Thursday, 28 January 2010

The iCan'tPhone

So the speculation ends.

Steve Jobs has delivered us of an iPhone that can't phone, or a keyboardless laptop that can't multitask. Remarkable, since even Apple's Lisa, in 1983, could.

The Apple fanboi press predictably drooled over the prospect of a device that can't do email and web browsing at the same time, can't do USB unless it's in its Dock, and can't dock unless it's in the (less useful) portrait mode. Oh, and its screen resolution - 1024x768 - makes it even less impressive than the cheapest netbooks.

It's light, though, and it's got a fruit on the front. What more could you want?

Monday, 25 January 2010

[Ecademy] Community : Ecademy - making sales, or advancing business?

[This is one of the blog posts I posted at Ecademy. I am reposting them here as I probably won't be in Ecademy much longer.]

[Date posted to Ecademy: 09-Oct-2008. Original URL:]

Reading Nikki's recent blog, "I'm on Ecademy to make money, and so are you..." gave me pause for thought. [Later note: Nikki seems to have left Ecademy, so the links no longer work.]

Many Ecademists are here to promote their B2B enterprises - services, usually. It's a perfect playground for marketing and promotions people: in using Ecademy to sell their skills, they're demonstrating them. Job done!

I get worried, though, about Nikki's view of an Ecademy where everyone's here to make sales.

I have a vision of a circle of people in suits, each selling to the one in front, who's selling to the one in front of them, ... A bit like a sales version of MC Escher's "Ascending and Descending".

Clearly, that can't work, or involvement in Ecademy's a zero sum, and there are as many losers as winners. We all want to be winners, right?

As far as I can tell, and the Powers will doubtless be along shortly to set me right if I'm wrong, Ecademy was always about networking, more than direct selling.

The way it has to work is if we're primarily working towards promoting our businesses - and, more importantly, each other's businesses by referral - to non-Ecademists, with sales to Ecademists a secondary objective. That's how the zero sum gets broken. Coincidentally, it's also how networking works best!

As I've said elsewhere, I'm here mainly to get access to the right people, in the right places, to advance LookBox's success. Right now, I'm looking for a part-time (portfolio) CFO, and people to help with business development into Developing World educational projects, particularly Indian Subcontinent and China . In all cases, people who themselves have the right contacts to make things happen.

It's possible that, in the process of finding these people, I manage to jump a step and make direct contact with potential purchasers of our products and services. If that happens, I'll be delighted of course - but it's an aspiration, not an expectation.

Either way, with the right contacts made, we stand fair to make excellent sales ... just not in the direct model.

The quid pro quo for all of this - apart from the membership subscription, of course - is to be a connector, someone who enables connections, rather than simply exploiting them.

How many of the intensely sales-oriented individuals who blogspam are primarily connectors? I don't know the answer to that, but I do know that in networking meetings, the most pushy self-promoters have been the least likely to say, "I can't help you with that, but [name] over there can, and I know a couple of others who aren't here who might be useful too. Give me a card, and I'll get you set up." And they've had a lot fewer around them than the connectors, the hubs of the room, as Mike Segall pointed out in a recent seminar at a business conference in Birmingham.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that it's wrong to promote one's business to Ecademists. For some, particularly the marketing and bizdev people, that makes perfect sense.

But I'm mindful that there's a lot more sales opportunity out there than in here.

If we're all to advance our businesses, doesn't it make sense to most of us to change the emphasis from "How much money have I made out of Ecademy"? to "How much money have I helped Ecademists make?"

[Update: please also check out Fraser Hay's blog - same sentiment, different angle.]

[Ecademy] Community: Autoconnect meets guanxi - a different perspective

[This is one of the blog posts I posted at Ecademy. I am reposting them here as I probably won't be in Ecademy much longer.]

[Date posted to Ecademy: 14-Jan-2010. Original URL:]

By now, anyone on Ecademy who hasn't been living under a rock has become aware of autoconnect. It's a feature that's being introduced experimentally, allowing its subscribers to make random connexions amongst the Ecademy community. If you've received a request recently that said:
    (name) Was sending invitations to join their network on Ecademy, discovered you were already here and requests that you add them as a contact.
...that was an autoconnect request. If you've received one, you've probably received lots. Brace yourself; it's going to get worse yet.

This is scattergun networking. If you fire enough cartridges at enough trees, chances are you'll hit a bird eventually.

Let's draw a contrast.

I'd like to introduce you, if you haven't already heard of it, to the Chinese concept of guanxi (關係 or 关系 ). Pronounced "GWEN-shee" (approximately), it describes your value, as expressed by the quality of the network of people upon whom you can draw.

Guanxi networking is often misunderstood in the West to be similar to the kind of business networking with which Westerners are familiar. In fact, a guanxi relationship is more personal. It must be maintained actively, or it will wither, and it's not as casual as Western network relationships. Properly managed, a guanxi network connection is for life.

The heart of guanxi is exchanges of favours. If I want to connect with a certain person, I will find out who I know has guanxi with them, and then I'll use my guanxi with that connector in order to make the connexion. Sometimes, there's a whole chain of connexions, and often you end up making further guanxi relationships as you work down the chain to complete the connexion.

Equally, it's expected that if a guanxi friend needs help, you assist without complaint.

When I joined Ecademy, the ethos seemed to me to be similar to guanxi. A business community that was oriented towards mutual help, and long-term personal relationships. In fact, the Blackstar concept seemed about as near to guanxi as I've ever seen in Occidental networking.

Contrast this to autoconnect. Networking by robots - about as far from personal networking as it's possible to get. I've commented here and expanded here about how autoconnect requests are functionally identical to spam. And like spam, there's presently no way of opting out. You get the requests whether or not you want them.

It's also about as far from guanxi, and personal networking, as it gets. Maybe a valuable - guanxi - relationship can arise from autoconnect, but the vast majority of autoconnects won't yield any benefit.

Let's consider that for a moment. You gain thousands of contacts - or, at least, try to - but only a small handful work out. You've put several thousand people to inconvenience for a marginal benefit for a tiny proportion.

The business model is depressingly familiar. "Spamford" Wallace would be proud.