Some Formative Sources of My Ideas About Technology

I was musing recently about things I’ve read or otherwise consumed that have stuck with me over the years, things that I keep finding myself coming back to as I work through various ideas about technology innovation and adoption. I thought I would share some long-time favorites–mostly because I think they’re inherently interesting, but also because it might provide some context for other things I write on this blog. Links are provided for the curious. Continue reading

Rant: The Internet Killed the Traditional Marketer

This is part 4 of a five-part series. Read part 1 here. Read part 5 here.

The match that lit this was a comment Ethan Banks made in his latest anti-Klout post:

If you’re in marketing, you need a better way to discover who the influencers are. My recommendation is to engage in the communities you want to market to. Make friends with those people. Find out who matters. It’s more work, but you’ll end up with something much more nuanced and real than a Klout score. You’ll have a relationship with a human being who knows other human beings. That’s where social is *really* at. Community – it’s not just a word.

I read that, set it to stewing on a back burner of my mind, and went back to editing whitepapers. But only for so long. Continue reading

A Bit More on Brand and Communities for Techies

This became part 3ish of a five-part series, part 2 being the Geek Whisperers podcast linked to below. Read part 1 here. Read part 4 here.

The Geek Whisperers were kind enough to invite me to join their podcast a couple of weeks back to talk about vendor-hosted communities as part of the marketing & sales mix. They just posted the results today. We wound up talking more than I expected about “the B word” (Branding). I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised by this, since the whole point of the blog post that kicked off the G-W connection was that certs and these types of communities are built to foster brand loyalty.

Nonetheless, I found this sort of funny since the Branding department tends to be the bane of every product marketer’s existence. They make us spell out things like “Cisco Unified Computing System” or “VMware vCenter Operations Manager” in everything we write even though it makes for really awkward sentences and nobody in the real world ever refers to the products that way anyway. This is a very typical case where official Corporate Branding actually gets in the way of a product acquiring and building on an organic identity within its user base. If your users fondly refer to your product–officially known, let’s say, as the Fortuna Unified Zazzle Zapper 3627–as “FUZZ3k”…go with it sometimes.. Continue reading

Communities of the Faithful

This wound up being Part I of a five-part series. Read the next post here.

Back in December, a friend and I were sitting around shooting the breeze about orchestration and automation, because what else would you talk about on a Saturday afternoon? The talk turned to the political challenges of developing cross-platform tools, and then to innovation more generally. My friend, who has a certain fondness for bombast, demanded at this point, “Why do vendors who have done basically no innovation for years continue to have such intense customer loyalty, while newer companies with actual solutions to the problems the big guys have created struggle to survive?”

Leaving aside the obvious bit about people having natural reservations about ongoing support from a vendor struggling to survive, we concluded that incumbent advantage has at least as much to do with the personal, emotional value that users derive from their association with a particular vendor rather than anything that can be put on a spreadsheet.

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An Ode to C

I actually wrote this several months ago, before I started this blog. Two (really three) great but very different blogs posted this week made me decide to dig it up.


I took some C classes in my early 20’s.

It was mostly for the exposure. I had absolutely no call for anything of the kind in my job at the time, nor any plans to significantly alter my career path. And yet, they’re some of the classes that have stuck with me the most over the years.

Until then, my sole coding experience had been short BASIC programs to create silly graphics with quarter-inch color blocks on Apple IIes in elementary school. This was different.

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Festivals of Light

There’s something that’s long fascinated me about the winter solstice: the uniquely human way we respond to it, and the universality of that response. Animals respond to the onset of winter either by migrating or by hibernating. Our earliest ancestors generally migrated too, following the animals and their food sources. But at some point, in addition to harnessing fire, they also learned to salt and cure meat and to dry and preserve fruits and vegetables in anticipation of cold, lean months with few sources of fresh food.

That bit of technology is pretty extraordinary in itself, if you think about it: being able to live semi-independently of what nature readily provides at any given time. And then, people all over the world saw a need to determine in a very precise way when to expect the changing of the seasons in order to further assert control over their own circumstances. Astonishingly accurate astronomical and calendar traditions arose independently everywhere in the world, from the northwest corner of Europe to the Middle East, China and India and throughout the Americas, stretching back over 4000 years.


Humans are pretty amazing. What’s even more amazing is how much we tend to think the same way, regardless of our wildly diverse environments.

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Talking Into the Future: Your Personal Brand and Career Transitions

This post was sparked by one written by Hans De Leenheer (@HansDeLeenheer), 4 Tips for My Marketing Utopia. I actually disagree with many of the specifics of his post, but it contains one comment to which I’ve given quite a bit of thought in recent years as I’ve watched various colleagues move around:

“If you have to change jobs in a few weeks, will you still be able to back everything you said without apologising?”

There are people in the tech world who will passionately—vociferously—argue that the architecture of their current product is the only intelligent way of handling the Next Big Thing in IT. And then they move on to a competitor and suddenly everything they ever said in the past about their new employer or its approach apparently never happened. Continue reading

The Importance of Empathy for Tech Providers

I came across an interesting remark the other day:

“Marketing is emotionally harder than product management.”

There were several things embedded in that observation, so let me unpack them a bit to explain why the comment has stuck with me for the last few days.

As a marketer, you’re always listening—to what the press is saying about what your company is doing, what analysts say your company should be doing, what customers and prospects think they want your product to do, where your executive staff sees future opportunities and wants to take the business. You have to synthesize and triangulate among all those opinions and then apply your own judgement to come up with an effective and sustainable course of action.

This is also true for product managers, but there’s a fundamental difference in focus: the product manager uses this information to prioritize features within an appropriate time-to-market framework. There’s a fairly tangible, black-and-white outcome to those decisions: you either sell more products, or you don’t. You can quantify your impact in bottom-line terms.

A marketer’s job is to do two things:

1)      Make the world at large aware of his/her company and product’s existence, and give the world a reason to want to learn more.

2)      Find ways to help prospective customers balance a product’s deficiencies (there are always some—see above about feature prioritization) against the particular value they would derive from deploying your product vs another one or maintaining the status quo. (NB. No, this doesn’t have to mean lying. This is important. It means helping the prospect understand whether the product would materially improve life for them.)

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Mentors, Sponsors, Role Models and Heroes

Today I found myself remembering a #FF paean that Brent Salisbury issued to Martin Casado a few months back:


It got me thinking of people who have affected the course of my career, and also about why some stand out more than others. In a few cases, I’d struggled with what to call them, and that definitely affected the course of those relationships.

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