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Top 10 Dark Matter Matters posts of 2009


Benjamin sez you all deserve some props!

Ah, late December. The time when bloggers get lazy and start reposting their old crap rather than writing new material. We here at Dark Matter Matters are no exception. For the Dark Matter Matters top 10 posts of 2009, I’ve split the list into two categories. First we have 5 posts that were popular with readers, followed by 5 posts that were popular with, well, me.

Five posts popular with readers:

  1. Brand positioning tip #1: points of parity and points of difference: Perhaps it’s the combination of analyzing Mexican food and brand positioning, but this post, the first in a series of tips that I wrote starting in June, is the most read post I’ve done yet on the blog.
  2. Tom Sawyer, whitewashing fences, and building communities online:  Written in September, this post was the first in a series about community-building where I talk about the difference between creating communities to do your work for you and being a humble member of a community larger than just you.
  3. Brand positioning tip #3: the brand mantra: A short post explaining Scott Bedbury’s concept of a brand mantra.
  4. Maslow’s hierarchy of (community) needs: Comparing a company’s community motivations to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, introduces the Iain Gray hierarchy of community needs.
  5. The top 10 books behind Dark Matter Matters: Exactly what it says it is. Books that inspire me.

Five posts that hardly anyone read. Give them a chance, people:

  1. Tom Sawyer Part 2: where can your company pitch in?: As usual, the sequel isn’t as good as the original, but I still like this post, which has really helped me focus some of my ideas on corporate humility.
  2. How to conduct a symphony of communications: Compares the role of a 21st century communications professional to a conductor in a symphony.
  3. Sharing your brand story (and here’s ours): Introduced the Red Hat Story book (including a downloadable copy).
  4. Why did I just write a post about Viking longships: Compares the job of brand manager to the guy at the front of a Viking longship. Yeah, I wouldn’t read it from that bobo article title either, but this is the kind of post that makes me happy.
  5. Markepoetry Part 2: It turns out I have needs: Talking about making (only) myself happy, no list of the Dark Matter Matters posts that no one reads would be complete without including one of my pieces of markepoetry– the language of marketing, made beautiful. Basically, I take real statements that I find in marketing copy and transform them from ugly marketing-ese into poetry. I thought this one was nice.

So as we close out 2009, I just want to say thanks for everything.

I’m approaching one one year of writing this blog, and it sure has been a lot of fun. I still can’t believe I’ve written over 100 posts. What has made it the most fun for me is getting to meet lots of new people, while also becoming closer to people I already know.

I’m looking forward to 2010. I’m sure we’ll have lots to talk about.

The story of how we uncovered the Red Hat values


One of the first things many new employees notice when they step inside Red Hat is how deeply held our corporate values are within our walls and how much they impact behavior within the company. The values aren’t just words to most Red Hat folks, and they show up in conversations and in actions on a daily basis. Today we probably take for granted that it has always been that way.

The four Red Hat values, in balance.

But it wasn’t. Back in 2002, I was one member of a team tasked with figuring out Red Hat’s corporate values. At that time, the company was still pretty small– about 500-600 employees.

I must admit at first I was pretty jaded about the whole corporate values business. The concept of corporate values made me think of those Successories motivational posters with a photo of a bear in the middle of a stream with a fish in his mouth and a word like “ACHIEVEMENT” in all caps at the bottom. Or whatever. Most corporate values systems didn’t seem authentic to me or were just plain lame.

The values team was made up of a cross section of folks from across Red Hat: Sean Witty, who did biz dev and M&A; Mark Cox, a security guru who is still at Red Hat; Jeremy Hogan, one of the original Red Hat community managers but who at the time was working in support; Paul Salazar, who I’ve written about before in this blog here; Jonathan Opp, who is still in the Red Hat brand team and did a lot of the original writing of the values descriptions; and myself.

We quickly decided we didn’t want Red Hat to end up with just some lame words to put on posters. We wanted to do this values stuff right.

Paul Salazar knew Jim Collins from Stanford, and encouraged each of us to read Collins’s book Built to Last (which is one of the Top 10 Books behind Dark Matter Matters). In it, Collins talks about the characteristics common to great, enduring corporations. According to him, the most important thing great companies shared was having deeply held values and core purpose. From the book:

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Jim Whitehurst video: Competing as a 21st century enterprise among 20th century giants


The Duke Fuqua School of Business just posted Jim Whitehurst’s presentation from their Coach K Leadership Conference entitled “Competing as a 21st Century Enterprise Among 20th Century Giants.” I referred to it a while back in a post entitled Jim Whitehurst: 5 tips for competing in the 21st century.

Watch a stream of the whole talk here or click on the image above.

I think it is fantastic, but would love to hear what you think.

Pollan’s potatoes and the spread of ideas


Last weekend I watched The Botany of Desire. In this PBS documentary I streamed off Netflix, Micheal Pollan (the foodie hero who brought us The Omnivore’s Dilemma, a book also called The Botany of Desire, and the documentary Food, Inc.) examines the natural history of the spread of four plants: apples, tulips, potatoes, and marijuana, but with a twist– he tells the story from the plants’ point of view.

Man, I love stuff like that. By switching the perspective, Pollan is able to show how each of these plants has manipulated humans into propagating it far and wide throughout the world. For example, apples are indigenous to the mountains of Kazakhstan and potatoes to Peru, but now both can be found pretty much everywhere. And wait ’til you watch the section about marijuana, a plant that has managed to get many humans to raise it better than their own children.

I thought it might be interesting to take Pollan’s trick, but rather than apply it to plants, apply it to ideas. Get all anthromorphic and consider how ideas get us to spread them.

There are tons of people out there looking at how ideas spread, probably most famously/recently Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point. But what if, for a second, we take the perspective that the ideas might be using us the same way flowers use bees.

Early in human history, ideas weren’t particularly good at getting us to do their bidding. Heck, the idea for inventing paper first showed up in Egypt over 5000 years ago, and it couldn’t even get humans to take it one continent away to Asia. The idea for inventing paper appeared in China independently about 3500 years after it appeared in Egypt, according to what Wikipedia tells me.

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Is open source creating jobs?


On the heels of last week’s White House Jobs and Economic Forum, President Barack Obama announced a series of job creation ideas today in a speech at the Brookings Institution.

As I mentioned in my last post, Red Hat’s Jim Whitehurst was one of two technology industry CEOs who attended the White House forum last week, the other was Eric Schmidt from Google. Two things Red Hat and Google have in common? We are both strong supporters of open source and we are both hiring.

But this morning I had another thought– beyond the jobs at Google and Red Hat, are we– and other companies in the open source community– helping create jobs at a broader level? Meaning, are the products, services, and innovations of open source companies creating job opportunities for people who use what we make?

To find some data, I turned to Indeed.com, a search engine for job seekers that also has a fascinating job trends tool you can use to search on how often a particular term appears in job listings.

As a baseline data point, I looked at the chart for “receptionist,” a common job that might be a decent bellwether for job trends. The chart looks pretty much like you might expect:


receptionist Job Trends graph

Not great news for any receptionist looking for work. This term had once appeared in almost 2% of job postings, now it is hovering right below 0.8%.

Next, for some overall industry perspective, I looked at their page on Information Technology job trends. Not a lot of good news here either, unfortunately. These two pieces of information were disturbing:

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Jim Whitehurst: How to create jobs the open source way


Fantastic blog post by Jim Whitehurst today on redhat.com called Creating jobs the open source way. As Matt Asay reported yesterday, Jim Whitehurst was one of only two technology CEOs present at President Obama’s Jobs and Economic Forum (the other was Eric Schmidt of Google) at the White House.

Red Hat CEO and President Jim Whitehurst

In his post, Jim makes a clear link from the open source way to innovation to jobs. I love the closing paragraph, which I’ve included below:

“Red Hat has built a successful, growing S&P 500 business on the power of open source, not just as a development model, but as a business and organizational model. While ours isn’t the only solution, I do believe business, government and society can unlock the value of information and create good, long-term jobs by sharing and working together.”

The White House has streaming video of all of yesterday’s events here.

I also found this article, which provides further information on a few of Jim’s points about national broadband infrastructure development, very interesting.

More proof that sharing is good, von Hippel style


Our video called the Red Hat Way starts:

“Your mother was right. It’s better to share.”

There’s more proof that your mom was right in the business world every day.  Today in Orlando, experts from around the world are gathering for the inaugural Open Innovation Summit, highlighting companies like Proctor & Gamble, Mozilla, Xerox, and Johnson & Johnson who have seen success with collaborative innovation. My company, Red Hat, has also done pretty well with this approach.

Now, in a new working paper released yesterday entitled Modeling a Paradigm Shift: From Producer Innovation to User and Open Collaborative Innovation, Eric von Hippel and Carliss Baldwin examine the body of research to draw some conclusions about why more people are moving away from simple producer/consumer models to open collaborative innovation models.

You may have heard of Eric von Hippel, one of the world’s leading experts on open innovation. I like that he’s written about open source many times before, including in his 2005 book Democratizing Innovation and in his 2002 HBR paper Customers as Innovators.

In this paper, von Hippel and Baldwin argue that the number of places where traditional 20th century “producer” innovation (companies making products for users without collaborating with them) makes sense is rapidly shrinking. Why? From the paper:

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Hey, I Wrote a Book!

The Ad-Free Brand: Secrets to Building Successful Brands in a Digital World

Available now in print and electronic versions.

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