Enterprise 2.0 Boston Bait and Switch


Share on LinkedIn

Enterprise 2.0 concepts and tools are gaining more and more traction in “mainstream” Business Practices as this is seen as a good way to captialize on the human assets of organisations. To reflect this trend, and to spread awareness and understanding and also to provide a platform for exchange of expriences, a conference is being organised at the Westin Boston Waterfront on June 14-17, 2010.

Apparently it was felt that the base premise of the subject was not enough to attract attention that the organisers had to resort to Switch and Bait practices to generate Buzz and use Command & Control decision making (how very Enterprise 1.0…). I commented on the announcement to draw attention to the dichotomy between their message of “letting the audience decide” and their actions.


Apparently, my opinion did not go in the sense they wanted so I guess they decided against publishing it. Or they’re not monitoring and thus didn’t get round to moderating yet – in that case, why provide a comments area?

Let me elaborate on the dichotomy through the use ofPrem Kumar’s  Context, Content, and Intent -at least  in my opinion…


For this edition the organisers decided to be innovative by enlisting the “wisdom of the crowds” to source Papers to be presented at the conference. They relied on the Spigit – which in my opinion is ideally suited for the task at hand (disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with them). The expectation that was set was that the all Conference Topics would be chosen through the principle of ‘Wisdom of the Crowd’ as stated in the ‘How Things Work’ section, with the Conference Management just making sure that the tracks were balanced.  Proposals with the most votes would be part of the E2 Boston 2010 Conference.


The Call for Papers had potential speakers expose the their subjects of predeliction in a short summary and supporting documents in attachments (UGC). They were then actively encouraged to get people to vote for their subject (WOM), directing traffic to the site and generating buzz. The target audience was asked to add comments to the entries to instaur a dialogue – level 4 in Mitch Liebermann’s Social Interactions post


 The original intent was to get a Conference Agenda that reflected the subjects the participants would be interested in and that would be rich and varied in teachings and facilitate the exchange of experience to propulse Enterprise 2.0 concepts and usage into organisations.

 Although the programme put up is actually a very interesting one - the original context, content and intent were not respected. Out of the 30-odd sessions, only 8 are community-sourced less than a third.  The Conference Management or Advisory Board decided to disregard their own selection process and make their decisions in a completely opaque manner. To my knowledge, none of them interacted with the potential speakers at any time to get details, or a better understanding, either through comments on the community site or even through other means at their disposal such as blogging about the subjects put forward by the candidates, sending twitter messages, or sending email. Voting was started in January, and the speakers were informed on March 30 – with a long zone of no communation in between.

The Top Two community-voted Papers did not get in, the third speaker did, but just one of his subjects. Of the top 10, maybe 2 actually made the grade according to the Board. People put a lot of effort into coming up with interesting Papers, and their peers thought they were interesting enough to merit reading through, understanding, commenting and voting for (full disclosure - we had put in a Paper up concerning bridging scrm & e20). By neglicting the votes, the Board is showing an extreme disregard and disrespect for the candidates and more especially their audience - their customers.

The voting process turned into a popularity contests, with people actively asking to be shown ‘Twitter Love’ by their followers to get more votes – followers who potentially would not be interested in attending the event because their interests lie elsewhere. This all turned into a real buzz machine, driving a lot of traffic and awareness that this event would take place. While this is all fine and understandable and a good way to build interest for Enterprise 2.0, it was done with the wrong Intent  and thus under a  false pretext. Trust has been squandered.

Through their actions, the organisers have also seem to think that:

  •  collaboration and ‘wisdom of the crowd’ is not a valid way of selecting Papers
  • conversation is good between the clients of their ‘product’ but decisions should be made by a ‘Management’
  • feedback and management participation is absolutely not necessary

Now what was the Enterprise 2.0 way of working supposed to promote again..?

I am not saying that the ‘Wisdom of the Crowd’ is the most suited way for selecting interesting presentation subjects, but using the Switch and Bait technique is a deceptive Business Practice and reflects badly on the event as well as the validity of the Enterprise 2.0 Business Case. Although this is not at the scale and will not have the impact of the Nestlé debacle, the organisers are showing a there is a disconnect between their actions and the expectations they have set for the consumers of their product. It is kind of like saying ‘What is good enough for the customers of the tools we sell, is not good enough for us - we still manage our business as usual!’. The Advisory Board reached out to the consumers of the E20 Conference product to engage with them through ideation, but has done only half-heartedly. You need to go whole full nine yards! Moreover, in the public arena there is no hierarchy or HR to put a muzzle on the people that voice their opinions.

Transparency and authenticity can generate a lot of Goodwill and potentially a high level of participant engagement, but can just as easily backfire.  You can’t only just ‘pretend’ to be transparent by putting in a tool and not following through with actions – or ‘living the culture’, especially if you expect to be trusted in return. Changing the rules and not informing people about that when the result does not meet your goals is just Bad Practice. And thinking that people would not notice is just silly. I already know of some that will not bother with putting in a Paper for the Fall edition of the #e20conf…

It would have been so much easier to have been transparent in the selection rules, once the expectations set you can then meet them – the math is easy. This would have avoided the Bait and Switch and would have allowed the Trust Relationship to be continued. This is actually turning into a case study in Social Business; the need to coordinate Social CRM and Enterprise 2.0 Strategies - thank you #e20conf!

When you Talk the Talk, you should also Walk the Walk!

I hope this is seen as Food for Thought. What do you think, am I right to bring this up in this manner?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mark Tamis
Parisian Dutchman with Enterprise 2.0 and BPM background. VP of Customer Success, EMEA. Excited by potential of Social CRM as an organisational change agent!


  1. Mark, thanks for sharing this story. I can certainly understand why you’re frustrated — the expectations they set didn’t match the reality.

    I’m just speculating here, but perhaps they found out after the process was launched that the crowd wasn’t so wise after all. It’s easy to game any voting system to increase popularity, but does that mean it’s the best session for the conference?

    I’ve been researching innovation and ideation, and one of the lessons learned is that you shouldn’t make a decision based solely on a simple voting process. There are other factors to be considered besides the wisdom of crowd.

  2. I agree with your pov, the case I am putting forward is mainly about setting expections and meeting them. In the past the ‘Customer’ of the event would have just shrugged it off. Nowadays he has become the Social Customer and demands trust and transparency from the organisation. The stated objective was the co-creation of value by collaborating on the Event Product. What it turned out to be was a thinly disguised ploy to drum up awareness for the event, imho…

    Can you integrate some of the great comments on my blog in here as well?

  3. Bob,

    I have shared some of my comments on Mark’s post. But here is the interesting follow-up question. 500 people took the time to submit proposals. That list was whittled down to 100. Even from the 100, across 5-6 tracks, neither the Board, nor track chairs, reached out to submitters to try and better understand what the topics were, whether they could be adjusted, or if they fully understood the idea.

    My main point is this is the cream of the crop (not meant to be sarcastic in anyway) of Enterprise 2.0, helping the rest of us to figure out how to get it done. For the process to breakdown at the stage of expectation setting is disappointing. Spigit, the product used is supposed to guard against some of the issues, what is the message there?


    Mitch Lieberman

  4. … is paved with good intentions.

    There’s an excellent discussion thread on Mark’s original post.
    Well worth reading for those who would like to avoid making the same mistake as this conference.


    Bottom line: using social/collaborative tools doesn’t change the fact that you need to set expectations clearly and then follow through on what was promised. If you don’t, then crowdsourcing might do more harm than good when the crowd turns into an unhappy mob.

  5. Don’t just dip your toe in the water, prepare to get yourself wet and then dive in.

    Another takeaway is that not only big B2C companies are potentially affected, but also the organisation’s credibility in a B2B environment. The Advisory Board and the Event organisers were in no way prepared – and to their credit admitted it – to engage their audience.

    We see this happen everywhere at the moment. Companies are putting in the tools, but forget thinking about where it fits into their overall strategy beforehand. The objective was to create word-of-mouth marketing imho, but this back-fired.

    Think about a coherent Social CRM Strategy before engaging, and organise to deal with it effectively.

  6. One of the interesting twists on this subject. What if … you do the same experiment, except one minor (:)) change: people have to purchase their conference admission ticket and confirm their attendance of the sessions they voted for..

    What I am trying to say is that conference is all about THE CONTENT, content that is relevant to people who attend this conference.
    Why would I care about your vote if you are not planning on attending this conference? How do you know that the topic you voted for will be relevant to people who will be attending?

    So here is what I suggest: people pay “downpayment” and vote for X number of sessions. If at the end of the day certain % of the sessions they voted for gets selected, they pay the remaining amount, if not – refund…

    Your thoughts?

  7. One of the challenges of the organisers is also to capture the Zeitgeist around the subject and reflect this in the Agenda – and this is not only stored in the minds of the people that are fortunate enough to attend. Many more cannot attend due to time constraints or conflicts, location constraints or budgetary issues ($2000 + T&A from Europe).

    For 1000 attendees there must be 99000 more that would gain from attending, and hopefully they can get access to the information through webcast or on slideshare after the event. And it is the full 100 000 that can affect the culture that will lead to successful acceptation and implementation of Enterprise 2.0.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here