I have liked, and I want to see future posts from them. But in addition to Twitter, I might also follow someone who is in the same artist/author fan group as me, lives in the same community as me, or I have mutual friends with them. And certainly if someone shares more than one of the above common traits, then it’s all the more likely that I will think they are follow-worthy.

That brings me to the other day. This guy out of the blue IMed me saying “why the hell are you following my girlfriend?”

I was sort of busy with something, but I knew I was dealing with a serious case of Technology ignorance. The first thing I did was IMed him back and said Who is your girlfriend?

Then I proceeded to find out who she was, and then told him that she and I are members of the same Office fan club Facebook group, Dunder Mifflin – Limitless Paper in a Paperless World.

He claimed that my following her was harassing, and asked me to stop it immediately.

Going to Follower her Even Harder

Immediately I wanted to respond with this meme which says now I will follow her even harder. but you have to be an office fan to really appreciate this kind of humor. So instead I decided to just send him an informative link which describes how to turn off public following, and told him that if it is truly a bother, that she should turn it off so that nobody can publicly follow her.

Anyway I was quite busy and, I think I was watching a Christmas movie with my family. As I work East Coast hours, I get tired very early, so I think I went to bed without checking Facebook, and when I woke up, he wrote some more threatening things, including showing me a screenshot of him messaging my wife saying that I am inappropriately following his girlfriend. He even threatened to message all of my friends and contacts that I was doing something inappropriate with his girlfriend. I decided it was too much of a hassle, so I unfollowed her and was

Guy IMs my wife

ready to drop it. But then my mom mentioned that if he is that jealous and possessive, he might actually be a threat to that girl. So I decided to just IM her to let her know what happened, and apologize if my following her had caused any inconvenience. Furthermore, I told her that if it was a problem, she should really just turn off that setting to prevent any strangers from following her. She was quite friendly about it, she even said my Office meme was funny, but didn’t deny that he was her boyfriend, so I dropped it.

I think it’s funny how people make up rules about using technology which is often times not what the original designers intended. It sort of reminds me of when I started playing Call-of-Duty with my kids back in 2010, and there was this thing that when you do the sniper rifle you should always quick scope. They would literally accuse you of cheating if you look through the scope of your rifle. I’m pretty sure the game designers let you look through the scope of your rifle to simulate using a real sniper rifle, but it didn’t prevent the kids from making this new arbitrary rule.

On a related note, I recently joined a group in Facebook for talking about Facebook features, but I’m surprised by how few people there are in it. There really must be a better way of ideating than is out there right now. Maybe Facebook will listen if we post it on Twitter. 😉

Facebook’s “give feedback on this photo” – wish there were more options

Saturday, November 3rd, 2018

I wish It had scope for more General feedback, like no Mom that’s the wrong date for this photo. I tried IMing in my mom and describe for her how she can change the dates of a photo, but it was useless, so now my only choice is to hide it from my timeline or display it with the wrong date.

But according to them they only using for “We use your feedback to help us learn when something’s not right.” like Nudity Violence Harassment Suicide or Self-Injury False News Spam Unauthorized Sales Hate Speech Terrorism 🙁

Another Friend Request – Andy Pham

Friday, October 19th, 2018

What are the advantages of Tribal Knowledge sharing and working in Silos?

Saturday, May 20th, 2017

To: Cesare Borgia <cesare.borgia@…> From: Niccolò Machiavelli <niccolo.machiavelli@…>

 Dear Cesare, 

I miss the good old Italian Renaissance — the politicking, the conniving, the murder of reputations, and, yes, of actual people at times. But what a happy coincidence that we both reincarnated into the age of caffeine vendors, politically correct thinking and smartphones! Speaking of the latter, I see on Linkedin that you’re currently a mid-level manager of a mobile media company. I was saddened, Signor Borgia, by the news that you had to take such a humble position, but I’m confident that you’ll soon be moving back to greatness.

In order to bring that about, you must not, (as I’m sure you already know) fall for this soft-headed nonsense about collaboration and greater transparency we hear so much about. Remember: 

Secrets can make us strong!

If a question comes up about how to solve a certain issue at work. You might be tempted by all the “silo-breaking” nonsense floating around in this goofy century to ask a question in your company’s Q&A Intranet site or Slack with the idea that it will get broadcast to a large net of people, allowing for the most effective method of getting attention of an SME (subject matter expert). Maybe you’re being told that your posted-question will benefit others with the same question in the future, helping them to find their answer faster, and make your organization more efficient and competitive on a whole. 

Yes the ROI of collaboration is considerable, but don’t be put off by this! Be grateful, instead, that the business accounting is taking a long time to capture and reflect those benefits. There’s a good chance, therefore, this “contribution” will, at least for the next couple of years, not even get recognized. In most organizations, therefore, it’s a way better plan to “ask” (with your voice) around for who might have the answer and then ask them directly. The advantage of this is, you might get the answer faster (reading/writing can be such a hassle). But also you will now be one of the select few with this knowledge. You can then become an SME on the topic and the next time someone has the question, they won’t be able to get it easily without coming to you. Having people walk up to your desk and ask you questions can greatly improve your reputation as “someone with answers”. If the person asking you is in direct competition with you, you can take your time giving them the answer, ensuring your competitive advantage over them and also forcing them to accrue a “social debt” with you for passing the knowledge onto them. Again, don’t waste that opportunity by posting the knowledge on your Jive or SharePoint Intranet. If someone else tries to document this knowledge, remind them that you are the SME and it needs to be vetted with you first. If they ask again, tell them it will be included in the “new” knowledgebase system you are bringing online next quarter.

You can easily see that this logic doesn’t only apply to Q&A. In many organizations people are tempted to “work out loud” by blogging about their work to give transparency into what they do, to act as sort of a micro-marketing campaign of their achievements as well as education to their peers. I’m confident that you’re not doing this, but if, under the influence of some naïve ideal, you are, stop it!

Again, these blog posts can only serve to empower your competitors (co-workers or competing teams) and allow them to copy or even take credit for your work. A better strategy is to never blog, but rather blackbox yourself, in the meantime compiling all your work achievements into a PowerPoint deck which you can use to impress people with all your achievements at the end of the quarter. 

Next my friend, project management should be siloed!

Similar to blogging, you should consider making your JIRA projects private so prying eyes cannot peek at your projects. Or better yet, just do project management in a spreadsheet that cannot even be seen by anyone you don’t explicitly share it with. Remember, sometimes your fiercest competitors are on the same team. In the meantime keep reading the blog posts and status updates of your co-workers, so when a competing team updates JIRA with “enter the QA phase of a datamart” make sure to add a bullet point on your PowerPoint which says “Enterprise Insights Datamart Go Live” making you appear to be ahead of the trend.

Won’t this negatively affect my organization you ask?

Yes, it most certainly will. But, like watering down the soup in a popular restaurant, despite costing you customers long term, it will increase profits in the short term! There will be some collateral damage on your way to greatness. Your knowledge-hoarding will make “you” more valuable and help you to get more recognition in the subsequent years. And then you can use your enhanced status to encourage “other people” to collaborate.

What about remote and overseas workers you ask?

Won’t they suffer if our HQ makes less use of collaborative systems?

Don’t bother yourself with such questions! The fact you’re at HQ means that you can benefit from the greatest amount of tribal knowledge being very close by. If these distant workers ask about collaboration, encourage them to collaborate, so you can once again follow all their progress, and take credit for their achievements if necessary.

If you follow these steps, while continuing to give lip-service to collaboration and “breaking down silos” this will ensure your rise to corporate greatness!


“Nick” Machiavelli 

But seriously folks

I once read in a self-help book that taking a serious look at the pay-offs of bad habits helps expose them to the sunlight and help see how alternative behaviours would make more sense. Storytelling in organizations nowadays tends to only focus on the advantages of positive traits we are trying to embody. However when we fail to understand why we tend to return to negative traits, it makes change that much more difficult. I believe that only after we take a serious look at the payoffs of negative traits – can we get back to the business of Breaking Down The Barriers of Silo Mentality, and truly achieving a collaborative culture.

MacOS X Chrome Speech Failing

Friday, May 19th, 2017

I never new how addicted I was to this feature until it stopped working.  I literally get my browser to read almost everything to me from Emails I draft, to new articles I read.  I’ve submitted typos reports to the New York Times, DailyDot, The Guardian,, Globe and Mail,, and more.  I found them all by “listening” to their articles.

MacOS X Chrome Speech->Start Speaking

I have a workaround, but it’s not as elegant:

I configured Option+S to start speaking selected text (any application).  It’s ok I guess… but really miss the ability to right click on and speak in Chrome.

Your Memories on Facebook

Friday, April 7th, 2017

Facebook, that was not a memorable event it was just a rant about how after writing a scathing review on that then Amazon tries to sell me the very same product using Facebook Ads…

I don’t need a reminder about it ever… I wish Facebook could distinguish between pics of family (which I like reminders about) and all the rest…


Looks like has changed their business model

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

They used to be the full-version of specializing in offering full-time overseas technical consultants from more economical locations like India, the Philippines and Easter Europe.  Now It seems they are just marketing their time-doctor remote worker management software. (all of these resumes returned Page not found) errors now