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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Big pool, small pond?

So, dubiously qualified model/dubiously qualified technology blogger Anina has been ordered to stop blogging (via Scoble) by her modelling agency, eh? Fantastic.

I am going to conspicuously avoid any comment surrounding the fact that, in light of recent model-related scandals, running a tech blog is therefore obviously thought of as worse than controlled substance abuse and fiddling around inside the wee-stained undergarments of addled tramps.

I'm also not going to mention the fact that her agency has made the biggest mistake since Bill Gates said the Internet probably wouldn't catch on, and stop playing around with that Netscape rubbish and get back to work thankyou very much. (Well, I'd never heard of Slides. And now, if I ever need the services of a gaggle of beautiful laydees next time I'm in France I certainly know where I WON'T be going. Stop laughing.)

And I'm certainly not going to jump to the defence of Anina, and portray her as an unfortunate pawn in the mysterious game of the blogosphere's evolution into a traditional and trusted media channel. Because I don't think the agency has done that much wrong. It controls her image in an image-obsessed world. If it maintains her image is tarnished by a dull-as-dishwater blog, who am I to argue?

The reason I'm not going to do any of these is here. Anina is at a blogging conference. She is the only female in a room frighteningly saturated with the stench of geek. She decides to be 'crazy' and jump in the pool.

This would've been cool had some old bloke not already done it, and had she not hung about posing for an hour on the side before she decided to jump in.

Sorry, Anina, the moment you jumped I saw you for what you really are. A pretender, enjoying the adulation of being a model amongst geeks, but ultimately a novelty in the blogosphere.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Blog them, and their law II (corrected)

Some time ago, I started a clogger 'code of ethics'. My plan was to grow it organically and finally turn it into an NUJ-style set of rules to promote good practice in corporate blogging.

This kind of self-government works. Trust me, I'm a journalist.

Spurred on by David Tebbutt's post on crafty blog changers, and still smarting from Andy Hayler's blatant ignorance of my influence on him and subsequent attempts at contact, I'd like to propose rule number 2.

Here it is:

2. When you edit a published blog post, track your changes openly and publicly. (Tebutt) (Tebbutt)

So, to recap:

1. In social situations, everything is off the record unless otherwise agreed. (Foremsky) (Foremski)

2. When you edit a published blog post, track your changes openly and publicly. (Tebbutt)

Who's with me?

Or are you all far too busy being 'subversive' to care?

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Sunday, January 08, 2006

Have you seen the light?

In my post 'Above the law, but not reproach' I reprimanded Andrew Hayler on a poor choice of headline.

He's changed it now. Good work fella.

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AIM high

Justin Uberti is one of AOL's more well-known bloggers, through his blog Tales of a Running Man. He doesn't update it much, but it's worth keeping an eye on.

I thought I'd point out his 2005 Retrospective post. It's a smart, quick, honest and informative snapshot of stuff his employer has done over the last year.

Firstly, it doesn't attempt to crow about the successes of AOL's Instant Messenger division. The tone is more excited than smug, more proud parent than gloating boyfriend. Like he's genuinely proud to have played a part in the genesis of these products.

Secondly, and - in my mind - more importantly, the failures ring true. Justin takes these errors personally and believes this year things will be better. But he keeps it quick, and to the point. There's no temptation to whine on about changing his own company from the ground up.

It's the false braying about how crap your company can be sometimes, how upset you are to work for it and how your blog is going to change it forever that sets off my bullshit detector.

Others should take a couple of lessons from this and apply them to their own blogs. Mentioning no names. Ahem.

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Ghost in the machine

So, 83 per cent of corporate blogs are ghost-written? (via Mike Bawden's 'Much Ado' post.) Wow. That sucks.

I'm wondering, however, what constitutes being 'written by someone else'. There's a fine line here. A few fine lines even. Ones that could rock the result.

This calls for a sliding scale. A cloggerblog first!

START: SELF-WRITTEN

1. Owned

This jolly worker always fancied himself as a Hunter S Thompson-style character, ever since that mescal-fuelled road-trip from LA to Las Vegas for COMDEX back in the summer of '98. He cogitates, conceptualises, creates and publishes (damn, couldn't think of a suitable c-word) his blog in its entirety. There's no interaction from bosses or marketing dweebs or subeditors or stakeholders or any other uncool fool for this thought-leading pioneer. You go, girl.

2. Dictated

This hot young go-getter is far too busy and important to write his own blog. But that doesn't mean he doesn't understand that blogging, tagging wiki-ing and all those other trendy social publishing phenomena aren't crucial to the continuing success of his business. Hell no. No siree. That's why he dictates his thoughts to a member of staff who is more at home operating in the blogosphere. I mean, who can use a computer.

3. Consulted

He may care about the blog, but that shouldn't mean he should devote time to the blog. It doesn't even mean he really knows what the hell should go on the blog. But one thing's for sure - this guy knows his onions. And his potatoes. And his apples. So, he decides to stay involved, but in the most efficient way he knows how - by hiring someone to do it for him. But do not fear. These are his ideas. Weekly calls or meetings with the writer see pearls cast before swine. But man, can this pig blog. The result is a fine mix of form and content, fixed in eternal - and beautiful - ballet.

4. Approved

This exec doesn't blog. He doesn't get blogs. He doesn't like blogs, and may even think they're a threat to corporate branding, positioning and confidentiality. But he knows how important they are. So he too has hired a blogger to do the blogging for him. But instead of weekly inspirational meetings where concepts are bandied about like ethereal currency, this busy bee doesn't really give a toss about the topic of the posts. He's just happy to leave it to the hired help, check it for messaging, run it by corporate and give it the green light. Well, it's a just another marketing tool, right? Just like that time we hired those models in the tight t-shirts or advertised on the side of dogs.

5. Ghosted

The blog that the ghost-written CEO 'writes', the CEO may have never seen. Six months ago, he had a meeting sandwiched between lunch with the editor of the FT and a challenging round of golf that layed down what he wanted to do, say and avoid on the blog. Since then, he has had no contact with blog or ghost writer. A marketeer from the imagineering department casually glances across the posts before they go up to check that the right keywords have been used - 'end-to-end solution', thought-leading pioneer', 'techno-innovative' - and that the branding is intact. After all, it would be dreadful if the ghost forgot to use a lower case letter at the start of the company name, especially at the beginning of a sentence. That would be corporate suicide!

FINISH: GHOST-WRITTEN

So, the fine lines are in there somewhere. Can a blog that's anything than number one be truly self-written? If not, then I reckon that the results of the survey are skewed.

But if we're can feasibly count numbers one, two and three as self-written, which is easily arguable, then the numbers stack up much differently.

Where can the lines be drawn? What constitutes a self-written blog? Which are you? You decide.

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Byte perk with Fins

Johnny Cass has told me to say more positive things about corporate blogging. I'm going to give it a try and see what happens. Here goes.

I was idly reading web coverage of the recent Windows vulnerability the other day when I noticed a great piece of clog-driven PR from cuddly Fins F-Secure.

VNUnet had used part of a post from Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at F-Secure, and used it as comment in the piece. The only comment, in fact.

This represents the holy grail for the PR process and cloggers working together. I've always thought F-Secure's blog was good for a number of reasons:

1. It doesn't try to hide complex corporate messaging in its posts
2. It's regularly updated with useful, timely and business-critical information
3. It is cooked up in a 'lab'
4. It's got a hilarious picture of the cheery blogging team
5. It's Finnish. I like Finnish things.

Yes, I know that security companies generally have more interesting things to say as part of their sales process. IT security products don't need much of a hard sell, or much convincing as to why you need them.

And yes, I know that the blog isn't really a clog because it's not shamefully designed as a PR tool. It's a useful and efficient way of getting crucial security information published ultra-quickly.

But these points aside, I'm always thrilled when a good corporate blog goes rewarded with some attributed comment in a news story.

Must be the PR person inside me, screaming to get out.

(By the way, if anyone gets the headline to this post, I'd be keen to hear.)

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Tools down?

Michael Lenehan at the Chicago Reader has written a fantastic article (via Romanesko on Poynter Online) about real journos downing tools for a year-long strike and letting the rest of the world cope without us. "Let's all relax, let go, and float blissfully in the information-free state (excuse me, I mean free-information state) that our public awaits so eagerly," he says. Hilarious.

While I agree with the sentiment behind the piece and commend the author on speaking out in such a high-profile manner, the various discussions I'm embroiled in across the blog/clogosphere have warned me to tread carefully. I'm coming across some *really* scary opinions.

Take that normally awesome Stowe Boyd at Get Real (it's true - who can wear a beret and still look cool and not be awesome?) - he seems to have lost his mind in the comments to this post. And the folks over at Nokia seem to be continually and blissfully unaware of the mechanism that normally presides over the product review process and protects consumers for willful and unbridled chequebook journalism. And Loic? He doesn't get it at all, but then he's busy filming himself ski down hills on his freebie Nokia phone.

In reality, disgruntled journalists throwing down their metaphorical pens in a huff isn't going to prove anything. At best, after many months of not noticing, people will yearn for some decent, accurate prose and the point will be made.

At worst, nobody will care, information consumption will continue (albeit through consuming shitty information), and the journos will be accused of sour grapes in the face of a dwindling market for their wares.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Above the law, but not reproach

The great thing about being a clogger is that you can reap all the benefits of having a high-profile, widely-read and (sometimes) informative and engaging web presence for your brand but are not forced to comply with any of those awfully boring rules or 'laws'.

Like corporate conduct policies, or libel. Yawn.

This has been extremely well demonstrated recently by Yahoo! clogmeister Jeremy Zawoddernodderny and king of Kalido bling Andy Hayler.

Exhibit A: Zawodny flames Dell in four-letter rant

Dell mucks up delivery of a monitor, then screws up telephone support. Zawodny sails close to the wind with his critique of the India-based helpdesk but just about gets away with it. He's not a happy man, and manages to slag off Michael Dell's sweet but struggling baby through an epic rant and one headline-based f-word. Charming. VERDICT: Curb your language, Jezza.

Exhibit B: Hayler strikes a blow to East-West relations

The rising dragon of Chinese commerce is good. Hayler responds with a wildly racist headline about the supposed colour of all Chinese people. The result is terrifying. The man clearly has no clue what he's done. What would happen if the next economic resurgence was in Uganda? The mind boggles. VERDICT: Take a holiday (preferably to Beijing).

In order to redress the balance, I'm going to give 'em some back. And I can, because I'm a blogger. Plus I have the added bonus that I'm not trying to reflect any brand values or corporate image. Yay!

Here goes:

On behalf of Dell: Yahoo!'s products are a pile of crap. In fact, as far as I can tell, Yahoo! doesn't have any products. Yahoo! bought flickr because weak search and rubbish email wasn't enough to keep it afloat.

On behalf of all Chinese people: I'd like to point out that Andy Hayler's head looks like one of those optical illusions that changes expression when held upside down.

Balance restored.

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