Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fourth Anniversary!

For many, four years may not represent a lengthy time span. Many have worked on projects that spanned many more years! On the other hand, when it comes to my own handicraft, who knew! And yes, who could have guessed … and now I’m kicking off my fifth year of blogging!

There have been many postings to this blog where I have included pictures of cars. On more than one occasion it’s been of the blue Corvette coupe in which I have tried my hand at driving on different circuits in Western United States. Pictures that I have included have clearly shown the number 116 affixed to the car. More astute observers may even recall a picture of my SUV with the same number affixed high in the rear window.

The choice of number for the Corvette, required by clubs before the coupe can turn a wheel on any circuit, took very little time to determine. After all, January 16th is my wedding anniversary and having forgotten (just once, in 2009, mind you) every time I walk through the garage now, I cannot help but be reminded. Anniversaries are extremely important and their celebration is always a joyous occasion in my house.

Perhaps not every reader goes this far to post reminders of important dates, but my track record (no pun intended) since posting to the Corvette, and to the SUV, the vehicle we use to tow the trailer carrying the Corvette to distant circuits, has proved to be more reliable than all previous methods that I have tried – so, for the foreseeable future, I plan to stick with this way of reminding myself of important occasions. As for the picture above, this was taken of me at our daughter’s wedding reception in Minneapolis, anniversary zero!

It only occurred to me this month that with this post I am embarking on my fifth year of writing posts for this blog. It was only a few weeks ago, in the post of June 28th, 2011 “Responsible CIOs show restraint!” that I remarked about it being the 200th post, but for me, entering my fifth year represents a significant milestone. In that first post, way back in August 20th, 2007, “Introduction”, I wrote that I was starting (this blog) with the expectation of presenting a slightly different view of NonStop and that I am writing it to generate further discussion. And these past four years has proved that, as a community, NonStop users and vendors were not all that shy about passing comments on pretty much every topic I raised despite the perspective I took.

How vocal?

When I combed through the 200 posts, as I did last weekend, I found more than 330 comments posted – a handful from myself, of course, and in response to questions directed to me - but in general, a remarkable achievement in the world of blogging where the majority of sites generate very few comments. Combine this number of blog comments with the extensive discussions built around each post on the LinkedIn group by the same name as this blog, Real Time View, you’ll see that, yes, the NonStop community isn’t only “not shy” but is very dedicated in ensuring “the message of NonStop is not lost” on the broader HP user community.

There was a time when the value from blogging and participating in social media channels wasn’t all that well understood. In general terms, those who “got it” were the exception and it’s only been this year that I have seen vendors and consultants working within the NonStop community come to appreciate the value that a direct pipeline into the user community provides.

I have seen little evidence that the ratio, developed in the early days of blogging, of 1:9:90 (where, for every 100 readers 90 will read sparingly, while another 9 will read regularly, and where 1 will routinely provide comments) has not changed all that much, but for the few that do participate it makes the exercise of providing the information well worth the effort.

Blog sites continue to evolve and of late many of them have become repositories for short stories, descriptions of features and product, and marketplace analysis. These blog sites are being complemented too by a presence within LinkedIn, a social media communication channel readily accepted among the business community.

LinkedIn members may not be always aware of postings to blogs but they can quickly tell from discussions that are initiated, and that draw quick responses, which blog postings they may want to take a closer look at – the LinkedIn discussions created around posts to this blog site are now attracting the majority of readers. Where comments posted directly to this blog site tend to be between four and ten, LinkedIn discussions have drawn upwards of 50 comments, with a discussion on Cloud Computing attracting more than 125 comments!

In combination, the discussions on LinkedIn and the posts to blog sites, provide the NonStop community with a wealth of opinions along with candid insights and in many ways, have become the home to a virtual user community that shares much the same enthusiasm that was always evident at traditional gatherings of users. Perhaps the modern events that major vendors like HP are keen to sponsor lack much of the informality and networking those former summits provided, but much of that original spirit lives on in the virtual worlds supported by social media.

Viewed as a complementary channel for marketing, and as a vehicle when used wisely and free from a barrage of sales messages, it can attract an avid following. While I will stop short of suggesting it as a virtual replacement to other ways of meeting, as NonStop users we should openly participate in as many social media outlets as our daily routines permit.

For me there’s still no substitute for sitting down with a colleague over coffee, or an adult beverage, and listening to what they are doing, but in today’s ever-shrinking global community reading of how they are faring is often the only way to find out what NonStop users are currently pursuing in support of their business.

As you scroll down through this post, I am sure you will not miss the sidebar summary of the popular posts. This is a new feature added only a year ago and so doesn’t reflect the results from earlier posts where the data had been managed via a different tool. However, when I combine the data from both sets of figures, I see that the most popular post to date was “Tough Neighborhood”, with close to 1,000 page-views, followed by “ACI Strategy - it's all about choice!”, “More new engines for NonStop!” and then “Starting with a blank …

Essentially, any time I wrote about my former employer, ACI Worldwide, or HP, readership spiked. Not surprisingly as the issues covered were of paramount importance to many at that time. Today, interests are spiking whenever I address the topics of cloud computing, databases, and likely future directions of user communities and user-run events. As for the posts that have drawn the most reader comments, there’s been some clear-cut winners through the years.

The most ever comments followed the post “ACI Strategy - it's all about choice!” followed by “Is it time we folded our (big) tent?” and “The club at the end of the street …” and all comments shared one thing in common: concerns over where NonStop was headed! In particular, there was interest in knowing more about the benefits of the new HP Blade servers, how competitive they would be compared with other traditional platforms such as the IBM mainframe, how much support they would attract from solutions vendors, as well as the venues and forums HP would elect to support as part of promoting the message.

There are many commentators who believe that the creation of virtual communities based on participation in forums and blogs, or membership within groups, is a foretaste of what’s to come. With a new generation of technologists preferring to network online than face-to-face, the popularity of events of all types is in jeopardy. However, I hope that I’m not a part of the community when that time comes as I still enjoy interacting with real people.

As much as I enjoy writing and as fond as I am of jumping into discussions pretty much on a whim, I value even more greatly any chance to sit back and watch a lively conversation produce the level of evangelical enthusiasm so many of us can recall from times past. No, as much as commentators may predict the rise of virtual communities I, for one, will approach with caution and even as I blog and comment, I look forward to the next user event wherever it may be held.

As I look back over the past four years, I have made a couple of poor calls in terms of what to expect to see in future products, as I have strayed into areas where some NonStop community members found it difficult to “connect the dots.” However, the overall response from those who continue to read these postings have been favorable and encouraging and I am hopeful that what interests me continues to find an audience.

There’s definitely no lessening of headlines that catch my attention, or of products and solutions that I find promising so there’s little likelihood I will run out of material on which to base my stories. So again, in case I wasn’t as forthcoming earlier as I could have, thank you for the time you have spent reading my commentaries and opinions over the past four years and I look forward to continuing to develop even more in coming years!


Anonymous said...

I read your post all the time but never (until now) leave any comments. I find your writinmg both well written and interesting, so please move on to 4 more years, or many more!

Richard Buckle said...

Many thanks for these kind words, and yes, I am wrapping up my first post of my fifth year; should be posted shortly!

There have been so many occasions where I think I am writing in a vacuum so anytime I receive a comment like this, it sure does cheer me up!

Again, thanks ...