My morning routine is pretty, well, routine.
Get up. Wake the kids.
Check email. Ask the kids to stop jumping on the couch.
Check Twitter. Tell the kids again to stop jumping on the couch.
Check my Google Reader. Glare at the kids with that “I’ve asked you for the last time” look.
You get the idea.
This Wednesday morning, somewhere in between conversations with my kids, walking the dog, and getting ready for work, I came across the following comment on a friend’s blog:
Ron, we are listening.
Web Manager, Mentor Graphics
For background, Ron Ploof is the guy who got the crazy idea almost 3 years ago that Synopsys should be doing something in this new world called social media. (Actually, I don’t think the term “social media” had even been coined back then). He evangelized this belief to the VP of Marketing at Synopsys and created for himself a job as Synopsys’ “New Media Evangelist” (actual title on his business card). He launched Synopsys’ first foray into social media, including podcasts, videos, and most prominently, blogs.
Synopsys’ success motivated Cadence to follow suit (something confided to me by Cadence’s former community manager). And it seems, according to the comment on Ron’s blog, it also motivated Mentor’s move into social media.
I wanted to find out more about the Mentor blogs and I was able to set up some time to talk over lunch with Sonia Harrison at Mentor (see her sing at the Denali DAC party) . Sonia had helped me set up my previous interview with Paul Hofstadler and had extended me an invitation to attend the Mentor User2User conference (which, unfortunately, I could not attend). As it turns out, Sonia was the absolutely right person to talk to.
Even though I had only now become aware of Mentor blogs, Mentor had evidently coordinated their launch with the launch of their new website several months ago. Sonia was quite humble, but it seems that she was the driving force behind the blogs and Mentor’s presence in other social media like Twitter. She had been watching what was going on for some time, hesitant to jump in without a good plan, and now was the time.
According to Sonia, Mentor’s motivation for doing the blogs was to extend into a new media their “thought leadership” in the industry, to draw customers in to their website, and to exchange information with customers. Interestingly, Mentor did not hire an outside social media consultant or community manager like Cadence had. Rather, the project was homegrown. Sonia recruited various technical experts and others as bloggers. She developed “common sense” social media guidelines to make sure bloggers were informed of and played by social media rules (e.g. no sensitive or proprietary information, be polite, respect copyrights, give attribution).
According to Sonia, “one of the more difficult things was to get people to commit to blogging regularly. Writing takes time, it’s almost a full time job.” Despite this additional work burden, Mentor has no plans to bring in professional journalists as bloggers like Richard Goering at Cadence. And it doesn’t seem they need to. Simon Favre received a blog of the week award from System Level Design a few weeks ago, so they are doing quite well on their own.
Sonia does not have any specific measurable goals (page views, subscribers, etc.), which I think is a mistake, especially when her upper management comes asking for evidence that these efforts are paying off. My friend Ron likes to tell me that social media is the most measurable media ever and it’s a shame not to use the data.
I started playing with the site later in the afternoon and noticed a few things. First, when I added a comment to one of the blogs without registering, it did not show up right away, nor did I get a message that the comment was being moderated. It did show up later in the day, but it would be nice to at least be told that it was “awaiting moderation”. Still better, why moderate or require registration at all? The likelihood of getting inappropriate comments from engineering professionals is very low, and they can always be removed if need be. Moderation of comments will also kill a hot topic in its tracks. I’ve personally had the experience of publishing a new blog post late at night and waking up to several comments, some addressing other comments. Had I moderated the blog, none of those comments would have even showed up until later in the day.
Second, there was no way to enter a URL or blog address when leaving a comment. It is pretty standard practice to have this feature to allow readers to “check out” the person leaving the comment. Hopefully thay can add this.
On the positive side, the most important feature of a blog is the content and the content looks very good, especially the PCB blogs. Also, there is apparently no internal review or censorship of blog posts, so bloggers have the freedom to write whatever they want, within the social media guidelines of course.
It’s been almost 3 years since Ron made his first pitch to his manager. Who would have thought that the Big 3 and many others would have adopted social media in such a short time. Meanwhile, my kids are still jumping on the couch.
harry the ASIC guy