Scobleizer Weblog

Daily Permalink Sunday, July 06, 2003

Hmm, one Brian Baer is Marc Canter. His weblog tells me about all sorts of new stuff.

Interesting, lots of VCs lately have been asking this question "is there money in weblogging?" How do I know that? They call me up. This week Hummer Winblad asked me that question.

How would you answer that?

Ahh, let's see, in the blog world we now have AOL, Google, Sony. IBM and Microsoft are sniffing around trying to figure it out.

Dave Winer talks about AOL's entry today.

Ahh, now the weblogs will start talking about "the AOL-ization" of the Weblog world. Just the same way we talked about the "AOL-ization" of the newsgroups back when the masses started coming online.

It's been a nice insular world until now. It'll be interesting to see it get bigger.

So, at Joe Beda's party, someone asked me "so, what you gonna do to make Microsoft's communities strong again?"

Of course, that was a loaded question. What was behind it? Well, Linux has a vibrant community and many people see that as the reason that they are coming on strong against Microsoft.

Communities are important, although they need to have the best of breed product to really make an impact. I go back to my camera days. Nikon used to OWN the professional market. I know, I sold cameras and lenses to several of the Mercury News photographers.

Why was that? Nikon thought it was because they never changed their lens mount. See, you can -- even today -- use a Nikon lens you bought in 1955 on any Nikon body. The truth was, Nikon had the best 35mm cameras back in the 1960s. Pros who went to the Vietnam war found that Nikon stuff was indestructable. I still have a Nikon F2. Associated Press photographer Paul Sakuma gave it to me about 10 years ago (he works for the San Francisco Chronicle). It still works great, although the meter is busted.

Anyway, today, many of the professional photographers in the journalism business use Canons. That's a huge change from 1980. There were literally NO Canons being used by professionals then.

So, how did Canon get in? Easy, they changed their lens mount. Whoa, wouldn't that piss off professionals? After all, do you know how much a 300mm F2.8 lens is? About $4000. Wouldn't people rebel against "lock in?" Especially "lock in" that demonstrated the company didn't see much value in keeping their lens mount the same?

Well, now look at the world. The Chronicle and the Mercury News use almost nothing but Canon equipment. Look at any sporting event. See the big white lenses? Those are Canons. The big black ones are Nikons. All the others (Minolta, Olympus, etc) don't even rate.

So, what does this have to do with community? Well, did Canon have a better community than Nikon? No. At least not at first. So, how did Canon get access to a market that it didn't have access to before?

It had a better product and it had Brian Baer.

But even having a better product wasn't enough. What else happened? They got a kid out of San Jose State University (not me) to try it. He started getting shots that all the other pros were missing. Why? Because the Canon's autofocus was faster.

He started getting jobs because his work was better (and awards). He started showing off his equipment to all the older "seasoned" pros.

Soon I sold a photographer at the Chronicle a Canon. Same at the Mercury News. Word gets around pretty quickly when there's someone who's showing people a more productive way of working. That photographer, by the way, was Brian Baer. He now works at the Sacramento Times.

So, how is Nikon fighting back? They improved their autofocus speed. And, they make sure that plenty of the black lenses show up at professional events (they hand out access to really expensive equipment at major pro sporting events and do their best to make sure the pros at least try Nikons once in a while -- even today you notice that Brian has posted in a Nikon forum). They buy huge advertisements at the Seattle Mariner's stadium. Oh, and they have continued to support the Nikon School.

Why does all this matter? After all, pros only buy a very small amount of camera gear every year.

Well, we go back to the party I was at on July 4. Joe Beda owned a Canon D60 (a $2000 body). Why are tons of people like him choosing Canon gear? Well, they tell me they are influenced by the brand recognition of the camera they buy. I know I ask pros all the time about their equipment. And, that information gets passed along on camera forums and informal camera shop discussions all the time.

So, to bring this all full circle, who are these guys who try out new technologies? How can Microsoft get them to join "the evil empire?"

First, you can find them on the weblogs. The newsgroups. The web forums. Heck, I tell anyone who says that Microsoft doesn't have a vibrant community to go check out the newsgroups or check out the .NET Weblogs.

Why? They usually like telling people about the new approach they've found. You'll see them at parties, showing people what's cool about the new software. Just like Joe Beda showed me how Outlook 2003 always works offline and lets you get to your email now without going through a VPN.

The bigger question is, how do we get these folks to support a Microsoft technology?

It's pretty easy. Build a better product. And show it to the "Brian Baer's".

"But, don't they hate big, evil, Microsoft?" Sure they do. But, do you think that professional photographers didn't hate Canon for changing their lens mount and taking an approach toward its customers that said "we're gonna obsolete you, and make all your old stuff worthless so we can make a better product?" Heck yes!

But, funny thing about customers. They buy a better product.

So, I'm looking for a few Brian Baers. If you're out there, let me know!

One more thing: I don't need many. If you're a Brian Baer, you get around. I know. I watched him work. He sold dozens of newspapers on Canon equipment.

Remember, ICQ started on November 1, 1996 with 40 Brian Baer's. Within two months 130,000 people had downloaded it.

Brian, are you out there? I got something new for you to talk about coming soon.


I took the weekend off away from the computer and realize I need to change my weblog a bit. Why? I've gotten stale. Old. Boring. I don't take enough risks and I don't write enough like I used to. Instead I fell into the rut of just pointing to other people's work.

So, I'm thinking about where I want to go with the weblog and what I want to say. I'll probably write less often, but say more stuff. Is that cool? Anyway, most of what I post to is already posted over at the .NET Weblogs or Dave Winer's site anyway.

Hey, here's a REAL Tablet evangelist! (article on Fox about churches and how they use technology).

What a weekend. It started with Joe and Rachel Beda's party. Joe's a geek. Rachel is a doctor. Funny enough, most of the party followed that theme. It was a geek and doctor party.

How do you know you're at a doctor party? When a guest proclaims "I saw the coolest disease last week" and the other guests chime in with their own observations. Of course, the geeks (almost all Microsofties, except for my brother, who's a Microsoft customer) were comparing notes on latest Linux and Microsoft stuff, as geeks everywhere are wont to do.

Thanks Joe, that was an awesome party. One of the best I've ever been to. Joi, you have a competitor!

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Robert Scoble works at Microsoft. Everything here, though, is his personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. No warranties or other guarantees will be offered as to the quality of the opinions or anything else offered here.

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© Copyright 2004 Robert Scoble Last updated: 1/3/2004; 2:42:01 AM.