One of Microsoft’s new CEO’s strengths? He doesn’t finish business books…


When Microsoft’s new CEO was announced last week, there was a great deal of commentary about his  – doubtless very carefully crafted – introductory email to the company.

Part of Satya Nadella‘s description of himself made me immediately empathetic:

Many who know me say I am also defined by my curiosity and thirst for learning. I buy more books than I can finish. I sign up for more online courses than I can complete. I fundamentally believe that if you are not learning new things, you stop doing great and useful things. So family, curiosity and hunger for knowledge all define me.

There are two things that make me like Mr Nadella a bit from reading that quote. First: I do that too. Last night I flicked through the books on my Kindle – there are  so many interesting ones there that I’ve barely started or not started at all. It’s a teetering, digital monument to curiosity and to having an appetite for learning that is beyond my current means (in terms of time, mainly) to support. 

The second thing that warms me to his statement is its echo of what I was talking about in my post last week, Finishedness – realising that you can’t, and often shouldn’t, finish everything that you start. This ability is strength, contrary to the puritan work ethic/completer-finisher fallacy.

Mr Nadella’s email  was a positioning exercise – mainly in distancing himself from the style of his predecessor, the bombastic Steve Ballmer. The latter didn’t talk much about his reading habits – and would be more likely to reel off the number of books completed – a PB roll-call of reading velocity.

In the age of digital superabundance of information, leaders must be curious and hungry to learn, but also mindful that they cannot hope to read everything, to learn everything that they would like to. It’s the larger scale version of FOMO (fear of missing out) – applied to thinking and knowledge rather than social network updates, but the same in essence.

Mr Nadella’s statement shows self-awareness, acceptance of his limitations and a desire for continual learning. Whatever he does with Microsoft in the next few years, in this aspect he has the right stuff to be a digital leader.

Image credit: (cc) Official Le Web photos

First impressions of the Nokia Lumia 920

Lumia copying

Last week I got a brand new Nokia Lumia 920 and I thought I would share the experience so far here.

For the sake of context and transparency and context, my company, Brilliant Noise, is working with Nokia on marketing around the Lumia and business. That said, this is my personal blog and these are my own impressions.

This is not, then, a completely unbiased review (there’s some links to some more impartial reviews at the end of this post). That said, if I really didn’t like it what I would do is stay quiet – as I want to share my experiences, it’s fair to say I am pretty positive.

These devices called smartphones are now so much a part of how we live that a review of the hardware alone (there’s a very good one on The Verge) just aren’t enough to understand what they are like. You need to live with the devices.

Working with Nokia on some projects connected to the Lumia, I definitely needed to not just play with a device, but commit to using it all of the time. For everything. 

Tweet’s anatomy: Microsoft retweet research (Pls RT)

Frankly I think my spell-checker’s a bit of laggard when it comes to the social web. But, bless it, it’s learning fast at the moment…

Every other word or phrase it thinks I need correct.

“Retweet” is a phrase it will need to learn soon, very soon indeed.

Danah Boyd at her colleagues at Microsoft Research have created a draft paper on the phenomenon, called Tweet, Tweet, Retweet: Conversational Aspects of Retweeting on Twitter. It is based on analysis of over over 700,000 tweets (430,000 or so users), taken in samples of five minute chunks between January and June 2006.

  • 36% of tweets mention a user in the form ‘@user’
  • 5% of tweets contain a hashtag (#)
  • 22% of tweets include a URL (‘http’)
  • 3% of tweets are likely to be retweets in that they contain ‘RT’, ‘retweet’ and/or ‘via’
  • 9% of retweets include the users own handle – dubbed “ego retweets” (though the paper acknowledges that sometimes this can be “a way of giving credit” or saying thank you, as i’ve seen it.
  • ‘RT’ is very much the predominant form, with 88% of the retweets using this (Tweetie please take note and change your app’s retweet function).

Retweeting is such an interesting phenomenon I’m sure there will be further studies soon and they will find shifting patterns in these sort of numbers as the practice evolves and/or matures.

There is a nice analysis of the reasons for retweeting (for ’tis now a verb – get used to it spellchecker) including amplification, commenting, making the retweeter’s presence known, qualifying a statement made by someone else, recognition of another, to get more followers and as a form of bookmarking a tweet. It’s not always a postive behaviour and can be “a selfish act of attention seekers”.

It’s a draft paper at the moment, with the final version scheduled to be published in January 2010 in HICSS (Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences) – congratulations, guys.

The authors Twitter handles are @zephoria, @redlog and @gilgul.