[James Governor, Mug Shot by Matt Biddulph]
During my many years as a PR practitioner, there was a joke:
Q: How can you tell the lawyers and industry analysts from the PR people at the party?
A: They're the only ones who are better dressed.
Q: But how do you tell the analysts from the lawyers?
A: They give longer answers that make even less sense.
It's an old joke, and RedMonk, turns the perception pretty much upside down, as it seems to do with just about everything related to analysts. While most tech sector analyst firms focus on serving the CIO and giving a top-down perspective, RedMonk takes a bottom-up perspective that is useful to the professional technology professional. While most tech industry analyst firms occupy impressive offices, RedMonk is four guys who rarely see each other because they live in three countries--if you consider Texas and Maine to be part of the same country.
From their start in 2002, they have focused on of the promise Open Source, and as the promise of it starts becoming an increasingly large reality, RedMonk seems to be enjoying an increasingly large presence. In the open space spirit, they have never written a commissioned report, . They make their money mostly from an impressive list of retainer clients that include Adobe, IBM, Dell, HP, Microsoft, Nortel .
There are other analysts using Twitter and social media. Some even have larger numbers of followers. But RedMonk seems to have Twitter as its central spine. The communications they have with each other are often right out there in Twitterville where the rest of us can see it.
RedMonk will be the smallest company included in Twitterville's B2B chapter.
Q1. Just what is an Open Source analyst firm? How do you make any money if you just give away your analysis?
We make our content freely available in order to increase our reach and be as findable as possible.
Google remains the competition for anyone in the information business, but if your content is unencumbered you can work with, rather than against Google. The paid account firewall is an even greater barrier to participation than overly aggressive registration forms on consumer-facing websites.
At RedMonk we appeal to practitioners, particularly software developers. These are not always the guys who write checks, but they understand platforms and what makes them successful. They also choose and deploy tools, often without asking for permission.
Just think about how open source is adopted in the enterprise. You still meet CIOs that say: "We don't have any open source in our IT shop." They are almost certainly wrong. Open source and cloud computing are lowering barriers to entry ever further - a deployment decision is not the same as a purchasing decision. While we also attract architects and other enterprise IT budget holders, we don't rate budgets above knowledge.
Everyone else is chasing the CIO. We're more about people reporting to him and those reporting to them. RedMonk also plays an important bridging role because unlike traditional analyst firms, we spend as much time working with web developers as enterprise types. We thus provide a different perspective on getting things done.
We make money in a number of ways. We consulting, primarily vendors. We have paid speaking engagements and produce events like EnergyCamp. Occasionally we license white papers, and increasingly with sponsored video and audio podcasting. Our reach and approach make us an attractive partner for companies trying to build communities. The important thing to understand about the RedMonk model is that it decouples corporate sponsorship from agenda-setting. Just as IBM and Oracle don't control Linux, even though they contribute mightily to it, so firms that pay us don't define our research agendas and approach.
You can buy our thinking but you can't buy our opinion.
2. What's with all the colorful monk allusions? Is there a meaning to the brand or are you just having fun?
RedMonk came first, and its a good founding a company story - perhaps I will tell you sometime. But suffice to say RedMonk has proved to be a sticky brand and has served us well since 2002. It is quite simply a powerful brand.
GreenMonk, our sustainability research service, actually began life as my personal blog, which I worked on on my own time. When people started offering me money to syndicate the content, and to speak about it, it became clear sustainability is a good business opportunity as well as a personal concern. , Steve O'Grady, my business partner, agreed it made sense to invest in sustainability, so we folded GreenMonk into what is now the RedMonk family. GreenMonk is a separate line of business with its own P&L but its very much a RedMonk property.
3. How many members are there to your team? Where are they located? How often do you see each other face-to-face? What tools do you use to collaborate with each other long distance?
RedMonk has four people - in Austin, Maine, London and Seville. We see each other face-to-face on an ad-hoc basis, usually when we happen to be in same geography. We're not great ones for all hands meetings. The list of collaboration tools we use is endless- but Skype, Twitter, and Google Docs get a pretty good workout. Google Apps, while often not as functional as Microsoft's are built from the ground up with collaboration in mind.
One of the biggest issues of course is not geographical separation, but living in different time zones. Not every interaction can be time-shifted. One opportunity is to work on things while other teams are sleeping. The micro-national hand-off is very much a RedMonk style.
4. What social media tools does RedMonk use? How does Twitter fit into the mix?
Twitter is probably the place where we hang out most.
5. Please list all your RedMonk-related Twitter accounts. Was there a strategy, or did all this Tweeting just emerge organically?
Twitter, like most things at RedMonk, emerged organically. Bear in mind that we started blogging back in 2002 in much the same way - with playing and learning and community effects. We all have different twitter styles, just as with our blogs, and use the platform in slightly different ways. We also aggregate over at FriendFeed.
Thus far we're a company that uses twitter effectively rather than a company with a corporate Twitter strategy. Its like a telephone.
A salutary tale comes in the shape of @redmonk, which is actually someone else's channel. A guy called Steve Ivy uses the name, because he got there first. He is perfectly within his rights as that is a nickname he has used for a long time. But I would advise businesses to make sure they register the twitter user names they might need sooner rather than later.
6. To your way of thinking, what's special about Twitter?
Twitter is the new Google- its where digital word of mouth happens. Any community builder or strategic marketer that doesn't use Twitter is at a competitive disadvantage. Its that simple. When you wanted to know what real people really think about a product or service you used to check Google, but these days Google searches tend to be fairly corporate, owned by SEO. Twitter on the other hand is still a rumbustious marketplace of ideas, thoughts, prejudices. Its where people live declaratively, which creates opportunities and challenges for companies of all shapes and sizes.
7. Can you tell me a story of something that happened on Twitter that could not possibly have happened elsewhere?
Last week I was getting a briefing from a service integrator targeting cloud onramps for enterprises called Appirio. I thought the value proposition was interesting, and tweeted accordingly. Within minutes the CIO of a US educational establishment announced on Twitter he would like to talk to the vendor. That is, I delivered a qualified prospect to a vendor within the context of our first briefing - we don't even have a client relationship with the firm. What other analyst company works like that? RedMonk is all about creating opportunities, and so is Twitter.
8. A few months back you hired my friend Tom Raftery. But I understand Twitter played a key role in the recruiting and hiring. Can you tell me more about that?
I had known Tom on the net for a while- I knew his blogging and podcasting work, but I really got to know Tom over Twitter. When I realized I had wanted to in-source some GreenMonk work (it was still a personal blog at the time) he was the obvious candidate. Tom was using Twitter at the time to actively look for work. So he began to write for GreenMonk. When we decided to roll GreenMonk into the business it was clear it would make sense to hire Tom. We made the job offer on Twitter, and it was accepted with Twitter. Again - this is not a new pattern for RedMonk. We met and hired Michael Cote based on his blog Drunk&Retired - without ever meeting him face to face. Pretty unusual for a traditional business, perhaps, but not one that lives and works on the web.
9. Could RedMonk actually exist without social media? How vital is Twitter to RedMonk? Will that evolve or stay the same over time?
It's very early days for us. When we started our blogs it was a little, rudimentary, home-grown system that spat out RSS. Today, the entire RedMonk.com website runs on WordPress, and blogging is totally integrated into how we do business. It's clear there is plenty of headroom for the evolution of Twitter in business.
Could we exist without social media? Sure - we're extremely smart, low overhead, guys that know how to sell into Fortune 500 firms. But we'd be a completely different company.