Archive for category Social Media Club

The State of Social Media. (A Conversation in Austin)

iweozs30yz1rcfmw7jk2_400x400When we started to advance Social Media as an industry or field of practice back in 2006, I had the highest hopes for our future. I saw social media as an opportunity to not only bring people together, but to bring people from different backgrounds together. Just as Howard Rgeingold had explained in his book Virtual Community, but instead of being in the fringes, it would be at the core of society. I also saw social media as the force for organizational transformation, bringing transparency and openness to companies and governments alike with societal change forcing a new wave of change management.

Unfortunately, as Shel Israel explained to me many many moons ago, we tend to overestimate change in the short term and underestimate it over the long term.

As social media has evolved, SMC is also facing change. While many cities have found a way to persist, others have become a bit more quiet. Perhaps remaining as a strong online community as Austin has done without a lot of in person events, or just folding altogether. This is actually normal and healthy. Change is a constant and is required for any community in order to remain relevant and valuable to its members.

The question becomes what do we need? What do we want? What are we willing to do to have it?

While I’m not seeking to get involved in the organizational structure discussion, I am interested in getting more engaged with the community here in Austin now that I will be down here regularly over the months ahead. So I want to talk to some other folks who care about what’s going on in social media today – to share experiences, insights and yes, miseries too. While social is now pervasive as a medium, it’s less then optimal as a profession.

In recent weeks I’ve spoken to way too many people who are struggling, who are undervalued by management and who still don’t have an easy+valid way of proving their ROI. So while social is amazing in so many ways, it’s not yet widely honored for its true potential which means it’s not getting the investment it deserves which means it’s not getting honored for its value… Ugh.

So this isn’t going to be a pity party. Not in the least. It is going to be whatever we want to make it together as a round table conversation with whoever shows up. I’ll start with deeper remarks on the subject to kick things off, talking about the why’s and whatnots as I see it, then open up for questions and ongoing group conversation.

So what is the State of Social Media from your perspective? Share in the comments and if you are in Austin, come join us next Tuesday at 630pm at the Ants Eye View offices in North Austin.

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It’s Time for a Forward Thinking Conversation. It’s time for a #ReOrg

Time for a new conversation. Time for a #ReOrgWe live in an amazing time. A time where we are able to not only stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before us, but also where we can be lifted by our peers and give them a boost too.

When we started to broaden the conversation around social media back in 2006, we engaged in a dialog around the principles and practices which we hoped a more social future might bring us over many months. We debated what the proper language should be. We stood our ground. We compromised. We read the writing on the wall and acquiesced when it was clear that something other then our position was winning the day.

The majority of the people who participated in the early social revolution joined not for their egos or their popularity, they joined to make a difference out of a deep seated set of beliefs. They engaged with each other because they believed the power to create change was in our hands. That the difference making we needed in the world was within each of us, and that it was our responsibility to do something with it. We did unconferences, BarCamps, Social Media Camps and Social Media Breakfasts. We joined clubs, we recast societal beliefs about what was possible and we shared too much information about ourselves!

We learned the power of the tools to organize ourselves in support of our causes by building relationships and sharing. We learned that it wasn’t about the number of people who showed up, we learned it was about who showed up and the fact that we cared about similar things, we cared about making the future better, we cared about fixing what was broken with marketing and we cared about advancing similar values. We learned that our words mattered, and that those words transformed by a # could become something, a hashtag, that enabled us to connect with our tribes and our interests.

As I look back now, we had so much right in those early days. It really was about the distribution of power. Which is why I am disappointed that our original intention of fixing our broken systems and transforming the world through social technology has only sprouted as a small seedling of true change inside organizations instead of becoming a fast growing oak. Though surprising, it makes sense that many of the early social media evangelists have moved to other fields and areas of focus, some completely eschewing any professional relationship to social media.  I am certainly not alone in abandoning a previously deep association with social media in search of a new fire to light the revolution. That list is too long to mention, though perhaps you might want to chime in here yourself in the comments to share why you have or haven’t.

What I can tell you from our more recent history is that many of us who saw social as a catalyst for a fundamental transformation to the market and the pillars of society moved into social business. Many are still fighting that fight today, and despite my belief that Social Business is Dead, I applaud these modern Don Quixote’s for continuing the fight, for not giving up and for continuing to create positive change every day. They are indeed the true believers, and while some of them may be unhappy with me for dampening the embers of the smoldering fire instead of pouring on more fuel, I am grateful for their persistence and their valor.

As I said then and as I believe more than ever today, the principles aren’t wrong or misdirected. However, in the war of words that is central to the battle for the soul of our organizations, fighting under the banner of social business is a losing proposition – the modern equivalent to knowledge management. It’s just not winning the hearts, minds and slices of the budgetary pie necessary for our shared vision to become reality as quickly as we need the change to be the reality.

Unfortunately I have come to feel the same way about the “Future of Work” discussion and movement, despite the fact that it is the direction where my social business cohorts have headed. It’s hard to talk about the future of something when you haven’t created a shared vision upon the present that is emerging and what distinctions must be embraced and elevated.

What can we do about it?

So when I look back on how we won the broader debate that launched the social media movement and the wider industry at large, I am now asking you to join me once again in a collective effort for mutual benefit. I am asking for you to take what we have learned, to cash in our social capital and to invest our reputations, our hearts, and our minds into a conversation about what is next. A conversation about what needs to change, about what matters most, about what we want it to be and about how we describe it to others. A conversation about where we are at and where we are going. Perhaps more importantly, I ask you to join me in a conversation about how we prove the value in a measurable and tangible way beyond the ‘duh’ that supported the social media sales pitch.

It’s time for us all to come together and invest ourselves into reimagining and reorganizing our resources and structural models for managing organizations and creating value. It’s time for us to work together to orchestrate a resurgence of visionary innovation that inspires both change agents and this great millennial generation into standing up and speaking out for a better way. To stand against the folly and ignorance inherent in many organizational hierarchies. To join a conversation that will illuminate the dark corners of our work worlds into which our leaders do not currently see, a conversation that will highlight what works and what doesn’t. To stand with the courage of your beliefs again and speak truth to power.

Our institutions are failing us. Education is too expensive, making access to knowledge harder and turning wisdom into a scare resource. Government is  stagnant and putrid, using fear to destroy the common interests that bind us and dividing us in a way that surely signals a Jeffersonian ‘fall’. Our corporations appeal less and less to just about everyone – including their customers, their employees and even their leaders. Many who have achieved some station in life are resting in that space and opting out of the fight, tired of the perennial struggle between doing what’s right and what’s politically expedient. While a wider swath of humanity is self actualizing and realizing their ability to live a life on purpose and not accepting less than what they truly deserve, the system is still working against them on many levels.

Why? Now that’s a better question – because we know better, but too many of us accept it as “just the way things are”. I don’t think we can afford that way of thinking any longer. I’ve spent my life tilting at the windmills, as I know many of you have. If we can’t knock down the broken windmill with our lances of inspiration, I say it’s time for us to build our trojan horse. It’s time for us to come together once again and develop a collective vision for our future and a common language that will define and support that vision. It’s time for a bigger conversation.

There is room for each of us to have a unique take and a unique contribution for which we deserve to earn respect, recognition and incomes. But without working together towards our common vision and connecting the dots in a way that simplifies the inherent complexity of our shared vision for organizational leaders, the institutions themselves may just fail completely before we ever get a chance to save it.

While failure is often a prerequisite of exponential breakthroughs, we need not accept this as a fait accompli. We already recognize many of the challenges and the looming failures, so why not begin to work towards saving us all from the unnecessary pains and waste seems to be an inevitability. We already have a vision of the future of work. We have a vision for what a social business looks like. We have an understanding of how we need to reimagine our organizations to create shared value. We know what is necessary to unleash the fullest potential of the human spirit. So let’s set about doing that now, and doing that together in conversation that advances our field and inspires others to think differently and act differently.

So what are the words that will serve as our campfire around which we will gather for camaraderie and warmth? What is the language of the movement that encapsulates the multiple distinctions and insights that collectively are driving us towards a future free of today’s most commonly accepted defects? I don’t think it’s social business, I don’t think its future of work. I’m open to other suggestions, but for now I’d like to start this conversation focused on what I have consistently heard as the most fundamental change we must realize – a change in organizational structure and governance. A re-imagination of what an organization looks like and a rethinking of what we mean by work.

While we may not yet have adequate language for what we envision, I submit for your consideration that we are talking about a widespread #ReOrg. The reorganization of our mindsets, methods and measures about the organization, about our relationships to them as humans and about the fundamental practice of management as the underlying operating system that governs its behaviors. It’s time to create a more holistic view of how we create value, and especially with a focus on how we can optimize our ability to create shared value that benefits society as a whole instead of just those who have won the war for control.

Yes, it’s time for a #ReOrg. Are you ready? Let’s talk about it.

Join the conversation and add your voice. But don’t just add your voice, engage with others. For every post or insight shared, comment on or engage several others around their point of view. Keep your minds and hearts open. There is no single answer, but I do believe that we have collectively learned enough about what works and what doesn’t for us to discover the shared vision we have that is underlying our individual efforts. So let’s bring that into the light of day and collectively nurture our #ReOrg.

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Moving on from Deloitte, Returning to Independent Startup Life

Chris Heuer Celebrates by Sabering the Veuve

Chris Heuer Celebrates by Sabering the Veuve, Photo by Michael O'Donnell

Today is my last day working for Deloitte Digital/Deloitte Consulting as a Specialist Leader focused on Social Business and Digital Strategy. I will be hanging out with my soon to be former colleagues a little bit at our Deloitte Lounge here at SxSW later today and enjoying the rest of SxSWi and all the #badgeless events this weekend. I hope to see you here in Austin and talk to you about what’s next personally, maybe even do some work with you.

I know you don’t have time to read this whole story, especially if you are here at SxSW, so here are the highlights.

  • Deloitte was a great experience, but I want to return to my entrepreneurial roots and start something from the ground up.
  • I’m a tech/software product guy, who has been advising others on their products for too long, so I will be building an Enterprise SaaS startup to launch into Alpha in the next 90 or so days. Need my technical co-founder now, starting discussions to finalize who this weekend.
  • While getting the product ready, I will relaunch my AdHocnium network consulting agency to do Venture Consulting with startups and work with a handful of big brands.
  • I will refocus some of my time on making Social Media Club more sustainable, and sharing more insights around Social Business and Social Reengineering with our community.
  • I will finally be writing my book, now that I have learned some more discipline, improved my writing skills and realized I have a unique perspective to share not seen/heard elsewhere.
  • I am also getting involved in some other community projects to support the great work of some close friends, like John C. Havens and The H(app)athon Project and raising some money for the High Fives Foundation out of Tahoe.
  • I need to hire an assistant right away. Looking for one who lives in San Francisco ideally, to manage the other virtual assistants and contractors for me – and to manage me too! Bonus if you are at SxSW this weekend and find me to talk.

I actually have 8 really big ideas, and would love to start a lab to do them all, but I’ve gotten down to one that’s been validated by a few really smart people in the past two weeks. That said, I am still interested in getting my original Insytes idea produced, and from my work with the American Heart Association, I have a health startup in mind too – but ultimately – I will be working over the next few months to get the alpha built, raise funds and gain the market awareness for the concept that we will need to be successful with this enterprise SaaS product. Only time will tell what the startup actually becomes, and what it is called, so stay tuned. I will launch the site soon to get applications for the alpha, and then will be raising an angel round from friends and family.

For those of you unfamiliar with my history, I have been ahead of the curve quite a bit over the years. At my first startup we were doing webmail a couple of years before Hotmail, but unable to pursue it aggressively. My CTO at the time said we just couldn’t run a bunch of corporate sites, our local content network VCN and tens of thousands of free webmail accounts off of the 486dx33 pseudo server we had at the time. I also created one of the first business plans for what is now thought of as social media command centers, then focused on conversational intelligence via Conversal. Ultimately, my dna is in numerous other now big company technologies and failed startups I advised as they were launching or maturing.

My Time at Deloitte

There are so many great people at Deloitte, like Bill Briggs and Mark White, who I worked with on the past two Deloitte Tech Trends as well as both client facing and internal projects. They taught me a great deal. They aren’t just smart, they are cool and passionate – but their gift for explaining complex topics with just the right words amazed me during every interaction. Then there are the Dan’s, Dan Nieves and Dan Elbert, who helped unearth some of the most important insights around the role of engagement and corporate strategy. My original counselor and mentor Matt Law, my close friends Nelson Kunkel and Adrian Chan, the folks at the Center for the Edge, SocBiz PMO Lead Colleen Chan, KM/Community Manager extraordinaire Stan Garfield, head of Deloitte Digital US Mike Brinker and way too many others to list here. While the travel and work was demanding, and at times I allowed myself to be a bit too stressed, it was an invaluable experience which I will cherish fondly, and for which I am forever grateful to John Hagel and Eric Openshaw.

My role at Deloitte was as multi-faceted as my interests, which is why this was a hard decision in several ways, but easier in others – even more so then leaving behind the security of a steady paycheck. I was a change agent. One of Deloitte’s “Social Media Guru’s” (though I still dislike being called that). I was an internal consultant on digital strategy, social media and social business for our firm leadership, the KM group, marketing, public relations, internal communications, enterprise applications, partners around the world, and numerous other special projects. I was a client facing consultant and proposal contributor around social media, social business, innovation, and platform strategy. I supported over 80 sales pursuits with some of the largest companies and government organizations in the world. I was a mentor and informal counselor to many of my junior colleagues. I lead the marketing, communications, training and adoption strategy work thread for our global Yammer roll-out, which supposedly was one of the most successful in the world. I edited or contributed to numerous articles for publication bylined by senior partners of the firm. I participated in webinars through our D-Brief’s program. I spoke at numerous internal and external events. I was published on our Deloitte Tech Blog and even in the CIO Journal. I advocated for enterprise user rights. I collaborated with our innovation teams. I was part of the “digital dozen” team that supported our acquisition of Ubermind and the subsequent launch of Deloitte Digital. I was, and still am, #drivenby_ transformative opportunities. I was a provocateur who stayed within the lines when necessary, and redrew them when necessary. I was, and always will be, part of the global Deloitte family.

But even with all of these contributions, I was most proud to have helped the amazing executive, mission and communications teams from the American Heart Association with the development of their Social Media strategy, and eventually a Digital Transformation Strategy, to seize the opportunity presented by digital engagement strategy to fulfill their mission. During that work we developed some amazing tools that will enable organizations to manage engagement at scale. There will be much more about the Engagement Matrix and Engagement Wheel to come in the book I am writing in the next few months and the blog posts that will lead up to it. I am also now on the American Stroke Association’s Advisory Committee and expect to continue to support AHA for many years to come.

I also worked with some incredibly passionate people from the United States Postal Service, working diligently to find a path to continuing viability in our digital future for one of the hardest working federal agencies I have ever seen from the inside out. They were connecting everyone of our citizens for news, love and commerce way before the internet was here, and continue to provide that service to every door in the United States today. I will be speaking atthe National Postal Forum, on insights around creating Mail Moments using outside in and customer experience design thinking on March 18 in San Francisco.

All in all, there were just so many great moments, teams, clients and experiences, it’s hard to share them all here. In fact, some of the best of them I will never be able to talk about due to confidentiality agreements etc… but it was awesome.

Next Up, AdHocnium

AdHocnium is a network consulting agency I started with some incredible people back in 2009. My title then, as it will be now, is tied to what I believe I do best for clients, I am a Creative Catalyst. The network never really got off the ground as I made some mistakes in the operations and the commitments I requested of the bright people who affiliated together to form it. I know what to do differently now, so I am going to do it and seek someone else to manage the essential operations so I can transition away to my startup full time once I get funding for it but still stay involved in the great work opportunities it will generate working with clients who really get it.

There are a few core ‘services as products’ AdHocnium will offer including:

ADVICE

This isn’t the normal advice you might get from a traditional consultant. This is the holistic kind you will only get from an agency with our unique set of connections, experiences and brain power.

  • Amplification (promotion and awareness)
  • Digitalization (strategic thinking/planning)
  • Validation (of your ideas, products or campaigns)
  • Innovation (creative insights and big ideas)
  • Connections (business development, alliances and partnerships)
  • Education (bringing you the knowledge you need, when you need it)

Venture Consulting

For startups who can’t afford the best and brightest (because they are smart and scrappy and want to use their funds for maximum impact) we will offer reduced fees to a select few clients in exchange for some equity in their company.

Social Business Strategy

We know everyone leading the social revolution and will create a workshop to bring those leading authorities to you to empower you to uncover the transformative opportunities of becoming a Social Business. The scope and scale of these projects range from a one-time workshop to a full blown assessment and strategic plan.

More on all of this will be available over the coming days…

Other Important Work

There are a few other select activities I will be diving into over the coming weeks…

“Serve the Market”

I’ve been putting off the writing of my book for way too long. With the experience of the last two years at Deloitte, and my previously developed insights, I am going to get my book done this year. The working title is “Serve the Market” and will include things like customer experience life-cycles, clearing the trust filter and the engagement curve. It will also feature some invaluable tools you can use to manage engagement at scale and insights on how to better connect your organization for the maximum creation of shared value. More to come on this in April.

Social Media Club

As mentioned earlier, I will be spending some time invested in growing Social Media Club again. I don’t think anyone out there is doing a great job of supporting internal/corporate social media and social business practitioners, so that will be one area of particular focus. I will also work to develop a new SMC media literacy program, which was at the core of what I was trying to accomplish when I founded SMC. I’d also like to support some research projects from other great organizations we have long supported like SNCR and the Community Round Table.

The H(app)athon Project

I am also proud to announce I was asked to join The H(app)athon Project Advisory Board and have accepted. A brainchild of our dear friend John Havens and his colleagues, this is a really big idea, supported by the United Nations and some of the biggest corporations and academic institutions in the world. In short, they are a pioneering group of people who believe that GDP is no longer the best economic indicator of success – that instead, happiness/well-being is a greater overall measure of quality of life and economic prosperity. So Happathon aims to generate ideas, and ultimately an app/service, that fuses together big data, social data, Internet of Things, Quantified Self and a few other ‘movements’ so that we can see, in near real time, a relative happiness score for different regions/countries/states and communities. I am co-hosting the San Francisco kick off event on March 20 at NextSpace Union Square in San Francisco. Join us.

Philanthropic Endeavors

I don’t have enough money yet to be making personal donations to a lot of great causes, nor do I have the time, but I have a network and I have some ideas that might help them. Bringing this all together, I am hoping to help raise more funds for American Heart Association and others.

Right now, I am starting with a little online fundraiser and perhaps an in person party in North Lake Tahoe to support the High Fives Foundation. After meeting and being inspired by the story of Grant Korgan at the #Snowcial conference last week, this great organization came clearly into view. When Grant shared his story of his recovery from near spinal destruction after an accident, it moved me to tears. When I learned how not only his wife, but the founder of High Fives was there for him, to motivate his recovery, I decided I wanted to do something to help others.

Turns out, I won a snowboard in the beginners category of our Snowcial EpicMix Race, so I thought why not raffle it off to raise some funds and some awareness for them. More on that later today, or you can place your advance order for the raffle tickets by emailing me at Chris@adhocnium.com. They will be $10 each and we will be set up to take orders online shortly.

Whew

Well, that seems like a lot of stuff I am taking on once again. Too much for any one person to do perhaps. But I don’t plan to do it alone, nor will I be doing it all at once. I plan to get leverage and I plan to eventually move to focusing 95% of my time on this startup I am building once it gets funding. Turns out, most of the other things I am doing, especially the book, will be very beneficial for the newco.

While it is hard to be leaving Deloitte, right now is the perfect time to seize on these great market opportunities and return to my entrepreneurial roots. While I never really had a ‘boss’ at Deloitte and was given leeway to pursue whatever I thought best with my time, I never really could call my own shots completely either. Ultimately, Deloitte is an audit company and has a responsibility to the public that requires us to have absolute independence, to not speak about the companies we audit positively or negatively. This was really good training and helped me shake off my role of being a ‘vocal critic’, but also kept me out of the last political cycle among other things in which I really would have liked to have been actively participating.

Who knows, I may end up back there someday, but for now, I am excited to be back within the startup community, and working my ass off to change the world for the better using technology, my insights into human behavior and change management. Pay attention to this space, there is a lot that is about to happen…

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I’ve Joined Deloitte Consulting LLP

Since a few of my colleagues at Deloitte began tweeting about it Monday night, and my friend Luke Fretwell (founder of GovFresh) retweeted it yesterday, I realized the cat was out of the bag and I couldn’t wait any longer to talk about it myself. So I mentioned it briefly last night at our Social Media Trends 2011 event for Social Media Club San Francisco and a bunch of attendees tweeted it out only to be picked up more widely.

I am really excited to announce I have taken a position at Deloitte Consulting LLP as a Specialist Leader  (aka Senior Manager) with a focus on Social Media, Enterprise 2.0, Innovation and beyond. I am perhaps even more excited about the extraordinary people I’ve met at the firm so far and the tremendous potential we have for continuing to build out a great consulting practice that supports some of the best companies in the world who are Deloitte clients, or soon will be.

I was hoping to get a better handle on my surroundings and to better define my role in the organization before talking about this publicly, but as we have been saying for so long, “you can’t control social media.” So here’s the short version of a longer story we will be talking more about in the near future:

  • Big thanks to my friend and colleague John Hagel for making the introduction last summer that lead to this opportunity and the many senior partners with whom I will be collaborating.
  • I am going to be based out of the San Francisco office, but expect to be traveling all across the country.
  • I get to work with an incredible team, in what is known as the Social Computing and Collaboration group under the Technology Strategy and Architecture practice within Deloitte Consulting LLP.
  • I am staying on as Chairman of Social Media Club and will remain active in an evangelist role and fulfilling my board duties while my wife Kristie Wells will stay on as President and continue to build out the association with our Gamma Chapter Leaders.
  • I made this decision because its the right sort of environment and the right sort of smart people who can enrich my professional life, help me seize some of the opportunities that I see in the market (such as holistic business strategy) and where I can contribute to the greater well being of the organization in a multitude of ways.

For now, that’s all I can really say, not only because we will still be doing an official media alert or something like it, but also because there are some things we still have to figure out together. What I can say is that its going to be an amazing journey, and I am very much looking forward to 2011 and beyond.

If you would like to schedule an interview with me, you should reach out to Deloitte PR. If you are looking for a job, check out Deloitte’s open job positions and see some of the reasons I decided to join. If you are a Deloitte client and want to talk to me about your projects, reach out to your team lead and they will figure out what to do to get me engaged.

Disclaimer: Of course, none of the statements here reflect the views or opinions of Deloitte, they are all my own personal observations and statements. All links to the Deloitte Web site are made for your convenience. I am merely sharing my personal perspective on a significant personal life event, taking on my first ‘real job’ in over 10 years, when I previously worked for the United States Mint as Chief of eBusiness.

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Sony Dash and Social Media Club Tweetup

We are really excited to be working with our good friend Sukhjit from Sony’s Social Media team to host a tweetup in San Francisco on Thursday June 17 from 6-8pm at the Westfield Center downtown. The tweetup will take place next to a recently opened kiosk for their Sony Dash product on the 3rd floor near Bloomingdales.  In addition to good conversation with friends and Social Media Club members, people who register in advance will get a chance to win their very own Sony Dash (a $200 value). You can get an extra chance to win by checking in to the kiosk on Foursquare that day and showing one of the organizers, and another chance to win if you wear your Social Media Club t-shirt. (t-shirts are sent to Professional members of Social Media Club).

As a little background, the Sony Dash is sort of like a next generation alarm clock, but so much more. They call it a personal internet viewer and according to our good friend Jeffrey Sass, it’s not only cool, but is an incredibly useful social connectivity tool. In fact, when we spoke with him recently at SF Music Tech, he told us how cool it was one day when he woke up and saw our pics from our Cabo San Lucas trip show up on his Dash.  Personally, I can’t wait to get mine and set it up (very excited to be given one as part of our compensation for helping organize and promote the event).

The tweetup is pretty straightforward – Sony is setting up a sort of lounge there with adult beverages and some light appetizers. Folks will of course get a chance to check out the Dash, but mostly we will be just hanging out in the mall, just like the good old days… with a bit of modern social flair. It’s a good chance to talk about our increasingly connected lifestyles and just hanging our with friends. It’s also a chance for you to get a last minute gift for dad for Father’s Day, which is Sunday June 20.

Please take a moment to register in advance (so you can get your chance to win a Sony Dash, you must be present to win) and we look forward to seeing you there.

[disclosure, Sony has hired Kristie Wells and myself to help organize the tweetup and is a sponsor of our Social Media Club San Francisco/Silicon Valley meeting on Tuesday January 15 on Geolocation where you will also have a chance to win a Sony Dash as a door prize drawing.]

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On a personal note…

Chris and Kristie and the Cabo ArchIt’s been a while since I blogged once again. Since pointing out how little I could trust American Airlines communications last month in talking about its broken promises I have been busy in mind if not on socnets (and they never did reply again to my follow-on communications, nor did the guy who worked on their Twitter account @aairwaves stay on top of it, or get back to me). But I digress and I give those airline people too many pixels as it is…

Since I haven’t been out and about a lot, I am getting the same questions over and over, so I thought I should at least take a few moments and lay out a quick personal update about life, health, work and the near future. The vacation with Kristie to Cabo (and the brief visit to Miami for my grandad’s 94th birthday and a few business meetings) was a great trip, but did not afford the time for reflection and plan development I hoped to find. No, instead I returned needing a vacation from my vacation. 12 days on the road is really way too easy for me now, but my body still feels the consequences. Regardless, I am here back in San Francisco for 2 weeks before heading to Montreal for Webcom where I will finally deliver my keynote on Serve the Market and run a session on community management with my wife and Social Media Club co-founder Kristie Wells.

My Health

So it looks like the health scare I had in Sweden was a result of a lot of bad things, but thankfully not an indicator of a bigger problem with my heart. While there is not specific diagnosis once again (UgggghhhhhH!) the trouble that seemed to be a minor heart attack was probably closer to a panic attack, caused by sleep deprivation, exhaustion, stress, not taking my blood pressure medication and perhaps an inflamation of my chest/rib cage known as costochondritis. Of course, I can always blame SxSW and the craziness that we had with the Social Media Clubhouse and particularly late night on that party bus 🙂

At this point, I haven’t had any chest pains in weeks, though it did last after my return for a bit. My blood pressure is now down to a more manageable 145/85 or thereabouts and getting better every day with the meds and workouts leading the way.  While traveling last month I lost almost 20 pounds which I managed to gain back after only a few weeks back in the states. Now I have to get all the way back down again, but I am working on it.  Chief strategy being curtailing drinking beyond wine with meals and one or two social drinks. That should go a long way to better health just in itself.

Work

I have a brilliant business idea I hit upon while in Sweden that I really want to pursue. Everyone, including angel investors I have pitched thinks its a brilliant idea, and I have a college buddy waiting for the plan who would likely fund it fully and many other friends in the venture business I could get behind it, but its still risky and I need to start making real money soon after postponing income for too long this past year and not picking up as many clients as I would have liked. I also still have a lot of commitments which aren’t making me any money at all right now, which I need to 1) finish with and 2) stop taking on.

Social Media Club is at a crucial point right now and the pieces are falling into place for a major change to how it operates that for too long has been waiting in the wings. In order to fully accomplish our mission, we need to generate more income for the organization, become more structured with our network of chapters and empower more people to address the core activities on a full time basis.  Hiring Justin Herman has been an incredible good fortune for us and the community as a whole, but we need more paid staff and that means its time to shore up our ‘business model’ and get to work. Which is what we are doing with the new site, but even that is a risk as I am sure the new model, despite its necessity and obviousness won’t be well received by all. Which means we have a real challenge in front of us that we will begin to address more formally on our local chapter leaders call next MON and thereafter with the launch of a real membership drive. (it was supposed to all happen at SxSW but our development team really screwed us over so we have to get a new team up and running right now and fix all the crap they left half finished and broken).

The bottom line though is we can’t keep doing this on a volunteer basis any longer. We need a real professional organization that is looking out for the community, not these psuedo efforts by people with for-personal-profit and self-aggrandizing motives. As I said during the Business Wire panel last month in San Francisco, the problem with Social Media douchebags is not going away, and someone needs to address it properly. I intend Social Media Club to serve this important role of community standards bearer. A compass holder if you will. Its more complicated of course, and its deserving of a longer post which I am indeed writing this month…

Then yesterday, GigaOm wrote about this executive search for a ‘Head of Social’ at Google and all the current thinking/planning was thrown into a kerfuffle. I mean, where else could I get a chance to make a real impact using all the intellectual tools and talents at my disposal. With a background not only in virtual community, but general web strategy, software development, organizational change, user experience, marketing, evangelism and community leadership, it would seem a perfect fit. More so when you consider that my vision in 2002 for The Noble Pursuit included an element I called ‘The Global Anthropologist Project” as an effort to harness what is now called the wisdom of crowds and has been manifested not only by Wikipedia but also by many of the social search functions Google has already adopted but which widely has not been realized as I had envisioned it yet. It would really be fabulous to take on the challenge, working with Bradley Horowitz, Chris Messina, Joseph Smarr and the rest of the Google team do social right. Completely right for the full golden triangle of user-service-advertiser (or the real USA as its also known 😉 The opportunity is huge and very enticing – it could also potentially mean a huge lift for Social Media Club… but most importantly, it would be a chance for many of the ideas of Insytes to see the light of day. I almost wish I wrote about them more often.

Life, the near future.

At the moment, I have my hands full fixing all the problems with the Social Media Club site and getting it relaunched, getting the Social Media Club business model ramped up properly, organizing about 10-20 events between now and the end of the year, wrapping up a client engagement, looking after my health/losing weight, investing in my relationship with Kristie and finding a way to do a lot of writing.  This post is a step in the right direction for all of it actually. So the near future looks pretty good.

I just need to keep finding my way to the keyboard, the gym and the conversations that matter most, which means being more proactive then reactive and focusing on the important stuff more and the urgent stuff less.  Life is really pretty good right now, just putting one foot in front of the other and not getting overwhelmed by all the big ideas about how things should be in the world in the face of how things actually are… it feels good to make the world the place of our dreams, especially if I get to play the role of George Bernard Shaw’s unreasonable man.

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Socialized Healthcare in Sweden. A Story and Some Comparisons.

Chris Heuer from Hospital Bed and Morphine Hell

Chris Heuer from Hospital Bed and Morphine Hell

First, my apologies to everyone for not getting links in here. I wrote this all evening and just want to get it published. There are some people like Anders, Anders and Thomas who deserve more link love, but its late and I am as you may guess exhausted. This is in essence an unedited diary entry of my experiences of the last 36 hours here in Sweden, getting sick as a foreigner in a socialized health care system. The kind the folks who watch Fox news have been warning you about.

As the last few days have proven to me on a personal level, social media can certainly save your life and make you feel better mentally, so I think it can make you healthier. Though in some cases, as in mine, when someone really doesn’t take a compliment well due to self-esteem and other issues, it can also make one feel quite unsettled. But the outpouring of friendship, support and love over the past two days has been quite touching and has certainly improved my health and my spirit. And for this and so much more, I am deeply grateful to have my friends and #thefamily for support.

I wont go in the long narrative here, you can read that down towards the bottom of this post if you like. The short story is that yesterday I set out from Stockholm early to head to Norrkoping for a daylong brainjam with the @SMCSWE team and friends from Lasso Networks. Anders Abrahamsson arranged for a nice lunch and a little open space that I barely got to experience. Half way through lunch, the chest pain I had been ignoring for over an hour became too much and I asked to be taken to the hospital (called Vrinnevisjukhuset by the way, which has an incredible staff and great Doctors).

With all the talk of the terrible health care provided in socialist medical systems by the conservatives in the U.S., it’s a miracle I am still alive. Funny thing though, not once, did I see a bureaucrat. In fact, when given permission to be discharged, my Dr. had no idea of how much money it might still cost me above the 2,000KR I paid during admission, or what the price of any procedure was. Instead, she was focused on collaborating with her colleagues who treated me previously and coordinating the task at hand with the nurses.

What a novel idea. Dr’s who aren’t concerned with money or insurance or litigation, but rather focused on helping patients get healthy. If this is socialized medicine, I am all for it. First and foremost, it was focused on one thing and one thing only, me as the patient. There goal was getting the patient rested, diagnosed properly and on the road to recovery. There was no one calling a bureaucrat to get approval to have me treated, there was no one checking to see if the procedures were profitable and there was no one there who cared about anything but me.

What did Social Media Have to Do With It?

Besides the fact that this happened during a local Social Media Club event, there was a huge social media component to this major wake up call in my life. Most notably, as Anders Sporring has told me, while the conversation we were supposed to have together didn’t happen, another conversation happened. In the flow. Thomas Selig, who I had never met before not only came to spend time with me, Anders and Anders, but he came back earlier this morning to sit with me as we waited for final results before heading to the train together. In short, though I was thousands of miles from home, I felt like I was home, with my brothers by my side.

And then there were all the twitter brothers and sisters who poured out their support, offering to fly Kristie to Sweden, to house me if I was unable to fly, to fly to get to me and just generally to tell me I was loved and they cared. My eyes swell with tears even now as I write this. The connections we create over these interwebs, when manifested in the real world, or through a simple message across the wire, are real enough to heal and to support. Most of all, its there to drive out the loneliness and the fear of being alone.

Supposedly there is a study going on right now about how social media makes those who connect through it more healthy overall, but I have not been able to find it. The general premise is that 1, social media participants are generally happier which contributes to health in many ways and 2, they have access to more health information by others who openly share their experiences.

Some Comparisons Between Swedish Healthcare Experience and USA

Thankfully, I didn’t have to have an operation, so perhaps I cannot provide a true representation, but I can share what I experienced in checking in, getting diagnosed, getting treated and getting released. Despite my support of healthcare reform in the US, you can count on the following to be only biased against the shoddy care I have received from Kaiser Permanente in the past several years and not by any other political leanings.

In an odd twist of fate, while sitting at The Story Hotel bar the other night, I happened to watch a US energy executive hitting on a lovely business woman (who for some reason didn’t notice his wedding band tan). What he said made me at once want to hit him, and also laugh at how stupid some people are. He actually used as one of his pick up lines “well I better eat my vegetables now, because if I get sick in Obama’s healthcare system I am gonna be in real trouble”. Seriously. He actually believes everything that Fox news has had to say on the healthcare debate. Probably never even changed the channel. OK, so that was a little political, but lets get to the reality of my experience.

What was the same? Well, it was, as Mike McGrath said, still a hospital. Doctors and nurses and all that stuff. It was warmer somehow, despite being sterile and looking like a hospital. It was on a lake and I had a beautiful window overlooking that lake. The intake process was slow, just as it is at home, but this time, I could see her concern to get the other nurses moving to take me in as soon as possible into a treatment room, which is different then at home. She actually suggested that Anders girlfriend Karin finish the paperwork so they could get me in there quicker. Also the same, once I got into the cardiac care unit, I was in a room with multiple beds. When it was time to get an x-ray, I had to wait a little while to be taken for it and I had to wait a little while longer then I had hoped to get the results read by the doctor.

What was different, everything else, most notably the attitudes and the level of care they provided. It felt like they cared, and the nurses (especially Maria) did care more then I have ever felt cared for by KP. It felt like a human system, not a machine. When I gave the nurses back-story on prior issues and conditions, they listened. They really listened, and they noted it in the charts (as I noted when others came in on shift changes, because they didn’t start all over form scratch each time). When I told the admitting nurse in ER I didn’t want to take the morphine the Dr. prescribed, she listened, starting with only 2mg instead of the full 5mg the Dr suggested. Once that was in and no reaction happened, then and only then did she increase the dose until the point I was comfortable, but no further. When I needed to get detached from the EKG machine so I could go to the bathroom, she helped me do it. In the US, they would never have let me do that; they would have made me use a bedpan in front of everyone else. They also never would have let me keep my shoes and pants on, no matter how cold the room was and how little they really needed them off in the first place to deal with my chest. The people I shared my room with were so extremely nice. They cared about me and I about them in a way I would never expect in a US hospital. That is of course just something about the people, but its important and it is what my experience about the Swedish people on the whole has been. I love the Swedish people, and now I know why with 100% certainty.

Payment. While I am not sure about my final bill, if there even is going to be one, I paid 2,000KR at check in (about $280). Most importantly, when I asked the Dr. how much it would be or how it worked, she didn’t know. She didn’t care. She is separated from it. Had she been concerned with it as US doctors, I am sure they would have done another few procedures. In fact, they were more concerned with the allergic reaction I had previously experienced with the iodine during a CT scan in the weeks that followed my stomach examinations when weighing whether or not to do a contrast study on my heart. A reaction that my KP doctors didn’t even believe was real (though one nurse later told me over the phone that it happened in less then 0.5% of people). Finally, to top it all off, thank god I was in Sweden where the education system helps citizens learn multiple languages. While there were a few moments of slowed translation thoughts, nearly everyone who cared for me spoke nearly flawless English. Had I been a foreigner in a US hospital, I would have been screwed unless I spoke the local language. I know this cant be used in a fair compare and contrast post, but wow. What a relief, and it helped me recover faster.

What Happened, Heading to Hospital

Shortly after sitting in circle together and having some coffee, I started having chest pains and noticed some pains in my right arm/wrist area. I started some basic breathing exercises and dashed off a DM to my wife Kristie to set up a DR appt for when I got home. Unfortunately, I have had this similar experience 2-3 times in the last 2 months, once requiring us to call the ambulance and 1x during SxSW shortly after having to leave Amanda Coolong to run the daily recap show herself. This time though, it felt different and despite my slow breathing and focus, it wouldn’t go away and seemed to get worse as a splitting headache started while we walked to lunch.

After sitting for lunch a few minutes, it got worse not better and Thomas Selig suggested we take a walk. Which I did reluctantly since I was unable to eat, but also felt terrible for not being able to be present for my friends with whom I came to collaborate on a plan for Social Media Club Sweden and to contribute in anyway I could to their other projects. Long story short, after the walk I felt better but worse and thought it best to go find a doctor. Being so far away from home, I was concerned about this plan of action, but really had no other recourse knowing that 1) I have been on the road for 3 weeks 2) under extreme stress, financial, emotional, professional and otherwise 3) caught a bit of the SXSARS deep in my chest 4) had these prior experiences with chest pain and high blood pressure and 5) was beginning to see things/hallucinate and that scared the bejezzus out of me.

Anders girlfriend Karin took me to the hospital about 10 minutes away, which looked like any hospital you would find in the states. If I had been listening to Fox News and the Republicans the last few months, I would have probably died of fright at the site of it! Thankfully, I don’t believe everything I hear and was happy to be there because the pain had been getting worse and I had been getting more light headed. While you can read the comparisons of the two systems above, what is important here is that I made it to check-in, paid my 2,000 KR (about $280usd) and was brought into the ER to have an EKG hooked up and get some oxygen and determine what the hell was happening.

Everyone except one nurse spoke incredible English, and even she understood well and spoke passably all things considered. In the ER I was scared. I thought I was going to die. My heart was racing, the chest pain was getting worse and the pain in my right arm was also now in my right leg. My headaches was coming and going in waves. Oddly enough (or good for me) my EKG was normal, the same thing I experienced when we called the ambulance for me a few weeks back and chalked it up to a panic attach (which I had several years ago and went to the ER for). But my blood pressure was 190/135 and despite being able to slow my pulse at will through breath control (a game I practiced when laying in the hospital bed last night) I could do nothing to calm my body down. I tried some self administered Reiki but couldn’t focus long enough before I was flooded with worry and fear. Which as I passed through the first few hours were perhaps my 2 biggest enemies.

I can’t believe that I am only at the 30-minute mark of the hospital experience. If you are still reading this, I am sorry for the verbosity but also happy that you care/have an interest.

Ultimately I called Kristie from the ER. I had been crying a lot in there. Not only was I afraid, I was sad and mad at myself. I know better then to party like I was doing and eating as I had been eating and staying up all night. But this is what I thought I had to do. What I must do. So I did it, consequences be damned. Perhaps, if I had gone home after SxSW instead of heading to Europe, things would have been a little different, but I think it would have only postponed the inevitable, so all in all, I am glad it happened here with the friends I have in Sweden.

I cried a lot. My soul hurt as much as my body.

In the ER I was prescribed Morphine, which I didn’t want to take, but the nurse explained (as I know) that my body needed to relax and this would be the best way. She started out with just 2mg, then up to 7, then eventually 10 and finally by the end of the afternoon I had been given 15mg and it only felt like a light buzz, though my thoughts were dopey and slow. Eventually with the EKG normal, and my blood pressure down to 160/110 I was moved to the cardiac care unit and placed in a room with 2 other men.

Still going through diagnosis, most of the rest of the afternoon was spent just laying there, slowly talking to the Doctors and Nurses about my prior history, about what happened and about how I felt. Then Anders A, Anders Sporring and Thomas Selig showed up to check in on me. Despite barely knowing me at all, they stayed at the hospital into the evening as the nurses took blood, as the morphine induced haze wore on and as my panic subsided into being overly worried about how stupid I am for not taking care of my health properly yet after all the close encounters and scares of the past few years.

Having friends around, I decided to reach out to Twitter in the late afternoon to share my story and connect with loved ones. What happened next and is still happening now as others hear about what happened through their tweetstream is nothing short of miraculous. While I have seen such support previously with my mystery stomach problems, the amplification of love I felt and concern sent my way was almost too much to bear. But knowing that you are loved and hoping you are thought of are two different things. The certainty of being connected and being more important then just a simple soul in a hospital bed with no one around was and is one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced. Even the people who wrote nasty notes to me about getting the fuck off of twitter and relaxing were wonderful to read.

When the day doctor went home, and the SMC Sweden crew finally shoved off for the dinner I was supposed to join, the night doctor came on and did a thorough review of my case and an interview with me to determine for himself what may have happened and what might be done. The day doctor had wanted to do a contrast study of my heart using a CT scan, but because of the experience I had last time in a CT scan, with some sort of ‘burning blood’ sensation I had afterwards which is a reaction that occurs in a small number of cases, all doctors ultimately agreed it would be best to not do it and did not see the need given how my condition was appearing.

The nurse, after taking one more blood sample to check and see if I had a cardiac infarction (which I didn’t thank god) dropped off a sleeping pill and I slowly drifted to sleep. I still woke up in the middle of the night around 3 or 330 for some reason despite taking the sleeping pill and I still woke around 430 when someone got put in the 4th bed. But then I finally woke up around 830 for breakfast and another exam by the next shift doctor and the nurse did a finger prick test with my blood sugar reading 6.6, which was good. It was decided I would get a chest x-ray to look at my lungs and then if that was ok I would get released.

For breakfast they put applesauce on my dry cereal and gave me milk and an orange with it. (they say not to eat bananas here that they aren’t good for you). A short while after breakfast I went back to sleep to awake to Thomas Selig who had come all the way back down from his place outside the city to stay with me for a while. We had an incredible conversation all day, just sitting and talking. One of the most surprising and rewarding parts of my trip so far. What an incredible man he is. You are lucky if you get to work with him.

When the nurse came back in the late morning, she did another finger prick test and my blood sugar was high, no good she said. Borderline diabetes, which I have known for some time and honestly just tried to ignore, but I cant anymore. This is perhaps my last ‘warning’ to get this straight and follow a strict diet, which has no room for alcohol, bread and sugar.

The rest of the morning blurred together as they finally took off the EKG monitors, I was able to get up and walk around a little and started feeling a bit, well, a bit more normal I suppose. I was taken for my x-ray and when I came back I ate lunch in the common area. Then Thomas and I chatted as we waited for the news from my x-ray. Being as worried as I am that something major was wrong with me, I wont even begin to tell you what I thought they would find on the x-ray, but it came back negative.

With that news I was told I could just leave. So we gathered my things, grabbed my suitcase and camera they had locked away in an unused office (so used to being in a KP facility where someone might steal it I had asked them to lock up my Canon and my luggage for safety though I need not have been concerned there).

Thomas then drove me to the train station to connect with Anders Sporring for the 1424 train to his town of Marsta, which is where I now sit writing this, feeling 100% better, but also knowing how precious my life is once again and how important it is that I take care of this body. Which means dealing with the depression, the ADD and the feelings of low self esteem that drive me to drink and eat too much. It means dealing with the financial reality that I now face in not generating enough income for the lifestyle I lead and the debts that I carry. Almost everything has to change. I don’t know if I am strong enough to do it. Thankfully I know Kristie is and that together we will make it through this and so much more.

I am so blessed to be a part of #thefamily we have around the world, and especially blessed to have the family Kristie and I make together. Don’t ever take this life for granted. Despite not seeing it every day, in every way you would like to see it, know that you too are loved. You are special. We are all special. Whatever you need will appear and be there to support you, if you just let it into your heart and breathe…

—conclusion — so you can rip me apart for any or all of this, I dont care. I wrote this for me more then for anyone else. I share it so that perhaps it can move someone and help them to see things differently.

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Photos from Lenovo Blogger Nights 2 – CES 2010

Not a lot of time, but I wanted to share the fun from last night with everyone. This was such a blast. We (Social Media Club) are so fortunate to be able to work with such great people at Lenovo along with GDGT and Jeff Pulver on putting this together. Looking forward to one more time tonight…

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Social Media Club House Photos Day 2

Social Media Club House Day #2 - 01If you haven’t seen what we are doing with Social Media Club here in Paris at Le Web, now is the time to pay attention because we are just heating things up. As we prepare to embark on our 3rd day of Parisian adventures before Le Web starts tomorrow, everyone is finally arriving today. After touring Montmartre and Sacre du Cour yesterday, we went to La Cantine for a Social Media Club Paris happy hour.

Today we did a live stream over on Justin.tv talking politics, culture and technology with Fabrice Epelboin from Read/Write Web France. Now we are off on a tour of Paris with Juliette Drumas of Briller en Ville a sort of Daily Candy for Paris (but we think cooler ;).

These are a few of the photos I took that tells the day’s story quite well.

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Lunch For Good Sparks Critical Thoughts

The Lunch For Good event format has really proven to be magical after a fountain of insights erupted during last month’s event discussing critical thinking. In San Francisco on Thursday October 23, 2009 we asked participants “How can online contribution evolve to encourage more critical thought?”

Apparently, it was a powerful question as you can see from the videos we captured summarizing the conversations happening at each of the tables.

I also spoke with Ravit Lichtenberg about the importance of critical thinking and she ended up turning the camera on me. For me personally, having a society in which a greater number of people apply critical thinking to what they are being told by others is essential for the well being and prosperity of everyone. Critical thinking skills are a foundational element of a media literate society, which means it is very important part of Social Media Club’s mission.

So today, as part of my ‘social work’ coming out of last month’s Lunch For Good event, I am seeking support on a project to assemble, organize and if necessary develop an educational program focused on critical thinking for digital citizens. It would seem this project would fit best under the SMC EDU program, but we can discuss details together.  If you are interested in participating, please let us know by commenting below or emailing socialmediaclub at gmail dot com.

So today work begins in earnest on our final Lunch For Good event of this series where we will be focused on how online contribution can evolve to help more people find common ground.  This event speaks directly to what I believe to be one of the biggest problems we face in the world today. The problem of “us vs. them” is something I have been speaking about for a long time as even Apple’s TV ads are further propagating a sense of elitism and social division.

We must transcend looking at the world as a matter of ‘these people are like me and they are ok, but these people over there are not like me so they must be bad’. It is not only based on race, sexual orientation, religion, politics and appearances any longer – today it extends to what brands you wear, what music you like, what social tools you use and even even what your job title is. So today more then ever, its important for us to explore the issue of how do we work to ensure more people can find common ground with one another instead of demonizing others for not being completely homogeneously alike…

The invites are going out over the next few days but if you havent been previously and have not received an invite, you can stillrequest an invitation on the Lunch blog and if we have room as the event approaches, we would be happy to have you participate.

On a closing personal note, I just cant thank JR Johnson, Melissa Cunningham and the whole Lunch.com team enough for sponsoring this great event series and Myles Weissleder for co-producing it with me.  Myles and I are truly blessed to be able to do the work we love and have a client who really wants to contribute to the greater good.

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