So now there's yet more "Teh Dr@mA" in "Teh Bl0g0sph3r3". It seems that Robert Scoble and Shel Israel, authors of a book extolling the glories of blogging, did a little song and dance for Amazon, and were just shocked when the CTO of Amazon, Werner Vogels, didn't fall all over himself to embrace employee blogging, but instead started asking question along the lines of "What will blogging do for Amazon?"
A CTO is a technical officer. Not to be redundant, but the Chief technical officer. It is Werner's job to ask hard questions about anything technology - related, because it will be his job to manage it. Warm "Chicken Soup for the soul" answers may make it in PR/Marketing, but to a CTO? No way. Of course, the standard silliness has started, accusing Werner of not getting blogging, being out of touch, etc. <Sigh>, it's official, blogging v not blogging is the new computer religious war. We're better at them than anyone, including religion. Not surprisingly, I agree with Werner in both point and style.
He was right to ask hard questions, and in a confrontational manner. From what I can tell, Werner's been blogging for quite a while now, at least as long as me, maybe longer. (When it comes to blogs, three years is a long time). He gets blogging. But when you want his company to jump on the blogging bandwagon, he has to do his best to poke holes in the warm, fuzzy, happybunnythoughts that most bloggers use as a reason. It's annoying as hell. I know I've asked Chuck, who is Werner's analogue at digital.forest, my ISP, about perhaps doing things a different way, and while Chuck always listens, he asks really tough questions, because it's his job to do so. I don't get all hurt by this, in fact, I feel good about it, as it means that there's at least one region of cold, ruthless reality between d.f. and a bad idea, or even a good idea that's not right for them.
That last bit is, I think, the part that a lot of those all infatuated by blogging don't get:
...a good idea that's not right for them. See, not all businesses are the same. You can't point to Microsoft and Amazon and say
Since blogging works for Microsoft, it works for Amazon too. That's ridiculous. You can't even point to two computer companies and say that blogging is a requirement for success in that industry. Obviously it's not, not even close. Robert points to other companies who have used blogging successfully and says "See? Company <N> does it, and made money, therefore we all should do it" That's silly, and such an invalid thing to say that I wonder if perhaps Robert just got going and his mouth ran away from his brain.
Of course, because you mention blogging, Dave Winer weighs in with the worst analogy ever:
To me, asking why you should use blogs is like asking why you should answer the phone. It might be a customer, a developer who wants to use your services, or a reporter who wants to write about the company. Your competitors answer the phone, so you should too. Dave, there's a world of difference between someone taking a positive action to contact you, and someone wanting to sit back and make you do all the work to communicate with them, at least in everyone else's world. The whole "everyone else is doing it" reason is so dumb, that I'm surprised that someone with a rep for being as smart as Dave would even consider it. But since he said it...Dave, didn't your parents give the "jumping off a bridge" lecture?
Shel goes into some other reasons, and uses edge cases, or "A few people at Amazon want blogging". I'm pretty sure a few people at Amazon want a porn star in their cube naked and ready, but that doesn't make corporate - sponsored hot sex a good idea. (However, Werner, if you ever DO go with the "free porn stars for employees" thing, for that, I'd relocate to earthquake-ville. I'm there for you man, I got your back.) Even worse, Shel talks about "The Wisdom of Crowds". Shel, I'll tell you now, the only consistent characteristic of a large group of humans is stupidity, perhaps followed closely by being easy to manipulate. Pet Rocks anyone?
The thing I keep keep seeing in this is that the blogger's assumption is entirely based on "It worked in other companies, so it's a good idea for everyone", and it's damned near morphing into "If you don't blog, your company is doomed". Both of those hypothesis, (they're not even close to being good enough to deserve the "theory" label) are false, to the point of being near-dumb.
First we have to ask, What is Amazon? We have to make sure we understand what we're talking about, in this case, Amazon. They're a reseller. Amazon makes nothing. They don't have a physical product. They make money by making it stupidly easy to buy other people's product through them. They have done this so well, that 90% of my gift shopping is done through them. It would be more, but I do get out occasionally, with money even. Amazon's "product" is how easy they make it for me to buy crap. So comparing them to Microsoft, or a winery, or anyone who makes things and sells those things that they make is not going to work. You'd have to compare them to other middlemen. CompUSA. Best Buy. CDW. Barnes & Noble. None of which have blogs, at least not according to the search engines on those sites. Search for "blog". Barnes & Noble come the closest with the book clubs section, but Barnes and Noble have physical stores. They benefit greatly from establishing the kind of relationships that get people in their stores.
Amazon benefits from making the buying of stuff, all kinds of stuff, really, really, easy. One-Click does not encourage people to stick around, in fact, it helps them leave faster. A brick and mortar store shudders at this, but an online-only store works for that. Make it easier to get in, get out, and they've done their job. I don't want to deal with pages of opinions from employees on books. Hell, I don't even like the opinions of other customers, why do I care what an employee i've never met thinks of a book? Of what use is that to me? Amazon has only one thing to market to me...ease of buying stuff. They do that every time I go there, because every time I go there, it gets easier to buy stuff. That's their product, their reason for existing. Robert and Shel were simply not prepared for someone to say "I don't care about everyone else, they have different business models. What will blogging do for Amazon?" The lack of homework - doing, research - doing, and clear - thinking - doing on Robert and Shel's part is obvious in their reaction.
Blogging is not a magic spell. It is a way to increase communications channels, but it is not right for everyone. Perhaps when the BlogBoys start to view it more realistically, they'll get a better reaction.
CommentsWarning for Notes users: The commenting system uses HTML.
I know this will be scary for some of you, especially Notes fans. However, open standards, rah-rah.
If you want to use less-than or greater-than signs, or other similar characters that HTML reserves,
you'll simply have to learn to do it the HTML way. Luckily, HTML is kind of popular, no matter what
your re-educators have told you, and you can easily find help on the intertubes.