From the category archives:

Naked Conversations

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,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Authors & 1st Book

[Child of the Marriage. Israel & Scoble with 1st Copy of Naked Conversations, Jan. 5 2006, Las Vegas. Photo by Buzz Bruggeman]

Naked Conversations celebrated it’s second birthday this past Saturday.  Robert and I both seem to have missed it. We touched our first copy of the book at CES at a presentation to Booksellers meeting arranged by our publisher John Wiley in the New York, New York Hotel.

The day was among the best of my life. It was a highlight of what has been the best phase of my life. Working with Scobe was the best collaboration of my life.

It’s hard to believe it has only been two years since the book was introduced.  Sometimes it seems the writing of Naked Conversations happened a very long time ago.  Sometimes I think the stories we told are ancient. Yet the book is still selling moderately well, which please me almost as much as it surprises me.

Then I realize that the stories are old only if you have already heard them.  Blogging has, of course, become only a single tool in an enormous social media tool shed. It has also become fruitful and multiplied.  We wrote when there were about 14 million bloggers.  Now there are more than 100 million. There may be as many as a half-billion people involved in social media worldwide.

What has remained intact, I think, is our key point.  There is a revolution going on that is transforming the way businesses talk with customers. That revolution has a key attribute. It’s about the conversation, not any one tool.

To all of you who have bought the book, recommended the book, or just heard about it and in some way, what we had to say, impacted you, thanks so much.

Two Authors & 1st Book

[Israel & Scoble with 1st Copy. Photo by Buzz Bruggeman]

We are just a few days short of Naked Conversations 2nd birthday, not from the date of publication, but from the date when Robert and I sent the final manuscript to our publisher for publication. It seems like yesterday to me. Simultaneously it feels like a million years ago.

So much has happened since then in terms of social  I won’t event mention how the numbers we used in the book have dwarfed over two years ago. I think my favorite paragraph for irony is at te beginning of Chapter 14.

"Twenty years from now, people will look back at the blogging tools we use today and smile at how quaint they were. What will have replaced them?  We haven’t a clue."

We went on to talk about the promise of RSS and something just starting up called podcasting,and we  speculated that something called "tagging" showed promise. Forget the 20 years.  We were pretty clueless about FaceBook and YouTube and online video and Twitter and so many things that have exploded on the internet in the past 24 months.

All ths came to mind this morning over on Facebook this morning when Scott Sykes, a PR practitioner for Weber Shandwick in China sent me a message asking me if I had any thoughts to share on changes since the book was published. I have quite a few, but here are a couple of to level thoughts:

  • Naked Conversations was essentially about conversations replacing messages because of the internet.  We called that part a revolution and we still do. We talked almost exclusively about blogs because they were the only power tool of the conversational revolution at the time. What has changed is that there are now a great many tools and anyone can use any combination of them.  So the book is still correct on a philosophic view, but it’s data has aged faster than Dorian Gray on steroids.
  • Kids grow up. The younger generation is an online generation and it has started replacing my generation in the workplace.  Any company that is still not adapting to the social media revolution may discover it is too late to adapt and that some new company is going to disrupt their status quo by hijacking all its young customers.
  • Two years from now, everything that is amazing now will be normal. Robert and I once again, don’t have a clue as to what new and exciting and different tools will be introduced between now and then.

Of the many things that makes Robert Scoble among the most remarkable people I have ever met is his sheer output of social media work.  He is a pioneer in blogging, online video, Twitter and whatever tool has come to market.  He got Facebook’s importance while I was still ignoring it. Few people in few areas have ever been as productive as Scoble has been.

Yesterday he wrote an amazing post, in announcing he would take a sabbatical from posting. He said his blogging has gotten shallow and argumentative and it has. He gets like this from time to time, the same way, Barry Bonds gets for weeks at a time when he too cannot connect to get a hit.

An expectant father, he wrote a powerful truth "holding a 19-day-old baby in your arms is a cathartic experience."  This is true in so many ways. Essentially, it makes a point that sometimes is hard for Robert to remember:

Real life is more important than virtual life. The lives we are immediately responsible for need more attention than the audiences that expect us to entertain or educate them.

Robert is taking some time off and reflecting. I spoke with him last night.  His voice is hoarse.  Gnomedex has burned his candle down.

At the same time, he is on fire.  Robert is playing with a new concept, an idea that ties together the shred and bits that are social media. Robert is not just resting, he’s reflecting and when he comes back, I am pretty sure he will have a really good, fresh idea to share with the world. And it is a really good idea that the rest of us will embrace and debate.  We willflatter and insult him as we always do.

I just hope he keeps in perspective that the idea and the contribution will not exceed the importance of one new, little life form named Milan.

Steve Sloan, a New Media in Journalism instructor at San Jose State University has posted a series of synopses of both Cluetrain Manifest and Naked Conversations.  For those of you who would like free executive summaries, these are the “go to” posts.

This link brings you to the beginning of naked Conversations and the end of Cluetrain. Read up and click forward to follow Naked.  Click back a few times to get to the beginning of Cluetrain.

UK Microsoftie Darren Strange reports that Microsoft now has 4500 bloggers among its 71,000 employees.  Both numbers show significant growth.  As irecall, when Robert and I were writing our first chapter of naked Conversations there were 2500 bloggers among 56,000 employees.  By the time we finished the book in October 2005, the bloggers were topping the 3,000 mark. This would mean that the number of Microsoft bloggers has grown by over 50 percent in about a year and a half.

By percentage, I’m not sure whether Sun Microsystems or Microsoft has more bloggers, but both companies continue to grow and continue to extol the virtues of doing it.

One interesting aspect in Darren’s report is that there is no longer any controversy about it. When Joshua Allen, became Microsoft’s first blogger, the first call to fire him for blogging came just a few hours later, as we reported in Naked Conversations.

Now it is seems to me, blogging is normalizing at Microsoft and that is what should happen.

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I had almost lost track of my good friend, Ernie, [the Attorney] Swenson, who today reminds me of how my path into the Blogosphere had first been carved. It was at PopTech. It was at PopTech in Camden, Me, one of my favorite conferences. Buzz Bruggeman, invited me to join him at a table, where he was sitting with several people I had never met before. I immediately got into a passionate argument with some overly caffinated guy named David.

That was how I met David Weinberger, JD Lasica and Ernie. Ernie and I immediately hit it off.  Ernie encouraged me to read the book of the guy I was arguing with, something called Cluetrain Manifesto. You never know when you are having a watershed moment in your life and it turned out I was having one.

David’s book would inspire me more than any other I have read. Cluetrain, Buzz and Ernie would all be covered in Naked Conversations. Buzz would eventually introduce me to another guy named Scoble, and his friend Andy Ruff would suggest at that dinner meeting that Robert and I collaborate on a book.

To make it all go full circle, Ernie was writing about me today to help promote the  upcoming WOMMA Conference being held in New Orleans Apr. 17-18. The last annual WOMMA Conference was held in San Francisco.  Scoble and I were the co-keynotes at it.

I thought it was a fabulous conference, and if you should attend if you can.  David is the best of us on the presentation circuit. Trust me on this.

 

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One of the many Mikes at Techdirt has an interesting post
about how traditional bo publishers, uncomfortable with Google
scanning and making searchable the content of all books have started to
try to compete by offering excerpts of their own books–with a high
level of restrictions on usage attached.

Techdirt thinks
these efforts are pretty lame and I have to agree. Naked Conversations
was not the first effort to use blogs in support of an authoring effort
but it was the most comprehensive until that time.  Our publisher John
Wiley wisely went along with Scoble’s plan (it scared Hell out of me at
the start) to publish early drafts of the entire book on this blog.
While there has been some scraping, by the bad guys, there has not been
a single case that we know of involving the plagiarism that publisher’s
so dread. More important, while no one knows any precise figures of who
influenced people to buy our book, my guess is well over 90 percent of
sales have resulted from some connection with the blogging experience
and sales have been pretty good.

While rumors that Scoble and
I have become wealthy from naked Conversations are greatly exaggerated,
Cory Doctorow, one of blogging’s most brilliant bloggers told Forbes Magazine, "I’ve been giving away my books ever since my first novel came out, and boy has it ever made me a bunch of money."

It
seems to me, that Google’s scan will not hurt book sales, but will help
them. Reading books on computer screens, or in Bubble Jet output form,
is just not as good as in the book. One of our dirty little secrets
about the Naked Conversations experience is that the actual chapters we
published, were not as well read as the interviews or the daily banter
on the topics we were covering. The chapters ran from 3,000 words to
10,000 words, and that is just too long for people to read on a
computer.

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I think Scoble invented what has become the blogger dinners. He, of course, called them "Geek dinners." I’m not a geek, so when I came along, I refused to attend unless the name got changed. But the idea is very similar to tactics used by evangelists of other categories such as religion or politics.

The idea is to get a group of people with shared interest together.  A visitor from out of town is a great excuse, but the event is really for the benefit of the local community.  Blogging is great, but there is still nothing quite like a face-to-face meeting to strengthen bonds.

I had an absolute ball at the Montreal bloggers dinner, set up by Marc Snyder, attended by about 30 bloggers, many of whom already knew each other through YUL a local networking system.  I didn’t get to talk with everybody, but I just met and enjoyed so many people, enjoyed great wine, food but mostly conversation.  did not speak to anyone who did not give me something useful or interesting that I had not yet heard.

I enjoy the friendly bicultural aspect of Montreal bloggers. Half of them may have posted terrible things about me, but I would not know because my French is so poor and the quality of computer translatirs is even worse.

I hesitate to name anyone by name or link, because I will  unavoidably omit some people I should include, so I will just say thanks to all for the fun, the passionate and well-informed conversation, the humor and good times.

I was just supposed to be an excuse  for getting bloggers to have a dinner together but I had a ball. I also understand there were some very promising first meetings for people who may do business together. That is always a good thing and I hope I get the chance to be an excuse to get together in Montreal again. It’s a wonderful city, even if it was colder than a witches left nostril.  The people were warm and that is what rally mattered.

Thank you, Montreal.

First off, I’m extremely happy that my horrendous travel schedule did not deliver me to the Northeast last week. Second, I’m a JetBlue fan, even if most routes I’m taking condemn me to United and American Air most of the time.

JetBlue is a young company, who just revealed the first blemish on the face of its seven-year history, and it was a pretty ugly one that left people locked on unventilated planes on the JFK tarmac for up to 10 hours. My wife is claustrophobic.  Had we been on that flight it would have been extremely hardon her.

Still, I had to wince when through Personal Bee, I was directed to Paul Kedrosky’s Infectious Greed, where Paul says that the airline company’s lack of information to the public could easily have been a case study for Naked Conversation’s. If the book were being written now, I’m sure we would be all over this case. Paul might see it going into "Blogging in a Crisis," or perhaps "Doing it Wrong," but he would be surprised to see us put this one into "Doing it Right."

Paul, you may have missed the startling Page One interview in the New York Times with David Neeleman, founder and CEO of JetBlue, who described himself as "humiliated and mortified," with how JetBlue customers were treated and how his organization melted down.He admitted that part of the problem, was the low-cost model upon which JetBlue is built and he publicly aired additional problems, such as flight attendants being unable to reach the company to find out if a flight was on or off.

This is transparency and it is a case study for how a CEO can use it. Using a blog would have been a better communications tool, but I think it’s important to remember that like a hammer, a blog is just a tool.

JetBlue has sinned, it has suffered and it has repented.  The guy at the top probably ignored a whole bevy of lawyers telling him not to admit any kind of culpability. He says they’ll do better and next time the suffering passengers will be compensated.

Naked Conversations began with the statement that we live in a time when most people don’t trust corporations.  Personally, I trust this one because of Neeleman’s comments.  I will be surprised if they do not do better next time.

And, by the way, when the communications officer at JetBlue, reads ths post, they should pay heed that a blog woiuld be a most efficient commnications tool when your next crisis takes place.

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Two Authors & 1st Book

[Israel & Scoble with Naked baby. Photo by Buzz Bruggeman]

I can’t believe it has only been two years. It feels like so much longer.

Two Valentine Days ago, Robert Scoble and I were at DEMO.  We had an ouline for a book we were calling The Red Couch.  It was about why blogging was good for business. Robert had surprised me with this stunt, proclaiming to the world that we were going to blog the book and get publishers to bid for it on eBay.

I hated the book blog idea. I knew publisher’s would never compete on eBay, but on the blog Robert started, over at MSN Spaces, a lot of people were saying a bunch of encouraging things to us.  Some were giving us leads for the book, others were helping us find the right tone.

Plus four publishers had popped up, expressing interest in the book.  None were going to bid on eBay.  Two had made serious bids.  To be honest, they were bidding well above what we had expected to get as an advance to two first time authors.

One of the publishers, John Wiley and Son sent a team of three down to DEMO to to persuade us that they were the right team. We found ourselves at a circular table in the middle of Morton’s Steakhouse surrounded by Valentine couples intent on uttering sweet words in loud tones.  It was perhaps the noisiest table I would know until I attended my first blogging dinner.

The Wiley folk were terrific.  They tolerated Scoble’s penchant of ordering wine by price instead of bottle (Scoble Rule #1: When publisher is paying, select only wines costing three three digits amounts). Somewhere into the second bottle, the surrounding couples had their food arrive. As the focusedon devouring pieces of steer, the noise level got tolerable and the Wiley guys, made an incredibly nice offer.  They talked about partnerships and marketing dollars and something called a "Big Book" deal at Amazon.

Like so many of the guests at surrounding tables, we were being swept off our feet. I was ready to do whatever these guys wanted to do. Scoble wasn’t.  He was staying way back.

Finally, he laid out his concern with Wiley.  It seemed the competing publisher blogged and Wiley didn’t.  Robert felt it important that we have a publisher that had a blog.  I was just happy finding a publisher that was offering this amount of money and tossed in a sumptuous steak as a bonus.

That’s when Wiley’s Joe Wikert offered to start this blog and our acquisition editor Jim Minatel started this one. They are both damn good blogs that they tell me have served Wiley very well. Robert agreed to do the deal and said he would help them with their blogs. That help would turn out to be a single event,  when Robert posted at Naked Conversations telling Joe everything he was doing wrong.

But we had a deal and it was the most monumental one I’ve made so far in my life. We had a deal and the Wiley folk left us, as did all the couples at the surrounding Morton’s table.  Robert and I found ourselves sitting at the steakhouse bar, drinking XO Cognac at $50 a glass.

We went outside into the desert night to discover a torrential rain, the kind you expect in the tropics. I called my wife to tell her the good news and I heard tears of joy.  I later found out that was in part because she had learned that day that she was about to be laid off from her job at a time when I was at just about zero revenue.

In the end, it all worked out pretty well as I look back two years later  The book went through as many name changes as Murphy Brown went through secretaries, but as Naked Conversations, it has done pretty well. Paula and I seem to be living happily ever after.

Scoble has moved on to become a new age TV star and I’m at least talking a lot about starting a second book. The blog has changed names and colors, but if you are reading this, it is still doing pretty well.

Thanks Robert.  It has been my favorite two years.

I received an email from Beth Campbell, an acquisition editor for Informa Healthcare a publisher of surgical and physician books. As I understand it, this is an imprint of Charter Publishing an old and global text publisher.

Beth wrote: "">I wonder how we can use blogging to replace/supplement current medical texts? I’ve been in this position for almost  20 years, and other than the fact that chapters and illustrations are now submitted electronically, NOTHING has changed in the way we deliver content,
even though EVERYTHING seems to be changing about the way people read, learn and
communicate."

Good question, Beth, and one that I thought might generate some thinking from you readers, so I got Beth’s permission to write my response here, rather than in email. As an author, who is between books, her question hits several of my personal nerves. Among them:

  • Portions of Naked Conversations were current, when we completed Naked Conversations in August 2005, but out-of-date, when the book went into distribution in January 2006. Five months is a huge chunk of time in blogging and medical practices, but is pretty fast in publishing.
  • New information worthy of comment comes up all the time in a great many fields. Publishers cannot possibly keep up with the Future Shock pace of change.  Revised editions simply are not fast enough.
  • The best–and most challenging questions–only come up from readers after you have published and you cannot respond to them for years, and for medical practitioners, that may be way too late.

My solution, of course, is to use social media to keep the conversation current between books.  These may be in the form of a blog or a wiki. A blog can allow an author or the publisher, to keep information  current, and to respond to questions that come up post publication of a book.

A wiki could be used by medical practitioners to collaborate with others in the same profession, examining new research on a subject.  Likewise, audio or video broadcasts can also add to the shareing f new information.

It seems to me that all sorts of old media, newspapers, magazine and books can keep conversations current by braiding a book with blogs and other social media. Social media can become a living appendix, which may be a bad metaphor when one is discussing surgeon’s journals.

Beth, I hope this helps.  Does anyone else have an idea?

I’m glad my recent post on new corporate blogging tips was so well received. I wanted to add something about the balance of personal and business content in a corporate blog.  t seems to me that this is an area where people get fairly confused.

The purpose of a business blog is primarily to talk about what you do at work.  Your audience is probably comprised of customers, prospects, co-workers, competitors and a few family members. What they want most from you is information and insight into your job.

But, by adding some personal information, it helps me as one of those customers, prospects, co-workers, etc. see a real human inside that labyrinth of organization where you work. I really have no desire to swim in a pool of your puppy pictures and lawn fertilizing Saturdays.

One the other hand, I want enough of that stuff to see you are a real person. Corny as they are, pictures of a newborn make most of us smile. If you had a problem with a surly waiter who ruined a special night, if you sailed at sunset in the Carri bean, I may want a glimpse of that.  I may want to know enough of your personal life to understand that you are a human.

What’s in it for the corporation that employees you?  A good deal.  As we wrote in naked Conversations, "We live in an age when most people don’t trust large organizations." But blogging lets us break down the large organizations into real human units of energy and it makes a great deal of difference in how the overall company is perceived.

This happens all the time in business.  You sit down for a business meal, where you and your dining partner are about to discuss some monumental deal.  How does it start? "So how was your weekend," one asks the other. Then they discuss spouses and children, golf and snow shoveling. Somehow the business part finds its way in, hopefully getting to the next steps part, with the after-dinner beverage

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[From left, Korean, Indian, American and Japanese versions of Naked Conversations. Photo by Shel]

Robert and I really love the international reach that our book has found. So far, our publisher has sent us the four version shown above. The Korean version comes bundled under shrink wrap with a small handful of post cards.  I don’t know why.  The Japanese version has unquestionably the raciest cover.

Wiley also informs us that versions have been printed also in Turkish, Russian, Korean and for India. We don’t currently know how sales are going.  Nor do we know much about Turkish blogging. We are also told that deals have been cut for both French and Italian versions, which would bring the total to 10.

If you happen to come across one of these editions, please send us a photo of it.

We’d love to see it.

I am Scott Baradell’s guest at 6 pm Pacific tomorrow night on Media Orchard’s BlogTalkRadio. This is a neat podcast-like approach that does two things I like.  First, it’s live and second, listeners can call in.  This is about as close to talk radio as we’ve been able to get and much more interactive than the usual podcast format.

Give us a call at 646 915 8556. Details for tuning in can be found here.   An operator will be sitting by.

BTW, I am in Miami, consulting with my old client Scrapblog again.  They are getting close to going live.  They called me in because it’s hard getting decent help these days. The first thing I’m going to do is get CEO Carlos Garcia to post more often.

Call me tomorrow night.  Your questions can liven up an otherwise drab case study in shameless self promotion.

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Naked on the shelf in India

My friend Pete Dawson, just back from a few weeks in India and the Middle East, sent me this photo of Naked Conversations on the shelf of a Bangalore Crossroads. Crossroads is India’s only national bookseller chain.

Two things are particularly interesting to me here.  First the book is in the Communications section, while in the US it is usually in the business section.  But second, and more significant is that this show an apparent soft cover edition of the book that I have never seen before. I was not aware that we had a localized Indian version of the book out and it is interesting to note.

Thanks, Pete.  I appreciate the photo and the timing could not have been better.

Two Authors & 1st Book

[Israel & Scoble with 1st copy of Naked Conversations--Photo By Buzz Bruggeman]

On Jan. 4, 2006, Scoble and I addressed a group of retail booksellers at CES.  The evnt, sponsored by our publisher John Wiley & Sons would be our first of well over 50 talks and media interviews the two of us did together over the last year.

I got to the event earlier than anyone else.  When one of the Wiley folk opened the first crate of our books–drop shipped the night before from the printer, I was handed the first book.

It was a far bigger thrill than I had anticipated. Only two groups of people can relate–other authors and new parents. It is really quite overwhelming. I wandered around the downstairs at New York, New York Hotel and just walked into Scoble. I didn’t say a word.  I just handed him the book.  He stared at it for a long moment with a great deal of reverence.  He looked at our names on the cover, at our pictures on the back flap.  He thumbed through the pages, randomly reading a graph here and there.  He sort of hugged it, then handed it back to me.

It was one of the best moments of a great many best moments over the last year. Later, our pal Buzz Bruggeman, who played a key role in bringing Scoble and I together caught up with us and took this photo. It remains one of my favorites, although it doesn’t quite caych the joy that was in our hearts.

 

 

In a Businesswire announcement this morning, Soundview, the executive book summary organization has named Naked Conversations to its list of 30 best books of 2007. We were selected, the release says, from 1200 business books.

 Soundview offers newsletter summaries of books to busy executives.

They also provided professional studio time for Robert and me to read excerpts from our book for a CD that they are also marketing. I was impressed at how adept Robert is as a voice narrator. If the video podcasting thing doesn’t work out, maybe he can get a job as studio talent.

This is our second citation.  Earlier, Amazon named us #6 on its list of best 2006 books in its technology and internet category.

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I’ve been reading Presentation Zen, lately, Garr Reynolds blog on presentation and the language and look of it. He is a veteran of the world of corpspseak. He sees the elegance I see in  simple presentation and articulation. It’s a good read.  Give him a glance, when you get the chance.

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Michael Hyatt, president and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, the world leader in Christian publishing s writing a book called "The Thomas Nelson Way." He has announced that he will write it chiefly in a blog and that Scoble and I inspired him to do this through the Naked Conversations experience.

This reiterates what Robert and I already knew. Michael Hyatt is a real gentleman. He personally got involved in Thomas Nelson’s bidding to become our publisher.  He almost did.  Nelson and Wiley competed for rights to our book and in the end Wiley made the higher bid in terms of an advance.

I’ll be watching his project closely, even as I continue along with my second book being written his way. If you are an author, understanding publishers is really vital.  You may start with a dream and a need to tell your story. But, this authoring stuff is indeed a business, and what Michael is doing is generous and valuable to anyone even contemplating authoring a book.
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According to the BBC, crystal ballers at Gartner Group predict blogging will reach its apex in 2007 at 100 million, because just about everyone who wants to blog will have tried it.  The respected research group also estimates that some 200 million blogs have been abandoned.

My guess is that they are wrong, but I can see why they are saying it. I think there will be tens of millions of blogs and that many people who wish to blog do not yet have computers or if they do–internet access. I think their are millions of people living in countries where it is dangerous to blog, whose children will be able to do so.  I think there are thousands upon thousands of company employees whose bosses will not allow them to blog.  Those bosses, over time will be replaced by a new generation of executives who will encourage employees to blog because it will have evolved into a more efficient way to communicate with customers and prospects.

In education, i think in 2007, we will see increased numbers of teachers using social media, including blogs, to teach and communicate with students. In politics, I believe 2007 will see a fire hose of elective aspirants chasing voters through blogs. Nonprofits, likewise, are just now stepping into the blogosphere because they are learning they can interact with far more people than through the physical rigors of grassroots campaigns.

What I do think will happen next year is that blogging will normalize, that a blog will be just another tool that employees are entrusted to use in the course of their job, and counting who blogs will be about as relevant as counting who uses email or the telephone.

Of course, if I am right and Gartner is wrong, they’ll just pubish and market a new thick expensive report on how unpredictable this social media market really is.

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"The Flack" Peter Himler posts an interview with my friend Steve Rubel who comments that books such as Cluetrain Manifesto and Naked Conversations may be old hat and that blogging itself may have peaked in terms of numbers.

Maybe so. Maybe so, but I think not.

In fact, Naked has surprised everyone by the steadiness of it’s sales.  The book is just short of its first birthday and sales, we strut to say, are still pretty solid. I ave noticed that sales have moved geographically away from American urban centers while taking off in English speaking communities of Asia, Europe and Canada. This trend seems to overlap with many historic technology adoption routes.

Steve and I tend to hang out in the front of a comet that has a Long Tail to it and he just might have been blinded by the light in his comments to Peter.

In our neighborhood world he’s absolutely right. Blogging is an over-discussed topic. If you talk about Kryptonite bike locks in our neighborhood, people will roll their eyes heavenward or point to their throats and make gagging noises. But ours is a small neighborhood and this is a very big world despite current levels of connectedness.

I will be better persuaded that it has peaked when my wife’s employer tells her a blog would be useful in her marketing efforts to attract more foster parents in Santa Clara County, California, or when shoppers at Edelman’s most famous client stores know about great or shoddy deals because of what they read on a customers blog or YouTube clip.

What I do see and have written previously about is the normalization of blogging. Like movies, telephones, recorded music, television, PCs, trains and so on the real impoact comes after the mania, when everyday people start adopt technology to do everyday things.  Blogging will pass its peak only after it becomes an everyday tool worldwide and  we have some road to travel before that happens.

 How to know when you are addicted to blogging. Idiot’s confessions.

Naked Conversations is making a good number of blogger "Best of 2006" lists and this means a good deal to us.  I’m not going to cite each time it happens, because it gets pretty self serving, even though every time I see us named, it pretty much tickles me.

But this morning Mitch Ratcliffe named us over at CNET.  To me, this is a big honor because in my years of being a "PR-guy-who-would-really-rather-be-a-writer," Mitch was one of the guys I wanted to emulate.most.  He still is. 

Over the years, he has contributed to Forbes, Fortune, the old mighty PC Week and other publications and as my friend Richard Brandt has said, Mitch is a writer’s writer.

Thanks, Mitch.

Pat Phelan has been over from Cork for a couple of days, as I’ve mentioned, and we have been on a whistlestop schedule talking business with a bunch of next-generation telephony companies– Jangl, Jajah, Talkplus and by phone with GrandCentral. This completes for me a crash course in what I’ll call the new telephony companies that has also included face time with Sten Tamkivi COO of Skype and Greg Spector of Rebtel, the Swedish company.  In addition, Pat has filled me in on meetings and talks with at least another half-dozen players in this rapidly emerging category.

No matter that Pat arrived wearing shoes that might have previously been owned by some service vendor who owned a pink Cadillac who could find you companionship on a lonely night, the guy has vision about where it’s all going and what’s important.

I would say that my crash course puts me in the outer perimeter of the inner circle of this new telephony services category. I’m impressed by who and what I have scene during this survey course. I have no doubt that I recently met a future billionaire who’s currently at the helm of the winner of a new race for a new era of telephone services.  The fact I don’t know which pilot will end up looking over his shoulder from which helm is not at the center of where I’m looking.

I’m looking at what happens to, for and by people, and from that perspective, I just love what I’m seeing. happier days are on their way.

Here are a few key points that I’ve come to after a half-morning’s reflection.

1. Voice services are getting cheaper – a lot cheaper.

New technologies and companies are going to reduce the cost of calling internationally from dollars and Euros per minute to just a few cents. This will result in more people in more places talking with each other and this is a good thing from a business and social perspective.

2. Cheap talk is getting easier.

There’s something clunky about a great many of these services.  We don’t want to dial two numbers because it costs time to save money.  We don’t want to swap out our SIMM cards and we don’t
want to be tethered to computers.  Decision-makers at each company understands this and they also understand that their competition is working on simpler solutions. History shows that in such situations, simplicity for users evolves rapidly. In the case of the new telephony, the evolution is going to be very rapid.

3. Incumbents can’t win.

The Mafia-like stranglehold big carriers have around our throats is being  unpried at the same brisk pace that their other hand is being loosened from our wallets. Because these giants have so many financial, political and regulatory advantages their demises may be slower and uglier than I would like to see, but their aging command and control business models simply cannot adapt to the user-enforceable requirements of modern times.  As historically has almost always happened disruption comes from new companies, not from the R&D sections of old companies who are very happy with the way things are.

4. Cheap talk will speed emerging markets.

This thought is really at Pat Phelan’s soul. Expensive phone calls are inconvenient and annoying to us road warrior types. When I pay a buck a minute to speak by mobile phone to overseas friends, we flare when we see the bill. Often time and place make using Skype too inconvenient and only a fly speck of road warriors have ever tried the new stuff from TalkPlus, Jajah or Rebtel but we get by.

But in emerging populations and for people who left home so they could feed their families, cheap talk is critical for their evolution in the economic food chain. A great many Polish people in Chicago, Asians in Vancouver, Bangladeshis in Ireland live for that one calla week.  These are the world’s "unbanked" as Pat calls them and there are 100s of millions of them.  Cheap talk allows them more discretionary income and that income creates markets to emerge more rapidly.

This all becomes very important to me in Global Neighborhoods. Voice-to-voice touch is a fundamental element in making geography less relevant to people and markets.