New Adventures in Wi-Fi – Track 3: LinkedIn

New Adventures in Wi-Fi (with apologies to R.E.M.)

Forming the final part of the trilogy, earlier episodes being:

New Adventures in Wi-Fi – Track 1: Blogging

New Adventures in Wi-Fi – Track 2: Twitter


Having recently published an entire trilogy whose gestation had consumed more than three times that of a human infant, I am now returning to another troika whose first part I published back in July 2009. Before starting, I’ll repeat something that I mentioned at the beginning of both of the previous articles; I am not a great believer in Recipes for Success, this piece reflects my journey within LinkedInLand and your path may be very different. The intention is to provide some ideas, not to offer a foolproof set of steps that will lead to instant success in the media.

I should also stress that the suggestions that I present here are related to the professional aspects of Social Media. The personal aspects are different and, while there may be some overlap, please don’t expect my recommendations to wow your friends and relations!


If there's something strange in your neighBAAhood Who ya gonna call?

It may have occurred to some readers that my trilogy is winding to a close without encompassing the doyen of dozens of SM mavens; Facebook. I am probably exhibiting my occasional Luddite tendencies here, but I have always rather struggled to form the equation:

Facebook = Professional

To me throwing farm animals at other people is not 100% consistent with a medium for raising your industry profile (unless you are in on-line games development that is). If you are a B2C organisation, then I can see the point (The Arch Climbing Wall in London is a good example of a small business using Facebook well). If you are a B2B behemoth, then a Facebook presence seems more like a wheeze dreamt up by those awfully creative people in Marketing.

I do use Facebook, but used to 100% separate this from professional networking. Because I interact with a number of people that I have met through Blogging / LinkedIn / Twitter in areas outside the strictly professional (and also if I am honest as clicking the thumbs-up button is rather easy), I have strayed somewhat from this purist path of late. However it remains true that I have one sixth of the Facebook friends as I do LinkedIn connections.

Maybe at some point in the not too distant future my trio of professional Social Media outlets will become a quartet, but for now Facebook remains a peripheral business activity for me.

Why LinkedIn?

I joined LinkedIn in July 2005 and so have been engaged in it for much longer than I have either blogged or tweeted. However, me devoting any real time to this area dates to around the same time that I embarked on these other activities; late 2008. At that point I was looking to achieve a few, fairly limited things:

  1. To build on my public speaking to establish a profile in the IT industry
  2. To develop a network of fellow professionals, both in my native UK and more widely
  3. To create another platform from which to showcase my abilities and experience
  4. To reconnect with past colleagues
  5. To try out what was – even at that point – an emerging media

It is perhaps odd to think, but I believe now that item five was probably much more influential that the others back then.

Over time these objectives have morphed as I have become more familiar with LinkedIn. Today the list would more often mention either “grow” or “maintain” than “develop”. Also LinkedIn has become the main channel through which my content – such as this article – reaches people who may be interested in reading it. This is one notable aspect of LinkedIn and the observation raises two points that I will come back to later in this article. First, that LinkedIn is a great way to find, or even form, groups who are interested in niche subjects (and I am not as yet arrogant enough to think that much of what I write is in the mainstream). Second, that LinkedIn tends to work best in conjunction with other elements of Social Media; for me at least the two that I cover in the earlier articles in this series.
The Seven Habits of Highly Connected People

I tend to have an allergic reaction to articles entitled “10 steps towards successful X”. I certainly don’t have all the answers and the last thing that I would ever want to do is to stop readers thinking for themselves. However, the material I will cover in this piece, which is based on no greater insight that my own experiences, is inevitably going to fit fairly and squarely within this blogosphere cliché.

  1. Your page – a shop window

    Once upon a time. Not so long ago. There was a little girl and her name was Emily. And she had a shop. There it is. It was rather an unusual shop because it didn't sell anything. You see, everything in that shop window was a thing that somebody had once lost. And Emily had found. And brought home to Bagpuss. Emily's cat Bagpuss. The most Important. The most Beautiful. The most Magical. Saggy old cloth cat in the whole wide world.

    First things first, once you have signed up for LinkedIn, you will need to build your own page. This is not as daunting as it might seem and LinkedIn have done most of the hard work for you. Also they are always coming up with new sections and new features that will allow you to position snippets of information about yourself. However, in essence, your LinkedIn page is your shop window and it is important to realise that developing its contents merits some care and attention.

    It is useful to bear in mind your main objective for using LinkedIn. If this is to get a new job, then – much like a CV – you should be looking to highlight the same things that you would highlight in a CV (try Googling “10 steps towards writing a successful CV”). However remember that you can also easily host your actual CV on LinkedIn, so it will probably be productive to take a slightly different slant on your page itself. If you are a consultant and want to generate new clients, then explaining what you offer and why it is different from others will be valuable. If you are simply interested in connecting with like-minded individuals, with whom you can converse about issues and trends in your industry or sector, then perhaps listing the types of areas that you would like to talk about is a good idea. Of course, most people will have multiple and overlapping reasons for being on LinkedIn and – if so – a measured and blended approach will probably be best.

    Example of Professional Headline

    As with a CV or a static advert, you probably have only a fleeting amount of time to engage the reader’s attention before they move on elsewhere. Given this, it makes sense to make use of things like your Professional Headline to pithily pitch yourself. It does no harm at all to also have a decent photo posted. My opinion is that a business-related one sets the right tone, but others think differently.

    An example of what you can do with your LinkedIn status

    If you catch the eye of passers-by, then your next hook is your Status – this can be something that you type in yourself, an update from your activity on a group, recent Twitter postings, or a link to other content. Again a little thought here will pay dividends. This is a chance to convey something distinctive to your readers, so do your best to take advantage of it.

    After the summary of basic career details that LinkedIn auto-generates, your next opportunity to engage with readers is the experience section. Here (within a limited number of characters) you can build on what you have led with in your Professional Headline and Status to provide a more rounded perspective of you as an individual.

    Although it makes most sense to get the upper pieces of your page just right (whatever that means for you), I would recommend also paying close attention to each of the details of your career (or those that you choose to post anyway) and even interests and other information. If you do manage to engage a reader and they invest the time to go through all of your information, then the last thing you want is to put them off right at the end with a glaring typo or inane comment. Whatever your reasons for being on LinkedIn, you probably would like readers to take away the idea that you are professional in what you do and a little thoroughness never hurt anyone.

    I will cover other ways in which you can use your LinkedIn page to greater effect later on, for now – as with most things in life – the more time and thought that you spend on this area, the better the results are likely to be.

  2. Who will you look to connect with?

    Knee bone connected to your thigh bone. Thigh bone connected to your hip bone. Hip bone connected to your Back bone. Back bone connected to you shoulder bone. Shoulder bone connected to your Neck bone. Neck bone connected to your Head bone Now hear the word of the Lord.

    There are two ways that connections are forged, you initiate the bond being formed, or someone else does. I’ll consider the second area in the next section, what type of people does it make sense for the LinkedIn user to try to actively connect with? There are a number of obvious categories:

    1. Current colleagues or business partners

      It is becoming increasingly prevalent that connecting on LinkedIn plays the role that exchanging business cards used to in previous times (it is actually not that uncommon to see LinkedIn details on business cards either). This is the most obvious source of connections and LinkedIn will helpfully suggest people who work for your organisation as candidates.

      Available for weddings, bar mitzvahs and christenings

      Having recently started at a new company, I would not suggest indiscriminately inviting everyone at your place of work to connect. As and when you meet people face-to-face and begin to interact more, a LinkedIn invitation can help to expand your relationship (and also potentially showcase aspects of your experience that have not formed part of your day-to-day dealings with someone). If you gave new colleagues or business partners a copy of your CV, they would probably never read it. People do however seem to have the habit of checking out LinkedIn profiles, no matter how similar the two activities would appear to be on the face of things.

      Anyone that you work with extensively at the current moment is a prime candidate for a LinkedIn contact; not least as you may be able to call on such people to recommend you at some later point (see below).

    2. Former colleagues or business partners

      The same comments apply (and the same LinkedIn suggestions), but it may pay to be a little more discerning with this group. It might even make sense to be a little hard-nosed – think about what such a connection might do for you and what being connected to them might say about you. Of course where you have enjoyed a very good and mutually productive business relationship with someone, why would you not want to connect? If you instead occasionally came across someone in an old organisation and you don’t have much in common, the case for sending out an invitation may be much less strong.

      Don’t get caught in the trap of chasing connections just for the sake of it; there are better ways to receive validation in life than via the cardinality of the set of people you are linked to!

    3. People who you have never met

      It's got to hurt having a question mark branded on your face...

      This is a strange one. Typically the advice from LinkedIn gurus – and from LinkedIn itself – is not to make such connections. I am actually in rather close connection with several people I have never met via the combination of Blogging, Twitter and LinkedIn, but they generally all fall into the next section. Approaching people that you really have no business approaching is probably just as much of an antisocial behaviour on LinkedIn as it is in real life.

      Unless you share a group (or pay to upgrade to a premium account), you will need the e-mail of a target connection in order for an invitation to reach such a person. If you find yourself trying to Google this, you have probably crossed a line and should carefully consider if you really want to continue in this way.

    4. People who you have never met, but with whom you have some other connection

      What you have in common could be anything from both being members of a group on LinkedIn (see below again), to having read one of their blog articles, which you found interesting. Best is if you have actually “met” them virtually, e.g. struck up a discussion on LinkedIn, or via Twitter, or on the comments section of their (or your) blog. There are any number of people who I first “met” virtually and then physically later (see A first for me…, Another social media-inspired meeting and Some thoughts on the IRM(UK) DW/BI conference for some examples), most also were LinkedIn connections before we met face-to-face.

    5. Friends

      Aside from showing other people that you are not a sociopath (and excepting the case where friends are in a similar line of business), I’m not sure what value having cohorts of friends as connections serves. Returning to the box at the beginning of this article, maybe Facebook is the place for this.

    Finally in this section, asking someone to connect doesn’t have a major downside. At best they accept. At worst they ignore you (actually at worst they write to you and say how they would love to connect except for issues A, B and C and how this is all very unfortunate, but have a nice life). If you do get snubbed, you can comfort you self by thinking that probably no one else will ever know, or indeed care!

  3. Who should you accept invitations from?

    I was going to quote 50 Cent's ditty 'The Invitation' then decided that maybe this was a bad idea for a family blog

    This is a shorter section than the previous one. The answer to the question is “all of the above”. The only exception is in the People You Have Never Met section. I used to follow the received LinkedIn wisdom of only connecting with people with whom I had had some previous interaction (either on-line or IRL). Latterly I have come to the conclusion that if someone has gone to the substantial trouble of finding, or figuring out, my e-mail and then asking to be my connection, they must have some valid reason and who am I to deny them? Of course if the valid reason is wanting to sell me something, then it is not too onerous to disconnect. This actually seems to happen less frequently than one might think.

  4. Groups and what to share with them

    Every finite simple group is isomorphic to one of the following groups: 1) A cyclic group with prime order; 2) An alternating group of degree at least 5; 3) A simple group of Lie type, including both: a) the classical Lie groups, namely the groups of projective special linear, unitary, symplectic, or orthogonal transformations over a finite field; b) the exceptional and twisted groups of Lie type (including the Tits group which is not strictly a group of Lie type); 4) The 26 sporadic simple groups.

    As alluded to above, groups are one of the strongest points of LinkedIn. It could be argued that they have proliferated and splintered too much since their inception, but they remain a great way to interact with people who share your interests (for me everything from Mountain Biking to Data Warehouse Architecture). Joining a group both flags your areas of enthusiasm or expertise to the reader of your profile and provides a mechanism to connect with people via just what you have in common (you can generally send an invitation to the members of one a group you belong to without needing to know their e-mail address).

    However the greatest benefit of joining a group is that you can get involved in discussions. These may be responding to topics that others have raised, or web-pages that they have shared, or you may choose to initiate discussion threads of your own. For example, and anticipating the final part of this piece, I have lost track of how many of my blog articles had their genesis in LinkedIn group discussions. Of course when a group inspires you to write, you can then share the results back with the very people who provided the inspiration; a virtuous circle. You can learn a lot by just reading, but even more by jumping in and getting involved.

    Particular LinkedIn groups that have inspired me to write include:

    1. Business Intelligence Group
    2. Chief Information Officer (CIO) Network
    3. CIO Forum
    4. TDWI’s Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing Discussion Group

    Nowadays, of the above, you are most likely to find me hanging out here:

    The Data Warehousing Institute

    At the time of writing there is a limit of 50 groups to which a LinkedIn user can belong. I am at that limit and probably need to do some weeding out in order to focus on the truly useful versus the mildly interesting. A final suggestion here is to – unlike me at present – devote your time to a smaller number of groups, giving each the attention that it deserves.

    A final recommendation under this sub-heading: don’t get into discussions with Young Earth advocates, especially those who somehow managed to graduate from your science-based alma mater – you have been warned.

  5. Recommendations – giving and getting

    Glenn McGrath, Australian cricket legend, recommending England as the team most likely to become world number one after their home and away Ashes victories

    Recommendations are another tricky area. Ideally you will receive these spontaneously, but back in the real world you may need to ask. As ever the praise of the praiseworthy is the most treasured of all, so I would strongly suggest that you do not ask for recommendations from all and sundry. Qualifications should be a) that you respect the person you are asking to recommend you, b) that you did substantive work together, c) that the person’s recommendation is pertinent to whatever you are trying to achieve on LinkedIn and d) [sadly this one is not within your control] that the recommendation conveys something other than mere platitudes. You can of course ask people to edit their recommendations, but maybe at that point the trickiness becomes terminal.

    Some people suggest that recommendations from superiors, or customers are the only ones that are worth having. I say poppycock! Two of the LinkedIn recommendations that I am most proud of come from colleagues who worked for people who worked for me. If displaying man-management or leadership skills play any part in your LinkedIn objectives – and of course if such recommendations appear genuine – then surely there is an awful lot of value in any recommendation from a colleague. Perhaps solely having testimonials from people who have worked for you might not set the right tone, but having none also says something in my opinion.

  6. Applications – closing the loop

    I mentioned above that there are other ways to jazz-up your LinkedIn page. Amongst these are add-in applications. The number of these has increased of late, but don’t expect the Apple or Android app stores. There are apps that will let you share presentations, tell people what you are reading (via Amazon), or flag your travels around the globe (useful if you are a rock band on its world tour, less helpful for a humble ITer like me). I only use a couple, but they both seem to add value.

    First I use, a cloud-based document repository on which I store nothing more exciting than my CV and some other career documentation. The app tells you when a document is downloaded (though obviously not who has downloaded it) and I am surprised how many readers have taken advantage of this. I hope that they found my CV a riveting read.

    Wordpress LinkedIn application

    Second I use WordPress’ own add-in which allows content from my blog to be displayed (see next section). The app doesn’t provide tracking information, but I can tell whence (anonymised) visitors to my blog arrive and a fair percentage appear to originate from this LinkedIn feature.

    Despite a slow start, I anticipate a growing number of LinkedIn apps becoming available in coming months. It will be interesting to see what other opportunities these provide. The core value of LinkedIn is going to continue to be vested in the sections that I describe above, but I can see future applications enhancing this in interesting ways.

  7. Combination with other elements of Social Media

    Media est omnis divisa in partes tres

    Way back in the first segment of this series I said that I felt that they interplay between Blogging, Twitter and LinkedIn was more powerful than any single element. I have probably come into contact with a wider range of people via Twitter, maybe due to the low friction associated with following someone, but most of the more useful relationships have also become connections on LinkedIn. I mention above that LinkedIn groups have inspired a number of my blog articles. These include some of my most highly-rated pieces such as Who should be accountable for data quality?, A single version of the truth? and “Why Business Intelligence projects fail”. Perhaps the fact that they related to topical issues that people clearly wanted to discuss was a contributory factor in their popularity. I like to think that I often take a different slant from the original discussions on LinkedIn, but I would have often not put fingertip to keyboard without the initial conversation giving me a nudge.

    Of the three media, I put the most effort into blogging (as attested to by the length of this piece for example), but I interact with people more on LinkedIn. The way that WordPress reports referring URLs makes it difficult to be precise, but a back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that is my most frequent referring domain by some way. My Twitter output has fallen somewhat in recent months, both due to other things consuming my time and also my developing opinion that it is becoming tougher to tell signal from noise. Nevertheless, it is a very common occurrence that a Twitter follow leads to a LinkedIn invitation in rapid succession and vice versa; it helps that each of the three sites have many links off to the others.

    You can link your Twitter output to LinkedIn, but I find that this can be a bit overwhelming for me, let alone people reading my LinkedIn page, so have generally turned this off again. Although I think there is great value in forming connections between LinekdIn and Twitter, I also think it is important to remember that they are distinct media which people peruse for different reasons, albeit with some overlap.

Final thoughts

B.T.L. - An eternal golden braid (with apologies to Douglas R Hofstadter

It has been a long journey, but I have now completed my traverse of the triangle formed by Blogging, Twitter and LinkedIn, with each “side” having its own dedicated article. I think that I will risk over-extending this analogy by saying two things.

First in arriving back where I started it is important to state that you can never declare success in Social Media, you are only as good as your last article or tweet (OK maybe the bar is not set that high for tweets). In fact I feel mildly motivated to re-read the first article in this trilogy and see which of my own blogging tips I have been ignoring recently. As with most activities, Social Media success is driven by practice and, to borrow from the other Seven Habits by continually sharpening the saw.

Second a triangle, if properly formed, has structural integrity beyond that of its component parts. I think that the same holds true for the three parts of Social Media that I have covered in this series. For those readers who have persevered this far, there is just one thing that I would like you to take away from this article. This is the strength generated by using Blogging, Twitter and LinkedIn in a mutually reinforcing way.
Usurpo - Sustineo - Servo


What is wrong with this picture?

Following on from the optical illusions that I featured earlier in the week, here is another picture with something subtly (or perhaps not so subtly) wrong with it. Can you spot what?

So which one is your favourite?

Another social media-inspired meeting

Lights, camera, action!

Back in June 2009, I wrote an article entitled A first for me. In this I described meeting up with Seth Grimes (@SethGrimes), an acknowledged expert in analytics and someone I had initially “met” via

I have vastly expanded my network of international contacts through social media interactions such as these. Indeed I am slated to meet up with a few other people during November; a month in which I have a couple of slots speaking at BI/DW conferences (IRM later this week and Obis Omni towards the end of the month).

Another person that I became a virtual acquaintance of via social media is Bruna Aziza (@brunoaziza), Worldwide Strategy Lead for Business Intelligence at Microsoft. I originally “met” Bruno via and then also connected on Later Bruno asked me for my thoughts on his article, Use Business Intelligence To Compete More Effectively, and I turned these into a blog post called BI and competition. - by Bruno Aziza of Microsoft

We have kept in touch since and last week Bruno asked me to be interviewed on the channel that he is setting up. It was good to meet in person and I thought that we had some interesting discussions. Though I have done video and audio interviews before with organisations like IBM Cognos, Informatica, Computing Magazine and SmartDataCollective (see the foot of this article for links), these were mostly a while back and so it was interesting to be in front of a camera again.

The format seems to be an interesting one, with key points in BI discussed in a focussed and punchy manner (not an approach that I am generally associated with) and a target audience of busy senior IT managers. As I have remarked elsewhere, it is also notable that the more foresighted of corporations are now taking social media seriously and getting quite good at engaging without any trace of hard selling; something that perhaps compromised the earlier efforts of some organisations in this area (for the avoidance of doubt, this is a general comment and not one levelled at Microsoft).

Bruno and I touched on a number of areas including, driving improvements in data quality, measuring the value of BI programmes, using historical data to justify BI investments (something that I am overdue writing about – UPDATE: now remedied here) and the cultural change aspect of BI. I am looking forward to seeing the results. Watch this space and in the meantime, take a look at some of the earlier interviews that Bruno has conducted.


Other video and audio interviews that I have recorded: syndicated on BeyeNetwork

BeyeNetwork - Global coverage of the business intelligence ecosystem

I have been a member of the Business Intelligence Mecca that is for quite some time, but as of this week I am delighted to announce that they will be syndicating this blog at:

Thank you to all at at BeyeNetwork for setting this up.

New Adventures in Wi-Fi – Track 2: Twitter

New Adventures in Wi-Fi (with apologies to R.E.M.)

Forming the second part of the trilogy that commenced with:

New Adventures in Wi-Fi – Track 1: Blogging


To tweet, or not to tweet. That is the question.

First of all some caveats:

I am not a social media expert, nor any of its many variants.
I do not work in marketing or PR.
I will not be encouraging you to unleash the power of FaceTube/YouSpace/MyBook to make the world a better place (and your bank vault a fuller one), or to sell a million more of your product.
I can not claim to have some secret formula for success in the world of on-line communication (indeed I tend to be allergic to such things as per Recipes for Success?).

If you want all the answers, then please look elsewhere. Good luck with your search!


I am an IT person, with a reasonable degree of commercial awareness and a background in sales and sales support.
I have been involved in running web-sites and various on-line communities since 1999.
I do author a business, technology and change blog that has been relatively well-received (why else would you be reading this?)
I think that can be an extremely useful way of interacting with people, expanding your network and coming into contact with interesting new people.

This is the middle chapter of a series of articles about the experiences of a neophyte in the sometimes confusing world of social media. View this article as akin to Herodotus describing crocodiles and you won’t go far wrong. If you learn something useful, then that’s great. If not, I hope that my adventures prove a harmless diversion for the reader.

I thought of adding a fourth zero, but that seemed much too applied. For the avoidance of doubt this illustration should not be taken as an endorsement of Ab Initio.

I covered some of my previous forays in what has now come to be called social media in my earlier article, so I won’t revisit them here. The main focus of this piece is Twitter, a service that I joined back in December 2008, a couple of months after establishing this blog. It took me some time to figure Twitter out and I am not sure that I entirely “get it” in full.

In a recent article – How I write – I referred to many of my blog posts flowing quickly and easily. I must admit that writing this piece is proving to be something more of a struggle. Perhaps this reflects the fact that making progress on Twitter was also anything but easy. Indeed I felt that for a long time I was blundering about without any real idea about how to use the medium, or what I wanted to use it for. It also probably reflects my admitted lack of expertise in social media.

An aside for fellow pedants:

One in a million

Twitter is positioned as a micro-blogging service. This terminology offends the scientific bent of my mind. Micro (μικρός) implies 10-6 or one millionth. I tend to write relatively long blog posts and the average size of one of my articles is about 1,200 words; this equates to just over 7,000 characters. Twitter’s 140 character limit (originally set as the length of an SMS) is one fiftieth of this figure, so a more accurate description of Twitter would be a centi-blogging service; for less verbose bloggers maybe deci-blogging would also work.

Many aficionados of Twitter claim that it is the ideal way to promote your product, your service and/or yourself (or all three at the same time). The same people also say that it is a great tool for listening to existing and potential customers, obtaining information about what they like and dislike and picking up on trends. All this may very well be true, but this is not how I have come to use Twitter and I will not be covering any of these aspects here.

For me the facility is not really about reaching a wide audience – however much I may be passionate about areas such as Business Intelligence, I realise that not everyone will feel then same. Instead it has been a great way to discover the members of a broader worldwide technology community focussed on areas such as databases and data warehousing, BI tools and approaches, numerical and text-based analysis and general technology industry issues.
So what is all the fuss about anway?

How come it doesn't recognise

Twitter started as a way to post updates from your mobile ‘phone by texting a message to a number (07624 801 423 here in the UK). The messages would generally be about the sorts of things that you would be doing when you don’t have access to a PC, but do to a mobile ‘phone. For example:

  • “I’m standing in line at the grocery”,
  • “It is raining outside“,
  • “The girl opposite on the bus is looking at me“,
  • “Oh dear so is her boyfriend and he seems less friendly“,

These messages were then posted on-line and could be read by other people. If these people found your output interesting (and let’s face it who could not be captivated by the examples I quote above), then they could subscribe to your posts (or follow your tweets in the lingo). When some one follows you, you are notified and can return the complement if you wish. In this way the network of people with whom you can share your updates grows.

At some point people began to realise that you could skip the mobile bit and use your computer to post tweets directly on-line. This opened up the entire:

  • "I was surfing the Net and found this cool site http://…"

type post and the rest, as they say is history. I have tweeted via my mobile ‘phone recently, but only by first loading Opera Mini and going to I suspect that there are people out there who have never sent an SMS to their Twitter account.

Hamlet Act 2, scene 2, 86–92

A relic of this history is the aforementioned 140 character limit. Because there is not much room to type, there is a limit to the length of thought that you can share. In turn this means that a defining characteristic of Twitter is brevity. For someone such as me who is not known for having this quality as a core characteristic, this presents something of a challenge. However when you have something exceeding 140 characters to say, the Twitter limit forces the approach of writing it down somewhere else (e.g. on a blog) and then posting a link. A lot of my Twitter posts contain either links to this site or to interesting articles that I have found elsewhere. In this way, Twitter has some attributes akin to a more dynamic version of a social bookmarking site (such as or

The other key characteristic of twitter is interaction. Most of my other tweets are either passing on comments made by other people, or links posted by them – of course this type of behaviour tends to lead to reciprocation, which binds people together (in a positive sense) and also potentially widens the network available to both. The balance of my tweeting is made up of chatting with people (tweeps if you must) either about industry issues, or – probably more frequently – just shooting the breeze.

To me rather than [insert appropriate negative power of 10 here]-blogging Twitter is much more akin to it’s historical roots of public texting. Instead of SMSing one person, or a small group, you share your abbreviated pearls of wisdom with potentially thousands of people, these people also have a much easier way of following your train of thought. Of course there is no guarantee that they put the same care and attention into reading your tweets as you did in to writing them; more on this later.
Some suggestions for blissful tweeting

Blue skies / Smiling at me / Nothing but blue skies / Do I see ||  Bluebirds / Singing a song / Nothing but bluebirds / All day long

These are some things that have worked for me and seem to make sense. There are lots of alternative perspectives out there, just a google away:

  1. Go to and sign-up for an account.

    Unless you want to stay anonymous, I would suggest using your real name and a user name that is close to this: I’m @peterjthomas for example.

  2. Fill in your profile and tell people a bit about yourself.

    There is nothing more off-putting than being followed by someone, clicking on their page and finding… nothing. Why would anyone want to listen to what you have to say if you don’t lay down some markers here? While you are at it, think about customising your page to make it a bit more distinctive. But don’t go to town, at least at present, it is not that easy to come up with a scheme that will work on multiple screen resolutions.

  3. Find some people to follow.

    This can be a little easier said than done. What you are most likely looking for is people with similar interests to yourself. There are a number of approaches.

    1. You may already know some peers who use Twitter, as well as following them, go to their page ( and see who they interact with when speaking about subjects that you also want to talk about. If they don’t have thousands of followers, take a look at the list and also look at who they follow.
    2. Many people in the blogosphere (as well as many corporations) have a Twitter presence and will often advertise this fact. If you have found an interesting blog article – say this one – then scan the site to see if there is a Twitter link; more often than not there will be.
    3. If you end up following some one that you view as being influential in your area, then take a look at the people that he or she tweets with – they will probably also be worth following.
    4. You can also use twitter search to see what other people are talking about that might be of interest – the following link looks for references to business intelligence: (more on how to tag your tweets later). It may be that some of the people that come up in a search list are worth following.
    5. Finally you can let other people do the hard work for you every Friday. Follow Friday is a Twitter tradition in which people give recommendations of tweeps that they feel others may want to follow. This can be gold-dust for someone hoping to find like-minded people.
  4. Think about how to get people to follow you.

    Maybe a good way to think about this is to consider the exercise that you have just completed to look for people to follow. What would make your Twitter account come into focus in such a process? Whatever you are looking for in some one to follow, similar people will also be looking for, so try to fit the bill.

    If you are looking for people who share cool articles, then share cool articles. If you are looking for people who express opinions about things that are important to you, then express opinions; either on Twitter, or via a blog and post links on Twitter. If you are looking for people who engage with others, then engage with others yourself. You can reference people who are not following you (and indeed who you are not following) just by putting an ‘@’ in front of their name.

    For example even if you are not following me and you post:

    “Wow! that @peterjthomas really knows his business intelligence”

    then first of all I will notice (as you reference me) and second I’m as human as the next person and am likely to at least consider following you, or at the very least sharing your comment with my followers.

    An aside on sharing tweets:

    Twitter etiquette is that you don’t share other people’s tweets without referencing them. So in the above example I might re-tweet your kind comment as:

    “RT @your-name Wow! that @peterjthomas really knows his business intelligence << Thanks"

    the RT stands for re-tweet and the << indicates my additional comments, in this case to say thank you – people do the latter in a number of way. An alternative to using RT is as follows:

    “Wow! that @peterjthomas really knows his business intelligence (via @your-name)”

    Not only is this polite, but now @your-name and @peterjthomas are linked – if I was worth following, then me mentioning you is a worthwhile objective.

    Of course the other two keys to gaining followers are the same as for getting people to read your blog: first share links that are worthwhile sharing (particularly if they are your own work) and second try to engage with people and refrain from being a passive by-stander.

One thing that is probably dawning on any Twitter novices right now is that the above are not discrete activities that you do once and then are finished with. If you want to get the most out of Twitter, then you will have to keep doing them.
More advanced techniques

Paul Dirac - the UK's greatest physicist since Newton

Unless you are looking to create a social media presence for a Fortune 500 company (assuming that there are any left who have not already created such a thing), then the above pointers are probably more than enough to get you started. Like me you may then just muddle through, hopefully learning from your mistakes. Alternatively, there are any number of guides out there which may or may not strike a chord with you and suit your personal style; just search for them.
Be yourself

On the subject of personal style, I’d suggest (as I also suggested in my article on blogging) that you be yourself on Twitter. Even within 140 characters, trying to be something that you are not comes across as fake; people aren’t impressed. On the same subject, treat people as you would face-to-face. If you are trying to sell something – even just your personal brand – then would you ram this down people’s throats in person? If not, then why would it be OK to do this on Twitter? A more low key approach is likely to lead to engagement and a better outcome than blowing your trumpet from the roof-tops (I know, I have tried the latter and it doesn’t work too well).
Use hash-tags

Above I mentioned tagging your posts. So if you write something about cloud computing, you might want to tag it with a key word, e.g. “cloud”. Though Twitter’s own search engine and the various other tools that you can employ on Twitter data will search for any occurence of specified text, it is still traditional to use hash tags, so in the above example a tweet might look like:

“I have just come across a great article sumarising new development in cloud computing – #cloud

As ever the incomparable has a view on this world that is both acerbic and insightful:

I learnt everything I know about title/alt text from Randall Munroe

To see a slightly more positive use of Twitter search and hash-tags, try looking up coverage of a recent Teradata analyst event using #td3pi.
Shorten your URLs

On the subject of links, the 140 character limitation means that you don’t want to waste space with long URLs. Using a URL shortener is mandatory – I use but there are many other such tools out there.
Check out the wide range of Twitter-related tools

Now that the subject of tools has come up, there is an entire hinterland of Twitter-related tools that can do a wide range of things to help you. These include:

  1. Twitter platforms

    These which help to manage your entire Twitter experience from reading other people’s posts, to making your own (sometimes doing link shortening for you automatically). If you are successful in finding people to follow and attracting people to follow you, then there will come a time when the noise level becomes unmanageable. This type of tool can help by providing filters and groups, which enable you to make sense of a tsunami of tweets, organise them and prioritise your time.

    I use TweetDeck, but again there are many alternatives.

  2. Twitter add-ins

    These are generally what you would employ on your blog or other internet site to allow people to easily tweet your content. There are several very slick and attractive looking options out there, just take a look at a handful of sites and take your pick. I’m staying old-school for present and hand-coding my Twitter links (as at the end of this article).

  3. Twitter analytics

    This is rather a grand name which covers everything from the trend of how many people are following you through to quite sophisticated analysis. Rather than provide a list, take a look at one that Pam Dyer has put together here.

  4. Other

    There are a lot of fun Twitter-related applications out there. Just one example to whet your appetite is the following app, written by @petewarden which graphs your relations to other people on Twitter and gives a very visual perspective on the totality of your tweeting:


In closing

I chose to close this article with the above image for a reason. To me it captures the essence of what Twitter is about; forming a network of associations with people who can enrich your understanding, provide you with fresh perspectives, or even simply make you smile. The diagram looks awfully like a community doesn’t it? If you enjoy reading this blog and are looking for people to follow who might share your world-view, then clicking on the above graphic and checking out some of the people I interact with most may be a good starting point.

If you chose to take the plunge with Twitter then good luck and I hope that you get as much out of it as I have. You can also then do me a favour and use the handy link just below to share this article with your followers!

The New Adventures in Wi-Fi series of articles on Social Media concludes with a piece on professional networking and LinkedIn here.

How I write

Drawing Hands, Maurits Cornelis Escher, 1948 - probably a suitable image for rather a self-referential blog article
During a conversation with an associate last week, she commented that a lot of effort must go into creating new content for this site and posed the question of where I find the time. Part of the answer is writing in the evenings and at weekends (tick both boxes for this piece), or grabbing moments when I am travelling on business. However, another piece of the jigsaw puzzle is quite different and relates to how I write.

The same person was kind enough to say that she found my writing to be coherent and well-structured. In her mind, this implied an equally structured approach to composition. Sadly nothing could be further from the truth. In general I have an idea (sparked by a conversation on-line, something that happened in the work day, or reading an article) and create a draft as soon as I have time and access to the Internet. Often this is no more than a working title, maybe a line describing my idea and, if this is what inspired me to write, a link to the relevant web-page for future reference.

Sometimes I come back to these ideas as soon as I have time to write more fully. However, on occasion the gestation period is longer, either because other topics have consumed my attention, or because my thoughts have not matured enough to put fingertip to keyboard. At present for example, I have 17 drafts sitting in WordPress, the earliest of which dates back to December 2008 (maybe it will see the light of day at some point).

When I do get round to starting to write, the process is normally very fluid. Most frequently I will substantially finish a piece at a single sitting. The way that I write tends to be first via a stream of consciousness, which results in a large block of text. Next I restructure (I would be lost without cut and paste) and finally I trim (yes I do sometimes reduce the length of my articles), or expand as seems to make sense at the time.

If on re-reading I feel that I have not been clear enough in making my points, I might re-write a section, or add some clarifying comments. Sometimes I will change the order in which paragraphs appear in order to improve the flow. I may even feel that an initial draft is conflating two fairly distinct ideas and thus split the piece into separate articles; but this is very much an exception. If I ignore correcting typos, punctuation and grammar, then I would estimate that over 80% of any given article will be identical to how I first wrote it.

An idiosyncrasy is that I tend to write in the HTML pane of WordPress and often hand-craft things like tables (one reason I moved to WordPress from Blogger was that the latter didn’t – at least at the time – support HTML tables). I guess this is a hang-over from programming days (not that long ago as, alongside my other responsibilities, I was still programming professionally as recently as 2008). This means that I have greater control over how an article appears, but also leads to me using the “preview” feature quite extensively.

I also tend to spend quite a bit of time either finding suitable illustrations or creating them (I use a combination of Visio and Paint Shop Pro, both tools I have used in a work context for years). Sometimes the ideas for images come as I am in the midst of writing (and a brief search, or a quick bit of design work can give my unconscious time to think about the next bit of text), but equally often I get rather swept along by the prose, push on to completing this and then come back to add images as part of the editing process. Either way, nowadays I seem to spend almost as much time thinking about mouse-over text for images as I do coming up with images themselves.

Going back to the conversation that I mention at the beginning. We ended up talking more about how I write. I said that it was normally a relatively rapid process for me. The best analogy that I could come up with was the difference between speaking in your native tongue and translating into a language that you are not 100% fluent in. For me writing about topics in business intelligence, cultural transformation and technology feels very much a natural thing; like speaking English. It’s not something laboured and the words generally flow quickly easily.

Maybe I am just lucky in this respect. Or perhaps the secret of prolific blogging is to write about things that you both know something about and for which you have an ongoing passion.
An early blog prototype

The Cloud Circle Forum – London

The Cloud Circle


Earlier this week I attended the inaugural The Cloud Circle Forum in London. The Cloud Circle is the UK’s first independent Business and IT focused Cloud Computing Community. It is also the sister community of the Business Intelligence-focussed Obis Omni, an organisation with whom I have a longstanding (though I hasten to add, non-contractual) relationship (a list of Obis Omni seminars at which I have presented appears here, and you can also find some of my articles syndicated on their site).

There was a full programme with the morning being taken up by plenary presentations from Harrogate’s InTechnology (@InTechnology) and CloudOrigin (aka Cloud Computing evangelist Richard Hall – @CloudOrigin), followed by two Windows Azure case studies; one from EasyJet and one from Active Web Solutions (@AWSIpswich) for the Royal National Lifeboat Association – these were hosted by Microsoft themselves.

The afternoon programme saw delegates split into two work-streams, one focussed on strategy and management, the other on technology. Work-related pressures meant that I was unable to attend this part of the day, which was a shame as several bits of the morning speeches were helpful.

Who you gonna call?

Unfortunately, despite the fact that virtually every organisiation and individual I have mentioned so far has a Twitter account and the additional fact that there were hundreds of delegates at the forum, there was virtually no Twitter coverage. Maybe we can get too carried away with the all pervasiveness of social media sometimes. There are clearly some avenues of professional life where its influence is yet to be fully felt; even IT conferences!

I tweeted some commentary on the InTechnology presentation and the stream may be viewed here while it persists. However by the time that Richard Hall stood up to speak, a combination of a lack of reception (the auditorium was in the basement) and issues with mobile Twitter on my hand-held brought this activity to a halt.
The morning presentations

Note: I don’t want to steal the thunder from any of the speakers and so this article does not cover the content of their presentations in any detail. Instead my aim is to highlight a few points and provide a flavour of their talks.


The InTechnology talk was interesting in parts, in particular their focus on the savings to be achieved in cloud-based telephony alone. One of their speakers also suggested that the benefits of Cloud Computing were potentially reduced if an organisation worked with more than one vendor, which is clearly an aspect to consider.

Their presentations were topped and tailed by two segments of a Cloud Computing-related spoof of The Apprentice. Clearly some money had gone into this and the results were either hilarious or somewhat ill-advised depending on your personal taste. I have to admit to falling closer to the latter camp. While some delegates seemed to enjoy the fun of the fair, I felt the video distracted somewhat from InTechnology’s core message.

I billed Richard Hall as a Cloud Computing evangelist and certainly his tub-thumping upped the tempo. He made some interesting points, which included his assertion that the proprietors of cloud server farms were employing cutting edge technology that was not currently commercially available and might never be. The point here was that cloud providers were becoming true experts in the area with capabilities far beyond normal organisations. This segued with his prediction that there would be only four, or at most five, mega cloud vendors in the future.

Richard did have one slide focusing on the potential drawbacks (or current short-comings) of Cloud Computing, but you could tell his heart wasn’t really in it. One sensed that Richard never met a cloud he didn’t like, even referring to his only personal Road to Damascus during his talk. However one very valid point he made was that the legal agreements and licensing arrangements for Cloud Computing were significantly lagging the flexibility of the technology itself. This chimes with my own experience of the area.

Microsoft Active Web Solutions

The real-life case studies of cloud-based success were perhaps more telling than the earlier sessions. Bert Craven, Enterprise Architect at EasyJet, spoke about how his company had been moving selected elements of their IT assets to the cloud. Interestingly, while the original plan had been to keep some critical applications (the sort for which 99.9% availability is not good enough) in-house, one of these was now in the process of becoming cloud-based.

Richard Prodger, Technical Director of AWS, spoke about the work that his company had been doing with the RNLI – a charity that runs volunteer lifeboats around the coasts of Britain. The specific project was to provide fishermen with devices that would automatically alert the RNLI control centre if they fell overboard and then provide accurate positioning information enabling a faster rescue and thus one that would be more likely to result in success. Richard shared stories of several fishermen who were alive today thanks to the system. Here the cloud was not the original vehicle, but something that was subsequently employed to scale up the service.

Both case studies used Windows Azure as a component. I have not used this toolset, nor have I been briefed on it and so will refrain from any comment beyond stating that both Bert and Richard seemed happy with its capabilities; particularly in securely exposing internal systems to external web-users.
Some thoughts on what I heard and saw

When multiple presenters state that there is no agreed definition of the central subject matter of a seminar and then proceed to provide slightly different takes on this, you know that you are dealing with an emerging technology. That is not to deny the obvious potential of the area, but a degree of maturation is still necessary in this part of the industry before – in Richard Hall’s words – Cloud Computing becomes the future of IT.

There was more than one elephant in the room. First of which is bandwidth, which is relatively plentiful and relatively cheap in many parts of the world, but equally has neither trait in many others. This will be of concern to a lot of global organisations. Of course this is a problem that will undoubtedly go away in time, but it may dog true enterprise implementations of misison-critical Cloud Computing for some years yet.

Security remains a concern, it may well be true that the experts in Cloud Computing will be an order of magnitude more careful and competent about handling their customers’ data than many internal IT departments. However the point is that they are already handling the data of many customers and one error, or one act of malfeasance by an employee, could have a major impact. You may well be safer flying than driving your own car, but when a plane crashes, people tend to notice.

Future consolidation in Cloud Computing was mentioned by a number of speakers. Although this issue is not solely the preserve of cloud technology, it does raise some concerns about betting on the right horse. As has been seen in many areas of industry, the titans of today may be the minnows of tomorrow. When you are trusting an external organisation with your transactions, it helps to know for certain (or as close as you can get to it) that they will be around in five years’ time.

One of the central pitches of Cloud Computing is “let us look after the heavy lifting and your people can focus on more value-added activities”. While there are certainly economies to be seized in this area, the Cloud Computing industry may be doing itself a disservice by stating that customers can effectively stop worrying about functions moved to the cloud. In my mind a lot of care and attention will need to be put into managing relationships with cloud vendors and into integrating cloud-based systems with the rest of the internal IT landscape (or with other cloud-based systems). It may be that this type of work costs a lot less than the internal alternative, but it is nevertheless invidious to suggest that no work at all is required. This line of attack is reminiscent of some of the turn of the millennium sales pitches of ERP vendors, not all of which turned out to be well-founded.

In finishing this slightly downbeat section (and before a more optimistic coda), I’ll return to the commercial issues that Richard Hall referenced. He claimed – correctly in my opinion – that a major benefit of cloud-based solutions was not only that they scaled-up, but that they scaled-down. The “knob” could be adjusted in either direction according to an organisation’s needs. The problem here is that many parts of the Cloud Computing industry still seem wedded to multi-year fixed licensing deals with little commercial scope to scale either up or down without renegotiating the contract. What is technologically feasible may not be contractually pain-free. In the same vein more flexible termination clauses and guaranteed portability of data from one vendor to another need to be sorted out before Cloud Computing is fully embraced by many organisations.

On a more positive note, the above issues are maybe the typical growth pains of a nascent industry. No doubt solutions to them will be knocked into shape in the coming years. It is always tempting fate to predict the future with too much accuracy, but at this point it seems certain that Cloud Computing will play an increasingly important role in the IT landscapes of tomorrow. If nothing else this is attested to by the number of delegates attending Tuesday’s meeting.

The Cloud Circle are to be commended for getting out in front of this important issue and I hope that their work will better disseminate understanding of what is likely to become and important area and enable a wider range of organisations to begin to take advantage of it.

How to Measure BI Value – Microsoft Services

Microsoft Services

One of the benefits of the platform is that you can get some indication as to which other parts the the web are directing traffic your way. It was via this facility that I came across an article on Microsoft‘s site linking back to my piece Measuring the benefits of Business Intelligence. The title, sub-title and authorship of the Microsoft post is as follows:

How to Measure BI Value

A thorough assessment will help you demonstrate the effectiveness of your BI investments. We offer 8 factors to consider.

By Paula Klein, TechWeb

You can read the article here.

As always, my aim in writing this column is to remain vendor-neutral, however the Microsoft piece is not specifically pushing their BI products (though clearly further information about them is only a click away), but rather offering some general commentary.

Again it is interesting to note the penetration of social media (such as this blog) into mainstream technology business.

Independent Analysts and Social Media – a marriage made in heaven

Oracle EPM and BI Merv Adrian - IT Market Strategies for Suppliers

I have been a regular visitor to Merv Adrian’s excellent blog since just after its inception and have got to know Merv virtually via twitter (@merv) and other channels. I recently read his article : Oracle Ups EPM Ante, which covered Oracle’s latest progress in integrating its various in-house and acquired technologies in the Enterprise Performance Management and Business Intelligence arenas.

The article is clearly written and helpful, I recommend you take a look if these areas impinge upon you. One section caught my attention (my emphasis):

Finally, Oracle has long had a sizable base in government, and its new Hyperion Public Sector Planning and Budgeting app suite continues the integration theme, tapping its ERP apps (both Oracle E-Business Suite [EBS] and PeopleSoft ERP) for bidirectional feeds.

My current responsibilities include EPM, BI and the third Oracle ERP product, JD Edwards. I don’t work in the public sector, but was nevertheless interested in the concept of how and whether JDE fitted into the above scenario. I posted a comment and within a few hours Merv replied, having spoken to his senior Oracle contacts. The reply was from a vendor-neutral source, but based on information “straight from the horse’s mouth”. It is illuminating to ponder how I could have got a credible answer to this type of question any quicker.

To recap, my interactions with Merv are via the professional social media Holy Trinity of blogs, and The above is just one small example of how industry experts can leverage social media to get their message across, increase their network of influence and deliver very rapid value. I can only see these types of interactions increasing in the future. Sometimes social media can be over-hyped, but in the world of industry analysis it seems to be a marriage made in heaven.

Analyst and consultant Merv Adrian founded IT Market Strategy after three decades in the IT industry. During his tenure as Senior Vice President at Forrester Research, he was responsible for all of Forrester’s technology research, covered the software industry and launched Forrester’s well-regarded practice in Analyst Relations. Earlier, as Vice President at Giga Information Group, Merv focused on facilitating collaborative research and served as executive editor of the monthly Research Digest and weekly GigaFlash.

Prior to becoming an analyst, Merv was Senior Director, Strategic Marketing at Sybase, where he also held director positions in data warehouse marketing and analyst relations. Prior to Sybase, Merv served as a marketing manager at Information Builders, where he founded and edited a technical journal and a marketing quarterly, subsequently becoming involved in corporate and product marketing and launching a formal AR role.

BI and Competition – Bruno Aziza at Microsoft

Bruno Aziza Worldwide Strategy Lead, Business Intelligence at Microsoft


Bruno Aziza, Worldwide Strategy Lead for Business Intelligence at Microsoft recently drew my attention to his article on The Official Microsoft Blog entitled Use Business Intelligence To Compete More Effectively.

My blog attempts to stay vendor-neutral, but much of Bruno’s article is also in the same vein; aside from the banner appearing at the top of course. It is noteworthy how many of the big players are realising that engaging with the on-line community in a sotto voce manner is probably worth much more than a fortissimo sales pitch. This approach was also notable in another output from the BI stable at Microsoft; Nic Smith’s “History of Business Intelligence” , which I reviewed in March 2009. However, aside from these comments I’ll focus more on what Bruno says than on who he works for; and what he says is interesting.

His main thesis is that good BI can “sharpen competitive skills […] turning competitive insights into new ways to do business”. I think that it is intriguing how some organisations, ideally having already got their internal BI working well, are now looking to squeeze even further value out of their BI platform by incorporating more outward-looking information; information relating to their markets, their customers and their competitors. This was the tenth BI trend I predicted in another article from March 2009. However, I can’t really claim to be all that prescient as this development seems pretty common-sensical to me.
Setting the bar higher

Competition between companies is generally seen as a positive thing – one reason that there is so much focus on anti-trust laws at present. Competition makes the companies involved in it (or at least those that survive) healthier, their products more attuned to customer needs, their services more apt. It also tends to deliver better value and choice to customers and thus in aggregate drives overall economic well-being (though of course it can also generate losers).

Setting the bar higher

In one of my my earliest blog articles, Business Intelligence and Transparency, I argued that good BI could also drive healthy internal competition by making the performance of different teams and individuals more accessible and comparable (not least to the teams and individuals themselves). My suggestion was that this would in turn drive a focus on relative performance, rather than settling for absolute performance. The latter can lead to complacency, the former ensures that the bar is always reset a little higher. Although this might seem potentially divisive at first, my experience of it in operation was that it led to a very positive corporate culture.

Although organisations in competition with each other are unlikely to share benchmarks in the same way as sub-sections of a single organisation, it is often possible to glean information from customers, industry associations, market research companies, or even the published accounts of other firms. Blended with internal data, this type of information can form a powerful combination; though accuracy is something that needs to be born in mind even more than with data that is subject to internal governance.
A new source of competitive advantage

"Lightning" striking twice in Bejing

Bruno’s suggestion is that the way that companies leverage commonly available information (say Governmental statistics) and combine this with their own numbers is in itself a source of competitive advantage. I think that there is something important here. One of the plaudits laid at the feet of retail behemonth Wal Mart is that it is great at leveraging the masses of data collected in its stores and using this in creative ways; ways that some of its competition cannot master to the same degree.

In recent decades a lot of organisations have attempted to define their core competencies and then stick to these. Maybe a competency in generating meaningful information from both internal and external sources and then – crucially – using this to drive different behaviours, is something that no self-respecting company should be without in the 2010s.

You can follow Bruno on at @brunoaziza