big data, IBM, influence, social networks

Cognitive Cooking and #IBMFoodTruck: My Review of #Food at #SXSW 2014

Social activation to drive the menu choice at SXSW2014
Social activation to drive the menu choice at SXSW2014

One of the most impressive displays of data driven innovation and equally of the best stories of social media campaign hacking at SXSW 2014 came from IBM’s Cognitive Cooking efforts.

IBM created a small, rather understated pop-up space just steps from the Austin Convention Center.  Inside there was small food truck serving one of six select menus including #chili, #dumplings, and #burritos. [hearty southern food!]

Serving up #Poutine at SXSW 2014
Serving up #Poutine at SXSW 2014

This was a menu created with the help of Watson – IBM’s renown self aware computational genius of a computer.    IBM input the chemical food structures of over 10K foods (or so I was told at the food truck).  Watson then matched foods coming up with new combinations based on flavour profiles.  Now add a partner like New York’s Institute of Culinary Education – who took the new favourful combinations and made a menu.

Peruvian Potato Poutine – an IBM Food Truck creation in collaboration with the Institute of Culinary Education and Watson

On the day that I was sampling the #IBM Food Truck Fare, I interviewed the chef to understand if Watson’s involvement took away any of his enjoyment.  The chef revealed that whereas Watson recommended the food combinations, the computer did not give a recipe, amount of ingredients to be used relative to other ingredients nor information on how to prepare the food.  And so he felt there was a lot of territory to explore as a chef.   With that, he gave me a sample of Peruvian potato #poutine.

Well the poutine was a fine combination of potato, roasted cauliflower, spicy tomato sauce and goat or feta cheese on top.  It was amazing!  Who thought to add roasted cauliflower to poutine?  Watson.   As I wandered around the IBM Food Truck, I noticed an extraordinary number of Quebeckers also enjoying poutine.    So I interviewed one to see if the poutine lived up to her expectations..  [coincidentally the wife of someone I really enjoyed working with in the JWT Montreal office]

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 10.36.19 PM
Full credit to @TP1 and @nvanderv – who twitter hacked IBM’s cognitive cooking contest by inserting a ‘fake’ entry and winning. Absolutely brillant

Talking to a few IBMers at the booth – I learned the onslaught of Montrealers was no accident.  Having #poutine on the menu was a beautiful hack to IBM’s cognitive cooking campaign.  You see – to add a layer of social activation for SXSW, IBM marketed the six menu choices, each with their own poster, and encouraged South by Southwesterners to vote by hashtag on what menu they wanted for each day.

That’s where @TP1 and @NVanderv enter.  They created their own ‘fake’ poster, entered it into the socialsphere and voila! They gained so many ‘votes’ that IBM agreed to make #poutine.    If you can read French, this is really explained much better in the Minimal Blog “Informatique cognitive et fromage en grain”.  Anyhow – I just love how you can create a campaign but the audience might take over – in a hack that is so much more than IBM could have ever planned.


Another falls – Aaron on leaving ibm

Aaron Kim has resigned today from IBM – as per his blog post.  A big loss for IBM – Aaron is an admired and respected brain; really pushing new perspectives on emerging tech & enterprise 2.0 at IBM.   Its not surprising to me that his new employer was also one of his biggest clients at IBM.   A quick view to his blog comments show a lot of admiration from other ibmers.

I’m fortunate to be a part of Aaron’s social friday 2.0 club;  informal meet-ups among us Toronto 2.0 geeks – though he was absent at the last one given a business trip to NICE. (envy).   I hope to hear more about his move and sincerely hope he is still involved in emerging tech.

I like his exit post – he shows a deep respect for IBM as many of us did when choosing to leave the tech nest.  I concur with him – its a great company too easily attacked by old and dated brand images made popular by mac.

I suspect @aaronjuliuskim will have some major blog separation anxiety from leaving his internal blog at IBM as I did when I left IBM.

Funny – he chooses the same blog title I did in 2006 ‘leaving ibm‘ (okay – the title is pretty obvious and simple but do a google search and you will find hundreds of exit letters from IBMers).

Well – best of luck to Aaron.


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IBM, web 2.0

Blog separation anxiety

Two months ago, I maintained a very active internal blog as an IBM employee within the internal IBM BlogCentral. IBM has impressively introduced tools for advanced collaboration – dogear for social bookmarking, an employee directory (blue pages) that allows people tagging, the wonderful sametime 7.5 for corporate instant messaging, wikicentral, and more.. Upon my return from mat leave in March ’05, I studied web 2.0 and pushed my learning in a company that would embrace it. I was so happy to blog internally.

About IBM. As of this past summer, a little less that 1% of IBMers were active bloggers. 3% had blogs (active and inactive). But in a company of 329, 000 – a 1% adoption creates the largest blogging environment in a private domain – that I know of. And quickly, those who were blogging got to see the light. The power of enterprise 2.0 and its promises towards collaboration, innovation and employee retention.. I say that last benefit cautiously because I did leave IBM. But the enterprise 2.0 did lift my belief in IBM. I love the company. I just can’t travel the way my job required of me. With more time, I could have found the right job in IBM. *sigh*.. I did get a few perfect job offers on my last day.

That said, I enjoy my new job immensely. The home building industry is rich for learning and I see where I can make strong contributions. I know I can help easily in the areas of branding, research and web strategy & development. What I deeply underestimated was the contribution that I could make in e-business in an industry still shackled in traditional processes.

I have this book called “how digital is your business”. Truthfully, I’ve never cracked its spine but its cover title serves to inspire me for this industry.

I was invited to present to the Northern European Marketing Board for IBM on my views on web2.0 marketing. Its a long story.. but I unleashed a presentation in IBM on web2.0 – its importance, why the conditions are right for this major internet revolution to stick and to my great surprise and flatterly, I contributed to a massive wave of web2.0 thinking inside of IBM. I got to meet the greats – a phd student, Pranam Kolari, who masters in blog spam (splog), another student, Sacha Chua, who researches corporate adoption of social networking tools and doubles as an incredible web2.o evangelist, yet another, Aaron who studies wikis and enterprise 2.0 pushing IBM’s innovationjam full of ideas (and who was my original inspiration for blogging), another ibmer Jen who doggedly pursues the creation of web 2.0 services,  another IBMblogger Luis,  who, as a knowledge management contributor, managed one of the most popular blogs inside and outside for IBM, and still another who has educated me on the future of second life.

I miss my blog. I feel separation anxiety for the posts that I no longer have. But happily, I learned that 31 people in IBM were reading my blog today. And I’ve been gone for two months.



Best email after resigning from IBM

This email was so heart warming.  I often wonder what life would have been like if I stayed at IBM (well.. I wouldn’t have seen my kids grow.. since I was trapped in a 100% travel job.. or so my heart defends)

Subject: Hello – could we connect on Linkedin? 

Dear Laurie,

I hope you will forgive me writing to you directly, but I’m afraid I was off sick while you were leaving IBM and missed the chance to write to you.

I greatly admired your work on web 2.0 and I raised it to very senior levels in Europe. We are now building some of it into our Barcelona Banking Centre as part of its refresh.

If it were possible to connect through Linkedin (..or similar), I’d be very keen as I’d like to stay in touch.

Best wishes, and I hope the new job is going well,



Solutions Specialist, European Center of Competence for Banking Front Office, Barcelona


Leaving IBM – sigh

Friday August 18th – My resignation email to IBM colleagues

I wanted to share my new job and contact details with you.
I’ve resigned from IBM and today is my last day.   I’ve loved IBM and my web consulting, and yet, I need to step out of the travel spotlight while my family is young and exciting.

So, I’m moving to local company with a positive reputation –  GGH, a homebuilder in the GTA.  I’ll be directing their corporate and low-rise/hi-rise brands.  Its a promising move in an interesting industry.   All of which puts me on the client side with little travel.   The office is at VP & F in an industrial park (oh god)  – but I think I’m getting an office & desk so things are looking up.  

I’m easy to find in or    My new contact information –  And I believe I will have as an address.   (bad website.. and there is my opportunity)

I’m always up for coffee – let me know when or if you are in the area.