Deb Schultz from Altimeter Group at ConnectNow in Sydney

The following are my notes from Deborah Schultz' talk at ConnectNow in Sydney.

Deb is a web chick form the early days. She's a former web designer and a partial geek (but she doesn't code). She's a translator between businesses and geeks. She's a slash queen (digital ethnographer/customer advocate/connector/tummler), a passionate experimenter, and she was also a Director at Six Apart and launched

We are all social animals, and her talk is about how to deal with the social web. She hates the term "social media," because "media" has an old-school, specific meaning, and this new content is being created with a different mindset. We're such social creatures, she'll travel all the way across the world to give a talk on the Internet (like, couldn't she do it on the Internet?).

In the way way past, life was simple. Everyone you knew was close. In the recent past, your tribe started to move away, and apart from each other. Today, the world is your oyster. We are connecting everywhere, anytime. There's this porous nature of what's work and what's personal life.

The medium is the relationship: complex, light and diverse. On any given day, she's got Ustream, Skype, Twitter, IM, all open at any given time. It wasn't that long ago that you could only socialize with people in the same physical space with you, and the third place was the general store. Now the web is the third place.

Are these relationships real? Yes. God, I hope so! Are the same as your family? No, but they are incredibly real, incredibly impactful.

Relationships are hard and messy and subtle. Are you friends with your mailman? No, but this person is in your life. We don't have the words to describe it. They come to your aid when you least expect them in weird and wonderful ways.

Think of it as relationship bricolage. "Bricolage is what tinkers do -- collecting odd bits of stuff they think may be potentially useful, then using whatever bits seem to work in the context of some later repair job. Simple. And yet profound. Because the bits the bricoleur ends up using were not designed for the use they end up being put to." Chris Locke.

You never know which one of your online contacts is going to impact you and how. Sadly, most organizations are silo and transaction driven. Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy. (Deb, have you read Leadership and the New Science? Meg Wheatley talks about our move from organizations built on a framework of Newtonian physics to ones built on a framework of quantum physics.)

We are organic and social -- we don't fit nicely into buckets. Just because you know I'm a 24-35 year-old female in Sydney doesn't mean you know my affinities.

"The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that simply were not possible in the era of mass media." (Thesis 6, Cluetrain Manifesto)

The Social Web is an explosion of the personal, everywhere, at all different times. You never know which one of your friends will help you where. We're in constant communication, and whether you think that's wasting your time or enhancing your time, it exists. We are weaving a global brain. And, let's face it, we're in the adolescence.

Check out Visual Complexity, which does amazing topographical maps of social networks (like this one of the human disease network):

Human disease network

A reminder: what exactly is the social web? We have all this data coming at us and we're not exactly thinking of new and interesting things to do with it in a human way. Instead, we're worried about information overload. It's not about the bling, or any of the nostalgia logos. It's about customizing, community, socializing, joining, collaborating, self-expressing -- it is human nature to connect, share and personalize. If you are in any kind of marketing, you need to remember this: it's about the human endeavor.

Access to data and information is no longer a barrier. It's connecting that stuff in a different way. Information isn't the big thing; it's what we do with information and how we connect as human beings. It's not about telling and selling; it's about relationships.

We live in a culture of sharing like we've never lived in before, because it's so easy to share. Sharing is becoming this real inherent part of our culture and our nature.

Everyone talks about social media as if it were its own channel, but it's not. It is the grease that skids the wheel. Social will be like air. It is everywhere.

As a result of all this, we're experiencing the death of the grand gesture. The old world was episodic; now we're on a continuum. It used to be: "Ignore me, ignore me, ignore me, SuperBowl ad." You can't think that way anymore.

We've extracted customers to such an extent that we take them for granted. It's shocking to her that the customer service people -- the ones who are closest to the people who pay you -- are considered the least strategic! In the early days of Six Apart, they had 15 employees, and 3 of them were customer service, 24/7.

Real time is not fast enough. You have to be ready, whether you're a small business or a large business, to react quickly.

"We live in a relationship economy. Transactions are the by-products of healthy relationships. The global economy is shifting from a mass media, consumer mass-marketing model to one that is far more emergent and decentralized. The involuntary loyalty of 'sticky' services is falling victim to the far preferable voluntary loyalty won through responsiveness, quality, excellent service, reliability and trustworthiness." Jerry Michalski

Forces at work:

  • Live Web
  • Decentralized lives
  • Democratization of tools
  • Velocity of information
  • Media fragmentation
  • Empowered individuals

Versus the Traditional Marketer...

"If you talked to people the way advertising talked to people, they'd punch you in the face" -Hugh MacLeod

Spray and pray doesn't work. People aren't listening. Most marketers are viewed as the uninvited guest. In most places, marketing has been separated from the creator of the goods. P&G were shocked that their mommy bloggers didn't want to talk to the marketers; they wanted to talk to R&D. The customer isn't elusive; she's annoyed. OK, so where's the manual? Umm... there isn't one. The participatory web requires both new design thinking and a renewed focus on human skills and behavior.

New framework for a new social web:

  • Organic vs. static
  • Emotion vs. data
  • Relationship vs. transaction
  • Continuum vs. grand gesture
  • Intention vs. attention

Jump in!

This new framework needs tummlers.

Tummler, Tummling: An entertainer or master of ceremonies, especially one who encourages audience interaction (from Yiddish tumler, from tumlen 'make a racket') Noun: 1) One, such as a social director or entertainer, who encourages guest or audience participation. 2) One who incites others to action. (Learn more at

The Human Skills

  • Listener
  • Connector
  • Partial geek
  • Pattern finder
  • Curator
  • Catalyst
  • Diplomat/empathy
  • Juggler
  • Approachable
  • Intuitive
  • Inquisitive
  • Driven by relationships.

They're probably not the sales people; they're more about the long haul than the fresh kill.

When you're migrating the social to the web, think of yourself as hosting a party. You don't show up at a dinner party and start selling Tupperware. You have to mimic the real world -- be human! Why is it the minute people go online for work we forget what it's like to be human?

Deb pulls two people up onstage and introduces them to each other, by way of demonstration. The exchange contains the following:

Handshake --> greeting --> response --> handoff --> feedback --> make me smarter about me --> makes me happy

When I click return or enter, that's the handshake. A date stamp is a social contract -- it says I will keep updating. Don't put dates unless you tend to keep them up to date. Signin is a greeting -- it acknowledges me.

If you make me smarter about me & you, you will grow: give to get. She shows a screenshot from Dopplr. If I trust you and I've given you data, you can make me smarter about me in ways that make it interesting for me -- and that's a customer service. Dopplr sends her a pdf with pictures of all the places she's been, and how many trips she's taken and the total mileage and how close to the moon that will get her and her carbon footprint. They make her smarter about herself.

Awareness/persistence: remind me of the fun times we had together. Photojojo has a photo time capsule. You set up the time capsule with your email and Flickr account, and twice a month they send you an email with your photos from a year ago. How cool is that?

Handoff: Did you know...? She shows another one from Dopplr that's the handoff. You're going to Sydney? Did you know Tara is also going to be in Sydney? You two should get together!

Entertain me, in unusual ways. Etsy sat down and said how do people really look at stuff? So they've organized and presented information in different ways -- by color, for example -- as opposed to the typical, boring, data-driven e-commerce experience (women>petite>dresses>etc.).

Meet others like you: Whee, this is fun! Threadless doesn't put the designs on their home page, they put people wearing the designs. This is how we put ourselves in the picture.

Respect me and my time: Pandora has opt-in for auto renew. That's respectful when contrasted with the opt-out norm.

Moo Cards make printing fun -- they make it about us, about people.

Some practical steps:

  • Think like a sociologist or ethnographer.
  • Be an observer first.
  • Join the lives of people vs. interrupting them.
  • Find a 'place' in the 'community' you are designing -- be a part of it.
  • Help users participate.
  • Stand for something and offer value.
  • The love you give is equal to the love you get.
  • Think constancy, not episodic.
  • Experiment: Listen, Rinse, Repeat.

Iteration trumps perfection every day of the week. The beauty of relationships is you can get in a fight and make up!


I so agree. Deb's presentation is right on the money. Thank you for being present. Thank you for assembling her presentation and sharing with me and my tribe. Thank you for making Connect Now so great.
@Digitalgodess on Twitter

Thank you!

Hey Stephanie -- thanks for your lovely comment and for everything you did! I really appreciated it, as well as your AMAZING sense of style -- you rock :-)


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