Charlene Li, author of Groundswell on Emotional Motivations and the 5 Objectives of Social Media
Susan Bratton

Episode 53 - Charlene Li, author of Groundswell on Emotional Motivations and the 5 Objectives of Social Media

Charlene finally explains her oft-quoted prediction that "in the future, social media will be like air." Go with us to "Charlene Land" and hear how open social interoperability and the ubiquity of her social graph will change her life (and yours) for the better.  If you are in corporate America and need to address social media, this interview will give you direction. Groundswell helps corporations artfully solidify a rational strategy for social media engagement based on their customers' profile and their corporate mission.

Find out what emotional motivations cause you to participate in social media. Are you fueled by the hope that your altruistic impulses will pay off Karmically? Are you in need of validation? Do you have the prurient impulse to seek other's exhibitionism for your personal pleasure? Or are you succumbing to social pressure from your friends?

You'll enjoy seeing not only where you fit in the emotional landscape of social media, but where you fit on the ladder of participation. This is what Forrester calls the Social Technographics Profiles. And there's a tool on the Groundswell blog that you can use to understand the profile of your customer base so you can choose the right applications and technologies to satisfy your business needs. Find out: are you a spectator, a joiner, a collector, a critic or a creator? Can you be more than one? Yes! It's a categorization, not a segmentation.  And Charlene gives us the secret to getting audiences to become active contributors. Charlene reveals the "Holy Grail" --  "What drives participation?"

Charlene and her co-author, Josh Bernoff have done an amazing job leveraging the blogger community for book reviews. Suz "retweets" a question from Jeffrey Philips of OVO and the Working Smarter blog review where Jeffrey asks "What are larger firms, who have concerns about disaggregated, third party solutions run by very small firms that may not be able to demonstrate longevity or the ability to manage critical, sensitive communications links to customers?" Charlene solves the question handily and it's great advice for any corporation who knows that they MUST get involved in the groundswell but is concerned about HOW to do it.

It wouldn't be DishyMix if we didn't get to know more about this "Woman to Watch" (according to AdAge) and her personal life. Hear about her favorite book (which Suz' likens to "business porn"), her secret, decadent pleasure and more on this actionable and entertaining episode. And, please forward this episode of DishyMix to one friend! (You'll hear why in the show.)



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Susan Bratton:  Welcome to “Dishy Mix”, I’m your host Susan Bratton and on this week’s show you’re going to get to meet Charlene Li.  Charlene is the vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.  She is also the co-author of a new book with Josh Bernoff, another Forrester analyst, called “Groundswell, Winning In A World Transformed By Social Technologies” And on today’s show we’re going to talk about quite a few things with Charlene including social media technographics, the four-hour work week, which I like to call business pornography, 16x16 Soduko, social media ROI, yes there is such a thing, and of course “Groundswell”

Charlene Li:  I think the objectives are so important because so many people focus on the technologies instead of rather what they want to do with them.  So the five objectives are to listen, talk, to energize, to support and to embrace. 

You had a great point in saying that conversations are open ended; marketing by its nature is not open ended.

I love this one; it’s the idea that you don’t hold the brain trust for what your customers want.  In fact your customers probably have a better idea than you.

OK, there’s OpenSocials of technology and then there’s this whole idea of OpenSocial Graphs.  OpenSocial is a format; a protocol put forward by Google so that all the developers out there can create applications that will work on multiple sites.


Susan Bratton:  Welcome Charlene.

Charlene Li:  Thank you for having me.

Susan Bratton:  It’s my pleasure.  You’ve been doing a lot of interviews, is it ahh, one more interview, or how are you feeling about this?

Charlene Li:  I love doing it; I could talk about this stuff all day long.  I love it so much.

Susan Bratton:  Excellent, well that’s what we’re going to do then.  For people who might be experiencing you for the first time, you and I have been friends since you started at Forrester.  Because you started out in the marketing and media research team and then you kind of carved out this whole concept and became really one of the leaders, the thought leaders in the world of this concept of social computing and web 2.0 and that’s been the big thing that you’ve been doing since, what, probably about 2004?

Charlene Li:  Yes, 2004, 2003 thereabouts.

Susan Bratton:  That’s when you started your blog.

Charlene Li:  Yes

Susan Bratton:  And you’re really one of the leading bloggers in this space as well.  And you can say yes here.  [laughter]

Charlene Li:  Yes. [laughter]

Susan Bratton:  Yes I am! 

And before that you came out of the newspaper industry, you were really a journalist and then got into technology and helping newspapers understand how to apply technology to their business.  When I first met you that’s what you’d just come from, right?

Charlene Li:  Right, I came from musical publishing online and in print.

Susan Bratton:  And then you were in Massachusetts and you started at Forrester out there and then you moved out here to California and you’ve run this office out here?

Charlene Li:  Yeah, I came out in 2001, right after 9/11 and . . .

Susan Bratton:  God, I can’t believe it’s been that long!

Charlene Li:  It’s been a while, so I’ve spent more time out here with Forrester than back in Boston.  And my family’s out here and I want to be close to them so I had a chance to move.

Susan Bratton:  That’s perfect, and you have two children . . .

Charlene Li:  I have two children.

Susan Bratton:  A little boy and a little girl, and how old are they now?

Charlene Li:  They’re eight and nine.

Susan Bratton:  Eight and nine, oh wow they’re really close together!

Charlene Li:  Yes, 19 months apart.

Susan Bratton:  You got it all done, all at one time.  And you said they are also involved in social media?

Charlene Li:  They use this stuff almost every day.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s amazing isn’t it. 

Well, so I want to start out with “Groundswell” and then I want to talk about some of the bigger issues in the marketplace.  One of the best things . . . you know, as a Forrester analyst when you wrote a book it was really written under the umbrella of the Forrester business and your customers are corporate customers.  So this is really a book that is written for companies to understand not only how to leverage social media and social technologies and social marketing but also that they must do it.  That there’s actually no option, you’re either in the game or your gone at this point.  And one of the things that you said that I think is very smart advice, and it seems so simple, is that you have to come up with your objective for your social media connection to your market, and that you should pick from among potentially five objectives.  Could you just lay out what those are, because I think that’s a really good foundation for other conversations?

Charlene Li: Yeah, I think that the objectives are so important because so many people focus on the technologies instead of rather what they want to do with them.  So the five objectives are to listen, talk, to energize, to support and to embrace. 

Susan Bratton:  Now just give a little example of one way that you could do each of those.  What would be a listen, what would be a talk?

Charlene Li:  A listen would be listening to what the groundswell is saying about you.  Just doing simple things like searching.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah, online reputation management.

Charlene Li:  That’s all it is, it’s as simple as that.  And just monitoring it, sending it as a regular email to you on a daily basis or RssV whichever way you want to get it.  But I go into meetings all the time with people and then I go, “How many of you have checked in with the groundswell lately to see what they’re saying about you?  In fact lets go online now and see what they’re saying about you.” And they’re always shocked.  They had no idea where the conversation was taking place, so that’s listening.

Talking, from a marketing perspective, company perspective, they say, “Of course we talk to our customers all the time, we have advertising, we have marketing, we have PR.”  And I’m like, “That’s not talking, that is shouting.”  It is not having a conversation with people.  Talking is saying something then listening to what people say back to you.  And the great thing about it is that so many of your customers want to talk to you.  And yet so many companies are very uncomfortable having real conversations with people.

I was recently talking with David Weinberger, the author of “Cluetrain Manifesto” . . .

Susan Bratton:  David’ been on “Dishy Mix”.

Charlene Li:  He’s great and he has a great point of saying that conversations are open ended, marketing by it’s nature is not open ended.  And companies need to take the time, and we do this all the time when we sit down and talk to customers, we don’t sit down and say, “Come on, buy from me now.”  We sit down to understand them, talk to them about other things, we talk about our passion, our shared interest.  We develop a relationship.  So why shouldn’t we do that in our marketing?

Susan Bratton:  So blogging, blogging might be talking?

Charlene Li:  Blogging is one way to do that.  We can talk about online videos.  Quite a few companies are doing that, even though it is soft of one-way, there’s no interaction that goes back and forth.  Communities again forming a community, social networks are a great way to talk to people.  Discussion boards even, be an active member in a discussion board, whether it’s yours or somebody else’s and talking to people inside those things.

Susan Bratton: And what about energize?

Charlene Li:  Energize is when you take your most passionate customers and get them to do the selling for you.  So instead of you always going out and do the selling have people do referrals for you.  Kind of a basic idea but its more than just spiral marketing, because that’s just sort of spreading the message.  It’s really sort of tapping into that passion and enabling people to do this.  And so it could be ratings and reviews, it could be definitely widgets and embedded on social networks. It could be brand ambassadors, people who are seen as leaders amongst their peers and go out there and do a lot of the evangelizing.

Susan Bratton:  You have a really good case study in the book about Minnie in the book.  We don’t need to talk about it now but this whole idea of energizing and using your customers is the . . . my key takeaway from “Groundswell” is that I’m going to do that with personallifemedia, because the listeners we have today who are passionate about our shows are exactly what I need to tap into and give them the tools that they can use to be my brand ambassadors, it just clicked for me.  Two nights ago when I was finishing up “Groundswell” I was like bam, that’s my key takeaway.  So thank you for that, that’s what I’m going to do now. 

Charlene Li:  I love that; I love the fact that you found something useful from the book.

Susan Bratton:  Well there were many useful things.  I mean the next think that we’re going to get into right after this is technographic profiles.  Also every single listener on this show today will want to go play with that. So lets finish up with the five objectives, we’re on number four.
Charlene Li:  Yes, support.  You have an organization probably, a department that does customer support.  What if your customers [xx] public support each other.  And these don’t have to necessarily be your customers but people who are transiently related to you in your space.  So if you . . . there are discussion boards, Dell has a fantastic discussion forum where the customers support each other and wikki’s are another way, glossary’s, frequently asked questions, blogs can provide support.  There’s so many technologies but the idea is you have customers who are[xx] how can you service them better, not directly through you but allowing everyone else who may have the answers, allow them to be the experts and the people can solve those problems.

Susan Bratton: And last?

Charlene Li:  Embracing.

Susan Bratton: Yes, that’s my favorite.

Charlene Li:  I love this one.  It’s the idea that you don’t hold the brain trust for what your customers want; in fact your customers probably have a better idea than you.  It’s in some ways related to listening but it’s really not just listening but inviting them to be active participants in the development process of your products and services. 

So there are great tools coming out now where . . . like idea board from Dell, or Sales Force idea exchange where people can go and submit their ideas and then vote on them.  There public, they can refine them, give comments on them, the company can come and ask for feedback on ideas, its give and take.  And it can lead to much faster development with greater confidence and by all means you have a customer base ready and willing to buy the product so it’s definitely energized.

Susan Bratton:  So what you’re suggesting is not to try to do all of this but to pick one of these things and to come up with what your strategy and goals and objectives are around this particular category and then do that with some excellence.

Charlene Li:  Exactly.

Susan Bratton:  So the other thing that is important to understand, and I think you laid this out beautifully, and I haven’t see it anywhere else and it’s the closest you can get to the concept of social technographics profiles is with some of the work that Pew Internet Life does.  For example where they talk about consumer usage of technology and those kinds of pieces.  But talk about . . . and Josh is really one of the guys that put this together, the social technographic Forrester profiles, talk about what it is and then talk about how you’ve applied it to social media with the categories that you’ve created.

Charlene Li: Yeah, this is an idea that I started working on back in late 2004, early 2005, so it’s been sort of percolating for a while.  The problem I saw was that if you look at straight adoption of technology it doesn’t tell you very much.  It just says that they’re using it. But how they’re using them and the mindset that goes into using them is really different.  So is somebody reading a blog or are they writing a blog?  And those are two very very different activities.  And there’s also a value put on the fact that maybe somebody who writes a blog is more valuable than somebody who reads a blog, and it just goes on and on.  And so we really struggled with how to display this and we came up with this metaphor of the ladder.  And we called it the ladder of participation.  And the rungs of the ladder indicate how much time and how much effort it takes to participate. So at the very bottom are people who are online but not using any of these social technologies.  At one level above that are the spectators and these are people who are reading blogs, listening to podcasts, watching videos, so they’re enjoying all of the social media that’s out there and the content but they’re not actively contributing to it.  So they’re still very important because they’re that audience and because they are consuming it by the voting of their clicks they’re providing value in terms of indicating what is going to be popular or not.

Susan Bratton:  So there’s inactives and then . . . and inactives, those are people who aren’t even participating in social media.  These are people who haven’t even discovered the whole world of social media, is that right?

Charlene Li:  That’s right.

Susan Bratton:  So then spectators are the people who are, you know maybe they got a friend request and they excepted it or they went to and they read people’s answers, something like that. 

Charlene Li:  Yeah, not even a friend request.

Susan Bratton:  Not even a friend request, that’s a joiner.

Charlene Yi:  Yeah that’s a joiner.

Susan Bratton:  That’s a joiner, that’s next.

Charlene Yi:  But spectators, I did a search on pottery and I ended up on a pottery blog and I start reading that blog and I really like it and I bookmark it and I go back there on a regular basis. 

Susan Bratton:  Got it.

Charlene Yi:  A level above that might be joiners, like you mentioned.  I’m in a social network basically, I’m active in a social network, I have a profile there.  And the real motivation here in many ways is to be connected to other people.  And that takes effort because it’s a relationship that you’re mapping out.  And within social networks there are lots of different things that you do.

Susan Bratton:  Well we’re going to talk about that so save that.  Save that question because that the emotional motivations which you’ve also outlined.  And I racked my brains to come up with one you hadn’t thought of and I haven’t yet.  So I really want to get to that because to me that was my favorite part of the whole book.  Because I like the psychology behind the technology. 

So keep going, we’ve got inactives, spectators, joiners, who are next?

Charlene Yi:  The collectors.

Susan Bratton: OK.

Charlene Yi:  And this is a very special group because the activities associated with them are people who bookmark sites, tag sites, vote on Digg, use RssV and they’re providing order.  They are acting as the editor of the social media sites because there is so much content out there.  Somebody’s got to organize it and provide value.  And that becomes a very important feature, I think, going on in the future.  And that takes a significant amount of effort, you have to apply judgment.  And not everyone wants to do that or cares to do that.

The critic is the next level above and these are people who are producing content such as writing reviews, they’re commenting on blogs, they’re contributing to online forums, they’re writing articles in Wiki, like Wikipedia.  And so they’re creating content but it is usually bite sized content.  It’s very short form, it can be long in some cases with comments and things, but it’s fairly short form and it usually responds to something, a product, somebody else statement.

In contrast to that, those at the very top of the ladder, the creators.  People who are publishing a blog, creating original video or audio and posting it up online.  Again, a very different type of activity, it requires a tremendous amount of effort to hang out at the very top of that ladder. 

Now one thing that I do want to say, that this is not a segmentation categorization, so someone can be a spectator and be a creator.  It’s not to say that you have to climb and hit every single rung of the ladder to get to the top either.  Nor does it say that being at the top is more valuable then being somewhere down below.  It’s really a matter of how much effort, how much participation is required on the part of the person.

Susan Bratton:  And also, and we’re going to get to this too, what are the emotional motivations that you have? Because they reflect where you are on this ladder.

Charlene Yi:  Exactly.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah.  So you have surfaced the ability for anyone to go in and play with your social technographics profiles and actually go through the filter of who your customers are.  So if your customers are 25 to 35 year old men you can see what they’re doing online and then decide which of the five objectives as a corporation would be the best fit for your customer base.  And you can then decide what your social media strategy is by matching those things, right?

Charlene Yi:  Exactly, we call it the post methodology, p-o-s-t.  You have to understand the people, the social technographics part first.  If you have a lot of spectators and not very many critics and creators then your objective is going to be very different then it would be if it were reversed.  Then you think of the five objectives then you can put together your strategy.  And then finally at the very end the t is for technology, you pick the right technology to match your objective and strategy. 

Susan Bratton:  And so where do people go to play with your technographics?

Charlene Yi:  Our little data tool.

Susan Bratton:  Your data tool, thank you.

Charlene Yi:  Yeah it’s at, so it’s pretty straightforward 

Susan Bratton:  Excellent.

Charlene Yi:  And you can do it by eight different countries, by gender and by age.

Susan Bratton:  Perfect, and I’ve already been playing with it. 

So I’ve been having guest bloggers on “Dishy Mix” for a long time now and one of the people who is guest blogging for me right now is Joseph Coroebus, he’s with Next Stage Evolution.  I’ve done a show with him and I’m fascinated by what Joseph does because he is a social anthropologist, he’s a technologist, he knows about brain science.  I see a lot of NLP in his work.  He looks at how social media impacts men versus women, what their motivations are, and it’s really fascinating. 

And so I was taking questions from the “Dishy Mix” audience for Joseph and he’s been blogging all these different answers about what makes men do it, what makes women do social media, why do boomers do it so differently then Gen X and Millennials.  And one of the questions that came in I really wanted you to answer too.

This is a question from Alex Nesbitt, Alex runs a social media consultancy called Digital Podcast and here is his question:  One of the biggest challenges with social media is getting passive audience to become active contributors.  There are different ways of contributing, for example, writing, videos, photos.  And there are different reasons for contributing, for example, the desire to be seen and recognized or passion for a topic.  What are the differences and the reasons why and the ways that women and men decide to contribute and overall what approaches would be most affective in motivating each?

So what he’s asking is how can I get passive women to be more active and how can I get passive men to be more active in social media?  What’s your take on that?

Charlene Yi:  I think again it’s an important thing to do and a lot of my research right now is on what drives participation, what are the levers that media companies, businesses, associations can pull to get people to participate?  And you always have this problem with, like an alumni base, or employees, whatever the case may be, of some people will take a leap but a vast majority of people will just hang on by the wayside waiting for everyone else to do it, because they’re just not motivated to do it.

I’ll just give you an example, the Boston Globe on has a pretty active sports scene forum but they still know that a vast majority of the people do not participate in those discussion forums.  So about a year and a half ago they posted up this one question: Where were you when Bucky dropped the ball 1986?  So if you were there in the sixth game of the World Series and were a Boston Red Sox fan you lived that moment, you remember that moment when they lost to the Mets and then therefore lost the World Series.  And so tons of people poured in to talk about it and while they were there they discovered a community and many of them stayed.  So in many cases it takes that little spark, that initial spark to motivate people to come on.  And it’s so different, it’s so personal for every single person.

Susan Bratton:  But it was a question that was very very personal and emotional, that was the hook in this particular case.  Are you saying that it’s emotional hooks and understanding your audience and asking the right questions that drives participation?

Charlene Li:  Absolutely, that’s why we start with people.  You have to understand you audience.  And social technographics gets at some of that to give you an idea of where people are in terms of their levels of participation.  Once you understand that they can go to each level, understand what got them there, why are they reading this as a spectator? Why are they commenting, why did they join a social network?

And a lot of the research we do, the field work that we do is to go into social networking sites and say, “Why did you join?”  And my favorite example is when this young person goes, “Well all my friends just wouldn’t leave me alone, they kept bugging me and bugging me and bugging me until I joined.  And now that I joined they still keep bugging me.” And he goes, “There’s been no relief.” And he goes, “I just can’t escape, so I might as well join them.” 

It’s interesting because the motivation why they join, again, sometimes, we lay it out in the book, sometimes it’s because your friends are there, you want to stay on top of them.

Susan Bratton:  Oh, wait, don’t start that yet. 

Charlene Li:  OK

Susan Bratton:  That’s what we’re going to do after the break.  [laughter]

Charlene Li:  All right, I won’t go there then.  But you know it’s so . . . I am so fascinated by this because I think in the end it comes down to understanding your audiences and making it relevant for them. Because if it’s not then their reason to exert energy to participate, to climb up that ladder, isn’t going to be there.  It’s huge and hard work.

I’ll give you one other example.  My husband started a blog when we were redoing our house and he blogged for a good year and a half while he was in the process of doing that.  And it was partly for him to remember and it was partly because he had a lot of knowledge about things,  including a solar power system that he wanted to share with other people.  But when that activity was over, when that energy expansion was over he didn’t have a need to write any more so he went up into being a creator and then came down.  And that is a natural natural evolution.

Susan Bratton:  Well I think that makes all of  us feel a little bit better about how spotty we are with everything.  Although I do a “Dishy Mix” every single week without fail, I’ve never missed.  So!  [laughter]

I have to say that we’re going to take a break now.  I want to thank my sponsors who support every single “Dishy Mix” I do and I also want to let you know that based on what I read in “Groundswell” what I’m asking you to do as a listener on today’s show is to forward this show to one friend.  If you love “Dishy Mix” I need you to help me double my listeners, that’s my goal between now and the end of the year.  I’d like to double the number of people who enjoy the work that I’m doing with great people like Charlene.  So take a minute, jot yourself a note, remind yourself somehow to send me along to someone you think could get value out of this great work we’re doing together.

I also want to let you know that there are transcripts of  this show on  This is such a rich conversation that we’re having with Charlene and so much good detail that I know you’re going to want to go in there and cut and paste and send some of this stuff around your company, so please feel free to do that.

We’re going to take a break and then we’re going to get to the thing we’ve been itching to talk about, the emotional motivations for social networking, because it all starts, as Charlene said, with the people. So stayed tuned, we’re going to thank our sponsors and we’ll be right back. I’m your host Susan Bratton and we’re with Charlene Li of Forrester Research and author of “Groundswell.”


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Susan Bratton:  We’re back, I’m your host Susan Bratton and we’re with Charlene Li of Forrester Research and author of “Groundswell.”

And the thing that we’ve been wanting to talk about are these emotional motivations for social networking.  So Charlene can you briefly take us through them?

Charlene Li:  Sure, it’s . . . I’m opening my book because it’s a long long list of  them [laughter]

Susan Bratton:  Well make it just a quick one because everybody needs to buy the book anyway.

Charlene Li: Yeah, I think there were a couple of things.  First of all when you talk about friends these are social areas and so talking with friends, connecting with friends, social pressure from friends, that’s a key part of it. 

I think another reason though is this whole altruistic physic income idea that I am earning something for myself, I’m paying myself.  Or I’m paying it forward so that I may be benefiting it from today, I may be paid benefits from this community in the future but in order for the community to be here I have to invest in it today. 

Susan Bratton:  I would say LinkedIn is built on the altruistic impulse.

Charlene Li:  It absolutely is.  And you know I don’t know when I’m going to tap into my network but my goodness I better make sure it’s there.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah.

Charlene Li: And then there’s this sort of creative impulse, “I just want to express myself.”  So there are some people who want reputation, they want to be validated as an expert, I may want to be affiliated and have a strong affinity with people who have similar traits with me or in an organization with me. 

So a lot of things around why people participate is multi-varied and usually a combination of all of these different types of impulses and motivations that people have.

Susan Bratton:  And I think if you are creating some kind of a social media connection with your customers you need to understand how you can supply a number of these ways of satiating our emotional need to connect.  So it’s really good go get down into the emotional when you’re building or deciding on the concept and the technology.

Charlene Li:  Exactly.

Susan Bratton:  So I want to understand, could you explain what OpenSocial is to me?  Because I don’t really understand it.  And Mark Kantor gets on and he goes “blah, blah, blah, blah, blah” and I go “Wooh, I don’t even want to ask.”  And so I need Charlene Li to explain what OpenSocial is to me.

Charlene Li: Ok.  There is OpenSocial the technology and then there is this whole idea of OpenSocial Graph.  OpenSocial is a format, a protocol put forward by Google so that all the developers out there can create applications that will work on multiple sites.  So that I can write into one and more or less make it work everywhere.  So if it’s just a simple thing like my top friends on Facebook, I want to be able to say who my top friends are on LinkedIn or top friends are on My Space.  As a developer I just want to write that application once and be able to pour it from place to place, and so it’s that base layer.

Now the reality is that if I’m on LinkedIn there’s other features that are very specific to LinkedIn, for example recommendations, extremely valuable, it makes LinkedIn what it is.  That isn’t relevant on Facebook and MySpace and Beble and all these other places because it’s a professional network.  So I think really to stand out as an application developer you need to be able to take your applications from one place to another and take that core infrastructure and foundation but then be able to add on top of that. 

So our estimation is that easily 50% of any application really needs to be customized with each social network.  If you just plug and play you’re always going to be going down to the lowest common denominator.

Susan Bratton:  Thank you, that was helpful.  I thought OpenSocial had something to do with the fact that when you started Googling people you’d get to see all there social networking info.

Charlene Li:  That’s a little bit different, that’s OpenSocial Graph.

Susan Bratton:  That’s the graph part, OK.

Charlene Li:  That’s the graph part.  So OpenSocial as a technology is that there’s this whole other idea of having an OpenSocial Graph, that I as . . . I have a social graph, a social graph that’s divided into many many different sections.  So I have my Forrester  in social graph, my classmates from business school, alumni friends from my dormitory and freshman year, my church friends, my kids’ school friends by grades, it goes on and on.  I have all these different social networks but one Social Graph.   That’s in my mind of how it works. 

Now I have that Social Graph set up in so many different places now, on LinkedIn, on Facebook, on MySpace, in my address book, on my mobile phone address book, on my IM, it goes on and on.  So, and that’s a pain.

Susan Bratton: Oh, it’s huge, it’s horrible. 

Charlene Li:  So here’s a great example, Josh Bernoff and I are joined at the hip because of this book.

Susan Bratton:  Sure.

Charlene Li:  OK, he’s my co-author.  I should be able to say that he’s my co-author and we have this really deep working relationship and friendship once so that if he ever joins anything, lets say it’s Yelp, where they do reviews, he doesn’t have to ask me for permission or friend me, I’m his friend.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah, got it.

Charlene Yi:  So that’s the idea of an OpenSocial Graph, that I can take my Social Graph anywhere and have it expressed.  And my . . . I don’t know if you want to go into this but I think it goes into my vision of how the future will work.

Susan Bratton:  I definitely want to go there, lets go.

Charlene Yi: OK, so in place where there was an OpenSocial Graph, where applications are free to roam wherever they go I think that social networks will be like air.

Susan Bratton:  Right, you said that and you’ve been quoted in so many ways.  That’s the quote you want to be know for but I never see anybody ask you to explain it so now is the time.

Charlene Yi:  Yes, this is a great time to do it.

Susan Bratton:  This is on my list of questions for you.

Charlene Yi:  And what’s interesting, I’ve been talking about this since 2004.

Susan Bratton:  Yes!

Charlene Yi:  This is my first report on this area.  But it’s finally finally coming to bear.  The idea is I can go and tap into the content and the relationship that my social graph provides me.  So here’s a great example, I’m on Amazon and I may want to go buy a book, lets say “Groundswell” and I want to see who else has written a review about this book.  Right now I have lots of reviews in there but what’s even more relevant to me is to have contacts of social contacts.  So I would love to see my friends who have written those reviews.  But not many of the people on Amazon are necessarily my friends.  My friends are on Facebook, they’re on LinkedIn, especially the ones I want to understand who they are. So why can’t I give permission to Amazon and to Facebook and to LinkedIn to share that social graph back and forth.  And if anybody has written a review there or even on their personal blog, because I had a relationship with Friendfeed, that will show up on the “Groundswell” page on Amazon.  And that is like social graph at work for me.  Instead of me having to go into all the different nooks and crannies where my social graph is participating, whoever knows where they might be, it’s actually poured it out into a place where it’s actually useful to help me make a decision.

Susan Bratton:  So what it’s doing is essentially aggrating the feeds of everyone in your entire social graph and essentially creating a news feed of their activity on your blog.

Charlene Yi:  On my blog or in the case of Amazon it’s only pulling out anybody who has written about “Groundswell” in my social graph and shows up on my view of that “Groundswell” page on Amazon.

Susan Bratton:  Got it, so those are specific scenarios of this concept of air which is, it’s all munched together and aggregated and you can pick slices of it and have them show up in different places.

Charlene Yi:  Right, so with shopping here’s a great example of who else has bought this car, who else has eaten at this restaurant.  And because I know who they are, for example I would value the fact that a friend of mine has two kids the same age and loves this restaurant and went there with her kids versus somebody who is a single person and went there with a bunch of boyfriends and girlfriends.  So that provides context, it’s context that I understand, it’s my social graph and I can [xxxx]

Susan Bratton:  Well that is a good start, I think you probably have a lot more ideas about that and I’d like to get to those. I’m going to finish up with a couple of other questions.  This is one that I can leverage right off of what you were just talking about. 

You have had a lot of bloggers review “Groundswell”.  You have done a very good job getting the book reviewed in the blogisphere and one of the bloggers, Jeffrey Phillips who is the VP of marketing at OVO, he has a blog called “Working Smarter”.  He is also the author of a book called “Make Us More Innovative”.  And he wrote on his review that he didn’t feel like you answered a specific question for the corporate world.  I’m going to read it to you and maybe you could answer it now? 

There’s a little set up here, and that is “Given that almost all these tools, blogs, wikis, tagging, RSS feeds are disaggregated services offered by very small companies or as open source or freeware, what’s going to happen, will we see a consolidation of these tools into some sort of an EPR for the groundswell?  Will I need to turn to for tagging and blogger for blogging and PD Wiki for my Wiki or will these combine?” 

Now here’s the question, that was the setup:  “What are larger firms to do that may have concerns about disaggregated third party solutions run by very small firms that may not be able to demonstrate longevity or the ability to manage critical sensitive communication links to customers?”

Charlene Li:  Yeah, a couple of things, we didn’t want to get into the nitty gritty of technology recommendations in the book …

Susan Bratton:  Sure, we understand.

Charlene Li: . . . which is part of the reason why we did that.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah.

Charlene Li:  But it’s a very simple answer, companies are tapping some of these point solutions so to speak and building the bridges between them painfully.  There are companies that are providing suites now, people like Awareness Network are doing a great job providing suites. And then there are the incumbents, the people like Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, all weighing in with solutions in this space.  And so if you already have one of those solutions in place, lets say you have Sharepoint, you now can get blogs and Wikis off of that.  And you see again this direction coming up from the bottom with all the small point solutions that are incredibly flexible and fast moving and highly innovative. 

And then you have the enterprise software provider, the ERP space, again, it’s not my space necessarily but all of my colleagues on that site say, you know they’re all looking at this. We have a whole other slew of research around the information workplace where we have a lot of analysts, people like Howell McNab and Matt Brown who are actively looking at how the workplace is changing. And how one size fits all applications don’t work anymore and how a lot of the challenges for CTL’s moving forward is going to be about how to create and foster greater productivity by letting craft the type of tool sets that they need to have.

Susan Bratton:  That’s a good answer, thank you.  I think he’s going to be very satisfied with that and I’ll make sure he knows about it. 

We have just a few minutes left before you have to run off to yet another call, another briefing, you’re all over the place speaking.  I asked you what book you most recommended to your friends, besides “Groundswell” and you said, “The Four Hour Work Week Book”  So I think that . . . I call that book business porn, it’s like, ohh, yeah, oh I want to work the four hour work week, yeah!!!  You know you read that and you’re like all fired up to reorganize your life and then you just go crank out another twenty-hour day, you know.  [laughter]  It’s like looking at a dirty picture and then you know, you’re never really, I mean you’re never going to date that person.

Charlene Li:  You’re never going to get there.

Susan Bratton:  You’re never going to date that girl, that’s not your girl.  So tell me why you love that book?

Charlene Li:  It’s so aspirational for me.

Susan Bratton: Yeah! [laughter}

Charlene Li: And one other thing, it’s not the actual four hour work week, but it’s the idea, what Tim Ferriss is trying to communicate, what will make you happy?  What makes you happy and motivated?  For me, for example, writing the book wasn’t about writing a best seller, I do sincerely hope it becomes a best seller and it looks like it’s on that trigrectory.

Susan Bratton:  Good, congratulations.

Charlene Li:  But what really gets me excited is when you say, “I found this to be really really helpful and I’m going to do this now.”  And I saw you doing it, exhorting people to go tell one other person.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah, right!

Charlene Li:  That to me is what I live for.  That’s what makes me really motivated.  And so the book I found really helpful was to say, what’s going to really make you happy.  Is it to make a million dollars, is it to have better balance, is it to go and be the kickboxing champion of the world, which is what Tim Ferriss said? It’s totally wacky and what it says is don’t let the definition of the outside world of success dictate for you what success means. 

And the other book that I just finished reading was Maria Shiver’s “Who Will You Be?”  It’s the same kind of question, I mean she was a stay at home mom basically and the first lady of California and going through a huge identity crisis, but who am I she was saying.  And here is somebody who is incredibly successful, very well known, married to a movie star in politics, great family history and she was saying, “Who Will I Be?”  And I think it’s something that we all struggle with.  And what I like about “Four Hour Work Week”, it’s narky and it’s fun and it makes you think and I love books that make you think.

Susan Bratton:  Yah, it really gets . . . it just gets your blood going doesn’t it?

Charlene Li:  It does.

Susan Bratton:  Like few books do.

Charlene Li:  Yeah, so I read it and then I bought it and I keep referring it to anybody who’s kind of like going through that soul searching, “I’m working too hard, what do I do?”  And I always believed, being a working mom, that there is no such thing as balance and that we just lurch from one impending disaster to another [laughter].  And in particular that it’s a series of compromises and what “Four Hour Work Week” makes you do, as a book, is to say what will you compromise on and what things won’t you compromise on?

Susan Bratton:  Yeah, I gotta get Tim Ferriss on the show, he’s so cute isn’t he?

Charlene Li:  He’s wonderful.

Susan Bratton:  We’re going to end up wth the last question I have because I know you need to run off.  I asked you your sinful decedent guilty pleasure and I got a funny answer, tell us?

Charlene Li:  Sudoku.

Susan Bratton:  You love 16x16 Sudoku. 

Charlene Li:  Yeah.

Susan Bratton:  I’m sure it clears your mind.  I don’t understand how Sudoku works, explain it, what do I need to do to solve these problems?

Charlene Li:  It’s usually a 9x9 grid and everything in a row has to have the numbers 1 through 9, everything in a column has to have the numbers 1 through 9 and each grid of 9 squares has to have the numbers 1 through 9.  And you are given a couple of spaces that are filled in and you go at it, this whole logic problem.  And it just sort of . . . when I go to sleep at night there’s just so many things I haven’t done and my mind is so with, what lunch do I make for the kids tomorrow, as well as the presentation I  have to give and it just makes me focus on xxx and that is just incredibly relaxing for me.  Some people feel it’s incredibly stressful if you can’t figure it out but I am constantly looking for more and more challenges in Sudoku problems.

Susan Bratton:  Good for you, I see that there are even these little hand held devices now that have the really hard problems on it, maybe that’s a good thing for your travel bag?

Charlene Li:  I already have them. [laughter]  I have them all over the place, all over the house and the car.

Susan Bratton:  The girl that has everything, I love it.

Charlene Li:  I’ m a Sudoku geek, I have to have them. 

Susan Bratton:  Well Charlene I know you have to go, thank you so much for your time.  I forgot to ask you one thing, I’m hoping that you have an autographed copy of “Groundswell” that I can give away to some wonderful person in the Facebook “Dishy Mix” fan club?

Charlene Li:  Absolutely.

Susan Bratton:  Yey!, Thank you for that.  So if you would like to be that person who would like to have the autographed copy of Charlene’s beautiful handwriting on “Groundswell” go to my Facebook fan club on, just type in dishymix, all one word, into Face Book search, you’ll find my fan club.  You just join it as a fan, post that you’d like to have the book and it shall be yours, first come, first serve, I’d love to give it away.

Charlene it’s been terrific to talk to you and I could ask you so much more but thank you for the time you’ve given us.

Charlene Li:  Thank you.

Susan Bratton:  It was great to have you on and I hope you have a great day.

 Thank you for listing to “Dishy Mix” and to Charlene Li of Forrester Research and “Groundswell” as well.  I’m your host, Susan Bratton, have a great day and I’ll talk to you next week.


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