Karl Roche

family, cycling and communications



Making a story never got so easy: Storify

One of my favourite tools at the moment is Storify, which if you haven’t come across it yet, is a simple way to search and gather tweets, photos, blogs, podcasts and all sorts of things into a lovely sharable format.

Image representing Storify as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

Since we started on Smarter Computing I’ve been playing around with Storify as a way to highlight key moments at events such as Pulse, zSummit and announcements such as this story on IBM SmartCloud.

It’s integration into things like twitter is great, in fact you will need a twitter ID to use it. However, it lacks the ability for me to post it here in WordPress. Partly that is down to WordPress not supporting scripts, but also I think it would be pretty easy for Storify to implement an iframe solution for extra portability.

Stories can be emailed but this week I’ve not been able to do this and there are some issues I find if I use it in Chrome.

Having said that this has huge potential and even in its current state (still beta of course) it provides a great platform for a wide range of possible uses, not least live blogging and live event reporting as pages are update dynamically as you would expect. A handy toolbar shortcut allows you to add content you find to current or new stories.

There are just under a dozen platforms you can search through including a place to create an embedded link from any url. The Twitter search is really great as you can select to find only those tweets with images, links or remove retweets. This makes it easy to create a picture story (assuming you find some) of the event or whatever you want to report on.

Finally you can easily add text between the posts you find so that you can create section headings or explain what people are seeing.

What I have found though is that people do like to share these. Some of my most retweeted and visited pages contain Storify stories. I’ve also started to use these internally at IBM on our intranet adding a new dimension to coverage.

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More on blogging and using social media

A couple of weeks ago I made an intro to social media deck that I have now reshaped. It was for IBMers, hence the reason for calling it External Social Media, rather than all the stuff we use internally.

The emphasis is really on blogging and the elements which people seem to forget, such as reading and commenting on other peoples blogs. If there was one thing I would want people to start using more it’s feedly. Then to think about saying something back to the person that wrote the post.

I’ve included more links to other material to go deeper into specific subjects. It will be yet another deck to show newbies what is out there. Not a huge amount new for people that have been around a bit.

Beware, may contain Quora.

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Quora, Quora, Quora…but why?

Online Community - What is Next Panel 3
Image by Choconancy1 via Flickr

Every question you ever had you will now need to be asked on Quora.

That’s not 100% true, but I have felt like that today.   User growth is out stripping twitter at the moment but it’s base is still small, so still think it will be bigger than Twitter.

When I read the last article above I had my doubts, I still do, but Quora has appeal to be more widely used, especially as answers jump up the Google ladder in search and people start to monitor their own brands and products. Will be people be chatting on it all day, backwards and forwards, no. They will be dropping in when Wikipedia fails them or there isn’t a realiable forum or current avenue to seek help.

But this has been done before, many times but this seems to have hit a nerve, at least for the new year.

Still doesn’t answer the question of Quora.

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So WordPress have set the challenge for it’s users to start posting a blog every day or every week.

Not sure if this is because people are posting less in general on blogs, resorting to micro-blogging or just as a result of what the poll revealed…. people are always full of good intentions at the start of the year.

In unrelated events I was asked to put together a deck on getting started in blogging aimed mainly at a technical crowd. It’s a work in progress at the moment but I’ve added it to Slideshare.

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Can blogging help you?

I noticed this tweet by Andy today, it’s something  that people have been talking about for a while, mostly since the rise of Twitter.

In a recent unscientific poll, carried out by myself, I struggled to find bloggers of a particular kind at work as many had said they had basically given it a rest for a while, in favor of micro-blogging only. We have also seen the tremendous rise of Tumblr, which although a blogging platform lends itself more to re-blogging or sharing information you find. In my mind these are possibly closer fits to Delicious and Digg than blogging.

So what is the point of blogging?

Communication obviously, but also personal development. Turns out that young people are better at communication than us old farts. Stanford conducted a study that found writing for a large audience, rather than for one, is a great way to develop writing skills. Penelope Trunk aims her comments squarely at Gen-Y but if you look towards the technical community they have (of all ages) been doing this since computers could talk to each other. Which brings me back to Andy, who is part of IBMs technical community. I don’t know Andy’s age but I’m guessing it’s closer to Gen-X than Y.

I know for a fact that the Gen-Y thing is just a convenient way to group people for this purpose and nothing else. It certainly isn’t a done deal on anyone’s part and shouldn’t be used to say, “I’m too old for this stuff.” Actually the other day, someone was asking me (a Gen-Y) about lists in Twitter when someone on the other side of the divide piped up saying that they had just joined Facebook.

Like most things, being good at it is essentially down to practice. You may never have 40,000 readers but you will become a better writer and better at managing the information that is available to us all.


Anyway… blogging can be useful in a number of ways, but you may not be sure how to start blogging. From a technical point of view, don’t even go there. If you can’t manage to use WordPress, blogger, tumblr or similar services than you may as well shut down your email client too. and start pushing trolleys at Tesco. Again Penelope has some great advice on blogging.

My 1-2-3.. start reading a select bunch of blogs, comment on those and then write your own.

Otherwise you can stick to reading The Daily Mail and Daily Express where it’s all cancer and royal weddings.

And while my 2 year old is using me as a climbing frame at this precise moment a word on typos which you’ll probably find a few of on my blog that has considerably less the 40,000 subscribers.

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How do I start blogging?

That was the question I got asked yesterday and quite often get asked.

I don’t really consider myself a blogger, not externally but I contribute to several, but I really do it to keep track of what I do and the things I like, occasionally something happens that brings in some useful insight or contact which makes it worthwhile.

But what I do know is what it is like to blog. Important to try things when you are encouraging others to see the value in social media communications.  It means you can see the pitfalls, dangers, values and surprises that these sort of things can throw up. Basically, would you take driving lessons from someone that just stood on the path telling you what to do inside the car? No.

My short summary of top tips:

It’s hard work
: coming up with new things to say, finding the time and making it interesting is not easy. Very few manage it, so be realistic as to what you will get out of it. The phrase, “Just another wordpress blog” is very true.

Are you reading blogs? If not, why would you want to write one?
Even though I have this blog I found over time that through commenting
on blogs and forums I can get my point across directly to the people I
would like to reach. Also reading other blogs can give you ideas for replies to post on your own blog – referencing the original blog of course.

Write 5 blogs posts before you start to blog: Taking a page from “Groundswell” this tip is very good. If you find it hard to write 5 blogs up front, think what it will be like if you have to do it every week.

Once you start, give yourself time: Set yourself periodic reviews. See how you are going, how you feel and look at what you have written. It may be that you thought you would talk about ‘information management’ when you mainly spoke about your passion for ceramics.

Talk about the things you know: Seems simple but it’s still true. If you seem informed and passionate, your readers will also see that and your audience should grow. It will help you find your voice too – that is, writing without editing.

Set a calendar event for blogging: Put time aside to do the blogging. Make a meeting with yourself, each week to actually go through the mechanics of posting. At the start this can take a while to do, finding the links, getting used to the interface you are using and making it all look just right takes time and practice.

Make notes of your ideas: Ideas come usually when you’re not thinking actively about them. Something to do with the brain and creativity. Either use a note book, one of the many tools such as evernote that you can sync across phones and pc’s or even use a hashtag in your twitter stream to group thoughts. eg “#idea” so that you can go back and remind yourself of those inspiring moments and links.

You don’t have to do it
: If after a good period of trying (six months say) it’s hard work, you don’t feel it is worth the effort, then stop. There are hundreds of blogs out there that would love a comment from you, so pack it in and check them out.

Of course these are just my thoughts and count for nothing in the whole scheme of things. Some more links below that may help you.

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First voice to post

Found out that the formatting with Zemanta doesn’t work well, in fact you add any content to this and it messes it up enough to stop the audio working.

Left a bit, right a bit, up, up, just there..nice.

The other day I mentioned at the end of a rather long and tiresome bleat about social media and internal communications that one of IBM’s biggest assets in this area after our culture is the social computing guidelines.


Now you can watch this video (link on the right of the page) that Global Social Media Comms Manager and Power Lunch botherer @adamclyde made about this very subject during his lunch break with our VP, Security Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer, Harriet Pearson (honestly don’t know if she is on Twitter).

If you are wondering what the music is, it’s an updated version of the IBM anthem, which we are all forced to sing and dance to when we get to the office.

Please note what we think differentiates IBM from our competitors, us, the IBMers, because that is how people experience the IBM brand.

And for that matter, your brand too.

Adam is available for birthday parties where tacos are served.

Just blocking Twitter doesn’t work

So another example of why every organisation needs clear social computing guidelines on how to USE this media. Simply stopping the access through computers just directs people to their iPhones or other mobile device.

A school teacher posting up to 38 post a day (not sure if I am supposed to be shocked by that statement but it’s what was on the web site) was talking about her pupils.

The BBC web site reports:

Argyll and Bute Council said it has a policy of blocking the use of social networking sites in all its schools.

It is thought the language teacher, who has not been named, may have accessed the site via her mobile phone.

You would think that the advertising billboards around most towns and cities telling you how just about every mobile phone service provider will get you on Facebook or Twitter for next to nothing or free would have been a hint.

What this really points to are problems in the school, disenfranchisement of students and staff with a situation that is not rewarding to either. The teacher needed to get something off her chest but didn’t have the policy that supported her.

With a policy that says you can only blog about professional topics of value Argyll & Bute seem to have a rather ridiculous policy. Especially for a school. What is professional and what is personal? It is hard enough to tell in industry but where you job is to handle the emotions of teenagers I doubt the divide could be even finer. Just saying someone can’t have their own blog is similar to saying you can’t have your own phone or email account.

The 21st century is here A&B, would you all please hurry up and join it.


Blogging has slipped lately. Due mainly from a huge influx of work in new areas and not a few new toys that I’ve been playing with like our latest pre-beta of Lotus Connections that is causing quite a stir with all it’s new features.

Tweet together

Externally I have also started using CoTweet to manage the ibmevents twitter id I set up almost two years ago (where does the time go?).  I have to say it is a great tool.

The assign (screenshot) feature that lets you put ownership next to each tweet you get is very useful and means that your team isn’t answering the same tweet twice – but as I’m the one usually using the id I now have a way to hand off questions I can’t answer.  As the number of people using the ibmevents id has increased these sorts of problems come up. 

Built in stats for links and a nice way to follow id’s across a variety of your own id’s makes life simple.

The aggregation of conversations between tweeters keeps you on the ball and makes referencing chats easier.

Sending updates at a set time in the future means you don’t need to be online all the time.  Great especially for when you want to announce something but you are stuck in a meeting or driving somewhere.

But the most useful feature for me has been the On Duty roster, where you can sign yourself in or out so that you know who is available – and in addition get email notifications of replies and dm’s.  It means you don’t miss anything.

The search part of the tool is probably the weakest link. Being on another page I find it not as user friendly and other sites like twazzup do possibly a better job.  But you can’t be all things to all people.

Will have  to give some more meaningful feedback to the CoTweet guys and gals when I get sometime.

In other news

Have you tried Seesmic Desktop for twitter? You should.  Like TweetDeck but with multiple accounts.  Already the latest version has got rid of some annoying bugs and the general idea is working so well I rarely, if ever use anything else.

Going blank again

May be it is just the start of a new year, my approaching vacation in Taiwan or burn-out from a rather hectic, exciting and full-filling year – but I can’t think of a damn thing to write about. This is going to be a ramble.

At present our Internal Comms function is preparing for our 4Q and end of year results. Local video has been recorded of our CGM which will be released internally after the corporate announcement. But I think it will have to be pretty bad or pretty amazing to knock some guy called Obama off the news headlines on his first day of his new job.

My appraisal is on Thursday afternoon – which I think I have done well in and taken the opportunities I’ve been handed and found. Hoping for a band increase. Well we do live in Hope.

Also this week, actually the other highlight of the week, is meeting with someone from another business who is also in Internal Comms – albeit at a much higher level than myself. This will be the third recent meeting with IC people from other companies. It’s really good to find out how others work and what they are doing. They will be coming to our SouthBank office for a chat and perhaps sample the delights of our canteen.

If you work in IC, based in London and fancy a chat over lunch then let me know.

Today I have my second meeting with my mentor, who is actually based in Germany. Still working out in my own head how this mentoring stuff should work for me, what I want to get out of it. Never had a formal mentor before but have kept up with people I admire on an informal level. They probably didn’t realise it (or me) but they were also mentors.

End of week.. hols..

A lesson for social media users

Just before Christmas I ran into an article on about FriendFeed being blocked by companies.

Not interesting in itself as we see this sort of thing all the time but what was interesting was the conversation that continues in the comments.  As it appeared the person that wrote about someone complaining FF had been blocked at work didn’t do enough research and got some timings wrong about the way the person mentioned got round it. Again not big news, people get it wrong all the time.

What I found interesting was that the person who was being blocked from FF at work and was now using an iPhone to get round it was upset (and so were her friends) that they had been used as the example in the article without her permission. These are comments on FriendFeed. Err hang on, all this is in the public domain anyway.  Who needs permission?  No one.

protect the identity of the subject so as to not humiliate her any further.” said Susan in one of the comments. One of the points being that her employer may be able to id her.  Her employer could be searching on FF themselves. Infact anyone can see what was already written.  The fact that the iPhone had been purchased before the block makes no difference. The fact is that they are getting round the block and in my book, well done. Company, wake up.

Now getting the facts wrong is one thing – indefensible.  But using the words that are you freely available on the net a crime?  I think not.

I’m not an addict

The author made a remark in the article that the user seemed to be an addict;
“And since Yolanda seems to be heavily addicted to FriendFeed..”

This to me is fair comment.  “seems to be” is different from “is” but when you put it into the context that many Friendfeed users make jokes about themselves being addicted to the application it makes more sense that the word addicted was selected.

Addicts are always the last to know though :o)

Where did it go wrong?

Well for one a company blocking any website is on a hiding to nothing as iPhones and other mobile devices enter the workplace.  Companies, you are wasting your time trying to stop people using them.  You could get free access to Facebook on Orange – if you can get reception that is.

Second, embrace the technology and help educate your employees how to protect themselves. Come up with a set of social computing guidelines, tell them about the required etiquette and the common pitfalls. Gen Y (bless them) may be using this stuff all the time and not thinking about it.  You have a problem – because they don’t think about it they can write anything.  Older generations are a little more weary of technology and so think about what they publish.

In the end those employees go home are still representing you even when they aren’t working for you. Turn their past time into an asset – not a liability.

Take an example at the most simple level – re-tweet on Twitter.  You write something and then they re-publish it so all their followers can read it too. So, people need guidance.

Thirdly, to expect that writers never make mistakes or may be put an angle on things is to be incredibly naive. Humans make mistakes and so try to be responsible for you own and not blame others for your mistakes. That doesn’t mean that writers shouldn’t check facts as much as possible.

Comments gonna work it out

So in the end the comments actually worked things out.  Nowadays we get to make our voice heard either within the articles or on other platforms – online writers have nowhere to hide. Gracefully, the author apologized and the people in the article got to have their say.

Whatever you blog/twitter/comment may be taken down in evidence and re-published without your permission

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