Why Twitter’s IPO is looking ridiculous as well as sad

Twitter 6x6

Twitter 6×6 (Photo credit: Steve Woolf)

It’s hardly news that women don’t dominate technology companies, or indeed most companies, or governments (though the news that Rwanda‘s parliament now has 64% women members is fascinating; I wonder who will be the next president . . .). Point is: While denizens of the C Suite and Board members need to have a really smart grasp of the business, to use the old not-many-women-are-engineers defense against women high-level appointments is becoming absurd. Here, the New York Times points out that now Twitter is in process of going public, the public knows it is yet another men’s group. The board is entirely male (and, ahem, white). One woman, a new hire, Vijaya Gadde, is to be found in the executive office (she’s General Counsel).

This is ridiculous to my mind not become it isn’t “fair” (I have consistently argued that the equity case for appointing women to top jobs is both unreasonable and dumb), but because value will not be realized in this fast, fast-shifting economy without widely diverse expert perspectives at both C-Suite and director level. This is not simply an argument for women or other “diverse” groups. It’s a value-driven case for diverse thinking, including the seriously contrarian.

We have already noted that the IPO is also sad. Sad, because at some point a major social company will wake up to the fact that the logic is for social companies to be social in their governance. We need smart thinking on governance as well as technology, and smart mechanisms that will reward founders and other early risk-takers without locking up the results of their efforts with Big Oil governance. (See Facebook‘s share system, which together with its board membership and the role of its founder locates it clearly on the Carnegie/Murdoch side of history; and Twitter’s plan for a classified board. Sigh.)

We’re waiting for the tedious old-economy governance and financing approaches of these smart, C21 companies to find alignment. It has yet to happen.

http://nigelcameron.wordpress.com/2012/04/15/we-need-to-talk-about-twitter-reciprocal-knowledge-engine-plus/

https://futureofbiz.org/2012/12/11/please-may-we-have-a-social-social-network/

Curtain Is Rising on a Tech Premiere With as Usual a Mostly Male Cast – NYTimes.com.

The Tragedy of Twitter’s IPO

English: Graph of social media activities

Credit: Wikipedia

There is something quite new about social media, and it is not that it’s providing on a huge scale (of hundreds of millions) volunteer contributors of “content” that in weird and wonderful ways deliver huge sums (of billions) to those lucky entrepreneurs whose projects made it big. Well, OK, it is partly that. But if that is how we are looking at the #socmed phenomenon, we give evidence of something between severe myopeia and locked-in syndrome.

Twitter faces a double problem here. First, because of the tendency to group “social media” together (Pinterest and Twitter have about as much in common as the Stock Exchange and a town hall meeting – oh yes, people, large public rooms, engagement). From one angle it is one of the Big Four, with Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. But that is the least interesting angle.

Second, because the world of media properties sees social media as just another one, disruptive in its own way, vacuuming up global advertising dollars and offering new channels for content acquisition and delivery, but essentially same old, same old.

These fallacies – for fallacies they are – are shared by many in the C Suites of the aforementioned companies, which may seem odd. But consider: Facebook, the social media property of social media properties, is is run with all the social sensitivity and engagement of Big Oil, or Big Banking. Or, interestingly, the Murdoch news empire (whatever its latest name is). Look at Facebook’s share structure/governance, and at its engagement with its user base (remember the shananigans over voting for changes? o my goodness). It is one of the least “social” companies on the planet.

Point is: There is something profound and new about “social,” but it is as subtle as it is profound, and it has left many of the engineer-innovators who gave us these behemoths as high and dry as that big majority of Fortune 500 C Suite execs who neither understand nor even use it. The point is substantive and cautionary. I do believe social is revolutionary, for business as well as for government. But these are early days, and it’s not easy to demonstrate.

What I was hoping for from the big social innovators was that they would buy deeply into the culture they were helping create. If that had happened, instead of tedious IPOs exposing these complex ecosystems to traditional market forces, we would see the development of innovative models for governance and financing. Sure, let the entrepreneurs be rewarded, and let revenue models emerge for their creations. But within structures of shared governance, whether within traditional non-profit models (a la Wikipedia, and four cheers for the great Jimmy Wales), or mutualization (users are the stockholders), or something smart we have yet to devise. These subtle products of the new economy are simply treated, when the time comes, as old economy entities. Social media cry out to be handled as our supreme social enterprise companies.

As for Twitter itself, on which  have written many times – while it has many uses (and I don’t mind if you want to follow Bieber’s publicist or your favorite brand’s marketing department, really I don’t), at its innovative heart it has developed what I’ve called a “Reciprocal Knowledge Engine” – a core mechanism for handling the explosion of knowledge, at the same time as opening up knowledge networks for much wider participation, to the massive benefit of all concerned. I trust this will survive the handing over of this precious thing to the more rudimentary end of the marketplace.

Twitter Files For IPO – Confidentially – Forbes.

Twitter: The Reciprocal Knowledge Engine

Facebook as the unsocial social network

Cucumbers and asparagus: LinkedIn Is “Preferred By Executives” – Forbes

LinkedinAnswers

LinkedinAnswers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here we go again. Another social media beauty contest, this time among execs who are of course perhaps the least social media savvy group of any.

Problem is, to twist a cliche, we are comping plums and mangoes. Despite its best efforts (cringe), LinkedIn – preferred by the exec class – is a very different kind of animal from Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and so on. There may be some interest among headline writers in how many hundred million users this or that site has. But the totting up becomes effete as soon as interesting questions start being asked. LinkedIn keeps trying to break out of its two useful roles (self-updating rolodex and job-hunt machine), but it will no more turn into Facebook (phew) or Twitter than a food truck.

Curious thing, this continued desire to comp stats for social media usage. It’s yet another example of the fallacy of the new normal (OK, that’s all in my next book).

Far more interesting is the fact that fully 60% of respondents use “social media” as a whole for less than one hour a week.

LinkedIn Is Preferred By Executives – Forbes.

The MOOC Scoop: Innovation and the Naive

MOOCs, Innovation, and the Naïve

A thoughtful piece by Clayton Christenson and Michael Horn was challenged this morning on Twitter by John Hagel @jhagel: “Sorry, Clay, we’re thinking much too narrowly abt MOOCs as disruptive force – is it really just-in-time mini-courses?” That may not be a fair way to characterize their position (see the link below). But it surely notes the wide-scale naivety of most of the movers in the MOOC game. This material is fissile. Read to blow in a global chain-reaction.

[My earlier discussion:https://futureofbiz.org/2012/12/20/yes-we-really-do-need-mooc-state-level-and-global/ ]

Memorial Hall de Harvard

 

It has long been clear that online education would become transformative. It has just taken longer than anyone might reasonably have expected. There are many reasons, ranging from broadband speeds to the clannishness of the academy and its accreditation systems to the rather simple fact that thinking analogically (out of the box, for those who prefer to speak in cliches) is hard. Smart people find it especially challenging. Their smartness equips them quite brilliantly to avoid the need for it. You will see this principle in action (it needs a name) everywhere from the Fortune 500 C Suites where no-one needs to take social media seriously (or, for that matter, women execs) to Washington, DC, where most of the time some of the shrewdest of men (and some women) are looking in their rear-view mirror.

Back to MOOCs. There has been “distance education” for over 100 years (begun back in the heyday of the USPS), and even now mainstream higher ed sees that as the template for what the internet can deliver. Along the way there have been wondrous and complex efforts to duplicate the environment of the classroom online – complete with cameras in a real room and all the accoutrements of a campus at a distance. 

Finally, the efforts of one or two major schools and a handful of renegade faculty have led to the offering of “massive” courses (yes, gaming is the model here along with the silly lingo) and the daring principle of “open” access (pioneered in the UK by the Open University, but anathema to the due-process calculus of American schools and their peer accreditors). A famous early experiment, when using rather primitive email-based methods an academic offered a course (was it in Byzantine history?) and recruited hundreds of applicants, led nowhere. Suddenly, catchup.

 

And as elite schools play around by offering a course here and there, and entrepreneurs join them – in search, as is proper in even the digital world, of a business model – we now confront a move by a whole tranche of midlevel colleges to use the MOOC technology to offer sampler courses in their traditional programs.  I could not avoid the broadest of smiles as I read the report. They seem genuinely to believe that an add-on course or two will help with recruitment. They seem to have absolutely no idea that they are playing not so much with fire as with a nuclear chain reaction. However exactly this comes about (I offer some suggestions below), the MOOC is set to devastate western higher education as we know it. Even in the UK a similar grassroots effort is now underway, with the British Library as a partner.

Here are some trajectories that, jointly or severally, are set to lay waste what for generations has been “higher education” in the United States and elsewhere.

·        I have argued elsewhere that the United States itself (perhaps through USAID) or one or more of our major foundations should very rapidly develop a global MOOC-based university offering full undergraduate and graduate degrees. My view is that such an initiative would offer the west a major strategic advantage vis-à-vis other contenders for global influence, and could initially take advantage of widespread knowledge of English (and, then, French, Spanish, Portuguese) in the developing world (Africa in particular). If this is done, there will immediately be blowback since the nature of the MOOC is that there is essentially no marginal cost for one more student, and the offering is accessible internet-wide. That is to say, these offerings would sweep the United States also.

·        A second salient into the future may emerge from initiatives taken by individual states or chambers of commerce or other entities with credibility and resources intent on improving the quality and flow of college-educated students and aware of the increasingly prohibitive cost, to states and individuals, of the standard approach. Let’s say state A takes an initiative and plows money into it while closing state university campuses to pay the bill. Again, the project will not be containable within the state. The key would be a first mover with the credibility to challenge the supremacy of the peer-accreditation system. I am actually a fan of that system (versus the European statist option), but it has institutionalized establishment control. We may expect other players to join the regional accreditors in standard-setting. Since the cost to the user will be zero, the control that accreditors have exercised through federal recognition of their decisions for student aid purposes will become moot.

The point is clear. Once a degree-granting MOOC is up and running, its impact will be viral, across the length and breadth of the internet. It will very rapidly destroy the economic model that sustains our current higher education system. Those colleges presently toying with offering sample courses in this subject and that had better look to their laurels. Many of them will not be around in 10 years’ time, and some I suspect in five. Some turkeys now veritably preparing for Christmas, while others believe it will never come.

I am not saying that this is all going to be to the good. But some facts seem clear and it helps us not at all to pretend otherwise:

  • MOOC economics – no marginal student cost – will lead to huge global institutions as well as niche efforts with base funding from foundations, governments, religious institutions, business leaders, in a vast free-for-all.
  • New, global accreditation mechanisms, probably competing with one another, will emerge.
  • There will be carnage among the current midstream state and private institutions without the branding and/or endowment to buck the supply and demand curves.
  • Huge new opportunities will be opened worldwide to hundreds of millions who currently are excluded; a dramatic driver of global innovation and development.
  • The plain initial focus on tech subjects and others readily susceptible of AI teaching and grading will give place to a wider curriculum as AIs rapidly improve their capacities.
  • The human/social dimension of these enterprises will mesh with exponential developments in social media.

Beyond the Buzz, Where Are MOOCs Really Going? | Wired Opinion | Wired.com.

Instagram and Life in the Haze: When Will Users Wake Up?

Twitter 6x6

Twitter 6×6 (Photo credit: Steve Woolf)

Twitter is hot today with Instagram‘s TOS changes, which mark Facebook‘s intent to bring their acquisition more fully into line with their own policies and emerging business model. The company quickly jumped in with a clarification – so brief it can reasonably fail to get to grips with the issues at stake. What this signifies is yet another sampling of the underlying problem with mainstream social media platforms and their way of seeking to do business.

In a word, it is use consciousness. Users sign on to these services in a haze of enthusiasm and with at best a partial understanding of how it is that company XYZ intends to make a bunch of billionaires out of giving you free stuff. And no, it is not by magic.

As we know – and as Twitter has kept reminding us, somewhat painfully – it is considered OK by investors to get a service up and running without needing to have that question resolved – the 21st century version of 1990s dot-com eyeballs hopefulness. But there is not an indefinite number of ways in which this can be done. Three are obvious. Sticking ads in front of your noses. Grabbing a portion of your intellectual property. And messing with your private info. The first and the third may work together. The second and the third are subsets of the same thing – su casa es mi casa, as it were.

One of the great mysteries of our time is why none of these companies has taken a traditional commercial approach to the issues involved – and offered their services (search, social, pics, whatever) on subscription; and/or offered a fee to purchase or licence your stuff. Given the vast sums we pay every month to the telecoms who enable us to access all this “free” stuff, it is hardly as if we don’t give evidence of valuing the service.

But my core point: The uber biz model under which most of these web-based services are operating, and on which they have raised many billions of dollars from the wise/gullible/hopeful investment community and recruited hundreds of millions of subscribers, is that the user will be happy to live in the haze, signing endless consantly shifting TOS and privacy statements unread, and handing carte blanche to those who can turn their 0s and 1s into serious cash flow.

Here’s my take. Users will begin to wake up, in ever larger numbers. They will grasp that their increasingly quantified selves are traded in a human meat market. They will (as the Instagram imbriglio illustrates) really resent the notion that the work of their hands, brains and eyes is available to their new feudal masters to use as they choose. And whoosh, down will come the empires built on haziness and the naive and disrespectful assumption that users don’t care.

And so? Well, first, as I keep saying, the financing and governance of companies in the social space needs to be aligned with, um, well, the social space, and not the top-down awfulness that drove the steel barons a century back. But I am not holding my breath. Second, for the moment, we need the steel barons of our digital lives to do their users the honor of treating them like decision-making consumers and economic agents. Yes please, I want search; what’s the monthly fee to access it and retain 100% control of every ounce of data you get from my end? Yes please,.email; and what’s the extra perm month to add on the pic app?

What’s ahead? Huge advantage for Facebook-esque options (as barriers to entry keep falling and interoperability handles the network effect issue) that are run like Credit Unions with some form of mutual ownership and capitalization, and on the leading edge of socmed business. And, in tandem, fee-based services that leave us with our privacy and IP intact. And, of course, the option to sell, rent, lease all what we have, should we so choose.

The future is not life in the haze.

Instagram Rings its Own Death Knell and Leaps to the Mainstream | Constellation Research Inc..

Unsocial Networks

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg (Wikipedia)

Facebook’s decision to draw back from one of the few evidences in the governance of social networks that they understand that social is actually coming to mean for the future of the corporate effort is perhaps no great surprise. For a company whose governance is designed top-down like that of a 19th century steel magnate (or, to be fairer, well, 21st century News Corp), the anomaly of leaving users free to make actual decisions, always open to being “exploited” (aka used) by users actually interested in said decisions, could not long endure.

But the question is raised, yet again: when will it be that companies in the ever-broader “social” space will evolve governance (and financing) models that are actually suited to social?

None of the major players has given that thought much thought, so far. The Facebook voting thing being nixed was a vestigial organ from an earlier, pre-IPO, day when the visionary aspects of the company had more logic than they do now (though, for my part, I have no reason to believe that MZ believes them any less). Something much bigger, and strategic, is needed for these companies to align their social mission with their social identity as vast networks of users. The future will not lie with playing cat-and-mouse on privacy and imposing corporate policies from (in Fb’s case) unbelievably non-diverse boards. And for future read profit.

I billion and rising. Well, we shall see. Think Kodak and RIM and HP and (ouch, ouch) Apple for curves whose rise is halted.

My take? MS soldiers on; Apple crests very soon in all respects; Fb is close to its zenith. MZ, like SJ and BG, has earned his place on Mount Rushmore. What interests me is what, and who, come nest; and how they manage to align their corporate efforts with their users. Hint: it may involve actually engaging this thing we call “social.”

Oh, and Twitter? As a company, it is in the balance, for just this same reason. Its daily users include some of the very smartest minds on the planet – from @rupertmurdoch down. The interest of the Twitter high command in what they/we think is somewhere around zero.

Facebook to users: Please vote to abolish your right to vote | Internet & Media – CNET News.

Why Leaders Need to “get” Twitter, ASAP

English: Jack Dorsey and Barack Obama at Twitt...

Jack Dorsey and Barack Obama at Twitter Town Hall in July 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s my interview with Paper.li’s Liz Wilson on the gap between executive behavior in business and politics and the huge advantages conferred by engaging with social media – and, especially, Twitter.

http://community.paper.li/2012/09/17/nigel-cameron-time-for-leaders-to-get-twitter/

 

Why is @rupertmurdoch on Twitter? The C-Suite Mystery

English: Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Murdoch at t...

Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Murdoch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Social, Strategy, and the Mystery of the C-Suite.

My first job – before college – was in a finance company. Customers sent in longhand letters saying they were moving house. In the basement was the high-security “computer room,” with men (sic) in white coats and banks of tape machines that lived on such info. The analog/digital go-between: me. Deciphering the letters, agonizing over how to fit the addresses into 16 squares and four lines on the input form, calling banks (illegally) to track down missing account numbers, and later sticking labels spat out by “The Computer” on the several separate sets of manual files the company still maintained. IT has come a long way since 1970. But if only 4% of CIOs blog, 10% tweet, and –wait for it – fully 74% report through the CFO, it still has a long way to go.

In light of these remarkably low levels of participation by the CIO, it may be less surprising that very occupants of the CEO’s office are personally engaged in social media. The evidence is clear that the culture of the C-Suite is one of nearly unanimous detachment from public social media. The facts are astonishing. Only 16 out of the F500 CEOs have Twitter accounts; and of those 16, hardly any use Twitter regularly. (When I last checked, one of the 16 was Warren Buffet. He had tweeted once.)

One who does, of course, is @rupertmurdoch. But we shall come to him.

What is stunning is the vast gulf between the personal engagement in “social” by the key C-Suite decision-makers, and the mounting evidence – clear, now even to non-techies, non-geeks, and late adopters – that “social” is a key to value. Vast value.

But first, let me head off a comment that 484 CEOs are making as they read this blog. It really is not enough to hire people to handle these things. Especially, typically, young people very junior people, in customer relations roles. The whole point about social is that it’s like saying you’re sorry; you can’t have someone do it for you. We have CEOs and CIOs, effectively, entirely disengaged from the most potent value-driving force on the planet. And part of their disengagement is the idea that hiring kids to monitor this stuff will do the trick. What a fail whale.

So: Latest input that one would have thought would get even the most inert analog executive mind moving: The McKinsey report suggesting up to $1.3 trillion can be released through companies’ forthright engagement with social media has drawn attention in the past week or two. It would however be interesting to note whether there has been an uptick in C-Suite engagement with Twitter, which seems to me to be the touchstone of “getting it” where social is concerned. Further down the totem pole all kinds of social media engagement is in progress (though remarkably there is still a big minority of companies who make no use at all). It’s strategic engagement that counts, and that will come only when the CEO and CIO are setting the pace – and giving evidence that they get it.

That’s why @rupertmurdoch’s joining Twitter at the start of the year was so revealing. Here we have one of the smartest, most controversial, and (face it) also oldest CEOs jumping in. With both feet. As his erratic typing and often unpolished tweets reveal, this is Rupert himself. Not a PR functionary. And he is not just pumping out opinions from on high. He reads the incoming (“watch the language,” he tweeted one time.) And he often answers (he has answered me). He’s found a way to break out of the gilded tower in which corporate leaders are imprisoned to read what his critics are saying, to catch the latest memes, to learn from the 24/7 cocktail party that is Twitter.

At the same time, lower down the organization, it’s plain social media is slowly catching on. Even here the slowness is staggering – 50% of utilities do not even have Facebook page? The headline on this report refers to companies’ widespread take-up of social, but it seems to me it has been slow, sporadic, and – as I have pointed out – almost entirely to the exclusion of the CEOs and CIOs who are the ones most able to develop a strategic understanding of the social revolution underway around them. Point is: Social is not about adding some new media opportunity to marketing, or handling a new customer relations channel. Yes, these are real; but they are far down the list of what is interesting and important.

One well-informed source responded to this argument with the claim that many C-Suite officers are actively engaged in Yammer-like private, secure networks within their organizations. This may well be true, though I have not seen figures. But in fact it adds to the problem. There is a vast gulf between the CEO chatting with CMO and CIO on Yammer, and what @rupertmurdoch and a handful of others have begun to do on Twitter.  And if the C-Suite view is that “social” is about Yammer for private chat and marketing/customer relations channels lower down, the net result is a disaster for strategic decision-making.

There’s no doubt that certain types of personality adjust far quicker to social media than others; and age is not the only factor at play (as Murdoch has neatly demonstrated). It’s now a serious question whether those unable to adapt are fit occupants of their C-Suite offices. Well, in respect of the CIO, I don’t think it’s any longer a question. Time for house-cleaning.

Earth to Twitter: Social Needs Stakeholder Governance

twitter y macworld

twitter y macworld (Photo credit: juque)

Twitter‘s latest blow to developers and users, the source of lamentation as I write and we all tweet, brings into fresh focus a simple, 3-fold, claim.

  • social media are uniquely positioned to benefit from high-level stakeholder engagement
  • it is in the interests of all involved for them to move toward stakeholder governance
  • yet our lead social media companies are among the least “social” of contemporary corporations.

Mark Zuckerberg has led the social pack with his high (and I believe genuinely meant) claim for a social purpose for social media. At some point someone will decide to work on alignment between such goals, the culture and practices of the organizations themselves, and their governance and funding structures. Some deep innovation in the latter will be needed before “social” settles down as the substrate of our C21 lives.

Facebook Crashes:

https://futureofbiz.org/technology/facebook-crashes-my-5-questions/

 

New API severely restricts third-party Twitter applications | Ars Technica.

 

Twitter and the Holy Grail: Profit and a Future . . . . 3 To-Do Items

Gordon Moore on a fishing trip

Gordon Moore on a fishing trip (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As data whooshes out of every pore of the planet, powered by Gordon Moore‘s seismic explosion, knowing what’s useful has become the core skill.

Here’s a couple of data points just in, before I jump the snark and tell Twitter what to do.

First, LinkedIn is coining it. Hand over fist. Revenues up 89%. And multiple streams of it. Surprise, surprise; the stock price is rising. Details below.

Second, Twitter searches are far higher than Bing and Yahoo put together. Details and much more here.

If I ran the Twitters?

1. Think moolah. $10, $25 a month subscriptions. Offer special features, blah blah. Tens of millions of serious users would sign up in a 140. Some of us know we would pay far, far more than that. For the uber-tweeters, don’t we know,  this is where social just go serious, personal, professional, essential.

2. Think search. It has made Google and could yet unmake it (though I think that unlike Facebook they may well adapt and thrive). It will move generic. The demand for subscription-based, privacy-enhanced, offerings will grow, grow, grow. I only want one platform open all day, and I want it to be this one.

3. Think governance. Let’s crowdsource a novel structure that pays off the entrepreneurs and investors well, but gives us multi-stakeholder governance. Wikipedia has been the only big platform to go the non-profit route. In a world of sparking social enterprise, let’s get creative. And drive a next-gen knowledge and comms platform that draws exponential strength from “social” and the fact the smartest guys on the planet are on here every single day.

K? Then later today we can discuss something else. On Twitter, of course.

Why Twitter Matters

LinkedIn Reaches 174 Million Members, Revenue Up 89% | The Realtime Report.