Saturday, December 15, 2007

Twitter and T-Mobile

A new case study for conversational media is created every day. This time it is a conflict between a wireless operator and and an Internet startup. Another case of a network operator blocking the free and open Internet? YES says Chief Twitter Biz Stone on the Get Satisfaction website, one of the first places the question arose. NO says T-Mobile's official customer service answer which is that the problem is with Twitter.

The story is now in all the major blogs and forums. Twitter is actively engaging in the conversation, spreading their side of the story that T-Mobile has blocked them. So far T-Mobile hasn't shown up to the conversation to tell their side of the story. If T-Mobile doesn't respond and solve the problem, it will be in mainstream news outlets by the beginning of the week, and a much bigger headache for them. Given the sensitivity over "net neutrality" issues, it could end up being a part of a congressional hearing. That is definitely NOT the kind of PR that T-Mobile wants.

There are two important questions that a company like T-Mobile should be asking right now (or at least after the fact). How is that we allowed this bad decision to be made and implemented, which would clearly be visible to our customers and would make them mad? And how is it that our communications department wasn't on top of this issue?

UPDATE: Great letter from a T-Mobile customer to the CEO of T-Mobile...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Why I think the Blog Council is a Good Idea

Let me begin by saying that I am entirely supportive of:

1) Big companies engaging in the blogosphere

2) Big companies recognizing that they have distinct challenges in engaging authentically and transparently in the blogosphere, which is to say in a useful and effective manner


3) Big companies talking to each other about these challenges

therefore, I can only be wholly supportive of an initiative like the one described in this press release announcing the creation of the "Blog Council," a group organized to facilitate having big companies who are already blogging, and have significant blogs, to talk about their challenges in doing so.

One thing I am NOT supportive of, is big companies seeing blogs (and conversational media more generally) as a new "channel" to do "marketing." I don't believe that the blog council intends to promote that idea, but I do think it is at the heart of the healthy ongoing debate in the blogosphere about the creation of the Blog Council.

Forget "blogging" for a moment. What is happening in the world right now, with the Internet as its midwife, is the re-emergence of core human behaviors in markets, transposed into a time and space independent global world.

Unfolded one more level:

Transactions in markets have historically (pre-industrial age) been driven by trust, which is established through reputation, social networks, and word of mouth. The industrial age alienated us as "consumers" from this core sociology of markets. For the past 150 years we have increasingly been asked to establish "trust" on the basis of mass media (public relations) and advertising.

But the past 30 years have undone the previous 100 -- first the evolution of the PERSONAL computer, then the expansion of the Internet, along comes accessibility via the Web, and then the mainstream adoption of online communities -- all leading to the re-emergence of our very human desire to establish trust from peers, not from the media or advertising.

And so what is a marketer to do when the very definition of marketing is being turned on its head? One possible route, and the one that is so vociferously being opposed, is to try and use the new medium like the old -- use blogs to market TO people.

Using a press release to communicate, talking about "tactics," operating behind closed doors, creating private groups that lack transparency in their operations and membership -- these are all the hallmarks of the old, and not the new. These do not establish authentic peer trust in markets.

I believe that this is why so many have been so critical of the start that the Blog Council has made for itself in the world. But it is not too late, it is never too late. The Blog Council can become more transparent, be more about conversations with markets, be more about the core set of reasons that it seems to have been created to serve -- big companies figuring out how to engage in this new medium. A starting point would be to engage with the critics and have a conversation.

Why do I stick with Blogger?

Nostalgia, I guess. Or Google PageRank :-) I started my first Blogger account on August 15th, 2000. The first set of posts aren't even available anymore. Originally I had created several different blogs for different topics and then tried to cross-link. Blogger didn't have categories back then. Oh yeah, it still doesn't :-)

How optimistic I was back on August 16th, 2000 when I posted this:
I will try to enter something into this space each morning. I have been thinking about what kinds of things I could possibly say in a "public" diary. As an officer of a public company (Inprise/Borland) I have to be careful not to say anything which the SEC would frown upon -- they don't like it if officers disclose material information about the companies they work for. Nor is it a wise idea to say anything that would indicate expectations on future performance.

Today I am headed to LinuxWorld Expo for the second day.
I wonder if I was the first officer of a public company to start blogging?

Hey, Google, when will you catch up to Typepad or Wordpress with the feature set? Anyone there? Hello?

Monday, December 10, 2007

War is Over

It is very hard to do as Jon Burg suggests and watch this video of John Lennon's "Give Peace a chance" campaign all the way through. But I agree with him in strongly recommending that you do. If we learn nothing else from George Bush's Iraq, I hope we learn that war wasn't the answer. The war is over, if you want it.