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Digital Transformation will change how we work and live together

Filed under: Innovation,Knowledge Management — Marshall Kirkpatrick @

I was asked in an interview that I hope will appear online soon what I’m excited about that’s coming in the future of social media. Based on some thoughts from Dion Hinchcliffe that I wrote about recently and some historical context from Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson’s new book Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future, here is what I wrote:

In short, I’m excited about how social media is changing the way we work. I’m excited about the coming bounty of real understanding and increased humanity that I expect to be a part of digital transformation. 20 years ago, the digital re-engineering of the enterprise brought new levels of efficiency and freed many people from their most repetitive work. Now our jobs require far more creativity, self-determination, communication, and other fundamentally human skills.

That type of transition is underway again in what we call Digital Transformation. Now it’s new technologies like social networks – both inside and outside of enterprises, new ways of working like the practice called “working out loud,” and new, network-informed ways of thinking about stakeholders, measurement, growth and management. This is an exciting time, this time of the consumerization of the enterprise. Hopefully the enterprise will have a lot to add to the mix as well – and the new capabilities of social media will be leveraged in powerful and positive ways at work.

On a deeper level, below this question about work, I’m excited about the ongoing democratization of communication and self-awareness that social media offers. It continues to face criticism, for example recently from some of the people who helped create it, as “short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created [that] are destroying how society works.” But I think that’s just a sign that we as individual participants need to take more responsibility and use social media more effectively. History will be the result of both structural and macroeconomic trends and our individual decisions, together.

How good are you at predicting things? Here’s my Brier Score for the week

Filed under: Knowledge Management,Uncategorized — Marshall Kirkpatrick @

HBR ran a great article about improving the forecasting abilities of teams this week, (Superforecasting: How to Upgrade Your Company’s Judgement) I highly recommend it, and one of the most interesting tools discussed was something called the Brier Score. It’s an easy way to quantify how well you are doing at accurately forecasting the outcomes of your actions.  It’s pretty simple.  I kept track of my predictions at work and home over this past week and calculated my score, I’ll be excited to see if I can improve it week over week.

I scored a .78 this week over 4 predictions.  You want to get as close to zero as possible. I was wrong about one thing and it really dinged me.

Here’s how you do it.  Write down a forecast about something you can be either right or wrong about, and a degree of confidence you have about your forecast.  For example, I predicted that I was probably going to be invited to join my wife at dinner last night after an event she’s participating in.  We’d discussed whether that would be the case, and we left it open ended – but I had a 60% level of confidence that’s what was going to happen.

And I was right!  So when you’re right with a 60% confidence level, you calculate your score like this: (.60-1)^2 = .16

Now I also predicted this week that a certain woman I admire a lot on the internet was going to be lukewarm about a suggestion we collaborate on a project.  In part just to experiment, I gave that prediction a 70% probability!

And I was wrong!  She was pretty open to it and we’re doing a little experiment together that’s super cool.   I’m really glad I was wrong – but that dinged my Brier Score badly.  When you’re wrong with a 70% confidence level it’s (.70-0)^2=.49.  And we’re looking for as close to zero as possible.  Ouch.

So this week I tracked 4 predictions with confidence levels ranging from 60% to 80% and I was right about the other two, so I added them up and my total score for the week was .78.  We’ll see if I can get it below that next week.

I gave myself some feedback on them where I could, and next week I’m going to think a little harder before committing to predictions.  I’d like to see if there are variations of the Brier Score, or if I should adapt it, to take into consideration the significance of the predictions.  Some of the things I made forecasts this week were much more important than others.

A few other thoughts:

  • Putting more thought into predictions so I’m more confident in them will make my score better when I’m right.
  • Without some normalization, every prediction you make impacts your score negatively.  I want to be thoughtful and keep track of many things throughout the week, so maybe I should say my score was .195 across 4 predictions.
  • There’s more to this but I haven’t drank enough coffee this Saturday morning yet to go much more in depth
  • The HBR article suggested you do this kind of thing with groups of people and figure out who’s best at forecasting.  It also suggested that groups collaborate and receive as little as an hour of structured training on avoiding faulty thinking patterns.  The authors found that those conditions dramatically improve success.
  • I love models like this – they are so powerful and useful!

Meeting Prep, on Your Own Time: A Template Google Doc

Filed under: Knowledge Management — Marshall Kirkpatrick @

After feeling frustrated that I wasn’t prepped as much as I wanted before a meeting called by one of my co-workers at Plexus Engine, I came up with the following Google Doc template to capture all the info we needed before meeting with someone from outside our company. I really like this system and thought I’d share it.

The procedure we’re experimenting with is to create a copy of this Google Doc, edit it to fill it out, then paste the URL to view it inside our company calendar listing for said meeting. I’ve been experimenting with changes; just tonight I added the field for “confirmed within 36 prior hours” because I try to email people the day before a meeting to confirm and set the stage.

This system helps us communicate explicitly about meetings, but on our own time. It doesn’t take too much time to fill one of these out – generally less than 5 minutes. We’ll see how it works, we’ve only just begun doing it. If you’d like a copy of that same template, I posted one here. I have a link to that master template doc bookmarked in my browser toolbar. If you can think of any other ways this could be made more useful, please let me know.

A List of Checklists for Startups

Filed under: Knowledge Management — Marshall Kirkpatrick @

tl;dr: Checklists for Startups

I’m falling in love with checklists. Specifically, a new service called Checkmarkable, which makes it easy to create re-usable checklists for any purpose. My Daily AM Checklist is proving super effective in helping me change my habits and maximize my productivity. I fill it out every day before jumping into the unique tasks of the day.

Checklists mean you don’t have to spend mental energy remembering the details of a complex workflow, they are all just right there in front of you. They also mean that people who do complex jobs in high stress environments (pilots, surgeons) are less likely to forget to do important things. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.

Checklists are themselves like technology, aren’t they? They do work (the work of coming up with a plan), through automation, which saves time and lets the user start their work from a higher level of abstraction. Once you’ve got a good checklist, you’re no longer a person figuring it out cold – you’re someone who’s just taking care of business, getting it done, and then moving on to more creative work.

At Plexus we’re realizing there were some basic things we should have done before starting the company, or as we started it, and we wish someone had told us about those things. So we’re working on a checklist to share with others, particularly our class-mates in the Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE).

One of the things we did in the meantime though was survey (using our own automated technology) all the top tech startup incubators we could find for checklists they had made or shared already. A first iteration of that list of checklists is here: Checklists for Startups. Included are checklists for CEOs, for salespeople, developers and designers.

Checklists for Startups

Can you point us to some other good startup checklists? Please do and I’ll add them to the list!

Related: this 40 minute video from Joe Stump about things to do when starting your startup. Joe told me a few days ago when he came into PIE that was probably his favorite presentation he ever gave.

If you want to track the incubator community day in and day out, PIE’s Rick Turoczy has a list of 400+ Twitter accounts associated with the leaders in the field.


Why Klout is Really and Truly Valuable

Filed under: Knowledge Management — Marshall Kirkpatrick @

Social media scoring system Klout did a big refresh tonight and it is clearly broken because it said I am less influential than it said I was before. But is it worthless? Is this a meaningless arbitrary number that deserves nothing but mockery? No.

Alexia Tsotsis posted a funny video and a harsh critique at TechCrunch tonight and she said, essentially: Klout is worth nothing, nobody cares.

I disagree.

I’ve certainly got critiques of Klout, but I think the service’s value is important to recognize, too.

My comment, in response:

I use the Klout browser plug-in to help when I’m scanning down a large set of Twitter users in my browser as one of several methods to make sure I don’t miss someone that was not known to me before but was known to and respected by the many more people on the web than myself. In other words: “We all have an inherent sense of who is influential” is a statement that only makes sense if you keep looking at the same people all the time or assume that you already know everyone influential.

I suppose I could get a good feel for how influential a person I do not know, from a place I’ve never been, is if I took 30 to 180 seconds to make that evaluation manually (who can’t judge another person quickly these days?) but if you’re looking at hundreds or thousands of people then Klout can be a useful tool.

For example, see below a Twitter search for the hashtag #occupysf, with the Klout browser plug-in turned on. Scanning down these four accounts Tweeting the term, the numbers tell me that the first and fourth accounts are less weighty than the second and third. If I stopped and looked closer you know what I’d see?

I’d see that the first is a Sarah Palin satire account that almost no one pays attention to and the fourth is a political rabble rouser with little traction on Twitter either. The second and the third are documentary film makers who have built audiences for themselves online. I stopped to find that out, but I didn’t have to thanks to Klout. When I’m in a hurry and there are lots of twitter accounts to evaluate fast – I can scan down those numbers and see who’s got a history on Twitter and online, and who doesn’t. I don’t know any of these people, but some of them have a greater demonstrated history of contributing content that’s appreciated by their communities than other accounts have. Is that the be-all-end all metric? No. Is it a useful tool? Yes. Klout is great for quick judgements and fast sorting of a bulk of people online in lightweight circomstances.

All social networks assign scores to the accounts inside them, Klout just surfaces those as its central value proposition.

Tracking Startup Incubators: Three Helpful Resources

Filed under: Knowledge Management,RSS — Marshall Kirkpatrick @

A few weeks ago ReadWriteWeb’s Audrey Watters wrote up a report ranking the top 15 startup incubators and accelerators in the US. I asked the virtual assistant program FancyHands to build me a Twitter list of all those top organizations and an OPML file of their blog feeds. I was just sharing those with my friends over at the very cool mobile app shop Night and Day Studios and thought, heck – I should post them here too.

I’m pretty excited about these. If you’re a startup, an investor, and incubator person or a tech journalist – I think these will help you peek inside and track what some of the very top organizations serving tech startups are doing each day.

So here’s the Twitter List: Top Tech Incubators.

Click Follow This List on that page and then you can either visit it on your list of Lists you’re following or you could use it to populate a column in Tweetdeck or Seesmic if this is super important to you.

If you’re the feed readin’ type (and you know I am!) then here’s an OPML file you can download locally, then subscribe to in any feed reader: StartupIncubators.OPML

That’s uploaded to Google Docs, let me know if you have any problems with it. Once you download it, you can upload it into an RSS reader. For example, in Google Reader the Manage Subscriptions link in the bottom left column will show you an Import/Export link.

And regular readers here will know that when I see a list – I think Custom Search Engine! Want to know what kinds of work any of these incubators has done regarding a given topic? Just search inside their web site archives using this handy dandy machine: Top Tech Incubators CSE.

I’d recommend including the command -“hacker news” if you don’t want the results to be flooded with news stories from YCombinator’s wonderful site Hacker News.


Let me know if there are any issues with these, I hope you find them useful.

Here’s where credit is due for the rankings, according to Frank Gruber of TechCocktail:

As a part of his field work for the Kauffman Fellows Program (not to be confused with Kauffman Foundation), Aziz Gilani from DFJ Mercury, working in partnership with Tech Cocktail and the Kellogg School of Management, set out to determine the best startup accelerator programs in America and rank them. Assisting in the evaluation effort were Professor Yael Hochberg and MBA Candidate Kelly Quann from Northwestern University. Together there were numerous interviews with VC’s, Angels, and program graduates performed and then the data was aggregated. This is the first high-level published report of the findings – Aziz Gilani will be sharing a more detailed look at the findings in July, so stay tuned.

Corporate Social Strategists on Twitter: Looking at the Numbers

Filed under: Knowledge Management — Marshall Kirkpatrick @

This weekend marketing analyst Jeremiah Owyang assembled a fabulous list of nearly 200 people who run social media strategies at corporations around the world. It’s the second year he’s done so and let me tell you: there are few things more wonderful than a well-categorized list of people.

Jeremiah listed the names, titles and employers of each person on his list and he linked to their LinkedIn profile. I wanted to interact with these people on Twitter, for many different reasons, so last night I spent a couple hours putting together some resources that we can all use.

First and most important is this: a Twitter list of 141 of these people that I was able to find accounts for. Follow that puppy and you’ll be able to interact with all 141 people in one place. I’ve got them coming into a column in Tweetdeck and it’s never been so easy to interact with so many leading minds behind social strategies at some of the world’s biggest companies. This would probably make a pretty interesting Flipboard magazine, too.

I used a number of different tools to create a number of different little things you can see below – but I’ve saved what I think is the best for last.

Compiling this list was the slowest part of everything else I did here, but even that didn’t take too long. I went down Jeremiah’s blog post and highlighted the names one at a time. I’m using the Apture semantic browser plug-in and it could tell these were peoples’ names. One of the first things it looks for when it sees a name is a Twitter account, so I just opened those up in new tabs to make sure they were correct and then added those people to my list. It was pretty fast. I considered uploading the list of 200 to Mechanical Turk and paying people 5 cents per username they found, but I decided that the $20 that would have cost (to have each name checked twice) wasn’t as big a cost as the lost opportunity of getting to see each of these people and their profiles myself. So I took a few hours on a Sunday night to make the list.

Update: Jeremiah very graciously shared this post out with his contacts but asked how we could keep the Twitter list and related resources up to date as he frequently adds new names to his list. I had to think about that for a moment, but then settled on this solution: I’ve pointed Yahoo’s Dapper at the page to check every 15 minutes or so if there are any new names on the list. If there are, the new addition will be delivered into an RSS feed. I’ve subscribed to that feed in and told it to send me any updates by IM and by email. So when Jeremiah adds anyone to the list, I’ll get a ping and will add them to the Twitter list! Screenshot of the Dapper interface below. Much like Needlebase – it’s point and click easy.

Let’s Scrape The Data!

Now that I had 141 of these people all in a nice Twitter list, where they could be found with a single URL, all kinds of fun things become possible. I used a service called Needlebase to scrape all the usernames, locations, bios and follower/following numbers from each person on that list. Training and running all that took me about 5 minutes. Then I exported that data in CSV format and played with it in some interesting ways.

Some simple math:

  • The corporate social strategist on the list with the most followers? Ford’s Scott Monty with 48,705 followers. Followed by Collin Douma VP of Social Media at Proximity BBDO, the super-charming Shashi Bellamkonda of Network Solutions, @RichardatDell and my friend since we were high school debate competitors, Justin Kistner of Webtrends.
  • Who’s following the most people? Douma’s following nearly 40k people, and the rest of the top 5 is close to the same as above but with the addition of H&R Block’s Zena Weist, who follows just shy of 10k users.
    Here’s a chart of the distribution showing number of people a strategist follows. I lopped off the top two at 40k so we could see the rest of the chart better.
  • Who has Tweeted the most? Shashi Bellamkonda is far in the lead, with 45,184 Tweets. In case you’re curious, that means Shashi has posted an average of 32 Tweets each day for the 3.5 years he’s been on Twitter. He’s even more fun in person, by the way. #2 most prolific? Capgemini’s Rick Mans, who lives in the Netherlands. #3 is Devry University’s Sonny Gill.
  • Who’s been on Twitter the longest? As far as I can tell, The most recent person on the list to join Twitter is ECI Telecom’s Colleen Seery, who appears to have created her account just under two months ago. (Update: Seery explains in comments below that she’s been using Twitter for more than a year, she just created a new account this Fall.) Every single other person on the list who uses Twitter has been using it for 299 days or more, and only 1 out of every 7 have been on Twitter for under two years. What does that mean? That these people learned fast, perhaps, and that there’s not a lot of new blood among people in charge of social. Maybe it means you shouldn’t expect to run social strategy at a corporation if you’ve used Twitter for less than 2 years.
  • The average Twitter account on our list is being followed by 2,758 people. If you remove Scott Monty from the list, the average is 2,430. Here’s a chart of the spread. Sorry it’s not a prettier chart.
  • Who’s been at their current jobs the longest among all the members of Jeremiah Owyang’s list? He’s linked to LinkedIn profiles and though LinkedIn doesn’t really like to be scraped, Needlebase was able to do a decent job. It appears that the senior-most person on the list is Todd Watson, Turbotodd, who’s been at IBM for more than 19 years. Who on the list has the freshest job, according to their LinkedIn profile? Mike Boehmer, who according to Foursquare checked in at the first day of his new job as Media Manager at Catholic Health Partners in Cincinnati this morning. (Congrats Mike!)

Text Analysis

How do corporate social strategists describe themselves on Twitter? I scraped everyone’s bio descriptions, put those words into a text file, found and replaced all instances of the words social, media and marketing, then uploaded what remained into It looks like people feel very comfortable referencing their personal lives in their Twitter profiles. Click below to view full sized.


Needlebase makes it pretty easy to map people and places, too. Here’s everyone globally on the list, sorted by city. You can click it for a full-size view too.

How about a map of cities with strategists who have Tweeted more than 5,000 times? That’s the most prolific Tweeters, about 1/3 of the list. That map looks a little bit different, but not too much.

The Best for Last

All of the above is pretty interesting I think, but besides the Twitter list of all these people made easy to follow in one place – there’s one other resource that I think is likely to prove valuable in the long run. That’s figuring out who these influencers listen to the most themselves. The lists of who they are following on Twitter are all publicly available, so it’s just a matter of scraping and counting.

Who do the largest number of these people follow in common? #1 is of course Jeremiah Owayng himself, the man who made the list! 117 out of 141 of the Twitter accounts I found on this list were following Jeremiah. I don’t know what excuse the other 24 have. Rounding out the top 10:
Mashable, Charlene Li, Brian Solis, Chris Brogan, Robert Scoble, TechCrunch, Zappos, Guy Kawasaki, Forrester and Scott Monty. In other words, basically who you might expect. Here’s a list you can use to subscribe to the accounts in that group that publish less than 30 updates a day.

That’s the kind of fun you can have with a good list of well categorized people and some free, easy-to-learn data extraction tools! Thanks to Jeremiah Owyang for putting together the list and thanks to you for visiting my site to read about it.

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