Sean Park Portrait
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Articles tagged 'Facebook'

Evolutionarily ill-adapted.

Reuters reports:

Research conducted by the blog looked at Fortune’s 2009 list of the top 100 CEOs to determine how many were using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, or had a blog — and found they were mostly absent from the rapidly growing social media community.

The study found only two CEOs had Twitter accounts and 81 percent of CEOs did not have a personal Facebook page.

Only 13 CEOs had profiles on the professional networking site LinkedIn. Three CEOs stood out with more than 80 connections but they were all from technology companies — Michael Dell from computer maker Dell Inc., Gregory Spierkel from technology products distributor Ingram Micro Inc., and John Chambers from Cisco Systems Ltd.

Not one Fortune 100 CEO had a blog. (my emphasis)

“It’s shocking that the top CEOs can appear to be so disconnected from the way their own customers are communicating. They’re giving the impression that they’re disconnected, disengaged and disinterested,” said Sharon Barclay, editor at who runs executive PR firm Blue Trumpet Group.

The important thing isn’t whether they are blogging or not – it’s not for everyone – or that Facebook is critical for their job or their company. The important thing is that no knowledge – and (too) often outright hostility – to social media, the real-time web, etc. means that their understanding of the world in which they operate is frighteningly lacking. This has been a problem for time eternal for leaders of large organisations and is not specific to the advent of social media per se, but I would suggest that this time it is even more unfortunate than usual. One the speed of change and the deep structural paradigm shift that our society and economies are experiencing is more profound than normal ‘linear’ change. Secondly, their ability to ‘do something about it’ is real. In the past, I would of had much more sympathy for the corporate or political leader who said – “ok fair enough I’m a bit out of touch up here in my ivory citadel but what can I do about it”. Today that doesn’t wash. Or to a much much lesser extent.

So why are these leaders seemingly so ignorant and on the face of it disdainful of this new paradigm? Partly I’m sure it’s because they are really busy and have a never ending call on their attention: the urgent pushes out the important. This happens to all of us. More disappointingly – and here I can only speculate, I don’t know any of these 100 CEOs – I suspect that for many it is driven by fear. Not fear in a cowardly sense, but fear of looking dumb. Most people are afraid of this, and I’m sure toiling under the spotlight associated with running a Fortune 100 company only exacerbates this. These smart, ambitious, driven men and women must feel some annoyance after having spent 20 or 30 years climbing the corporate ladder to reach the pinnacle, only to find the rules of the game changed.

Here’s a suggestion. The Boards’ of these companies should ask there CEO’s to take a 1-2 month sabbatical to immerse themselves in the 21st web, preferably supported by a mentor or coach. When they came back they still might not blog. Or tweet. Or have a Facebook page. And that might be ok. But I’m certain they would have a much better understanding of why they don’t and what tools they might actually want to adopt. But most importantly they would have a better understanding of the world in which their company operates. First hand knowledge; not “Oh yeah my kid was telling me about that and tried to get me signed up. Damn teenagers!”

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Digital Divide.

GigaOm writes today on the growing divide between the leading and lagging companies on the web:

The web is entering a period of intense creativity. Companies like Google and Apple are positioned to ride, if not generate, the momentum driving that creativity. The laggards are at risk of being stuck in perpetual catch-up mode. If that happens, the bluebirds will have flown for good — and the landscape of Internet companies will soon look dramatically different.

And yet this is nothing compared to the ‘creativity gulf’ that is emerging between leaders and laggards in other sectors of the economy, including in banking, insurance and finance generally. Only here, the leaders are still small and just starting to emerge. Further, GigaOm points out that even once this creativity divide is created and continues to grow, the deleterious effects of being on the wrong side of this divide can take many years to really start to bite:

Other Internet names seem mired even further in the past. Yahoo’s interest in a deal with Microsoft for “boatloads of money” is a headline that belongs in 2008. eBay keeps trying to recapture the magic it had five years ago. And MySpace is still trying to renew its lifeline to Google.

None of these laggards will see a quick end. They’ll be able to endure for years serving the people who haven’t taken to Facebook or maybe tried and then abandoned Twitter, people who are comfortable with a simpler, more familiar experience on the web. But it’s an ever-shrinking crowd. A decade ago, AOL chose a complacent path by maintaining its gated online community, shunning the migration of content and services to the web itself. And look where AOL is today.

Substitute ‘financial’ for ‘internet’ in the analysis above and the parallels are obvious. The big difference of course is that the analogs for Google, Facebook, Apple and Twitter in finance are not yet obvious and indeed probably don’t yet exist (or are at the very early stages of their development.) However, the environment supporting the emergence of new digital leaders in finance has never been more fertile. This is one of the main reasons I created Nauiokas Park with Amy: in order to discover, support and develop the next generation of leading companies delivering financial services and products from the right side of the digital divide. The next several years promise to be exceptional vintages in our opinion.

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Dear Companies House,

It’s lovely that you have a website and that you even allow Companies to file (some) documents online. And wait until Google and others find out about your revolutionary business model of paid search! (Imagine if Google caught on and started charging a pound for every search! I can’t believe they didn’t think of this, but think I should buy some shares in case they see this. Just imagine – they would make billions!) Isn’t modern technology wonderful? But although you do seem to be quite ‘au fait’ with this whole internet thingy, there are a couple really neat newfangled things that could make your site even better. Things like relational databases for example. And if you really want to live on the edge, check out what the crazy kids at places like LinkedIn and Facebook have done. And then there’s this stuff called UI and UX, but I understand if you think this is perhaps a step to far. Maybe in 2015. In any event, the blue is very nice. Most people like blue. Very clever! Best regards, – A. Director

Say you are a Director of a UK limited company. Say you are a Director of many UK limited companies. You would think that in 2009, you’d be able to go to the Companies House website and ‘manage your profile’, no? (Address, contact details, present and former Directorships, qualifications, etc.) Well, you’d be wrong. You can’t even search on a person. Only on Companies. God help the poor bastard who is Director of 50 companies and has the stupidity to move: 50 change of address forms to fill in and submit. Online. Sort of. (Only for Limited companies, by post for LLP’s.) Aaaarrgh! I mean c’mon! WTF?!? Just because it is a government organization doesn’t mean it needs to be devoid of innovation, especially since:

The Minister responsible for Companies House is Ian Pearson MP, Minister of State for Science and Innovation. The agency also has Trading Fund status which allows the agency to directly manage its own finances.

Maybe next time he’s in the UK, Reid Hoffman might want to spend an hour with the Companies House Board(could be mistaken but a cursory google search would suggest that none of the Companies House directors are on LinkedIn so perhaps they do think they are on top of their game…)

In the ten minutes I’ve taken to write this one could sketch out the business model for Companies House 2.0 and given it’s key monopoly status, I’m sure you could build a killer revenue model (without fleecing your customers.) Better service. More revenues. Smarter business.


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Managing in the 21st century: not just about the kids.

About a month ago, management guru Gary Hamel posted “a list of 12 work-relevant characteristics of online life” that he felt that tomorrow’s employees would use as benchmarks to judge which companies “got it”. It’s a great list but I would go further and say that it’s not just about attracting the Digital Generation (or the Facebook Generation or Generation Y or M or whatever else you want to call today’s teens and twenty-somethings), it’s about attracting smart, connected, ambitious and energetic professionals of any age, but especially thirty and forty-somethings that are old and wise enough to have no illusions about the reality of working in a typical Fortune 500 company and have valuable “last century” skills but young enough to be able to want to reinvent their relationship to work and their employer.

1. All ideas compete on an equal footing.
On the Web, every idea has the chance to gain a following—or not, and no one has the power to kill off a subversive idea or squelch an embarrassing debate. Ideas gain traction based on their perceived merits, rather than on the political power of their sponsors.

2. Contribution counts for more than credentials.
When you post a video to YouTube, no one asks you if you went to film school. When you write a blog, no one cares whether you have a journalism degree. Position, title, and academic degrees—none of the usual status differentiators carry much weight online. On the Web, what counts is not your resume, but what you can contribute.

3. Hierarchies are natural, not prescribed.
In any Web forum there are some individuals who command more respect and attention than others—and have more influence as a consequence. Critically, though, these individuals haven’t been appointed by some superior authority. Instead, their clout reflects the freely given approbation of their peers. On the Web, authority trickles up, not down.

4. Leaders serve rather than preside.
On the Web, every leader is a servant leader; no one has the power to command or sanction. Credible arguments, demonstrated expertise and selfless behavior are the only levers for getting things done through other people. Forget this online, and your followers will soon abandon you.

5. Tasks are chosen, not assigned.
The Web is an opt-in economy. Whether contributing to a blog, working on an open source project, or sharing advice in a forum, people choose to work on the things that interest them. Everyone is an independent contractor, and everyone scratches their own itch.

6. Groups are self-defining and -organizing.
On the Web, you get to choose your compatriots. In any online community, you have the freedom to link up with some individuals and ignore the rest, to share deeply with some folks and not at all with others. Just as no one can assign you a boring task, no can force you to work with dim-witted colleagues.

7. Resources get attracted, not allocated.
In large organizations, resources get allocated top-down, in a politicized, Soviet-style budget wrangle. On the Web, human effort flows towards ideas and projects that are attractive (and fun), and away from those that aren’t. In this sense, the Web is a market economy where millions of individuals get to decide, moment by moment, how to spend the precious currency of their time and attention.

8. Power comes from sharing information, not hoarding it.
The Web is also a gift economy. To gain influence and status, you have to give away your expertise and content. And you must do it quickly; if you don’t, someone else will beat you to the punch—and garner the credit that might have been yours. Online, there are a lot of incentives to share, and few incentives to hoard.

9. Opinions compound and decisions are peer-reviewed.
On the Internet, truly smart ideas rapidly gain a following no matter how disruptive they may be. The Web is a near-perfect medium for aggregating the wisdom of the crowd—whether in formally organized opinion markets or in casual discussion groups. And once aggregated, the voice of the masses can be used as a battering ram to challenge the entrenched interests of institutions in the offline world.

10. Users can veto most policy decisions.
As many Internet moguls have learned to their sorrow, online users are opinionated and vociferous—and will quickly attack any decision or policy change that seems contrary to the community’s interests. The only way to keep users loyal is to give them a substantial say in key decisions. You may have built the community, but the users really own it.

11. Intrinsic rewards matter most.
The web is a testament to the power of intrinsic rewards. Think of all the articles contributed to Wikipedia, all the open source software created, all the advice freely given—add up the hours of volunteer time and it’s obvious that human beings will give generously of themselves when they’re given the chance to contribute to something they actually care about. Money’s great, but so is recognition and the joy of accomplishment.

12. Hackers are heroes.
Large organizations tend to make life uncomfortable for activists and rabble-rousers—however constructive they may be. In contrast, online communities frequently embrace those with strong anti-authoritarian views. On the Web, muckraking malcontents are frequently celebrated as champions of the Internet’s democratic values—particularly if they’ve managed to hack a piece of code that has been interfering with what others regard as their inalienable digital rights.

My first job (way back when) was as an analyst in an M&A department. But before a year was up and at the suggestion of the senior partner I was working for I applied for a job on the trading floor (as a bond trader.) The point my partner made was that in corporate finance, it mattered how old you were, who you knew and how much grey hair you had. (All things I was short of at the time!) On the trading floor however, not so much. There results and ideas mattered. In fact, the best thing about being a trader in the early nineties was well that many of the 12 items on the list above applied. At least for awhile.

If you work for a big bank or financial institution, score your employer – do they get more than 8/12? More than 4/12? Do they tick any of the boxes above? Answers in the comments please.

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Companies that ban Facebook, etc. don’t understand people.

If you’re not a geek or early adopter or part of the digital generation and you are looking for an introduction to why social networking and virtual worlds are relevant for business, this is probably not a bad place to start. Roo Reynolds is a ‘metaverse evangelist’ for IBM. For those of you that already get it, you can probably take a pass as it is pretty basic stuff with really no new insights. Nonetheless it is a good overview and engaging presentation (although I wished he would speak a bit faster – the same content could have been delivered in 20 minutes I think.)

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(open) Money money money.

Roman denarius
Image via Wikipedia

Stumbled accross an interesting site recently – open money: a wealth acknowledgement information system.

How does open money work?

You treasure what you measure, and you measure what you treasure. Open money provides the tools to implement this maxim. What should we be treasuring in our culture and on our planet that we so far have no way to measure?

Throughout history, wealth acknowledgment evolved by becoming more abstract and less substantial. Open money follows this same pattern by being a meta-currency system, not just a new single kind of money. It enables the creation of many new types of money. It puts currency creation directly in the hands of communities so that they can create wealth-acknowledgment systems for tracking all types of wealth–tradable, measurable, and acknowledgeable–and so that they can tailor the tracking to fit their precise needs.

Open money works by providing a unified platform for the interchange of all these different kinds of wealth acknowledgment, just the same way that the Internet provides a unified platform for the interchange of all kinds of information. Just as the great shift of the Internet was in not specifying what kind of data can flow across it (unlike the phone network), the great shift of open money lies in not dictating which new form of wealth-acknowledgment people should use. Instead it provides the basic building blocks for communities to create new types of wealth-acknowledgment systems themselves.

Right off the bat, communities can use open money for simple things like Local Exchange Trading Systems (LETS), Time Banks, barter networks, carbon-emissions trading programs, baby-sitting co-ops, reputation tracking systems, business loyalty programs, etc. But the interesting stuff will happen when communities apply their creativity to invent new currencies that solve wealth-acknowledgment problems we don’t even have names for yet.

It would seem to me that the potential reach and usefulness of such meta-currencies is even greater in a world where the wiring of the social graph is no longer location specific and consists of an infinite number of overlapping communities. I think anyone that has worked – and certainly anyone who has been a manager – in a medium to large size corporation would instantly recognize the importance of (and inherent difficultly therein) of measuring and rewarding what the open money folks call “acknowledgeable wealth.” And indeed in many instances attemps have been made to create internal ‘meta’-currencies to deal with this. I’m not sure if my experience is typical (I suspect it is) but such attempts in places I have worked have never really succeeded. Thinking about it now – and this is a provisional hypothesis – I suspect this was mainly due to two failings. First, the efforts generally tended to be half-hearted especially with respect to creating a robust and transparent ‘accounting’ system. Often the excuse would be ‘to avoid adding yet more bureaucracy to the system’, however I suspect the real resistance came from fear of what accurate accounting would reveal. Second, these currencies never had negative balances. They were like Lake Wobegon dollars: everybody got paid, but nobody paid. You can see how this would struggle to gain legitimacy.

There is an open money pilot project for a community currency network which I think I’m going to play around with; it would be ideal if they created a Facebook widget that allowed me to create a currency network for each Facebook group – this would save the hassle of having to solicit (potentially multiple times, for different currencies for different groups) my connections to sign up ‘out of context.’ Indeed by writing a widget that could overlay on any type of social group (email address book), departmental or company directory, yahoo group, ning network, etc. you could easily create millions of very context specific meta-currencies. While there is no reason to think that large transactions are proscribed from such a system, the likelyhood is that it would probably have a much greater impact in driving a large number of micro-transactions, greasing the wheels of social reciprocity so to speak. (Although as an aside, such a boom might create all sorts of issues for the existing tax paradigm…) Indeed, one of the seedcamp ’07 finalists (disclosure: I am an investor in seedcamp) (going live beta next week they say) – is something along these lines:

…is a simple and effective tool for referral tracking and reward administration for referring job candidates, clients, investors and other prospects. Currently in stealth (development)

They are giving us a demo on Thursday and I’ll be interested to see how it is similar/different to the concept I describe above.

Finally, part of the philosophy behind open money seems to exhibit a somewhat socialist or even utopian bent, and while I like their idea of “acknowledgeable wealth”, I firmly disagree with their “Why do we need open money?” reasoning. Basically, we might well ‘need’ open money – or more helpfully, open money might be a great tool, but not for the reasons they articulate. That said, in some specific cases I think there is merit in there first idea:

Modern money is inefficient and unfair. Because communities cannot create their own currencies they are beholden to, and fundamentally controlled by, whoever does, just as users of coins were limited by the amount of precious metal available. When communities can create their own currencies, they don’t have to export their own wealth to get money to use for trade. They can start trading right away and export later if they so choose.

In particular, I am thinking of Africa (which could be generalized to all countries with low per capita monetary wealth, especially where the state/financial system has a history of ineptitude), especially the Unchained Africa as described by George Ayittey:

And I wonder if JP isn’t on to something:

I start wondering whether the developing world’s enterprises will derive value from Enterprise 2.0 and social software much earlier than their developed world counterparts, a legacy effect I hadn’t considered before. I start wondering whether the developing world will leapfrog the developed world in the use of social software in general, as they are appearing to do in the mobile and wireless contexts. I start wondering.

Putting these threads together, I wonder if you could give a community (village or town or region) access (via mobile of course) to a mashup of Facebook, (local language) Wikipedia, combined with open money widgets this wouldn’t lead to an enormous leap in wealth (in the broadest sense) and well-being? If anyone out there wants to get together and have a look at having a crack at something like this, let me know. You never know, it just might work. Just have to think of a catchy name…

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Facebook and markets.

For readers who have yet to be seduced by the charms of Facebook, this Business 2.0 article and JP’s series of posts are good places to get a better understanding of the platform and what makes it interesting (for the over-30 crowd!) Dave Morin, Gatekeeper!

Many, many column inches have been written of late on the subject of Facebook, to the point that people who haven’t taken the time to try it out and migrate some of their (real-world) social networks to the platform are understandably cynical and wonder how the site can possibly live up to the hype. I’m not suggesting that this suspicion is entirely misplaced but I would however suggest that the fundamental enthusiasm surrounding Facebook is based on the real value it provides as a medium through which you can easily organize your networks online.

So what’s the Park Paradigm angle? Well, I would say that it is the closest online simulation of a trading floor environment that I have ever come across. I’m not talking about the content – although if you put all the people on a given trading floor on Facebook, you’d have that too – no, I’m talking about the connectedness, the interactivity, the multi-threaded narratives, the buzz… It’s not easy to describe, but anyone who has spent anytime working on a trading floor would identify with the energy that is generated on a good* trading floor. (* Some trading floors don’t work. If you don’t get the balance, acoustics, spacing, etc. right you can end up with a glorified wired reading room…) This is the same energy that can be harvested, seemingly effortlessly, by building a network of friends and applications on Facebook. Of course this is potentially interesting and useful in thousands of different contexts but let’s come back to markets. And trading floors.

Anyone who has worked in capital markets is likely to be familiar with the ubiquitous Bloomberg terminal. And notwithstanding the myriad of excellent analytical and trading applications available on Bloomberg, the ‘killer app’ – the secret of Mike’s success – was Bloomberg’s private instant messaging. Yes: IM with credentials, with context. Yes, “chat” is the main reason why Mayor Bloomberg is one of the wealthiest men in the world. (Remember the rise of Bloomberg in the world’s trading floors was long before ICQ was dreamed up. And once they hit the tipping point, Metcalf’s Law just took over.) There is no irony intended. Getting this right – providing this service – was of huge importance and benefit to people and firms working in global capital markets. Why? For the same reason the first modern stock market emerged out of conversations between trusted acquaitances in the coffee houses of the City of London:(in the words of my friend Patrick, “the essence of markets like most essences of civilization centers upon community.” (from The Exchange Manifesto, page 12)

Indeed, a heretic might say that the investment bank of the 21st century, the capital markets of the digital generation might not be built on a Bloomberg platform but on a Facebook (or other yet to be invented?) platform. (A heretic. Not me.) The irony of a number of investment banks banning Facebook access from work is abundant. So how will Bloomberg and Facebook compare in 2015? Of course by then, Mike will be President, and Mark may be Mayor of New York. Stranger things have happened. And as for my friend Dave (pictured above), well maybe he’ll stick around and run FB while Mark runs Manhattan. 😉

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