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Book Review - Opting In: Lessons in Social Business from a Fortune 500 Product Manager by Ed Brill

Category Book Review Ed Brill Opting In: Lessons in Social Business from a Fortune 500 Product Manager
Opting In: Lessons in Social Business from a Fortune 500 Product Manager

Having worked with Notes and Domino software since the mid-90's, I've known Ed Brill (or at least known of him) for at least 15 years. Over that time, I've seen and been part of the move from business conducted at an analog pace to things happening at the speed of digital. Ed asked me if I would be willing to read and review his first book Opting In: Lessons in Social Business from a Fortune 500 Product Manager. It's a bit of a quandary, however... If I review the work of a friend or colleague and I don't like it, do I go ahead and review it regardless (knowing that may make for some awkward moments)? Or, if I like it and say so, does it mark me as a shill because I know the author? Fortunately in this case, I don't have to worry about the first scenario, and I really don't care what people think concerning the second. Opting In is a well-written book on how a successful product manager needs to be "out there" in order to be successful in today's world, as well as showing ways to make that happen.

Why Social Business?; The Social Product Manager; Self, Product, or Company; Offense or Defense; Picking a Fight; Activate Your Advocates; Tools of the Trade; In Real Life; Social Inside the Organization; Risk Management in Social Business; Putting Opting In into Practice; Appendix A - IBM Social Computing Guidelines; Index

Each chapter relies heavily on Ed's experience and experiences over his time managing the Notes/Domino product portfolio. Conversational in tone, the material is dosed with real-life examples of situations that occurred (many public, some less so). He offers up his thoughts and reasons behind why things were done as they were, as well as analysis as to why some things didn't turn out quite so well. This personal (or I could say "social", since that's the idea that's being pushed) angle makes the Lessons Learned section at the end of each chapter feel much more practical and authentic than if everything was presented as a step-by-step methodology to crown oneself a "social product manager".

For me personally, there was another angle that made Opting In a interesting read. A number of the examples were things that played out *very* publicly, and that I was either involved with or had a front row seat for. Hearing Ed's take on the situations was insightful, as many of the incidents were personal, whether they were meant to be or not. I may not necessarily agree on the interpretation or outcome, but rarely does everyone see the same set of actions in the same light. I also reflected a number of times on just how much we've accomplished and how far we've come in the last 10 to 15 years. Some major events (such as the "Attack Of The Bloggers" news story by a journalist I won't mention as he's not worth that much respect) were, to us and at the time, high priority and all-consuming. Granted, a number of people and companies never learn, but it seems like those types of incidents are less prevalent now. Even when they do occur, it's much easier (and faster) to call the guilty parties on it.

In my opinion, if you're a product manager who isn't being "social", you need to start becoming so, and Opting In is a good way to understand what's involved. Or, if you're a Notes/Domino geek who wants to put the last 15 years in some type of perspective, Opting In will add some insight into some events that will bring back memories (some fond, some not so much). Either way, it's a good read.

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Payment: Free


Gravatar Image1 - You're welcome. As I stated up front, there was a certain level of risk involved, as I've been caught in that position before. It's also why I refused to read/review another book similar in nature to yours. I knew I couldn't put personal feelings aside and read the information in a neutral fashion. :)

Great job, and glad you're getting good feedback on it.

Gravatar Image2 - Thanks so much for this review. You could say I've waited all my life for the opportunity for a Duffbert amazon review :)

I think your observation about how the "attack of the blogs" scenario has decreased in frequency is important. In some ways, opening the book with its first story going almost a decade back was a risk... these things don't happen so much anymore. They aren't completely extinguished, as a blogger recently tried to pin their business challenges on me personally, but what was different is how I followed my own chapter 5 advice - set phasers to #ignore instead of stun. However I have learned since publishing that there are still plenty of online communities where that kind of craziness exists. Some online publications are adopting my approach of "real name only" instead of letting trolls hide behind anonymity e.g. A friend in my hometown used some of the advice of chapters 4 and 5 to advocate for a local referendum, a highly-charged political issue.

Anyway thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here and on Amazon. I feel like the book has finally made it (with no offense to the seven other much-appreciated five-star reviews Emoticon)

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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