The Auteurs

The Auteurs

Criterion launches a social network for film geeks.  One of the best implementations I’ve seen.  Forums, reviews, friends, pay per view.

I like niche communities — a lot — and I like them seperate and not under a big tent like Facebook. Reel-Time for saltwater fly fishing. The Auteurs for art films. Chowhound for food. I know there have been an attempt or two at a rowing network — but it fell flat for me.

Anyway, I’m dying to figure out the engine under Auteurs. It’s a nice piece of code.

General Mills’ Pssst… is a Weak Stab at Branded Community |

Paul Gillin takes General Mills to task for its branded community. Begs the question of who does a decent job with a branded community — aside from the usual product support forums, etc. — I can see some reasons for stumbling, but begs the question: who joins a community about bad yogurt?

“I just signed up for General Mills’ Pssst… membership club because I was interested in seeing how a big consumer products company assimilates all that we’ve learned about online communities and applies it to a super-brand site (plus, I love Lucky Charms!). It’s still early, but this site is off to a very weak start.

Pssst… is intended to bring fans of General Mills products closer to the company by inviting them into a members-only space where they can receive inside information, get coupons and samples and share their opinions about the company’s products. This is all the stuff that I preach organizations should do with branded communities. The site is produced in collaboration with GlobalPark, a company that manages online panels.

Pssst… is good in concept but bad in execution. I would not have launched the site in its current condition:

General Mills’ Pssst… is a Weak Stab at Branded Community |

MediaPost – Facebook, MySpace Aren’t Making the Marketing Cut –

From colleague Gary Milner, further dour sentiment towards Facebook and Myspace as marketing vehicles (see my earlier pointer to P&G’s new CMO saying essentially the same thing — marketers aren’t that capitvated by advertising next to photos of frat boys doing keg stands).

“However, more than half (55%) of the 180 responding chief marketers–representing brands with revenues ranging from $250 million to more than $10 billion–indicated low current interest in actually incorporating the networking sites into their plans.

“One-third said they’re “not interested at all” in getting Facebook and MySpace into their plans, and 22% said they’re “not too interested,” while 35% are very or somewhat interested.”


Malware Attack on Facebook – CSO Online – Security and Risk

Somehow this news from CSO Online that Facebook is a possible malware venue doesn’t surprise me. The number one annoyance in my experience is the incessant app downloads that ask a user to spam their friends to enable it for themselves. The app Lenovo is using during the Olympics from Citizen Sports is not malware, but, any perceptions by users that applications are risky is going to quickly injure confidence in the Facevok platform. IMHO.

“August 07, 2008 — CSO — The popular networking site Facebook is the target of a new attack that is spreading messages with malicious links.

Boston-based IT security and control firm Sophos is warning users about the problem. Sophos said Facebook user’s computer can be infected after they view a video that is infected with the bad code.

According to Sophos, messages left on Facebook users’ walls are urging members to view a video, which appears to be hosted on a Google website. But users who click on the link are taken to a site which urges them to download an executable file to watch the movie, according said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. The file downloads malicious code and displays an image of a court jester sticking his tongue out.”

Sophos: Facebook Malware Attack Puts Work Computers at Risk – CSO Online – Security and Risk.

Digital Influence Mapping Project: Lenovo’s Social Score

Digital Influence Mapping Project: Corporate Blogging Grown Up

Blog Aggregation Pages — best practices?

The challenge is to tie together 100+ blogs authored by Olympic athletes, coaches, friends and family into a single page.

Purpose of the page is:

Esteban Panzeri is on the job, and I suggested Alltop as one example of an interface example, but no one (Bhargava and Bell) seemed overly excited. And having visited Alltop a total of two times, I was stupid to reference something I don’t even use.

The ideal would be a shared Google Reader interface — all the functionality but constrained to a managed blogroll/OPML file. Public Google Reader. Possible? Second question is how to incorporate reader inputs. Third question: is it still too early to present a consumer web user with a call to action to click on an orange RSS button to subscribe to a feed? Are most consumers accustomed to a direct blog visit? I must dust off aggregator and feed reader adoption statistics.

Know of any good examples of blog network homepages? Should we be looking at HuffPo? CapeCodToday? Mark Cahill and I tried to tackle this with a community of saltwater fly fishing bloggers in 2003-2004, but it was too early to get much traction.

Social Media 201

I guess I stepped in the big cow-pie last week when I called out the SMM Pundits for overworking the elementary level of social media discourse – “be authentic!” “be transparent!” “it’s a conversation!” – as 101 Thumbsuckers. Now I am officially Mister SmartyPants 201 and feel compelled to play the part of know-it-all weenie. I guest blogged on a sample “201” topic for Jeremiah Owyang at Forrester on how to avoid blowing a corporate policy through a private action. I also threatened to give Jeremiah a list of example topics I want to see more discussion on. Here we go. In the Kawasakian Tradition of Blog Lists: here are ten random things that I don’t see a lot of discussion about:

  1. Tool and platforms: what tools a corporation uses for its social media platform says volumes about its credibility. I look at the footers: Is it a WordPress blog? Do they use Flickr for their photos? Do they license those photos as Creative Commons 2.5? Do they use MediaWiki for their wiki platform? Do they launder their feeds through Feedburner? Are there Digg and tagging tools? There are smart tools which to me indicate a deep understanding of certain basic precepts crucial to effective SMM. Are the tools favored by the organization also widely adopted by users or did the company seek a commercial vendor relationship and non-standard proprietary tools? Is an agency supporting and providing sysadmin functions?
  2. Pronouns: I have a bug up my you-know-what about the overuse of the Royal We in addressing one’s audience. Am I alone in viewing “we” as an attempt to dilute personal accountability for an organization’s actions? How many corporate SMM, community managers take accountability and responsibility on their shoulders by using “me” and “I?”
  3. Metrics: this is a 101 topic that is a 301 headache. SMM has no Internet Advertising Bureau or Web Analytics Association to codify a set of uniform measurements, and as all of us have to bow to the God of Accountability, how ROI is proven is going to be debated forever and ever. Let’s get off the “engagement” thing and go to the next level. Is it comment counts? Rank and influence? Pageviews and gross tonnage? Net Promoter Scores gathered through surveys?
  4. Rogue SMM: what do you do when a member of the organization launches into a blog brawl by stepping into a customer’s comments and says, “Blow it out your #$%, you have no idea what you are talking about you whiny $*%#%$@!” How can you manage the unmanageable? How do you keep you employees from editing the Wikipedia entry for your brand? What do you do when legal and security ask you to help them track down the identity of an anonymous employee blogger who is leaking company secrets? How do you educate rather than discipline?
  5. How to do SMM/SEO right: how do you promote favorable expressions about your brand and should you? When is it ethical to promote a piece of social media (e.g. “Digging”) and when is it unethical? (demoting a negative comment or flagging a negative comment as “objectionable” without identifying yourself. Knocking off hats to draw attention to yourself (something I a good at, it would appear.)
  6. Going Uplevel: what are your escalation paths? When do you pull the fire alarm? When do you declare Code Red and ask for all hands on deck in resolving an SMM crisis? Have you established crisis “service level agreements” with the legal and PR teams? Is there a formal mechanism for bringing an issue to the attention of an owner and getting a public statement out within a reasonable amount of time?
  7. Organizational Ownership: where does SMM belong? Customer service? Marketing? Public relations? All three?
  8. One vs many: a single corporate blog or many? How does SMM loosen control without losing control over the organization’s burgeoning ranks of bloggers? Where do you drawn the line between corporate and personal blogs.
  9. Review mechanism and buddy systems: how do your SMM statements (blog posts, forum discussions) get vetted and approved? Should they? How do you make your bloggers sensitive to the “RSS is eternal” phenomenon so that there is no such thing as a “deleted” post. Do you use a buddy system.
  10. The politics of being a know-it-all: okay, you’re the authority. You’ve done the Social Media 101 stuff, you’ve read the books, you went to the conference, you have all the right pundits in your RSS. You can b.s. about transparency and Marketing 2.0 and the ClueTrain with the best of them. You get your wish and now you’re the SMM person. How do you deal with those less enlightened recesses of the organization that view you as a loose cannon? Who do you threaten? How do you navigate the shoals of internal politics?

I could do ten more – throwing out topics is easy — delivering something substantial and actionable is another issue altogether. If 101 is theory and broad practice, 201 is operations and execution, the sort of stuff you’re going to stumble into as you go along. Dealing with customers and partners, critics and competitors – that stuff is either natural or it isn’t. Writing a solid corporate Social Media Marketing strategy document, knowing the difference between it and an SMM policy document, building a strong operation without paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in licenses and agency fees …. That’s SMM 201. I’ll try to tackle one of these every week – amidst posts about clams, the King Phillip War, sculling, and interactive/digital marketing. And, in the spirit of 101 advice, always end your blog posts with a call to action to your audience: tell me what is on your mind.

Ford: Car owners are pirates if they distribute pictures of their own cars

Ford: Car owners are pirates if they distribute pictures of their own cars – Boing Boing
Fester points at this legal head-scratcher on Boing Boing.

“Josh sez, “The folks at BMC (Black Mustang Club) automotive forum wanted to put together a calendar featuring members’ cars, and print it through CafePress. Photos were submitted, the layout was set, and… CafePress notifies the site admin that pictures of Ford cars cannot be printed. Not just Ford logos, not just Mustang logos, the car -as a whole- is a Ford trademark and its image can’t be reproduced without permission. So even though Ford has a lineup of enthusiasts who want to show off their Ford cars, the company is bent on alienating them. ‘Them’ being some of the most loyal owners and future buyers that they have. Or rather, that they had, because many have decided that they will not be doing business with Ford again if this matter isn’t resolved.””

I’d send 8 x 10 glossies of laptops, keyboards and towers to Lenovo’s fans if they wanted to have a calendar printer. Better yet, go to our Flicker stream and take what you need.

Sometimes the old tools are the best tools — Lenovo Forums launch

Most everyone is familiar with the online forum, the threaded discussion list, that foundation of online community that personified the concept in the Web 1.0 decade before blogs and wikis were understood or even discovered.

I got into the forum business in 1995 with two buddies, Mark Cahill at Vario and Thorne Sparkman, then an MBA candidate at Berkeley’s Haas School. We launched a simple online forum called Reel-Time for saltwater flyfishers, partly because all three of us were saltwater flyfishermen and also because I was making an extreme long tail point in 1995 that the web opened up infinitely discrete niches — hence one could form a community around fishing, then saltwater fishing, then saltwater flyfishing, then saltwater flyfishing on Cape Cod.

The system we used, at Thorne’s suggestion, was a freeware app called HyperMail used by nerds to archive and share email discussions (listserv). Thorne hired a geek to modify it and we launched it at Reel-Time as one of the first discussion systems on the net.

I was the sysadmin, or moderator, and every month I had to archive the posts and start a new month, usually opening the month with these simple rules and guidelines:

How to use this forum
David Churbuck (
Sun Jan 11 10:41:43 EST 1998 Welcome to the latest installment of the Reel-Time New England BBS.

Regulars to this forum can ignore these instructions, but if you are new, here are some simple tips.

The sort-by-date function is broken, always has been, always will. Therefore

This makes life much easier for everyone who wants to see what’s new and what’s not.

Don’t worry, your words are being written to the server. Press the button four times and guess what, your post will be written four times and you will look like a dolt. Don’t look like a dolt. Press the button once and be patient. As more messages are written, the posting process takes longer.

Third rule: Eat your peas and sit up straight and don’t try to sell stuff in here. Reel-Time depends on advertisers who pay their bills, people trying to slip in a freebie for their guide service, miracle lure, or naked bait girls want to meet you website get away with it once. only once.

This forum will go until it gets too big to handle, at which time it will archived.

Have fun, tight lines, and happy posting …

David Churbuck

That was it. Tools to delete posts, ban users, or otherwise “tend the virtual garden” were nonexistent. Chaos ensued but the community lives on, now on an up-to-date system called vBulletin which is still managed by Mark Cahill at Vario Creative Design.

Anyway — when I got to Lenovo two years ago there were no forums for users to discuss our products or seek technical guidance. There had been, in the old IBM PCD days, but it was a custom solution that was discontinued a few years before my arrival. I thought it would be a good idea to bring it back, if simply for the reason that I preferred to get my technical advice from other helpful users than an unknown tech support person who had to follow scripts that usually began with the helpful question: “Is the PC switched on?”

Mark Hopkins, who leads our social media efforts and blogs at Lenovo Connections, put together a strong case for investing in the return of a classic user forum. We considered a self-hosted model, using a program such as vBulletin, but in the end decided it would be more stable and secure if we teamed with an organization that specializes in corporate communities, Lithium.

It took a few months and a few presentations, but Mark made a masterful case for investing in the Lenovo forum project and with the assistance of Esteban Panzeri and Tim Supples, launched the forums earlier this month. Assisting in the creation of the forums were the moderators at, who lent us their valuable time and expertise in setting up the discussion areas and policies to govern their operation. Bringing the experts in from the beginning was probably the smartest thing we could have done, and already it’s paying off in terms of a high caliber discussion.

So, there it is. Check them out at I’ll post more on our strategy and how we intend to reward people for registering, participating and assisting.

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