Blogger meetups

Little over a week ago, I was part of 2 blogger meetups I wanted to highlight here as well. The first meetup was in Stockholm during SIME and was co-hosted by Microsoft and SIME. We both agreed it would be a great idea to have some small side-event during one of the breaks, a dialogue between the bloggers present at the event, both from the audience and speakers. It was a bit unfortunate the only room available was a small cinema theatre, forcing it a little into an audience vs. stage setup but I enjoyed the meetup nevertheless and only wished we had more time. I was happy Thomas Crampton was willing to moderate the mini-event and that also Joi Ito and Dave Sifry agreed to participate, and of course that so many people turned up for it.

Untitled
Click on the image for the video, only part 1 available but will update once that changes.

I like the way Johan Ronnestam described it on his blog:

“Absolutely one of the better takeouts from this years SIME (so far) even though I think it could have been more of a meetup rather than a ‘listenup’.”

I think we had a great set of topics that we wanted to talk about with all the bloggers (personal vs corporate blogging, sponsored content, blogosphere dead or not, …) but we only got halfway through it. Definitely a format I will try to replicate at other events since most of the feedback was really positive. And Joi, thanks for the nice photo!

The day after we had a blogger meetup in London with the purpose to have a discussion around the new version of Windows Live that was announced the night before the meetup. I had organized the event in the Coach & Horses (Soho) which was a nice location for it, although some wifi improvements are in place ;) We had Ryan Gavin and Jeff Kunins over from the Windows Live team and Redmond to give a rundown of the new stuff which sparked quite a bit of discussion so that was quite fun as well.

WLMeetup

The photo above was taken during the dinner after the presentation, but as you can see the discussion is still pretty much ongoing. From left to right you see Scott Lovegrove, Chris Overd, Neville Hobson and Ryan Gavin. Also present were Paul Walsh, Robin Wauters, Pieter Dom and Jamie Tomson. Too bad not everyone who accepted made it to the evening, but we’re definitely going to organize evenings such as this one again on several different topics so hopefully they can join us next time. In case you are interested in joining discussions like this, let me know in the comments or shoot me an email at kris [at] crossthebreeze [dot] com.

3 years

It’s been 3 years since I started this place and I must say it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. I had my ups and downs like everyone else, blogging rhythm and style have changed over time, so did content etc but overall this was is a great experience.

Next steps? Re-design, most probably on self hosted WordPress this time and I’ve been thinking (in line with the re-design) that it would be cool to create some kind of logo for ‘Cross The Breeze. Ping me or leave a note in the comments if you would like to create one. Credits where credits are due as always.

Voila, and as of now the 4th year has started. Thanks a whole lot to all of you who passed by on a irregular or regular basis and who have taken part in the discussions, you know who you are. Hoping to see you all back this year ;) Cheers! Kris.

All new Windows Live

Last week we announced the all new Windows Live, updating some existing services and adding new ones. Windows Live is basically split up in 2 free rich web services (such as Hotmail, Skydrive, …) and also free downloadable software called Windows Live Essentials. The software has been in public beta for some weeks now, but last week we announced the full story including the web services part. To be totally clear, the web services will be rolled out soon, but here’s what they’ll look like.

Together with the folks from CommonCraft they made a little movie – in the known style – to explain it all a bit more.

winlivefilm

What it all means? It’s almost there, it looks good and I can finally talk about it :) I’ve been using the full set of services and clients for a while now I find it the best release (this on is called ‘wave 3’ internally) so far. Checking on the blogs after the announcement shows that most bloggers, reviewers, … seem to agree. So that’s even better. Hope you will all like it too, here are some quotes:

”My early reaction is surprisingly positive, and I can’t say that the two earlier Live Waves impressed me. Microsoft had the right concepts, but marginally executed on them. Wave 3 feels different and may follow the old axiom that Microsoft gets things right on the third version. The private beta was very fast—surprisingly so. Response was quicker than running desktop applications in Windows.” Joe Wilcox (Microsoft Watch)

“Microsoft’s software plus services strategy has clearly infiltrated Live.com as well as their approach with Office. Live.com users can now access a variety of online services like mail, calendar, photos, online storage, etc., as well as downloaded services that include a mail client, instant messaging, Movie Maker, Photo Gallery, the Toolbar and other services. And now it’s also one big social network. The result is an impressive personal productivity suite that makes me almost wish I wasn’t solely a Mac user.” Michael Arrington (Techcrunch)

“This is Big. Overall, these new services represent a major upgrade to the online part of the Windows Live suite. Microsoft is clearly trying to challenge both Yahoo and Google with its new photo application, while the new profiles and groups tie all the Live services together into a very sophisticated social network.” Frederic Lardinois (ReadWriteWeb)

I hope you all take some time to check out what’s available already and check all of it once it’s out there. With the renewed services, more integrated approach, 25G of free storage, social network partner integration, … I really think it’s worth it.

Personal/corporate identity

Last week at SIME during the first speaker gathering Ola Ahlvarsson (CEO of SIME) thought it was a good idea to introduce Thomas Crampton and myself to each other… he sure was right :) Thanks for that Ola!

We got talking right away (part of which translated in a little video interview – see below) on several things relating blogging, corporate blogging, identities, transparency, … and how difficult it can be to turn small company learnings to good use at corporations, or how US learnings wouldn’t necessarily work in Europe or Asia (where you don’t have one market / one language).

Interestingly enough, the topic seems to surface at other places as well these days, look at this post on MarketingProfs for instance. The video below is part of the conversation I had with Thomas, focusing on identities. Thomas called it “difficulty of blogging for Microsoft”, I see it more as “challenges in corporate social media” or something but that doesn’t sound half as good… and the chat would have been the same anyway so why bother ;)

The reason for this was the notion that corporate blogging projects that get listed this days only seem to relate to initiatives that are set up centrally and less about the ‘accidental spokesperson’. LionelatDell or ComcastCares (aka Frank) or … are real people, real but corporate identities, transparent and honest (I presume) but set up for the company they work for. What if you (like myself) already have that presence and identity, which is personal, but talks about work stuff as well? What if you set up a corporate initiative next to your own, that you own for a long time already? Again, not really problems, but questions/challenges I like to think about… and so does Thomas.

A friend’s birthday

It seems to be quite appropriate that the 2nd anniversary of the Blue Monster coincides with Steve Clayton’s birthday as Steve has been crucial  in getting the Blue Monster where it is today. Hugh Macleod has a nice little write-up about the Blue Monster history, well worth reading. For me this story started at a similar time that I got to know both Hugh (we met for the first time at LeWeb 2 years ago) and Steve and that’s how I got affected by our little blue friend. It was good getting to know all three of them.

In his post Hugh refers to what David Armano had to say about the Blue Monster, something he wrote after he and I met at MIX08 in Vegas:

“What’s to be learned? Blue Monster shows us that no matter how big or small the company that the world is a bigger place. And external influences can become internal influences. And it teaches us that if we are interested in the evolution of corporate culture, that symbols are important. If we don’t find our own—someone will find them for us.”

bluemonster Even more, the Blue Monster became an example of how companies can embrace social media. It has become an example of how a company (or anybody for that matter) can benefit from letting go of control. Just read through Rohit Bhargava’s “Personality Not Included” for instance, or the more recent “Crowd Surfing” from David Brain.

Hell no, the Blue Monster is not dead – it’s alive and kicking, not only within the spirit of many Microsoft employees but also outsiders are starting to see change. And did you read Hugh’s 7th point? Well the Blue Monster is going to Paris… but more on that soon ;) For now, it’s just happy birthday.

Web2.0 Expo Berlin

I’ve just left Berlin where I attended O’Reilly’s Web2.0 Expo. I quite enjoyed the event, but I must admit (especially on the first day) the networking was what made it good, more so than the content. I missed a general theme, a story that tied up all the presentations together, something that became painfully clear during the keynotes on Wednesday. First two VC’s (Martin and Saul both did a great job) then opensource hardware (Arduino), Drupal.org redesign, Nabaztag,… what’s the link? Why are these presentation wrapped into one keynote? Having this experience right after a cancelled session (speaker didn’t turn up) and right before a talk that was basically a product pitch in disguise you can understand having mixed feelings of the conference. What made the day was connecting with people like Ronna Porter, Luis Suarez and others as well as meeting some old friends again. I did enjoy Stowe Boyd’s talk on ‘Better Media Plumbing for the Social Web’ and Lee Bryant’s presentation – note to self: check out Russell Davies’ “patina”.

Stowe

The second day was better though. It started with some good keynotes: John Lilly from Mozilla did a really good job, the same for Luis Suarez on his experiment around giving up work email (9 months already!) but also Patrick McDevitt from TeleAtlas gave an interesting talk about updating maps in collaboration from the community. After the break I went to see JP Rangaswami who also gave a great presentation around the next level of “unified communications”. I had run into Tom Raftery and JP the night before when I went out for dinner with Andie Nordgren and became a fan right away :) The day ended with a panel discussion around ‘gender issues in web2.0 careers’ by Suw Charman-Anderson, Stephanie Booth, Janet Parkinson and Lloyd Davies and a presentation from Nate Elliott (Forrester) who presented a brand new research they’ve done around ‘The Future of Influence’. Very good to end the day especially knowing it was ‘only’ a replacement for yet another cancelled session, I will do a separate post about that presentation later.

Overall I think there’s still a decent amount of improvements that I think the Expo needs to think of for next year, but it was definitely worth going for me. Next week I’ll be at PDC (Los Angeles) which is one of our own events that I’m really looking forward to, then we’re in Stockholm for SIME (feat. Hans Rosling, Joi Ito, Dave Sifry, …). After that it’s time for the Creativity World Forum in Antwerp (feat. John Cleese, Chris Anderson, Steve Wozniak, Dan Heath, …) and early December we’re off to LeWeb in Paris which features way more people than you can imagine :). Let me know in case you’re around at one of these events.

FYI – all Web2.0 Expo presentations can be found here. I haven’t seen a link for video (yet).

Personality matters

PersonalityNotIncluded Last April in NY during the Blogger Social, we all received a bunch of goodies, most of it small promotional items, but also some marketing related books. One of those books was ‘Personality not included’ from Rohit Bhargava, also present at the event. We had a little chat about the book, which was pretty interesting for many reasons but one thing Rohit said made me more curious about reading it than anything else and that was part of a chapter talking about Microsoft and The Blue Monster. So I started reading on the plane back already, it just took me a while to write down my thoughts.

In the introduction Rohit already makes it very clear what this is about:

“Personality matters. Being faceless doesn’t work anymore. The theory of PNI is that personality is the answer. Personality is the key element behind your brand and what it stands for, and the story that your products tell to your customers.”

Rohit defines personality then as:

“The unique, authentic, and talkable soul of your brand that people can get passionate about”

Chapter 2, that talks about The Blue Monster, interested me for two reasons. One, it’s The Blue Monster (see earlier posts) and two because it talks about ‘The Accidental Spokesperson’. The reason why that interested me more has to do with the revealing of corporations who get social media, lists you can find all over the place these days. Microsoft who used to be mentioned a lot in the beginning as a company who ‘gets it’ is hardly ever in those lists. Why? Because they look at corporate blogs, corporate twitter accounts etc. And we don’t have that – at least not like a CEO blog or something. But there are some hundreds of Softies on Twitter, a few thousands that blog and those are not to be ignored – the chapter shows it well.

Last point I wanted to highlight is something about transparency. Rohit says ’transparency is overrated’ and talks a bit about transparency and authenticity. I pretty much agree with his point and it reminded me of something David Weinberger said during the Euroblog event in Brussels, about how transparency and authenticity are too often used in the wrong meaning, or even terminologies that are sometimes mistaken for one and other. Now David was a lot more articulate about this than I am here now, but I’m sure you know what I mean.

Rohit is a smart guy, he writes one of the better marketing blogs you can find and is a great person to discuss with about the changes in consumer engagement. And that reflects on his book, you can see the personality. The one thing I didn’t like (much like Jennifer) is the ‘Guides and Tools’ section of the book, which is too much repetition for me re the first part. That said, good book, go check it out.

I’m a PC

New job, new laptop. After a few weeks of comparing, reading reviews online, watching viral videos (about laptops of course), buying laptop magazines at airports, etc… I finally decided what to get 2 weeks ago what to get and using it since today. Since I’m traveling quite a bit and spending more time away from a desk than on my desk there were a few key features the new laptop needed to have – in short I wanted a powerful lightweight ultraportable with long battery life. I had my mind made up on the Dell XPS M1330 for a while since it got some good reviews but finally decided for this:

Main reason for picking the Dell would have been the price tag, which is more interesting compared to the Lenovo X300 but overall performance and former Lenovo experience made me choose the X300 eventually. And no, I didn’t take the lame Dell-Manila-Envelope ad into account :) Truth to be told, in case I had to pay for it myself, it would have been the Dell XPS M1330 without a doubt.

So now it’s all installed, it’s indeed incredibly lightweight, the main battery gives me +3 hours of juice (and ordered an extra battery which should double that) and last but not least with it’s 4Gb or RAM it’s ultrafast :) Here’s what I installed, programs I need to have on my PC (it runs Windows Vista):

Yeah, I’m a PC. And I’m actually married to a Mac so probably our kids will turn out to be hybrids I guess (although more chance to see them turn into Xboxes or something)… Let’s not go there :)

Moving on…

… to a new role at Microsoft. During my 4 years at Microsoft, first as the Belgian Consumer Marketing Manager for MSN and later as the Marcom Lead for MSN and Windows Live in EMEA, I’ve been experimenting with social media. Remember the Windows Live Sessions we did all over Europe (e.g. Brussels, London, …), inviting bloggers to events such as MIX, sponsoring and attending Barcamps or Girl Geek Dinners and bigger events such as Le Web for instance, the adventures with Steve and Hugh around the Blue Monster, speaking at events, getting the word out on ‘Bring The Love Back‘, engaging on blogs and twitter, etc… Although it was only a small part of my job (the main part was setting up online marketing campaigns), I’ve always been very passionate about it.

Since October 1st that has all changed. Since then I’ve started working in a new role as Digital Media Communications Manager for all Windows Consumer brands – PC, mobile and online – as well as MSN and Live Search in EMEA. I got to say, it’s like getting paid to do your hobby just like Steve seems to think about his job as well. And it’s also the reason why this blog has gone silent for a bit, as I’m still transitioning stuff from my old job to other people. Also our fiscal year started on July 1st so I got to get my new plans ready asap, expect more about that here soon.

Anyway, I’ve been waiting for the moment I could tell you all this, wish me luck and if ever you have ideas on how you think I should run this… let me know in the comments.