Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Blogging in the Flesh

Last Wednesday I decided to join Neville Hobson and Debbie Weil at the Hereford Arms in London for their proposed blogger get together. An interesting group assembled and I got to meet Mark White who has commented on a previous post of mine and some other interesting guys: Tom Shelly from the Economist, Alex Manchester from Melcrum, Martyn Davies and Matt O’Neill.

Neville challenged us all to come up with some comments for a podcast – he’s now published on his blog and we had a wide ranging discussion from politics to the value of face to face meetings. Like the previous Saturday when I got together a bunch of people to meet face to face I found the evening great fun and very rewarding. It is interesting to note how much faster the conversation gets going when despite meeting for the first time face to face, there is common understanding and in some way a prior relationship, where one has been reading their blogs and may have been involved in an online conversation.

Although I didn’t join in the conversation that evening about the Edelman / Walmart controversy, I listened with interest to the passionate views and have been reading some of the many posts around about this subject. Although I understand the anger and disappointment exhibited by some commentators I am amazed at the level of coverage this debate is getting. Nothing and no one is perfect, and I am sure everyone is still on a steep learning curve when it comes to social media, mistakes and misjudgements will probably be made by everyone at some point.

We also discussed the lack of understanding of social media inside corporations today, the challenge is there for the blogosphere – let’s keep our passion and energy focussed on that.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Heaven help me.....not politics!

Not being a great fan of politics I never really considered making a political comment on my blog. But twice today people I know have hit me with a political view. The first was Shel Israel's encounter with David Cameron and now an old friend of mine sent me a link to this new blog called the Majority Party and I must say it was a great read. Hope you find it stimulating!

Corporate Comment Control

JB3 raises a very interesting issue in his comment on my earlier post about Strategic Marketing:

“It can do all those great things, but the problem as I see it is, if companies control the content of a blog. What if someone is posting legitimate problems or outcomes with a product or service? Should the company be allowed to erase that from their blog?”

Clearly the blog owner is responsible for the content on their blog and there is no issue in my mind that moderating out profanity and unnecessary bad attitude is totally acceptable. Shel Israel calls it his “living room comment policy”.

For me there is also an issue when it comes to subject matter, if I am discussing a topic- because this is what I know about i.e. marketing, and someone joins my conversation and starts discussing something I know nothing about (i.e. football) or where it seems totally irrelevant to my topic - I'd say it was reasonable to at least question the relevance with the commenter before publishing. Fortunately I haven't had to do this - nor do I really expect to have to do this on my personal blog.

However in a large corporation it is reasonable to expect that an engineering department in Europe would know nothing about customer service in North America. (Not even considering the fact that many multinationals have various siloed product divisions under one brand). I don't think it’s appropriate for commenters to expect to be published if they try to address their North American service issues in a European technology discussion.

Nevertheless if I was a corporate blogger and I received off topic comments I'd certainly be forwarding those remarks off line to those capable of responding. The important thing here is for corporate blogs to be clear of their mandate, their scope of conversation and their ability to respond. It comes back to setting expectations for your readership. However as a corporate blogger you need to build trust with your readers, it would be unwise to moderate comments on matters you are clearly involved with, your responsiveness and openness are vital to maintain credibility.

It is also interesting to note that it is only about 1 in 500 readers on my blog that actually make a comment – (and I hear that is on the high side) - so a good question is: how appropriate is it for a vocal minority to potentially shift the conversation off the blog or post topic.

I’d revert back to Shel’s analogy of the living room, however justified the person may feel in making their comment isn’t it a question of manners and how a participant goes about building a relationship. Those that are not interested in a relationship and just want to rant or get sensational should not be made welcome. How different are these approaches for the example I created with a corporate technology blog focussed on Europe -

"When are you guys going to fix my problem, you just can't get your act together and I am fed up beating my head against a brick wall here in North America"

"Excuse me do you know how I can get help with my service issue in North America, I can't find any other blog or individual to talk too on this subject?"

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Shel, Rick Hugh et al

As per Shel’s post we had a great evening last Saturday when seven of my colleagues who have all been talking about the impact of social media on our lives and businesses met up with a few gurus on the subject.

Here is a picture of the dinner courtesy of Shel, and I’m sure there will be other pictures to follow.

Nick and Andrew my friends from Stonk media grabbed the initiative and interviewed Rick Segal, Shel Israel and Hugh MacLeod on the subject of corporate blogging, it’s a really good five minute insight. Download on thir post here

I have been asked a few times since the get together – what was the big take out for me. You know it’s very difficult to nail this with a good answer. I was delighted to see so much great conversation occurring and relationships being formed – who knows where any of them will bring value - but my expectation is that some will.

Maybe Bob will sell Shel an authorised signed reprint of a famous Pink Floyd album cover (yes Shel's last great rock music passion) – or perhaps Hugh and his business partner Jason Korman may have tempted a few more to try out Stormhoek wine – I doubt any of us can afford one of his suits. Also met with Henk Kleynhams from Skyrove and really interesting hotspot business concept, check out his movie.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Active Conversations but no mask on me

I invited a small group of friends and colleagues to dinner back in August. As a result of reading Naked Conversations I decided we needed to discuss the impact of blogging on businesses and in particular the ramifications for marketing and communication agencies.

We had such a good “on going” conversation we decided to start a group blog to represent and continue our round table discussion on line. This meant that everyone would need to start their own individual blog, mine was already up and running – although using the dreadful Blogger software.

Bob’s company Signals kindly offered to organise the group software and hosting. I plan to migrate across to the new platform very shortly. Two of the guys have already started posting on their new blogs: “The Podcaster” and the “The Signaller” and the others “The Voice”, “Talkin’ Pictures” and “The Navigator” will all start in the next few days.

To be different and create interest beyond the content (which we hope will be top notch) we planned to develop some interesting graphics (not as you see the blogs now) and a “mother” page that portrays the interaction in the group discussion. This emphasis on presentation and structure would also help us understand how corporate blogs could evolve, without compromising authentic individual contributions.

Unlike most of the group I have come from a corporate marketing background. In general corporations are not yet decided on the true value of blogging, however since leaving my corporate role I have discovered real benefits to shareholder value and customer relationships and have set about convincing former colleagues and peers (and anyone else who wants to listen).

Nevertheless despite allegations (as per Shel's reference to another misguided blogger) – I am not Apple’s "Masked Blogger", a quick check would verify I have never worked there.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Blogger Hell

Sorry it seems that all day I haven't been able to republish my blog. I don't think this is unsual for Blogger, although its ususally only been a problem before for a couple of hours, today its been impossible for at least 12 hours!

I wanted to republish as several comments are not showing up on the posts, so if you've added a comment and it hasn't showed up yet - its not because I've moderated it out!

I doubt I'll get this post to publish now (1st timed at 1.05 am 5th Oct) - but who knows with Blogger it's a real B*gger!

PS no need to comment on changing tools - I'm working on it now....

4th attempt to publish – this time from email

tried again at 7am 5th attempt and now again at 10.40pm on the 5th Oct 6th try.........

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Memory Test - 20 years on

Who remembers the top selling PC of 1986. The Amstrad PC1512 stormed the UK market in the autumn that year with an entry price point of £399 for a Single 5.25” floppy drive / monochrome version. Equipped with a fast 8086 Intel processor and 512kB of memory it carved the personal computer market up on price and ease of use. It was a real pioneer product, did you own one and what did it mean to you if you did?

The dual floppy colour version would have set you back about £700.

I have fond memories of 1986, not only did I pull together a bunch of fledgling PC distributors to take on this range (many of them hadn't distributed PC's before) but I also managed to fit in getting married at the same time. I was trying to remember who the original distributors were and from memory they included:
  1. MBS (later to merge with Combro – then become Technology plc and got bought out by ICL / Fujitsu) - the orginal IBM PC distributor
  2. Northamber - still chugging along
  3. P& P Micro - didn't it move into training? - not sure of the full story
  4. Norbain Micro (somehow – can’t remember- evolved into Ingram UK)
  5. First Software (later called Frontline then bought by C2000 / TechData)
  6. Hugh Symons - still going but not doing the same thing anymore
  7. Eltec - really not sure what happend up there in Bradford
  8. Lightning (later to be bought by Parkfield) - gone
  9. Micro Peripherals - still going great guns
  10. ADL (subsidiary company) - folded back into main organisation
I may have missed one or two off the list, please remind me! You might want to help complete the fates. Also from memory we mass registered about 4000 authorised resellers and together we advance sold tens of thousands of these PC’s before they even docked in the UK. The PC1512 was upgraded the following year by the PC1640 (640kB memory and a better resolution colour monitor) but we kept selling both models for several years – at least until 1989. In 1987 these were the number one selling PC’s with well over 20% market share. The strange coincidence is now Dell is selling PC’s again from around this price and it must have around 20% share in the UK market, how times have changed!

Some of the team still get together - see my earlier post on reunions - but the idea came up to organise a really big event to celebrate 20 years of personal computing in the UK. Do you think it would have legs? More importantly get sponsors?

Your memory/trivia test: What was Alan Sugar's ledgendary response to the unfounded claim that the PC1512 needed a fan?

Firefox to Internet Explorer and Back Again

A few weeks ago now I switched from Internet Explorer to Firefox and have been very happy with the experience. In particular I like the active bookmarks and tab views.

Then on my last blog post I saw a problem with the formatting of the bullet points – some html code was showing up on some peoples PC’s. However I and some of my other friends couldn’t see the issue at all. The reason was that I had created my post whilst using Firefox and those people seeing the errors were using IE. Of course this isn’t a new issue but it was new to me and the thought of having to check all my posts for compatibility before publishing certainly didn’t fill me with delight.

Checking around I found a blog talking about this: Firefox Review and a recommended neat little plug in to Firefox that allows you to easily switch the viewed page to IE and back again at the press of a button, so now I can continue to enjoy the benefits of Firefox and ensure that everyone gets the picture.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Blogging Interviews

I could do with some help; I have started working with a couple of companies who have asked me to look at their opportunity if they started blogging. Part of this process is a number of interviews with selected staff, to establish views and understand the business I have come up with 16 questions – however they may not be the best 16. What have I missed? I can tell you 16 is plenty – any more is not a good idea – in fact 12 would probably be better, but I can’t pick any to drop at this point.

SECTION A : Your company as it stands

1. What is your company role and responsibility?

2. What do you think about company’s products and services, i.e. quality and success?

3. How closely does your company work with its customers, alliances and partners?

4. How well do the customers or other partners know you?

5. How would you describe your company culture?

a) Openness, transparency?

b) Responsiveness?

c) Ability to deal with criticism or bad news?

6. How well does marketing and PR today support the business? And how would you describe your brand’s value?

7. Who or what are your key (they-below) and what do you think about them?

a) Competitors?

b) Journalists?

c) Analysts?

d) Events/exhibitions or seminars?

8. Is confidentiality a key issue for your business?

a) Intellectual property?

b) Customer details and trade secrets?

SECTION B: Your views on the blogging opportunity for your company

1. What style should the company blog be?

a) From corporate to personal?

b) From branded to non-branded?

c) From chatty to reserved?

d) Other comments

2. What will you post articles about?

a) Any allied subjects?

3. How long do you think you can spend blogging / day / week?

a) How many posts do you think that will be?

4. What ratio of time will be spent reading to writing?

5. What support do you need from the company?

i.e. tools , training, helpline, rules, back up etc.

6. How do you rate your own level of commitment to the proposal?

7. What do you see as the main benefit to the company?

8. Should I blog about the project?