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Welcome back for our June installment of the How I Work series! I'm very excited to introduce communitygecko, who is a seasoned community manager with his own business to help people with community management! Rob came to mind when I was thinking about our next interview because he does such a stellar job in the community and totally rocked at being our Peer-to-Peer External Community manager earlier this year. I also thought it would be awesome to hear from someone who is trying new things as a community manager because it's such a diverse job. It should come as no surprise that Rob gave us an awesome interview, so keep on reading!




Where do you work?

Shapiro Cloud. I just started this business after almost 20 years at Oracle and 6 years at Sybase and I'm simply loving it! A very loooonnngg time ago I actually had my own business called Dynamic Solutions in the 1980's where I developed accounting applications and many things I learned then I have brought forward to Shapiro Cloud. It will certainly take a lot of hard work, but I am very happy with the freedom and flexibility. Shapiro Cloud will focus on idea exchange, online communities, strategy and support. This will also let me develop 2 dreams I have: an idea exchange product (I've started putting together mock-ups) and a community-for-the-community called Community Gecko (community thought leadership and practice expertise).


Something else I can do here without hand-cuffs is blog. I enjoy blogging and have years of pent up ideas. Just recently, based on a recent discussion with a prospective customer, I blogged on a revelation I had about the relevancy of community replies and content. Community Relevancy is only the beginning of a new blog series on the topic and something the industry should seriously consider.


How would you describe your current job?

Well, as described I am just starting and with that comes the uphill road to secure new customers or work, setting up and a ton of learning on topics such as promoting what I do (or want to do), legal, accounting, etc. While doing all of this, I continue to participate in communities like here in JiveWorks, CMX and others. I also continue mentoring in those communities as well. Please ask me this question again in 1 year!


I also want to mention that I was the Jive Peer-to-Peer External Manager for a 3-month rotation and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Great people and really interesting topics will do that to anyone. In fact, I could not resist a blog to answer a question in more detail. See Glass Door To Gated Communities (link is a cross-post from the original I wrote here in Jive).


How do you use Jive at work (internal community, external community, etc.); what use cases does it serve for your company?

Haha – I am currently platform-less. For my last 6 years at Oracle I was immersed in Jive full-time. I founded My Oracle Support Community, a gated community for paying customers. At the same time, I helped Oracle at large employ internal communities for all kinds of work whether it was for a specific purpose, a specific team or group, a specific location or a specific project/purpose. An important use case involves spearheading the effort of all external communities under one umbrella, Oracle Community. While I can't say it was completely successful, I can say that we convinced executives it should be done and that led the way for marketing, support, user groups and acquired product areas to join the party.


What about your community/communities are you most proud of?

Innovation and integration. I'm an avid and passionate fan of getting away from all who continue to call communities "forums or discussion forums." In my humble opinion, a great community, one I hope everyone would strive for, is an engaging platform that is tailored and optimized for the customers and audience. On the one side, this means culling the pieces that make sense (i.e. discussions, document sharing, ideas, blogs, polls, etc) and is meaningful. Don't enable a feature just because it is there. On the other side, it is realistic (and we proved this at Oracle) that you want to try to make the community Grand Central Station in anticipation of user needs, expectations and simplicity of use and for that to be realized you need to look deeply at the other things users are doing and find a way to bridge that to your community.


Great examples of the innovation and integration we did at Oracle included implementation of idea exchange (see Your Idea Counts!), patch reviews, support calendar and integration with support portal (search, ask a question) – all leading edge, even today.


What's your computer situation... Do you use a Mac or PC (or something else)?

PC. I go kind of very far back to the dawn of micros and minis and have fundamentally tried them all from Commodore to Altos to DECmate to Rainbow to Apple/Mac and now PC since Windows 95. I was on a Mac at Sybase originally for the graphics, but after a series of "green screens" (and re-installing the OS as many times to fix it) as well as more software availability on a PC I switched and never looked back. Sure, I traded green screens for blue screens but ever since Windows XP then Windows 7 and now Windows 10 I have never had blue screens, there is still more software on a PC than a Mac and we could argue this many ways but PC's have fundamentally have caught up to Mac in many regards (Mac is still better for some sound and graphics stuff, but not by much).


Tell us what you use for your mobile device?

Samsung Galaxy 7. Like many, I really only use it for texting, phone and games at the airport. I'm a bit cautious (wary, even) about how secure the device is so I'm not a fan of many apps available (with one exception, that being my iWindsurf app so I can see if it's windy and where to go). As a previous huge fan of Blackberry, my next upgrade might go in that direction as they appear to have Android OS on it. The biggest reason for this thought is that I have always loved a keyboard I can touch and work easily (not to mention memorize to help my poor eyes).


Pick one word that best describes how you work.

Honesty. This is a curse and blessing, but the blessing outweighs the curse and, hey, I'm from NY where truth is king and queen. No BS – we don't tolerate that! Seriously, honesty is really, really important in all walks of life be it family, friends, peers, customers, suppliers and even people you don't know (first impressions can be everything).


Besides Jive, what apps/software/tools can't you live without?

Oh gosh, this list is big.


Just on my PC alone, I would say (alphabetical, and links for the lesser known ones): Adobe Bridge, Astroburn Pro (burn DVD for backup), Affinity Designer (bye-bye Adobe Illustrator - I have a local license and it's as good or better), Axialis Icon Workshop, Balsamiq (mockups), Ccleaner (best utility for Windows and it's free with a few other good ones they do), Camtasia Studio, Corel MotionStudio 3D (used to be Ulead Cool 3D!), Dreamweaver, eM Client (the poor man's Outlook, but better), Everything (best Windows search), Freeraser (best secure delete), Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), PDF Creator, Photoshop (but starting to look at Affinity Photo), Readerware (for my massive record and book collections), Sound Forge Pro (have been using this since the Sonic Foundry days, was bought by Sony and now, recently, bought by Magix), SureThing (CD/DVD labeler including laser), SWiSH Max4 (flash development, made by ex-Macromedia people - yes, I still use it even though they are now out of business), SnagIt, VideoLAN, WordPress and Webroot Secure Anywhere. What's remarkable about this list is that I pruned what I use so that all the above works well together (this after many years of trial and tribulation!).


I was going to spare you the internet list but I think it's too important and want to spread the good news (and the list is shorter)! So, here we go with what I consider the most important ones: NoMoRobo (stop those calls at dinner!), Zoom (I like it better than Skype and others), LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Meetup (lots of great meetings/events to attend), Simbi (the "symbiotic economy" – I love using this site!), Lorem Ipsum, HTML Color Codes, CSS Gradient Generator, Pure CSS, Font Awesome, Google Fonts, CSS Menu Maker, iWindsurf (again ) and Hualalai Estate Coffee (with all of the above going on, you need this "tool" – best coffee in the entire world!).


You asked .


Do you have a favorite non-computer gadget?

Does Mr. Bill count? Gadgets are things you play with or use (or in the case of Mr. Bill - abuse), right? I saw every SNL Mr. Bill show and have all his VHS tapes (which I converted to DVD). When things aren't going well, I become Sluggo doing terrible things to my pliable Mr. Bill and .....


Ohhhh Noooo!!!



What you surround yourself with is important, what's your work space like?

I am immersed in musical artists. In front of me are posters and mementos from the ChickenFoot and Joe Satriani concerts I attended. To my left is a print of Nash The Slash:

Behind me is my very large library of LP's (1,000's) and CD's (1,000's more). Above these 2 bookshelf stacks of LP's and CD's are photos of Jimi Hendrix, Steve Vai and collage of ticket stubs of the many concerts I have attended.


What do you listen to while you work?

Never while I work, way too distracting to me. When I listen to music I really listen as opposed to being in the background. One of the toughest questions on earth, IMHO, is who are my favorites? Here is a sample of what I like so you get the idea (and I would add that I am listing bands I have seen in concert at least once!): Tears For Fears, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, DreamTheater, Buddy Guy, Jethro Tull, Peter Gabriel, Santana, Heart,  Boston, FM (with Nash The Slash), The Doors, Joe Satriani, Larry Coryell, Ten Years After, Foghat, Blue Oyster Cult, Peter Frampton's Camel, Joe Walsh & Barnstorming, Eric Clapton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Doobie Brothers, Iron Butterfly, Frank Zappa, The Marshall Tucker Band and Steely Dan.


Don't ask for more, there isn't enough storage at Jive.


By the way, I went to school with Daryl Thompson (Black Uhuru) in the 70's (his father was the famous 50's and 60's jazz musician Lucky Thompson).


What's your best time-saving trick?

It's not so much a trick but rather a philosophy. You start with good organization, you continue with good maintenance and you end with completion. Sounds simple, but it requires discipline. I always hear about someone being so busy they can't answer a simple question in an email in a timely manner. To me, that person is not as well organized and/or disciplined as they could (or should) be. When at both Sybase and Oracle, I dealt with 100's of emails daily. Pacing myself, no email ever went unheeded or unanswered for more than a few days. I love lists, tables, templates and other organization aids and I think this helps to keep me organized (and my ability to be responsive).


How do you balance work and life?

It took a while, like years, but I discovered there is really a switch inside and you just have to learn how to turn it off. Having passion for something outside of work helps distract you and find that switch. When I go windsurfing, if I am not thinking about wind, waves, swells, other windsurfers/kiters, water or land hazards, etc. I'll pay the piper. This actually helped me turn the switch inside in almost all other regards. Having said that, I have to admit that when going on a plane for vacation work is not so easy to switch off right away and it takes me the better part of 1-2 days. Thereafter, I am fine and it's turned off. Coming home from the same trip, again I have to admit, you can't help but start thinking of what you are coming back to.


What's your sleep routine like?

Sleep? Sleep?? What sleep??? Despite being here on the west coast, I go to bed early and wake up early. I partially blame it on Sybase when I had to work all kinds of technical support shifts until settling down to the 6AM-3PM shift. Once I established that routine, it stayed with me to this day. The side benefit of such a routine is that during the windsurfing season, I am sailing at 3PM! By the time I come home and eat dinner, after a work day and all that exercise I am ready for bed only to wake up the next day and do it all over again.


Are you more of an introvert, ambivert or extrovert?

On average, I'm probably an extrovert but it's one of those things that is very situational. Socially, I'm a talker for sure but I'm also very private. Does that make me an ambivert? Possibly. In some situations I'm clearly an introvert. When you sum all of this up, to use something from the Dune series (I'm an avid sci-fi buff), perhaps behaviorally I'm a "shape changer"?


What's the best advice you've ever received (and from whom)?

My manager from when I was managing the Sybase MPP (massively parallel processing) sustaining engineering team, Stuart Thompto, gave me the best advice ever through his actions. Namely, learning how to be pragmatic! I have always, to this day, considered this the best advice anyone has ever given me. My wife Susan is also very pragmatic, so it's a constant reminder of what I learned from Stuart.


Can you share a few photos with us?

One of my passions in life, not to mention the best stress reliever,

is windsurfing which I have been doing since 1985,

Here, fun in Maui where I go every year!



My wonderful and beautiful wife, Susan.

Here after giving birth to our son Aryien.

My fantastic daughter, Aja.

Here are a few of her (with us) at graduation ceremonies

just a few weeks ago from Colorado State University.


My incredible son, Aryien.

He's the lead guitarist (known as The Professor) for a local

rock'n'roll band here in the SF Bay Area called Chronic Vitality.

Photo on the upper left - they won Battle Of The Bands

about 5 years ago at the DNA Lounge in SF.



Thank you for sharing, Rob! It's awesome to see how you've branched out and are setting off on a path to do what you love and help build better communities. As a side note, I've bookmarked all the software and tools you use. I never realized what I was missing out on!

Given the sophistication of the consumer apps we use in our personal lives, it’s shocking how far behind many companies still lag with these experiences.


Too often the focus of corporate intranets and other enterprise tools are on pushing one-way content rather than enabling vibrant multi-directional engagement between employees.


If your disengaged employees outnumber your engaged employees, or if your digital workplace lacks executive involvement, you may want to reassess what you need improve so you can start taking things to the next level. If you do nothing, it won’t be long before your organization’s productivity and strategic alignment suffer — if they aren’t declining already.



6 Signs of a Flawed Digital Workplace

Tackling a big challenge like this often comes easier by finding small wins you can achieve quickly. What follows are six common digital workplace shortcomings you should take on sooner rather than later:


1. Static Intranets

Putting information out there with the hopes that “if you build it, they will come” no longer works — if it ever did.


If that’s still your digital workplace approach, switch to a more interactive solution that drives engagement and collaboration through a network and activity hub. Make sure it integrates across applications to bring employees’ work into a common experience that captures corporate memory and makes it visible and searchable across the entire organization.


2. Siloed Search

Given that the average worker wastes nearly two hours a day looking for information, and the average enterprise has data spread across 329 business applications, enterprise search should be a top area for improvement within most digital workplaces. A collaboration hub can help with this by aggregating data across systems, analyzing work behavior patterns and then ranking content based on the relative strength of people’s interactions throughout the workgraph.


3. Lack of Reporting or Analytics

All your digital workplace improvements will go to waste if you don’t put in place tools to effectively measure and monitor adoption and engagement. By uncovering insights about community health and your organization’s employees, you’ll know whether your company is realizing the full potential of its digital workplace.


As a bonus, employees will gain better visibility into the impact of their work.


4. One-Size-Fits-All Experiences

A successful digital workplace's ability to target relevant and contextual information to the right people should constantly be improving. Each and every individual should receive a deeply personalized experience which offers up valuable information — even when employees aren’t explicitly seeking it.


Thanks to artificial intelligence, many workplace solutions are finding new ways to surface timely and useful content, connections and places right within the context of the worker at the moment.


5. Old-School Interface

No one wants their work slowed down by clunky circa-2000 business applications. Make sure your company provides employees with user experiences that offer intuitive workstreams and simple interfaces so they can more easily get work done.


Consider solutions that cater to specific functions or industries (i.e. internal communications, HR, customer support, healthcare and government) to deliver broad and strategic impact on employee engagement, worker productivity and organizational culture.


6. Desktop-Only Access

It goes without saying that today’s employees are mobile. They want access to their work information anywhere, anytime, on any device and delivered by a UX that’s as delightful as any consumer app. With the rise of remote workers, companies should prioritize making their digital workspaces available in enterprise-ready, purposeful mobile experiences that help people stay productive.


Achieving Digital Workplace Maturity

Now that we’ve gotten an initial to-do list out of the way, let's put your digital workplace within a broader context using the digital maturity scale below. As companies start to improve employee tools and applications with the latest and greatest technologies, their digital workplaces will advance through several phases:



This kind of technology evolution can dramatically increase the business value your digital workplace delivers. When employees increase their digital communications, knowledge sharing and collaboration skills, they’ll ultimately drive greater innovation and impact to the bottom line.


Of course, if this was an easy process, every company would be at the top right of the scale. But before you can reach those heights, consider these points:


Typical Barriers to Communication and Knowledge Sharing

Static intranets based around content and information fail to effectively uncover employees’ true expertise, experience and knowledge. This missing people element is exacerbated when intranets generate too much information, most of which is irrelevant to the end user.


In order to cultivate a healthy digital workplace, don’t just give people more content, focus on encouraging employees to leverage social tools — like commenting, discussions, liking, ratings, etc. — that capture their intrinsic knowledge, enrich the content, enable bi-directional communications and drive engagement.


Another opportunity is to analyze an individual’s content consumption, contributions, searches and community membership in order to provide helpful visibility into that person’s interests, skills and previous customer engagements (while at the same time personalizing their own digital workplace).


The Next Frontier: Spurring Innovation through Borderless Collaboration

Moving even further along the digital maturity scale, enterprise collaboration technologies are crucial for fostering the exchange of expertise and knowledge across your organization’s network. Break down the all-too-common information silos that result from most companies’ fragmented applications, systems, teams and locations.


Most employees conduct their day-to-day activities across a multitude of technologies, which by integrating into a single digital workplace hub, allows a 360-degree view of business activity. This makes collaboration more efficient, across communities within the company and beyond.


Many of today’s business activities cross corporate boundaries into partners, clients and other entities. As digital workplaces mature, they should support borderless communities to encourage collaboration between internal experts, customers and other third parties across an expanding business ecosystem. If your company wants to compete in today’s economy, it must engage with these broader networks in order to create new value chains, share knowledge or improve existing business activities.


Businesses that deliberately focus on moving up the digital maturity scale can achieve a state of continuous innovation. And that will impact metrics like productivity, employee and customer satisfaction — and even shareholder value.



About the Author

Sean is Vice President and Head of Solutions Consulting at Jive Software. Previously, he led Jive’s strategy and business consulting practice for the East, South, Federal, Latin American and Canadian regions focused primarily on the implementation of Jive in Fortune 500 companies.

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