Digital Sunshine Solutions

We're here to help with your product and community strategic initiatives, from complete strategy to help with tactical execution.

Product Strategy

Need help creating compelling product positioning and messaging? Just need extra hands to get a project across the line? We can help with all of your product needs, from strategy to launch to sales enablement.

Community Strategy

Would you like to use the power of social media to go beyond counting clicks? We can help you to build community of customers, analysts, and internal employees that helps you build better products.

Digital Literacy

A modern democracy requires a digitally literate citizenry. How is digital literacy different than traditional literacy? What tools are there to get everyone up to speed?

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Recent Blog Posts

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storage field day

Storage Field Day 19: Getting Back to My Roots

I’m excited that I have been invited to be a delegate at Storage Field Day 19. This is a little different than the Tech Field Day I attended in 2019, because the focus of all the presentations at this event is data storage.

I am looking forward to this because I am a storage person. My career started as a Technical Trainer at EMC, I was a storage admin for a pharma company. I went back to EMC to develop technical training, I then went to work for Dell Storage, and then Inktank (a startup that provided services and support for Ceph). I guess you could say storage is in my blood, so Storage Field Day should be lots of fun.

What to expect at Storage Field Day

Here are the companies we’ll be visiting (in the order they will be presenting), and what I’m looking forward to hearing about from them. Remember, you can join in on this event too by watching the livestream and participating in the twitter conversation using the hastag #SFD19.  You can @ me during the livestream and I can ask a question for you.

Disclosure: I am invited by GestaltIT as a delegate to their Storage Field Day 19 event from Jan 22-24, 2020 in Silicon Valley. My expenses, travel, accommodation and conference fees will be covered by GestaltIT, the organizer and I am not obligated to blog or promote the vendors’ technologies to be presented at this event. The content of this blog represents my own opinions and views.

Tiger Technology

The first presentation we hear will be from Tiger Technology. Just looking at the website, they claim to do lots of stuff. When I look at their About page, they’ve been around since 2004 “developing software and designing high-performance, secure, data management solutions for companies in Enterprise IT, Surveillance, Media and Entertainment, and SMB/SME markets”. They are headquartered in Bulgaria and Alpharetta, and since my mom was born and raised in Alpharetta, they get extra points.

Skipping to their News page, it looks like they have a new solution that tiers data in the cloud. I’m looking forward to hearing how they do that!

NetApp

NetApp talked with us at TFD20 (my blog review of that presentation). They talked to us then a bit about their flavor of Kubernetes, and the work they are doing to make it easy for their customers to have data where they want it to be. Hoping they do a deeper dive on CVS and ANF, their PaaS offerings for the current public cloud offerings.

Western Digital

Western Digital has presented at previous Tech Field Day events, and have acquired many companies who are Tech Field Day presenting alums. The last time they presented back in February 2019 they talked about NVMe, and I love that topic.

One thing I think that doesn’t get enough attention is the incredible innovation that has happened over the last several years in storage hardware. The software is now catching up, and apps will follow. So there is cool tech stuff happening on prem too, not just in the public cloud domain.

I peeped their twitter account, and they have interesting things they are showing this week at CES. Like this 8TB prototype that looks like a cell phone battery bank.  That would be a pretty sweet piece of swag! 😊

Infrascale

This will be Infrascale’s first appearance at Storage Field Day. Their website says what they do right up front: they have a DRaaS (Disaster Recovery as a Service) solution that fails to a second site, booting from an appliance or the cloud.

After storage, the biggest time I’ve spent in my career has been with data protection and disaster recovery, so I’ll be looking forward to this presentation as well. Really looking forward to hear about how this solution can included in an architecture.

Dell EMC

Since I’ve worked in storage at Dell and EMC, and I’m just coming off a tour at VMware, of course I’m excited to sit in on presentations from my Dell Technologies federation homies! There will be presentations on Isilon and PowerOne, but the one I’m most curious about is one on DevOps.

Komprise

Komprise has presented at Storage Field Day before (in 2018). They are a data management and tiering solution. At AWS re:invent they unveiled a cloud data growth analytics solution. I hope we hear about that.

WekaIO

WekaIO’s  has presented at Tech Field Day a couple of times before. They have a distributed storage system for ML/AI, it looks like they directly access NVMe flash drives. It looks like they also have a solution on AWS. So this should be an interesting conversation. I’m just hoping we don’t have to listen to a “what is AI story” before they get to the good stuff.

Minio

This will be Minio’s first presentation at Tech Field Day. Minio sells high performance object storage. One of the other Tech Field day delegates, Chin-Fah Heoh, has already written a blog post about how Mineo is in a different class than other object storage providers. I’m really looking forward to this presentation.

small world

Can Small World Theory Explain Polarization? #blogredux

This week in Blog Redux: can small world theory explain polarization? This week I’m reviving an old post from blog.ginaminks.com from July 10, 2010. The post was titled How information needs and small world signatures are related to affinity and relevance. Ahh the good ole days when we didn’t have to worry about SEO and we could just write to communicate!

This blog post was based on my undergrad degree, in particular the work of Elfreda Chatman. Unfortunately she passed away very unexpectedly soon after I graduated. I wish she were around to know how much she impacted my work, and so I could work with her now.

As always, I’ll re-post the blog in its entirety here, and add my comments as a quote that start with Thoughts from 2020.

How information needs and small world signatures are related to affinity and relevance

Last week I wrote a post asking if anyone knew a technical term for truthiness.

No takers on that so that request. So now this is my reflective post to work my way through the idea that unscrupulous information impostors will be able to figure out how to use social media to control information networks. How can that happen? Think about information.

Thoughts from 2020: I wrote that post as I was working out my presentation for Bitnorth. That presentation was on the digital divide, and how can normal people compete with media that intend to manipulate videos and stories to get their message across. Spoiler: the bad guy was Andrew Breitbart.

Information Needs

We talk alot about the digital explosion of data at EMC, but how is data different than information? Information has more depth than data because information responds to a need. There may be a need for the information, but if that need is never expressed the information seeking process never begins.

Thoughts from 2020: this point about information is really important. We are overrun with data, even more so 20 years later. The data we pay attention to is the data that responds to a need. That’s what marketers do, look for (or create) an information need, and convince you that only their product can fill your needs. That’s also how propaganda works.

The way that people process information is dependent on the small worlds (or communities, or tribes…) to which they belong. The roles we play in our small worlds also impact if we are able to express a need for information.

Thoughts from 2020: I went along with the social media craze of talking about our “tribes”, mostly because it felt pointless to fight it. But ten years later, we have native twitter, and seriously great posts from citizens of native nations explaining why saying tribes is appropriation and actually has a negative impact on native people today. Follow some native people, learn more, and stop encouraging people to “find their tribe”!

Small world signatures

Once you belong to small world, you have to conform to that group’s signature (or style) to remain a member of the world. The signature defines how a group will handle events, topics that can be discussed (or must be excluded), the form of interaction, and the level of meaning of events.

The style also instructs group members how to deal with outsiders. Usually, if a stranger enters a small world they present enough raw information about their world to allow members of the group to see a worldview beyond their own. If the stranger understands the rules the group has for information exchange, the stranger can continue to share his alternative world view. But if the stranger forgets to stay within the group’s signature, the members of the small group won’t communicate freely anymore.

Think about Windows admins vs UNIX admins. Think about very technical people and marketers. Think about women in technology. Think about teenagers and parents. Think about yankees and southerners.

Thoughts from 2020: Think about our current political climate. All sides have these small world signatures, and it is interesting to see how some of the political groups define the signature (hats, catch phrases, how to interact).

Also think about what happens when an outsider tries to interact. If the outsider says or does certain things, the communication channel is abruptly closed.

How this relates to social media

Relevance and affinity are two goal posts companies are driving toward with their social media programs. Its the place companies want to get after all of their investments in listening and building reach. The idea is to build real relationships with customers, not to just market at them.

Here’s my idea:

Relevance is being able to meet an information need. If a company has done their homework, they know how to be relevant and end up in one of their customer’s searches for information.

Affinity is being able to know a small world’s rules for exchanging information, and being able to copy the pattern so that information exchange is possible. Its understanding your target community, connecting on their terms, talking their language.

Thoughts from 2020: I believe these definitions of relevance and affinity have held up. From a corporate marketing standpoint, this is very hard work. I feel like for the most part this was abandoned when community was ditched for pure digital marketing.

If we think about the current political climate, and how digital and social media marketing tools have been used to sway elections, the implications are more sinister.

Here’s what scares me

Information imposters can have play this game too. They can study small worlds, make themselves relevant to information searches of their target population, and build affinity. If they are able to do all of these things they should be able to infiltrate a small world. Will they be able to change the group’s signature? Will they be able to change the rules so that people no longer have a need to search for information?

And now this post is getting too long — so I have more reflecting to do. What do you think? Am I on to something here?

Thoughts from 2020: Ten years later, and my predictions were correct. And frankly, that terrifies me. The question now is: how do we fight this? How do we take back social tools to unite us, instead of divide us?

All of this came from a paper I wrote in my undergrad days, the material was from class notes in my Information Needs and Preferences course which was taught by Elfreda Chatman.

Thoughts from 2020: Are you interested in finding ways to fight the polarization in our world? Do you want to help link small worlds instead of fighting against each other? We are too. Please subscribe to our RSS feed or follow us on LinkedIn if you’re interested in learning more.

community

Is Community Still a Bad Word? #blogredux

This week in Blog Redux: is community still a bad word? This week I’m reviving an old post from blog.ginaminks.com from February 2012 (almost 8 years ago!). The post was titled On dev-ops, marketing, the c-word, and pneumonia. Don’t worry, the c-word is community.

As always, I’ll re-post the blog in its entirety here, and add my comments as a quote that start with Thoughts from 2019: .

On dev-ops, marketing, the c-word, and pneumonia

Pneumonia is a funny thing. For those of you who don’t know, I was diagnosed with pneumonia a week and a half ago. While I was at Cloud Connect. I can honestly say I’ve never been this sick in my entire life. It’s worse than the massive kidney infection I had when I was 8 months pregnant. Or the appendectomy that happened when I was six months pregnant. (Yes same kid. She obviously inherited tenacity from the get-go).

I’ve had to just lay in bed for 12 days now. This blog has been written and re-written several times in my head, but today is the first day I’ve had the energy to sit up and write it.

Thoughts from 2019: I was very sick. I didn’t even have the energy to read, which was a first for me. It was the first time I had slowed down in a very long time. The universe absolutely told me to have a seat. Hard IT burn-out lessons learned here.

One of the things I’ve been laying in bed thinking about is how social media tools are being used for marketing. I jumped to marketing from technical education because I wanted to blog and learn and talk about all of the cool new emerging technologies. I wanted to do more than maintain courses on legacy technologies  for a corporate training organization. And isn’t marketing really just educating people about what your company can offer?

Thoughts from 2019: I maintain that this is exactly what a product marketer does, based on research and collaboration.

Social media gives all of us the ability to find experts on all sorts of topics . Hell, you may be the expert – maybe you find a blog or a video or a message board that sparks innovation by giving you a different angle, a different definition. Then you share your innovative idea with others – and you banter and argue and everyone learns a ton.

Thoughts from 2019: I believe this is still true, but it may be harder to find. I mean, kids these days want to grow up to be influencers, not influence others with their unique insights and talents.

For businesses, harnessing the power of the experts inside and outside of your organization can be a very powerful thing. Unfortunately, that’s not what I’m seeing in the world of marketing. Lots of the traditional marketing viewpoints – reach, eyeballs on the pages, crafting and controlling the messages seem to be much more important than telling the company’s story from the viewpoint of external and internal experts.

You may have seen me talking about the “C-word” on Twitter. The c-word is Community. I started using the c-word after talking to some other social media folks who had also noticed in meetings about new social media plans, lots would be said about various social media tools, keywords, even metrics, but nothing was ever said about how this plan would impact and build the community. It’s almost like community is a dirty word!

I think the support groups in an organization – e.g. Education and Marketing – really need to step up and start changing the way they do business. We need to stop applying the old way of doing things to these new social media tools.  We are the teachers, the story tellers. Why aren’t we telling stories, teaching our communities? Why are we just making plans to tweet and blog and chatter? Let’s take advantage of the promise of the tools – and change how we do things!

Thoughts from 2019: Just coming out of a corporate product marketing role, I’m not sure this has gotten much better in the last 8 years. It is much easier to create video and blog content, and social media marketing is really part of digital marketing now. There are even efforts to do influencer marketing, but that too doesn’t try to knit ties between internal and external parties, let alone build internal or external communities. There is so much potential for marketers and educators here, surely we are better than nation states who use social media marketing tools to disrupt the social fabric of their enemies.

One of the few conversations I was able to have at Cloud Connect was with Brent Scotten of DreamHost. We mulled over the idea of what will happen if the whole devops movement really takes root in organizations.  The devops movement is about the operations and software development teams working together to create the best infrastructure possible in order to quickly develop and deploy software. If those teams work as a well-oiled team, and the company’s product is getting better faster because of it, marketing and education can’t be add-ons. These groups can’t continue to business like they did last century when the bread and butter of the business has moved on to doing things a new way.

I love this point the Agile Admin makes in a post about the definition of dev-ops:

The point is that all the participants in creating a product or system should collaborate from the beginning – business folks of various stripes, developers of various stripes, and operations folks of various stripes, and all this includes security, network, and whoever else.  There’s a lot of different kinds of business and developer stakeholders as well; just because everyone doesn’t get a specific call-out….   The original agile development guys were mostly thinking about “biz + dev” collaboration, and DevOps is pointing out “dev + ops” collaboration, but the mature result of all this is “everyone collaborating”. (emphasis mine)

Thoughts from 2019: We are 8 years in, and I believe the dev-ops movement (although the intentions were good) and public cloud providers have actually widened the gap between developers and IT admins.

These days I’ve had to lay in bed have allowed me to really reflect on who I am. I’m a community builder, an educator, a story teller. My forced shut down reminded me how important those things are. Looking forward to getting my strength back and getting back to work to try and to help people see that community isn’t a bad word.

Thoughts from 2019: A strong product community can make a better product. We strayed from that original idea to chase likes and views. I think it’s time to revisit the promise of community.

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literacy

Does Literacy Matter in a Digital World?

Literacy. It is the foundation of American Public Schools, and an important arc in the story of democracy. But what does literacy really mean, especially in a modern, digital world?

Definitions

This is the Miriam Webster definition of literacy:

Being educated, cultured; able to read and write; versed in literature or creative writing; lucid, polished; having knowledge or competence.

But when you boil it down, the generic definition of literacy is the ability to read, write, and perform math so that you can function in your society. That’s why in the United States, children are required to attend school and obtain a high school diploma. Graduating from high school (or passing a GED [General Educational Development] test) is the measure to prove basic adult literacy.

But is literacy simply the ability to read, write, and do math? Do you just need to read the words that are put in front of you? Do you need to be able to regurgitate what you read into written words, or do you need to be able write your own thoughts?  And does this include the ability to evaluate the validity of the information that you consume?

Applications of Literacy

Literacy is important, as it seems to be an indicator for societal success. For example, this chart from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that you can earn more money the more education you have. This chart seems to reinforce that the true meaning of literacy is the ability to read, write, and perform math so that you can function in your society.

Literacy rates and earnings

But there’s a dark side. Literacy opens doors financial security and the ability to function as equals in a democratic society.  Literacy tests were used in the 1800s to prevent Irish immigrants from voting, and then again in the Jim Crowe era, denying black voters their right to vote. These citizens were given 10 minutes to take tests like this, and 1 wrong answer meant you wouldn’t be registered to vote. There are several ways to interpret each question, meaning if the voting registrar didn’t want you on the rolls, you weren’t going to be on the rolls. For interesting 1st person accounts of this, visit this site.

Media Literacy

As technology improved, there became more ways to consume information that reading printed words, and more ways to transmit information than writing words. There had to be different ways to describe proficiency with all types of media. This is how the National Association for Media Literacy defines media literacy:

Media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and act using all forms of communication. In its simplest terms, media literacy builds upon the foundation of traditional literacy and offers new forms of reading and writing. Media literacy empowers people to be critical thinkers and makers, effective communicators and active citizens (emphasis mine).

Part of the definition – being critical thinkers and makers – is important when it is easy to create persuasive content. How can you tell the information you’re consuming is real, that it’s not trying to trick you into believing something else? How can you be sure it’s not propaganda?

Media Evaluation: How to Tell If Content Is Useful or Propaganda?

The original meaning of the word propaganda came from a committee of cardinals established in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV named Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, or congregation for propagating the faith”. The goal of this group was to promote Catholicism in non-Catholic countries. By 1790, propaganda meant “any movement to propagate some practice or ideology”. (via) But after WWI’s large-scale propaganda, the word took on a negative connotation.

The Institute for Propaganda Analysis (IPA) was founded in 1937 to do something about the fascism propaganda that was beginning to be shared with new technologies (radio broadcasts, film, etc.), hoping to provide citizens the information they needed to avoid being duped by misinformation. They believed that education was the American way to deal with disinformation.

Digital Literacy

Now we come to the electronic age, and we need to update the literacy definition again to account for the new ways to consume and create information. The American Library Association defines digital literacy this way:

Digital literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills (emphasis mine).

Evaluate takes on a more important meaning in this case. With media literacy, you know who gives you a pamphlet, or who placed a print ad in a newspaper. But how do you figure out how content is put into the feeds of applications you use? How do you know who is creating the information that you are consuming via algorithms in your feed, and how that information got there in the first place?

I think the IPA had it right. The only way to combat misinformation, propaganda, fake news, whatever you want to call it, is to educate ourselves on how it gets into our feeds, and how to distinguish it from non-propaganda. We need to become digitally literate, and we need to make sure are family and friends are digitally literate as well. That’s why I started Digital Sunshine Solutions.

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