Much ado about blogging (Scoble, you didn’t answer the question)

Ahh, now Slashdot jumps into the "Werner kicks blogging book authors behinds" tub. On the other hand, I must buy Werner dinner some evening and thank him. The whole shindig has landed us on top of Memeorandum for a few hours.

Om Malik makes it sound like Amazon vs. Microsoft. That's an unfortunate headline, but heck, it'll sell a lot of seats whenever Werner and Shel and I are in the same room again! 🙂

What's ironic is that 120 people were involved in our presentation yesterday. Now, more than 20,000 are (and the numbers are quickly spreading — Slashdot regularly has 100,000 readers a day. Does blogging matter? That's for you to decide, but things can get out of control very quickly!)

I say that headline is unfortunate because I didn't go there representing Microsoft, I went there representing the 188 companies we interviewed in the book. And, Amazon is being painted in a bad light cause we're focusing on one guy, when about a dozen people asked questions and we were treated very well (and, there were many who came up to us afterward who demonstrated they get blogging very well, as you'll learn if you read the comments on the various blogs).

Indeed, Werner has now apologized. That's nice. Now we can all get in a big bear hug and make up. Oh, but then there's Maryam. She told me tonight "you guys should do a debate on the topic." She thinks it would be the conference draw of the decade. I'm game. She recommends doing "book reading 2.0" at Gnomedex. We'll see what Pirillo thinks about that.

But, let's revisit this. The truth is I screwed up. I didn't represent blogging very well and didn't back up the thesis of our book very well (that blogging will improve the way businesses talk with customers).

Now, if this were the old world, you would never have known that. And, I wouldn't have a second chance. But, this is the new world where ideas discussed with 120 people can reach much larger audiences within hours.

On my comments last night several people claiming to be Amazon employees (we really don't know because they gave their comments anonymously, but I'll take them on face value) made some very good points, which basically came down to "you didn't answer the question!" Om Malik made the same point on his post.

The common theme I'm hearing is Werner (and the other Amazon employees who commented here, and elsewhere that I'm seeing) want numbers. They want statistics. Proof. Science.

Where I gave them stuff like "blogging doubled sales at Stormhoek winery, according to its CEO." Or "Munjal Shah, CEO of Riya, says blogging is very important to his new company." Or "Axosoft raised more than $14,000 in just a few days with nothing more than a few links on some blogs." Or "Foldera got more than one million signups for its service in 17 days by doing nothing more than talking to six bloggers." Or, a tailor in the UK saw his sales go up by 10x by doing a blog. That probably wasn't well enough communicated, or it wasn't the kind of answer that would convince Werner. That means I need to go back and do some more homework or at least learn to communicate better while being interrupted by an executive with strongly formed opinions.

I totally forgot to mention that big companies like Boeing (Randy's journal is a blog done by an executive there) , General Motors (Bob Lutz, an exec at GM has a blog), and Wells Fargo (which recently started blogging on its history) are seeing enough of a reason to start a blog (and continue doing them, even after the first year). The teams at Boeing and GM say they are pleased with the response and effect of their blogging and plan to continue doing them.

But, if you don't like this approach, just visit Tom Moertel's blog where he talks about his favorite coffee shop in Pittsburgh, PA, USA. When I visited that shop myself the owner raved about what blogging had done for his business. It turned his little coffee shop into one with an international presence. Thanks to search engines like A9, Google, Yahoo, and MSN. Oh, and he said he never got written up in the press before blogging, but now that's a regular happening.

See, maybe that's why I wasn't able to defend blogging from a numbers point of view. To me this is a people business. One where raw numbers don't matter. One where getting eight guys together in a Swiss Chalet can turn into tens of thousands of users literally overnight with doing nothing more than one post.

I also totally forgot that Howard Dean raised more money in the last presidental race than other candidates because of his blog. Hey, when I'm up in front of 120 people with an executive giving me a hard time and not letting me finish my anwers and stop to breathe and think, my brain goes into vapor lock and I get stupid. Yes, Christopher Coulter, I know I'm +always+ stupid, it's just that yesterday I was even stupider than normal. 😉

But, I learned my lesson. Next time when Werner and Shel and I get together in a room I'll have lots of numbers to back up my thesis. I'm sorry I didn't yesterday.

It was a good lesson to learn. And it was a great experience for whenever I have to do an executive review. If it doesn't kill you, it'll make you stronger. So, thank you Werner for another good learning experience! Seriously!

Oh, and if you have some numbers and stats for Werner to ponder, now would be a good time to link to them here in the comments, or, if you feel corporate blogging is a bunch of hooey then feel free to tell me I'm stupid too! (Although that sort of proves my point that this is a new way for people to communicate their ideas, thoughts, opinions, product desires, and business opportunities with companies in a new way). 

Update: SEO Buzzbox put up an interview with me that was lots of fun to do. Yesterday I was on four radio stations. Whew. Some even asked hard questions like Werner did. But Dr. Alvin Jones put up our conversation on his Website (it's in Windows Media audio non-DRM'ed format here). He broadcasts a business show on WCBQ and WHNC in Raleigh, NC. It's interesting to hear from a guy who is still trying to figure out the Web. There are a lot more like Alvin than there are like Werner.

Update 2: Rick Segal is offering a conference in Toronto for the smackdown. I'd rather do it at Gnomedex in Seattle, I'm already traveling enough in the next few months and Maryam is getting tired of me never being home. Another choice is the Syndicate conference in New York. Eric Norlin offered that up (and I'm already attending that, so either that venue or Gnomedex would work best for me).

Update 3: I guess the Web services team at Amazon (along with the A9 Developer team) had their numbers together (since they are blogging). I would love to hear how they convinced Werner. This is another reason I was caught off guard. Since Amazon already understood blogs (their associate program helps bloggers make some money) they actually should be showing US the numbers. I'm sure they have them from the Associates program.

Hey, Steve Gillmor…

stick this into your "Office is dead" pipe and smoke it!

Damn, Excel 2007 is gonna make a lot of bean counter's lives a lot more interesting.

Seriously, does this count as a gesture in Steve's gesture bank? Heheh.

Don't worry if you can't figure out what we're talking about. It's a metaphor. 😉

A little bit of a dustup about our Amazon talk

I see Rick Segal picking on Amazon's CTO after reading a bunch of blogs this morning about our Amazon talk (and the ensuing controversy about whether or not we answered questions very well or not). I love how Rick called friends at Amazon and did some homework.

Hey, I want a rematch! Scoble (Microsoft evangelist) vs. Werner (Amazon CTO). Topic? Would blogs be good for Amazon? Think about the draw that'd bring at some conference! 🙂

Other good comments on this topic? Loren Heiny, blogger (he started a software house too). Jim Minatel, Wiley employee (book publisher!) and blogger.

Update: I answered the questions Werner raised, and more on a post here.

April fools starting early at MSN?

Is April Fools starting a day early over on MSN? Check out this fun search for my name. Of course Chris Pirillo has been hit too. Chris, I didn't realize you'd been bitten by a radioactive shrew! Oh, Dave Winer, look what your searches say!

Update: I got some emails asking how to do this for other people. Oh, if you clicked through any of those search results you would have seen that you can do the same thing for your friends. Thanks to Sean Carver who did this and have a good April Fools!

Are bloggers authoritative sources at big companies?

I just saw this over on the BrandToBeDetermined blog — that Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson are talking about are bloggers an authoritative source at big companies? Turns out the answer, at least here at Microsoft, is "maybe." (They asked our PR department and I got involved in the conversation internally that happened).

  • Executives like Ray Ozzie who blog? Absolutely. Any executive is almost always on the record for the company.
  • Team blogs like the IE team blog or the Xbox team blog? Yes with an asterisk, because what goes on those blogs is usually vetted by other people on the team and they discuss it (which explains why those blogs are generally a bit more reserved than individual blogs. I put an asterisk there because some teams might not require pre-vetting, but up to today team blogs are generally good sources of information on those products).
  • Individual bloggers like me? Depends (the PR team says to always call and verify facts, just to be safe). For me, it depends what I'm writing about and the tone I'm taking in my writing. If it's about the team I'm on (which does and Channel 9) and I say something you can assume I'm pretty authoritative and the facts I'm giving you are pretty accurate. If I interview, say, the head of the Internet Explorer team or Bill Gates or someone else, you can be pretty sure that's an authoritative piece of content that reflects the company's opinion pretty well. But most of the other writings I do? I'm not vetted. I don't check with others before I write my opinions. So, you should "fact check my a**" as they say around the blogosphere. On the other hand, I am on the record and you can quote me in press and blogs and other stuff (and I often do). If I say something about Microsoft I work very hard to make sure it's accurate (and if it isn't, you see that within minutes as my readers jump on me in my comments which are open and unmoderated).

That said, if you're a journalist writing a story it's best to check in with our PR teams (if you don't know how to get ahold of them, see the "Press" link on the right side of my blog, or drop me a line and I'll get you with them). They will be happy to give you the "official" story as well as they know who the official spokespeople are from each team and can put you in touch with them.

I do expect blogs to be used to get both the official and unofficial story out about things, just as the Security Team is communicating about Internet Explorer fixes on its blog.

This came up a few times in speeches today. Many PR departments are really struggling with this. They don't like the fact that employees at the edge of a company can get quoted in news media. This is a grand experiment that still is playing out in corporate America today.

What do you think?