Friday, November 18, 2005

Collaboration SIG Kicks-Off Nicely

Thanks to everyone who came out Monday night to the  kickoff get together of the new SDForum Collaboration SIG.  I forgot to count but judging from the pictures, about 50 folks come out to meet, mingle, and hear our panel’s perspective on founding, funding, and growing a successful collaboration-focused company.

David Glazer posted a comprehensive transcript of the event, and there’s also a podcast available.  Four days later, three things stand out from the panel’s discussion:

  • The SMB market remains huge and untapped for collaboration tools and services.  Search engine marketing and software as a service are two promising approaches to profitably marketing and selling into this collection of niches. 

  • Keep It Simple Smarty.  Described variously as the “grandma test” or the “mom test” (what’s with picking on the ladies?), if people can’t start using your product or service and get some value out of it without being trained or reading a manual, don’t bother.  This is the obvious one that most everyone ignores to their peril.  If this isn’t keeping you up at night, you’re priorities are wrong.

  • A great way to explore opportunity in the collaboration space is to solve a problem handled so poorly by email that people would switch to a new solution to ease their frustration.

Cheers to our 5–member panel, who did a marvelous job.  It was one of the more interesting panels I’ve attended (not biased of course ;), but in contrast to the other “ad-hoc” events (e.g. Barcamp, 106Miles, BrainJams, SFWIN) I've been attending lately, it felt a bit strange and restricted. 

The bottom line is there’s not enough interaction amongst the attendees and also amongst attendees and guest speakers, which I think is crucial for the SIG to grow strong and make a meaningful difference long term.    Chris Messina and I car pooled back to SF after the event and had a chance to rap about the balance between structure and audience-driven organization being explored by the various *camp events. 

It’s a hard one to navigate — to create something where people who want to lurk and learn can do so while people who want to get more involved can jump in and shape and steer the event, even if they’re not part of the "official” group of organizers. The SIG wiki will help a bit here.

Ultimately I agree with Chris’ sentiment that once you go ad-hoc, you can never go back.  We’re looking forward to experimenting and mixing it up in the future.  Next event in January — details TBA.


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