Sweettt.com – Episode 8 – Inside and Outside the Firewall – Part 1 of August 22nd Discussion

Wordle for Sweettt 8 - Inside & Outside the Firewall
Wordle for Sweettt 8 - Inside & Outside the Firewall
Why in the world should we have blogging within the firewall for the corporation?  Why shouldn’t we have all blogging out there on the internet?  In this episode, Matt Simpson & Luis Suarez explore some of the interpersonal dynamics caused by internal vs external blog environment.  What are the trade offs when you decide to have a blog that is entirely internal?  Some people will only disclose certain things internally, because of their comfort zone.  That simple fact sets the foundation for the the legitimacy of corporate blogging & social computing.

Luis also walks us through a number of reasons why blogging & social computing is appropriate and vital part of the internal enterprise workplace.  In fact, there are 5 reasons outlined in the show notes (below).

This part of the August 22 discussion finishes with an anecdote where a group of stakeholders were evaluating innovation as a closed group, but the decision to open up the reviews to a community at large resulted in high quality input.

00:00 START

00:30 Lead in…
01:15 Opening chat… getting into the discussion… (Luis keeps typing…)
01:30 So, Mark Masterson is interested in joining us (but we really haven’t been too successful at getting him actually to join us)
01:45 Robin Carey – gets a mention
02:00 Mark Masterson signs up to join the discussion
02:30 By blogging, you develop the social relationship, which you can continue when you meet face to face.  You don’t have to begin the conversation when you meet, instead, by engaging in social software, it’s an ongoing discussion with your own neighbor.
04:45 Through social software, you develop a knowledge of the person, like a profile.
05:15 A running record of online exchanges will enable you to review your interactions with the person before you meet them face to face.  So, if you are going to a conference, and you know that certain people are going to be there, and you have been engaged with them online, by reviewing those online exchanges, you can refresh yourself on the discussion as you are about to meet them face to face.
05:30 Matt & Luis pay attention to some ideas posted on IBM’s internal microblog environment, BlueTwit.  One of their colleagues is recommending that they do a special internal podcast interview with a Senior VP.
05:45 Internal vs External discussion launches! The topic is discovered!  woohoo
06:15 What is the point of having these enterprise-internal applications when we have so many options on the internet?
07:15 Reason #1 – Internal social computing environment enables the enterprise introvert in all of us (e.g. Beehive).  Not everyone wants to be out there on the internet.  Some people feel much more comfortable working within the company, sharing their work & personal information with a trusted group or population of co-workers.
08:15 When you are collaborating and sharing with someone in the same company, there are certain things that you know about the person.  You share the same conduct guidelines, the same business goals, the same ceremonies and other cultural anchors, etc.  This leads people to trust one another more than a complete stranger on the internet.
08:45 Luis Suarez started blogging inside IBM, working in a more protected and safe zone, before he published in the big leagues at Elsua.  He regrets doing that now… regrets waiting 2 years before he started to publish externally.
09:00 Matt Simpson started by going internal in some ways and external in others.  He has always been doing online stuff externally, creating and recreating his own web site, 17 years in virtual worlds, wikis, etc.  But it took his colleagues at IBM and the creation of Blog Central to convince him of the value of the blogging & podcast pattern.
10:30 Dogear Nation forced Matt Simpson to make the transition from internal back to external, dragging him kicking and screaming.  But he didn’t like the notion of being half internal and half external.  Michael Rowe & Michael Martine get a mention.
11:15 If you are going to be on the internet, make that the focus, and don’t be internal.  One should get rid of the internal posting and references if you are going to post externally.  Trying to fuse internal and external, results in confusion.
12:00 Maybe a dedicated interview or topic for an internal podcast or blog is appropriate.
12:15 Luis Suarez tells his story about his experience posting internally AND externally at the same time.  (and he still does this by the way, cross posts)
12:45 Some people don’t feel comfortable commenting externally.  They much prefer to comment on an internal site.  So, in order to enable the most people to comment, Luis cross posts internally and externally.  There’s no reason not to cross post.
13:15 Luis writes for external audiences when he posts externally.  He shares internally so people have an opportunity to comment internally.  AND, he also writes and posts exclusively for the internal audience as well, so he can be more critical and share more internal information that he would not like to share externally.
14:00 Reason #2 – Bloggers were saying a while ago that corporate blogging is a waste of time.  They were WRONG.  Corporate blogging gives people an opportunity to have a voice within the company that they might otherwise not have.
14:15 What is the value of an internal blog for a small business of less than 100 people?  There is value.  You give people the opportunity to air certain things that otherwise wouldn’t be said.  You don’t see dozens of comments.  However, the content was significant, highlighting things that needed fixing that people were not calling out in the normal course of other meetings, memos, organizational processes.  Blogs offer one more venue, and therefore brings up more things (problems and solutions) than without the blog.
15:45 Luis tells about his internal blogging rants, where he made some significant recommendations for improvement, and others also embraced the ideas, reflecting that they also were experiencing the same things.  Blogging as a ranting tool, is really beneficial.  He advocates having a good healthy rant every now and then (inserting an mischevious laugh.)
18:15 Typical Scenario – You contact the manager in charge and make some suggestions.  The manager then asks you to put the recommendations into an email and send them.  Often, this means that they will get ignored because they are nicely contained within a private email box.  HOWEVER, when you blog about the recommendations, instead of sending the email, you can simply point the manager to the blog… that they are already documented there.  And oh, by the way, there are other people commenting there who also think the same way.  This makes the document more meaningful in the manager’s eyes.
18:45 Reason #3 – Blogging (& social computing) inside the enterprise enables expertise location.  Subject matter experts who blog about things they know end up being identified & recognized within the enterprise.
19:00 Sharing knowledge is a natural human behavior.
19:30 Social computing and online social software has eliminated the natural barriers that prevent people from posting their opinion in the enterprise.
20:30 Reason #4 – People are Less Afraid to Focus on Problems When Inside the Enterprise Than on the Internet – When people fail to disclose the things that they think, the opportunity to learn and change is missed.  If the enterprise environment normally does not allow for sharing of thoughts, then many people may be thinking the same thing, yet collectively be passive and unwilling and unable to share those thoughts.  Through the normal course of business activities, workers may fail to discuss certain things.  Blogs and other social software enable more channels to surface those thoughts so that the enterprise can act on them.
21:30 Without blogs, the emporer will continue to go naked.
22:00 Positive Speak can be the downfall of the enterprise.  We (enterprise workers) have learned to speak nicely, talk in inuendos, to avoid speaking honestly and openly to get to the root of the matter.  Blogs enable another channel.
23:30 People are often very afraid of facing problems.  However, when people allow themselves to focus on the problems, then they can get it all out of their system & get all the facts on the table so that they can focus on solutions in the best way.  It’s a natural human problem-solving process to focus on & define problems before looking for the solution.
24:45 Don’t be afraid of focussing on problems.  They are important!
25:30 Reason #5 – You Can Reach the Right Experts in the Enterprise – Social Software vs Email – Social software is out in the open.  When problem determination and resolution happens in the open, there is a greater chance that a more qualified person will come up with an even better answer.  However, if it was burried in email, the question and the first-draft solution may never see the light of day, and only be maintained within a very closed group.  That group might not be qualified to provide the right answer.
26:45 Matt Simpson tells his story about the launch of the Harvest Community, which is designed to reach out to the subject matter expertise within the company to get input on new technology (innovation) that should be accelerated into production in the enterprise.
29:00 By reaching out to a community, you are not only getting people who are interested.  You are also getting those who are passionate, those who will make time to provide the input.  This can only happen when the system is open, public, and transparent.  The discussions will be fantastic.  You can’t get better than that.
30:45 MUSIC
31:50 a special request



  1. Hey Matt and Luis,
    Had to answer your request for comments. My drive to the office was only 5 minutes, so I had to actually listen to the rest of the show once I got to the office. Would love to hear your perspectives on the current economic situation on Social Software. I think I know what it will be, but would be good to hear.

  2. Hi Michael. Wow. What a challenging topic. I’m no economist. But I can definitely recognize network effects. I wonder if anyone has blogged about the connection between the two… safe boundaries, definition by self-reference / tautology and the breakdown of meaning, zero-sum game vs bountiful domain, protected IP vs open sharing of everything… these are some ideas that I would want to reference if we get into that.

  3. I do believe that internal conversations allow for passionate discourse to achieve the best outcome. I’m not sure that I want my clients to see those conversations openly. Companies have to make decisions based on resources, personnel, stockholders – and sometimes the competition. Having open discussions on everything isn’t the best policy.

    However, sharing with the public why you’ve made the decisions you have and setting expectations on the products and services you will be providing them is key. Bottom line, the question has to be answered, “Why does it matter to the client?” when you share information.

  4. Sounds like a challenge for my next Blog entry :)

  5. This is the first Sweettt podcast I have listened to. I found it tracking Matt as the owner of the CoP project. I created a CoP (Day Two) to try to make contact with other IBMers who share my type of work environment. I am inspired by the talk of collaboration and open exchange expressed in the podcast. I clearly have some catching up to do, but I’m working at it.

    – Jon

  6. Hi Luis and Matt – I got to the very last bit about your request, and I hit the comments link and immediately Matt’s voice stopped. So…I think I heard a request for comments.

    I’ve already twittered some quick reactions….that I will elaborate on here.

    1) I think about this topic a lot. I blog on the inside and outside of IBM. Unlike Luis my blogs are very different. I started blogging on the outside first when I took a leave of absence from IBM. My audience was not a work type audience…it was mostly family and friends. I then started blogging inside about work. I actually wish I blogged more frequently on the outside about work topics. I’ve had wonderful interactions with potential clients who actually seemed more interested in speaking with me b/c they were familiar with my blog.

    With that said, there are many things I blog about on the inside that I believe would be inappropriate to blog about on the outside. Why? Because one of my primary reasons to blog is to think through problems, share information and ask questions with other consultants who do like work. The upside is because there is such a large blogging community at IBM I often get tremendous insight from the non-consultants who also read my blog.

    2) Second tweet. I love when Luis giggles.

    3) Thumbs up on the podcast. I hope others listen to it…especially my colleagues and clients. I’m dogearing and bookmarking it on delicio.us. I think you make a compelling case on the value of blogging both inside and outside the firewall!

  7. Hi Jennifer Okimoto! (a.k.a. Jen O – If you were listening to the episode directly on the site, then the sound could have cut out when you clicked any link on that page and the page reloaded.

    I really appreciate reading about your view on this inside/outside question. You mentioned Twitter. Do you also use BlueTwit (the IBM internal microblogging platform)? I don’t want to get into too much insider baseball. But you describe the value of internal/external blog. I’m wondering what your take is on other social computing technologies (e.g. microblogging such as Twitter & BlueTwit, social profile such as Facebook & BeeHive, any others?)

    Regarding Luis giggles, recent marketing polls show a 10 point bump in likability for the podcast every time Luis giggles. I’ve hired a joke writer to sit in with me and feed me material so we can get more giggles out of him.

    Thank you so much for suggesting Sweettt.com to your colleagues and clients and for linking it. My goal is to continually deliver quality by facilitating an environment for really good discussions.

    I just visited your blog, Jen O, and really found it engaging. I really like that you have mixed in so much of the fun stuff, the video of IBM Research at the USC School of Cinematic Arts… expanding out an explanation of microblogging. I never really thought of blogging like vomiting and microblogging like burping. Why is monkey dung worse than cow dung? Wow, just as I’m about to ask you here, what are your thoughts on mixing blogging about your company (IBM), your personal life, and politics, I see your September 10 blog post Connecting dots between my work and my politics. I’ll have to give that a serious read. If this episode was about understanding what it’s like to span the enterprise firewall boundary (or land on either side of it)… it seems that another topic to explore is spanning the personal, political, and work boundaries in a blog.

    Would you be interested in joining a discussion on that? We typically record Friday mornings at 7am EDT / 12pm GMT (London Time)… at least, we try to record then. I usually wake up early to get everything ready and then ping Luis to get started, and then he complains about the construction workers in the building next door making too much noise, and then suggests we try later in the day. And so, the time can adjust. But if you are game, it would be great to have you join us for that discussion. :-)

  8. Hi Jon. We’ve had some exchanges at work recently too, right? Personally, I think Communities of Practice as a term is a special way of looking at communities for business purposes. After all the research and study we’ve done of them over the years, I’ve come to just think of them as “Communities” that just happen to be associated with work (or the workplace).

    I’ll go out on the limb a bit here and say that I think Luis and I are a bit on the more progressive side of open exchange. I find it hilarious and baffling and befuddling whenever I attend a knowledge management call and we have 5 minutes of chit-chat actually as the first item on the agenda. :-/

    So, I’m really glad that you liked the show.

  9. Matt and Luis –

    I think blogs take on different flavors and have different uses inside and outside. Inside, you are clearly limiting your audience, both on who gets the information and who can comment on the information. It is tough to come to the realization that the expertise may be outside of your enterprise.

    Inside, a blog can replace other forms of communication (like Luis’ dreaded email) and containers of information. At The Firm, we used the blog platform as a way to host training materials and event materials. You get the inherent date specific information from the blog platform, plus the great categorization and search tools in a blog platform. You might not even call this a “blog” but the blog platform is wonderfully flexible tool for making information readily available.

  10. Matt – I’ve probably not followed good social software protocol…I responded to your comment to me through twitter. Not sure if you received it. Since I just saw Doug’s response come through my email, I’m responding again. Nice to have more than 140 to respond.

    1) Signed up for BlueTwit, have used it in the past, have not used it recently. I do have a GREAT client story about BlueTwit where I was in a client presentation, they asked a question about Sametime. I BlueTwitted the question. A guy I’d never heard of from SW Research responded immediately. Client was dumb founded!

    2) Would love to discuss my take on inside/outside non-blog technologies.

    3) Monkey dung is wet and sticky.

    4) I’d love to join a discussion with you and my friend Luis!

  11. Okay, I’m thinking seriously about starting an external blog. I have misc stuff to talk about but wondering if I should have a consistent theme. There’s a great reason to procrastinate – wait for a brainstorm on a theme!

    BTW, what do you think – blogger or wordpress? Or, I could do it from my domain which I don’t do much with these days. Would anyone find it at my domain? Would anyone find it at blogger or wordpress ?

  12. @Bill Sweeney

    As a serial blogger, I have used blogger, wordpress.com and self-hosted wordpress.org. I thought I would add my two cents.

    I started with blogger for KM space. I found it very easy to use and learn.

    I used wordpress.com for Paddling Space. It was also easy to use. I found WordPress.com to be a little better looking and offer a few more interesting features.

    For a hosted solution, I would use wordpress.com over blogger. But it is only a slight advantage.

    If you already have a domain and are paying for it, I would go self-hosting and install wordpress on your domain. I just converted DougCornelius.com to this. Largely the decision was because wordpress also acts as a great content management system. You can create pages as well as posts.

    People will always find interesting content and refer others to interesting content, wherever it lives on the internet.

  13. @Bill, I use my own hosting service @ siteground.com and then point my domain to it. A nice feature in Siteground is a tool called Fantasco Deluxe. This is an installer that is within the cPanel on my account with Siteground. It will install all kinds of apps in the directory of my choice. These are typically LAMP stack apps (e.g. wordpress, drupal, mambo, joomla… photo catalogs, a couple wikis, helpdesk ticket support… all kinds of apps.) It even alerts me to available upgrades on the installed apps and performs upgrades at the click of a link.

    Regarding theme… I struggled with that one for a long time and tried a number of things before arriving here with Sweettt.com. And even here, you can hear in our earlier discussion the evolution of that theme for the podcast.

    @Douglas Karr, I appreciate your comment about making sure that shared information is relevant to the client when you do share externally. Are you saying that when you share externally, that you should be writing to the client as the audience? If so, I would say that this applies when you are writing as an entity or agent of the enterprise. Otherwise the old rule of keeping your readership in mind applies (and anyone is your reader on the internet… and this is mostly based on the theme for the online space).

    @Doug Cornelius, what is the size of your audience in The Firm? I noticed in your comments that you strongly introduced the blogging tool as a content management system (CMS). I wonder if you think your blog inside the enterprise is a channel to voice opinion. If you are a major minority (i.e. maybe the only blogger in a small company) does this hinder your ability to voice your opinion?

  14. @Doug Cornelius, how do you get your photo in these comments? hmmmmm

  15. @Doug Cornelius and @Matt, thanks for the information. I might opt for super easy over figuring out how to run myself. Leaning toward wordpress now based on input. I can always just link from my page. Perhaps that sounds lazy or maybe just practical from a time management standpoint. I’ll continue to ponder and maybe even kick the tires. Thanks!

  16. […] we have got the opportunity to push them forward. And, as you may have noticed already, we are on Episode 8 already, this time around on the following topic: Inside and Outside the Firewall – Part 1 of […]

  17. Hi Guys. Bit late to the commenting party, but I thought I’d just say that I found this episode truly engaging and interesting.

    On the discussion going on here – Bill, I’m also a big fan of WP.com – it has some restrictions about what you can add in the sidebar (they don’t let you add Javascript-based widgets for “security reasons”) but I’ve found it way nicer than Blogger, which I started off on – if you go back in my blog to a couple of years ago you’ll find out why I migrated between the two. WP.com is so easy to use and just keeps getting enhanced, whereas the rate of progress on Blogger is much slower, I find.

    Matt, I’m intrigued, are you using podPress on Sweettt? I’m frustrated that it doesn’t seem to be maintained right now, and thinking about switching Dogear Nation across to an alternative. Would be grateful for any insights you have.

  18. […] some getting used to, but the insights that the guys come up with are really very interesting. In the most recent episode released on the site, they talk about social software within the enterprise… and how […]

  19. Hi Andy, thanks for the comments here and the shout out there. Now THAT’s what really gets me going… that this was truly engaging. Thanks so much. I’m really trying to extend out that discussion to even be able to get to that level of discourse, like you and talked about in the past.

    No way am I switching off of podpress. It’s just too good and I’ve got the routine down. I still need to complete the account port over to the michaels on Dogear. Yet another to-do. 😉

    Did you get my Direct msg on Twitter? I should go and check if a reply.

  20. Thanks for takingthe time to record this very interesting podcast. I found lots of interesting material for the “inside and outside” the firewall@ chapter in the book I am writing about the effect of web 2.0 style tools on the culture in IBM. I will send you a draft of the chapter when it is written.

    Keep up the good work!.

  21. Hi Brian, you’re very welcome. And I wanted to make sure to say that we are only representing our own opinions here.

  22. Hi,

    I just got time to catch up with the podcast I hear and I found this new chapter.

    One of the things I can relate to is that I started in the secluded space of internal blogging and then moved outside the firewall and pretty much did not came back.

    However, my blogs are basically personal and not business driven… But, I comment here and there to thank all for giving me ad teaching me new things… At the end, it’s all about collaboration, right? 😉

    Matt, you touched a good point in your request: feedback and interaction it’s what drives the way a blog grows (and it’s an incentive to keep on going)…

    Great show as usual!

  23. Finally had time to catch up on the show! Listened to nr. 7 and 8. That’s what I love about podcasts: you can listen to them when you want too. I’ve said it before but I love your podcast. Good stuff. Real knowledge sharing in practice. I’ve been thinking about ‘inside and outside’ too and have posted about it on my blog. For instance, wouldn’t it be nice to have one blog/tweat/wiki/etc platform on which you could decide to post internally and/or externally? Love the part about ‘fear’ and sharing (around 20 minute mark). So, true and realistic. I recently came up with a way to circumvent this and encourage people to share. Will blog about it shortly!
    So, keep up the good, sweettt work!

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