Yammer: It’s A Group Thing

YammerI first started using Yammer back in 2009 after hearing about it winning TechCrunch50, and was user number 1 on our company domain (now we have thousands of users). Its been interesting to see the organic growth from the first time I used it (I had nobody to talk to), to a community of early adopters (who treated it like a corporate Twitter) to its usage now as an important communication channel and groupware solution.

My colleague and friend Teale Shapcott arranged the guys at Yammer to come into our organisation last week to give a bunch of people an informal train the trainer session on “Yammer – Getting Started with Groups”. Steve Hopkins and Ross Hill conducted the session, and here are my notes:

  • Metcalfe’s Law essentially confirms that things get more useful the more people you have in the group
  • the problem with email is that if you send an email to 12 people, you get 12 responses!
  • a Yammer group is an way to replace email in a team (basically an easy way to setup a distribution list)
  • Yammer are currently launching new things to the site every week

Yammer recently acquired oneDrum. Essentially what this will do is put a Yammer folder on your desktop for Office integration, as well as being able to follow files and get updates when things change.

The point of the training was to help get people using Yammer for collaboration. A good exercise to start is get people to log into Yammer (set up a private group for training) and get people to say hi. Next get people to enter what they are currently working on and then get everybody to respond on others posts to get people familiar with the value of the tool.

Pages are a new feature:

  • pages are a good way to collaborate and brainstorm on ideas
  • pages can have 10 editors maximum at the same time. It will auto save. When you publish it will notify all the followers that there is a new draft. You can revert back to old versions
  • pages are useful for meetings, use an iPad and throw the notes or actions up on a page, you can link actions to people or files as well
  • coming soon is the ability to mark a page as official
  • documents don’t need to be run by any person specifically, they are now crowd sourced
  • groups are like rooms in a house

One thing that is new that I did not know about is that you can now use the share feature to share a message across groups (you used to have to duplicate the message).

In the session, one of the other participants shared their approach to getting their team to use Yammer:

  • they created a new private collaboration group
  • it took a conscious effort to use yammer by getting the leader to share things on Yammer, this took a few months
  • they have seen a massive reduction in email but communicating a lot more
  • they also created a larger department group as well
  • gains comfort for people using a team group rather than the All Company feed or a public group
  • takes time to get the comfort up and you have to make enemies
  • people for the most part are learning something new
  • you need leadership and you need to take a hard line about just using Yammer
  • use followed conversations mode, set their preferences to only follow groups that I follow as it removes the noise – everything you see should be relevant, you also need to clean up the feed and email notifications settings for them
  • update the information tab and use it for information and quick links
  • needed to be hardcore and had to keep asking “are you logged into Yammer” in order to cement the habit
  • direct people to engage with your content, rather than just posting something
  • use announcements to get everybody in the group
  • get people to follow a hash tag for things like events
  • Generation Y folks are good advocates to get on side

To illustrate this, the Yammer guys introduced us to the SNEP model by Kai Reimer.

As a second exercise, we then created a page and collaborated on out own checklist of an approach and tips to setting up a group. Many of the participants (who I assume were not familiar with wikis or collaborative tools like Google Docs were in awe of seeing people collaborating at the same time).

When introducing groups, you are bound to get resistance, so the Yammer has a bunch of great case studies that cover lots of different team types.

Another use, relating this back to Agile, is one team were using it for showcases by doing a live webcast and getting people to comment on Yammer (also the posting the video to Yammer so people could talk about it later as well). In the vain of standup, another organisation would, on a Monday, start a post on what are you working on this week. There are lots of potential usages for the features of Yammer for distributed teams. Another suggestion was to organise in everyones calendar a YamJam to discuss something on Yammer a a certain time.

Finally, there are a lot of Australian companies using Yammer, and the following videos are worth a look.

Effective Collaboration Using Social Media

YammerOver the last year, I have been engaged with a team of like minded peers with an aim to improving collaboration within our organisation. This journey has involved in-depth discussions around tools, processes and culture and whilst we made some headway, as always, there is still much to do.

My colleague, Rebecca Deering, has been the glue holding this initiative together, and she gave a talk at the Ark Group’s 7th Annual Internal Communication Forum this week in Melbourne on “Effective Collaboration Using Social Media”, detailing our journey thus far and our plans for the future.  It seems the session was very well received and gave us the initiative to keep charging forward as we are leading a number of our competitors and peers in this area.

Ark Group’s 7th Annual Internal Communication Forum

You can see the presentation here: http://prezi.com/ylbqqzwxd7vx/2010-ark-group-presentation_suncorp-metway/

Barcamp Brisbane IV Wrapup

Barcamp BrisbaneLast weekend I got along to Barcamp Brisbane IV (held at the East Brisbane Bowls Club), and once again it was a worthwhile meetup of locals willing to share their skills with others.

From the lightning talks that I attended:

Speed Networking

One minute to introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. Worked well, although I knew more people this time around (after last BarCamp and other meetups).

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Michael Smale led this discussion on SEO (unfortunately it started a little late and lost a bunch of attendees, including myself, at the end due to a Google Wave presentation following it!). My notes from the session:

  • SEO is optimising for Google (& Yahoo!)
  • 9 out of 10 people search for content, very few click the sponsored search
  • keywords – on page (to help Google index) and off page
  • stem analysis – trunk and branches (eg. golf and balls, clubs, shoes) then leaves (buy golf shoes and Brisbane) – before SEO, find out what target audience is looking for
  • tools to analyse keywords – Google Adwords Keyword Tool (slightly out of date, monthly), worldwide but narrowed down to regions
  • to know backlinks, etc – Traffic Travis, Market Samurai (free and paid version)
  • not your trunk and branches, but for your leaves you may want to buy keywords, you can optimise different landing pages (separate URL but not a duplicate of pages as Google will drop prioritisation)
  • car rental very competitive for SEO
  • Google Trends for search – can see if things are trending up and down or compare
  • on page optimisation – Firebug for Firefox – drill down and inspect code, JavaScript debugger
  • YSlow – tell you how page is loaded and report on how to optimise page loading
  • each page needs to be optimised with its own title – what’s in the title is what the link on Google says
  • meta description after link is the blurb on Google – not visible to users on site, Firebug will help you see competitors meta tags are, but will not get you up in the ranking
  • meta keywords – does not mean anything anymore
  • care about content on site using LSI (Latent Semantic Index)
  • link text important, add href no follow so Google will ignore

Google Wave

Paul O’Keeffe and Steve Dalton led a live demonstration of Google Wave.

  • collaborative tool, still in preview, crashes, interface still weak
  • proliferated from developers in Google sandpit, only give 8 invites to each user
  • a wave is a single collaboration / conversation
  • has Gmail feel, add and save searches, folders, etc…
  • have a wave inbox
  • with:public – see any waves that are public
  • search with:public gardening
  • new wave by default is not public, add public@a.gwave.com
  • to start, drag contact in, give wave a name
  • drag and drop seems to depend on Google Gears, works out of box with Chrome
  • bots and plugins eg. pirate speak or add a Google Map / Twitter in
  • open source version of Chrome – Chromium
  • Sweepy bot – remove the empty conversations
  • can mute conversation and replay, has version control so you can see how it was and then fork it off

Business Structures

Malcolm Burrows from Rostron Caryle gave this presentation. I hope the slides are made available, as this was a large topic for a 20 minute slot. These are my notes but should not be relied upon an advice or for accuracy!

  • sole trader – liable for own debts, etc, house on the line, no protection freom risks, okay if you have little risk
  • partnership – not sure why anybody would do this now, agreement and governed by those terms, in Queensland partners are liable for acts of the other, everything has to be tailored, risks
  • company structure Pty Ltd – level of risk reduction such as corporate veil, shareholders only liable for the capital put in as long as you don’t do stupid stuff like trading insolvent, as directors do not profit from position of power, need to disclose, 12/20 rule can’t make more than 20 offers in 12 month period, no more than 50 shareholders, replaceable rules (eg. regulate by ASIC or regulate yourself in your constitution)
  • company structures – Limited – Public – all of baggage of public company without the good stuff, horrible!
  • trust – discretionary and unit
  • joint ventures – used a lot in mining, in IT where people agree to do stuff, like a trust is a feature of contract, rights of joint ventures can get very long
  • income distribution structure and IP protection structures
  • options for IP – spin out trading company, spin out company owned by trusts, spin out company licences another

Smile! Say Cheese!

DJ Paine from Studio Promise dropped by, and offered attendees a free portrait, which I certainly took advantage of. Just wished I had of known, and I would have had a shave and worn a nicer shirt!

All of the shots from the day are here and if you need professional photography, support those that support BarCamp!

Symphony – Open Source Content Management

Allen Chang and Alisair Kearney led this session on Symphony:

  • originally called TypeWorks
  • 2.0.6 out now, 2.1 on the way
  • uses XML as data format, output format standards compliant
  • Drupal and Joomla! cores are huge, they wanted a small footprint and control over data structure
  • use XSLT to transform XML to any format you like (eg. HTML, CSV, JSON, etc..)
  • native intergration REST API for Twitter, RSS, etc…)
  • uses open standard templating language, as per all CMS systems
  • a number of data sources for which you can apply rules
  • around 8,000 members, 10% of these contribute
  • users include Australian Museum of Democracy, Heineken and City of Westminster (London) amongst many others
  • ensemble – fully functional website package, Symphony itself is an ensemble

Agile Overview – The Three T’s

It occurred to me in the speed networking session that a number of attendees did not know what this agile hype was about, so I decided to on short notice to propose the talk I gave at Agile Australia 2009 to try and give that overview. Not sure if I succeeded, but got some questions afterwards nonetheless.

Had to laugh at one of the tweets from @funkygorilla (Simon Griffiths): “Agile web development in a 10 min presentation. That’s agile!”

Overview of Agile 2009 / Agile Australia 2009 / AAFTT Workshop

A couple of people decided they wanted to chat about some of the learnings and trends from the conferences I had recently, so a couple of us sat around and chatted about agile testing mainly.

New Hotness

Greg Luck led this discussion as he mentioned to me he came to Barcamp to hear about the new hotness. He has written the notes, but here were the notes I was taking at the discussion:


Paul and Steve reminded everybody about the Queensland Legion of Tech and Greg Luck announced the inaugural Brisbane Jelly (adhoc working together at a location)

Speak Social? First Learn Social!

Further to my Twitter Twaining post the other day, a colleague posted a link to this slide deck by Antony Mayfield from iCrossing on our internal Yammer network. What I really like is the literacy angle that suggests that we need to learn to read and write again and that we need to learn by doing (good examples that I left in the summary of my post).

Twitter Twaining

I delivered some rather impromptu and unprepared training last week for some colleagues on their use of Twitter in the Enterprise. Amongst the millions of training threads, I found a very good (but also a very customer specific) Tweetcamp presentation.

So using this slide deck as a guide, I delivered the following training points:

Twitter vs Facebook

  • Facebook is primarily about connections with your friends and your social connections (photos, walls, games, applications, gifts)
  • Facebook has become more like Twitter in recent releases by asking the question “what is on your mind”?
  • Twitter can be viewed more about your connection with people who have common interests (although many of them are your friends)
  • Twitter is less rich out of the box
  • Following somebody on Twitter you are following the thoughts of the whole person, not just the ideas you might best know them for

Twitter vs Blogs

  • Twitter is what is referred to as micro-blogging
  • Twitter is limited to 140 characters, so is a snapshot of the authors thoughts
  • Blogs provide a facility for more in-depth thoughts, analysis and reporting
  • If summarising an event, use Twitter to throw out live snippets, thoughts and quotes and blog after the event to review and synthesise in greater detail
  • Twitter is a good way to advertise new posts to your blog

Twitter vs Email

  • There is no expectation to read and/or respond to everything on Twitter. You dive in and out of the stream as it suits you and take notice of as much or as little as makes sense
  • Twitter conversations are open and discoverable to all
  • Direct messages can be used somewhat like email for a point to point conversation
  • Twitter allows you to unfollow or block “spammers”
  • Email is still much better for more “personal” messages

Why Do I Care?

  • Twitter usage is growing exponentially, on the back of big celebrity support of people such as Oprah and Ellen as well as traditional media such as CNN and 60 Minutes
  • Twitter is still has a much smaller user base than Facebook
  • Social media like Twitter is here to stay, but you need to be ready for the next thing if and when it comes along.

Going Viral

  • Using these tools may make you go viral. Many traditional media outlets have attempted this, very few are successful, but those that are successful are extremely successful.
  • You Tube is currently the platform that is feeding virality

Twitter vs Yammer

  • Yammer is Twitter for the enterprise, posts are blocked to those that can sign up with an email on your domain
  • Can dual post to Yammer and Twitter by setting up your Twitter account in the Yammer settings and adding the #yam tag to the end of your posts
  • Many other services allow you to dual tweet. Facebook has a similar #fb plugin or the ability to import all of your tweets automatically


  • #hashtags allow people to tweet on a common searchable topic, especially useful for conferences for combining posts. There is nothing to setup, just announce your hash tag to the attendees.
  • @replies allows you to reply to someone and get their attention (and tell others your message is directed at them more specifically)
  • RT @re-tweets allow you to re-tweet someones idea but you wish to credit them for it as well as highlight to them you like their idea

Twitter API

Twitter Ettiquette & Ideas

  • In general, for business, follow legitimate users that follow you (ignore spam followers). This is less so for personal users, follow who you have interest in
  • Following somebody does not mean you endorse them
  • Auto replies to new users is not recommended, it is just useless spam
  • Locking updates is not recommended, if you want to lock your ideas write a journal in a pad with a lock
  • Replying and retweeting is recommended when it makes sense
  • Retweeting introduces your followers to new followers as well as crediting the original source
  • Clients make it much easier to manage Twitter over the basic website by automating functions and managing searches

I then followed up with a few real examples. The key takeaway is that the attendees need to get in and try out using the tool on their own accounts before tweeting on behalf of the organisation. It is much easier to understand Twitter just by using it.

Different perspectives of Twitter

Today I got invited to a meeting where some of my colleagues were trying to map out their approach to using Twitter as a marketing tool for a spin-off venture they are re-launching. They had all seen Twitter and all have all setup their own accounts and understand about the 140 character limit, @replies and re-tweets. However, what was hard to explain was the difference between the logged in and public views of Twitter.

You see, if you look at somebody’s Twitter account publicly, you only see their tweets, not their @replies and certainly not the updates of those they are following. But, if you are logged into your own account, you obviously see your update, your replies plus the updates from all of those you are following. And as this is the view most people see once they are in the Twitterverse, it can be hard to describe the difference to those that are new to this world.

Given that the Twitter account they were discussing is for a venture, meaning that my colleagues would only be logging in when creating tweets, it then begs the question of who this account should follow. Being a venture, following those legitimate users who follow them seems to make sense. It makes less sense, however, to follow experts in their domain, given that nobody will actually be looking at the follower stream. Furthermore, Twitter only supports one user being logged in as a time (it was never really designed for teams to be tweeting).

The best they can do now is start to use their personal twitter accounts more and get used to the way Twitter works. The rest will then make sense.