From the category archives:


I have often felt that publishing a book is the closest I–as a male–can come to experience what it’s like to have a baby. Earlier this week, I delivered my fourth, but you would think it was my first because the experience has made me jittery to say the least.

So yesterday, when someone on Twitter pointed me to Jane Friedman’s  Please Don’t Blog Your Book and I was , I was crankier in my tweet response than I should have been. I apologize for the argumentative tone I adopted, but at the core of it, I believe her advice was really bad. I think she  displayed more ignorance than wisdom in her piece and I mean that in the politest of ways.

It’s a subject that I have a good deal of experience exploring and I doubt that I would be enjoying the success that I have– had it not been for how I used social media to interact with people.

My first book was Naked Conversations, co-authored with Robert Scoble. Robert had the heretical idea that we would blog our book as we wrote it. I humored him, reasonably no publisher would allow it. But some smart risk-taking people at John Wiley like Jim Minatel who was instrument in getting our publisher to allow us to publish interview notes and the first drafts of every chapter. This had never been done before, and it has never been repeated, so it may have been that Robert and I went through a brief window that slammed shut after we were done.

I don’t have the stats, but I am willing to bet that most people who followed the book online bought the final product. I know I signed hundreds of copies from people I got to know while blogging the early drafts.

Then all sorts of people from all over the world jumped in. Some corrected facts. Others pruned typos. Still others suggested stories to add and a few of them were the best in the whole book. One follower led a campaign to stop us from calling the book “Blog or Die,” which would have likely hurt us with the corporate readers we targeted.

So first off, bloggers helped us write a better book, far better than if we had worked under the cloak of silence that most traditional publishers required.

But wait, there’s more. When Naked came out, bloggers became our champions. Most of those who were consulting in the enterprise knew most of what we had written, but they loved how we said it and the brought the book into the enterprise where it did quite well. It is often called a seminal blog for business blogging and that would not have happened without the collaboration we enjoyed with hundreds of bloggers all over the world, as we wrote the book.

By the time I wrote Twitterville, social media had changed dramatically. Much of the conversation had moved from blogs onto social networks. My new publisher, Portfolio, was unwilling to let me post early chapters, but they were willing to let me maintain an ongoing conversation about the book and what I was writing about on Twitter.

The result was that over 50% of the stories I wrote about in Twitterville were delivered to me by tweeters. When the book was published, Portfolio did a remarkable job of traditional PR. I got interviewed by almost every major business publication I can think of. But I remain convinced that the word-of-mouth of people on Twitter made my book among the two-or-three most successful of the 43 books published with some derivative of Twitter in  the title.

I didn’t make as much noise in social media with Stellar Presentations, which launched two days ago as a Kindle-only book. This was because, I had originally planned it as a Kindle Single, which requires nothing be published in advance. Now that I’ve changed courses, I will post selected sections in the coming weeks.

But on this the second day, the only way anyone as ever heard of Stellar is on one previous blog post and a few dozen tweets that I have posted. To my surprise and relief, the book is doing quite well, thanks to the support of social media people who are spreading the word–not to benefit me so much–as to tell their friends about something they like.

Friedman noted in our tweeted conversation that she doesn’t acquire books to publish in social media. That explains why she wasn’t a pioneer. But to advise authors of any subject not to blog all or part of their books is pretty backward thinking or so it seems to me.

She knows as does just about everyone else that traditional publishing is in deep trouble. By now she should realize that online distribution and conversations have a great deal to do with the disruption of her profession. My advice to any aspiring author is to follow your reader who now is likely to hang out in social venues, who now is likely to buy books recommended by online peers.

Five times in the last two days I have offered to send my book to people for free. Five times they have refused saying they would prefer to support me by purchasing the book on Kindle.

Has anyone ever said something like that to a publisher? I don’t think so,







Links to GNTV clips

June 26, 2008 · 1 comment in GNTV

In case you would still like to see any of the 14 GNTV episodes I produced for FastCompany.TV, here are the links with the more recents interviews on top:

Behind the scenes with Eepybird
NBC’s NewMediaJim In the crosshairs between old and new
Dell’s Binhammer: Measure Whatever. It’s customers that matter
KD Paine: The human side of measurement
BuzzLogic: Measuring Influence
Radian6. A Measure of Success
A talk with the Twitter Guys
Making a Splash at SeaWorld
Disney Interactive. Raising Kids on Social Networks
Sun Micro’s Peter Reiser Talks of the ROI on Social Networks
GM’s Bob Lutz talks Blogging & Global Warming
Intel’s Paul Otellini & Processing Social Media
Hugh MacLeod explains the gestures of Social Objects
Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang talks on Community

There was this juggler from Yale and a Massachusetts lawyer. They shared a passion for performance and became friends at the Celebration Barn Theater near Buckfield, Maine where they both performed at the Oddfellow Hall.


In their spare time Stephen Voltz, the lawyer and Fritz Grobe,
the juggler fiddled around for some inexplicable reason with dropping
Mentos mints into Diet Cokes. When mixed, a gusher shoots out of a
bottle. They played with some sprinkler system pieces and devised
networks of Coke-Mentos gushers, making them sequentially more complex
as well as entertaining. In early April they set a new world record by
detonating 1360 bottles in Lueven, Belgium.

One day, they posted some video of their Coke-Mentos ‘experiments’ up
on YouTube and suddenly they had a viral experience. Within a day or
two they were invited onto Letterman.

They became the Eepybird Guys
a creative studio for companies wishing to employ their extreme
creativity to create visual treats likely to be more memorable than
your usual 30-second spot.

And popular. The total number of YouTube views of the Eepybird
Coke-Mentos clips exceeds 40 million. Steve and Fritz are in demand
almost nonstop to perform at public events, but they gave me the sense
that they’d rather be producing new creative content for a living.

And it’s starting to happen. Although they were a bit tight-lipped,
we just can’t wait to find out what the Eepybird guys plan to do with
4.6 million Post-It notes.

We caught up with Steve and Fritz as they were setting up a
relatively modest 100+ bottle show that was enjoyed by over 1,000
attendees at the San Mateo (CA) Maker Faire. We talked to them (mostly Steve, while Fritz did the work) as they prepared for the show.

It had an explosive outcome.

Jim Long watched with horror as he saw the price on the gas pump get raised, not by coins, but by the dollar. He decided it was time to trade in his guzzling SUV. In this 12-minute clip, Jim explains how that decision took him on a journey into a position of respect and recognition in the social media community. He has a significant following on Twitter, where he is known as New Media Jim.

A 15-year veteran NBC cameraman, Jim follows the US President wherever he goes. In recent years that has included all continents except South America and perhaps Antarctica. He’s passionate and proud of his old media work, but he understands and accepts the world is changing. "I am quickly becoming a dinosaur," he reflects in our interview, and for that reason he has become immersed in social media.

Not only does he believe his social media work benefits him, he talks about how his individual efforts are helping NBC. People see him through social media as a human representation of the network. He knows at least one person who has returned to watching NBC news because of Jim’s Social media activities.


2 authors techcrunch
[Scoble & me at Book Launch Party (2006) Photo by Dan Farber]

Well, I just read about WorkFast on Mashable, so I guess if Scoble’s talking about it so can I.

I’m co-hosting WorkFast with Robert. It is a live, half-hour interview show about the future of work. The premiere will be at 10 am [Pacific], Thursday June 5. After that, it will be every Friday at 10 am from the Revision3 Studios in San Francisco.

Yes the show has a well-known sponsor, but I’ll wait for the official FastCompany.TV announcement before saying who it is.

Each week, Robert and I will interview one or two guests on how internet-based technologies are making people and companies more productive. We’ll talk to tool-makers and tool-users. We’ll look at the history of office productivity and the future of it. We’ll bring in authors and experts.

We’re just now firming up the schedule for our first half-dozen show and will be able to announce that in a week or so.

Because it is live, you’ll be able to participate. We will be using Skype call-ins and Comments to let you ask questions or add to the conversation. For me, it will be nice to work so closely with Robert again and I hope I get a word in edgewise.

I am serving as WorkFast producer, which in this particular case simply means that if you know someone who should be on our show, you should contact me.

Through this series on social media measurement, we’ve looked at a couple of the many promising tools and at least one way of evaluating the sacred ROI of a project. But anyone who has been trying to examine the analytics of social media knows, sometimes the numbers just look goofy.

Despite the speed and accuracy of crunchable data, our computers and technology and tools, very simply, lack common sense. So do other tools. I’ve never met a hammer capable of chatting or singing no matter how advanced it was.

KD Paine
, founder and CEO of KD Paine & Associates, takes a look at all the metrics and analytics germane to your social media projects. Then her team of New England troopers figure out what they mean, the old fashioned way, by asking people.

What a difference two years makes in social media.

In 2006, Dell was scorned by bloggers who accused it of shoddy support and products. I was among them.

Dell today is praised by many of the same people as one of the companies that most “gets it.” The company’s social media activities are a key component to a turnaround-in-progress.

Dell uses a whole lot of social media tools in some innovative ways. It is the first, and perhaps only public company to have an investor relations blog. It uses Twitter as a clearinghouse for closeout products. It has a site for customers who have good ideas the company can transform into products.

Dell is certainly more trusted today than it was two years ago, and has the stats to prove it. But it has not overtaken H-P as the #1 computer company. And last quarters results disappointed Wall Street.

So why does Dell do it? I asked Richard Binhammer, the Dell Communications officer most involved in social media, whether social media was increasing sales and market share.
Binhammer, known best in social media circles as RichardatDell replied flatly: “That not what we use it for. We use it to listen to customers and respond to what they want from us.”
He said a great deal more in this far-ranging interview.

Perhaps this interview with Marcel LeBrun,co-founder of Radian6 should have been our first in this series,
because most measurement processes start with monitoring, and a growing
number of companies find Radian6 the best available software for finding every time you or your company is mentioned in social media.

The Montreal-based start up used a go-to-market strategy of approaching large PR agencies whose client demands for finding everything being said about them in the social media has been
accelerating at an exponential rate.

Radian6 does precisely this and apparently it does it quite well. It also supplies lots of graphics to soothe the analytically starved PR
agency clients.

Here’s a brief video we shot a little later that shows you how it works:

But, monitoring is not interpretation. Radian6 gives you what you need to measure. It shows
you relevant trends and that is essential to meeting analytical needs.

But Radian 6 does not interpret this data. That is the job of several
companies such BuzzLogic
who we interviewed in our previous measurement segment. Nor can it tell
you the ROI of your own social media campaign. We showed how SeaWorld
accomplished that in our initial segment. In our fourth and final
segment, we’ll show you how one consultant is approaching what is often
the most overlooked of all part of social media measurement: the human

In our first segment of what will be at least a four-part GNTV series, Sea World San Antonio
explained how they measured the ROI of a social media campaign designed
to get roller coaster enthusiasts to try a new ride over a two week end
period. What I liked was that this was a simple, straightforward
measurement designed to see a monetary return on a hard dollar

But, much of social media’s goals is less tangible. A great many
programs are designed to get closer to people who influence their
markets. But measuring influence is more complex and less tangible than
measuring dollars. No one has yet figured out how exactly to do that.

A company that seems closer than most is BuzzLogic, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based company. In this segment, co-founder Todd Parsons explains how his company’s software can measure influence by topic at any point in time.





I’ve said it before: if you want to understand the future, go talk to some kids. Watch what they do. Watch their habits. Chances are these won’t change much as they go through life. The emerging generation seems to me best described as the Online Generation. They hang out online in spaces that are virtual. There they form relationships that are very real.

Kids today are joining online social networks at increasingly early ages. At Club Penguin, acquired by Disney last year, they are joining at pre-school age.

The Disney Internet Group hopes to attract kids, then with a series of other online virtual world-based communities continue to engage them. Their portfolio now includes Nickleodeon  and Toontown. Most recently came the highly engaging and interactive Pirates of the Caribbean,  which mostly attracts boys. Soon Pixie Hollow will come out for teenage girls who can assume a Fantastic little avatar.

Last year Disney bought Club Penguin which now is estimated to have more than 100 million users, some of them as young as age 4. Under heavy security, Penguin members can meet and talk with other children. They can learn commerce by selling goods and services in exchange for virtual money. And as the kids grow older they can transition from one Virtual World designed for them to another, each providing the quality charm of Disney that is part of Disney’s occasionally controversial trademark.
So what happens when this Online Generation grows up and enters the market and takes seats in the cubicles of your business? How will this Online Generation emerge? Will they be the same or different from their own parents in the market and as professionals?
I took those questions with me to Disney Interactive Studios in Burbank recently, where I interviewed a few members of the senior team including President Steve Wadsworth. In their vision, as they express it on this clip. The next generation will be more social, more collaborative and perhaps a better place.
All things considered, I tend to agree.

The founders talk candidly on where they’ve been & where they’re going

I recently visited the Twitter team in its South Park offices in San Francisco, where all 17 members—including the three founders– sit in a single room at one long table.  I got to interview each of them while another senior colleague unloaded a Costco shipment nearby.
Of all the emerging tools of social media, Twitter is the most conversational. The mobile SMS service lets people chat in compact 140-character spoonfuls. Some use it 20-30 times or more per day and have thousands of followers. But the average user only posts three times a day and chats only with a few friends.

I spoke mostly with Biz Stone, who I got to know in Spain last year. Biz talks about how the team started as an entirely different company and discovered the power of Twitter in serendipity fashion, but was smart enough to change course abruptly.

Biz made clear that Twitter’s main focus is making the product more reliable and more robust before the company turns to any revenue producing.

We discussed briefly that businesses are starting to find ways to use Twitter. He talked about Jet Blue. But in our 20 minute chat, we never got to others that include Seesmic, who launched exclusively on Twitter, as well as H&R Block, the tax people who have used it so successfully, or the Dell Outlet program that lets Twitter users get early discounts on close outs.

Teaser: GNTV’s Shel Israel talks with Twitter founders about how the company got started, who uses the popular service and how. They examine business models and how business is starting to use the mobile SMS service.

There has been a great deal said about GNTV in the past couple of weeks, some of it painful and most of it helpful in one way or another. My special thanks to Tyme White for a thoughtful and perceptive post that has generated, the last time I checked, over 135 comments.

I cannot address every comment, but there are several areas where I think I can add to this conversation by clearing up a few assumptions and misstatements:

  • GNTV is not a new concept. I have been working on the idea since last summer. The idea came to me as an outgrowth to the SAP Global Survey on Social Media, Business & Culture. I wanted to use video to get people to talk about ideas and practices that will help professionals use social media in their organizations. I believe that this is a small audience today that will grow quickly and soon. In my mind, it is very much like Naked Conversations was when we published in January 2006, trying to show the potential for corporate blogging. There were very few corporate bloggers then, but the number has grown quite quickly. I am as convinced in the rightness of this thinking now as I was back then, perhaps more so. I am as determined today to make this show a success as I was back then.

  • I often suck at first. I almost got sacked 3 times as a cub reporter. Three years later I was the Assistant night editor. I got sacked from my 1st two PR clients, then went on to start and operate a successful boutique PR agency for 17 years. Robert & I had 6 months to write Naked Conversations. In our 1st month of posting material we got shouted down on everything we posted. In the end, we delivered a book that many people think breaks ground. Scoble & I 1st spoke at Les Blogs 2, where we did so poorly I posted and apology blog. Six months later, we were being mobbed by admirers as we stepped off the dais.

I have learned by doing a lot in life but this time it has very clearly backfired. Someone wrote me that it’s like I was ready for a script reading in a summer stock barn, but found myself alone on an opening night stage on Broadway without so much as a sound and lighting crew. That being said, I will get better.

  • The sponsorship thing. I first approached a sponsor last September. He said yes in December, before I had serious discussions with Scoble and long before FastCompany was involved. I pitched Robert to start a video production team with me, funded by the two sponsorship deals we had landed. Robert is not really a startups kind of guy and approached FastCompany, who hired Robert to build a video network. Fast Company brought me in, I assume, on the basis of Robert’s very strong endorsement of me and on the fact that it appeared I had a sponsorship in my pocket. They cut a deal at that time which I could only describe as generous. On Feb. 27, three days before sponsorship funds were to come in and while I was in Detroit, prepping for my interviews with Lutz & other executives at GM & Ford, my sponsor called to tell me the bad news. The funding cut was for reasons that had nothing to do with my program. It also had nothing to do with the recession as Robert misstated in comments. After getting the call, I immediately contacted FC, expecting to be cut right there. But instead, FC offered to procure sponsorship through their sales department. That effort actually began about four weeks ago and there are several possible sponsors. It is moving slowly, because that’s how large companies move on new projects. While I cannot possibly know for sure, the feedback I’m getting is that none of them has been discouraged by the clips they have seen or the blogosphere conversation.
  • I ain’t quitting. Absolutely nothing that has occurred to date has made me doubt the potential for GNTV. While a great deal of online video is designed to be entertaining, GNTV is intended to be useful to a global business audience. We will never try to be American Idol or even some deviation of the Muppets. The show is essentially an interview show. Meet the Press was never among the most popular shows on television. Visually it is quite tedious. But it turns out there is a pretty constant audience for intelligent discussion of politics and current events. The show is now in its 62nd year. Oh yeah, one other relevant factoid. It had no sponsor for its first two years on television.


Measurement is a really tough issue for social media proponents. Every business needs to measure results. But   social media is different than say, PR clip counts. It’s not the placements, it’s the conversations. And some conversations are obviously more valuable than others.

I’ve been talking to Measurement experts and tool vendors for GlobalNeighbourhoods.TV over at . Over the coming weeks, you’ll see their clips.

I asked each of them the same question: "How do you measure a conversation?" Each gave me a good answer. Kami Huyse was the most compelling. She brought me to SeaWorld San Antonio where she got me totally immersed in the answer. As this 1st installment on my GNTV series will show you.

I got hit with a firehose of questions regarding FastCompany.TV, GlobalNeighborhoodsTV (GNTV) and my new collaboration with Scoble. A few drill down further than I can answer, but I’ll try to answer a few that I was frequently asked.

  • FastCompany.TV (FCTV) is intended to be a video blogging network. Scoble.TV is the first node and he is a FastCompany.TV employee who’s show launches March 3 as does GNTV. They are separate shows. Robert and I would like to do something together, but that is a future show possibility.
  • GNTV will have it’s own page on the FCTV site as will Scoble.TV.
  • Robert and I may cover the same people and companies. We may even interview the same person at the same time when that is easier for all parties. But he and I have different styles and ask different questions.
  • I am not a FastCompany employee and I have no plans to become one. I am contract talent. My focus is to produce great content on GNTV. While Robert and I will talk and plan, his job is to do what he has always done and to build an FCTV network. He has a ton of ideas for programs but will build slowly at first. His goal is to have six GNTV programs by year end.
  • FCTV is a separate, but related, entity to Fast Company and We are the same brand, but I have not had any contact with FC editorial staff. I cannot help you or your clients get interviews there. If you have something that is not right for my show, but I think Scoble might like, I’ll forward it to him.
  • I plan to produce a minimum of 15 clips per month, hopefully more. I will vary the length greatly and let viewers tell me the length they prefer.
  • The best way to pitch me is through email. A direct Twitter to shelisrael also works. I do not take phone calls from people I do not know. I will try to get back to anyone who requests an interview, but it may take me a few days.
  • I will travel for GNTV but it limited by time and budget. The best way to see me is when you are in the SF Bay Area.
  • Like any media person, I’m interested in exclusive breaking news, but that is not my central focus. I will show some product demo, but that again is not my central focus. I am interested in telling people, mostly how social media is changing life, customer relationships and life.
  • The best style to use with me is a naked converstaion. If I find you using talking points that were refined in committee. I may be polite, but it is unlikely that I will post your interview.

Got more questions? Send them in. What you ask me helps me figure out this new endeavor of mine.