Jonathan Opp

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Some words of thanks from a new author


The first copies of The Ad-Free Brand showed up at the house on Friday afternoon. So I guess that means, after nine months of work, it is finally out. Awesome.

This book is the work of many people. It is filled with the helpful edits and brilliant suggestions of Jonathan Opp, Rebecca Fernandez, and Rick Kughen, plus the insightful contributions of Kevin Keller, Greg DeKoenigsberg, Paul Frields, and many others. It is a product of the patience and support of my wonderful girlfriend Maggie and my New Kind friends David Burney, Matt Muñoz, Tom Rabon, and Elizabeth Hipps.

There are so many people who’ve helped me out over the past year, and I owe all of them a debt of gratitude.

I thought I’d share the acknowledgments from the back of the book here in the hopes of introducing you to the work of a few of the people who helped me make this book a reality. Please take a few minutes to click through the links and get to know some of these great folks and the very cool projects they are working on. I can only hope you learn as much from them as I have.

Acknowledgments

One day last September, I received an interesting email out of the blue from someone named Lisa who had stumbled across a blog post of mine. She asked me whether I had ever lived in Indiana as a child. I was born in West Lafayette, Indiana.

As it turns out, Lisa was my neighbor and childhood best friend. I moved to Kansas City, Missouri at age 5 and had lost touch with her until I received this email, almost 35 years later.

As Lisa and I caught up, we learned we each had book publishing in the blood. Lisa is a Senior Publicist at Pearson in Indianapolis. I spent the first five years of my career as a literary agent and editor. In one email to her, I mentioned that I had been thinking of going back to my publishing roots and actually writing a book of my own. Lisa introduced me to Rick Kuhgen, an Executive Editor at Pearson. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was writing.

So I’d like to thank my childhood friend and current publicist, Lisa Jacobsen-Brown, without whom this book would probably still be something I was thinking about doing… eventually. I’d also to thank Rick Kuhgen, a true writer’s editor—responsive, thoughtful, and with a hint of poetry to his own words.

I’ve benefitted from the wisdom and friendship of many wonderful people along the journey.

Thanks first to Maggie, my source of energy. This book would have never been possible without you.

Thanks to my mother and father, who I hope see parts of themselves in me and in this book.

Thanks to my sister, Erika, who has been a great friend and confidant ever since she quit telling on me.

To Matthew Szulik, my mentor and friend, for letting the best ideas win. To Jonathan Opp for helping me find a voice. To David Burney, for opening my eyes and making me a designer. To Matt Muñoz, for always bringing optimism and passion.

To Jeff Mackanic, for your friendship and for quietly, consistently making everything happen. To Rebecca Fernandez, for bringing value before words. To DeLisa Alexander, for your faith and friendship.

To Tom Rabon and Elizabeth Hipps, for making each day at New Kind better than the last.

To all of my friends from the Red Hat nation, past and present, around the world. Special thanks to the Red Hat Brand Communications + Design team, a group of the most talented folks I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside.

To Kevin Keller, for your wise advice, guidance, and contributions.

To Michele Zanini, Polly LaBarre, Gary Hamel, and the team at the Management Innovation Exchange for introducing me to a new set of friends.

To Bob Young, Lisa Sullivan, Michael Tiemann, and Donnie Barnes, who were open when open wasn’t cool.

To Greg DeKoenigsberg, Jeremy Hogan, Chris Blizzard, Paul Frields, and Max Spevack, who know more about inspiring communities than I ever will.

To Kevin Trapani and Dan Moore, for inspiring us to consider a better way.

To Alina Wheeler and Jelly Helm, for perspective, at the right time.

To the rest of the Pearson team, especially Seth Kerney, Megan Wade, and Bill Camarda, for all of your hard work bringing this book to life.

And finally, thanks to my other friends who don’t give a crap about brands, ad-free or not. You know who you are, and I appreciate everything you do.

In a tough job market, your open source experience may be an asset in more ways than one


Does this describe you?

You’ve been using open source software or contributing to open source projects for a long time. Perhaps you are in a job where you utilize open source tools regularly, or maybe you are just fooling around with them for fun or to learn new skills.

You’ve been known to tell (possibly true) stories that highlight how long you’ve been a part of the open source world (from “I remember downloading the first version of Fedora” to “I was in the room when the term open source was coined”). But, most importantly, you consider yourself an active member of one or more open source communities.<img title=”” src=”http://opensource.com/sites/all/modules/wysiwyg/plugins/break/images/spacer.gif&#8221; alt=”” />

Did you ever consider that your time spent participating in these open source communities might be more than just good technology experience? That it might prepare you for jobs completely unrelated to using or making software?

In college, I studied history and political science. Not because I wanted to be a political scientist or a historian but because, well… actually I’m not really sure.

But in retrospect, I’m really happy I studied these fields.

Why? They gave me plenty of experience doing research, writing, and learning to articulate my thoughts and ideas effectively. While I don’t remember how Alexander the Great defeated the Persians at the battle of Issus and I can no longer compare and contrast the views of Rousseau and Locke effectively, I use many skills I learned when studying these subjects on a daily basis.

At the risk of sounding like an advertisement for a liberal arts education, let me get to the point.

While you’ve been happily participating in open source communities because you have a need for a piece of software or want to help make it better, you may also be the beneficiary of an important side effect. You may be getting experience in how organizations of the future will be run.

Over the past few years, I’ve had an opportunity to work with organizations in many different industries, including finance, education, service, hospitality, even in the government and non-profit worlds. Many of these organizations are busy exploring how they can better compete using techniques that many of us in the open source world have already successfully put into practice.

For example, some are interested in testing large-scale collaborative projects involving people outside their organizations. Others want to know how to create internal meritocracies where people feel empowered and the best ideas can come from anywhere. Others want to begin to form more meaningful relationships with the community of people who care about their organizations. If you’ve been reading opensource.com, you’ve seen us highlight many examples in business, government, education, health, and elsewhere.

These organizations have a lot to learn from those of you who already have real experience using these practices in real communities.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell introduced the idea that those who became world-class practitioners at their craft (he uses examples like Mozart, Steve Jobs, and the Beatles), have done so in part because they were able to get an inordinate amount of practice before others in their field. According to the research Gladwell cites in the book, a person needs about 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery.

How close are you to putting in 10,000 hours participating in the open source world? If you’ve spent 40 hours a week working in open source communities for 5 years, you may have your 10,000 hours in already.

But even if you don’t yet have 10,000 hours, my guess is you’ve already learned quite a bit about how open source communities work.

So if you believe that the organizations of the future may be run using many of the same principles that are currently being used to great effect in open source communities, and you already have plenty of experience working within those communities, could you be an asset to an organization that is looking for better ways to compete? And could you be an asset not just because of your open source technology skills, but also because of your open source thinking skills?

An example: My friends Dave Mason and Jonathan Opp, who each have well more than 10,000 hours of experience in the open source world, recently entered the joint Harvard Business Review / McKinsey M-Prize contest on the Management Innovation Exchange with a hack deeply inspired by their open source experience.

Their idea? Take the principle of “forking” as practiced in open source development projects and apply it to the way organizations are managed (read the full details of their hack here). Their “Free to Fork” hack was recently selected from a pool of almost 150 entries submitted by people from around the world as one of 20 finalists for the M-Prize. Pretty impressive.

So think about it: Beyond your technology experience, what else have you learned from working in open source communities that might be valuable to a potential employer? Are there hidden skills or ways of thinking open source has taught you that might be worth highlighting in a job interview or in making the case for a promotion or new assignment?

Start thinking of your open source experience as a new set of thinking and working skills that may be very much in demand in organizations hoping to remain competitive in the future.

By doing so, you might open yourself up to interesting opportunities you wouldn’t have considered before.

[This post originally appeared on opensource.com]

Is the traditional business world at war with creativity?


Earlier this week some colleagues and I attended a fantastic gathering of business and political leaders called the Emerging Issues Forum. The theme of the forum—interestingly enough for a bunch of business folks—was creativity, and speakers included some of my favorite thinkers/authors who analyze the future of business:

During their talks, I couldn’t help but notice all three touched on a similar thematic: the crucial role that inspiring creativity plays in driving innovation.

[Read the rest of this post over at opensource.com]

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: 5 tips for competing in the 21st century


I spent two days this week at the Coach K Leadership Conference at Duke. It’s always good to get above the trees for a few days, and this experience was exactly that kind of opportunity. Jonathan Opp did a nice summary post on the conference here and you can see the live Twitter stream here.

Jim Whitehurst on stage at the Coach K leadership conference (photo by Jonathan Opp)

Jim Whitehurst on stage at the Coach K leadership conference (photo by Jonathan Opp)

On Wednesday, Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst gave a keynote entitled “Competing as a 21st Century Enterprise Among 20th Century Giants.” Jim comes at this subject from a pretty unique vantage point: he is probably one of the few people in the world who has run both a 20th century company (Delta Airlines, as COO) and a 21st century company (that would be us, Red Hat).

In his presentation, Jim covered some of the things he has learned in moving from the command and control, military-inspired corporate environment of Delta (which is pretty similar to the structure of many of the other great 20th century companies) to the open source-inspired corporate structure here at Red Hat (if you want to learn more about Red Hat and the open source way, here and here and here and here are some posts that will help). In particular, Jim gave five tips that will help your company compete better in the 21st century world– I’ve summarized them below:

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Ten people from Red Hat you should follow


Most Twitter users have probably heard of the Twitter tradition of Follow Friday, where you take time on Fridays to introduce your friends to some folks they should be following. Well, I’m lucky to be working alongside some awesome people here at Red Hat, and I thought today I’d introduce you Dark Matter Matters readers to ten Red Hatters who say some pretty smart things online.

TGIFFirst, meet three members of the Red Hat Community Architecture team. If you are interested in the Red Hat approach to community-building, check out these three rock stars. When it comes to understanding how to build an effective architecture of participation, very few people have more experience or good ideas than Greg, Max, and Karsten.

1) Greg DeKoenigsberg: Blog | Fedora page | Twitter feed

2) Max Spevack: Blog | Fedora page

3) Karsten Wade: Blog | Fedora page | Twitter feed

As a special bonus, I’m going to introduce you to the newest member of the Community Architecture team, Mel Chua. From what I can tell, Mel may be teaching those three old guys a thing or two about how the next generation will be building community.

4) Mel Chua: Blog | OLPC page

Jan Wildeboer sporting his brand new Red Hat tattoo (10-23-09)

Jan Wildeboer sporting his brand new Red Hat tattoo (10-23-09)

Red Hat has a quite a few folks with a deep passion for open source, but when Michael Tiemann, Jan Wildeboer, Venky Hariharan, and Gunnar Hellekson enter the room, their passion takes your breath away (example: I think Jan got a Red Hat tattoo last night– that is passion, man). These guys are great ambassadors for Red Hat, but also for the entire open source movement. Don’t expect any of these four to just toe the corporate line, though– each of them has interests and ideas that extend well beyond the corporate walls.

5) Michael Tiemann: Blog | Web page | Wikipedia entry

6) Jan Wildeboer: Blog | Identi.ca | Twitter

7) Venkatesh Hariharan: Blog

8) Gunnar Hellekson: Blog | Twitter

And finally, closer to home, I want to point you to a couple of folks in the Brand Communications + Design team that I think are doing some really great stuff online. First, my friend and 10-year Red Hat colleague Jonathan Opp, who has begun actively posting on his blog about brand, voice, design, and culture. You will not meet a more talented writer.

9) Jonathan Opp: Blog | Twitter

The last person I want to point out today is BC+D designer Adrienne Yancey. But it’s not her Red Hat work I want to point you to– instead, it’s a really cool blog she writes about food in her spare time. Her photography is beautiful, and it is worth visiting just to drool over the pictures of edamame salad and okra.

10) Adrienne Yancey: Blog

OK, that’s it for today. I’ll try to highlight some other Red Hat folks doing cool stuff online in a later post. After all there are over 3000 of us now working in about 30 countries around the world– there are plenty of great people and ideas to show you.

Sharing your brand story (and here’s ours)


The most compelling brands in the world tell compelling stories. Whether the brand is Nike (the Greek winged goddess of victory was named Nike, and it all rolls from there) or IBM (Thomas Watson and THINK) or [your favorite brand here], the most interesting brands have great mythologies built up over time. The brand story is deeply ingrained in their actions, voice, look, and culture.Red Hat Story book

It’s been almost eight years since we created the first Red Hat Brand Book. The original book was an attempt to capture the essence of our Red Hat story, to explain what Red Hat believes, where we came from, and why we do what we do.

It had a secondary mission as an early brand usage guide, explaining what Red Hat should look and sound like at a time when the company was expanding rapidly around the world and brand consistency was becoming harder to achieve.

When most companies create this sort of document, they call it a “Brand Standards Manual”, or something like that. But we were young, foolish, and drunk on the meritocracy of open source, so in the first version of the Brand Book, we emblazoned the words “This is not a manual” on the front cover.

Why? We wanted to be very clear this book was the starting point for an ongoing conversation about what the Red Hat brand stood for, looked like, and sounded like, rather than a prescriptive “Thou shalt not…” kind of standards guide.

I hate brand standards that sound like legal documents. I’ve always felt like the role of our group was to educate and inspire, not to police, and we tried to create a document that embodied that spirit.

This year we launched the biggest update yet to the Brand Book. In doing so, we actually split it into two projects:

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On July 19, 1999, I started at Red Hat


Ten years ago today, I showed up for my first day of work at Red Hat.

redhatoutside

A pretty typical view from the Red Hat global HQ circa 1999. this picture appeared in Linux Magazine.

The office was an ugly one-story building in the back of an office park in Durham, NC, a far cry from the monstrous IBM campus I had just left. No longer would I be walking 10 minutes through a parking lot to get to my car, instead we were only a few steps from the front door, which was kind of a big deal for me at the time.

I was 27 years old, and ready to change the world.

At the time, this building was both the only office and the global headquarters for Red Hat, although this would change quickly as we opened offices in Asia and Europe over the next few months. There were about 125 or so people working for the whole company. In the marketing group that I joined, I think there were eight of us, and my first boss was Red Hat employee #1, Lisa Sullivan, who now runs two independent bookstores in Vermont. She had started working for Bob Young in Connecticut, before he joined up with Marc Ewing and moved the company down to North Carolina.

At the time, Marc Ewing and Bob Young still roamed the halls, in fact, Marc sat just a few cubes over from me next to Bascha Harris, who still works with me at Red Hat today. Marc tended to leave his empty drink cans stacked on his desk for weeks, so sometime swarms of fruit flies would descend on my desk after gorging on his leftovers. I’m not sure Marc even knew who I was. To Red Hat folks, I was just another guy coming in from a big company, itching to ruin everything.

The interview process was tough. I distinctly remember being interviewed over the phone by Matthew Szulik. He was Red Hat’s president at the time, and had only been with the company about a year. I still remember him asking me one of his famous interview questions, something like “How will you know if your life has been successful?” I have no idea how I answered that, but I’d really like to hear my answer now.

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Are you a creative in a corporate world? You are not alone.


Last weekend I read a book that Jonathan Opp recommended called In-House Design in Practice. It’s a bible for people who work as part of an internal creative agency within a larger corporation, which is one of the key roles of our Brand Communications + Design group at Red Hat.

inhousedesign

In some ways, this a self help book, maybe even a support group, for creative types. I learned many things about what others in internal agency roles go through, but if I was to sum it up, I’d say I learned that I am not alone. There are others out there operating in internal agencies at corporations all around the world, and they have the same issues and opportunities we have. While the book is focused on graphic design, many of the lessons apply to other internal agency roles– editorial, web, video, you name it.

The book starts with what the authors call a “jaded” definition of an in-house designer:

…a creative person who finds him- or herself–by choice or circumstance– in an alien world ruled by left-brain-thinkers who undervalue, misunderstand, and in general, do not take full advantage of the benefit design can bring to business.

Ok, I’m listening…

As a creative person lodged firmly in a business world, you are a unique character. It can be a lonely post, but you have exactly the same goal as the people who so often disrespect, misunderstand, or step all over your work; you all want the larger organization to succeed.

Yes! (maybe ratchet down the empathy a bit though, people.)

And then comes the key theme of the book:

Chances are… you are never going to transform those people into the same kind of creative person that you are. But you can transform yourself into the kind of businessperson who can very adeptly speak their language.

What a perfect way to start a book about creative work! With some humility.

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Markepoetry Part 2: It Turns Out I Have Needs


My friend Jonathan Opp once pointed out to me that his most hated marketing speak is the phrase “Meet your needs,” as in:

This Extra Giganto Super Widget is designed to meet your needs.

or

Wowzit Consulting and Sparky McSuccess & Sons have come together with a service offering sure to meet your needs.

Now that I’ve pointed it out, you will see this phrase everywhere. And it will start bugging you as much as it does Jonathan (and now me). Today’s Markepoem is dedicated to Jonathan Opp, and is constructed entirely of the fodder that came up in Google when I entered the term “Meet your needs.”

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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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