My Personal Journey

Appreciating my freedom of speech in Turkey where Twitter is now banned

There’s a lot written about “social selling” in tech these days, and how to use Twitter to engage your prospect, but this week we are all seeing just how trivial a use of Twitter this is in comparison to the power it can have on a global scale.

I flew from New Delhi to Istanbul a few days ago and as I flew the PM of Turkey,  Mr Erdogan, shut down Twitter in Turkey. I was in the air, reading the news on line (36,000 ft up) on Turkish Airlines as he put this decision into action. My plane at this point was somewhere over the Caspian Sea and the signal was pinging through a groundstation in Georgia (according to my analysis with Google maps at that moment) and so I could still see the Tweet stream almost up until landing in Istanbul.

And as I watched the hashtag #TwitterisblockedinTurkey soared! (check it out with Twitter search)

 My view coming in to land…

Original and thought provoking art appeared within minutes as the suppression unleashed creativity. And of course most users figured out how to get around the ban using a direct DNS and texting – even spray painting the instructions on how to bypass the block on walls so everyone can see.

By Sunday the government had blocked Google DNS directly but the internet is too pervasive and flexible to shut down quickly, as Turkey’s government is finding out. The tech-savvy are working around the ban with VPN and anonymizing sites like Tor.

But why? What’s really behind all this? I’ve heard as many reasons as people I ask, and I am asking everyone I meet. One of the wonderful things about Turkey is how open and friendly the people are, and they speak their minds. With elections coming up in 6 days it’s probably a mix of all the reasons we are hearing — corruption, mobilizing the rural conservatives to vote, creating tension to show power — and above all a desire for control to try to change the outcome of the election.

The US dept of state has called this “21st century book burning” but in Turkey this is a case of history repeating itself (telegraph was the equivalent in the Turkish war of independence). Sadly, the actions of the government will set back Turkey’s bid to join the EU, which would be good for both Turkey and the EU on many levels.

Freedom of expression is a fundamental right. It’s something we take for granted in the US and sitting in a remote mountain village of rural Turkey this morning I am acutely conscious of how precious that right, and the freedom to speak my mind is. I am choosing not to use VPN to access Twitter today, but I cannot imagine living in a world every day where I had to worry about my actions on line and whether I am taking political and personal risk when I express myself.

My heart goes out to the people of Turkey who want to be free, and live in the modern world in a high functioning democracy. Their press is still free but their country is divided. I hope and pray they navigate through the next few weeks and months safely — and still free.

The newspaper our first morning
Boards, Equality

Why the Debate About Twitter’s Board and Women at the Top in Silicon Valley Is a Healthy One

Posted in the Huffington Post today

Is the fact that Twitter has filed for its IPO with no women on the board,
and only one (new) woman in management a question of supply or demand?
Is it the “arrogance of the Silicon Valley mafia,” as Vivek Wadhwa believes,
or “difficult” due to a lack of qualified candidates as Twitter
insiders have implied, or just competing priorities while managing a
rapidly growing company?

This is a critical debate, one that has been growing since Lean In was released and a debate that is good for technology companies. We now know that having diverse product design teams creates better products. We also now know that having women on boards makes companies more competitive. So why would a company build its management team and board entirely from men?

Some would argue it’s a priority issue and the debate Vivek and Twitter’s CEO, Dick Costolo,
sparked on Twitter gets us thinking about the priorities. When you’re
building a company, especially one as visible and ground-breaking as
Twitter, it can be hard to do anything that takes extra effort. It’s all
you can do to keep up with the demands of the voracious needs of your
company and a second-level issue, like diversity, probably does not feel
urgent. It takes time and effort to build a diverse team because to do
so you have to demand that your recruiters do the extra work to provide
you with diverse, qualified candidates.

The trustees at the Anita Borg Institute from Women in Technology,
where I have served on the board for the last ten years, know this
firsthand. ABI is funded by companies like Google, Intel, Microsoft,
IBM, Facebook, Amazon, HP… the board is made up of both men and women,
executives who believe growing women in technology is important and the
way to change the numbers is to make diversity a priority. To focus at
both the college level and in the workforce — to focus on solutions
that keep women in technical roles, that reduce the isolation many women
feel in tech, and that teach the skills necessary to get ahead in a
male dominated world.

Some would argue it’s a supply issue – that there are just not very
many women in tech to chose from so finding qualified ones is hard.
It’s true, there are not as many of us as there should be, but there are enough that boards can find one, or two, women to help them diversify their ranks. It’s a question of good governance in the end. Catalyst research has shown women on boards increases the rate of return to shareholders over time which is one of the reasons the EU is moving to quotas of female directors, and why the UK has a percentage target
of female directors for the FTSE by 2015. But in the fast pace of
private Silicon Valley companies few VCs would tell you having women on
their boards matters because it’s all about rate of growth, and when
you’re moving fast you hire who you know, or people who’ve done it
before, which is most likely men like you. My experience over the last
twenty years is that the bias in neither conscious, nor intentional.

So yes, women on boards is not usually a priority to young tech
companies, but Silicon Valley is not ” virtually closed to women,” as
the NYT
claimed on Sunday. There are plenty of us here running companies,
building products and building companies that we believe will change the
world. For the first time we have women at the top of several high
profile technology companies — all at once! We have the glamorous
Marissa Mayer at Yahoo and Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook; we have the
intensely focused Meg Whitman at HP and Ginny Rometty at IBM; we have
high-growth, smaller company leaders like Amy Pressman at Medallia and
Christy Wyatt at Good Technology and we would all tell you that while
we’re not done, the environment is so much better for women now than it
has ever been.

But in the end, the debate itself if the best thing that’s happening.
Sheryl’s making people talk about how to encourage women in the
workplace with Lean In, ABI is challenging leaders to measure the
quality of their company by what kind of company it is for technical
women to work in (Intel was the most recent winner),
and Twitter’s IPO gives us another chance to look at the statistics,
take a deep breath, and once again set out to change them. As Dick Costolo’s final tweet last night said, “The issues are much bigger than checking any 1 box.” It’s time to address them.

My Personal Journey

How not to pick up an executive in a bar

The scene is the Los Altos Bar and Grill. A known pickup joint but one that has a good wine list, great food and live music so those not looking for the scene enjoy it anyway.

The actors – two female executives sitting at a bar enjoying a glass of wine together. And two men enjoying dinner together at the same bar.

The men first try and strike up a conversation along the bar.
Some lame question like “Do you like Hawaii?”

One of the women engages for a few groundstrokes and then returns to her companion, who is simply not interested.

The men finish their dinner, but undeterred then stand next to the two women and strike up a conversation. The women can tell they are not going to go away. They pull up stools and are aggressively close in a crowded bar. The quieter woman checks her email. The more gregarious woman responds to the first volley with “So what do you do?” (the first thing anyone wants to know in this over-achieving society).

And as the story unfolds Ms email, who really does not want to be chatted up in a bar after a long day at work, watches how not to impress a woman…

 “I run a hedge fund”

“Really, what type of hedge fund”

“We use technology and social media to invest”

“Really, what social media”


“Do you read the Twitter feed directly or go through a third party like GNIP”

 (with some hesitation) “uh, GNIP”… the ball drops at the net.

… a short rally then about what the women do… and then the drop shot…

 “So your hedge fund – how much money do you have under management?”

“Well I haven’t actually closed it yet, but I’m close to closing $11M”.

 Golden rule #1. Don’t overstate your position too early.

My Personal Journey

And the Pope Tweets

There is a certain humor, and wisdom, in the Vatican announcing yesterday that His Holiness the Pope will be tweeting under the handle @Pontifex.

More than 2000 years ago the Roman Empire perfected the art of absorbing local deities and cults as they conquered new countries. Let the people keep their Gods and rituals and they are easier to control.

As the Christian Church emerged from the shadows into power in the 4th century it did the same thing. Keep the local festivals and rename them — just think on the pagan customs we celebrate on my favorite holiday Christmas Day/midWinter Festival. And reuse the titles of authority.

In ancient Rome the priests of the (pagan) Roman religion were called Pontifex. The high priest was called Pontifex Maximus and then, with Augustus, the Caesars took on the title. They were heads of state and the religion. So by the time the Emperor became Christian, and the Bishop of Rome was the top priest of the new religion, he absorbed the ancient title: Pontifex Maximus. High priest.

Today we have new cults to be absorbed, Twitter being the cult de jour, a subset of the cult called Social Media. How best to absorb a people who live in the land of Social Media. Absorb our practices – Tweeting – absorb our culture – 140 characters in the moment – and use an ancient name that will resonate in the hidden recesses of our cultural memory. And gather more than half a million followers in 48 hours.

My Personal Journey

My Silicon Angle profile – and an excuse to showcase John Cleese

Am profiled in Silicon Angle today. Starts out with the serious – what FirstRain is able to get out of Twitter for business people. Then migrates to my extra curricular interest in the impact of software and why everyone needs to be able to code.

But the best bit… when they asked me my favorite commercial of all time and I could share the amazing, unforgettable John Cleese Accurist ads from the 70s. My favorite is at the 1:47 mark.


The pressure’s on for the CEO to Tweet

It’s a generational thing. Seems to me, the older the business person the more they don’t understand, or don’t get Twitter and Social Media. The younger the more they do.

It’s a generalization I know, but I see it play out with customers (and peers on public boards) all the time, and whether it’s Twitter, or LinkedIn, or Facebook the more senior (in age) an executive is, the less likely they are to be engaged in social media. Every decade makes a significant difference, unless the exec is unusually communicative (who, like me, likes to connect in many different ways) or they are in the business of branding or social media. Enterprise execs… not so much.

But the market has already moved to embrace Twitter, the consumer market that is and increasingly the enterprise market. And CEOs ignore that at their peril. A new study by BRANDfog makes this very apparent. Top executives tend to be slow to embrace social media themselves, especially if they are in B2B businesses, and yet, according to eMarketer, BRANDfog finds that “consumers
believe C-suite engagement in social media can benefit how they view a
brand and its executive leadership. The majority of survey respondents,
78%, said CEO participation in social media leads to better
communication, while 71% said it leads to improved brand image and 64%
said it provides more transparency”.

If executives don’t swim in social media to some extent (albeit in a time efficient way) and educate themselves, they will lose out in their customer relationships. And having someone ghost write for you doesn’t work in the long run. Your readers can tell the difference. (btw same thing is true for sales execs on Chatter: don’t ghost it, do it yourself).

You can’t hide on mahogany row any more. Your constituents – your customers and employees  – want to know who you are. Transparency is in fashion and it’s not going out of style any time soon.