Things I learned

I’m going back over what I learned this week.

First, let’s go back to Southwest Airlines. How did they handle their total meltdown in Oakland? Did they cover it on their blog? Did they send me an apology? Did they apologize to the 1,000 customers that they inconvenienced last week? Did they hire more staff? Did they have management fly in to take care of the problem? Are they listening?

No.

My willingness to defend Southwest (who usually is a great carrier) went way way down last week. I can no longer recommend them to my friends. Next week I’m flying Alaska to Portland. Does that matter to Southwest? Probably not. Their planes are still full. Corporate profits are still up. Compare that corporate behavior to John Edwards who linked to someone who doesn’t think Edwards did a good job this week.

Would seeing an acknowledgement of negative feedback make me feel better about Southwest? Absolutely. At least I’d know there was someone listening. All its “PR blog” is doing is telling me that no one is minding the store as it goes all to hell.

Then, looking into New Orleans. I still am processing the devastation that is there and the poverty. I haven’t done enough. If that’s the only thing I learned this week, that’d be enough. I feel powerless to do much, cause I can’t take the time off of work right now to go and help rebuild houses and I don’t have extra cash right now to donate. I feel mighty guilty about that, though. It sucks that I haven’t done more.

The most interesting insight from the many pres that I remember from talking to was from Dan Balz of the Washington Post. I asked him if he had a theory of how the campaign would turn out. In other words, did he already have a theory of whether Hillary was going to be nominated, or Barack, or Edwards, or someone else. He said no cause he’s learned that campaigns aren’t linear. Something invariably happens to change everyone’s opinion about which way they were going to go.

On the plane.

Before going on the plane, I thought it would be a lot more glamorous. It’s not. Edwards got, I think, eight hours of sleep in three days. And he did a job I wouldn’t be able to do: answered hundreds of questions in front of some of the most powerful media organizations the world has (he’ll be on George Stephanopolous’ program tomorrow on ABC I hear) and then in front of thousands of people.

Keep in mind that almost all of these candidates are rich. They could do something more fun with their time. I found myself wondering if I had tens of millions in the bank would I be working that hard? And, would I invite people on my plane who could report every single move I made?

I asked him why would anyone want to be President. It doesn’t sound like a fun job to me and after being on the plane it seems even less fun. Imagine having to go through a two-year interview process just to get a new job. Damn, I thought Microsoft interviews were grueling, but I’ll never complain about day-long interviews again.

I found that I was far less cynical about the political process. Leave Edwards out of this. Anyone who is doing this deserves a lot more support than we’ve been giving political leaders. We treat politicians like scum and I came away with a lot more respect for the process and for the people who put their ideas out in front of people.

As for how bloggers can play in this process? I think we just are going to come up short in coverage of campaigns when compared to the mainstream press. In order to ask really tough, probing questions, you need to build relationships with not just the candidate, but also with the staff. The staff really can decide whether you get him at a good time, or one where he’ll lower his guard a bit — and to really ask a tough question you need to listen to him answer questions thousands of times — that’s when you’ll see his weak points and where to probe more. There’s no way a blogger who comes in fresh without following him around is going to know his weak points, or the questions that he always gets riled up about. I got him a little riled, for instance, when I told him that people thought pulling out of Iraq would destablize the Middle East. I knew that’d get him riled, cause I had seen how he, and his staff, were thinking about that. You’ll see that on video next week too.

I learned that there just is no time to think when part of a trip like this. It’s hard to clear space just to sit down and analyze what you heard. I decided to wait until after I got home. But I saw how journalists work. They did an interview, or listened intently to what he was saying, then they zoned in on their screens and really spent time doing nothing but thinking about what they heard and getting those thoughts down. Most bloggers won’t be skilled at finding that “zone” and getting time to sit down and analyze what they’ve just heard. I sure am not.

Anyway, I have family coming over for lunch today, so gotta do chores. More learning next week after I process the video and audio stuff I got and the experiences I had — I certainly would encourage anyone to do this if they had a chance. It’d totally change how you view America and the political process.

Comments

  1. Forgetting about he politics, will this change how you interview, did you see something that will improve (in your opinion) how to extract information from a subject?

    I personally found this adventure of yours interesting in the comments of your posts. It still amazes me in how people will interpret what they read.

    Guy

  2. Forgetting about he politics, will this change how you interview, did you see something that will improve (in your opinion) how to extract information from a subject?

    I personally found this adventure of yours interesting in the comments of your posts. It still amazes me in how people will interpret what they read.

    Guy

  3. Guy: I learned that my instincts of getting people in their offices, or where they are more comfortable, are really good ones. One thing I also learned is that these guys actually like substantive and well-thought questions. They feed off of that.

    The real action, I learned, is done by the staff too. They are the ones who really are authorities on the political process and they also are the ones who can help you get that unique interview that is different from the ones CNN can get.

  4. Guy: I learned that my instincts of getting people in their offices, or where they are more comfortable, are really good ones. One thing I also learned is that these guys actually like substantive and well-thought questions. They feed off of that.

    The real action, I learned, is done by the staff too. They are the ones who really are authorities on the political process and they also are the ones who can help you get that unique interview that is different from the ones CNN can get.

  5. Robert,

    I’m glad you enjoyed yourself. Now, let’s do away with all things political on here. This is a tech blog afterall. I was also pleased to note in one of your comments that you are a fiscal conservative. Excellent. I was beginning to think you had drunk the kool-aid this week.

    Keep up the good work.

  6. Robert,

    I’m glad you enjoyed yourself. Now, let’s do away with all things political on here. This is a tech blog afterall. I was also pleased to note in one of your comments that you are a fiscal conservative. Excellent. I was beginning to think you had drunk the kool-aid this week.

    Keep up the good work.

  7. I think you answered your own question about how bloggers play in the process. They show what the process is and how it works, not from the press’s point of view, but from a citizen’s, a voter’s point of view. Maybe more of us can come away with that new respect that you seem to have found.

  8. I think you answered your own question about how bloggers play in the process. They show what the process is and how it works, not from the press’s point of view, but from a citizen’s, a voter’s point of view. Maybe more of us can come away with that new respect that you seem to have found.

  9. Your observations make the whole running-for-president experience more human, exhausting and complex, but human. Thx for that. After reading your most recent thoughts after getting back, I’m kind of humbled. Whatever passion I have for citizen journalism and the blogosphere would’ve crapped-out in the first morning of your first day – if in your shoes (or Edwards’). Congrats on sticking your neck out.

  10. Your observations make the whole running-for-president experience more human, exhausting and complex, but human. Thx for that. After reading your most recent thoughts after getting back, I’m kind of humbled. Whatever passion I have for citizen journalism and the blogosphere would’ve crapped-out in the first morning of your first day – if in your shoes (or Edwards’). Congrats on sticking your neck out.

  11. “Next week I’m flying Alaska to Portland. Does that matter to Southwest?”

    Since Southwest doesn’t fly to Alaska, I’d say it definitely doesn’t matter to them.

  12. “Next week I’m flying Alaska to Portland. Does that matter to Southwest?”

    Since Southwest doesn’t fly to Alaska, I’d say it definitely doesn’t matter to them.

  13. The idea I’ve been trying to track through your post’s is whether or not Edwards is genuinely engaging communities or if it’s just the latest hook in the spin doctors arsenal? That said the blogsphere learns quickly and does not tolerate fools gladly (except for me I hope? ha) so should weed out the messages from the genuine conversation’s.

    I wouldn’t agree with you on the million dollars of hardware that you can’t compete with. The mass old school media use to control the mass distribution channel, your an example yourself of how that simply isn’t true any more. At this stage traditional mass media would surely like you to believe they also have the upper hand on the production side, that’s simply no longer true. When push comes to shove in getting the story you’d be surprised how much of that hardware gets dumped and real journalism kicks in. look at Dr. Bob Arnot (Dateline/CBS etc) or a huge amount of early stage reporting of wars and disasters where the report is as likely to be shot on a mobile phone as it is on the latest Sony digibetacam.

    Robert, You have a macbook pro, You have a good camera, and you have a way with compelling interviews and content so all I’d say you need to punch in the same league as those with mega buck hardware is a little time and some bandwidth where ever you may be. Even if you wanted to hit the big bang types and do live stream’s you could gear up for a good bit less than broadcasters pay for a single camera and fit all your hardware in the back or a station wagon, even a sub compact!

    There really isn’t much of a barrier to entry any more, getting a viable audience is the only issue.

  14. The idea I’ve been trying to track through your post’s is whether or not Edwards is genuinely engaging communities or if it’s just the latest hook in the spin doctors arsenal? That said the blogsphere learns quickly and does not tolerate fools gladly (except for me I hope? ha) so should weed out the messages from the genuine conversation’s.

    I wouldn’t agree with you on the million dollars of hardware that you can’t compete with. The mass old school media use to control the mass distribution channel, your an example yourself of how that simply isn’t true any more. At this stage traditional mass media would surely like you to believe they also have the upper hand on the production side, that’s simply no longer true. When push comes to shove in getting the story you’d be surprised how much of that hardware gets dumped and real journalism kicks in. look at Dr. Bob Arnot (Dateline/CBS etc) or a huge amount of early stage reporting of wars and disasters where the report is as likely to be shot on a mobile phone as it is on the latest Sony digibetacam.

    Robert, You have a macbook pro, You have a good camera, and you have a way with compelling interviews and content so all I’d say you need to punch in the same league as those with mega buck hardware is a little time and some bandwidth where ever you may be. Even if you wanted to hit the big bang types and do live stream’s you could gear up for a good bit less than broadcasters pay for a single camera and fit all your hardware in the back or a station wagon, even a sub compact!

    There really isn’t much of a barrier to entry any more, getting a viable audience is the only issue.

  15. [...] Every once in awhile Robert Scoble comes out with a very thought provoking statement; whether he realizes it at the time or not, and one of his posts today contained a paragraph that struck me right off as something really worth thinking about: It’s hard to clear space just to sit down and analyze what you heard. I decided to wait until after I got home. But I saw how journalists work. They did an interview, or listened intently to what he was saying, then they zoned in on their screens and really spent time doing nothing but thinking about what they heard and getting those thoughts down. Most bloggers won’t be skilled at finding that “zone” and getting time to sit down and analyze what they’ve just heard. I sure am not. [bold italics is my emphasis] [...]

  16. “I found that I was far less cynical about the political process. Leave Edwards out of this. Anyone who is doing this deserves a lot more support than we’ve been giving political leaders. We treat politicians like scum and I came away with a lot more respect for the process and for the people who put their ideas out in front of people.”

    Perhaps it could be ok for US politicians. Mr Berlusconi did go the same path as Edwards: a very long campaign to become Prime Minister. Anyway the aim was very clear to everybody: in case he was unsuccessful, he would have lost much more than a campaign, but the possibility to be in the position to make and change Italian laws according to his needs (especially fiscal ones). That is why he does not deserve any support at all.

  17. “I found that I was far less cynical about the political process. Leave Edwards out of this. Anyone who is doing this deserves a lot more support than we’ve been giving political leaders. We treat politicians like scum and I came away with a lot more respect for the process and for the people who put their ideas out in front of people.”

    Perhaps it could be ok for US politicians. Mr Berlusconi did go the same path as Edwards: a very long campaign to become Prime Minister. Anyway the aim was very clear to everybody: in case he was unsuccessful, he would have lost much more than a campaign, but the possibility to be in the position to make and change Italian laws according to his needs (especially fiscal ones). That is why he does not deserve any support at all.

  18. I think there’s a lot of ego involved in wanting to be president. Most of these guys sincerely think they will be able to make a change. They have a set of beliefs they think are “right.” That’s what keeps them on the planes, sacrificing sleep and family, etc. And it does turn out to be pretty thankless — days full of endless meetings and briefings, and no freedom.

    Good that you saw it. If nothing else, it will make you a better voter. And I agree that the tech blogosphere can’t beat out the MSM — but it’s not a hardware issue, it’s a software issue :-) You need the content expertise about the issues and the politics. The political blogosphere is creaming the MSM

  19. I think there’s a lot of ego involved in wanting to be president. Most of these guys sincerely think they will be able to make a change. They have a set of beliefs they think are “right.” That’s what keeps them on the planes, sacrificing sleep and family, etc. And it does turn out to be pretty thankless — days full of endless meetings and briefings, and no freedom.

    Good that you saw it. If nothing else, it will make you a better voter. And I agree that the tech blogosphere can’t beat out the MSM — but it’s not a hardware issue, it’s a software issue :-) You need the content expertise about the issues and the politics. The political blogosphere is creaming the MSM

  20. Robert …
    RE: “There’s no way a blogger who comes in fresh without following him around is going to know his weak points, or the questions that he always gets riled up about.”

    I have to say I enjoyed your posts more than the usual blah blah that the journalistic process produces on those political trips. Is it just me, or why is it that news reviews of an event or person 12 months after are much more meaningful and insightful, than the reporting which is done at the time. I blame editorial control, which is behind what you referred to.

    Your posts were insightful, and I learned more about Edwards from you, than before, even though I followed the earlier Pres campaigns closely.

    I have no idea how you would find the time, but a political blog would work for you.

  21. Robert …
    RE: “There’s no way a blogger who comes in fresh without following him around is going to know his weak points, or the questions that he always gets riled up about.”

    I have to say I enjoyed your posts more than the usual blah blah that the journalistic process produces on those political trips. Is it just me, or why is it that news reviews of an event or person 12 months after are much more meaningful and insightful, than the reporting which is done at the time. I blame editorial control, which is behind what you referred to.

    Your posts were insightful, and I learned more about Edwards from you, than before, even though I followed the earlier Pres campaigns closely.

    I have no idea how you would find the time, but a political blog would work for you.

  22. Which portion of the meltdown at the Oakland Airport are you referring to. The Bay Area media had said
    that there is a problem and that it is with catching a Southwest flight from Oakland had more to do with the fact that the airport is now serving 200 percent of its current capacity. If you didn’t arrive at (the beginning of the security screening line) at least 90 minutes prior to your scheduled departure time you have your self to blame for not showing up at the gate on time. If you local media runs a report saying that
    lines run out of the terminal outside I would arrive
    even earlier. But because you didn’t describe in detail how the 8 or more plane loads of people were
    inconvinced how can they (Southwest Airlines) or I
    comment on the situation. Also what did they say when
    you called their 1800IFLYSWA customer service number to
    explain what happened.

  23. Which portion of the meltdown at the Oakland Airport are you referring to. The Bay Area media had said
    that there is a problem and that it is with catching a Southwest flight from Oakland had more to do with the fact that the airport is now serving 200 percent of its current capacity. If you didn’t arrive at (the beginning of the security screening line) at least 90 minutes prior to your scheduled departure time you have your self to blame for not showing up at the gate on time. If you local media runs a report saying that
    lines run out of the terminal outside I would arrive
    even earlier. But because you didn’t describe in detail how the 8 or more plane loads of people were
    inconvinced how can they (Southwest Airlines) or I
    comment on the situation. Also what did they say when
    you called their 1800IFLYSWA customer service number to
    explain what happened.

  24. Robert,

    It is wonderful that candidates are reaching out to Tech Community and Silicon Valley via bloggers.

    Healthcare is one of the biggest problems facing Americans besides Social Security. Healthcare cost is one of the root causes for Proverty. Government provides aids and economic programs in Food and Shelter but didn’t have a nationwide effective campaign to reform Healthcare.

    I often wish I could have asked Bill Gates in person if Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation along with Warren Buffett’s Fund is willing to shift some of their attention to improve domestic healthcare in addition to international needs. Disease prevention and medical research are as important as Healthcare financial management. Doctors and insurance cost determine if you are going to live better or longer. Healthcare cost will determine your living quality or your children’s education future. You bet I would be well-prepared to ask Bill about this if I get invited to Microsoft along with other bloggers and other rep from web community. And I will bring a PC laptop.

    I am reading Presidential Candidates putting Healthcare as their key campaigns. Do they have a solid plan that is executable? not a dreamy plan that wow you for 4 years after election.

    How Tech Community can contribute? I know of startups have bits of technology to offer prepaid card to cover uninsured or rejected patiences but we can’t get enough healthcare network or massive coverage. Would Presidential Candidates be willing to approach these startups with potential technology? Help these startups with network and resources. Government should give incentive to Web 2.0 startups working on healthcare related technology just like energy.

  25. Robert,

    It is wonderful that candidates are reaching out to Tech Community and Silicon Valley via bloggers.

    Healthcare is one of the biggest problems facing Americans besides Social Security. Healthcare cost is one of the root causes for Proverty. Government provides aids and economic programs in Food and Shelter but didn’t have a nationwide effective campaign to reform Healthcare.

    I often wish I could have asked Bill Gates in person if Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation along with Warren Buffett’s Fund is willing to shift some of their attention to improve domestic healthcare in addition to international needs. Disease prevention and medical research are as important as Healthcare financial management. Doctors and insurance cost determine if you are going to live better or longer. Healthcare cost will determine your living quality or your children’s education future. You bet I would be well-prepared to ask Bill about this if I get invited to Microsoft along with other bloggers and other rep from web community. And I will bring a PC laptop.

    I am reading Presidential Candidates putting Healthcare as their key campaigns. Do they have a solid plan that is executable? not a dreamy plan that wow you for 4 years after election.

    How Tech Community can contribute? I know of startups have bits of technology to offer prepaid card to cover uninsured or rejected patiences but we can’t get enough healthcare network or massive coverage. Would Presidential Candidates be willing to approach these startups with potential technology? Help these startups with network and resources. Government should give incentive to Web 2.0 startups working on healthcare related technology just like energy.

  26. Scott: it took me three hours to get to the front counter. I was there 90 minutes ahead of time. It wouldn’t have mattered.

    I was still in line when my wife got through to a travel agent and booked me in Continental. I was through their lines, through security, and on its plane in 20 minutes.

    This was a Southwest Airlines meltdown. They didn’t have enough people there. Their computers broke down. Their equipment broke down, and there were other problems due to Oakland Airport construction.

    They didn’t have enough people taking care of customers there. I didn’t need to call their customer support lines. When Maryam rebooked me I was talking with their customer support people right in front of me.

    I heard from other customers that the same thing happened all week.

  27. Scott: it took me three hours to get to the front counter. I was there 90 minutes ahead of time. It wouldn’t have mattered.

    I was still in line when my wife got through to a travel agent and booked me in Continental. I was through their lines, through security, and on its plane in 20 minutes.

    This was a Southwest Airlines meltdown. They didn’t have enough people there. Their computers broke down. Their equipment broke down, and there were other problems due to Oakland Airport construction.

    They didn’t have enough people taking care of customers there. I didn’t need to call their customer support lines. When Maryam rebooked me I was talking with their customer support people right in front of me.

    I heard from other customers that the same thing happened all week.

  28. I have flown SW a ton and was a big fan until my last trip. I was at OAK early and tried to go standby on an earlier flight. They wanted $50 to do so. I didn’t think it was worthwhile since my flight was supposed to leave an hour or so later. There was space on the flight, there was no reason for the charge except that I didn’t pay enough for my flight.

    To make a long story short, my flight was delayed and I didn’t get to my destination until 4 hours later.

    Like you I will fly AS rather SW next time.

  29. I have flown SW a ton and was a big fan until my last trip. I was at OAK early and tried to go standby on an earlier flight. They wanted $50 to do so. I didn’t think it was worthwhile since my flight was supposed to leave an hour or so later. There was space on the flight, there was no reason for the charge except that I didn’t pay enough for my flight.

    To make a long story short, my flight was delayed and I didn’t get to my destination until 4 hours later.

    Like you I will fly AS rather SW next time.

  30. Yeahsure: I answered your long post over on your blog.

    But, Elizabeth Edwards told me they have both PCs and Macs and use both in their home. She said that their Macs were ripped off, though (the thieves left the PCs) so she thought it was funny that the criminal element liked Macs better.

    Most of the campaign staff uses Macs, though, although I did see a couple of PCs used too.

  31. Yeahsure: I answered your long post over on your blog.

    But, Elizabeth Edwards told me they have both PCs and Macs and use both in their home. She said that their Macs were ripped off, though (the thieves left the PCs) so she thought it was funny that the criminal element liked Macs better.

    Most of the campaign staff uses Macs, though, although I did see a couple of PCs used too.

  32. Then, looking into New Orleans. I still am processing the devastation that is there and the poverty. I haven’t done enough. If that’s the only thing I learned this week, that’d be enough.”

    Thanks so much for the post, and this comment. I think a lot about Katrina myself. I did get my stranded pianist friend Wyatt back to Nola. He’s another helping hand that wants to resurrect the spirit and character of Nola but also use the situation as an opportunity to rebuild it better too. He arrived back very late Christmas Day.

    My plan right now is to head out there for Mardi Gras, around Feb 20th. We could do some videoblogging for PodTech, etc. on my visit and maybe we can do some music/video touring enroute to SxSW too?…I’m open to ideas.

    Happy New Year!

  33. Then, looking into New Orleans. I still am processing the devastation that is there and the poverty. I haven’t done enough. If that’s the only thing I learned this week, that’d be enough.”

    Thanks so much for the post, and this comment. I think a lot about Katrina myself. I did get my stranded pianist friend Wyatt back to Nola. He’s another helping hand that wants to resurrect the spirit and character of Nola but also use the situation as an opportunity to rebuild it better too. He arrived back very late Christmas Day.

    My plan right now is to head out there for Mardi Gras, around Feb 20th. We could do some videoblogging for PodTech, etc. on my visit and maybe we can do some music/video touring enroute to SxSW too?…I’m open to ideas.

    Happy New Year!

  34. Would you pay to be part of the Democractic process

    Many of you who live in the United States are probably thinking. I already do pay to be part of the Democratic process. This is part of the reason I pay my yearly taxes. What I am asking is – would you be willing to pay to report on the Democratic proc…

  35. [...] Robert Scoble stated: “As for how bloggers can play in this process? I think we just are going to come up short in coverage of campaigns when compared to the mainstream press.” I agree with almost all of what Robert did on the trip (based on what I’ve seen so far). That said, I think Robert had his PodTech/video blogging hat on a little too tightly here when making this statement that covered his listening ears! Seperately, Karl Long in his debunking of “Social Media is Dead” stated: “To me the difference between social media and “the media” or “big media” is control and influence. Social media is primarily controlled by the participants, by the viewers, readers, listeners etc. where as traditional media is primarily controlled by an organization with a narrower agenda like a corporation, or a political party.” [...]

  36. [...] Robert Scoble stated: “As for how bloggers can play in this process? I think we just are going to come up short in coverage of campaigns when compared to the mainstream press.” I agree with almost all of what Robert did on the trip (based on what I’ve seen so far). That said, I think Robert had his PodTech/video blogging hat on a little too tightly here when making this statement that covered his listening ears! Seperately, Karl Long in his debunking of “Social Media is Dead” stated: “To me the difference between social media and “the media” or “big media” is control and influence. Social media is primarily controlled by the participants, by the viewers, readers, listeners etc. where as traditional media is primarily controlled by an organization with a narrower agenda like a corporation, or a political party.” [...]