General Interest | Knowledge Innovation | Skype Journal

Unbound Spiral: Passionate Bloggers Corporate Asset or Liability

June 8, 2004 08:00 PM

I'm getting inquires and questions. Stuart have you stopped blogging? Why no posts recently? The answer is complicated. This is a story about a blogger who found a new niche in an emerging industry with a new job through blogging. It also contain my thoughts and recommendations for companies that find themselves with a passionate blogger on the outside. For those that are blogging and looking for the "next thing" it may provide some lessons.

Almost nine months ago I started blogging Skype. In the first few weeks after it was launched I blogged it incessantly. At the time this blog was focused on emerging social networking sites, digital identity, collaboration. For the most part within the context of knowledge innovation. When Skype launched a few things clicked for me. Skype was an early indicator of things to come. As a strategist with scenarios as part of my tool kit, Skype confirmed for me that Stupid Networks were going to go beyond music sharing. Concurrrently my blog learnings just proved that these tools are operating as early warning radar, an accelerated learning environment, and a place to find new friends with similar interests. To explore the future we need models and examples that work as great test beds. I decided to pick up on Skype and just blog about it. I've never been affiliated with Skype in anyway, and I've tried to keep a balanced point of view. Still I managed to pick up the Stuart "SkypeMe" Henshall tag somewhere.

My Skype blogging experience leads me to recommend to other bloggers who find something new that it may be worth helping to put it on the map. It may not get you a job or even an approach from that company. I'd actually trace all the work that I've generated in the last six months to my blog. Plus my blog has played a key role in brokering new introductions. So there is little chance that this blog is going to fade away.

What I do find curious is companies don't have clear strategies for approaching bloggers. I'm not the only one to get a new job via my blog, for exampe Ton Zijlstra did. However, I'm not sure I know of any bloggers that have attached themselves to an emerging company and still found 9 months later that they really don't have a dialogue with it. Let it be known. I blogged Skype for I wanted a broader conversation around it. I may not have done it very well, I may have made myself unapproachable. However that is not what I believe. I do credit myself with at least some of the direction that Skype has taken. Although I will never know.

If you are a company with a blogger outside:

Understand the Asset: I'd recommend you actually contact them. If they are making real visibilty for you and adding value to what you are building you should contact them with a representative at the highest level. You need to know, what drives them, why they are doing it, and where they are hoping their actions may lead. Some may want independence, others may be looking for something new. Depending on the blogger this might be a single post, or a multiplicity of posts. Cautious about writing, then call them up. Start-ups are in a particularly difficult place. One bad review may kill them.
Intellectual Capital: Blogging is research as well as connections. Even those that may not have originated in an industry may well take new strategic postions and bring new insights. These blogger potentially represent the largest risk. If you can identify the bloggers in and around your industry with these types of capabilities then you should consider how they may look if working for a potential competitor.
Open a channel; Whether official or unofficial You better have a feedster link for your company and be prepared to follow-up with them. Similarly even some low cost options may enable you to connect more effectively. Don't think that the blogger may be too expensive. Even if there are very limited resources there are ways to generate face to face meetings. You may be surprised at what the blogger is willing to do. Moral is... If you don't ask them don't be surprised later.
VC's and Investments: If you are a VC and making an investment then you would be well-advised to search blogs. If that Passionate Blogger turns up in your search then you may learn something by talking to them. I had a call just yesterday from a Skype VC (my first one, I think wondering why I hadn't blogged much on SkyeOut or SkypePlus yet) Perhaps they miss me? The problem is it has all changed for me and that happened a few weeks ago.

Blogger Goes to Potential Competitor.
Yep it has happened. I'm now the VP of Marketing for DiamondWare and we have the technology, engineering and vision to launch enterprise mobility solutions that combines VoIP, Presence, and Collaboration. I'm going to talk more about DiamondWare in a separate post. This is more a post about me, this blog and what happens when a passionate blogger makes a new commitment. If you know me well you will know I haven't sold myself short and I'm simply delighted to be working on "our" products and solutions. The single biggest issue I have had in the last 12-15 months was knowing that I wanted to either start my own firm or be part of creating a world-class company. While I've been encouraged to extend my consulting practice I've known for a long time that that is not my preferred space. My chosen interests have been technology and Internet related. I didn't have the money to fund a team. However as my passion and focus emerged I've let it guide me in terms of who to meet, what to do, and where to commit. So a new journey has begun.

Ethics Personal Blog and Corporate Blog:
I've pretty much blogged whatever I wanted for a long time. Now I shall have to post one of those disclaimers; that this blog is not necessarily the view of my employer etc. What you as a reader should know is I've seldom shared details on consulting projects and I am well aware of the new balance I need to find between blogging at DiamondWare and blogging here. This is the place I'm planning to stay playing with ideas, watching my blogging buddies and following my interests. Don't be surprised if you find me blogging about VoIP or even Skype here too. How can I do that? I believe I can only do it if I'm always blogging in the context of the industry.

Years ago in when in the grocery business we used to talk about growing the category. We (eg the coffee manufacturer) may have wanted more shelf space and a better position. We were after share. I always wanted to beat the competition. However the retailers controlled the shelf-space and the only way to improve your position was to grow their overall share of business. The brands/products that contributed to growth were rewarded with better shelf position etc. Well.... I may not be retailing softphones or even distributing my solutions in a grocery store in the near future although one never knows. What I will try to insure whenever I write about potential competitive products here is that I state the facts clearly, that I maintain the highest standards of "growing the category". I'm also well aware of "claims" and comparisons on performace. Should I make any comparisons they will be either "personal experience" or link to some independentt lab or research. Softphones are a growth category. So not talking about softphones would be foolish when one is in the VoIP business. Similarly, IM clients, social networking services etc. These are all converging. Plus it would be foolish for anyone to think that I am not trying out "other" products. Like the retailer I once was. Try them out. Take them home. Use them. Record your impressions. Learn.




Comments (2)

congrats!
nice to finally be able to talk about your cool new gig!

Posted by: Roland Tanglao at June 9, 2004 2:42 PM

Walmart, Telephony, and the roadside street vendor.

Your comments reminded me of a story I heard from the VP of a Big Box pet products chain that was being grilled by media and industry people at a tradeshow for putting small Mom and Pop shops out of business as they coulnd't compete with their prices. His comments stuck with me as he told a story of this man he saw selling what appeared to be cat houses on the side of the road. He used carpet remnants and scrap lumber to create those little houses that we are all familiar with having seen pictures of kittens falling over themselves playing on them. The cat house market is now a multi-million dollar industry Worldwide, as this enterprising VP saw an opportunity to "grow a market" and embraced it. That roadside vendor is now the preferred manufacturer for several major retailers. New innovative ideas provide the same example, whether it be coffee, IP telephony, or cat houses.

Skype, Diamondware, Marratech, all change the paradigm and provide opportunities to collaborate and grow new niche markets for everyone.

Best of luck with your new venture.

Posted by: Andrew Hanssen at June 14, 2004 10:23 AM