Twitter is just an open space…the flow is what is important

I just read Ross Hills excellent post titled Twitter: Building the planetary pulseand had a few thoughts of my own to contribute to the thinking that has stemmed from the leaked Techcrunch article. Instead of focusing on some of the more apparent highlights, I thought I’d look instead at how I think twitter can find sustainability in it’s business model given the thinking of the founder and team there.

 1)The rules of twitter – it’s just open space: We can get very confused and hard to describe what twitter is to people who don’t yet have an affinity with the service. Even those of us that use it have our own ways and methods of making it work for us, which can often lead to differing evangelical ideas about how others should go about using it. To me, Twitter is a fantastic open space, which allows people to come and go, much like participating in an open space meeting or unconference. @ev, one of the founders of twitter, said so much in a tweet in May.

 ev tweet

To me, it’s simple. If you don’t like what you’re hearing on twitter, or the information you are being delivered, then you can simply get up and change the space you’re in. Ross does this very well, “reshuffling” the people he follows on twitter to suit his mood and the information he seeks most at any particular stage in his thinking.  

2) Revenue: In the techcrunch expose, the founders point to getting to a point where they generate $1 of revenue for every user they have. They describe a user as a “unique individual having a conscious twitter experience in a given week.”

Again, I think this points to the idea of twitter being a space. I certainly know I would pay a dollar per year to use the service, but this is not the point. The process behind paying such a small amount of money is absurd, which is why the team at twitter is focused on charging more to a select bunch of users, who can essentially pay for the rest of us. They talk about the idea of facilitating payments through twitter, which I think could provide a good way to allow users to contribute to the ‘pulse’ – in a similar way that Kiva asks for small administration donations once you have lent your money to the entrepreneur in need.

 3) Staff: One of the tidbits I loved in the techcrunch article was how the team at Twitter felt they would need 5000 employees to reach 1 billion users. This equates to 200,000 users for every employee, which would thus equate to about $200,000 in revenue for every person employed, which is not a bad number. But, my question is…

 4) Which metrics are most important to Twitter for it’s success? It seems at the moment they are measuring everything, from the number of users to the number of dollars brought in and how many staff it took to get there. But does this actually provide a useful snapshot of where the organisation is now? If they are truly wanting to become ‘the planetary pulse’ aren’t they better off looking for other metrics, like the speed of geographical spread of information? Or perhaps the % of each countries internet population that is on twitter? Or even, perhaps, the number of tweets circulating the globe each day?

When we discuss the human ‘pulse’ we usually refer to the spread of our blood through-out our body. We don’t measure the number of white and red blood cells we have (unless we get sick) but instead the total flow we maintain. It’s this flow that can really measure how healthy we are. Without it, we die pretty quickly, even though we still have red and white blood cells in our body. I can’t help but feel that twitter is focusing too much on the white and red blood cells (users and number of staff?) rather than the whole flow it allows.

I’d be keen to see them find a way to measure this planetary pulse and then find revenue streams which only work when that flow become more healthy. To me, that’s the best way to ensure the sustainability and future health of this great service I certainly have come to know and love.

Digital Nomad and my flexi-tools for value creation

What are the tools that you use to get around town and do ‘your thing?’ In the last few weeks, I’ve seen an increase in the number of people posting about what they use to remain virtual in the new world of work. I think we are all heading towards a world which is not so organisation based, but vocational and community based. The first part of that long journey is happening now – with people discussing how they continue to remain productive and valuable (to clients, networks and family) without remaining geographically constrained.

Hugh McLeod wrote recently about Digital Nomands whilst a blog he referred to in that post, Digital Nomads, contained a post from Jay White discussing how he went about mixing his personal and professional life, which I found interesting. Cameron McGrane is also always up-to-date on different ways to get create value from anywhere. So, I thought I would add to the chorus and discuss how I am trying to get a little less ‘place bound’ and more ‘value orientated’ as we move towards a vocational community future.

iGoogle and GMail: Jay alluded to this in his post, and I probably don’t utilise it enough, but the fact that it holds and presents my personal email to me as well as my RSS feeds and other apps means that I can access my conversations (not just my emails) easily from anywhere. In the future, I’m keen to continue adding to the functions I use iGoogle for.

 eLance:I’ve only just discovered this, and truth be-told, I haven’t yet won work on it or contracted work out through it but it is certainly a space I will utilise going forwards. The ability to easily delegate and sub-contract work out is huge for me and promises much. I look forward to experimenting with uses for this in the coming months.

twitter:Is on my Treo primarily, which goes with me everywhere. It’s a mobile community, and allows me to keep in touch with most things going on to a key group of people in my life. It also allows me to connect with new, interesting people for both work and play.

campfire: Again, I’ve just discovered this but look forward to using it more to have (and record) conversations from anywhere. It’s been helpful mainly at the moment working with Ross Hill on a variety of different things, but promises much in terms of creating global discussions (read, facilitating vocational communities).

Monkey on the back: This one is a fun one, but helps in keeping things on the agenda. You can place a monkey on someones back, which kindly reminds people to complete or do the tasks you set them. It’s passive aggressive, and puts a smile on peoples faces rather than invoking that ‘crap, I forgot to do that’ feeling commonly associated with forgotten tasks.

Crumpler bag: This one is often forgotten by many digital nomads, but is probably one of the most important. I upgraded to a Crumpler backpack earlier this year and have not looked back. It carries everything I need: Laptop, cords, books, notebooks, jumpers etc as well as numerous other things which you may or may not need to include on a day out. Check out flickr for more evidence of people using their bags to carry their lives.

I also use a host of others, such as delicious, friendfeed, facebook, amazon, iTunes, laptops, skype and many more. Above, I have tried to highlight some of the other tools which may prove useful for your use in creating a less location based work-life.

Brand Me – The Chris Brogan eBook

I’m not a huge fan of the ol’ eBook – but I’m quickly learning to appreciate and value the contents of them as I go. The latest one that struck me – Chris Brograns ‘Personal Branding for the Business Professional.’

As most of you will know by now, I’m a huge advocate of the Brand Me lifestyle. Tom Peters wrote the seminal article in Fast Company some 12 years ago now, but Chris’s latest work comes from a place of true experience rather than the ‘Practicum/Theory’ piece from Tom. Have a read and see what you think – I particularly liked the following points:

 1) Your Own Company: Each opportunity is a chance to learn a new skill and add a new experience. I too don’t really see a resume in the traditional sense. I want a story to tell someone about what I have done. I try to hunt for interesting projects as often as I can.

2) Innovate and be a scout. I’ve read a lot about this recently. I think it falls upon you as a personal brand to be innovative and blaze a new trail…even if the trail is small/not often used or even entirely uninteresting to most people. The fact that you have created the path is evidence of another option or experience someone might use in their own project. Blaze often, blaze weird things and then see where the path takes you. Often, I find several paths I beat seem to come together to create one really valuable path for my client/project/partners.

3) Read widely: I read often. Someone once told me that the average Corporate CEO reads about 12 books a year. As CEO of Brand You, it’s a responsibility that you must accept. Check out different blogs like 800-CEO-read and build an Amazon wish-list which people can check out on Friendfeed etc etc to build a list of good titles that may pique your business professional bone, then link/blog about them. Get Love is the Killer Ap for a good introduction to the professional-reading world, and become a love cat.

Finally – follow interesting brands on the net. Chris alludes to many in his eBook but some of my favourites are: Pat Allan, who is living the next installment of the brand me life by connecting with a truly (amazing) global vocational community, Col Duthie. who is trying to help blaze a trail of international co-existence between the business, government and non-profit sectors and Ross Hill , who has just gotten back on the blogging-bike to better discuss his growing internet empire.

A great giving proposition. How 'made to stick' meets social gifting.

How do you get a product to appeal to a certain market, get your brand to stick at once, and then make people proud to wear it? One of the better reads I had this year was the book Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath, who also write in Fastcompany monthly. The book focuses on how to make ideas ‘sticky’ and memorable. The authors would love the business model being followed by the company, TOMS Shoes.

The company sells great looking shoes, but then again, so do many cobblers. The key ingredient in the success of the TOMS Shoes brand, is the great social affirmation that comes from buying a pair. For every pair of shoes purchased, the company’s owner, Blake Mycoskie, delivers a pair to a needy child.

Simple. Emotional. Concrete. Winner.

Buy these shoes, and a poor child no longer walks barefoot. It is incredibly sticky, and a great badge of honour for those walking around in the Western world sporting a pair of TOMS.

We deal a lot with the idea of ‘badges of honour’ at World Vision – trying to find a way to give people a feeling that they belong to a tribe when they support one of our causes. The white armband is a good example of this, as ripped from the Lance Armstrong ‘Livestrong’ from years ago. (Do you know they sold 52 Million of those LIVESTRONGS!!!! amazing!). The TOMS messaging will re-appear I’m sure in a world where social conscience is a key pillar of a persons image. By social gifting, in return for purchase of a product, companies can allay their customers world guilt whilst at the same time, create a tribal community feel to their brand. ‘I’m a TOMS wearer…therefore I am.’

Livestong…52 million times!