Amazon Exec questions corporate blogs

All Things Distributed: Naked Answers

The contrarian view that all corporations should not leap into blogging is growing. This in from Amazon’s Werner Vogels, chief technology officer, who after getting the Naked Conversations treatment from Scoble and Shel Israel, asks the Emperor’s New Clothes Question:

“I wanted them abandon their fuzzy group hug approach, and counter me with hard arguments why they were right and I was wrong. Instead they appeared shell-shocked that anyone actually had the guts to challenge the golden wonder boys of blogging and not accept their religion instantly. I have been a promoter of weblogging for a long time, so I didn’t feel particularly bad to challenge these two authors to tell me why customers would get a better Amazon product if we would institutionalize blogging at a wider scale around Amazon. Beyond “a more human face” and “conversations with individuals from Amazon” there was no real response how blogging will make the product named Amazon.com better for our customers given all the techniques we already use from soliciting customer feedback to discussion forums to snooping weblogs and comments sites, etc,.”

A while back I blogged on the absence of any customer service links on Amazon. That is not the case anymore. Vogels makes some excellent points, points I’m wrestling with as well as noted experts come to us with the strong recommendation that we blog, blog openly, and pervasively. Initially, I was all in, excited to open the corporate gates (in large part due to the exuberance of Naked Conversations), but now, after watching Scoble get scorched on the Vista delays, and sensing some serious nastiness and fatigue and incestous backbiting throughout the blogerati, I wonder, truly wonder, if a corporate blog — a general corporate blog — is an invitation to hell on earth.

I have more than ten years in so-called “community management,” was online participating in the Well in ’88, and consider myself as wise to the tribal customs of online discourse as the next guy — but doing so as a corporate faceplate, striving for transparency in an environment scrutinized by regulators, auditors, attorneys and other non-business development types … it doesn’t make a ton of sense to just open the lemonade stand.

Now GE launched an R&D blog earlier in the week. That is useful and cool. But does GE’s investor relations  people need to blog? Does any CEO truly need to blog?

I scratch my literary itch blogging about stuff like this, clamming, flowers, birds, friends, whatever — but to dash off some corporate message as blithely as this spew …. danger ahead.

treo blogging

Sitting at RDU awaiting a delayed flight home. A long week but a work-at-home Friday is a good thing indeed.

Thanks to blogger buddy Jim Forbes for his enthusiastic support of the Chatfield Project. It is a lot of fun, personally very gratifying, and something I’ve wanted to do for the past ten years.

I’m off to Asia for the first time in three weeks. A few days in Singapore, then onwards to Beijing. I’m reading Lonely Planet’s China guide to get ready and am very keen to meet my Asian colleagues and visit my step-sis in Beijing.

All is well.

The Reminiscences of Capt. Thomas Chatfield – The Civil War Years

Part 8 – The Reminiscences of Capt. Thomas Chatfield

The Captain returns to Cotuit, finds his house has been sold and the family has moved into the village, ships out on a coastal schooner, a grain ship, then enlists in the Union Navy, where he is commissioned as an Acting Master.

He visits the Monitor in Hampton Roads, fresh from her victory over the Merrimac, then off he sails to Key West as part of the East Gulf Squadron in a converted ferryboat, the U.S.S. Somerset and immediately captures a big prize off of Cuba, The Circassian

» The Cookie Monster in the Closet | Jeffrey Young’s Technicon | ZDNet.com

» The Cookie Monster in the Closet | Jeffrey Young’s Technicon | ZDNet.com

Vintage Jeff Young on a tear about metrics, online advertising, corrupt bloggers, and the price of milk at the local 7-11. Seeing as how he links to my metrics booklist, I thought I’d reciprocate:

“I’m talking about the unquestioned adoption of the religion of the Holy Church of Internet Advertising, and its scary priestdom of “metrics”, whose dominance is destroying the beautiful egalitarianism of the Web. It is about to get worse by orders of magnitude with the appearance of “location based services” as the patents recently revealed by Google make clear. If that all wasn’t bad enough, there is the Faustian deal with the Devil crafted by Google to hobble Chinese access to the Internet. The rise of a cult of advertising, the silence of the lambs as we go quietly to slaughter, and the howls of protest when our government listens in to Al Qaeda coupled with the muted protests about Google’s “do no evil” manipulation of search results in order to do the bidding of a repressive and authoritarian regime strikes fear into my heart.”

Jeff, Jeff, Jeff. First, as the Great McNealy once said, “You have no privacy, get over it.” Second, apply the Free Lunch rule to any website and ask yourself: would I pay for this? If you aren’t paying for it, then some marketer is picking up the tab for you in the slim hope that you might reach up and Punch the Monkey.

As for the Blogosphere Eating Its Young (not you): sure; it’s the way of the world. Slag and be slagged and watch the traffic pile on when the bodies start flying across the Infomercial Stupid Hypeway.

And metrics are fun. Seriously. To be able to divine the entrails of one’s traffic is very, very refreshing. Don’t get all privacy-crazed. No one knows who is who in a traffic log. It’s the patterns, the data mining, that human drive towards perfection in all operations, and the footnoted realization that you can never, ever, ever be 100 percent sure, but you can keep tweaking and optimizing until you know, down to the penny, what’s working and what’s failing ….

This scrutiny is murder on editors used to two metrics — newstand and paid circ. Now they can see who did what to them when. Accountability is a bitch.

Reading – what’s on the way – Metrics

I committed Amazonian self-abuse yesterday, ordering the following scintillating titles for my future edification.

1 “Web Site Measurement Hacks : Tips & Tools to Help Optimize Your Online Business (Hacks)”
Eric Peterson; Paperback; $15.72

Sold by:Amazon.com

Shipping estimate for these items:  March 28, 2006
Delivery estimate:  March 31, 2006 – April 3, 2006

1 “Web Analytics Demystified: A Marketer’s Guide to Understanding How Your Web Site Affects Your Business”
Eric Peterson; Paperback; $37.77

Sold by:Amazon.com

Shipping estimate for these items:  March 29, 2006
Delivery estimate:  March 31, 2006 – April 4, 2006

1 “Search Analytics : A Guide to Analyzing and Optimizing Website Search Engines”
Hurol Inan; Paperback; $19.99

Sold by:Amazon.com

My question is this: how did an English major wind up in a profession obsessed with “metrics?” This is my version of hell on earth. I need to take my pants off to count to twenty-one and now I am living in Excel.

Rough Type: Nicholas Carr’s Blog: Seven rules for corporate blogging

Rough Type: Nicholas Carr’s Blog: Seven rules for corporate blogging

For some reason Carr’s polemic against corporate blogging strikes me as a troll. Take on the most visible corporate blogger – Scoble – make a list, buck the conventional wisdom that corporations must blog, and then wind it up by suggesting that comments be disabled and the lawyers called in.

As it is pointed out in the comments — Scobelizer is not the Microsoft official blog, it’s Scoble’s personal blog, he just happens to have the balls to talk about work in it.

I do not talk about work here. Would I behave differently under the corporate banner? Sure.

You Can’t Go Home Again – Thomas Wolfe

I’ve been working my way through Thomas Wolfe’s last novel, You Can’t Go Home Again, for the past few weeks, reserving it for flights to and from North Carolina as a way to while away the time. I just finished it and feel a sadness for having done so, somethingI haven’t felt for some time from a piece of literature.

The old cliché of the “Great American Novel” comes to mind; Wolfe avidly pursued it, as no one has before or since, and in places, actually quite a few places, he manages to write it. His descriptions of New York City during the Great Depression rival, and outrank Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. His Whitmanesque elegies to the vastness of America, the rawness of the countryside, the power of the cities, the perspective an expatriate has of the nation looking homeward from a Europe poised on the brink of war, is a very fine thing indeed.

Time has not treated Wolfe well. Fitzgerald, Faulkner and Hemingway held their own through the decades following this Golden Age of American Literature, but Wolfe fell by the wayside, his reputation perhaps diminished by the perception that he was highly edited (by the legendary Maxwell Perkins at Charles Scribner, then Edward Aswell at Harper), unstructured, and completely autobiographical. The balls of the man, who threw his hometown of Asheville, North Carolina to the world, naming names as it were, in his first novel, Look Homeward Angel, is amazing, the quintessential proof that a novelist makes no friends in mining the stuff of his or her own life and relations in building their masterpieces.

There are so many great passages, so many great lines, it is staggering to consider that Aswell assembled You Can’t Go Home Again from an eight foot packing case of notes and 35 notebooks. The sadness of the conclusion and the foreknowledge of Wolfe in the conclusion, in predicting his own death, is wrenching:

“Something has spoke to me in the night, burning the tapers of the waning year, something has spoken in the night, and told me I shall die, I know not where.”

And so he died at the age of 38 of tuberculosis.

Some more Chatfield

Churbuck.com » Part 7 – The Reminiscences of Captain Thomas Chatfield

Coming to the end of his first, and very successful voyage as Captain, Thomas returns to the Sea of Okhotsk to rescue Uncle Bethuel, who wintered on Elbow Island in Shantar Bay. I’m on page 88 of the 162-page typescript. Tomorrow, he returns to Cotuit, hangs up his harpoon, and the tale shifts to the Civil War.