Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Enterprise 2.0 - "show me the money..."

I spent a day or 2 last week in sunny Cologne, at a Red Dot Day summit thing (nice picture, non?). We use Red Dot Web CMS pretty heavily here at Rio Tinto, it drives www.riotinto.com, www.riotintodiamonds.com, www.riotintoironore.com, www.graduates.riotinto.com, www.procurement.riotinto.com, and all sorts of other exciting corporate sites.

Reddot is a product now of OpenText, who are heavily in the corporate IM space, and have business relationships with all sorts of people, including SAP. No surprise, we do a lot of work with SAP here at Rio Tinto.

One of the most telling aspects of the day, was the number of speakers hammering on about "Enterprise 2.0" , including SAP.

Listen people, that thing on the horizon... you know, sails, hull and stuff... that'll be the boat that's already sailed!

There were 2 speakers (who really should know better) going on about now that 23 year olds can access Facebook and MySpace at home, they'll expect all their business tools to work in the same way - that they'll expect corporate intranet and portal applications to have the same functionality. The main crux of their argument was that people expect work to do the same things as home.

Well, at home I like sitting in my pants in front of the telly, watching repeats of Eastenders, drinking red wine. If I did any of those things at work, I'd be fired. Well, laughed at, and then fired.

Life doesn't work that way. There are lots of things that people do at home that they don't expect to do at work. And vice versa really. It's all a matter of context. Yes, there is some functionality in social media sites that might work in a corporate environment, but a lot of it is completely inappropriate. Seriously, do we really want someone in our accounts department going round "biting chumps"?

Of more importance I think, is the concept of standing up for what you believe and think, and letting your peers see this. Translating to a work environment, knowing a colleagues position on a particular policy for instance, and being able to challenge and discuss this with others is a healthy and positive thing. To be able to do this openly, across time zones, and with a degree of informality that social media sites encourage should be seen as a largely positive thing to most large companies.

This is where the presenters at last week's conference completely missed the boat. They confuse function, content and outcome. Enterprise 2.0 *isn't* about bringing Bebo or Facebook into work. It's about rethinking the way that you collaborate with your colleagues, and how the enterprise manages its knowledge and processes.

Sharing my list of favourite friends, where I went on holiday, and giving "mega hugs" to people should only happen when I'm at home. Preferably in my pants.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Well, long time no post - apologies.

And it's an interesting point: when should you post to a blog, how often do you need to keep coming back to add new content?

Blogging is becoming more frequent here at work, and one of the issues that we're facing is what is an acceptable level of activity before we step in and say that a blogger needs to do something to keep it alive.

Maybe we shouldn't do anything...? The content that's already up there may be relevant to others, and that it's not being updated any more may not necessarily be an issue.

We're still working our way through this. There probably isn't a correct answer, and we're probably going to have to just suck it and see.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Marriott, or not

I've been watching the new blog on Marriott.com written by Bill Marriott, their 70+ year old CEO. Oh dear, where to start....

It's blatently just not a blog. There is very little attempt to engage with their visitors, and the engagement that there is consists of token replies to the odd comment. You'll need to really hunt to find any, trust me....

Much is made of the "audio version" of his blog -whereas in fact, the blog actually is a transcript of what appears to be a scripted audio show (see Alistair Cooke's Letters from America for a better example of this medium). There is absolutely nothing wrong in publishing regular audio updates from senior management (albeit that they're really heavily scripted) and it's a really useful channel for engagement. It's also a really good idea to provide transcripts of these for people who don't want to, or aren't able to, hear the audio. So far so good - we have the nice basics of a good podcast here.

The problem for me comes when this transcript is then turned into a blog, by the addition of comments and the attempt to add an element of chronology. The comments are then so heavily editted (and I really do mean heavily - see if you can spot anything critical) that they are meaningless. Virtually all the comments are from people saying:
1) how fantastic Bill is for writing a blog (seriously, if you think he's writing any of it, then you deserve to believe it!)
2) how fantastic Marriott staff were in helping them when they stayed there
3) re-affirming whatever apple-pie subject Bill was whittering on about

Anyhoo, up to this point, I'd been thinking we just had another large corporate who's PR/ad agency thought they should climb aboard the social web gravy train, and who's marketing department had let them.

And then, I started to see all the praise for the blog not only in the US media, but also (to their eternal shame) in a number of social media commentary blogs. Dear Lord people! What on earth has possessed you NOT to critique this! Have you been caught up in the homespun nostalgia and general schmaltzy quality of his posts (typically the The Importance of Working Hard and Doing Chores), or you afraid to criticise because it's been written by a very endearing pensioner (worth, at my best guess, in excess of $1.2billion)? More worringly thought, have you just completely lost any idea of what a blog should be?

If this is the future of corporate blogging, then we're all doomed!

Monday, 30 July 2007

Whole Foods CEO forum postings

I was facinated to read about Whole Foods' recent monumental cock up over posting to financial forums....

"Whole Foods Market boss John Mackey has apologised for the renegade online PR campaign he conducted to boost his company’s image on financial messageboards.
In a statement, Mackey asked for shareholders’ forgiveness over his anonymous postings, which were uncovered last week and are now being investigated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission: "I sincerely apologize to all Whole Foods Market stakeholders for my error in judgment in anonymously participating on online financial message boards. I am very sorry and I ask our stakeholders to please forgive me." All in all, it doesn’t look good for the businessman."
(extract from e-consultancy.com. Click here to read the Whole Story)

According to a number of sites, Mackey had registered on Yahoo and was happily talking his own (listed) company up, and dissing his biggest competitor, Wild Oats. Apparently he happily went about this for 8 years. And then proceeded to try to buy Wild Oats, also a listed company.

If this is true, apart from it being ethically suspect (the digital equivalent of anonymously fly-posting your neighbourhood bitching about a neighbour you don't like) it would appear to be on very ropey legal grounds. He should have clearly identified who he was when he posted about his own company, as a person who was clearly in receipt of confidential information - here in the UK he would have been an "insider" and his comments on the company's performance now or in the future are very heavily regulated.

Well, the US regulators and judicial system have now started their own investigations. This does make for interesting reading on Mackey's own blog on the Whole Foods website and the company's response to the FTC's investigations.

More interesting however is the company's share price, today trading at the US$36 mark, down from a high of $68 or so in October 2006, and from a price of mid $40s when the story broke.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Just who *is* Jesus Cuevas on Facebook.com?

And who thought it was a good idea to let him have access to both a digital camera, and an internet connection?

Monday, 11 June 2007


I've been reading lots of coverage of Facebook recently. It's gone a bit mad, with everyone apparently getting themselves a profile.

There's an interesting article by Jemima Kiss on her "organ grinder" blog over at the Guardian, giving a really good overview of what Facebook actually is:


More interesting are the communities forming around workplaces - KPMG, Deloitte and PwC apparently have a number of their staff grouping up on Facebook, presumably to network and collaborate with each other. I'm not sure what this says - either they don't have the necessary tools to do this at work easily, or they just prefer the Facebook experience. Time will tell whether this is just a fad, or if it'll become a future tool for large companies to facilitate collaborative working across a disparate workforce. Legal and IT teams around the world must be squirming at the thought...

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Ask.com relaunch

Just popped onto Ask.com today, to see the revamped site. Very nice it is too. They've added all sorts of new content onto the result page.

They talk about the reasoning behind it in their blogs on the site and it's interesting to see their take on confronting Google and Microsoft's Live search, and it's easy to see if you compare the results from all 3:

Search for Rio Tinto on Ask
Search for Rio Tinto on Google
Ask have gone for a much more intergrated approach - there are blogs, news stories, images, weather - even entries from Wikipedia. Interestingly, they have included related searches, based on the search patterns of others who have looked for the same thing.
This is pretty clever (well, I've always been easily impressed), but for us it's also a bit of a challenge. Potentially, if we have lots of activists or detractors searching for us, we'll start finding "anti-us" websites appearing more and more options, as their search patterns skew the results. Similarly, if there's a lot of anto company blogging going on, Ask are giving an nice easy way of presenting this to a wide audience, irrespective of its accuracy.
I can't see either Microsoft or Google hanging around after this, and it's probably only a matter of time before they too start aggregating search results in this way (to some degree, Live already does so).
This makes it even more important in the future to keep a close eye on your reputation online. You can't bury it anymore, or hope it'll just go away. It's out there, and it's gonna get you.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Blocked in China?

As we do a fair amount of business in China, I was interested to find out whether our corporate website was blocked.

According to the Great Firewall of China, it is! Who'da thought, eh....

However the website did say that I was coming in from the Netherlands, and that there was disclaimer saying that it might just be technical problems preventing the site from being viewed in China, so I'm not entirely convinced of the accuracy.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Blog searching terms

Unfortunately, spam bloggers have started picking up copy either from our website or from emailed press releases and using it in the padding text on their blogs, to drive traffic.

How annoying is that!

Thankfully Technorati and Google blog search tend to drop the sploggers pretty quickly, but it's started to skew our analytics and metrics here at work.

What to do about a splog? One thing you can do is report. The site Fight Splog has a number of other alternatives, including reporting them to Google AdSense, and reporting to StopSplog.com, a listing service.

Interestingly, the US government is taking the issue of spam seriously. They're holding a Spam Summit in July 2007, however as details seem to be sketchy I'm not exactly holding my breath on this one.

Thankfully for us, many of the Rio Tinto splogs seems to have died a death, so we're lucky in not having to handle this as a significant ongoing issue. Who knows why? Maybe the traffic directed to them on the back of relevant key words from our site wasn't good enough, maybe they got deleted and have started randomly picking up copy from other people's sites. I think it may havebeen triggered by a surge in our search engine traffic around take over rumours a while back.

I'm just glad it's as much of an issue for us at the moment, though no doubt it'll happen again.

Thursday, 17 May 2007


I've been surfing around LinkedIn for a while now, but only just started to set up my networks, and search for people. It was fascinating to see how many people I knew are on there already, and how many of them are from workplaces from years ago. Ah, the nostalgia... *wipes away a tear*

A couple of things struck me about LinkedIn though:

1. How similar the model is to many "dating" and *ahem* "personals" websites. The ability to post quasi-anonymously, with just teaser information about yourself to get others hooked; how you can list your interests and attract others of a similar mindset; how you can set up networks of people you recommend and know... so on and so on...

2. How expensive it was. Dating sites SO have to learn from this particular business model - people are apparently prepared to pay way more for professional hookups than they are for private ones. Or maybe we're all just expensing membership on our company credit card.

3. How easy it was to identify people - I managed to find someone sitting 12 feet away from me in the first 15 minutes of searching (interesting reading it was, too!). Unfortunately, the major drawback of this (for them, not for me) was that I got to see which of my (readily identifiable) work colleagues are on the lookout for a new job.

Let's hope our Talent Management team in HR don't learn how this stuff works any time soon...

Wednesday, 16 May 2007


There's been a lot of discussion recently in New Media Age about client and agency relationships, particularly around the issue of paying for pitch work.

My background is both agency and client-side. Yes, it is frustrating (and pretty expensive!) pitching for work as an agency. And when you don't get the job, and the reason from the client seems pretty spurious or poorly judged, then it can be devastating.

But it's also pretty expensive client-side as well. We have to arrange the review process, manage it (in a global company that ain't easy!), and then go through formalised selection and ranking criteria, before contacting successful agencies (and dealing with the fall out from the others, seriously some agency sales directors can get downright aggressive).

This takes hours and hours! Trust me, clients don't really like agency pitches either.

One solution is to use a number of preferred agencies only. You only then have to go through the pitch process once: judge them on their past agency work, on their ability offer specific digital requirements, on cultural/business fit, and then test them on a small amount of work to see if they fit (could they handle the pressure, is the work up to scratch etc etc) without making undue resource demands.

We did something similar, and now have a roster of agencies across a good mix of disciplines- technical, visual, content, user experience, production etc.

Once on the list, if we have a project for them we only ask for proposals (costs, approach, timescales etc) as we are confident in their particular abilities. Noone has let us down yet.

The plan is to update our list irregularly, and this should keep the pitch input from both sides down.

Result? Happy agencies, getting regular work + happy client, getting good service from selected, trusted agencies.

So, to learn - treat your clients and your agencies with respect, coz you both need each other. Respect that you have different requirements, and appreciate the differences.

But above all, talk to each other, so if the level of "free" input on a pitch is unrealistic (too much/too little) you both discuss other ways of achieving a fair selection.

Monday, 14 May 2007

May you live in interesting times

Interesting times for us at the moment. Lots of rumour and analyst suggestions (they're gambling that we may be bought by another large mining company, BHP Billiton, or even by private equity) over the past week have led to a lots of movement in our share price.

Most interesting was the blog coverage. Financial and investment blogs seem to be breeding like rabbits, but many of them simply cut and paste the stories they read elsewhere (or RSS feed them... ) , unfortunately often without thinking how accurate the source story might be.
From Technorati - posts that contain "Rio Tinto" per day for the last 30 days...
Technorati Chart

Popular amongst the "cut and pasters" seems to be press releases from Reuters and Bloomberg. Understandable, as they are probably bit better thought through than many others, but I can't really see the point. I don't see the blogger adding any value, and there is no personal opinion or voice to the stories.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Trade shows

Just back from Internet World 2007 in Earl's Court. There are days I wonder why I bother with these events - full of sales people who seem to be more interested in looking at your name badge (busy working out the "company name x job title = budgetary control = purchase /15% = my personal commission [optional licking of lips and rubbing of hands]" equation).

Interesting to see some of our existing suppliers there, and worrying to see so little technical innovation. More worrying than any of that though was the truly horrible sight of consultants, agencies and vendors trying to talk up the hype around web 2.0. Seriously, look... over there, on the horizon - those sails over there... that's the ship leaving port. Some of the seminars were pretty relevant, giving guidance to webmasters on how to incorporate some of the social stuff, how to build trust etc. However some of the tat on offer was truly shocking (pretty much anything with "next generation" or "2.0" in the title kinda missed the boat *points at horizon again*).

I'm not sure what I was most uncomfortable with - that digital professionals aren't familiar with the basics of this stuff yet (and can kinda see through all the hype), or that companies are still lazily bandwagonning (see "portals" in about 1999) and looking at social networking content as almost a replacement for innovation and new ideas. I would have thought we'd moved on a lot and people would want to see real world examples for UGC and ways to use online social networks, other than trying to surreptitiously "blog-flog" the latest gadget/pizza/car.

Friday, 27 April 2007

Web accessibility

Accessibility has been a bit of a hot topic for me recently. I was at a netimperative.com networking dinner recently, where the speaker was Julie Howell (currently Fortune Cookie, ex RNIB). Her take on accessibility was particularly interesting - do it, because it makes sense, and not because it's "worthy". Making access to your site difficult to people with disabilities, either because you're unaware, lazy or dismissive, doesn't make good business sense.

For a company like ours, which is nearly all pure B2B (you can't pop along one day and buy a couple of tonnes of bauxite from Rio Tinto with your credit card) accessibility is a tricky one. For instance, we have tonnes of legacy content from previous iterations of our website going back 10 years or so, including thousands of speeches, presentations and investor documents that are in an "inaccessibile" PDF format. For us, we need to make a call on how many of these documents we republish, documents that are rarely (if ever) viewed - would you want to see a press release dating from 1998 about production reviews at a mine we no longer own, for instance?

This is further compounded by (ok, at this stage fairly annecdotal) evidence that we have fewer disabled viewers than many other sites. Our stakeholder groups that the site is aimed at (investors, journos, job seekers, governments etc) had lower presentation of disabled people than the general public. This doesn't mean that we ignore them, or dismiss them (far from it), however it does lead to difficult decisions - how much do we engineer areas of the site and our content (eg re-editing videos and adding captioning at huge expense) for a very small audience segment. We took the view that we should do everything that people would reasonably have expected us to do (eg making the site at least Priority A, and AAA where we could), but where the effort and cost was prohibitive, and where the content was of minimal or minority interest, to leave the legacy content as it was. We're reviewing all of our old content on a regular basis, and if we start to see there is a demand, then obviously we'll retro-fit this to current accessibility standards.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007


We've just launched our new channel on YouTube. We've uploaded a whole load of our corporate videos here, including a lot around our work in local communities.

It looks like we're the first company in the FTSE100 to have a channel on YouTube. At first glance it might seem a bit odd - after all, why on earth would a large corporate go and get a channel on a website that's seems to be populated by 14 year olds mucking around with camera phones?

If you dig around the site, more and more issues-based content (videos, opinion pieces and the like) is being uploaded, and it's this that's of interest to us. Increasingly people with opinions about mining are putting content up and tagging it - and now so are we. One of the important ways of engaging stakeholders is to also allow them to see our point of view. They can choose to disagree with us if they like, but at least YouTube gives us the opportunity to present our position.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Why blog?

Well, it's a question I get asked all the time in my job. In fact, we're currently reviewing whether we think a company in our position needs to create "official" blogs at all (more of that later... *taps nose*)

For me, it's a case of getting on my virtual soapbox. My friends and colleagues *will* be pleased.

Most of my work here is (obviously) commercially confidential, and there is no way I can talk about it. But there are key issues that crop up in the context of doing my job on a day-to-day basis that are worth chatting about. And as my job is about stakeholder engagement, using digital media, how post modern and ironic that I have a blog about it.