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Friday, December 23, 2005

You just can't trust the interweb

You can almost hear the internal anguish in Micro-Soft's clogmeister Robert 'The Scobleizer' Scoble's post on salesforce.com's recent service outages.

Here's what is happening inside his brain as he writes:

"Salesforce is the enemy. Must criticise."
"Can't sound too obvious, though. I'm trying to look impartial."
"If I don't look impartial, I'll lose my credibility. Yikes!"
"But hang on, Salesforce relies on Internet application delivery. That's a bit like our new stuff!"
"But Salesforce is the enemy. Oh no. Must criticise on-demand software model."
"Oh dear, we've just launched on-demand CRM!"
"Crumbs, this is a tricky one. I know, I'll try and be diplomatic."
"Must kill Salesforce must kill Salesforce must kill Salesforce."
"Who said that?"
"Must kill Salesforce must kill Salesforce must kill Salesforce."
"Stop it. Who are you, anyway?"
"I'm a member of Microsoft Corporate Marketing department. I live in your brain."
"Get out! Get out! I'm a free man! I blog what I like!"
"Yeah, right. We own you. Just do it, sonny."
"But I don't want to. It'll be so obvious!"
"So? Just tell people you don't like 'the rush to the web for everything'."
"What? Are you insane? I'm a GEEK. I love the rush to the web. I rush to the web. For everything. People will suss me straight away."
"Just do it. Or you're fired."
"Oh. OK."


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Ex-journo in boat miss shocka

Thanks to Daryl Willcox (of SourceWire fame), I'm now comfortable in the knowledge that another ex-journalist-now-PR-supplier doesn't get 'that blogging thing'.

Here's an excerpt from his latest DWPub sporadic:
"OK, OK. So blogging is a bit of a phenomenon. But it's more a phenomenon of exaggeration than one of substance. Blogging in general a great thing, but as a media relations issue it has been blown completely out of proportion. Yes, every now and then someone will say something in a blog that captures the imagination of a lot of people and throws someone into disarray. But this happens very rarely."
But save your dismay for the next bit. It gets worse.
"By all means it is worthwhile researching and monitoring blogs that may have a direct relevance to your clients - especially the well-read ones, often written by journalists, analysts and consultants - and engage with them if you think it's worth it, but don't let it distract you from focusing on communication strategy."
Sorry, Daryl. Blogs are part of the fabric of the media now. Just look at our friends at Microsoft and Nokia to see how corporate comms can be changed forever, or Boing Boing and Gizmodo to get a feel of how journalism has evolved.

It's OK, I understand and yes, it hurts me too. Trained journalists are not as valuable as we used to be. People don't want the facts any more - they want fast access to microfocused opinion. In fact, readers don't even mind about where that opinion comes from - it could be a multinational corporation or a teenage 'bedroom blogger'. Nobody cares.

To warn PR companies not to let blogs distract them from focusing on communication strategy, in my view, is a little wide of the mark. Blogs, which will soon become the standard way of content delivery for the Next-Gen Web, should be high on the agenda.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Don't forget the day job

With a small number of notable exceptions, most bloggers and corporate bloggers have day jobs. I do. Even for the cloggers, their day job probably has little or nothing to do with the fact that they actually blog.

Blogging may, indeed, improve press relations or public awareness or even sales of the widgets or services that their company sells, but - at the end of the day - people blog because they want to share information with others.

It's a compulsion. A hobby. Something to do on the bus. The rest is by-product.

But what the cloggers and bloggers have done by selfishly shovelling ideas into the ether in the vain hope that someone will read them is unwittingly create a private but extensive ideas distribution network.

While 'normal' websites are a forum for ideas to be left for people to find, blogs have been empowered by RSS. The ideas network has been given a way in which to speak to people proactively. My email is no longer what I hanker to launch every morning. It's now NetNewswireLite that gets the virgin click of the day.

What I'm getting at is this: whether a blogger, clogger or pretend blogger who's really a clogger but actually just a glorified marketer, you're part of the network. If you have an idea, sharing it is easy.

Whatever your motives, as a blogger you've created a mechanism for hundreds, perhaps thousands of like-minded people to listen when you say "you know what? I think..."

As long as everyone else remembers you have a day job and - shock horror - a motive, the whole system should remain nice and stable. Whatever the motive, ideas are valuable and made to be shared.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I'm not ready for a relationship

Blogger relations is a funny old game. Nokia seems to have nailed it with the N90 blog, by throwing marketing genius and money at the issue and creating a blogger relations site that not only seems to stay on top of its lofty goals but works pretty well as a blog in its own right. My mate Andy also does a pretty good job - a few infractions aside - of posting at the speed of light, keeping on top of comments, populating other blogs and generally sounding authoritative.

Come to think of it, most - if not all - of the corporate blogs (clogs) I read are really just blogger relations exercises. Microsoft seems to do a good job of feeding the blogging community with PR to keep the blogosphere humming. It's just that Nokia's done it with more transparency. Soon, Andy could be the new king clogger. He is Scobleizer 2.0.

To turn things on their head a little - I'm in the mood as I'm posting from the top deck of a rowdy London bus - it could easily be argued that clogs don't exist. They're just blogger relations sites formatted like blogs (because that's the format in which bloggers prefer to receive information) and ruled over by a character with enough time and inclination to post, comment and sound intelligent.

And seeing as most blogs have a corporate message behind them somewhere - apart from a) little blogs written by old folk in Utah about their cat b) proper magazine-style blogs like Gizmodo and Boing Boing which get treated like editorially-driven magazines anyway), then the target for blogger relations exercises don't exist either.

So - to recap: Clogs don't exist. Blogs don't exist. The corporations are pumping money into blogger relations strategies that are only serving to inform a closed network of other corporations what they're up to. The information survives forever in a closed loop.

Nobody takes any notice, until one day a bored journalist at a real publication can't be bothered to find their own story and takes a dip into their RSS reader to see what's a-hummin' in the blogosphere.

But wouldn't said journalist have been sent his or her own N90 anyway..?


Monday, December 05, 2005

Ou est tout le monde? Les Blogs 2.0!

I'm annoyed. There's nobody around to disagree with. They've all gone to Les Blogs 2.0 (which I thought was a site for women seeking women but is actually a blogging conference set up by blog flogger Six Apart) and are so enthralled by each others' company they're not giving me any material to work with. The blogosphere is eerily silent.

So I'll make some stuff up. Here goes.

Made-up excerpt from a discussion taking place at a seminar at Les Blogs entitled "Blogging 2.0 - Why blogs rock, and why bloggers rock, and why the long tail rocks and other stuff":

Cool San Francisco hacker/blogger in Abercrombie & Fitch shirt: "Blogging rocks. I've got a Porsche. Check out my iBook."

100% geek in "I'm blogging this" shirt: "You do realise I'm blogging this? You think you're an RSS addict? Wait for SSE. It's gonna rock."

Musclebound European blogging entrepreneur in no shirt: "The beautiful metaphor that encompasses the drifting of boundaries between the mass media and the social broadcaster is so delicate that it reminds me of a snowflake's attempt at survival in the final flourish of winter, twinkling in the morning light of spring."

Yes, yes. So I think it's all a little bit rubbish. But I know how these conferences are - I've been to enough. Loads of (insert latest technology fad here) fans get together to discuss how great (insert it again) is with no real contact with the real world.

How many speakers are going to be at Les Blogs that will talk about the gaping wound that blogging is opening up between ethical journalism and advertorial? Will there be a seminar based on controlling libel in the blogosphere? Who will be the main proponent of impartiality at all costs? Who will stop those with unbridled commercial greed?

I'm happy to be corrected here. I'm praying that I am. But at the moment I feel that the blogosphere is currently involved in a session of mutual self-congratulation.


Sunday, December 04, 2005

Word-of-mouth wombats

First I thought the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) was a spoof site. Then I realised it was real. Then I realised it had published a resonable, if lengthy and inpenetrable, code of ethics.

Blogger relations seems to fit somewhere in the mix between 'real' and word-of-mouth marketing. It's not direct, but it's structured. It's not person-to-person, but it's not quite mass media either. Blogger relations is micro-influencing on a mass scale.

Some of the rules in the WOMMA list seem to fit the clogger code. I like the bit about protection of consumers, and the importance given to honesty.

It strikes me a number of cloggers and bloggers could do with reading some of these.

Who you gonna call?

Below is my comment regarding Stowe Boyd's intelligent response to my Nokia N90 rant. I thought I'd post it in full, because I feel strongly about the subject. Oh, and Andy - stop it with the fatuous 'thankyous' already! Do you want me to reinstate your status as a drone?

My comment to Stowe:

Impartiality is a dangerous myth?

What the N90 blog has started is a real polarisation (that's English for polarization) of the blogging landscape. And it's done this by blurring boundaries. Hmm, weird.

Firstly, Nokia's blog isn't a corporate blog. It's a delivery mechanism for corporate material and a forum for reprinting bloggers' comments and responding to them with corporate messaging. Let's call it a 'blog marketplace'. I also think it's brilliantly clever, and a great blueprint for other PR 2.0 websites.

But as a journalist, my entire ethos is based on the concept of the Fourth Estate. In brief, it means that without a free and impartial press, civilisation crumbles.

The power of the Fourth Estate varies wildly from country to country. At one end of the scale, Government-owned media companies pump out self-perpetuating propaganda for those in power. At the other end, the free press regulates and controls those in power, including individuals attempting to amass vast personal wealth through commercial activity.

America seems to sit in the middle. The press is owned by the advertisers. We are seeing the ongoing erosion of ethical reportage in favour of short-sighted pandering to the corporations that wield the dollars.

And this is what is happening in the blogosphere. People are publishing. Social broadcasting means anyone can be an influencer. But within this society of social broadcasters is a huge range of people. There are people that are publishing to wide audiences with no concept of the responsibility that comes with being a part of the mass media. And there are others who do.

With no set guidelines as to how to protect the interests of the public, we are risking giving everything to the corporations, and keeping nothing for ourselves.

As I said in my original post, I just hope the true press stays in place as the filter between the corporate message and the public at large.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Leave Scoble alone?

I realise these posts are becoming too focused on a small cluster of cloggers. Just like Mr Scobleizer sometimes vainly attempts to stop talking about Microsoft for a while, I'm going to try to stop talking about The Scoble.

Oh, go on then. Just one last gripe.

Colm Smyth has met Robert Scoble during his Dublin escapades, and has this to say in his post about meeting the King of Clog:

"(Robert Scoble is) 100% committed to the authenticity, validity and significance of the blogging conversation."

Er, sorry Colm. Nobody on the Microsoft payroll - or any payroll for that matter of a company that directly affects the fabric of the Internet - can be even 1% authentic.

And as for being "unaffected" by his Kingly status? Perhaps you need to be on the end of one of his n0-holds-barred comment flamers should you dare to say one word in criticism.

That's the last one for a while. I promise.