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Second-Generation Geek: Q&A with Matthew Yeager, Storage Blogger and Computacenter Practice Leader: Part Two

March 31, 2011

By Rose Ross (@Rose_at_O) and Olivia Shannon (@Olivia_at_O)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Matthew Yeager left his position at Computacentre in August 2011. He is now the Chief Technologist at Colt Technology Services. Find him on LinkedIn.

As we mentioned before, we had so many great insights from our interview with Matthew Yeager (@mpyeager) that we’ve decided to run his Q&A as a two-part series. This is Part Two, covering Matthew’s experiences with social media, including recommendations for what he thinks are some of the best blogs, storage and otherwise. Enjoy! Part One, covering Matthew’s views on what businesses want from their IT providers and the storage issues he thinks are important this year, is available here.

Q. Are you a social media lover?

Yes, and frankly I think more vendors, ISVs, startups and others in technology really need to make the investment. The authenticity of the voice and the message is what you need to get right.  It isn’t going to be perfect the first time. It takes a while to get the hang of it. But it’s an investment worth making. If you can encapsulate your thoughts in 140 characters and make it interesting, you’ve got a much better shot at catching mine and other people’s attention.

Some companies say they don’t want to go on Twitter because they don’t want their information made public. But you can @reply to people or DM them. You don’t have to make anything public that you don’t want to. I don’t want to speak for them, but I can’t think of anybody in the storage world where if you follow them and ask a legitimate question, they would say no. It’s so easy. Just ping someone and ask if you can drop them an email. Then you’re working from an invite rather than a blitz. Why aren’t more people making this a priority?

It kind of makes me scratch my head. When people really want to do something — think about the number of kids in Egypt and Libya who have figured out how to use Twitter and Facebook to make their message public – they figure out how to do it. So why is it that we as an industry, with all of the resources at our disposal, are still not able to understand and use social media? It’s amazing to me that so many people still don’t know how to use it. I have to question, if you’re not willing to invest time in doing that, what else aren’t you prepared to invest time in? It is so important to figure out how to communicate with your customers, partners and other stakeholders. If you don’t do it, people can turn off on you.

Q. Tell us a little bit about your blog and its interest in data storage.

My blog began as internal email where I had been encouraged internally to take some of the masterclasses I was delivering and deliver it as a newsletter, more or less, in an email format. That’s what I started doing. To give it the authentic voice, I talked to my wife and I showed her early drafts and said, “here’s the format I think I want to follow. But in order to be truly authentic, I think I need to talk about myself and our lives. Otherwise, I think it would remove the authenticity of my voice.” My wife said she was OK with it, but not OK with her name or our son’s name being out there. She wanted there to be some separation between us and the blog. To compromise, we decided to use my professional title – Inside Computacenter Practice Leader – and we turned her into Mrs. PL and our son into PL Junior.

My blogs follow a standard format. It has taken a while to work itself out but now is at a stage where it is “the authentic voice of me.” There are some people who like to hear about my family’s lives and don’t like the geeky bits. Then there are others who don’t care about my family and go straight into tech and business alignment. But it is the real me. It shows both what I think about tech and data storage and business alignment as well as what’s going on in my life.

Q. What’s your favourite blog?

Interestingly, my very favourite blog is probably not a technology one. It’s 27bslash6. I won’t tell you what it’s about. Just read it. It’s kind of like marmite. Some people love it and others absolutely hate it. But I think that guy is hilarious! I love ironic, dry senses of humour and his is one of the driest I’ve come across. (Read Simon’s Pie Charts first).

Chad Sakac is probably one of the best bloggers from a vendor point of view. What you see is what you get with Chad. He doesn’t hide anything. Perhaps EMC wishes he didn’t speak out as much as he does, but I do think there is an authentic voice from him about what is going on with EMC, Vmware and VCE.

I like Chuck Hollis, too. There is some vendor banter in there with Chuck. He does a pretty good job aligning EMC developments to business. Chuck does a really good job of answering, “why should I care? Why is it important for business? What are they thinking about at EMC from a business perspective?”

I think from a vendor perspective EMC gets it right more often than not. They’ve been very astute about getting into social media fairly early on. HDS also has a very good voice, but I don’t think they blog anything like as much. In some ways I think they’re still trying to find their feet a bit. You’ve got Claus Mikkelsen, Hu Yushida – some very, very intelligent people blogging for HDS, but I think they’re still finding their way in communicating some of the great things going on inside HDS so that it is consumable to the outside.

I think NetApp does a pretty decent job of that as well. Val Berkovici, for example.

From a Storagebeers perspective, I think Daniel Eason tells it like it is. There are pretty much no holds barred. Storagebod, too. That blog does a very good job at taking his message and delivering it in a humorous way. He’s great at calling vendors out when they’re not doing as good a job as he thinks they could do, but he injects enough humour so you know he’s putting things out there for the benefit of others and the community, not just to bash people. Ian Foster does as good a job as anybody at no-holds-barred “this is what I think.” I read Chris Evans pretty frequently because what he does very well is he’s very pragmatic about what’s going on in the industry and how to make use of certain technologies. I think there is a healthy dose of pragmatism about Chris generally and certainly within that blog as well.

Q. What is your favourite piece of technology?

I hate to be geeky, but if you asked me six months ago, before I got my iPad, it would have been my MacBook Air. I’ve been using it for three years since it came out. The reason I got one was that I just didn’t want a hefty standard laptop. What happens that’s interesting is, once you get over the “shiny” factor and the fact that it is incredibly thin and light, you realise there aren’t very many ports. You start to panic in a geeky kind of way: “I don’t have four USB ports, oh my God, what am I going to do?!” But once the panic is over, you realise it’s a very clever device in that you can buy the adapters that fit into the side of it. For me, there were certain adapters I used quite regularly but beyond that, I didn’t use hardly anything. I stopped using USB keys because I started using DropBox. I stopped needing to worry about consolidating notes because I started using Evernote. What occurred to me over time, actually, was that when people describe “cloud computing,” this is actually what they are describing, without realising they are describing it. I don’t mean the MacBook Air in particular, but the idea of an input device where I can do my input, and then what I need to get is automatically synchronised and federated so that I can log on from a web browser on any other device and what I need is available to me across a vast number of devices.

When there were rumours about the iPad, I said, “this is gonna hit and it’s gonna hit big.” I realised that if you take the MacBook and you slice it in half and get rid of the keyboard, that’s an iPad. And that made sense to me. I think if you hadn’t used a MacBook Air before the iPad came out, you might not have been so excited about it.

I think the reason why my favourite device is probably the iPad is that it’s the beginning of this tech convergence we’ve been promised since we were kids. I remember watching Star Trek and seeing Geordi La Forge walk around with his little tablet computer as Jean-Luc Picard sipped Earl Gray. The idea of being able to use that kind of powerful, portable technology was so tantalising—as a kid you think “gosh, that looks so cool, when can I get one?!” I’m still looking for my hover board and maybe a flying car, and then I’ll be really happy.

Since I got the iPad about 6 months ago, I probably use that thing 10-12 hours a day, easy. I still use my laptop and my MacBook Air, but more for when I need a keyboard to do things like expenses, creating slide presentations and videos, that sort of thing. But by and large, if you’re in a meeting with me, I flip out the iPad and I’m using a high-definition whiteboard and Penultimate. That saves me so much time.

Q. Tell us something no one knows about you. Do you have any unusual or unexpected hobbies/interests? Do you have a claim to fame?

There is one thing I don’t really talk about terribly often. When I was growing up there was a television programme in the United States called Family Ties with Michael J. Fox. When I was younger – and much thinner, I would hasten to add – I had a pair of specs, and my haircut and facial features made me look like Skippy Handelman. So I was affectionately called Skippy at the tail end of high school and at university. Every once in a while, you’ll hear me make a comment to myself like, “That wasn’t the best move you could’ve made, was it, Skippy?” It’s not a reference to Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. It’s a hangover from when I was called Skippy in relation to Family Ties.

Copyright ©Launchpad Europe 2011. All rights reserved. You may copy and distribute this material as long as  you credit the author where possible; the copies are distributed only for non-commercial purposes and at no charge; and you include this copyright notice and link to Countdown2StorageExpo.com, the original source of the work.

If you have any questions, please contact Launchpad Europe, info@launchpad-europe.com.

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One comment

  1. […] providers and the storage issues he thinks are important this year. The second part, now available here, explores Matthew’s views on social media, including a list of some of his favourite storage […]



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