Why have I studiously avoided Robert Scoble’s well regarded blog?
Scobleizer.com (in case you were unaware) was an early corporate blogger, set up to be the kindler gentler face of Microsoft. Scoble got high marks for his unflinching coverage of Mister Softee related issues, while simultaneously addressing those subjects in a way PR flacks never could: as another geek, but with unparalled access to insiders.
And yet . . .
I stayed away. At first, because of our litigation with Microsoft. I didn’t want to read too much of a kindler, gentler spin, not when I knew better. Additionally, the temptation to comment — when I really shouldn’t — would have been overwhelming. The last thing I wanted to do was derail settlement discussions or (heaven forbid) accidentally disclose a "material, non-public" piece of info.
But there were other reasons too.The largest amongst them is that Microsoft is so 1998. If I am going to spend that much time with the public spin of a company, I’d rather it be a firm much more interesting — say Google, or someone else more 2002ish. Even better, a company that’s circa 2008.
There’s also the tribal thing. I couldn’t imagine that any member of a tribe would not eventually succumb to developing an indentification with that tribe. It always happens somehow, somewhere. Its the corporate version of the Stockholm Syndrome. That’s why the New York Times rotates their Public Editor every year. It’s why the Pentagon likes embedding journalists — it produces favorable war coverage (at least at first). As the journos bond and empathize with the men in their unit, they tend not to want to write anything too negative. Even Mel Brooks recognized this: in the 2,000 year old man,ghe discusses the first ever fight song: The Hell with everyone else, except Cave 53!
The reality is, one cannot be an effective critic from the inside for too long.
When I discussed corporate blogs for online trading,
I never addressed the issue of covering the company themselves — instead, it was to comment on the Markets. Its
so obviously inappropriate to expect . Yet that never stopped the blogger from covering the firm that signs his paycheck.
Now, I see my views have been somewhat vindicated. Scoble, when faced with the obvious bad behavior of the
Redmond behemoth’s blogging software (mentioned previously here), censoring words like "Freedom" and "Democracy" in China, he didn’t really see what all the fuss was about. Hey, Google does it. What’s the big deal?
That’s why I cannot bother to read him. I’m sure he has something interesting to say, and the general take on Scoble is he does a good job. But whether he believes it or not, he is simply a flack — a hip, post-millenium, paid, new economy, spin-meister.
But a flack is a flack is a flack.
Its not his fault — despite his very best efforts to avoid becoming that, he has succumbed to a very primal and ancient aspect of Human Nature. He is part of the Tribe.
But there’s no escaping the bottom line: If your job is to publicly comment about the (mis)behavior of your employer in a way that makes them a little less Borg-like, well, than you are no better (and no worse) than anyone else in the PR industry.
Let’s just not pretend that Scobelizer is anything more . . .
UPDATE: June 21, 2005 10:22am
Q. What is jumping the shark?
A. It’s a moment. A defining moment when you know that your
favorite television program has reached its peak. That instant that you know
from now on…it’s all downhill. Some call it the climax. We call it "Jumping
the Shark." From that moment on, the program will simply never be the same.
The term "jump the shark" was coined by my college roommate for 4 years, Sean
J. Connolly, in Ann Arbor, Michigan back in 1985. This web site, book, film, and
all other material surrounding shark jumping, are hereby dedicated to "the
The aforementioned expression refers to the telltale sign of the demise of Happy Days, our favorite example, when Fonzie
actually "jumped the shark." The rest is history.
Jumping the shark applies not only to TV, but also music, film, even everyday
life. "Did you see her boyfriend? She definitely jumped the shark." You get the
UPDATE 2: June 22, 2005 10:48am
Scoble critiques Microsoft for opening up another "Cool but Lame site:
How many more Microsoft sites will open without RSS? Sigh.
UPDATE 3: October 4, 2005 10:41am
What’s Google learning from their Wifi network?
Spoken like a true company man . . .