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The origins of the beefy miracle


Last night I received a message via Twitter from a hot dog.

This hot dog, calling itself The Beefy Miracle, informed me that the latest version of the Fedora operating system, Fedora 17, was going to be named after it. The voting was close, but Beefy Miracle ended up winning by almost 150 votes.

Now I wasn’t involved in the naming or voting, but I was deeply involved in the original creation of this hot dog, so I thought I’d fill in some of the blanks regarding how it came to be in the first place. And for those of you who were also involved, if you remember additional details, please pass them on and I’ll share them here.

Way, way back in the pre-Fedora days, soon after the turn of the century, we were working on the release of a new version of Red Hat Linux (I’m guessing it was version 7.1, 7.2 or 7.3, but let me know if you remember the exact version…). At the time, most companies were beginning to fill up their software installer screens with advertisements for their other products and services. The hope was that, while you were sitting there bored waiting for the software to install, you’d see one of these ads and instantly make the decision to buy something else. Instant revenues! Instant riches!

I’m not sure how well this sort of installer advertising actually worked, but Red Hat was on the bandwagon too, and this sort of corporate stuff was beginning to sneak in to the company. Mind you, Red Hat also had a history of installer hijinks, dating back to the original option to set up “redneck” as your language of choice in the install process (which I think stayed in there until Red Hat Linux 5.1, but was gone by the time I started working there—Donnie or Mike, do you remember?).

So faced with an increasingly corporate installation experience, we decided to bring some of the fun back into the installer and had our designer at the time, Kyle Hoyt, a brilliant illustrator, create some installer screens that evoked the experience of the interstitials at the movie theater. Here is the result:

For us, they were love at first sight, and they actually made it into the installer. But as you can imagine, not everyone inside Red Hat loved them. Some thought the images were not “enterprise enough” for our rapidly growing company (it is hard to argue that a dancing hot dog is “enterprise,” but we tried). I remember more than one heated conversation about turning the Shadowman logo into a comic book character, about dancing hot dogs, and about what we were “doing” to the product with this strategy.

By the next release, the dancing refreshments were gone, I thought forever, until I received the tweet from a hot dog last night. It was nice to see them again, it had a been a long time.

And to know that Kyle’s dancing hot dog was the inspiration for the name of Fedora 17? It truly is a beefy miracle.

Thanks to those of you who played a part in bringing these images back to life. And my congratulations to The Beefy Miracle on your new job!

Facebook breaks the brand permission rules


Back in February, I wrote a post about how Google stepped beyond its brand permission limits with the launch of the Buzz platform, a classic brand mistake (read more about brand permission here or here). Over the last few months, Facebook has also moved into a dangerous brand space, and may be doing permanent damage to its brand in the process.

You’ve probably seen people (or participated in) spewing venom at Facebook about its privacy practices, so I certainly won’t rehash that stuff here. If this is news to you, and you want to see what people are saying and how Facebook is responding, this interview in The New York Times with Facebook’s VP for Public Policy from earlier this week is a good starting point.

So, beyond the (really good) privacy reasons, why is it so bad that Facebook is making more of your information public by default? What’s the brand mistake? Let’s again look to the brand tags site for some clues. According to the site, the top terms associated with Facebook are:

addictive
annoying
boring
college
community
friends
fun
kids
lame
myspace
networking
people
social networking
stupid
waste of time
young

I’ve put in bold a few terms I think are especially important. If I was to put them in a sentence, it’d read something like “Facebook is a social networking site where people have fun or waste time with their community of friends.”

For most people, this sentence describes the service they signed up for. And hundreds of millions of people must value the Facebook brand for this purpose, because Facebook has been one of the fastest growing platforms the world has ever seen.

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The lo-fi communications revolution is not being televised


I have a decent (and still growing) LP collection, and my turntable gets almost daily use. In fact, I often buy music on vinyl rather than downloading it or buying CDs.

One of my recent vinyl purchases was Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. Probably one of the greatest albums of all time, but it wasn’t until I heard it on LP that I really felt like I started to get it. There was something about listening to it in the way it would have been listened to when it came out in 1966. Pops, crackles, and Brian Wilson just felt right together.

But as I’ve made my way around music stores, I’ve noticed the number of brand new releases coming out on vinyl seems to be increasing. And I’ve also seen many bands going (on purpose) for a lower fidelity sound.

I remember the lead singer of a local group here in NC, The Love Language, was quoted on why he liked low fidelity in Spin Magazine a while back:

I’m a real lo-fi junkie,” [Stuart McLamb] says. “I like the [Band’s] Big Pink philosophy — you should have a dog on the floor of a basement while you’re recording. That’s where the best stuff happens.”

A dog on the floor, man! Not some fancy studio in New York City run by rich guys in suits named Hunter and Cody. The places where the dog is invited is where the best stuff happens.

Where am I going with this? I believe that there is a lo-fi movement not only in music but in communications more broadly that continues to gain momentum. Communications that are too high fidelity may not be viewed as trustworthy anymore. Take this quote from the Wikipedia page for “Low fidelity”:

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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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10 more people from Red Hat you should follow


A few weeks ago, I posted a list of ten people from Red Hat you should be following, and promised there were more people to come. For today’s list, the rule is that they must be on Twitter, and I’ve split them into two groups: The first group is all Red Hat executives and the second group is what I’m going to call Red Hat catalysts– people inside of Red Hat who make things happen because of their ideas and passion.

First, here are five Red Hat executives on Twitter:

1. Jim Whitehurst, CEO

Yes, Jim Whitehurst is on Twitter and has been for almost a year. Sure he’s not saying much yet, but he has a pretty impressive list of followers (almost 400 at last count). Perhaps if a bunch of you go follow him right now, he’ll feel the need to start tweeting more often. Make sure to send him a message saying Chris Grams told you to say he’s not posting enough.

2. Iain Gray, Vice President of Customer Engagement

Iain Gray, who I just wrote about earlier this week here, is starting to become a regular Twitterer, which is a good thing for Red Hat, because he has some of the best ideas in the company. The only bummer about following Iain on Twitter is you lose the killer Scottish accent. Find him here.

3. DeLisa Alexander, Senior Vice President of People & Brand

DeLisa Alexander is the executive who spearheaded the combination of HR and brand communications into one group at Red Hat, a subject I wrote about here. She is just getting started on Twitter, but that doesn’t mean you should go easy on her. Ask her some tough questions, like “how much transparency is too much?” or “do job titles matter?”. Oh yeah, she is also a great boss. I’m such a suck up.

4. Rachel Cassidy, Vice President of Global Professional Services

Rachel Cassidy is one of those smart executives who perfectly balances professional experience, diplomatic savvy, and fun. She also manages some of the smartest and best Red Hat employees, the ones that spend their days in the customers’ worlds making them happy. I’d love to see her sharing more of her ideas and experiences on Twitter. Please tell her I said so.

5. Marco Bill-Peter, Vice President of Global Support

You know, I think I have only met Marco Bill-Peter once or twice in person (he works out of our Westford, MA office), but I still feel like I know him well. He’s just one of those people. Workwise, he’s a Red Hat superstar who is in charge of Red Hat support globally. Which doesn’t mean he will fix your server issue via Twitter, so don’t go there. But you can find his tweets here.

Ok, now on to the Red Hat catalysts:

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How to conduct a symphony of communications


The communications profession is in the midst of a revolutionary change (you might have noticed). In my mind, it boils down to a simple concept:

Old model = company has one voice

New model = company has many voices

800px-Orquesta_Filarmonica_de_Jalisco

Mr Conductor sez: we can make beautiful music together!

Ah, the good old days. It used to be easy to go to the “official company spokesperson” to get the scoop on what “the company” was thinking. Now, with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and a bunch of other stuff that probably hasn’t even been invented yet, and the blurring lines between people’s personal and work lives (damn you, Google!), it’s a lot harder for us communications folks to stay in control of how the corporate message comes out.

If you are the head of communications for your company, what should you do? Lock all the doors, scare the employees into online silence, and continue the status quo? This is what some companies are doing. There are very real concerns with how and when employees use social media tools in a work setting.

But ultimately, the shift toward a company of many voices rather than one voice is going to happen whether you like it or not. As Bob Dylan said, “You don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows.”

So rather than forcing yourself into a sucker’s choice of “Should I communicate my corporate story well or allow my employees to be using social media at work?” perhaps there is a better question:

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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.

Gary Hamel: Open Source is one of the greatest management innovations of the 21st century


My colleague John Adams, reporting from the World Business Forum in New York, wrote on Twitter yesterday that during his speech, management guru Gary Hamel called open source one of the greatest management innovations of the 21st century (coverage of Gary’s speech here and here).

Gary_Hamel

Management guru Gary Hamel

I love it. Gary Hamel is a hero of mine, and many consider him one of the greatest business minds on the planet. I’ve written about him, well, too much (start here, here, and here), and I follow him via his website, his non-profit called MLab, and his Wall Street Journal blog.

I knew Gary was familiar with open source after reading his book The Future of Management (one of the top ten books behind Dark Matter Matters). He spends five pages (205-210 in the hardcover) discussing open source and at one point says the following:

The success of the open source software movement is the single most dramatic example of how an opt-in engagement model can mobilize human effort on a grand scale… It’s little wonder that the success of open source has left a lot of senior executives slack-jawed. After all, it’s tough for managers to understand a production process that doesn’t rely on managers.

Here’s his analysis of why the model works so well:

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