This is not a numbers business

It's interesting being in the middle of a blogstorm. It causes interesting conversations, that's for sure! (Even here in the halls at Microsoft).

Tim Bray, of Sun Microsystems chimes in: "There's a word for companies that base all decisions on ruthless quantitative ROI metrics: Bankrupt."

My co-author, Shel Israel, in a followup to our failure to answer Werner's question, takes a second stab at "why Amazon should blog?"

Me? I go back to when I was a retail dude in a small store in Silicon Valley in the 1980s.

I learned that if you didn't open the door you didn't get any customers.

You had to open the door, even if you thought today might be a slow day and you'd be better off going to the beach (there were days when we did less than $500 in business, which didn't even cover our rent and electricity, much less our salaries, but we opened the door anyway).

This is a people business. Even when it scales all the way up to a billion dollar business.

I was reminded by that yet again yesterday. My cell phone rang. Rajeev Gopalakrishnan said hello. He runs a .NET User Group in Harrisburg, PA, USA and wanted me to help him find some more speakers for his user group. He invited me to speak.

Now, will that conversation add anything to Microsoft's bottom line? No. Will it show up on a spreadsheet somewhere? No. Will it satisfy Werner's question? No.

But it's exactly why I blog. I want to be found in the search engines. I want people to know there's a guy at Microsoft (actually, now more than 2,000) that cares about what his company does and is accessible.

I didn't start a blog to get 20,000 readers. I started a blog to talk with Dave Winer and Dori Smith and share with them what was going on in my life and tell them what I thought about what was going on in theirs.

Speaking of which, I disagree with Dave's take on this argument this morning. People shouldn't start blogging because their competitors are. They should start blogging because they want to talk with their families. Their friends. Their customers. And other people. About what they care about.

You know, we'll come up with demographics. Psychographics. Business intelligence. ROI graphs. And all that too.

But I really could care less about the numbers. Maybe that makes me a bad blogging evangelist. That's OK.

Our book tells you about 188 other companies and what they thought about blogging's effect on their business. Their relationships. Their accessibility.

David, in my comments, reasks the question again: "Why would people prefer to hear from Amazon over the authors who sell on Amazon and the other customers at Amazon?"

I go back to Rajeev. Why did he call me? I was accessible. He wanted to have me help him out. A simple phone call. A simple blog.

This is not a numbers business. It's a people business. Are you available to share your business with people or are you hiding behind customer support walls, spreadsheets, or IT solutions to interacting with your customers?

I am not going to remain a blogging evangelist. I have to get to work on Rajeev's request. That's the downside of being accessible. Your customers tell you to do more work. Off I go, have a good weekend!

Oh, and I remember my first interview with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. He told me how he offered his Apple I to HP and Atari and was rebuffed. Why? Because his bosses at those two companies didn't think there would be enough people who would buy a personal computer.

In other words, Wozniak didn't have the numbers either. Did that matter in the end? :-)

Update: James Robertson, who runs his own business is a Product Manager for Cincom Smalltalk, says the same thing in his post "Trying to find the ROI in blogging."

Comments

  1. Chris,
    Please don’t blame the marketing folk. Marketers understand relationships. They’ve been boxed in over recent years by increasing demands to put an ROI analysis on everything they do. The ROI factor has a lot to do with what has made marketing and customer support so broken in recent years.

    BTW Robert. I thought this was a great post.

  2. Chris,
    Please don’t blame the marketing folk. Marketers understand relationships. They’ve been boxed in over recent years by increasing demands to put an ROI analysis on everything they do. The ROI factor has a lot to do with what has made marketing and customer support so broken in recent years.

    BTW Robert. I thought this was a great post.

  3. But you’re still missing the point, Scoble. Amazon DOES THIS ALREADY.. without blogging! Why should they add blogging to an already successful customer touch model? They want to know by blogging will make a difference..beyond you guys saying you believe it will.

  4. But you’re still missing the point, Scoble. Amazon DOES THIS ALREADY.. without blogging! Why should they add blogging to an already successful customer touch model? They want to know by blogging will make a difference..beyond you guys saying you believe it will.

  5. They (amazon) could have ‘experts’ in an area who blog about various products like : mp3 players or softwares or marketing books instead of one author writing about his own book.

    They could hold competitions of sorts which would give points which would cash off (pennies maybe) when you buy something from amazon.

    I’ve had a very good experience from amazon customer service. I could given a forum to express my thanks.

    …..

  6. They (amazon) could have ‘experts’ in an area who blog about various products like : mp3 players or softwares or marketing books instead of one author writing about his own book.

    They could hold competitions of sorts which would give points which would cash off (pennies maybe) when you buy something from amazon.

    I’ve had a very good experience from amazon customer service. I could given a forum to express my thanks.

    …..

  7. dmad: if they feel that their “business door” is already open enough and they are already accessible enough then they definitely shouldn’t blog.

    I’ll keep both of mine open, though. More than 3 million unique visitors came through Channel 9 last month. About that many visited blogs.msdn.com too. Seems that there are a few people who appreciate having conversations with regular employees at companies.

    Amazon has to decide on its own if that is something they want to do. Here at Microsoft it’s had a sizeable effect according to our customer surveys.

  8. dmad: if they feel that their “business door” is already open enough and they are already accessible enough then they definitely shouldn’t blog.

    I’ll keep both of mine open, though. More than 3 million unique visitors came through Channel 9 last month. About that many visited blogs.msdn.com too. Seems that there are a few people who appreciate having conversations with regular employees at companies.

    Amazon has to decide on its own if that is something they want to do. Here at Microsoft it’s had a sizeable effect according to our customer surveys.

  9. Bring the people and the money will follow, however finance needs meat on the bones.(and pitchers need metrics to put on PowerPoint slides.) Sounds like the early days of Web 1.0…”why is it they we need a web site?”..and the big wheel keeps on turning.

  10. Bring the people and the money will follow, however finance needs meat on the bones.(and pitchers need metrics to put on PowerPoint slides.) Sounds like the early days of Web 1.0…”why is it they we need a web site?”..and the big wheel keeps on turning.

  11. How does Amazon have a “closed door”? You assert that not blogging == closed door.

    You wanna build your case. The wine people whose name I can’t spell – Stormhockey or whatever – started a blog and saw sales go up. Was it the blog? What if they started a wiki? Suppose they started a call-in radio show? Maybe the key was they simply opened a channel to their customers where there never was one.

    Compare with Amazon – which arguably has TOO MANY channels with their customers – possibly to the point where customers are confused by the variety of options.

    You’re still insisting blogging is a silver bullet. I’ve seen to many silver bullets and found that you can kill the same things with bullets made out of all kinds of things.

    Your “my cell phone is right here – call me and I’ll help you” statement is bogus too. Given the volumes involved – Amazon employess would simply be swamped.

    Sorry, you’re still not convincing here.

  12. How does Amazon have a “closed door”? You assert that not blogging == closed door.

    You wanna build your case. The wine people whose name I can’t spell – Stormhockey or whatever – started a blog and saw sales go up. Was it the blog? What if they started a wiki? Suppose they started a call-in radio show? Maybe the key was they simply opened a channel to their customers where there never was one.

    Compare with Amazon – which arguably has TOO MANY channels with their customers – possibly to the point where customers are confused by the variety of options.

    You’re still insisting blogging is a silver bullet. I’ve seen to many silver bullets and found that you can kill the same things with bullets made out of all kinds of things.

    Your “my cell phone is right here – call me and I’ll help you” statement is bogus too. Given the volumes involved – Amazon employess would simply be swamped.

    Sorry, you’re still not convincing here.

  13. nobody: my cell phone isn’t swamped. It’s been on my blog for years. I’m in the top 50 out of 35 million blogs with thousands of readers. I get, maybe, a call a day. Not too hard to deal with.

    Hey, if it isn’t right for you, don’t do it. The worst thing you could do is start a blog because you felt you were pushed into it.

    Blogs work better than wikis for this. Why? Because we want to talk with a human, not a committee or a group. I noticed that when I went to Amazon a human greeted me at the door. That made me feel special. I guess I could have been greeted by a computer.

  14. nobody: my cell phone isn’t swamped. It’s been on my blog for years. I’m in the top 50 out of 35 million blogs with thousands of readers. I get, maybe, a call a day. Not too hard to deal with.

    Hey, if it isn’t right for you, don’t do it. The worst thing you could do is start a blog because you felt you were pushed into it.

    Blogs work better than wikis for this. Why? Because we want to talk with a human, not a committee or a group. I noticed that when I went to Amazon a human greeted me at the door. That made me feel special. I guess I could have been greeted by a computer.

  15. Actually I would have been impressed with a computer greeting me at the door and leading me around. :)

  16. Actually I would have been impressed with a computer greeting me at the door and leading me around. :)

  17. Being accessible to your customers comes in many flavors, blogging is but one geeky narrow-demographical form at that. Not all shoes are ‘one-size fits all’. Weak case, would be thrown out in seconds.

    So when cornered, go fluffy touchy-feely “people business”, that way you don’t have to ever answer any hard questions.

    Wozniak didn’t have the numbers either. Did that matter in the end?

    Being that everything he’s touched since Apple has turned to dust. And being that Apple (while cornering ‘cool’) only commands single-digit markeshare. Yeah, it does matter.

    I am not going to remain a blogging evangelist.

    Wait a second here, ummmmm you wrote a BOOK crowning YOURSELF with that title. Heat too hot in the kitchen, eh? What a cop-out. Easy way out tho, grant the populist “people” mantle.

    This is not a numbers business.

    And your stock reflects that attitude. Of course it’s a numbers biz, it always has been, and always will be. Only reason marketing people pay attention, is that large numbers are already paying attention. Radio/TV, Software, Stock Market, Marketshare, it’s all numbers. The only reason most marketing people care about you, is that you have a fairly large audience. Life is but a numbers game, sometimes cruel and unfair, perhaps, but reality.

    Sell a million records, you are more important than some guy singing in the local Church choir. Make the greatest art film that under 1,000 see? Or make an escapist comedy that millions watch? Who gets the next gig? It’s all numbers. Numbers. Bloggers should know this, it’s all a traffic incestous link game anyways. Numbers is but the foundation of blogging.

  18. Being accessible to your customers comes in many flavors, blogging is but one geeky narrow-demographical form at that. Not all shoes are ‘one-size fits all’. Weak case, would be thrown out in seconds.

    So when cornered, go fluffy touchy-feely “people business”, that way you don’t have to ever answer any hard questions.

    Wozniak didn’t have the numbers either. Did that matter in the end?

    Being that everything he’s touched since Apple has turned to dust. And being that Apple (while cornering ‘cool’) only commands single-digit markeshare. Yeah, it does matter.

    I am not going to remain a blogging evangelist.

    Wait a second here, ummmmm you wrote a BOOK crowning YOURSELF with that title. Heat too hot in the kitchen, eh? What a cop-out. Easy way out tho, grant the populist “people” mantle.

    This is not a numbers business.

    And your stock reflects that attitude. Of course it’s a numbers biz, it always has been, and always will be. Only reason marketing people pay attention, is that large numbers are already paying attention. Radio/TV, Software, Stock Market, Marketshare, it’s all numbers. The only reason most marketing people care about you, is that you have a fairly large audience. Life is but a numbers game, sometimes cruel and unfair, perhaps, but reality.

    Sell a million records, you are more important than some guy singing in the local Church choir. Make the greatest art film that under 1,000 see? Or make an escapist comedy that millions watch? Who gets the next gig? It’s all numbers. Numbers. Bloggers should know this, it’s all a traffic incestous link game anyways. Numbers is but the foundation of blogging.

  19. “Why should they add blogging to an already successful customer touch model?”

    My experience of Amazon is my experience of their website and their delivery process.

    How would I characterise those experiences?

    “Coldly efficient”

    Is that a “successful customer-touch model”?

    I don’t think Amazon has as much of a “touch lead” over their competitors as say Apple might have over Microsoft.

    If having 2,000 bloggers is helping (even to a smaller extent than Scoble believes) to bridge the “customer touch gap” between Apple and Microsoft, Microsoft has another 58,000 potential bridges.

    Scoble, even if you don’t find a way to statistically and financially justify blogging, it may just turn out that bridge building and accessibility may just be part of what might ultimately counterbalance the cold efficiency that even Amazon seems to be mistaking for “touch”.

    The Amazon site feels no less automated, robotic, inhuman and “touch-free” than most websites.

  20. “Why should they add blogging to an already successful customer touch model?”

    My experience of Amazon is my experience of their website and their delivery process.

    How would I characterise those experiences?

    “Coldly efficient”

    Is that a “successful customer-touch model”?

    I don’t think Amazon has as much of a “touch lead” over their competitors as say Apple might have over Microsoft.

    If having 2,000 bloggers is helping (even to a smaller extent than Scoble believes) to bridge the “customer touch gap” between Apple and Microsoft, Microsoft has another 58,000 potential bridges.

    Scoble, even if you don’t find a way to statistically and financially justify blogging, it may just turn out that bridge building and accessibility may just be part of what might ultimately counterbalance the cold efficiency that even Amazon seems to be mistaking for “touch”.

    The Amazon site feels no less automated, robotic, inhuman and “touch-free” than most websites.

  21. Small correction: I don’t run my own business, I’m the Product Manager for Cincom Smalltalk.

    And: I may disagree with you from time to time, but I really respect what you are doing. I think you’ve managed to do something I would have said was impossible 5 years ago: put a human face on a corporation as large as Microsoft.

  22. Small correction: I don’t run my own business, I’m the Product Manager for Cincom Smalltalk.

    And: I may disagree with you from time to time, but I really respect what you are doing. I think you’ve managed to do something I would have said was impossible 5 years ago: put a human face on a corporation as large as Microsoft.

  23. Greetings,
    Just to pick a nit…

    Tim Bray, of Sun Microsystems chimes in: “There’s a word for companies that base all decisions on ruthless quantitative ROI metrics: Bankrupt.”

    Sun Microsystems is not a terribly good case example to use, given that they could really, really use some serious attention to their ROI, long before trying to give a ‘fuzzy, warm’ feeling to people.

    I don’t know who’s right; I think blogging is a great thing for a lot of companies, and absolutely mandatory for a small company, but I don’t think that blogging will move the needle at a company like Amazon.

    I also think you deeply misunderstand their business. Why is it more useful for an Amazon employee to comment on one book over another, when there’s tens of thousands of Amazon users, most better qualified (i.e. more familiar with the field, the books, the author, etc.), who are quite willing to do that?

    As I said, I’d bet that employees blogging at Amazon wouldn’t move the needle.

    – Morgan Schweers, CyberFOX!

  24. Greetings,
    Just to pick a nit…

    Tim Bray, of Sun Microsystems chimes in: “There’s a word for companies that base all decisions on ruthless quantitative ROI metrics: Bankrupt.”

    Sun Microsystems is not a terribly good case example to use, given that they could really, really use some serious attention to their ROI, long before trying to give a ‘fuzzy, warm’ feeling to people.

    I don’t know who’s right; I think blogging is a great thing for a lot of companies, and absolutely mandatory for a small company, but I don’t think that blogging will move the needle at a company like Amazon.

    I also think you deeply misunderstand their business. Why is it more useful for an Amazon employee to comment on one book over another, when there’s tens of thousands of Amazon users, most better qualified (i.e. more familiar with the field, the books, the author, etc.), who are quite willing to do that?

    As I said, I’d bet that employees blogging at Amazon wouldn’t move the needle.

    – Morgan Schweers, CyberFOX!

  25. Morgan: I met many people at Amazon who are far more qualified to talk about books than I am. Particularly new ones coming out (they get advanced copies, and they were at our speech to book buyers in January). So, yes, I’d +love+ to hear their perspective. But that’s just me.

    More to their business, though, I’d like to see a blog from their Associates program. I met Gene Kavner, director of their Associates program, and he was articulate, passionate, and interesting to talk to. He knows how to make you more money — based on his numbers that he sees.

    I’d love to subscribe to a blog that talked about the Associates program. I think I’d learn something that could end up making me more money too.

  26. Morgan: I met many people at Amazon who are far more qualified to talk about books than I am. Particularly new ones coming out (they get advanced copies, and they were at our speech to book buyers in January). So, yes, I’d +love+ to hear their perspective. But that’s just me.

    More to their business, though, I’d like to see a blog from their Associates program. I met Gene Kavner, director of their Associates program, and he was articulate, passionate, and interesting to talk to. He knows how to make you more money — based on his numbers that he sees.

    I’d love to subscribe to a blog that talked about the Associates program. I think I’d learn something that could end up making me more money too.

  27. > David, in my comments, reasks the question
    > again: “Why would people prefer to hear from Amazon
    > over the authors who sell on Amazon and the other
    > customers at Amazon?”

    Those are not mutually exclusive options. You can do all three.

    Further, if blogging is the third option, and the least popular option, it may still be worth doing. Evaluate blogging on its merits, then decide.

  28. > David, in my comments, reasks the question
    > again: “Why would people prefer to hear from Amazon
    > over the authors who sell on Amazon and the other
    > customers at Amazon?”

    Those are not mutually exclusive options. You can do all three.

    Further, if blogging is the third option, and the least popular option, it may still be worth doing. Evaluate blogging on its merits, then decide.

  29. “I met many people at Amazon who are far more qualified to talk about books than I am. Particularly new ones coming out (they get advanced copies, and they were at our speech to book buyers in January).”

    There’s a dangerous game – if Amazon takes a side (and how can they not?), then it will anger someone. Sounds like bad business.

    “I’d love to subscribe to a blog that talked about the Associates program. I think I’d learn something that could end up making me more money too.”

    That’s a good suggestion. Perhaps that one might get some traction. So get Gene to do it.

  30. “I met many people at Amazon who are far more qualified to talk about books than I am. Particularly new ones coming out (they get advanced copies, and they were at our speech to book buyers in January).”

    There’s a dangerous game – if Amazon takes a side (and how can they not?), then it will anger someone. Sounds like bad business.

    “I’d love to subscribe to a blog that talked about the Associates program. I think I’d learn something that could end up making me more money too.”

    That’s a good suggestion. Perhaps that one might get some traction. So get Gene to do it.

  31. Nobody: >There’s a dangerous game – if Amazon takes a side (and how can they not?), then it will anger someone. Sounds like bad business.

    They already do this today, albeit by an algorithm. Businesses do this all the time and live with the choices. At Borders they decide to put some books on the “featured” table.

    But, if you’re that risk adverse, then I definitely wouldn’t start a blog. You’d be boring and there’s nothing worse than a boring blog.

  32. Nobody: >There’s a dangerous game – if Amazon takes a side (and how can they not?), then it will anger someone. Sounds like bad business.

    They already do this today, albeit by an algorithm. Businesses do this all the time and live with the choices. At Borders they decide to put some books on the “featured” table.

    But, if you’re that risk adverse, then I definitely wouldn’t start a blog. You’d be boring and there’s nothing worse than a boring blog.

  33. This is exactly what I mean by an unfalsifiable system.

    It’s set up so that BY DEFINITION, there is no way to measure whether it works or not! All measurement is rejected in terms of “people”.

  34. This is exactly what I mean by an unfalsifiable system.

    It’s set up so that BY DEFINITION, there is no way to measure whether it works or not! All measurement is rejected in terms of “people”.

  35. Seth: true. But it wasn’t setup to work. That’s not why I got hired. It just happened that in the end it did work for a whole lot of things. Our customer satisfaction numbers here at Microsoft have been going up for the first time in a decade, at least in part due to blogging and Channel 9, according to our surveys (believe me, there are LOTS of people at Microsoft who love numbers too).

  36. Seth: true. But it wasn’t setup to work. That’s not why I got hired. It just happened that in the end it did work for a whole lot of things. Our customer satisfaction numbers here at Microsoft have been going up for the first time in a decade, at least in part due to blogging and Channel 9, according to our surveys (believe me, there are LOTS of people at Microsoft who love numbers too).

  37. What’s all this talk about needing proof of ROI? Amazon has a long history on taking chances. Remember the years when Amazon didn’t turn a profit and everybody was launghing about how they were the only dot-com business that wasn’t making money?

    Werner was provoking you. He wasn’t outlining some company policy against blogging.

  38. What’s all this talk about needing proof of ROI? Amazon has a long history on taking chances. Remember the years when Amazon didn’t turn a profit and everybody was launghing about how they were the only dot-com business that wasn’t making money?

    Werner was provoking you. He wasn’t outlining some company policy against blogging.

  39. “But, if you’re that risk adverse, then I definitely wouldn’t start a blog. You’d be boring and there’s nothing worse than a boring blog.”

    Cheap shot. Sorry I wasted my time trying to help you understand.

  40. “But, if you’re that risk adverse, then I definitely wouldn’t start a blog. You’d be boring and there’s nothing worse than a boring blog.”

    Cheap shot. Sorry I wasted my time trying to help you understand.

  41. @5. If it’s not a numbers business, then why care about what the cust sat surveys may say?

  42. @5. If it’s not a numbers business, then why care about what the cust sat surveys may say?

  43. Nobody: it’s ironic that someone who isn’t even willing to sign his or her name to his or her posts is saying “cheap shot.”

    Here’s the deal. I’ve written now thousands of words on this issue. So have many other people. If you aren’t yet convinced to blog after all that then you just aren’t going to be convinced, OK? So, move along and go back to your job where you aren’t even allowed to use your real name.

    There’s no way you’re gonna blog if you aren’t even willing to use your name here.

    Dmad: did I say +I+ cared? I care whether customers are happy, yes, but other people care about tracking the numbers.

    Blogging has been going on at Microsoft now for more than four years. If the numbers folks decide it isn’t good for business, it’ll stop. The fact that they haven’t stopped yet means that they like what they are seeing.

    But, I’m done. If you all want to keep arguing about this, go ahead. I’m going to try to have a weekend. I haven’t had one of those in a while.

  44. Nobody: it’s ironic that someone who isn’t even willing to sign his or her name to his or her posts is saying “cheap shot.”

    Here’s the deal. I’ve written now thousands of words on this issue. So have many other people. If you aren’t yet convinced to blog after all that then you just aren’t going to be convinced, OK? So, move along and go back to your job where you aren’t even allowed to use your real name.

    There’s no way you’re gonna blog if you aren’t even willing to use your name here.

    Dmad: did I say +I+ cared? I care whether customers are happy, yes, but other people care about tracking the numbers.

    Blogging has been going on at Microsoft now for more than four years. If the numbers folks decide it isn’t good for business, it’ll stop. The fact that they haven’t stopped yet means that they like what they are seeing.

    But, I’m done. If you all want to keep arguing about this, go ahead. I’m going to try to have a weekend. I haven’t had one of those in a while.

  45. One of the problems of blogging is that real-time thing. It’s ok to be passionate, until you figure out you are working on week ends. Hmmm. If that’s your own blog, it’s all fine, but if your blog is by any mean a voice for your company, then you are working for them for free on week ends.

    There is nothing wrong saying “we’ll get you answer on Monday”. Bloggers tend to avoid that, it’s uncool.

    Add that to the new nature of work these days in hi-tech with teams overseas that often require to work late hours.

    Add all of this, and think again.

  46. One of the problems of blogging is that real-time thing. It’s ok to be passionate, until you figure out you are working on week ends. Hmmm. If that’s your own blog, it’s all fine, but if your blog is by any mean a voice for your company, then you are working for them for free on week ends.

    There is nothing wrong saying “we’ll get you answer on Monday”. Bloggers tend to avoid that, it’s uncool.

    Add that to the new nature of work these days in hi-tech with teams overseas that often require to work late hours.

    Add all of this, and think again.

  47. but you have to measure your success somehow. A company like Amazon, and any F500 company that you think needs to start blogging will surely ask the question: “what will it benefit us?” And after that, they will ask “how do we measure the benefit?”. They can’t measure it by feelings, or number of comments, or the number of hits they get. It has to translate it a benefit to the bottom line. Otherwise it’s a waste of their time and resources. Companies exist to make money. So, while its great that blogging has perhaps had a slight improvement in customer satisfaction with their customers, I gotta believe at some point someone is going to ask if it is resulting in more software sales. The stock price seems to indicate blogging as not had a bottom line impact on Microsot.

    So, when you suggest that a company like Amazon could benefit from blogging, they are only right to ask you to prove it. Because I gotta believe that everything that Amazon does regarding customer interaction is wih the ultimate intent of selling more product. Otherwise, why would they spend the resources doing it.

    It’s admirable that you like Microsoft enough that you want to spend your free time singing its praises and pointing out its flaws on your personal blog. But, if MS or any company would like to implement blogging as a strategy, then you’d be hard pressed to convince any CEO that the numbers don’t matter when you are asking that CEO to apply their resources to such an endeavor. Again, that endeavor better ultimately result in better sales and thus more profits. That fact that a customer may think that it’s great a company’s employees are blogging doesn’t really matter if that customer doesn’t buy from that company. I submit that that is ultimately what mattered to Amazon.

  48. but you have to measure your success somehow. A company like Amazon, and any F500 company that you think needs to start blogging will surely ask the question: “what will it benefit us?” And after that, they will ask “how do we measure the benefit?”. They can’t measure it by feelings, or number of comments, or the number of hits they get. It has to translate it a benefit to the bottom line. Otherwise it’s a waste of their time and resources. Companies exist to make money. So, while its great that blogging has perhaps had a slight improvement in customer satisfaction with their customers, I gotta believe at some point someone is going to ask if it is resulting in more software sales. The stock price seems to indicate blogging as not had a bottom line impact on Microsot.

    So, when you suggest that a company like Amazon could benefit from blogging, they are only right to ask you to prove it. Because I gotta believe that everything that Amazon does regarding customer interaction is wih the ultimate intent of selling more product. Otherwise, why would they spend the resources doing it.

    It’s admirable that you like Microsoft enough that you want to spend your free time singing its praises and pointing out its flaws on your personal blog. But, if MS or any company would like to implement blogging as a strategy, then you’d be hard pressed to convince any CEO that the numbers don’t matter when you are asking that CEO to apply their resources to such an endeavor. Again, that endeavor better ultimately result in better sales and thus more profits. That fact that a customer may think that it’s great a company’s employees are blogging doesn’t really matter if that customer doesn’t buy from that company. I submit that that is ultimately what mattered to Amazon.

  49. Of course it’s a number’s business! Even people are a numbers business. I like friends. If I have no friends, the number is zero. If I have some good friends the number is non-zero. It matters.

    Maybe I want to get more contacts in my business life. I buy a better business suit (or cool new sneakers maybe in your case) because conventional wisdom tells me that if I look better, the number of contacts I have will increase.

    We have no “conventional wisdom” in blogging, so of course people are going to ask about the numbers.

    And of course you CARE about the numbers! Don’t tell me you don’t. You talked last month about “tips to get on the A-list”. No, no, let’s talk about the A-list again, please!. But my point was that your post was full of TECHNIQUES designed to INCREASE the visibility of your blog, and get bigger numbers. Is it just accident that you know these things? You do many of them yourself! And, you observe how these techniques work for others.

    Face it, you care about the numbers. Maybe you care about people too. I know you do, in fact. And I know you genuinely did START blogging for the reasons you describe. But, also, wasn’t it because it was a “cool way” to communicate and because you “believed in it” and over time wasn’t it also because you felt “MORE PEOPLE SHOULD DO IT”. Numbers.

    You can still be honest, ethical, and genuine while measuring how well you’re doing at it.

  50. Of course it’s a number’s business! Even people are a numbers business. I like friends. If I have no friends, the number is zero. If I have some good friends the number is non-zero. It matters.

    Maybe I want to get more contacts in my business life. I buy a better business suit (or cool new sneakers maybe in your case) because conventional wisdom tells me that if I look better, the number of contacts I have will increase.

    We have no “conventional wisdom” in blogging, so of course people are going to ask about the numbers.

    And of course you CARE about the numbers! Don’t tell me you don’t. You talked last month about “tips to get on the A-list”. No, no, let’s talk about the A-list again, please!. But my point was that your post was full of TECHNIQUES designed to INCREASE the visibility of your blog, and get bigger numbers. Is it just accident that you know these things? You do many of them yourself! And, you observe how these techniques work for others.

    Face it, you care about the numbers. Maybe you care about people too. I know you do, in fact. And I know you genuinely did START blogging for the reasons you describe. But, also, wasn’t it because it was a “cool way” to communicate and because you “believed in it” and over time wasn’t it also because you felt “MORE PEOPLE SHOULD DO IT”. Numbers.

    You can still be honest, ethical, and genuine while measuring how well you’re doing at it.

  51. Spot on! ROI isn’t everything…that’s why we are called human. Working in customer service has taught me to listen and understand the customer before attempting to deliver any product or service. Comments are the voices that help a blog stay true to its soul and links create a support system helping everyone stay True and stay Connected. Now…that’s more important than ROI can be at any point. If this sounds silly, maybe you’ll find my computer problem cartoons better( at http://spaces.msn.com/sillygloop/ )

    Blog on!

  52. Spot on! ROI isn’t everything…that’s why we are called human. Working in customer service has taught me to listen and understand the customer before attempting to deliver any product or service. Comments are the voices that help a blog stay true to its soul and links create a support system helping everyone stay True and stay Connected. Now…that’s more important than ROI can be at any point. If this sounds silly, maybe you’ll find my computer problem cartoons better( at http://spaces.msn.com/sillygloop/ )

    Blog on!

  53. Robert,

    I can tell you that in the IT industry, no, blogging is not doing squat to restore the trust that Microsoft pissed away. In fact, sometimes it may make things worse, because it can look like a blatant attempt to mislead and distract from the meat of things.

    It’s handy in that it maybe gives us another way to get things done, or maybe pick up a tip we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, but if you think that blogging alone is going to make Microsoft a trustable entity, even on a purely professional basis, then I would recommend you stop drinking so much.

    Here’s an example. You, and Microsoft talk all this crap about how you want to dominate the search space, yet the TechNet/support base/MSDN search engines suck, and have sucked for years. Where’s the dogfooding? Why is it that I can get better results from Google than the KB search? Why should I take MSN search seriously when the company that writes it isn’t using it?

    Why should I take “dogfooding” seriously when you don’t do it yourselves?

    The Amazon thing also implies a different relationship with Amazon than with a company like Microsoft. I go to Amazon to buy stuff. I don’t need employee opinions on them, they’re worthless if I don’t know the employee. When I want to find a particular book or video game, I don’t want blogs, ratings, and the other crapola. I want:

    1) I want to find what I am looking for as fast as possible

    2) I want to buy that thing in a fast, efficient manner and LEAVE.

    Everything about Amazon needs to help with that. The only blogging I would want might revolve around system status, (DVD store’s down, should be up in an hour) or new features

    If I can go in, get what I want, and leave in under ten minutes, Amazon is working *perfectly*.

    Amazon’s a middleman, not an end node. Blogging would only confuse that.

  54. Robert,

    I can tell you that in the IT industry, no, blogging is not doing squat to restore the trust that Microsoft pissed away. In fact, sometimes it may make things worse, because it can look like a blatant attempt to mislead and distract from the meat of things.

    It’s handy in that it maybe gives us another way to get things done, or maybe pick up a tip we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, but if you think that blogging alone is going to make Microsoft a trustable entity, even on a purely professional basis, then I would recommend you stop drinking so much.

    Here’s an example. You, and Microsoft talk all this crap about how you want to dominate the search space, yet the TechNet/support base/MSDN search engines suck, and have sucked for years. Where’s the dogfooding? Why is it that I can get better results from Google than the KB search? Why should I take MSN search seriously when the company that writes it isn’t using it?

    Why should I take “dogfooding” seriously when you don’t do it yourselves?

    The Amazon thing also implies a different relationship with Amazon than with a company like Microsoft. I go to Amazon to buy stuff. I don’t need employee opinions on them, they’re worthless if I don’t know the employee. When I want to find a particular book or video game, I don’t want blogs, ratings, and the other crapola. I want:

    1) I want to find what I am looking for as fast as possible

    2) I want to buy that thing in a fast, efficient manner and LEAVE.

    Everything about Amazon needs to help with that. The only blogging I would want might revolve around system status, (DVD store’s down, should be up in an hour) or new features

    If I can go in, get what I want, and leave in under ten minutes, Amazon is working *perfectly*.

    Amazon’s a middleman, not an end node. Blogging would only confuse that.

  55. @35, Its probably no surprise that even many of MS’s own internal PSS folks use google to find KB articles and other support info.

  56. @35, Its probably no surprise that even many of MS’s own internal PSS folks use google to find KB articles and other support info.

  57. [...] A whole blogstorm has started up involving Scoble and Amazon.com’s CEO Werner Vogels about this very thing. Watching them dance around each other is amusing stuff, though as always, I wonder how Scoble gets any real work done. Ironically, Scoble doesn’t blog for the money or even to promote Microsoft, but yet he has co-authored a book about how businesses can use blogging to reach customers. I scratch my head, puzzled. Some people are going to get a rude surprise if they ever do figure out return on investment numbers. [...]

  58. Zulu

    I had (half of) a blog entry before this but I deleted it because I thot it was trash.(And yet, I haven’t blogged in so long.)And yes, this Entry Title is inspired by Hybrid. We’re out of the starting gates again:

  59. The business value of blogging

    In response to last week’s Scoble-Israel-Vogels story (summarized here), a few folks have posted on the value of blogging in the corporate setting. In this post, Tim Bray of Sun Microsystems provides one of the best (and simplest) explanations …

  60. [...] Passion and Teflon There are a couple of blogging discussions I see going on that have their own merits and are completely unrelated,  yet rattling in my brain this week. 1) the Rory/Dare/Eric discussion I’ll roughly call “Your passion underwhelms me/enthusiasthma ” about the use of both buzzwords and attitude around Microsoft or other such afflicted companies in order to terrorize everyone into feeling peer pressure to care. “As long as employees feel pressured to constantly overflow with passion, they’re going to be terrified to speak when it’s time to address what isn’t going so well. I’ve watched projects continue, and not with any great success, fueled mainly by passion. In those cases, yeah, people are being passionate, but they’re putting all this passion into things that aren’t really helping. They’ve been fooled by their own passion.” And this is happening company-wide. It’s like open honesty and skepticism are getting brushed aside for passion. It’s spreading thanks to that other often celebrated social disease, the meme. It’s everywhere. And the word is used so often that it’s losing its meaning..” –Rory 2) the back and forth that’s been going on between the Naked Conversations bloggers (Shel Israel, Robert Scoble) and the CTO of Amazon Werner Vogel. There’s a bunch of passion going on about the two authors’ visit to Amazon and the critique by Vogel is that there’s no revenue-generating meat to the blogging evangelism, ala “where’s the  beef?” The cheap and easy way to tie these two together into a blog post would be to take a shot at Scoble and Shel, say they were too passion-powered and had drunk too much of the blog Kool-Aid, and when they went to Amazon, maybe were too unchecked and passionate to convince the skeptic. I wasn’t there so it would be easy to make up some sort of interpretatioin. :D But actually, I think something deeper just happened . Corporate blogging – when done in a progressive Cluetrain way – is actually a platform by which to be skeptical and challenging. Mini-Microsoft keeps Microsoft on its toes and I think that’s entirely healthy. Scoble has had his fair share of unpopular stances which at other companies would be euphemistically called “career limiting.”  If no one in the Amazon  Blog Triangle had been skeptical (of each other, or the blogging movement) there would have been no dialogue that as a bystander I found profoundly interesting. I’m kinda asleep in my corporate executive tracking; I didn’t know much of Vogel before this exchange. Now I’m interested in him and his thoughts and how the dialogue progresses. It’s a passionate skepticism that I’m seeing unfolding as both sides fence and debate. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen the people Rory warns us about, who substitute passion for brains,hard math, or reality – but you’ve known that kind of person since high school and your mom warned you about them. :) What has led to the low points of my career morale hasn’t been being surrounded by the passion credo zombies, who are easy to spot, but by the actual zombies…people who don’t have the energy to even pretend they have passion, and instead use what little energy they have on just teflon. The people that Mini-Microsoft wants to fire but hey – surprise – they aren’t just at Microsoft. These are folks who frankly need some sort of peer pressure passion system to “make” them even appear to care.  (Sort of like a barometric pressure, storm front or something). For many of them, that’s called “money”, but money and passion don’t always go together (as your Mom told you about that guy the starving artist). The people who care the most about their work often say they would do it for less, just don’t tell their boss that. :) And the thing is, left in their natural state, the Teflons’ apathy is catching. Pretty soon you have an environment where no one is accountable, and everyone does the minimum to get by and/or spends energy finagling so someone else gets the blame/task. You’d be stupid not to Teflon in that system - the first one to care has to do all the work piling up. :P What’s refreshing about the Amazon Blog exchange is that Vogel, Scoble and Shel are not asleep. All of these folks are holding both themselves and each other accountable. If they didn’t, we’d have yet another mealy-mouthed exchange, full of passive-aggressiveness, and full of reasons why it’s ok that something is not done or is ok the way it is. The reason I dug my old team at Microsoft.com and my new one at MSN/Windows Live is that for the most part I see people around me who really give a darn. Whether they agree with me or not – and believe me not everyone does, I am insufferable – they care enough to talk about it. In case you guys didn’t know it, the reason I am cheered to come into work each day is you. And of course the customers who care enough to tell me I am full of it or not. :) Cheers all, live it vivid!                 [...]

  61. Just demonstrating the ease of commenting on a blog to a new client. Nothing to see. Keep on going.

    MS

  62. Just demonstrating the ease of commenting on a blog to a new client. Nothing to see. Keep on going.

    MS

  63. When you have something to say you have to say. Some people will use your experience and will have fewer troubles in their lives. Some will agree the others disagree but still they will have the information, the arguments to make decisions. And as more people will make reasoned decisions the whole society will benefit!
    It’s terrible when people think only about money…

  64. When you have something to say you have to say. Some people will use your experience and will have fewer troubles in their lives. Some will agree the others disagree but still they will have the information, the arguments to make decisions. And as more people will make reasoned decisions the whole society will benefit!
    It’s terrible when people think only about money…