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Business owners and customer service strategists often fall back on classification systems to better understand consumer behavior. It makes sense to try to find some commonality within a given market segment, but customers interact with each other so differently these days that the old rules of engagement simply don’t apply.

Altimeter Group’s Brian Solis says characteristics we’ve typically used to define generations X, Y, and Z are too narrow to be applied to today’s customers. Instead, he heads back to the beginning of the alphabet to designate the current flock of consumers “Generation C” — as in “connected.”

“To Gen C, experience is everything. What they feel about your products and services now and over time is shared through these connected networks. They know that other Gen C’ers rely on their shared experiences to find resolution. If you’re not proactively designing the experience they have or defining the journey that they will embark on, you cannot influence the experience that’s shared about your brand.”

Solis suggests you find out how users connect and communicate with each other, then be prepared to meet them everywhere they are. That means stepping out from behind the relative safety of your website and joining conversations on social media, forums, etc.

The goal isn’t to outshout competitors or stick your sales message in the face of every potential customer on the planet. The real purpose is actually twofold:

1. To remind users that you’re an authoritative voice in your industry. When you’re quick to respond to user questions or concerns across multiple channels, you’ll gain a reputation as company that gets involved and stays close it its customers. It’s a great way to build rapport and gain trust, especially if you’re in a very crowded industry.

2. To make sure information shared about your product is correct. The last thing you want is for customers to perceive your product as unreliable or difficult to troubleshoot. Unfortunately, it’s all to easy for well-meaning users to share misinformation while trying to help each other noodle around a problem. Get out there and make sure users are giving each other the right answers and don’t hesitate to gently redirect when they’re not.

“We’re living at a time when attention is the new currency. Those who insert themselves into as many channels as possible look set to capture the most value,” says Mashable’s Pete Cashmore. The expectations of Generation C really up the ante when it comes to delighting users with exceptional customer service. But be glad user are hyper-connected with each other these days. It makes conversations easier to find and a great customer experience easier to provide.

Image: Eugen Anghel

Twitter discussion about #techcomm

The MindTouch Leaders of #techcomm and #contentStrategy list is live! You can learn more about:

Now, you can view the entire list of the top 400 leaders. This list is also available in a single Twitter list here: twitter.com/MindTouch/techcomm-2011-influencers. Now, onto the leaders…
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I think this is the first time I’ve ever written or verbalized “back by popular demand” without even a hint of sarcasm. Yes, we’re bringing back our list of #techcomm influencers because many, many of you have asked us and thousands of you have Googled your way to MindTouch.com looking for the updated list.

In 2010, MindTouch produced a list of the most influential techcomm bloggers. Our team spent literally weeks pouring over a variety of sources including, but not limited to, Klout, Google Pagerank, Technorati Authority and Twitter. We were compiling the list for our own benefit, but we thought it would be a good idea to share with the entire community and we did so.

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Today MindTouch announced new product capabilities for enhancing CMS and CCMS vendors like Astoria, DocZone, SDL LiveContent, Trisoft and IXIAsoft.

doc1WHY
Better customer help, happier customers.
HOW
Socialize existing publishing pipelines.
WHAT
Replace PDF and static content outputs from current publishing pipelines with a social publishing endpoint.

XML and DITA based CMS’s have proven market value by decreasing the cost of authoring, maintaining and translating content. While powerful in lowering costs, CCMS platforms are publishing value laden content into obsolete pre-Web formats such as PDFs, static HTML and first generation knowledgebases.

End users’ expectations are higher than ever. Twenty year old static formats are still the primary mediums used today and these fail to meet the needs of end users. Recent studies (Greenfield Online, Datamonitor, Ovum Analysts and Genesys) estimate the failure to meet customers’ support needs is the publishing-flow3primary cause of customer churn and this creates as much as $83 billion of annual losses caused by product abandonment.
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Our latest webinar, “Don’t Overlook Governance! Understanding The Need For Control In A Web Content Strategy” was a discussion between Scott Abel, The Content Wrangler and Kristina Halvorson, founder of Brain Traffic and author of “Content Strategy for the Web”. The two discussed governance – what it is, what it isn’t, and why we need it – and explored how organizations can build adequate controls into their content strategy.

The webinar was an action-packed 60 minutes! The recording and Q&A (by Scott and Kristina) are now available below. Enjoy!
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This is the tenth video in The Intelligent Content Series. Today’s video interview is with Bettina Bennett, CEO and Chief Maverick at WhichBox Media, whichbox® is all media content creation, content management, social networking, social media and user generated content, ad-serving, e-commerce, delivery to any tablet device, multi domain management, and more: all wrapped in one.

In today’s video, Scott and Bettina discuss how to create workflows that help writers avoid redundancy, why social enablement is so important to content writers and how social is a major component in monetization. Most importantly, how to drive these kinds of initiatives while staying within your budget.

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Up until recently MindTouch has been an upstanding Twitter citizen. We share quality and relevant content predominately on the topics of #techcomm, #custserv, and #scrm. We are engaged and have a dedicated resource managing our discussion, but several people tweet from the MindTouch account. However, in the last couple weeks we’ve inadvertently become spammers.

Ashby, age 2.MindTouch has a new product that we’ll be launching in the coming months. Anyone in product management or customer service is going to be excited about this new offering. It was with this in mind our team decided to run a promotion that was, as usual, targeted and relevant.

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The conversation around content strategy has exploded in the last few months.  We’ve certainly contributed to that conversation ourselves, as you’ve undoubtedly seen on this blog.  Still there remains some ambiguity about what exactly is content strategy and why it’s important? In the following series of videos, MindTouch’s Mark Fidelman spends some time with Scott Abel, aka ‘The Content Wrangler‘, and investigates the realm of content strategy, the benefits of application, and its relation to technical communicators and social media.

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There can be no doubt that one of the hottest spaces in enterprise software today is collaboration. It’s no surprise collaboration is getting a lot of interest. The old metaphors for capturing, authoring and sharing information are stale and inefficient. As such, there is a lot of room for achieving productivity improvements through improved user experience. This has been true for all software, but especially so in the enterprise software space where collaboration is essential to daily operation and where every ounce of productivity translates into big dollars.

In the last several years a software renaissance has been taking place in the consumer space that has begun seeping into, and benefiting, business and enterprise systems. The innovation in software during this renaissance, more commonly referred to as Web 2.0, has been almost entirely about improving user experience metaphors. AJAX, new social metaphors, lessening of the file system metaphor, making structure implicit rather than explicit and just generally simplifying user interfaces are all trends evidenced in this new wave of software. While most pundits think “Web 2.0” has been about making the Web participatory, enabling social connectedness and conversations these are but side effects of the improved ease of use and increased stickiness (fun of use) software has experienced.

As mentioned, the innovation in the consumer space is now seeping into business and enterprise software. To date, this has largely translated into a repurposing of consumer applications for the enterprise in an almost direct mapping. That is to say, not a lot of innovation is happening there. Enterprise social networking startups are trying their damndest to convince companies they need Facebook in the enterprise. Social bookmarking, video sharing, blogging, microblogging, mind-mapping, etc. are all attempting to re-imagine how people work. Alas, individually these applications don’t deliver for the enterprise in a meaningful way without the network effect of their consumer counterparts. Enter the suites.

Enterprise 2.0 Suite vendors have recently captured media and analyst attention and are hastily developing products that combine aspects of many of the aforementioned Web 2.0 / Social Media tools in a race to fulfill the  feature check list. Trying to be everything to everyone, the feature check list approach to software development, is never pretty. We played this out in the 90’s and learned that it leads to crappy unusable software that may look good on paper, but is useless in practice. The Enterprise 2.0 Suites consistently force the enterprise to adapt their workflow to this new application instead of enabling the application to be adapted to the needs, workflow and existing systems of the enterprise landscape. The result is yet another silo that is difficult to get data into, out of, integrate, extend, reuse, secure, maintain…. Moreover, in the haste to check the feature boxes vendors are making rookie engineering mistakes regarding scaling and security. In short, it’s a band aid that’s sure to cause an expensive infection.

And then there is MindTouch. When Steve and I first approached the problem of collaboration we came at it with a background in distributed systems. This lead us to solve the problem of enterprise collaboration with a completely different approach than any one else attacking the problem. We saw collaboration as a distributed heterogeneous network that needed an easy to use canvas to surface data and behavior. Think about this a moment. Any modern company has a multiplicity of disconnected data and application silos. Email, databases, files, file servers, Intranet, CRM, ERP and a growing cloud of useful web-services. It’s clear the enterprise desperately needs a new kind of tool to connect all these systems and services and enable easy collaboration across all of them.

Let’s think a little more about the problem of the modern enterprise. This isn’t a problem that would be nice to solve. This is a problem that desperately needs to be solved for the enterprise. We are bleeding here! We are hemorrhaging money! Please make it stop! Just getting access to information we need to do our work is difficult if not impossible. When, and if, you get access to requisite data from CRM, databases, web services, etc…massaging these pieces into actionable information is again painful and time consuming. When successful, what fruits do your labors yield? A static (dead) document or file that is likely trapped in email, a network file server, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server or your local computer. In short, this is yet another disconnected silo. Never to be seen again or reused. The next time you need similar actionable information you repeat the process anew and it is just as time consuming and painful. This is fundamentally broken and it’s killing the productivity of every company.

Now let’s look at how MindTouch is solving this problem for the enterprise. Less technical persons (not necessarily programmers) can connect disconnected enterprise systems, databases, Web 2.0 apps, web-services with MindTouch pre-built adapters. This can be done securely and with IT governance, but it’s even easy for business units to do this on their own. Then anyone (of any technical aptitude) can access information from these disconnected silos, mash it up, make it actionable, create dynamic documents that are updated (effectively) real-time from multiple data source and web-services. If you aren’t a MindTouch Deki user then allow me to describe this for you. Imagine a Microsoft-Word-like document in your web browser that allows you real-time access to information in CRM, your legacy intranet, Microsoft Access (and other databases), LinkedIn, Twitter, Google or other APIs and more. All in an easy to edit Word Processor like experience that is easily shared with others, versioned and searchable with a powerful enterprise search engine. I reiterate, your data is dynamically updated for you (or you can take a snapshot in time).

MindTouch is enabling business/enterprise automation that is saving companies millions. Yes, millions of dollars. See Red Mountain Retail Group case study (25% productivity gain across the entire company) and Bill Me Later, which was recently acquired by eBay for $945 Million. Bill Me Later’s use of MindTouch was a feature article  in the New York Times; they enjoy a 1,000 to 1 return on investment (ROI) in the first year. One significant cause for these huge gains is because MindTouch does not force users to adapt workflow and processes to the product. Instead, MindTouch is easily adapted to existing workflows, systems and processes and effectively extends and upgrades other systems. There is no other product that enables this without investing in expensive and time consuming software engineers. And in these cases, which include portal solutions, the end product is something that is inflexible, doesn’t enable collaboration and requires another team of software engineers to re-engineer as needs evolve. Not so with MindTouch. The platform is easily adapted to evolving needs without necessarily requiring any engineering resources; most often this is accomplished by less technical business or IT persons using pre-built enterprise adapters.

Newer Enterprise 2.0 or Collaboration tools are busying themselves with checking feature boxes, adding low value, nice to have, social tools with limited payoff and delivering products that have issues with scale and security. This approach forces users to adapt to the vendor’s view of the world and creates a simplistic walled garden. Another silo. Meanwhile, the older enterprise portal vendors are hurriedly snapping in place sub-standard bolt-ons to check their feature boxes and re-messaging their stale products with prefixed words like “social”. Neither are appropriate solutions for the enterprise. Neither will provide as much ROI or a lower of total cost of ownership (TCO) than MindTouch. On one hand, the newer vendors are not customizeable, difficult to scale and non-extensible. On the other hand, older vendors are delivering clunky, non-collaborative, difficult to use solutions that require significant engineering resources to extend and adapt. MindTouch evolved from both these worlds and has moved the solution “up the stack”. We invested the time and resources to develop a robust, scalable, easily extensible, easily integrated distributed platform that is adaptable to the needs, workflows and IT ecosystems of the enterprise.

Contact MindTouch or join us in one of our weekly webinars to better understand how MindTouch is an evolutionary leap ahead of the competition in terms of technology and the ability of our products to deliver ROI at a dramtically lower TCO.

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About a week ago I read an article written by Marshal Kirkpatrick called How to build an RSS and Blog News Site for your project. In short, Marshall basically outlined how he had built an RSS-based microsite for the JavaOne conference. The article was great, and although I believed I knew almost everything about refining RSS feeds, I actually learned a thing or two.

Towards the end of the article, Marshall started to dive into the presentation process but confessed that he was not very involved in that portion of the project. At this point, I started thinking about MindTouch Deki Wiki, and how to integrate the filtered and refined RSS feeds using the wiki’s application platform. Deki Wiki is a powerhouse when it comes to aggregating and mashing up content, so it was a fairly reasonable thought. To that end, I figured I would put a couple of demos together to show you how to use Deki Wiki to easily build a similar app. I’ll also demo some of the more advanced stuff like using Dapper to scrape and mashup web apps.

RSS presentation

It’s pretty straight forward. By using the Deki Wiki Extension Dialog () , you can quickly and easily display your RSS feeds as lists, tables, or tabs. Also, since the interface is a wiki, users can easily manipulate the manner in which they want their RSS feeds to display. Create a table, drop your RSS feed in there, maybe add some CSS in the markup view and off you go.

In the screen shot below, you can see that I quickly added two RSS lists into a table and clicked save. Taking Marshall’s advice, I used Google Blogsearch to find and filter my blogsearch. Unfortunately, I didn’t take the time to weed out the duplicates or format the HTML as suggested, but I know that I could have if I had the time. At Google Blogsearch I used the following two search queries:

  • (MindTouch and Mozilla) – “Re:”
  • (MindTouch or Deki Wiki)

Using Deki Script the RSS feeds look like this, respectively. Keep in mind you don’t have to write Deki Script unless you really want to. You can use the extensions manager to insert and manage all Deki Script.

  • {{ feed.list{feed: “http://blogsearch.google.com/blogsearch_feeds?hl=en&q=(MindTouch+and+Mozilla)+-+%22Re:%22&ie=utf-8&num=10&output=rss”, max: “30″} }}
  • {{ feed.list{feed: “http://blogsearch.google.com/blogsearch_feeds?hl=en&q=(Deki+Wiki)+-+%22Re:%22&ie=utf-8&num=10&output=rss”, max: “30″} }}

Using Dapper to Make a Mashup in Deki Wiki

Let’s take this a step further and integrate some other cool applications. I’ll also add some Deki Script to make it as interactive as possible. Let’s start off with two of our most beloved services, Dapper and Yelp. First, using Yelp, I decided to search around for something that interests me. I quickly found the San Diego Nightlife page. I then went to Dapper.net and pieced together my Dapp; I created the values TopTitle, TopDescription, and VenuList. It only took two minutes to create my Dapp, and then I was back over to Deki Wiki. In Deki Wiki, I clicked Edit on my page and using the using the Extension Manager I inserted my Dapp. If you look above the Extension Manger you’ll be able to see a glimpse of the Deki Script that is being created for you.

Again, here is the Deki Script that was entered to retrieve both the TopTitle and TopDescription respectively:

  • {{ dapp.html{name: “YelpSanDiegoNightclub”} }}
  • {{ dapp.value{name: “YelpSanDiegoNightclub”, xpath: “Top/TopDescription”} }}

Easy, huh? Let’s move along. Next, let’s take the value from our first Dapp (TopTitle) and use it in some other extensions. I’m going to use the TopTile value in a Flickr Slideshow, a Google blog search RSS Feed, and a Google Video search, and then show the list of other ’second rank’ venues. Here is the mashed up Deki Script in the same order:

  • {{ flickr.slideshow{tags: dapp.value{name:”YelpSanDiegoNightclub” }, width: “250″, height: “250″} }}
  • {{ google.SearchBlogs{search: dapp.value{name:”YelpSanDiegoNightclub” } } }}
  • {{ google.searchvideos{search: dapp.value{name:”YelpSanDiegoNightclub” } } }}
  • {{ dapp.list{name: “YelpSanDiegoNightclub”, xpath: “VenueList”} }}

As you will see below, I’ve arranged the extensions throughout the page to my liking. I floated the flickr slideshow to the right and then then listed the rest of the extensions throughout the page.

And here’s the final result! The awesome part about this example is that whenever the Yelp community decides another venue is more popular, your entire mashup is updated with the new venue’s info.

The next (more advanced) topic I’ll jump into is parameterized templates, but I’ll save that post for another day. Stay tuned!

Damien Howley
DamienH[at]mindtouch.com
@DamienH