Thursday, January 25, 2007

Credibility redux

Y'know, I'm not affiliated with Microsoft at all, although I own some stock and use their products happily. So I'd like to think that when I say something like, this Microsoft employee has credibility, it's because the employee actually has credibility and not because I'm biased or brainwashed towards the Borg.

I've been a loyal subscriber of Dare Obasanjo for at least a couple of years now, and a happy user of RSS Bandit, although I'm now evolving a bit into Google Reader for its mobile capabilities. So when I read his article about changing Wikipedia I didn't think much about it; mildly interesting but not a big deal, and his changes in the TechCrunch entry certainly deserved reverting under the Wikipedia "No experimenting" clause. But Michael Arrington's reaction was out of line:

A Microsoft employee, who took issue with this blog post, vandalized the TechCrunch Wikipedia entry and wrote about it on his blog.

That is a misuse of the word vandalized by any stretch of the imagination. Dare added maybe a couple of sentences with a dry, unemotional tone. He put up an apology in the comments, too, but in two or three comments (which have now disappeared) Arrington repeated the vandalism charge, and he's showing no signs of backing down. IMO, there is a serious credibility gap in repeating an emotionally charged word like that in response to some rather minor issues. I'd never heard of Arrington before, or read TechCrunch. This little flap doesn't make me want to, either. Michael Arrington joins Andrew Orlowski in my credibility book.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

B2B 2.0

Chris has left LibraryThing. I don't know him, but apparently he's done some really good work for one of my favorite Web 2.0 plays; a social site based around book collecting.

There are lots of definitions of Web 2.0, but at least one of the principles that seems to define it is "Online Community". Flickr, YouTube, Yahoo! Answers. Online communities have been around since the beginning, of course, at first through mailing lists and NNTP servers, later through applications and, eventually, web sites. When we at Sunstorm were working on a version of Deer Hunter that was going to have a multiplayer mode - we had only the vaguest idea how that might work - I went to a seminar at the Game Developer's Conference on the topic of building online communities. We did a little work towards it; our web site ran some decent forum software, but in 1998 the Deer Hunter target market did not actually overlap with people who spent a lot of time online, which was hampering.

At least we had a good size target market. Combine the lush outdoor scenery of Deer Hunter 3 with a visionary concept of online communication, and we might have had our own version of Second Life on our hands, five years before anyone else. But of course, we didn't have the vision thing. It's still the hardest part of launching a consumer oriented web site. Wal-Mart tried it. Xanga was hip for a while. Not much there there, now.

But what about an online community as part of a B2B play? Not a corporate MySpace, but a self-selecting group made up of users of your product. If your target is geeks you might have a leg up here; Kinook has a nice online forum. Axosoft has forums and bloggers. The forum we put up at Interactive Intelligence seems to be buzzing along nicely. When I was there the customer base was very technical; that may be less so as their customer base has grown. But I think an actual, product-based online community is very workable for a business-to-business company. More later.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The blogging split

I got into a discussion with someone concerning the blogosphere and its effect on corporations today. Here's something I hadn't really thought about in a couple of years: when was the last time someone was dooced? It's been a while, I think; or at least when it does happen it's not much of a story and the mainstream media doesn't pick it up.

So what happened? Did everyone just sort of "get it" ? I would say more that the world is sort of partitioning itself off now. On the corporate side, corporations are splitting into sort of "New Media" companies, Microsoft and Sun, where bloggers are allowed almost free rein, and "Old Media" companies, Wal-Mart say, or GM, where they feel it's very important that the company try to keep absolute control of the image of the company and don't allow their employees much say. That's not to say there isn't crossover; I understand one Microsoft division wanted Robert Scoble fired after he said something critical about the company, while GM actually has a blog...a rather corporate-oriented one, to be sure, but it does allow comments and they don't appear to censor them for criticizing the company.

On the other hand bloggers, or better I should say people, are splitting off as well. You see a lot of blogs around where someone started the blog, posted a few things, then apparently dropped off the face of the earth. Or possibly they write an article once a month or so apologizing for not blogging more and promising to do better from now on. Hey, blogging is hard, and most of us aren't getting paid for it. I've been known to go a month or two without posting. So there's more of a split between people who blog and people who read.

So I suspect what's happening is that people who blog, are moving over to work for companies who support blogging! Maybe not a momentous insight, but I can't think of anyone else who's come out and said it. People who don't blog, can stick around with the companies that are trying so hard to control their messages. That's why, I suspect, that you haven't heard much noise about doocing recently. People have sorted out where they belong; companies have clearer policies about what they expect and employees have a clearer understanding of what they're looking for.

(If they don't, I guess they'll have to buy Shel Israel's new book to clarify things.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Building a cathedral

A traveler visited a city where many stone cutters were working. Approaching several, he asked the same question: "What are you doing?" The first stonecutter he met replied, "I'm cutting stone. It's dull work, but it pays the bills." A second stonecutter responded, "I'm the best stone cutter in the land. Look at the smoothness of this stone, how perfect the edges are." A third pointed to a foundation several yards away, and said, "I'm building a cathedral."

Thanks to Grady Booch and Joe Marasco for the story!