Enrique Dans may be the most powerful tech blogger you've never heard of.
Since 2003, the business professor has covered everything from electronic ski goggles, to Microsoft Messenger, to the advent of printing in the 15th century in his Spanish-language blog EnriqueDans.com
His blog, together with a regular tech column in Spanish business paper Expansion and his 2010 book about the internet and society, Todo Va Cambiar (Everything Will Change), have earned him over half a million followers on Google Plus. You can also follow him on Twitter
(170,000 followers), Facebook
(29,000 likes), Pinterest
and pretty much every other social sharing site!
Dans is also a professor of Information Systems and Techologies at Madrid's IE Business School,
where he has taught since 1990. He holds a Ph.D. in Management from UCLA, an MBA from IE Business School, a B.Sc. from Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and post-doctoral qualifications from Harvard Business School.
We caught up with Dans to find out why he started blogging, how to get 29,000 Facebook Likes and his early career switch from biologist to business professor.
How did you end up teaching you at IE? Did you always want to be a professor?
I’m a Biologist by training and when I graduated from university being a biologist was very typical in Spain. The market was saturated and I had an idea to start my own company, so I came to Madrid to get my MBA.
By the time I started at IE Business School, I had already spent several years using computers and I found the computing course very boring. I offered to help the professor with the class and it worked; I got an A in the course. By the end of my MBA I received several job offers but this professor also offered me a teaching role at IE Business School.
I said I wasn’t an IT person and he said that was exactly what he wanted. He didn’t want someone who spoke in technical terms. The pay was significant so I took the offer. I tried it and loved it. I found that teaching at IE was great because students were so motivated. Since then I’ve focused my research on the effects of technology on people, companies and society as a whole.
Do you have a favourite case study that you teach at IE?
I have some reservations about the case-study methodology even though I received formal training in it at Harvard, the home of case studies. The Harvard-style case studies are usually closed cases and I don’t feel comfortable using the closed case methodology. I like to teach students using case studies as the departure point. I want them to have laptops in front of them and begin to start researching relevant information for themselves. I use the cases with a collection of links.
How did you start blogging?
During my Phd, I came back to Spain often, and each time I visited IE to find out what they expected from me as they were paying for my studies at UCLA! My main professor kept saying that he expected me to remain someone that could relate to many people. Most people in academia end up in ivory towers and are only very influential to the ten other experts in their field. Over time, I started to work with communications people and made lots of friends in media. I wrote several sections or columns and worked on articles either alone or in collaboration with people.
I discovered blogs in 2003 when I saw that Google was buying Blogger. I thought that if Google was putting money on this then it was worth paying attention to. I decided to start my own blog by selecting a piece of news and writing a brief commentary each day. I wrote in Spanish because there were not many tech blogs in Spanish.
What is your favourite site to get tech news?
I look at a mix of blogs and online publications. I like Techmeme.com
, the BusinessWeek tech section, Fast Company, TechCrunch, the Guardian tech section. I look at articles on Mashable and of course Wired. I also like Boing Boing
, and GigaOm
. I’m especially fascinated by the way Om Malik (GigaOm's creator) has been able to transform what started as a personal blog to something relevant to a very wide audience.
What’s the average amount of time you spend reading news and blogging?
I spend some time reading news articles on the website but when I narrow down on something interesting, I focus more on it. I would say the process of writing a particular blog post takes about two hours. I use my writing and the feedback I get from it to put together slides for class and conferences.
Does your audience react differently to your work online and on paper?
I find that companies react much more when they are mentioned on paper. They consider it much more important and if I criticize a company on paper they react immediately but if I mention them online it looks like they only get worried. This is silly of course because online you get even more interaction and more people can voice their opinions as a collective, but for some reason they just consider paper more important.
What's the biggest lesson managers in traditional industries can take from the tech world?
You can’t rely on your own perceptions any more. There’s now a generation of people who don’t need instructions to use an iPad, and they expect electronics and technology products to be interactive. Managers need to understand this and how we are more easily influenced by our friends and social networks. They need to keep an eye on how the world is moving.
Mobile will continue growing. I find myself going out without my laptop and just a cellphone or a tablet. These days if you aren’t carrying a smartphone it's not a phone. Phones now spend more time in people’s palms than on their ears!
Another trend that shows how people view products differently is the use of the internet. Old people see the internet as a place to go from time to time. The younger generation see it as a place to live. When my daughter does something it's not finished until she shares it online. Sharing has become closely associated with the pleasure of the action itself. I believe this will grow.
How do you get 28,966 likes on Facebook?
I got to try Facebook
really early. Being a blogger means I often get offers to try new services really early. I have about 170, 000 followers on Twitter even though I’m not a celebrity. I walk on the streets of Spain and I don't get anyone stopping me to ask for an autograph. Same with Google Plus: I have about half a million followers. Google Spain offered me the first account and I was more than happy to try it out. After that I just fed it with my own blog.
Where do you think Facebook and Twitter will be in 10 years?
You can't really say. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter might be here. They might become more consolidated and if they aren't here, they might have been replaced by other services.
Is Pinterest just a fad or is it the greatest marketing platform ever?
is very interesting for me because of the demographic it attracts. You find that there are more women using it. I use it and when I do it's to post my blogs on it and I like that it's starting to attract a new audience to technology discussions.