is Email a necessary or Unnecessary evil? (interview with IBM’s Luis Suarez)

I have been a long time fan of Luis Suarez whom I was supposed to meet at the Enterprise 2.0 summit except that my clients decided otherwise. Fortunately, I was able to reach out to Luis and send him, ironically, my questions via email.

That’s my point precisely. Email is one of those necessary evils. A system which is broken but difficult to break away from. At least, this is my perception. I have managed, over the years, to cut through the clutter… yet, I have never managed to do away with email completely.

Even worse, whenever I spread the good news that one doesn’t have to use email and that other solutions exist, there is always at least one person in the room who takes it personally and gets very very cross. It happened to me again last Monday after a lecture at HEC, while we were all having lunch. There was only one person around the table who seemed very angry with me but it got me thinking. Why would people be so in love with e-mail. Is it because this is the only online system which is close enough to the old world and mimics – vaguely – traditional letter writing?

Well, I don’t know. So I turned to Suarez instead, a man who is supposed to have turned off his mail reader completely … except for my questions. Good man!

photo by Londonbloggers

Doing away with email: Interview with Luis Suarez

1. You have been heralded as a no-email evangelist. How and why did you decide to do that?

I initially started this journey of Life Without eMail over six years ago (On February 2008) and, mainly, for three different reasons:

1. Over the course of time you realise that e-mail is not really a good collaboration and knowledge sharing tool. Quite the opposite. It’s today’s productivity killer, not necessarily because of the system itself, but more than anything else because of how we have abused it over the course of time resulting in all sorts of political games, bullying, managing up (or down), and overall unnecessary stress seeing how plenty of people keep using it as a way to protect and hoard their knowledge vs. helping one another.

2. The second reason why I stopped using e-mail was because over the course of the last few years I have been having hundreds, if not thousands, of interactions with younger generations of knowledge workers, whether they are working already or before entering the workplace, and all along I realised that we were using all sorts of various different collaboration tools, except e-mail and we got the job done, just as effectively, so I thought if they could pull it off together, why couldn’t we, right?

3. The last reason as to why I started this movement over six years ago was essentially to demonstrate, as a social business evangelist, that there is a work life without e-mail. That, nowadays, we do have more appropriate and relevant collaborative and knowledge sharing tools that help us get our jobs done much more efficiently and effectively. Time and time again, plenty of people came to me indicating, as a show stopper, that they couldn’t do social networking at work because they just didn’t have the time and when asking additional questions about why that is happening I realised how they were all saying a large chunk of today’s interactions are happening through e-mail as a time sink, which is why I decided to challenge the status quo of e-mail in the enterprise and, instead, prove and demonstrate, day in day out, that you can eventually have a very productive work life using social technologies versus just e-mail.

2. Wired pointed out that you had reduced email volume by 98%, does that mean that now you only receive 2 million emails a year?

Well, before I started this movement of Life Without eMail I used to get about 30 to 40 e-mails per day. Over the course of the years, that amount has gone down substantially till it reached that 98% of e-mail reduction to the point where I was getting two e-mails per day a couple of years back, averaging about 15 per week, which, I guess, is not too bad after all. The interesting part is that I have not reduced my interactions with others though, quite the opposite, they have increased a great deal, so the main difference is that the vast majority of those conversations are now happening through open, public social networking tools allowing for knowledge to flow freely helping people make better decisions with that information.

3. Honestly, who can really get rid of email. I can’t imagine telling my clients I don’t want to communicate with them in that way?!

You would be surprised about the large amount of people (Customers as well!) who are most willing to reduce their e-mail Inboxes in order to collaborate and share the knowledge across much more openly and transparently through social technologies. It’s that inertia that’s killing us, that is, the one where we don’t challenge the status quo and we all keep resorting to e-mail because “Everyone uses it, so why change?” Well, exactly because of that!

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Google Plus Engagement Leaves Big Data Experts Nonplussed

Today’s selection …

Is this piece in Adweek about Gigya’s insights regarding Google+ and the fact that, although it is said to be the second biggest social network in terms of users, engagement on Google’s social platform is still low and even at its lowest. I have been very critical of Google’s efforts to mimic Facebook over the years and even though some of these efforts haven’t paid off I, as an amateur photographer, am beginning to witness changes in engagement in G+ as I am shoving more and more of my pictures into “communities”. And bingo! it works. It’s true that engagement is low in profile pages and posts, but communities, and mostly photographers’ communities like “landscape photography” or “street photographers” is now clinching it. It has taken its time but maybe Google+ has found its niche… Yet, those guys from Gigya are less than extactic:


depending on what pictures I choose, I can get up to 30 or more +’s and a few shares on individual photos; not bad for an individual I’d say and better than most platforms (including Facebook)

Google Plus Shares Least Among Social Networks | Adweek

It’s the second most popular social network by some measures, but when it comes to sharing, Google+ has the least reach compared to its rivals, according to the latest data from the social media tech firm Gigya.

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn all incite more sharing on their networks than Google+, per Gigya, which claims to measure how 1.5 billion Web users share content each month.

In fact, Gigya manages the sharing functionality for more than 700 partners online. According to its data, just 3 percent of all social sharing went to Google+ from July to September.

By comparison, 41 percent of users shared content on Facebook; 20 percent shared on Twitter; 20 percent posted to Pinterest; and 4 percent to LinkedIn. Google+ counts more users than all of these platforms except Facebook because any user of Google services has a corresponding Plus account.

via Google Plus Shares Least Among Social Networks | Adweek.

LinkedIn Reaches 200 Million Member Limit


By Yann Gourvennec

As an early adopter (beginning of 2004) adopter and future “ambassador” of LinkedIn, I am very pleased to be able to reblog Deep Nishar’s post about the professional social network reaching the 200 million user bar today. A great achievement for what I consider one of Social Media’s best tools in the market. For memory, as of Dec 2011, LinkedIn only had 136 million users. The growth has been staggering, as stated in this earlier blog piece.

200 Million Members!

We recently crossed an important and exciting milestone for the company. LinkedIn now counts over 200 million members as part of our network, with representation in more than 200 countries and territories. We serve our members in 19 languages around the world.

I’d like to thank each of you for helping build the LinkedIn network into what it is today. It’s been amazing to see how our members have been able to transform their professional lives through LinkedIn. You truly grasp the power of LinkedIn when you start to focus on these individual success stories.

Take for example, Akshay Chaturvedi from New Delhi, India who was able to use LinkedIn as a launch pad for his career. Not only was he able to lead an international project at AIESEC for a project on AIDS right out of university, with the help of LinkedIn, he was recruited by KPMG and continues to receive career guidance from his LinkedIn network. Then there’s Robyn Shulman who stepped out of her comfort zone from teacher to now a published writer and leader of a ESL Bilingual Educators group on LinkedIn. She has rediscovered former talents and changed her life through LinkedIn. One of my favorite stories comes from Leonardo Brant from Brazil who founded Cemec, an organization to help Brazilian professionals and entrepreneurs think creatively about their business challenges. Today they use LinkedIn as their digital classroom to exchange information and foster a meaningful community to share relevant knowledge. Everyday we hear stories like these from our members and we look forward to hearing many more.

So, who are LinkedIn’s 200 million members? This infographic captures the diversity and magic of your professional peers.

via 200 Million Members! | Official LinkedIn Blog.

Facebook’s very traditional advertising campaign

new Facebook advertising campaign

I’m not sure about the purpose of this commercial which I tend to find very depressing and not really inspiring. Facebook is understandably under pressure from its investors for monetising after it’s disappointing IPO and a flurry of announcements were made recently in that domain, not always convincing by the way.

I am neither certain this campaign will help sell on site advertising nor that this will help improve Facebook’s image in the eyes of its disgruntled investors.

Feel free to share your feelings.

Is ‘s Dalton Caldwell the new Zuckerberg? – #blogbus

Dalton Caldwell, 32, is the founder and CEO of but how he got there is a long story. A native from Texas, he went to university in Stanford, Calif., then joined Symbolic Systems in 2003. He was a precursor in social networks (check his bio on wikipedia) at the time (2003) when Friendster was around; he is the creator of Imeem, which was “originally a Skype-modelled Desktop social network in a peer-to-peer approach”.  After multiple incarnations it became a music sharing system, the 75th largest website in the world and “the first legal music downloading system”. Imeem, as it was called, was eventually acquired by Myspace in 2009. Caldwell was also awarded the best mobile app award by Techcrunch as early as 2008, when mobile was unknown to most. Now you start to understand. Dalton Caldwell is a trail-blazer, and anything but the average start-up founder, he is a true wizard, a brilliant mind who is responsible for the latest buzz in social media in the valley … and the rest of the world. Imagine that, he turned down an “acqui-hire” offer by Facebook which could have made him even richer than he already is.

[will turn out to be a home run? photo]

Now, will replace Facebook and Dalton Caldwell be the new Zuckerberg? If he dons the same kind of hoodies, needless to say his philosophy is entirely different; and I have to admit that I like it a lot … Let’s zoom in on with the notes taken during the interview we had with him last week during the blogger bus tour in Soma*, San Francisco:


[Dalton Caldwell, the CEO and founder of]

Caldwell launches mobile photo sharing app before Instagram and loses

Caldwell and his teams wanted “to do something which is mobile first”. What with the immense success of applications like Instagram and Pinterest, the focus is on mobile. Facebook is getting to grips with this now that analysts are criticising them for not being able to monetise on mobiles at a a time when users are shifting from Web to smartphones.

Two and half years ago, the team started working on a mobile photo sharing “pre-instagram” application named Picplz. After they raised funds and came to realisation they would only lose the battle against Instagram, they did the right thing, folded Picpliz and went on to the next thing. It often happens like this in Silicon Valley. In the high-tech business, Pivoting moments like this happen all the time. Don’t forget that Google ended up being a search engine after Yahoo! had refused to buy their algorithm (as per the story described in Scott Berkun’s The Myths of Innovation).

Caldwell turns down acqui-hire by Facebook

The team then “took a few shots with the same infrastructure” and of Caldwell’s own accord, “this is why they were able to catch up so quickly with”. The first idea was to help third party developers find how to integrate their apps within Facebook or Twitter. Caldwell’s team started building more tools for the Facebook platform and after opengraph “came to fruition, it all worked so well with Facebook that they wanted to “acqui-hire” them”. Yet, Caldwell “wasn’t enthusiastic” to put it in his own words. A friend of his then suggested not to worry about the websites but to focus on the APIs. This was in 2008-2009. wasn’t yet what it is now.

Social Networks becoming ad companies will shut down their APIs

If most social networks like Twitter and Facebook started off as APIs and helped build entire ecosystems around them, “[they] couldn’t stick to this because of monetisation” Caldwell explained. He then wrote a blog post (What Twitter could have been) on July 1 (a Sunday) in which he vented his frustration. Little did he know that his post would attract a hug following and that he was about to start something new. The blog post “took off, with hundreds of thousands of visits, (even though it only consists of a few paragraphs). In that piece, Dalton Caldwell contends that “every API will be closed by social networks because [popular social networks] went away from being API companies to become ad companies and it means that they have to control everything”.

if they decide to close their APIs, then why not build an API?

“The idea then became to build an API company!” Caldwell went on. “Most people don’t know how bad things are, and they will notice in the next few months that certain applications stop working” he said.

[ : global feed page]

crowd-funding … in a matter of weeks

$-largeThis is how was given a front end which “looks like Twitter looked in 2007” the young entrepreneur added. Just as a proof of concept, for this front-end is not meant to be a Twitter replacement. Developers are proposed to build applications on it. Imagine a social chess game for instance, all built on the common API and digging from the common user base.

The new project son attracted 10,000 users in a matter of weeks. Which means that the $ 500k goal the company had set up for themselves by the end of August. “This is how start-ups work” Dalton Caldwell explained: “if Youtube had launched 6 month later or before it wouldn’t have succeeded. Social media made it happen it wasn’t us. We are just under 20,000 users now. No idea how long it will take for them to have million of users versus the current 20,000. I don’t know how long it will take us to reach millions, maybe it will never do. In fact in depends on whether somebody develops a killer application based on the AP!” he said.

a lot of people got angry

Caldwell admitted to making a lot of people angry; with a few lines he put his finger on a fundamental issue which is plaguing the current development of social media. Social networks were developed with the idea that Marketing could be done differently and barely 3 years ago, the world was buzzing with Tara Hunt’s Whuffie Factor concept, a founding book placing social capital over financial value. With the race to monetisation – which grew even worse with Facebook’s IPO – all of this is gone for good. We are left with advertising and I admit to sharing Caldwell’s frustration; a frustration I had already vented a year and a half ago as President of Media Aces in France.

“We are building a privacy model and we are not going to impose a business model” Caldwell concluded. “Those who build the best apps will be rewarded and there are 6 apps in the application store so far” he said.

embrace the philosophy … well worth $50

It’s hard to tell whether will scale to millions of users like other platforms. As a matter of fact, it’s not even competing on the same level at all. At any rate, for social media veterans like me, Caldwell is spot on in terms of how he approaches social media and it’s well worth $50 in my eyes. After all, may well just remain a social network for the happy few who want to escape interruption marketing and the use of your private data and content by public companies. If only for that, I feel like joining and supporting Dalton and his teams.

Caldwell may not be the next Zuckerberg after all, maybe just the other way round. Small is beautiful!


*Soma = South of Market (downtown San Francisco district situated south of ‘Market’, a major artery in the centre of the City.

scenarios for the future of social media – #blogbus

eye-largeI put this presentation together at very short notice in order to facilitate asession organised by Orange Business Services for its clients. This isn’t therefore a piece of scientific research, far from that, but merely a few random thoughts put together, in the light of what my team and I go through on a daily basis as well as the conclusions from our visits in Silicon Valley (Sept 17-22, 2012) as part of the blogger bus tour (check for details as well as Twitter for the #blogbus hashtag).

the Orange Silicon Blogger Bus tourWe got invaluable feedback, visions and first-hand information straight from the horse’s mouth during that trip and this has been very helpful in order to put together this presentation.

Even 10 years after their first introduction (LinkedIn was launched in 2003!), there is still a lot of sniggering or at least doubts with regard to how social media can fit in the business space. Yet, we have established that many a company has successfully managed to use these tools (and the philosophy behind it) to integrate word of mouth marketing into their Marketing strategies. This has been the subject of quite a few presentations which I have uploaded on the and spaces, so I won’t touch on that in today’s presentation.

I will therefore take the fact that social media can be used for business for granted and jump to the part dedicated to the analysis of what I think could well be the future of social media.

note: for those who haven’t yet got to grips with the benefits of social media in business and how it can be implemented, please refer to my slideshare presentation entitled: useful social media: what social media platform for what purpose? available from our slideshare corporate space at

The good old days of web 2.0, the cluetrain manifesto, the pioneering days of the social web and social web marketing, those days are well and truly over. 8 years after the term social media was coined by O’Riley, and it may seem like ages ago in “Internet/dog years” actually. Yet… because we are missing these days doesn’t make any difference. The times have changed. let’s face the music and draw our conclusions from then on…

So what is the future of Web? Will the ‘non-searchable adjacent Web’ described by Geroges Nahon replace everything, therefore doing away with net neutrality and turning everything into a commercial space? Or will users flee en masse and start joining new social networks such as

Here are my thoughts in the following presentation which I will unveil today at midday in Paris in front of our customers.

4 suggested business models for Facebook to make money with its platform

by Alban Fournier (

QQ ID: 1557637787

Alban Fournier is a graduate from Essec Management School in Paris. He has proficiency in Management, Change Management, Marketing and Consulting services. He has worked on various engagements with Schneider Electric and Tencent, the leading Chinese Internet company.

value creation and monetization at Facebook: to succeed, other revenue streams than advertising and app revenue share should be developed now

For many, including Google, Facebook is a distraction from regular Internet surfing. The Palo Alto-based social network company firm has developed an engaging experience for users which creates some sort of addiction to the social network: almost all your “friends” are here and such a sheer volume of users is not available anywhere else.

currently Facebook data is available for free

Facebook offers its service in exchange for the right to capture and collect a huge volume  of demographic and preference data from its users. That data is extremely valuable to brands. Marketers and advertisers can use the data efficiently because it is detailed and personal.

the social graph … a core asset

The social graph is a core asset of Facebook representing people and the connections they have to everything they care about. Today, the social graph, or profile information database, is not used for business with third parties outside the Facebook website: Facebook has prevented its business partners from using the data it provides to approach users exclusively within Facebook. Through the social graph, it is possible to find and match data across different groups of people. It is also possible to produce a graph of preferences and identify people who share a common liking for a brand.

The Graph API presents a simple, consistent view of social graph objects (such as people, photos, events, and pages) and the connections between them (friendships, likes, and tags) (Facebook Inc, 2012). The Graph API also enables partners to read and write data into Facebook. Through “Facebook Connect”, a protocol also allows businesses to make all the features currently found on Facebook available on their own websites. For instance the “Like” feature, allowing user actions to show up on people’s profiles, publish actions across their friends’  newsfeeds etc.

a huge volume of data

Facebook is now building an ever bigger volume of data on how its users interact with sites within and beyond its walls. The feature called “Facebook Connect” is a win-win mechanism: the firm gives brands access to Facebook’s users’ real names, email addresses, profile pictures and friends lists. In return, the brand shares the activity of its Facebook users on its brand web pages. Both Facebook and its partners can improve their understanding of users’ habits across the world wide web.

automatic opt-in!

The Open Graph Protocol allows third-parties to access most, if not all, of a Facebook user’s data as long as he has opted in via the privacy settings. Yet, please note that by default all users are automatically enrolled into the Open Graph Protocol (Open Graph protocol, 2012)! [editor’s note: therefore it’s not opt-in]

The volume of participation is a critical component. With the right level of engagement and participation, a social circle may influence another social circle to participate in an external offering, whereas previously, I mean without a “friend” connection, that level of comfort to engage with an external site may not have existed. Brands have the opportunity to track and offer incentives for people promoting their brand.

building the semantic web

Facebook might be able to build a web ecosystem where a user’s needs can be anticipated, understood and personalised for them: it is called the semantic web. The social network firm did understand the opportunities of collecting user data on their interests much more than we could have expected.

Yet, as of today, Facebook is mainly an advertising platform but its business model of Facebook should change from a pre advertising-based model to a combined business model covering: advertising, revenue sharing, merchant, and infomediary services.

1. advertising model

Facebook sells ad space on its site. Like other Internet firms, it is offering personalisation options in online advertising. Facebook helps its clients target their ads at specific groups of Facebook users, based on elements of users’ profile data. In the online-advertising ecosystem, the brand or individual is able to collect metrics and analytics. This means that the brand or advertiser can predict the impact its campaign will have. This demand of brands for users’ data is crucial for Internet players.

One of the issue with the advertising model though is that it is prone to fluctuations due to the economic situation. With the current crisis, Google’ revenues were impacted with a light decrease in advertising revenues in the first half of 2009. However, the main challenge for Facebook is the behaviour of its users: advertising on smartphones seems less efficient than on computers. On the other hand, advertising on tablets shows some results and the growth will come from such devices too.

2. revenue-sharing model: applications and virtual goods

Facebook is getting a percentage of the revenue it generates with applications hosted on its platform through revenue-sharing agreements with developers who created and own the application. Facebook hands over a few categories of public profile data (such as sex, age, location etc.) to the app makers, enabling them to personalise the end-user experience. In 2011, Facebook got 12% out of the revenue coming from Zynga thanks to a 30% revenue share with Facebook (SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION, 2012).

The business of micro transactions for virtual goods is booming. When users purchase virtual goods using Facebook payment infrastructure, the firm receive fees that represent a portion of the transaction value. The opportunity for Facebook is not only in social games. Taking the example of Tencent, virtual goods can be used for many other purposes like avatars and other online benefits internally or through other business partners.

According to the report of Strategy Analytics called “Virtual Worlds Market Forecast 2009-2015” (Gilbert, 2009), the worldwide revenue generated from the sale of virtual goods is forecasted to increase to $17 billion by 2015. Facebook currently requires the integration of a payment system in games. The firm should seek to extend the use of online payments to other types of applications and mobile tools in the near future. Its App centre will come handy.

The use of a virtual currency like Facebook credits (editor’s note: Facebook credits were discontinued in 2012 but will soon be replaced) makes easier micro transactions of real and virtual goods over the Internet. Those credits could be used both within Facebook and on partner websites. The decision to have credits in local currencies should accelerate the use of micro payments over the platform.

3. Infomediary services Model: anonymous social marketing?

Facebook could start charging for access to its user data. User data is potentially highly valuable. Facebook collects a rich set of information from its user profiles. Each profile contains not only the user’s demographic data, but also data about the user interests. Every action adds an additional piece of information: adding a friend, liking a brand, looking at a page or a video…The tastes and buying habits of the users and connections (or “likers”) are much better indications of what the user is likely to buy than are its demographics (i.e. age, sex, and location data…). As a consequence, selling anonymous user data is a good way to make money sharing knowledge of people interests, those people being potential buyers of products.

Application developers could have to share a higher percentage of revenue in order to benefit from user data.

Facebook could dissociate its users’ data from its platform and license it to web data brokers or directly to large CPG businesses, once all personally identifiable information has been expunged. External marketers and advertisers might also be interested to use the data to target ads or other content at potential customers either online or offline. A marketer from CPG firms such as Procter & Gamble or LVMH, could compare this combination of demographics and preference data, and determine similarities with people who have bought their products previously.

The sale of users’ data is a good and easy way to quickly monetise Facebook’s assets. Besides, market insights is another source of cash that could be created through Facebook. With its huge database, the firm can sell specific insights matching the needs of its clients.

4. Merchant model with e-Commerce Transactions: Facebook can become a key tool in the purchasing decision process

E-commerce is expecting opportunities to leverage the existing platform thanks to: a massive logged-in user base; insight into users’ interests; and the network’s ability to generate “word-of-mouth”. Facebook should therefore seek to build payment relationships with consumers; and promote its existing billing system. With the amount of volume of activity and users the firm has at its disposal, extending the current business model with its existing customers is easier and faster (Zhenga Lindgardt, 2009).

The firm should therefore be able to charge a fee based on a percentage of revenue sold through the platform. The knowledge of actual tastes and preferences of Facebook users makes the social network very attractive for the discovery of products and services, and online purchases. Provided Facebook sorts out and improves its mobile strategy, mobile commerce could its first source of revenue as early as 2020. The firm could indeed charge a fee per store and asks for a percentage against each transaction (1%-3% according to the product or service). We can expect Facebook to become a link between a brand and a potential customer through his or her history.

For most users, Facebook is able to carry out the promise of personalisation better than any other e-merchant and deliver a purchasing experience around the data it owns. At the time of decision to purchase or not a product or a service, the social connection gives confidence in buying if the perceived value and benefits of the products are recommended by “friends”.

Nobody knows what the future holds for Facebook, and even though the task is difficult and risky, here are two cents and a projection available from my site at

follow in the steps of Tencent!

As a conclusion, as explained, Facebook Inc. is likely to generate much more revenue from user data through mobile & tablet commerce, and infomediary services in the years to come. The profitability of the firm could increase in case the company follows the path of Tencent, one of the world leaders in the business of micro transactions. The business of virtual goods is growing and highly profitable: Facebook should take advantage of this kind of opportunities.


Facebook Inc. (2012, May). Core Concepts – Open Graph – Tutorial. Retrieved May 29, 2012, from Facebook Developers:

Gilbert, B. (2009, June 1). Virtual Worlds Market Forecast 2009-2015. Retrieved January 21, 2011, from Strategy Analytics:

Open Graph protocol. (2012, March 22). Open Graph protocol. Retrieved April 12, 2012, from Open Graph protocol:


Zhenga Lindgardt, M. R. (2009, December). Business Model Innovation. Retrieved April 23, 2012, from BCG:

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