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 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.