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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How to behave at work

Conducting business
Image by itatton via Flickr

Do you know how to behave at work? Common-sense right?

Someone once said, “Common-sense is anything but common.” Answers on a postcard please.

Those of you on twitter will have seen a number of people mentioning that they have completed their BCG. This is not an injection. This is education, a reminder, a nudge. This is Business Conduct Guidelines. This is the heavy heavy monster sound. (sorry I had to)

“The guidelines provide general guidance for resolving a variety of legal and ethical questions for employees of IBM, including its subsidiaries and affiliates. These guidelines clarify long-standing expectations of how members of IBM’s worldwide community will conduct themselves in their business activities.”

If we step back and look at what happens in many companies and I’ll take those of my family and friends. Management is constantly “reminding people” through emails, meetings and memos, “can people please refrain from doing x,y and z while at work.” This is time consuming. This distracts people from work, from being productive and it demotivates people.

Actions of a small minority end up punishing the majority and as a result things seem a lot worse than they really are. I know, I get the phone calls.

When I joined IBM I was given a huge folder of stuff, I mean massive. We have the web now so thankfully all that has changed but within that pile were the BCGs.  Reading them I was a little terrified to be honest. “Never had anything like this before!” I thought.

But after a while you realise this is good. It means you have a definitive (well almost) answer to situations you may face. Some are more complex than you may imagine and I couldn’t imagine most of the scenarios in the education videos.

The BCGs draw a line in the sand, they tell you what is acceptable – actually they go further than that I would say, they tell you what is expected, what is the right thing to do.

Based around our company values the BCGs have also help IBM become more active in social media (did you wonder when I would mention that?) of which the social computing guidelines are a subsection. This year we also saw a section in the education module related just to social media.

To sum up, in my mind, the BCGs form the basis of what we do. They provide that common-sense, the line in the sand, the common ground from where we all start. If someone goes beyond those then the majority doesn’t get punished, the individual does and they can’t say they hadn’t been told.

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Stuff I’m doing today

No idea why you would be interested but this is what I’m doing/done today.

  • Created some graphics for an intranet page
  • Plan and organise a bunch of execs to record in a podcast
  • Set-up a briefing with other comms people in the business to make them aware of an event
  • EcoJamming
  • Design a poster
  • w3 editors meeting “special edition”
  • Thinking about what to talk about for 10 mins on the subject of “Interactive Information systems we use to communicate internally & with clients” Wendy Tarr is doing the bit on clients

But now, I must get a coffee.

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Internal communications, social media & IBM

Thanks to Mark Hillary for taking this video of me in IBM South Bank a week ago for his new blog, The SocialITe, for

I have to say it is odd being on the other side of the camera, I’ve stuck a few cameras and mics in front of people in my time but also well aware how hard it is to be the subject. As a kid I never liked my photo being taken, unlike my kids that seem to love it.

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Take 10 in 2010

Sitting here on a horrible, grey, wet and windy Tuesday (I think it’s Tuesday) between Christmas and new year does give me the chance to do some much needed reading.

One short little article I came across on is a great way to make everyone a little happier with the world in 2010.

Simply make your 1 hour meetings, 50 minutes instead.

I’m fortunate enough not to have back to back meetings that often, possibly because I just say no or I find ways of getting around the need for them using different media or suchlike. Anyway, this is something I have done often without realising it. Just take up the time you need and don’t bow to the calendar’s 1 hour default setting.  I often have meetings start at 10 past or finish and quarter to, just because I know I will need a break for those natural processes of getting a drink and what that will result in. Plus you can’t instantly teleport from one place to the next – not even on a telephone call.

We all need time to readjust between subjects and what better way that to take 10 mins for yourself to gather your thoughts. Who knows, you may even save on further meetings by being able to communicate your thoughts clearly.

You’ll also gain a bit of love from your co-workers, have more time for yourself and everyone will feel a little less stressed.

Innovation, success and the need for failure

Recently I was interviewed by Good Company blog, mainly around the amount of innovation and tools we have knocking around in IBM and why it is important to try, try and try again.  This gave me some food for thought on other matters that I may blog about at a later date, but at the moment you can read the summary of our conversation.

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Mixing communications works

The fruit of a number of months hard work ripened in South Bank this week as we held the launch of the IBM London Analytics Solution Centre.

Deep insight
London Analytics Solution Centre Launch

From my point of view I was involved in the internal comms and social media side (internal and external). It was possibly a first chance to work more with local teams than world wide teams for some of the chairman events I’ve been luck enough to work on in the past.

(press release)

With a smaller (although still big), more local team it enables you to have a bit more sway over what happens.  But the experience I’ve gained from events in Turkey, Berlin and London have been incredibly useful to bring to the table.

It may seem odd but risk taking at a local level (country level) is not viewed as a good thing. It is seen in a single light of being risk, rather than balancing that with the opportunity that comes along. To an extent this is determined by experience on the ground, being comfortable that you can deal with what will come up and also not worrying that someone will shout at you.

The biggest perceived risk from this event was the livestreaming of video from the event. Not something we have done in the UK or possibly outside of the US Armonk events. Most people were a bit worried about what could happen in the room and having that streamed over the Internet.  My biggest worry was that the technology would fail (not that there is anything wrong with – I just worry about it) or that no-one would bother to watch. So we were coming from very different places.

In the end everything worked out great. We have had over 2000 people see the live and recorded video stream – which is now available on demand from our video studio.

Not sure I was making too many friends when I was pushing for this to remain available for external viewing but I had some great support from of all groups our press relations team. All quite clear that the risk was negligible. People used to getting difficult questions can answer difficult questions.

My comms plan

So being able to co-ordinate between the internal and external social media side of things gives you a great view of how it all links up. Sitting in the same office as the pr team also helps to keep in touch with how situations develop.

From a couple of weeks out we started talking about why analytics is important and the new centre, with article on w3 (our intranet) including videos helping people to understand the basics, which were animations with voice-over.

The week before we had an article that was supported by quotes from our Chief Exec. Brendon Riley.

From then on we ramped up the beat. Another article few days before with full details of what, where & when – with plenty on how to get involved at many levels.

The day before we sent all employees an email with a video from Brendon outlining details again, linking back the previous article, which consisted of a group of pages with information segregated for easy consumption.

Many of the items such as video and feeds could be embedded into peoples own blogs or wikis.

This was linked together with Twitter #ibmbao to enable to bring together internal and external parties to start talking, help with promotion and keep people up to date with the latest news, not to mention photos which we posted on Flickr.

BTW, the live event was streamed to all our locations via our InSite TV along with the feed from Twitter.

We also made use of blog and our smarterplanet tumblr.

It’s important to get employees and external parties in the same space for events like this and to do it as soon as possible. As well as to try all avenues of reaching people.


  • So from a first look we see over 2,000 livestream video views in first 24 hours
  • over 8000 page views on w3 so far
  • 91 short of 6,000 video downloads of Brendon (as I speak)
  • Almost 5,000 image views on Flickr
  • IBMer Day we had a very busy demo hall (awaiting numbers)

I think there is still more data to gather, we also have provided all employees with a post-event article, bringing together the main points and sources of information, both internal and external, for them to explore, bookmark (in Lotus Connections) and refer to in the future.

Overall a great event I think and I was very pleased to play a small role in it. When’s the next one?

There is probably a lot I’ve missed but it is Friday…and this is only a blog.

*** Update ***

Just seen we have now had over 3,000 views of the recorded video.


This week the Corporate Citizenship team have been holding a week of events to encourage employees to get involved in their local communities.


It’s been a great week, seeing existing volunteers, volunteer to spread the word about what they are doing and what they get out of helping others.  It’s also been a time to recognise the effort these people put into the interests they support.

Yesterday I was at the Bedfont event and listened to a very passionate talk by Alison Hall from Seeds for Development, a charity she set up with her IBM colleague Tamsin Miles, to help women in Uganda recover their lives from the war that ravaged the country. It was a fantastic example of storytelling from the heart, not zealous, just sincere and honest.

However, the events also helped people do something, no matter how small or big, in their own community too. IBMers and do many employees from all sorts of organisations, have a huge variety and depth of skills that can be put to good use in schools, medical centres, youth clubs or charities. The resources there to help people get started are vast, both inside and outside the company. Hopefully over the last few days the CC&CA team and volunteers have shown and inspired others how to make use of them. Not just through the regular IBM created programmes of which we have many but to come up with a new idea, share that and make use of the skills and willingness of the people they work with.

One of the initial ideas of the events was to show that smarterplanet doesn’t need to start with a 1-to-1 with the Prime Minister or by implementing a traffic congestion scheme. It starts with each one of us. With our ideas, our influence and our own efforts.

I won something

Not the lottery, stopped doing that years ago. This is an IBM award for spreading the love about social media in IBM.

flying papers
flying papers by Aldor

Some people think I should talk about these sort of things mroe often, ok, here goes.

The full name is “BlueIQ Most Valuable Ambassador” which along with 9 others I won in the first half of 2009. It is actually the 4th consecutive time I have been given this award, which I think shows how much I enjoy and believe in what we are doing.

The idea of the award and the BlueIQ community (it’s global not just the UK)  is simply to help other IBMers get as much value out of using social media as possible. This can be as simple as a one to one education session but go all the way up to looking at ways of changing culture and processes to be more social in outlook.

Although just about everyone in IBM has contributed to one (usually several wikis) or commented on a blog or w3 article, there are many less obvious things they can be doing that improves their working life, expands their network, makes finding stuff quicker and improves their employability.

Anyway, so a global community of nearly 900 (and growing) ambassadors are there to help, to sort the wheat from the chaff of new applications and websites, to enable employees. As you know I work in internal comms, which we call Workforce Enablement so it fits right in with what I do.

In a nutshell, my philosophy is that I can’t possibly know everything that is going on in the business, and sometimes the best people to tell the story are those that lived it, so I can sure as hell help those people get out there to talk and work.

You know, many of us get caught up in what we are doing and although there will always be the geeks, early adopters and simple masochists that want to endure the latest release of everything, not everyone will. So as the human filter for the innovators in IBM we help shape in some way the things that devs come up with and try to get to the people that can find new ways of employing it at work.

Part of the award is that we get to pitch an idea to several of our VPs later in the year… I need to think about that one.

Does that sound right?

In reply to a question by Robin Crumby my open answer (or rather ramble) to:

“So, if  ‘social media for internal communication’ doesn’t work for you, what is the alternative?”

Not sure this is an alternative, the confusion lies in what people think the term means.. (hold your breath – ok don’t)

image by adewale oshineye
I’m not sure a function or corporation should or perhaps can engage it’s employees through social media (or technology that enables social interaction) only other people can do that. For a start, the business and the Internal Comms function is made of people, it’s not an entity it is own right that has an office on the 4th floor. The person running it might think that. Doesn’t mean he/she is right though.

So what is the role of Internal Comms when it comes to social media? One thing it’s not is to send out messages about the business as if it was just another channel like email, that stuff will carry on regardless, emails from the CEO, intranet articles with news, wins and strategy.

I see our role as enabling our employees (that is everyone from the CEO to the Tea Lady should they want to) to be able to take advantage of ways of exchanging information, ideas, experiences, thoughts and challenges with the people that need it and letting everyone else go about their business. At one level you can include a comment feature to allow and encourage conversations to develop within an intranet article – but that is as much about people talking with each other than the company.

Not so long ago intranet owners were looking at how many hits they were getting on every story, in some odd way thinking that everything on the site was of equal value to everyone. More important (and you don’t need me to tell you) is that the right people get the right information at the right time.

Also Internal Comms has a habit of taking out the very soul of the story (ok a bit strong perhaps) it is trying to sell, turning it into a series of corporate phrases and platitudes, with a rather badly taken photo of the team that “did a great job” people I don’t know and don’t really care about because I have no contact with them . A couple of potted quotes are just that.

Rather that team had been documenting and talking about its challenges and pressures on an internal blog so that others could either help or learn from the experience. Perhaps building one or two strong relationships along the way that leads to greater collaboration and/or innovation in the future. To the business, this I think is more valuable.

That’s one scenario.

Putting communication in the hands of the people, giving them the responsibility for what they want to read and write and contribute to, creating value for the organisation.

Internal Comms can make a huge impact for the business in understanding what the feeling is in the community by listening to what people are talking about, what is making them happy and sad, where the challenges and successes are. This though requires a culture that respects the individuals right to fair speech – not abuse – but the right to criticise processes, put forward alternatives and challenge the status quo, for the better of the business.

I’m not advocating every business set up Lotus Connections tomorrow and tell employees to speak their minds – that would be a disaster for most. As I said before, tools do not make a company social. What I’m saying is they need to get on that path of evolution, especially those companies in the knowledge economy that are locking down the IT desktop. That may mean looking at the current culture, providing education and clear guidelines.

I really think that one of IBM’s biggest strengths is it’s Business Conduct Guidelines. Not every company has them, but they should. We talk a lot about the social computing guidelines but the BCGs have for a long time set clear requirements on what is expected of each person in IBM. The SCG just re-word those for a new type of technology and interaction that so many people find confusing and others find liberating.

I’ll let everyone else sense check this.. gotta run

Today at the smartercities forum, Berlin

Today was the first day at the SmarterCities forum in Berlin, being held in the Grand Hyatt hotel.

We are staying down the road at the Marriott, which is a good job as the walk between the two hotels is the only time we have seen daylight in the last two days.  We get a little in the room we are in between sessions but it’s not much. Coffee and water on tap makes up for it and keeps us going. Have to say the breakfast was great this morning, lots of fruit, juice, meat, fish and lovely bread.

Sam was late to kick off the event today because of a problem with the plane he was on but Martin Jetter took over and did a great job not just opening the event but also taking on Sam’s speech.

Oh and btw, if you want to follow what is going on we are covering it on twitter, #smartercity and on

One of the things that got me today was the feeling of pride coming from the Berliners that the event was being held there. I guess an easier option from a language point of view would have been London. But the reasons for holding it Berlin are all around. The building, innovation and growth.  I really like anywhere that has cycle lanes which are for cycles, not for people to wander around and knock you off your bike.

So back to the pride, we had Dr. Richard von Weizsaecker, former President, Germany and former Governing Mayor, Berlin, which to be honest started off a little like a history lesson, and a lesson one had heard many times.  However, it turned out to be one of the funniest, most interesting and engaging talks I have heard from a politician, former or current.

In the backroom, on the w3 / social media side of things we have an international crew, Me from UK, Rebecca Reyes from USA, Thorsten Zoerner from Germany and of course, Charlie Ung from Canada who is always at these events sorting out the video for us.

Day two is an early start, apparently we have to go to rehersal for the breakouts at 7am!

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.

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