William F. Buckley Jr. 1925-2008

Author, conservative commentator William F. Buckley Jr. dies at 82 – Local News Updates – The Boston Globe


A moment of silence for the king of sesquipedalians everywhere.
Bill Buckley has passed away, ending a marvelous career as pundit and author.

I learned celestrial navigation from Bill’s account of sailing, Airborne, in 1980, the year I decided to deliver a 60-foot plywood catamaran from Cape Cod to Florida. I sank the catamaran in Georgia, and horrified the crew when I plotted our first position somewhere west of Troy, New York when in fact we were 50 miles southeast of Manhattan. Guess Bill’s claim he could teach a caveman to use a sextant in two pages didn’t quite work in my case.
I interviewed Bill in 1988 when I was a cub reporter at Forbes. I forget the topic of the story, but I think it was about his early use of word processing technology. One thing Bill B. was — he was a PC geek from the very beginning. He also used the word “retromingent” in my interview with him, which remains one of the best words in the English language.
I worked with his son Chris at Forbes, putting Forbes FYI online in the mid-90s. Chris turned me onto pink argyle socks and is one of the best humorists writing today (Thank You For Smoking).

My sympathies to the Buckley family, conservatives, Yalies, and word freaks everywhere.
William F. Buckley Jr., who as author, journalist, and polysyllabic television personality did more to popularize conservatism in post-New Deal America than anyone other than Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan, died early today at his home in Stamford, Conn. He was 82 and had been ill with emphysema, said his assistant, Linda Bridges.

Stating the obvious

Jeremiah Owyang is a smart guy at a smart company (Forrester), and he posts a lot about social media and marketing and fun stuff like that. He’s not in the trenches, but I guess he talks to people in the trenches, and he just posted three of the most fundamentally annoying provocations that I’ve read in a long time … I need to either shut up and un-sub from his RSS, or take the time to act all annoyed about it. The fact that he is riffing off of Shel Israel is proof of further distance from the trenches and reality of social media management. Shel is a smart guy and he wrote the book, but guys, let’s step up the analysis and look at the hard questions, not the thumbsuckers.
He provoked me by saying the following three actions are “impossible conversations for corporations.”

#1: Asking for Feedback
#2: Saying positive things about your competitors
#3: Admitting you were wrong

Let’s start with the first. Feedback. Any company that posts a phone number, heck, even a street address is asking for feedback. What Jeremiah says is “how many `corporate’ blogs ask for raw, unfiltered product feedback?”

Ask? C’mon. Opening a corporate blog is, unto itself, a request for feedback. Some Pollyanna statement: “We’d love to know what you think …” isn’t what is needed. What is needed is a commitment to act and respond to feedback. Asking is easy. Acknowledging is hard.

Second, say positive things about the competition. I am very proud that Matt Kohut, one of Lenovo’s bloggers, did just that a year ago coming out of CES. He praised Toshiba for their tablet hinge. There were some people inside the company who couldn’t believe that. Then the press noticed and praised Matt: “A lot of vendor blogs are just marketing with an ersatz dear reader veneer so credit to Lenovo for making its site a useful read.

Third. Admitting you were wrong. I get the provocation school of blogging, and the Kawasakian list model. Make a list, provoke some dummy like me to react, and voila, instant audience. Anyway, I fell for it. It so easy to make this all a black and white polarized view of the world and throw corporate blogmeisters to the wolves for being insincere, comments-disabled, PR flaks who whitewash the company and do the see-no-evil thing. I know a couple companies that went that route. But when was the last time you read a dumbass corporate blog that did the ostrich move? Cmon. And don’t say, “well Dave, you and Dell and HP and the rest of the tech bloggers are ahead of the curve.” I don’t believe it. This corporate blogging stuff isn’t a two headed chicken in the freak tent anymore. This is mainstream baby. Anyone writing posts about “impossible” corporate conversations has to step it up – talk about the serious stuff, like – contravening corporate policy by privately resolving a blogged customer support issue and having the blogger publically state the solution and thereby set a precedent for all future complaints. Let’s get into that one and you’ll earn my respect.