Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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11/10/2008
11:57 AM
David Berlind
David Berlind
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Case In Point: Extracting Business Agility Out Of Public Social Networks

By TechWebTV executive producer Fritz Nelson's account, the House of Shields (a bar just off Market Street in San Francisco) was far too packed-to-the-gills on the second eve of Web 2 Summit for he and TechWeb's multimedia engineer Matt Conner to actually shoot any video. But how he came to be there in the first place is a bit of a case study of the role that social networks and other tools can play when it comes to improving business agility.

By TechWebTV executive producer Fritz Nelson's account, the House of Shields (a bar just off Market Street in San Francisco) was far too packed-to-the-gills on the second eve of Web 2 Summit for he and TechWeb's multimedia engineer Matt Conner to actually shoot any video. But how he came to be there in the first place is a bit of a case study of the role that social networks and other tools can play when it comes to improving business agility.Like any journalistic organization, TechWebTV's business is to be in the right place at the right time with its crews and journalists. Sometimes it's luck. More often than not though, it's a combination of good planning and knowing the right people. Like many businesses, success is largely dependent on agility and last week, Twitter and FriendFeed played a roll in making sure Fritz and Matt were in the right place at the right time.

A lot of the video that came out of last week's Web 2.0 Summit was recorded by Fritz and Matt. Last Thursday, while both men were engrossed in the post-production of some of that video, I was sitting at my desk in my home office in Massachusetts, tuning into a lot of the Web 2.0 Summit action from afar through their videos, Twitter, and a "backchannel" RSS feed that I used to aggregate all the videos, Tweets, news, and blogs that were coming out of the event.

Web 2.0 Summit is a joint production of InformationWeek's parent TechWeb and O'Reilly Media. Earlier in the morning, on that Thursday, I received an e-mail from O'Reilly Media's Sara Peyton informing me that a $249 report about Twitter and the Micro-Messaging revolution had just been released under the O'Reilly Radar brand. I made a mental note, thinking I'd come back to that in some way.

A little while later, O'Reilly Media founder Tim O'Reilly who was at Web 2.0 Summit, prolifically tweeting (across the Twitter service) about what was happening at the event, mentioned via Twitter that he and the authors of the Twitter and Micro-Messaging Report would be at the House of Shields that night and to come meet them. I spotted the tweet in the aforementioned aggregated RSS feed which itself is based on the FriendFeed social network. Wrote O'Reilly:

Meet me and authors of Twitter report at tweetup tonight 6:30-8 House of Shields, 39 Montgomery St, SF, open to all, not just #web2summit

O'Reilly Radar's Sarah Milstein blogged about the "tweetup" but I never saw that blog. Tim O'Reilly's tweet was enough.

On my end, I was thinking we had a video crew on the ground in San Francisco, and an open invitation to meet Tim O'Reilly and the report's authors at the House of Shields. I looked over to my AOL Instant Messenger Client and saw that Fritz was online and I pinged him, asking what he was doing that night and could he go interview Tim and the authors of the report. A few IMs back and forth and a plan was in place. The crew would be on its way.

But Fritz wasn't really prepared with any background on the report. So, I went back to original e-mail from Sara Peyton, found her phone number, called her and asked if she could e-mail the report to Fritz. Moments later, Fritz had the e-mail in his inbox.

Ten minutes prior, that "tweetup" wasn't even on our radar. But, moments later, thanks to Twitter, FriendFeed, e-mail, instant messenger, and my telephone, Fritz and Matt had a plan and a copy of the report. All they needed when they got to the House of Shields was a relatively quiet place to conduct the interview. According to Fritz, "there was no way we're going to get an interview in there. The place was too packed."

Perhaps we have Twitter to thank for that, too. Clearly, I wasn't the only one who saw O'Reilly's invitation.

Even so, the social networks and other technologies already had done their part. The question for you in your business is, how do you extract the same sort of agility we did from the same (or different) combinations of real-time technologies?

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