Archive | February, 2008

Collaborate with PBwiki and create our official documents

27 Feb

Here at PBwiki we have a few great ideas on how to set up a wiki and get your users on board. We have PDFs, PowerPoints and a whole bunch of material that helps you create a wiki. But there is one problem – this material is created by US for YOU – and we could be dead wrong.

I have started an experiment. I’ve put some of our materials on a wiki and I’m asking you to edit it. At the end of one month, I’m going to save that wiki page as a PDF and brand it as an official PBwiki document. (Of course – all of the contributors will be credited.)

So edit away – delete, upload, and add your thoughts on How to set up your wiki for the first time.

Don’t add a comment on this post – EDIT THE WIKI!

The Company-Customer Pact

26 Feb

A few weeks ago, we attended a summit put together by our friends over at Get Satisfaction and they launched something they call the Company-Customer Pact. As they put it:

This pact is a call for shared responsibility between companies & customers — one that promises that both sides will hold up their end of the bargain to change the game. The document provides a way to opt into a set of shared values. It’s a balanced statement of responsibilities for companies and customers.

You might wonder why we need this, as it seems like common sense. But if common sense were enough more people would be employing these principles now. We’ve been trained by the bad habits of corporate culture to turn away from the anger of alienated customers reacting to an environment where it’s common place for companies to hide behind phone trees, avoid fault, and employ anonymous and in-human call centers that makes them hard if not impossible to reach. Or by engaging in practices like price-gauging and issuing confusing bills and policies.

We’ve signed the pact and we’d love to encourage you to do the same – head over to today and get involved! You can also read Get Satisfaction’s full post here.

Company-Customer Pact

How to use one wiki with many students — at one time

25 Feb

We’ve heard from a lot of teachers that it can be frustrating to work with on one PBwiki with many students at one time. PBwiki doesn’t allow more than one editor on the page at one time – and the page that is being edited is ‘locked’ to other users.

(This is because if a wiki allowed two people to edit the same page simultaneously, the edits might conflict.)

You don’t want to waste valuable time in the computer lab but what should your other students do while the page is being edited?

Create lots of Pages
Our suggestion is to create lots of pages: Create a page for each lesson, for each project, even for each student. When your students have more pages to choose from, there is less of a chance that they will have to ‘Steal the Lock’. Here are two ideas on how engage many students on one wiki.

Book Review:
Assign a book review project to your class. Have each student create their own page, write a short review on a chapter and populate it with links to articles about the author, the book and other articles. Then ask each student to visit the wiki page to the person on their right. Ask them to review their partners links, edit the review or comment on the page.

Collaborative Research Papers:
Group the students into teams of three or four and have each group divide the project between themselves. During computer lab ask your students to begin researching the topic, have them paste links and jot ideas down on individual pages. When ready to write the paper, have each student work on their own page and allow the group to edit each others pages. Paste the completed project into one wiki page.

How do you use one wiki with many students? Join the discussion here


22 Feb

That’s geek code for “PBwiki loves South by Southwest!” One of the advantages of a tool that’s simple to get set up and running with like PBwiki is that you can use it to make quick, ad-hoc workgroups at conferences like South by Southwest. If you’re looking to post your own itinerary or put together a spontaneous birds-of-a-feather session, come set up a new wiki with us and email with the address and I’ll add it to the official PBwiki SXSW page.

David Weekly
Founder & CEO

The Elephant and the Ant: Why Companies Need Processes As They Grow

21 Feb

Seth Godin had a recent post about how organizations tend to go from crisp to soggy over time.

While I agree with his points, I think that there’s a better analogy to explain why companies need processes as they grow.  I call it the principle of the elephant and the ant.

Hollywood horror movies nonwithstanding, you can’t scale up an ant to the size of an elephant.  The mechanisms that work so well for a one-gram ant don’t work for a 10-ton elephant.

The ant is like a startup: It’s small, nimble, and surprisingly strong for its size.  When you’re that small, you don’t need a lot of internal structural elements–a thin exoskeleton more than suffices.  It doesn’t even need lungs to breathe, relying instead on its surface area to allow oxygen back and forth.

Similarly, startups don’t need a lot of internal processes or documentation.  When your entire company consists of three people in a single office, everyone and everything in your company is in touch with the outside world.  If something comes up, you just poke your head over your laptop and fix it.  An “all-hands” meeting consists of nudging the co-founders to your left and your right.

But as your company grows (which is almost always necessary if you build a successful business), that approach doesn’t scale.  You don’t see 1,000 person companies being run like a 3-person startup for the same reason you don’t see ants the size of Volkswagens.

(Be glad that we don’t!)

Instead, your company begins to resemble the mighty elephant.  The lightweight exoskeleton is replaced by a thick endoskeleton.  All sorts of internal structures like lungs are required to support life.  And you can bet that an elephant can’t scurry at a rate of 5 times its body length per second, or lift 50 times its own weight.

Big companies need endoskeletons to function.  Yes, these processes impair flexibility, and force you to trade in the elegantly slender legs of the common ant for the stubby tree-trunks of the ponderous pachyderm, but the alternative isn’t pretty.  A 10-ton ant would instantly collapse and die under its own weight, unless beaten to the punch by asphyxiation.

And there are benefits to being big.  You may not be able to run as fast or lift as much on a relative basis, but an elephant can definitely cover longer distances than an ant, and no ant in the world can lift an entire tree with its trunk.

Both elephants and ants have their place in this world, just as crisp and soggy do.  The trick is making sure that your approach is appropriate to your situation.  There’s a reason why invertebrates are smaller than vertebrates, but mice are smaller and faster than lobsters–only you can decide what the right answer is for your company.

P.S. One final alternative to keep in mind: While a single ant can’t move a rubber tree, an army of them certainly can (or at least decimate the village where the tree is planted).  To what extent can your company act like a swarm of startups, rather than as single elephant?

Customer Expectations: Best Approaches

21 Feb

All businesses know that the degree of customer service excellence is relative – it’s based on customer expectations. Many profitable companies do poorly on customer service and they thrive – which begs the question: is it smart to invest in customer service?

This is why it is absolutely critical to measure customer experience at the beginning.

Key Questions:

  • What are the customer’s expectations?
  • Is it different across industries, market segments or channels?
  • How is the experience within a particular industry, segment or channel helping or hurting?

The last thing we want to do is overspend on customer service, but without an understanding of the components of the experience and a measurement of the success of the experience – it’s difficult to pinpoint areas of improvement and create appropriate initiatives to deliver on those.

Discovering the gaps between the customer’s expectations and your brand’s promise is the most important work that your customer service organization can do.

How one author uses PBwiki to let anyone edit his New York Times bestseller

20 Feb

Tim Ferriss is the author of The 4-Hour Workweek, a book that’s become phenomenally successful. (The book is about “lifestyle design” and working less to achieve your goals, including some provocative ideas about outsourcing your life.)

After simultaneously being listed as a bestseller on the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Businessweek lists, Advertising Age listed it as one of 2007’s best product launches.


In fact, we have a few copies of the book in our office.

For the second edition of his book, Tim decided to use PBwiki to edit his New York Times bestseller. On the 4-Hour Workweek wiki, he asked his readers to point out corrections, add ideas, and suggest examples for the newly revised 4-Hour Workweek.

The 4-Hour Work Week wiki launched last night around 11pm and already has hundreds of visitors and dozens of high-quality edits.

This is a great way to use PBwiki. By allowing his readers to add their thoughts, Tim taps into their collective knowledge. And because he has a Premium wiki, he can assign his editors “Contributor” access so anything they do is reversible (e.g., no deleting pages!).

Learn more:

If you’re interested in using PBwiki for managing a project — or writing your own New York Times bestseller! — create a free wiki at

Missing: Watson the Wiki Shirt

15 Feb

Last week I received a desperate email in my inbox…

“I have a problem and I am wondering if you can fix it for me. I am a senior at Randolph high school and am a peer teacher for Ms. Eberheart a biology teacher. She is very big in to using PBwiki. She is so into it that she got a t-shirt from you.

As a fun thing Ms. E has her students take it around when they go to special places and then have them write a blog about it. The reason I write to you is because she gave me the shirt to take to the giants parade and it was stolen from me. I gave it to a player to sign and when they threw it back another person picked it up and walked away with it I went to look for it but I could not find it. Could you help me out and maybe send Ms. Eberheart another shirt so she can continue her project with the shirt.

Mrs. E receives two snaps from the PBwiki team. She thought of a creative way to engage her students in biology, new technology AND creative writing. You can see her blog here. What interesting ways have you found to introduce technology into your classroom?


Enjoy telling folks about PBwiki? Why not make it your job?

14 Feb

Are you a software sales professional?  PBwiki is looking for salespeople that want to work for one of the fastest growing software companies in the world.  We are looking for proven, quota-carrying sales professionals.

We have positions open in both our San Mateo, CA and Nashua, NH offices (so if you’ve always wanted to work for PBwiki, but couldn’t bear to leave your beloved Red Sox behind, now you can live the dream!).

Read more about the position and send in your application.

To Sell Your Story, Be The Story

14 Feb


For this week’s marketing post, I’m going to delve into the world of politics again, which holds some interesting lessons for the business world. 

One of the major advantages that Barack Obama currently holds over Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination here in the United States lies in how his campaign has managed the media.

Clinton’s campaign has complained that the media coverage is more sympathetic to Obama (which is pretty evident to anyone who watches CNN or MSNBC), but a bigger issue is simply the volume of coverage.

In political contests, pundits often refer to the “air war” and the “ground war.”  The air war consists of media exposure (either paid advertising or press coverage)  to drive awareness, while the ground war consists of the door-to-door organization to get out the vote.

In many ways, this division resembles the classic divide between Marketing (air war) and Sales (ground war) in business.

When it comes to the air war, the key is to drive awareness.  As I’m fond of saying, your most potent competitor is generally ignorance.

Because Barack Obama has become a magnet for free press coverage, he has a significant advantage over Hillary Clinton in the air war.  Every time he holds a 15,000-person rally at a sports arena, with thousands more spilling out into the streets, it’s a newsworthy story that can draw national coverage, and perhaps even more importantly, local news coverage in both print and TV.

It’s possible to substitute money for coverage by blanketing the airwaves with paid advertising, but as Mitt Romney has demonstrated, pound for pound, paid ads are less valuable than free coverage.

The advantage that free coverage brings can be seen in the relative fortunes of the Obama and Clinton campaigns.  While both have raised roughly the same amount of money since 2006, Obama’s press advantage also allowed his campaign to spend more on the ground game than Clinton, while still maintaining a larger warchest.

The same principle applies in business.  If you can get the press to do your job for you, why spend money buying ads?  What’s more valuable, a 1-page ad in Fortune, or a glowing article?  And don’t forget, that article didn’t cost you $25,000.

The key question then is, how do you get that press coverage?

You can spend a ton of money ($20,000+ per month) on high-priced PR agencies, but as the example of Hillary Clinton shows, the best spin machine in the world can’t help much if you don’t have a story people want to write about.

Barack Obama has been successful during the nomination battle not because of his spinmeisters, but because he successfully embodies a story that people want to hear and retell.  What American doesn’t want to believe that anybody (including an African-American with a Muslim name and father, raised by a single mother) can grow up to be president?  And if people want change and a break with the past, there is no way for Hillary Clinton to argue that she is best positioned to deliver it.

Great marketing isn’t about selling your story.  It’s about being the story.

The same applies to the business world.  Google famously refuses to spend any money on advertising.  Guess what?  They don’t have to, because they are the story.

Microsoft can spend far more money than Apple on ads (and it does).  But Apple always wins the air war (at least during the iPod era) because it is the story.

To sell your story, be the story.