Archive | Viewpoints RSS for this section

Posting for July 15, 2013


Start with this posting on Software Product Lines.

More On Software Product Lines

Consider the pairings below and how their members relate.

  • information : binary counter
  • binary counter : (switch, register, flag, data)
  • (switch, register, flag, data) : code
  • code : function : routine : application

When we talk about software product lines, we are talking about information and ultimately its application.

Small yes/no decisions.  Larger logical sequences.  Historical data.  Hardware and software components plus that data.  Information systems in support of business.  Business products and services.

Technology can enable these products and services.  Manual systems also, can enable business process and information systems.

Organizations get to a state of maturity around information and the portfolio of application, and begin to ask questions about their efficiency to deliver on these.

Let’s continue to consider pairings.

  • application : service : components & data
  • components & data: core assets
  • core assets : business products & services : technology products & services : enterprise architecture
  • governance of (core assets : business products & services : technology products & services : enterprise architecture)

The business case for software product lines explores these questions:

  • In general, is it worthwhile to mature – to improve – and if so, what is the value and the risk of doing so?
  • Is there specific value in evaluating how we manage components & data?  What is that value?
  • What industry models might aid us to think through these questions?  How do we leverage them?

Is there business benefit in thinking of components & data as Core Assets?  What do we mean by that and what are the implications?

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013

Intro to Software Product Lines


This is the first in a series of postings on the topic of Software Product Lines

Consider that software engineers are potentially the worst people to decide what software to engineer.  Their view is typically myopic, founded in satisfying the immediate demand, usually project-based, executed in silos with limited insight into what Teams B and C might be doing.

The ability to look across the teams, across all the Ask on the table, and to decide if there are efficiencies to be gained in more creative and rationalized delivery, is an ability that Business would do well to evolve.  Many of the competencies comprising this ability are both technical and non-technical in nature.  We will explore these over upcoming posts.

A simple non-tech example to illustrate some fundamentals

A slow-food joint makes burgers.  Order a single, a double, or a triple, and the folks in the back will fulfill the order.  Think of these as small kitchen projects.  They start from scratch for each order – remove the ingredients from various refrigerator units, get the spices down from the shelves, add quantities by eye, mix by hand, shape to arbitrary design, throw the burger on the grill, bun ’em up, apply condiments, side-plate the fries, clean-up and put away all.  A long line of preparers queues up to do the very same as the kitchen is small, and the culture is such that you wait your turn for the limited space and resource, do not work concurrently or in tandem in the kitchen across orders – even for those coming from a single table! –  and you don’t breathe a word to anybody about the contents of your order.  Customers, at first delighted knowing that their food is fresh and made to order, soon become disenchanted with the long waits, the staggered arrival of food, the lack of uniformity in the product, and the declining mood of the eatery’s workers.

Sounds pretty ridiculous, doesn’t it?  And I bet it’s relatively easy to name at least 2 or 3 pain-points in the governing policy, process and the culture’s behavior, that if addressed, would make the establishment more efficient, customer-friendly, and profitable.

A simple tech example to extend the point

  • Business Unit 1 wants to create new product offering for the Customer (or client, or student, or insured, or employee, or patient, or sovereignty, or channel, or some other entity more appropriate for your work and industry),
  • Business Unit 2 wants to enhance an existing product offering for the Customer.
  • Business Unit 3 needs to implement regulatory mandates affecting the Customer.

You kick off 3 separate projects.  You size and estimate, staff, plan and schedule each project, and run each in relative isolation of the other.

It is not long before you begin to resemble the slow-food eatery.

The three project teams begin to work on Customer, meaning source software and data assets, as well as the physical assets where those are instantiated, to fulfill their respective delivery obligations.  Team 2 overwrites the work of Team 1.  Team 3’s business logic is contrary to the functionality that Team 1 desires.  Team’s begin to rig local instances of databases to avoid the queue that’s building there around the architecture and DBA function.  Test data management teams begin to back up, processing 3 separate requests.  Integrated testing environments are booked, delaying Projects 1 and 2, since the Regulatory nature of Project 3 trumps, allowing them sole residence there until further notice.  Project 3 though is somewhat dependent on Project 2’s enhancement.

Business Unit 1 begins to adjust their revenue projections based on delayed entry into the market.  Even the CEO is a bit concerned as she foresees impact to brand.  Regulatory is starting to talk about major fines due to lack of compliance.  In a few months customers will begin to wonder if the grass is greener on your competitor’s side of the valley.

And the music goes round and round – and it comes out . . .

Here – the Uber Effort

In the spirit of this writing, I will reuse an earlier paragraph:

Sounds pretty ridiculous, doesn’t it?  And I bet it’s relatively easy to name at least 2 or 3 pain-points in the governing policy, process and the culture’s behavior, that if addressed, would make the establishment more efficient, customer-friendly, and profitable.

Here’s my list of observed pain points gleaned from the example above.  For starters, the Business would do well to have:

  1. A holistic view of the demand from the business units.
  2. An architecturally integrated view of the work that needs to be performed across the 3 projects, especially since they all 3 are touching on a common set of Core Assets (more on this in future posts).  Consider that what was once 3 distinct and dis-integrated Analysis & Design phases, one for each of the projects, will collapse to One, with each effort inheriting a grander design for the benefit of all.
  3. An integrated Production Plan and schedule for delivery that creates efficiencies in all 3 efforts (appreciate that the line between the 3 projects will blur into something else of greater benefit).  This will create efficiencies in downstream practices for Test Data Management, Environments Provisioning, the allocation of third-party and vendor resources, and much more.
  4. A clear attributing of dependencies and priorities to serve as decision-making guidelines.

We will continue to explore these topics in an upcoming series of posts.  Next week, more on the Business Case for software product line practices, and Core Assets.

This art is paid for and used under Non-Exclusive license agreement with Condé Nast.
Cartoonist: Bruce Eric Kaplan, The New Yorker Collection
Issue Publication Date 01/11/1999
The Cartoon Bank TCB-40677, Image ID: 8298

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013

When do we actually work?

“Today’s meeting will be endless, with a half-hour break for lunch.”

Have you experienced the endless meeting?  Maybe it’s not just one meeting.  Instead,  it’s an endless parade of meetings, starts in January and ends in December – starts Monday ends Friday – 8AM to 6PM – back to back to back.

Have we become a working culture where the meeting is the work?  Is the meeting the only and best tool we have?

Consider that a meeting is time and venue for people to assemble, to check status, discuss issues, contemplate futures, make decisions, create new concepts – essentially plan, check, control, report, and innovate.  Do we know how to use meetings effectively to meet the various results listed here?  Does your organization offer guides on how to conduct these different meeting flavors?

Poll your organization, asking them if the meetings they conduct and attend, are effective and efficient.  If they are not, then when does the work actually get done?

Is it typical for your meetings to start and end 5 to 10 minutes late? Everybody have a conference number, and a moderator code?  Should they? Have these become entitlements? Do we use meeting tools like Outlook and PowerPoint effectively, or perhaps even to our detriment?  Does your team rely on digital tools, more than or exclusive of analog tools?  Are meeting work-products, like agenda, minutes, and a decision log commonplace, and well-managed?  What other sort of work products do you have upon exit from a meet?

Do we actually need meetings?

Is the need to meet (and email and other forms of meeting) a byproduct of how we design our work environments and distribute our team members?   Consider that co-location, open floor plans, and specific design of collaboration spaces, contributes to greater productivity in various ways.

This art is paid for and used under Non-Exclusive license agreement with Condé Nast.
Cartoonist: David Sipress, The New Yorker Collection
The Cartoon Bank TCB-135093, Image ID: 21865

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013

Big Data Offers No Value

“I’ll pause for a moment so you can let this information sink in.”

From data, to information, to analytic.  We pause for a moment, to let it sink in, to discern the shapes, to see the possibilities, to find the opportunities, to assess the risks.

Big data, in and of itself, offers no value.  The value is in big data analytics:  algorithms to enable us to see the sublime, the hidden, the multivariate substrate, the fractal, the organic, the qualitative, the subliminal, the possible, the seemingly impossible.

The output at times is modern, impressionistic art, Jackson Pollock socialgraphs that resemble the endless spirals and birthed nodes, typical of emerging universes.

We discern woven patterns, sense cultural sentiment, see the future, learn from the past, and fine-tune the now.  We do it for the cause, the brand, the shareholders, the storyline, for reasons altruistic.

We seek to better correlate the elements of the mundane, while also gleaning the game changers.

It’s not just comparing apples to apples any longer; it’s apples to oranges to kumquats to rhubarb, connecting a to b to z, to green to yellow, to 2013 retail sales, to last month’s insurance claims for fractures, to bond ratings for all sovereign entities for the last 50 years,  to every Like of every Tweener, to the tweets of every Boomer, and back again to apples.

Occasionally there’s that rare “aha!”  to compel and propel us to new markets and channels, to extraordinary shifts in the accepted point of view, to brave new worlds.

Let it sink in so that we can do something meaningful: market or sell or improve something, create a better We, the next-gen They, an Us greater than the sum of the constituents.

Sometimes we do it purely for profit.

This capability requires that we plan, manage and control, the infrastructure and the analytics lifecycle: platform provisioning, data acquisition, sharing, making it easy to shop and access the mart, assuring informational integrity – semantic, syntax, and lineage – aging, sunsetting, and disposal.

The information will sink in when the organization feels confident about data quality (impeccable and timely), and platform availability (ubiquitous, persistent, and hardened), and accepts the information as an operational given, and not an anomalous and premium deliverable from Information Technology.

Here’s to the next generation of those who will solve world hunger, cure major diseases,  win elections, safeguard national security, or decide the next flavor-themes for Lunchables, using big data analytics.

This art is paid for and used under Non-Exclusive license agreement with Condé Nast.
Cartoonist: Gahan Wilson, The New Yorker Collection
The Cartoon Bank TCB-133982

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013




Collaboration is  . . .

a baton-passing relay team, a chamber quartet, a half-time show, Lennon and McCartney, the kitchen at a 5-star restaurant, the 2013 NY Knicks, first responders, a fire brigade, a flash mob, a ballet company, Jobs and Wozniak, a block party, the food chain, a family dinner.

Collaboration, the art of working with others, where the sum is greater than the parts, but not always.  I offer here some random observations on the topic of collaboration.

Telling it like it is

Those who take pride in telling it like it is, and letting you know that they’re the sort who tell it like it is, and of whom others refer as those who like to tell it like it is, rarely – if ever – like to be told what it’s like.

Sow early, sow often

I’m a believer in getting ideas out into the circle of trust, sooner than later, uglier than prettier, richer than poorer.  I have faith that the human mind is capable of incredible capacity to absorb and synthesize, and works in those mysterious ways, when people sleep on ideas, and ruminate, both actively and subconsciously.  Sow early and often.  There’s a lot to think about, individually and collectively, so try not to allot ideas to the culture like it’s a weekly allowance.  Get the holistic view out there, uncertain of what’s going to stick and what’s not, and allow the organic magic of the organization to do its thing.

And who the heck are you besides, to decide what folks should think about and ultimately are capable of grasping?


I heard it once said that creative and collective works need to go through seven iterations to finally arrive at a sufficient level of maturity where one can consider the idea developed.  I don’t know if seven is the magic number, but it’s a good rule of thumb.

If you are sowing early and often, then you need to adopt this corollary of iteration, and emphasize strongly to your culture that you are an iterating culture.  Otherwise you will constantly be explaining yourself to those who perceive your deliverables as less than adequate, not up to par.

Let them know that they’re looking at a work-product that is perhaps not even 24 hours old and tell them to just wait until another 2 or 3 good minds in your immediate orbit have opportunity to touch it, to riff on the ideas, and it’s 96 hours old.

That way you get the nitpickers off your back, those who have front-row seats in the peanut gallery and serve as the culture’s critics.

Do look for critics though, who might be stylistically challenged, but who actually contribute thought-leadership and constructive iteration, despite their best efforts to detract from the value of their own contributions through some irksome trait.  Welcome these folks with open arms.

Iteration is a fascinating process, part art, part science, a collective journey to the light at the end of the creative and visionary tunnel.

Barriers to Collaboration

In the early 1990s, Apple Fellow Gursharan Sidhu released an internal document on the barriers to collaboration.  He discussed these in the context of a new developer stack called the Open Collaboration Environment (OCE), intended to be the end-all, be-all, of enabling protocols and APIs.

Sidhu cited the barriers as: language, protocol, location, and asynchronous communications.


We need to be talking the same language, perhaps figuratively, more so than literally.  Common semantic is important to enable collaboration; common glossary too.  Words convey concepts; ill-chosen words, or words misinterpreted, will thwart collaboration.  Take time to establish and agree to common verbiage to describe the domain.


Style and formality can enable communication and collaboration, especially when interacting with those who expect it.  Protocol is the wrapper, the header information that ultimately gets stripped away, leaving behind the payload, the information.  Protocol might be required when dealing inter-function, across the ranks, inter-organization, inter-X.  Please note that I am talking protocol as it pertains to human communication here, referring to the formalities that certain groups expect, anticipate as de facto, when interacting.  I am not speaking here about bits and bytes, and the protocols of computer-speak.


It’s gotten much easier today to overcome the barrier of location.  There are a number of tools, audio and video, that compress space and create virtual co-location.  What is still lacking though, is the ability to create for people, the experience of being in a single room, with large whiteboards and plotter-size printouts on the wall, urns of coffee, trays of bagels, and the excitement of interacting real-time, eye to eye, shoulder to shoulder, sensing the momentum and the firing of communal neurons, as you advance ideas and work-products through the 7 iterations.


Talking to someone face to face – synchronous.  Email waiting to be read in an inbox – asynchronous.  Discussion, even being rude and talking over people, in heated, passionate, but constructive, exchange – synchronous.  Email waiting to be read in an inbox – asynchronous.  Enough said for now.


One last thought about collaboration.  Allow time to work its magic.  We are sometimes so caught up in fire-drills of our own making.  Daily fire-drills, weekly ones, drills that go on for months and quarters, that turn into death marches, of an inertia out of control, seemingly.  If we slow down, we’ll lose ground, yet the ground we’re attaining by continuing is slippery foothold.  Teams begin to feel a very unnatural state of human condition brought about by the pressure of believing that there is no time to take the time to do things correctly.

Many will push back and argue that to do things correctly, while desirable, will just not work, as it will take too much time, and that sort of “over-engineering” is just not acceptable in the company of mavericks like us.  Their alternative, while not overtly articulated, but certainly manifest in the behavior, is to continue things as they are, exacerbate the situation, in a perpetual feedback loop that leads to greater and greater stress about Time.

So here’s the paradox:  take time to immerse yourself in collaborative experiences, to save yourself time.  People need time to pore over the possibilities, to explore the angles, to synthesize the dependencies, to resonate with others, to arrive at common visions, to commit to one another, to truly collaborate.

Don’t shortchange yourself on this quality time, believing that it’s got to be go-go all the time.   Daily wall-to-wall schedules of  short bursts of 1-hour, back to back meeting frenzies, where nothing gets done, is not the way to go. Business is not High School.

I’m not advocating that you loll around.  I’m suggesting that collaboration, and the genius of your culture, require various types of canvas to express themselves.  Time is one of those.

This art is paid for and used under Non-Exclusive license agreement with Condé Nast.
Cartoonist: P.C. Vey, The New Yorker Collection
Issue Publication Date May 18, 2009; The Cartoon Bank TCB-129555

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013

Discontinuing The Dummy-Down

The Powerpoint Rangers

Ideas arrive, events occur.  We record them, synthesize, and communicate; we see, we think, we scribe.  Time passes and things temporal become clear, like trends, patterns, relationships.  Collectively we seek to make sense of our norms, the group’s standards, our ethic and code, the ways we get things done.  We mark symbolic and impermanent tracings in sand,  persist time-tested truisms on rock,  stamp our understandings on various papyri, and encode our intellectual properties in digital, binary forms.

Robust content, rich data, explanatory context, deep relationships and synergies among ideas, causal nexus and correlation, marshaled through blood, bone, and gray matter, and then . . .

Death by PowerPoint

  • A bullet list of points
  • Dummied down “thin” data
  • Big font.  Can you see me in the back?
  • No context
  • Format, and not content

Please fill in the blanks between the bullets above with your own reasoning, inferring what you think I mean to the best of your ability, because I am too lazy as a conveyor of information, to do the right thing by you, my audience.

Consider that the average slide in a deck amounts to less text than an average paragraph’s worth of content.  Does all of that white-space on a slide really help to isolate a central idea, to focus the audience on the takeaway?

Or is it just wasted opportunity to offer the greater amounts of information that the audience is yearning for, to have a meaningful engagement of minds, to incite meaningful conclusions, to enlighten and open the ear to calls for action?

“Apologies for the busy slide.”

You’ve heard this before, haven’t you?  But why apologize for bringing more useful information to the table?  And why use a slide at all if all it does is constrain the dialogue?

Try this:  shut down all the projectors in all of the conference rooms for a couple of weeks.  No more slide-ware.  Ban the bullet; penalize people for every bullet they use in lieu of a cogent and meaningful sentence.

Instead, when you gather, just talk about your business, supported by real handouts, tables of real data, and writings of real prose, no bullets.  Exchange well crafted and conceived papers, thought leadership from the functions, 2-pagers, back and front, single-spaced.  Complement with tables of meaningful data.  Get the right folks to pre-read, assimilate, and synthesize the information; assemble and talk.  Put things side by side; draw lines between concepts, and models.

Get the audience aggressively involved, and not soporifically complacent as a result of having to endure the thin information of your PowerlessPoints.

Stop managing the real-estate of your laptop monitor.  OK, so you got it all to fit on 1-slide, and you’ve played with the numbers so the spreadsheet foots.  So what?  Press down on the cover of the machine, toward the keyboard, allowing the hinge at the back to do its thing, until you hear the click; close the machine.

Life after Death

Look around at the real world.  Get out of the office, raise your head out of the cube, and walk around.  Manage the brick and the mortar.  Create relationships with people.  Evolve common understandings and models through eye contact and handshakes.  Whiteboard, brainstorm, noodle the details, get to the Aha!-moments, frequently and regularly.

Discontinue the dummy-down.  Consider that perhaps more information actually makes it easier to understand a topic. This is business – your business.  It brings with it an intrinsic degree of complexity that you will do well to embrace and immerse yourself in.  Don’t gloss over it in 36-point Helvetica.

This art is paid for and used under Non-Exclusive license agreement with Condé Nast.
Cartoonist: Trevor Hoey, The Cartoon Bank

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013


Please see Edward Tufte’s  “The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint”


In corporate and government bureaucracies, the standard method for making a presentation is to talk about a list of points organized onto slides projected up on the wall. For many years, overhead projectors lit up transparencies, and slide projectors showed high-resolution 35mm slides. Now “slideware” computer programs for presentations are nearly everywhere. Early in the 21st century, several hundred million copies of Microsoft PowerPoint were turning out trillions of slides each year.

Alas, slideware often reduces the analytical quality of presentations. In particular, the popular PowerPoint templates (ready-made designs) usually weaken verbal and spatial reasoning, and almost always corrupt statistical analysis. What is the problem with PowerPoint? And how can we improve our presentations?

You Get What You Don’t Pay For

Cause and effect.  Similarly, no cause, no effect. Sometimes, things are very simple.  Don’t be surprised if you cut funding for functions, or reduce focus on practices, or underspend for enabling technology, and as a result, see zero to negative returns for your stunted investment.  You have to be in it, to win it.

No dedicated talent managers?  Don’t expect to experience significant organic growth, or to raise the organization’s competency quotient with fresh external talent.

Minimizing your investments in process coaches?  Don’t hold your breath then waiting for your delivery lifecycle to take hold with the project teams, or expect your culture to evolve its better practices in a timely and effective way.

No funding for environments?  You will see constrained schedules and teams clobbering one another as they contend for limited resources to do their testing and integration activities.

Skimping on Learning?  On Knowledge Management?  On automated testing tools?  That’s OK.  Just forget about professional development, persisting intellectual properties, and rapid regression cycles.

Eliminating the sales staff?  Watch the sales drop.

This New Yorker cartoon is paid for and used under Non-Exclusive license agreement with Condé Nast.
Cartoonist: Leo Cullum, The New Yorker Collection

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013

Don’t Align IT to Business Goals

Consider that you do not want to align IT goals to your business goals.

Just as you do not want to improve the effectiveness of communications between silos. Wouldn’t you rather break down the silos and replace those with a single, cohesive unit?

My arm doesn’t align to the trunk of my body; it is a natural and inevitable outgrowth. Similarly, you want IT to grow out of the business, eliminating totally the need for alignment.

Let’s take a look at a performance framework known as GOSPA, an acronym for: Goals, Objectives, Strategy, Plans, and Action.  It is like Hoshin Planning, a straightforward approach for cascading from strategic to tactic.

Simply put: Goals drive Objectives drive Strategy drive Plans drive Action.

There are those who advocate aligning IT to the business goals. If we take this literally, IT and business would have the same objectives, strategies, plans, and activities.  While this might sound correct to some, consider that this is not a desirable outcome.

The Business has its own very specific goals and objectives, inspired by market, regulatory, sense of mission, community, and other factors.  Information is critical to support business processes that support these aspirations.

The business identifies and seeks to act on strategies for its information.  One strategy, a commonplace one, is to leverage Technology in support of information usage.  The other is the strategic decision to invest in and support an internal IT organization, and contract with it to provision products and services to meet very specific Objectives.

This is where Alignment needs to occur, where IT Goals intersect with Business Strategy.

IT Goals, the top of a new GOSPA foodchain, begin with Business Strategy.  Perhaps that goal is to be the premiere provider of solutions, products, and services, to enable the business to meet its strategies, objectives, and goals.  Or to serve as prime contractor on behalf of the business, for 3rd party technology providers,  IT then has its very own objectives, strategies, plans, and actions, to meet their very specific goals.

Semantics?  Perhaps.  But consider that in this model there is no alignment in the way that it is often used in this context, of IT meeting the Business.  There are not 2 distinct entities that need reconciliation and a meeting of the minds.  Instead, consider a single, organic movement, born of the Business, a natural and inevitable outgrowth, like my arm on the trunk of my body.

Intersection of Strategy and Goals

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013


Folks might ask: why is the consultant here?  There are people on the inside who can do it just as good, if not better, but for whatever reason, are not being asked to do so, are going untapped.

A consultant might work for us in various roles:

  • Responsible Contributor – extra pairs of hands, more human resource to complement our efforts, responsible for specific deliverables under our management.
  • Responsible Leader – someone to orchestrate, manage, lead; an adult who can manage up and down, and sideways, navigate through an event, a project, a program, or one of the other many flavors of initiative we’ve got going.
  • Expert, Subject Matter Specialist – a domain master, specialist in some aspect of technology or architecture or market or channel or industry

And while the extra hands, personality, and mind, of the 3rd party you’ve brought in, might indeed be an asset, know that there might be some of the Untapped who are potentially seeing it a bit differently.

An extra pair of hands can clutter the workbench and cutting boards of proud craftsmen and master chefs.  An extra personality can upstage both aspiring and accomplished thespians.  And who needs more than our 1 resident guru?

Keep your team tapped.  Manage your talent.  Grow from within by regularly immersing your people in the outside.  Be candid in why you’ve had to bring in a 3rd party.  Be sensitive to the reasons why you’ve had to do so; these are clues to where you might be lacking in your own capabilities to manage, grow, and empower internal talent.

This New Yorker cartoon is paid for and used under Non-Exclusive license agreement with Condé Nast.
Cartoonist: Charles Barsotti, The New Yorker Collection

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013

100 Tweets: A Report Card

I’ve reached my 100th Tweet on Twitter, a milestone of sorts, a time to reflect.  Here’s some observations and thoughts.

Whom I Follow, Who Follows Me

I am following 185 Twitter users and 55 are following me.  I’m pretty certain that I am at the lower end of Klout’s index,  but I’m feeling real good about where I’m at and whom I associate with on Twitter.

Mine is a robust and manageable portfolio of Tweeters I follow: news distributors, government agencies, companies, municipalities, foundations, community action groups, thought leaders,  provocateurs, Tweeting on the arts, science, entertainment, business, health, finance, education, and more.

These are the back-end of my Twitter existence, suppliers of information that make me smarter, more attuned, and timely.  Their content and insights complement my own, spurs me to evolve and to innovate.  My back-end prepares me for interactions with my front-end.

People are the front-end of my Twitter existence: collaborators, challengers, consumers, conversationalists, and counselors.  I do not consider this group as potential clients.  I consider them a peer network of wholesome, spirited, bright, and principled human beings: the Tweeters who follow me.

We can steer one another to opportunity, together we can create opportunity, but I would not market to these followers, at least not in the model that I’ve described here.  It’s important to differentiate between a peer network and one’s clients.  It appears that many on Twitter do not make this distinction.

Patterns In The Following/Followed Pools

There’s a lot of riffraff up there, and there’s also a staggering amount of potential.  I’ve found it useful to consider some basic patterns of usage and structuring one’s Twitter space to enable effective use of Twitter resources.

Thought Leader Pattern

Seth Godin, an American entrepreneur, author and public speaker, is a Twitter user.  His approach is fascinating, though difficult to duplicate, especially at his scale.  As of this writing, Seth has 255,602 followers, and he follows no one.  Zero.

The Celebrity Pattern is similar.  Jay-Z has 2.5 million Followers; he follows only 11.

Thought Leaders and Celebrities essentially follow no one, publish their own content, and offer their following innovative and thought-provoking experiences  This pattern can scale large and small,  as might be right for the Thought Leader’s, or the Celebrities,  purview and aspiration.

Two separate Twitter accounts would prove helpful

1 to manage a Peer network, as discussed above, and the other to manage a Thought Leader or Celebrity pattern.  This structure separates your front and back ends, your enterprise so to speak, from your prospective clients, your Market.

Reader Pattern

At the other end of the spectrum of Thought Leaders and Celebrities, are Tweeters who follow the Reader Pattern.  Readers follow everybody and everything, and have zero or very little following.  If they Tweet, they do so for a small group, or for their own benefit.  The Ultimate Reader would follow everything.

Follow for a Follow Pattern

I’ve met users who are following X number of users, and have roughly the same number of followers.  Further, it seems that it is the same people comprising both groups.  I call this the Tit For Tat Pattern, or the Follow For Follow pattern.  You follow me, and I’ll follow you, although it’s possible that neither of us really has much to say.

Curator/Distributor Pattern

Curator/Distributors are users with a healthy balance of Following/Followed.  Curator/Distributors realize that they do not have to follow everyone who follows them, and so the Tweeters in their Followed group are largely not the same Tweeters found in their Following group.

Curators follow a lot of sources, filter and combine those for their Readership.

Regarding Scale

How many can a Twitterer actually follow with any effectiveness?  300,000?  15,000?  750?  100?

And why would a user rely on a push model for information and not a pull model, especially at large-scale?

Consider:  there are 6 Billion plus mobile phone subscriptions out there today.  That doesn’t mean that I want them all in my local phone book.  All I really need is the couple of hundred that I might actually call.  I can always reach the rest of the 6 billion if I need to.

Perhaps it’s a “collect 1, collect them all” mentality, rearing its head here in the digital age.

I am cautious of anyone who is following more than 500. I could not manage anything more than that without sacrificing integrity.  Unless I was professionally aspiring to amalgamate and redistribute content, to sitting on my account 24 by 7 doing nothing but consuming content, or having a bot do it for me, there is no reason for following so many.

My strategy is to hone in on a small feed of content,

I will integrate that content with my own, communicate and iterate on that with my peer group.  The rest can listen in.

When Followed, I am diligent in deciding if I should follow in turn

I take the time to understand who that person is following, and who’s following them.  Go one generation out, so to speak.  Be alert for sketchy characters there on the fringes, those that one is better to avoid, and so block those requests.

I ask of my target follows:  Are you follow worthy and why?

I ask of those wanting to follow me:  Do I and the folks already in my immediate network, consider you inclusion worthy?

Improvement Plan

  • Regularly refine the list of Tweeters I follow to assure broad and deep coverage of topics relevant to the Charter articulated in my Twitter profile.
  • Monitor the profiles of Tweeters who follow me, to find those for the inner-more circles, and those who might need cycling out.

Tweet Makeup

I reviewed my 100 Tweets and found they fall pretty much equally into 3 broad categories:

  1. Tweets of original and thought-provoking work, of a small handful of industry leaders in various disciplines.
  2. Tweets where I am serving as a curator of sorts for a broader population of content providers.
  3. Tweets that lead to my more substantive blog posts, or Tweets that attempt to impart words of wisdom, to invigorate, and to stimulate innovation, in 140 characters or less.

Improvement Plan:

Shift greater emphasis to Type 3  Tweets.   Limit the sources for 1 & 2 to recognized pundits in their respective topical areas.

These are my thoughts for now.  I will certainly continue to revisit and confirm these points of view with each Tweet milestone.

This New Yorker cartoon is paid for and used under Non-Exclusive license agreement with Conde Nast.

Cartoonist: Ros Chast, The New Yorker Collection

© Michael C. Simonelli,, 2013