The Cluttered Personal Home Of Matt Ridings

"The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes"

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What I Do

What I Do

I'm CEO over at SideraWorks, a social business consultancy I founded with Amber Naslund. We help companies deal with the implications of social media on their business.
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What Is Social Business?

What Is Social Business?

You can download our free brief explaining the ins and outs of Social Business here.
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Speaking Engagements

Speaking Engagements

I speak all over the world at keynotes and workshops for both public and private events. For more information please use this page.
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SideraWorks MasterClasses

SideraWorks MasterClasses

SideraWorks MasterClasses are full or half-day workshops that are devoted to the key elements of developing a social business.
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The Callous Life

The Callous Life 

I’ve been working out a lot lately and I’ve developed these calluses on my hands that really annoyed me. Every time I’m at the gym I look at the metal grips on these bars and dumbbells with their sadistically designed diamond patterns that dig into your hands and I wonder “why don’t they make these things more comfortable?”.

So I move over to the Nautilus machines instead and use their comfy rubber grips. Invariably however, after a few days of this, I make my way back over to grip the uncomfortable metal that rips open new blisters, makes me curse like a sailor, and generally question my sanity.

I’ve come to understand that I actually love my callused hands. They are constant reminders to me that I’m actually doing something. That I’m willing to take a tough and uncomfortable road because the destination is worth it. I want to reach the end of that road with some scars of adventure, something that leaves a lasting memory that an obstacle was overcome.

I’ve obviously delved far into a metaphor here if you haven’t noticed. Whether it’s business and clients, or my own personal life, I can’t help but believe that coming to ‘grips’ with what makes us uncomfortable by clearly defining the purpose of the destination has tremendous value. That taking the more difficult path on purpose has value.

We all have to have our sensitive skin torn away time and again before we can become inured to a ‘new normal’. It’s how we progress. It’s the tendency to protect ourselves from that process, and its accompanying challenges, that holds us back and makes us and our businesses less than we could be. Less than we deserve to be.

Sometimes we will reach our destination, sometimes we won’t. Sometimes the destination will come into sight and we’ll realize it wasn’t really what we wanted after all. But for gods sake let’s make some lasting memories along the journey, because unlike the destination the journey is the only thing you are guaranteed to achieve.

Happy New Year, Let’s go make some calluses

Matt Ridings – @techguerilla

 

image courtesy: sashamd 

Why I’m Rethinking The Gender Issues In Technology – Treehouses

Minecraft head I have incredibly mixed feelings on this topic of gender issues in technology, always have. I’ve also always been a proponent of getting more girls engaged into the STEM fields early on. Carol Bartz (my old boss) was a big influence on opening my eyes to this all the way back in the 90’s at Autodesk when she was heavily engaged in supporting initiatives to do just that.

That said, I’m also frequently annoyed at many women decrying the sad percentages of women heading up tech companies, or sitting on the board of directors, or speaking at tech conferences…while ignoring some very real rational reasons that those disparities exist. That doesn’t excuse the disparity by the way, some of it is without question due to sexism whether consciously executed or not. I simply believe that voices are more apt to be listened to when presenting a complete picture vs. only a selective slice of reality. And the fact that the loudest voices seem to come from those looking to get speaking gigs, or be hired into a leadership position, well…right or wrong it makes me tune them out as opportunists.

We hear about exclusionary ‘brogrammer’ culture that makes it difficult to break into, we hear about VC’s in The Valley who simply feel more comfortable investing in others who look like them, we hear about how the hours and commitments involved in a startup intimidate both the woman and the hiring party because of their increased obligations in our societal structure. The list is long and varied…and nothing new. So what exactly has me rethinking this issue.

I have a 14 year old son. He is heavily into science and computers. He plays all the typical games, particularly multi-player online games. Do you know how many girls he plays with in these games? Zero. Do you know how many girls he even knows of who play these games? Zero. If you were to ask him or his friends if they’d have an issue playing these games with girls they’d likely say yes. That includes the cool ‘geek girl’ who may be into the same things they are.

The question is ‘why’? Based on the conversations I overhear during gameplay, I have no doubt that these young boys would feel stymied in their ability to act and speak freely. At this age they begin to feel self-conscious around girls, and let’s face it, these young boys like to be crude and silly with one another.

Kids Fantasy Land The games have become their equivalent of the last generations old treehouses, it’s not so much about the game as it is a safe place to meet up and do stupid boy stuff. They may not be posting a sign that says “No girls allowed” but they might as well be.

Girls have their equivalent treehouses, but what worries me is that it used to be that these clubs, cliques, groupings, or whatever you prefer to call them really were equivalent among the sexes. Separate but equal. They were physical spaces that facilitated that need when coming of age to feel that you weren’t alone in your feelings. A place of open sharing.

But texting, instant messaging, and cellphones (the predominant means of communications amongst young girls) are considered simple forms of communication, whereas gaming and the culture around it leads to a focus on learning about your computer hardware so that you can make it faster, or programming and networking so that you can learn cheats or run your own Minecraft server.

My son and his friends silently compete among themselves for gaining that upper hand, which means learning more and more about how and why technology works the way it does. The girls they know *use* technology in their communications, but they don’t crawl beneath the surface of it. Their treehouse doesn’t require it.

The tech itself, and the way it is used as a part of these rituals of growing up, seems to be more divisive than ever when it comes to the sexes, while at the same time it’s not even noticed. And it’s happening at exactly the worst ages. These are the ages where we need to have attracted young girls to these fields if we are to make a real dent in the degrees that women seek and their subsequent mark in those fields.

The different sexes need their treehouses, forcing them into each others certainly isn’t helpful. I’m just extremely concerned that we appear to be exacerbating the problem by the very nature of the treehouse itself, at the worst time possible in these kids growth.

I wish I had a simple answer or recommendation to give right here. I don’t. But I plan on spending some time thinking about it. Perhaps you can make some helpful suggestions in the comments below.

Cheers,

Matt Ridings - @techguerilla

 

images via Nathan Rupert & Doug 

Dishing The Dirt: The Social Speaking Circuit

I Have A Secret - SideraWorks

I Have A Secret

I’ve been speaking to audiences professionally since 1994 when I gave my first paid talk on the societal implications of Internet Relay Chat to a large audience of leaders in higher education. Eventually I flowed through the ‘tech speaking circuit’ at large events like Comdex, down to closed events with just a few hundred folks.

Then, other than a couple of pro bono gigs locally, I took a 7 year hiatus. The internet bubble had burst, I had moved on and was focused on a company I’d founded which really didn’t benefit from me having a higher public profile.

About four years ago I dove heavily into studying the implications of social media which led me into the work I do in social business over at my current company SideraWorks. I also dove headlong back into speaking at events, this time mainly on the ‘social circuit’.

I was in for a bit of a shock. The experience of dealing with conference organizers, getting paid, the amounts being paid, the level of respect given, the lackadaisical approach to logistics, the expectations, the contracts, the venue setups. Virtually everything I’d come to know about speaking professionally was…different.

But I’d look around me and see all of these other speakers, speakers I respected and thought vastly more talented than me, dealing with the same system and not complaining so I figured that perhaps it was just me. Maybe I’d been lucky and just coddled a lot in my earlier years. Maybe I just needed to suck it up and play along like everyone else.

But to be blunt, this year has been the straw that broke this camels back.  At SideraWorks we focus more on the internal side of organizations. Company culture, internal education, executive workshops, processes, scalable social structures, etc, etc. You get the picture, we reach a pretty holistic audience. That means we speak at a much more varied set of events both public and private in areas like HR, Legal, IT, Business Leadership, and so on.

Why is that relevant? Because those events have been like a breath of fresh air. The speaking industry hadn’t changed. The social circuit just didn’t conform.

In the spirit of full transparency, let me give you some real data from 2013 alone (so far) in regards to the ‘social circuit’.

  • Five events which we were contracted to speak at went under before they ever got started. Three of those involved partnerships to provide our workshops at their event.
  • Two events wanted to change the terms of our agreement within three weeks of the event itself.
  • One event failed to include us in their onsite printed agenda for the attendees
  • One event decided one week prior that they could only accept PowerPoint and insisted there be no multimedia in the presentation (which presented an issue since there was six minutes of multimedia in the presentation). Yet the person who went on immediately after had a ton of multimedia in their presentation.

I’ll stop there, but you get the idea. Of the events that went under or that we pulled out of because we refused a last minute change to pre-agreed terms, there was a monetary loss in the very high five-figures. In addition, we had bought our non-refundable airfare ourselves so were out those dollars as well.  The opportunity cost of having blocked out that time on our schedule instead of selling it to clients is also close to six-figures, although to be fair we were able to rebook some of that time if there was enough advance notice.

Guess how many events that weren’t on the social circuit we had an issue with? Zip, zero, nada. In addition, I think it’s worth stating publicly that most software/user conferences do a pretty stellar job, even if they are in the social space.

So why don’t you hear more about this? Because the social circuit is a pretty incestuous little space. We all like each other. Even after getting screwed, many of these folks are friends (not to mention the fact that if you depend on speaking on this circuit for your income it’s probably not wise to bash the events).

There are a million reasons why this particular circuit evolved this way, not the least of which is the fact that there were plenty of quality speakers out there willing to work for free and the fact that many of the organizers had never run events like this.

But I’ve always been pretty good at reading the writing on the wall, and if you’re an event organizer in this space let me assure you that we have passed the top of the maturity curve. ‘Build it and they will come’ will no longer continue to work (it’s already failing). You *have* to get ahead of the game financially. You must be able to fund the next event in advance of the event itself (that includes paying your speakers). Pushing the risk to everyone else but yourself is not how it works in the real world.  Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not a business model, it’s a shell game.

We’re lucky, because of what we do at SideraWorks we have a bit of luxury and diversity in the type of events we choose to speak at. Otherwise I’d be just as afraid to write this post as the next person.

I don’t want a lot of specific bashing of events in the comments, instead I *would* like for speakers to tell others what events they work with where they have great experiences. I think that would be as helpful as anything, it certainly would have benefitted me over the last few years.

P.S. – If I’d listened to Scott Stratten and C.C. Chapman when they warned us about a couple of events I’d also be a lot richer. So I highly recommend checking around before accepting a gig, and more importantly…*listen* to what they say.

P.P.S. – I was going to just add this in a comment. But I can’t express enough how important the tiny little details are where speakers are concerned. I’ve never forgotten a welcome basket waiting in my hotel room when I checked in. Or a handwritten followup thank you note, etc. They are cheap, they are superficial, they feed the ego…but they make you feel appreciated and that colors everything about the memory when the speaker looks back on the event.

Cheers,

Matt Ridings - @techguerilla