Karl Roche

family, cycling and communications



TryTracker for men with odd shaped balls

You’ve seen SlamTracker where men and women who often hold two balls in their hands smack one over a net, well this is something almost entirely the same. But different. In a word, similar. This is all about men with odd shaped balls and how using the powers data analytics we can predict just where those balls may land.

So the Six Nations rugby starts this weekend, like Superbowl without a safety net and just the one break period, with England vs Scotland a highlight. Thankfully we don’t go on about the “ad break” or have costume malfunctions – unless you count Bill Beaumont in 1980 after winning the Grand Slam.

TryTracker is an all you can eat buffet of stats, data, insights and lovely graphics. For the rugby fan it will be as welcome as beer and peanuts. It’s running on IBM predictive analytics software, this does all the hard work, so you don’t have to. Just sit back and watch as the magical box turns the live action into key moments that let you see just how the game is moving.

The heart of the TryTracker is a thing called the Keys to the Game. These are three crucial performance areas specific to each team, if the team is on target for these keys then they are more likely to be in with a chance of winning. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should run off down to William Hill’s with this weeks pay and put it all on Italy beating anyone.

The IBM TryTracker can be accessed by all mobile devices and tablets, the three “Keys to the Game” will be released every Thursday ahead of the weekend match during the 6 Nations.

BTW, I was quite a amused by the voice on the video saying, “If you are on Internet Explorer you need to be on 8 or above.” Seriously, if you are on IE at all you need some help in finding an alternative browser.

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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History of IBM in 13 mins 15 secs

When you have your coffee today, take a few minutes to watch this video as it takes you through 100 years of IBM, by people born in each of the years. I know I’m an IBMer and should like it but it is a well put together film. Lots of first in here, not just in technology but also in social responsibility.

There is much more on the IBM100 site.

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Information overload: Whose fault is it anyway?

Communicators tend to be creators not destroyers of information, but is there a third way?

I got thinking (rare enough) about information overload when I read someone talking about having something other than music playing when waiting for a conference call to start. A couple of years ago I may have been all for it, this sounds like a great idea and it’s not a bad one if it could be 100% related to the call about to start.

If you know anything about IBM and many corps around the world, people spend more time in conference calls than real face to face meetings, well I do anyway. Some of that time is spent listening to some damn awful muzak that gives you earache.. (which I have today but is unrelated) sometimes it can be funny too. The last thing I want at work though is more information or requests to do something when I’m trying to gather my thoughts and remember what the whole point of the meeting that is about to start is all about.

I hate that sort of thing you get when you call the insurance company, “Are you paying too much for your car insurance?” – possibly copyright of Hugh Dennis.

In the light of my last post and the feelings I had to this comment I read it seems that as communicators we are to blame for a lot of the information overload that employees feel – it’s not just all the stuff they get from each other. I feel it too but I also feel that I can cope by having the skills to find information when I need it or organising it so that others can find it too. Well that’s my perception, I could be entirely wrong.

Communicators do tend to be positive on the whole and this leads to making more of everything. We like to create things. It’s our job right, to tell people things, so we need to make something to show what we have done.  That has to change I think. We need to drive behaviours so the business succeeds financially and as a social hub – somewhere people share experiences and feel they are doing something worthwhile. If we continue to produce more stuff when can those behaviours happen? How can things get done?

Not sure I’m actually making myself clear here, this is at best a half thought through post and indeed the earache is getting painful..

Essentially I think it’s about leaving breathing space for people in your business. There is no need to fill every waking minute, blank wall or mb of hard disk space with a message. At the moment it seems that all the media that is being produced is not being consumed, rather it is consuming the people it is directed at and confusing them in the process.

It reminds me of an over enthusiastic family that all talk at the same time, mishear things and what should have been a 5 min chat ends up being an hour of getting confused and sorting that out.

Help people find information they need when they need it – this means skills and the tools must be provided.

Don’t assume because you have produced something now they need it now.. that is highly unlikely.

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Going to the cinema in the afternoon

A club juggler at South Bank, Lambeth, London,...
Image via Wikipedia

I love my job, in fact for many years it hasn’t even felt like work, its like getting paid for a hobby. There was a time when I felt uneasy about saying that.

Yesterday morning after talking with colleagues in Romania (@SilviaEmilia) and Norway (Anna) I feel a bigger spring in my step after talking about possibilities of doing new things and what we can do with existing communications – this is an everyday thing, even though I’ve had a headache for the last three days as I’ve spent weeks working on something and find it hard to stop.

And that’s the problem. Too many ideas, too many possibilities and am endless supply of information and possible ways to implement things. It’s great but it can mean you forget to do other things, like take a break and not keep researching or doing things.

I had coffee with @fmandelbrot in South Bank a week or so ago and he quoted someone, “We’ve learned to do flexible working but we’ve not learned to go to the cinema in the afternoon,” which is so true. Many of us can work anywhere and at anytime and find this no problem. With a global company it means I can work with a team in any part of the world and chat to them through several different media and frequently do, it’s part of the fun.

It’s actually a lot of fun and I learn a lot. But are we getting away at other times to do something else?

I was in a round table meeting yesterday as part of our Top Talent program with our Chief Exec in the UK, who mentioned in one of his answers about looking at what we achieve, rather than how much we have done. The problem with achieving things though (in my book) is that it leads you to try and achieve more, it can be addictive.

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IT Blogger of the Year awards

IBM sponsored the Computer Weekly IT Blog Awards which were held last night at The Delphina. Andy Piper presented the overall award which went to Project Management for Girls, which is run by Elizabeth Harrin. It won the Project Management category for the third year.


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“IBM Global Entrepreneur of the Year” Streetline

The winner is Streetline

IBM SmartCamp Final
Zia Yusuf, CEO, Streetline at IBM SmartCamp in on of many mentoring sessions (photos)

It’s just been announced in the last hour that the winners of the second IBM SmartCamp is Streetline.

As the Irish PM finished his speech and walked out of the convention centre in Dublin, followed by a huge media scrum (I think he has some pressing matters with the IMF) nine companies were holding their breath to see if they had won the title of “Global Entrepreneur of the Year” aka the Worlds Smartest Start-up.

I have to say I watched all the presentations a few times, at the event on Livestream and on YouTube. The more you watched the more you realised that there was less than a fag paper between any of them.

Treemetrics, the local hope, got a special recognition mention for the work they are doing to preserve forests and improve the supply chain in wood. Sproxil also got a special mention on a system that was incredible well thought through to prevent counterfeit drugs getting on to the market.

Take a look for yourself at the finalists, they all deserve and will get special attention for the work they are doing.

Throughout the three days the level of advice in the open sessions we saw on Livestream was incredibly and refreshingly honest and blunt. What not to do, where to go and how to go about it. It was all there, the mistakes, the horrors and the success. One of the session I really liked was that with Chris Horn, Founder Iona & Innovation Taskforce, Masterclass: Company Building.

So what won Streetline the award? Well, it seems that the judges liked the impact that their solution would have across the board as well as the environmental impact by reducing pollution. Every business will benefit as customers and employees find parking easier and simpler. As Zia pointed out, this has a direct medical impact too, reducing stress. That may sound silly but how often have you been stuck looking for a space when you had to be somewhere and gone a bit crazy? Late for that interview? Sales engagement? Reduce the stress, you reduce the number of heart attacks, reduce some stress on the health service, people are more pleasant and our general well being is improved.

Zia said himself, “I don’t want to sell sensors, I want to solve a problem,” and what a problem it is. Soon driving around for a space will be as obsolete as phone boxes.

Good luck to Streetline and all the finalists and participants that took part around the world. Looking forward to next years competition and seeing what gems can be unearthed to make the planet a bit smarter.

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SmartCamp day one

I watched most of the livestream for SmartCamp today or listened when I was doing other things, in-between editing a video from Start and following the STG Analyst event from New York.

The opening presentations were great, the companies have got there pitches very tight, even when the slides failed for one. Short and sweet and (intentionally) funny. It is quite apparent why the companies here at the final have made it this far. There ability to match a solution to a problem, very real problems that many of us face or are effected by, such as the problems with parking, counterfeit drugs (possibly lethal) and saving our natural resources, such as water and trees.

So to get this far the companies have pretty much won already, they have all received many weeks of mentoring and support from IBM and partners. I can only see this event going from strength to strength.


IBM SmartCamp Finals Live

9 of best start-ups from around the world challenge for the title of Smartest Start-up 2010. That is nine out of over 1000 start-ups that IBM has worked with through it’s Entrepreneur Program.

Follow the live action on the IBM Software channel which will also send you reminders for parts you want to attend.

Event Agenda

Twitter hashtag is #ibmsmartcamp

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Who will be The World’s Smartest Start-up?

IBM SmartCamp finals kick off next week (Nov 16 – 18) in Dublin, the birthplace of the original idea.

This year SmartCamp has been around the world looking for the best entrepreneurs and bringing them together with mentors and investors. Now down to the final nine companies to see who will be crowned “The World’s Smartest Start-up.”

I was a bit gutted when I was asked to attend the London event earlier this year but wasn’t in the country. Never mind, we all have a chance to follow the finals, where ever we may be.

This isn’t just about matching a good business with some investor money, there are somethings money can’t buy and one of those is access to great advice, the right advice. Matching these companies with mentors can be priceless as they share experience and contacts to make things happen. Although only nine are at the finals, many more have benefited from advice and time with experts in various fields from IBM and beyond.

Claudia Fan Munce of IBM Venture Capital Group says, “Our vision of a smarter planet is really a collaborative vision. It’s about collaborating with all aspects of the ecosystem: with academia, with government, and more importantly, with the real innovators.”  — Read Write Web

So there you go…

How to follow the event

Live video will be streamed from Dublin via our Software channel on Livestream from Nov 16 – 18. Head over there now and get a reminder. You will be sent an email reminder 30 mins before the start on the first day. Don’t worry, your emails are not sent to IBM, it’s purely for the reminder, and if you don’t want to do that set up a calendar entry for the bits of the event you want to see, just check out the agenda.

How to connect with other budding entrepreneurs

Twitter: follow @ibmsmartcamp #IBMSmartCamp

A wealth of information on the blog:

Join the LinkedIn group where discussions are held throughout the year.

The future of industries

Gaining personal eminence

Yesterday we had our annual Marketing and Communications get together in Bedfont. We call it a university, as we cover a wide range of topics in a very full day, from business results, future trends, making plans and a couple of guest speakers.


Personal Branding: Revision 2 / 20080115.10D.4...
Image by See-ming Lee 李思明 SML via Flickr

This year we managed to get our Senior VP of Marketing and Communications, Jon Iwata. Jon is a straight talker, not of the hyperbole kind, like Alan Sugar, but the understated kind that lends credence to what he is saying. Accompanied with a dry sense of humor he makes for a very engaging speaker who manages to avoid the management speak so many other people fall into. Actually I have noticed that the better managers really avoid the cliches and management speak that others, possibly trying to impress, too often fall into. I may be unfair, speaking in front of a large audience is not easy task so calling up the frequently used phrases from memory is probably a lot easier.

OK, what was I saying? :o)

So on a panel with Buell Duncan and Andy Pinder, Jon was asked what he does to raise his eminence. Simply stated he spends more of his time looking at where things are going, rather than where they have been and then filling the gap in his knowledge so he can get there. But it is an ever moving target. Couple that with the comments from Andy on changing the current rules, challenging what are widely held beliefs but as Buell pointed out, try to avoid the bucket of stupid pills in the room, there are plenty of people taking those, keep away.


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