Thursday, May 20, 2010

in memory of Devendra Singh

Devendra Singh was a clever and charming firecracker. So smart. So gentle. So caring. So persistent. 

In my dissertation acknowledgments, I wrote this about him: 
Dr. Singh has shown me that loving what you do will keep you alive. His wisdom about life, enthusiasm for teaching, and concern for my well-being have bettered my life in countless ways. I have learned from him how to think like a scientist and will forever remember his unmatched ability to captivate a classroom.
I remember the first class I ever TA'd for him. We walked slowly for several blocks in the brutal Texan summer heat. I didn't think he would make it. When we arrived in the classroom, he got up on a table, sat cross-legged-- looking half like a child, half like a yogi, and hacked away until he caught his breath. When it was time for class to begin, he was ON - no signs of distress until the 'high' of teaching escaped, an hour or so after class.  

I've never seen a classroom of college kids listen as intently as they did to Dr. Singh, day after day, no matter what the content. I've also never seen someone command a room so powerfully with such a gentle voice, strong Indian accent, and transparencies dating back to the 60's. 

Dev loved teaching. He also loved when people appreciated his teaching; thus our relationship. He inspired everyone who stepped foot in his classrooms. And this, only one of his many dimensions-- brilliant researcher, devoted and very, very proud father, gourmet chef, and so many other facets that came up over the years. 

Dev was groundbreaking and controversial. He would be disappointed in me to know I memorialized him without mentioning his research on the evolutionarily preferred .67 waist-hip ratio and the adaptive significance of female attractiveness. Students were literally on the edge of their seats when he gave the backstory on this research-- again, using his old transparencies. 

I know he suffered over the past few years, especially this last semester when he was prevented from teaching. I'm so sad he's gone. Missing him so much already. 

May everyone have a fig today to honor the passing of this inspiring man. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

not (just) listening anymore

The Listening space just got exciting. Again.

Or should I say the Social CRM space?

Coming from what used to be called a social media monitoring research firm, I find changes in this space very interesting-- whether they revolve around the quest for the ultimate metric for engagement, the hot new look of a dashboard, or the advancement of semantic technology. Most interesting is when companies join forces, including oldies like BuzzMetrics and NetRatings and Cymfony and TNS and, those hot off the press, Attensity and Biz360 and Scout Labs and Lithium - both of which are being billed as dominant forces in the suddenly expanding Social CRM space. 

Merging open and closed networks is an important move for businesses; so is responding in real-time; so is amassing massive amounts of data. Each of these, a promise of social CRM. 

And with each of these much-anticipated-features of Social CRM comes important watch-outs:  

Merging networks:
One of the most important precursors to merging data sets is data quality. Have you evaluated the breadth (e.g. which networks, blogs, forums, Usenet, tweets, videos, etc.) and depth (e.g. comments, likes, wall posts, etc.) of the data set you're querying? Be wary of the mechanics of your data before you assume they can be married.   

Real time response:
An often overlooked aspect of real-time response is a corresponding workflow to enable a sufficient response. Are there formal processes in place to connect the subject matter experts to the consumers? Before trying to respond too quickly, prioritize the signals you're responding to and make sure there's a process in place to both facilitate response and fix any associated problem.  

Amassing data:
People love to talk about warehouses full of data. With APIs opened up, are you hoarding additional data or making sense of it? Make sure you're not mindlessly adding apples and oranges. Add variables together with cause, and look for patterns beneath the surface

I'm really excited about Scout Labs and Lithium joining forces, largely due to their stellar casts of characters. Jenny Zeszut, Margaret Francis, and Jochen Frey at Scout Labs; Joe Cothrel and Michael Wu at Lithium all are enlightened minds I always learn from. Congratulations to all of you!

Your customers are indeed everywhere and you need to be as well. My colleague, Peter Kim is hosting a webinar on this today. Join him as he shares his observations on social media trends and the market factors driving businesses’ need for expanded customer intelligence over the Social Web, Wednesday 5/19 at 3CT/4ET. 

I'm anticipating a lot more creative moves in the listening space in the near future. Just be wary of the basics before you identify your new Social CRM provider.