My new cell phone number is 425-205-1921. As I play with my new Audiovox I like it more and more. AT&T's service is much better than Verizon's too (although that might have been a function of my Verizon/LG phone). With Verizon I couldn't use my phone at work. Now my new phone works in the garage and in my office. Same at home. I can't believe I put up with such bad reception before.
Tod Maffin: how to take Podcasting to the next level.
John Zagula, partner with Ignition partners, and co-author of the excellent Marketing Playbook, just spent a few minutes on the phone with me -- we were picking up on the conversation we started the other evening. I was typing in the browser window and accidentally closed. Gone. Grrr.
But, from memory, here's what we chatted about. The nice thing about blogs is that the conversation can be continued and lost notes can be rebuilt. I'll be watching the Marketing Playbook's blog for more interesting insights.
Why they wrote the book
They had learned a lot about marketing while at Microsoft and while funding new companies in their roles at Ignition Partners and people kept asking them to put their knowledge down in a book.
They discovered a framework that works and keeps companies focused on the basics rather than get off track on tactics (building cool looking advertising is fun, he told me, but is it really communicating what your company is about?)
How software is changing
Expectations in the marketplace are changing. Even staid enterprise users are expecting things to work, be more like a service, and open up new potential. John told me how he's now able to have a blog, was able to edit his own film, and do other things on the computer that were very difficult, if not impossible just five years ago.
He also told me to even look at Microsoft's Windows Update: software is changing from something we buy that stays static to more of a process that we use that updates often while we use it. Look at Google, for instance, we use it and it's always changing while we're using it.
What Microsoft should do?
"Be more boring," he told me. "Huh?" He went on to explain that growth will come from making computers more reliable, secure, and easy to use. Ahh. Boring stuff!
What is interesting about blogging
Blogging, he says, is all about talking with customers and being believed. Blogs are authentic. Original. Believable. And they build great relationships with customers, and, with competitors and/or potential partners.
Is branding dead?
No, but it's changing. "Hey, you have a brand now," he told me. He explained that that's important. That new business is being chased up by guys like Craig Newmark with his Craig's List. "Look at eBay," he told me. "They had a small number of highly active community members who dragged in a much larger number of less active members." The trick, he told me, is to find those guys who create content and experiences that'll pull in the larger numbers.
Well, actually, this is probably easier to read than my original word-for-word notes (I gotta use OneNote next time rather than trying to take notes right in the browser window, grrr). The Marketing Playbook will help you think through your marketing plan. It gave me a framework to discuss marketing with my coworkers (and with all of you). If you've read the book, for instance, you'll know what I mean when I say "this is a stealth play."
Thanks, John. Oh, I forgot, I also told him that I'm thinking of doing a podcast. That I am.
Hugh "branding is dead" Macleod: "Hey, Robert, branding is dead, which is why it's just conversational now."
"I basically agree with everything Robert said in this article. Which makes me even more convinced that he's wrong."
David Weinberger is doing great blogging from the Pop!Tech conference today.
Is the Windows API dead? Well, I'm looking for Konfabulator to kick it in the behind! Check out this screenshot. Thanks to my coworker Jeff Sandquist for bringing me those links. And thanks to Konfabulator for supporting the Windows platform! Damn, will my desktop ever be the same again?
The Scoble Weblog Redesign Contest Update
So, back in August, I held a contest to redesign my weblog. Lots of great entries came in. Most of which you've seen here, but here's a list of the ones I have.
Which one do you like the best?
Well, I'm off to bed. This weekend I am going to go look at Media Center PCs. I want something with dual tuners and with good quality. Must have the new Windows Media Center 2005 loaded on it. Doesn't need to be in a pretty box, cause it'll be upstairs in the office. Doesn't need to be particularly quiet. Also, I don't need HDTV capabilities. I can't afford a new TV for at least two years, and my that time I'm sure that anything I buy will be obsolete anyway. I'd like to keep the price as close to $1000 as possible.
Any suggestions of machines I should look at? I'm not adverse to building my own machine, but would rather just go in and buy one somewhere.
Speaking of fun cell phone stuff, now that I have my cool new cell phone working, I'm starting to use it to moblog. First pictures? Jeff Sandquist in the hallway where I work and Charles Torre in his dark office (how come devs always work in the dark?). Yes, I too will bore you with boring blurry photography until I get it out of my system. Heh.
Are you a high-school or college student? Then you should consider the Imagine Cup competition. I have been invited to go to the finals, which will be in Yokohama, Japan next August. Last year's entries were absolutely stunning -- the videos the students put together were better than most you'll see on MTV. Teams from around the world compete (last year I helped teams from India and Africa, it really is a great contest). The journey starts now, good luck!
While we're talking about the Imagine Cup, the same folks who are running the contest just opened up a subset of the API for theSpoke and posted a beta starter kit. All calls are webservices: sample apps are there in C# and VB.NET. There's a sandboxed environment for you to play in.
Morris Sim blogged more about it here.
A coworker showed me Jackson DJ software. Very cool. For those of you who really want to play with their music.
Mary Jo Foley interviews Joel Spolsky. He talks at length about what he doesn't like in Microsoft's current strategy. Interesting reading.
This is funny! The top 10 ways the Canadian version of Halo 2 differs from the U.S. version. From Sandy McMurray. Eh?
The World o Meters website is a cool place to get up-to-the-minute stats on all sorts of things. Dang, look at the hours spent on the Internet continue to roll by! I just blew a few myself!
Tired of all the podcasting hype? Well, Mercedes-Benz has some new music for you to listen to. Maybe that'll calm you down.
More great audio from IT Conversations: the new Gillmor Gang is up with Dave Winer, Adam Curry, and three of the four members of the Firesign Theatre.
Those of you who know my former boss, Steve Sloan (he works at San Jose State University in its IT department) know that Steve is a pretty hard-core Mac guy. So, I thought it was interesting that he linked to the article where Jeff Raskin, a member of the original Macintosh development team, asserted that OS X is a mess.
Mark Cuban, the Dallas Maverick's CEO, chimes in with another great rant: getting my attention.
I totally agree with him. I'd go further. I wouldn't hire anyone who can't be found in Google or MSN or Yahoo (or, better yet, all three). If you don't care enough to put at least some information about yourself on a website or a blog and get a friend who has a blog to link to you, why exactly should I hire you?
Charlene Li gets over her fears and starts Forrester's first blog. She's writing a report on corporate blogging and wants to know how your company is using and measuring the impact of blogs.
Here's some ways I'm measuring it:
1) How many inbound links there are. That shows how many people find you interesting enough to link to. Use Technorati.
2) How much raw traffic each site is sending. For instance, when Joel Spolsky linked to me he sent me about 12,000 visitors off of one link. Slashdot usually sends 15,000 to 100,000, depending on the sensationalism of the headline. Mainstream press? When Dave Winer was linked to by an article on MSN's home page he got 200,000 visitors from one link.
3) Anecdotal influence measures. For that you have to go to conferences and talk to people. Collect business cards. Etc.
I'm interested in how other people are measuring their ROI. You do all notice that I'm still doing this as a hobby on my own time, right? It's the fun things that change the world.
Larry O'Brien isn't the only one who has been praising William Shatner's new album "Has Been." His link is about the fifth link I've seen this week from bloggers. I don't have time to go back and link to the rest, though. On my quick listen sounds good!
Hey, want to work at Microsoft? Here's a stealthy way to get noticed by one of Microsoft's top recruiters.
Heather, that's a sly way to get people to link to your blog. I thought I knew all the tricks! :-)
Congrats to Ed Bott, Carl Siechert, Craig Stinson, for getting a new version of Windows XP Inside Out done. My final copy was delivered today. What a beast! Could you guys stuff a few more pages into it? Geez.
But, I stand behind my endorsement that's on the back cover of the book. Great resource. I'm glad someone wrote it.
Jason Clarke complains about my linkblog. Sorry Jason, I hate not including full text in the feed, but I used to do that and several people complained and accused me of stealing their content.
I'm bummed that I'm not at Pop!Tech. I was listening in today on it and it was wonderful. Doug Kaye of IT Conversations is broadcasting the conference live in streaming audio and the quality is like being there. Judith Meskill links to a bunch of the bloggers that are there.
There's a very interesting anonymous blogger out there. Mini Microsoft this anonymous employee calls his/her blog.
Hey, buddy, I hear Google's hiring in Kirkland. You first! :-)
Speaking of Google, in a previous post, the Mini-Microsoft guy asked "why don't we partner with Google?"
Looks like someone took his advice. Check out what's in the Microsoft Partner Pack! (Google Deskbar). By the way, the partner pack is mondo cool. I hope we do more of these kinds of things. Games. Productivity utilities. Security enhancers.
I'm going to disagree with Doc Searls and Hugh MacLeod. They've been riffing on a "branding is dead" kick. (Thanks to Terry Heaton for linking to both).
Chuq Von Rospach, a blogger who works at Apple Computer, jumps in and says "Branding isn't dead -- Apple, in fact, is a company that epitomizes why branding is NOT dead in the market."
What is being missed here is what really is going on. Branding is about starting, keeping, and capitalizing on, word of mouth.
The success of your brand is simply a few things, roughly in this order:
1) Can you get other people to notice what you're doing? Apple, Nike, Coke, certainly succeed here.
2) Can you get other people to talk about what you're doing? Apple rules at this. Hell, they get a Microsoft employee (me) to talk about them all the time. That alone tells you that the branding at Apple is great. Google is rocking at this. Absolutely rocking.
Heck, every time Maryam and I drive to pick up my son, we pass the Apple iPod advertisement that's very prominent along HWY 880 in Oakland. Everytime it gets me to talk about music players. Heck, one of my favorite bands, the Black Eyed Peas, became my favorite band simply cause I heard their song in an iPod commercial.
Apple kicks axx at branding. Last weekend I was at the Apple store opening. There were 80 people in line. All of them cheered wildly when the store opened. THAT is branding!
3) Can you get those people to buy your next product? Again, Apple rules here. Google is getting people to buy their product (they are clicking on ads left and right).
4) Once you have a relationship with the company, will you recommend it to others? For instance, notice that I'm still wildly excited about my Ford Focus. It's been an absolutely great car. That's great branding. My new Audiovox phone. Same thing. I'm sure some of you are saying "yeah, but you didn't need a blog from any of those companies to buy." That's true. But...
So, why does blogging matter in the branding game?
One, watching blogs gives you an indication of what the greater society is doing and talking about (if you read enough of them and they are randomly enough selected -- I'm not there yet, but I'm getting close).
Two, blogs can feed the conversation and amplify it. Look at all the talk about Audiovox cell phones in the past five days. Did you notice that AT&T is sold out? I did.
Three, blogs can reduce negatives. Is something bugging your customers? Well, they'll yell about it and yell about it until you listen to them and start having a conversation. Chuq is right on this count. Microsoft has made a corporate decision to change its public face -- I and the other more than 1,000 bloggers at Microsoft are stark evidence of that.
Four, if you're really a "clueful company" you'll integrate bloggers into product development so that they feel ownership of the product or service as it comes out. This one is scary, but watch Channel 9 on Monday. The Developer Division here is opening up more and trying to integrate customers deeper into the company. It's a big experiment, we'd love to know how we can improve it even more. This also helps you avoid mistakes. I can't talk about it too much, but at the MSN Search Champs meeting the MSN team proposed something that everyone in the room told them would be a fatal mistake if they did it. If the MSN team hadn't pulled a bunch of users into the organization, they might have released software with a fatal flaw. Involving customers in your development process helps you avoid blind spots. This is so key!
Five, the word-of-mouth networks are becoming more and more efficient. Remember, Channel 9? We did no advertising, no PR, had no links from any Microsoft site, yet had more than 100,000 unique visitors on the second day in business.
Six, blogging is cheap. Er, inexpensive. I'll let other people do the ROI studies and comparisons cause if I do them I'll just look like I'm stroking my own feathers. I'll talk with Rich and John more about this tomorrow. The Firefox guys just learned that advertising in the New York Times costs $100,000. And that ad disappears after a day. I cost about the same for an entire year. Which is more likely to build a long-term customer relationship? A blog that's done every night? Or an ad that runs once and is gone the next day?
Seven, blogs build much stronger relationships between customers and the company. Yeah, I didn't need a blog to buy a Ford Focus, but what if there were one? It would make my relationship even stronger. And it'd give me something to talk about and link to here, particularly if one of their software engineers started writing about how he tunes each car and gives some geek tips for best performance.
One thing, too that complicates things for Microsoft. Microsoft's products often don't have much of a brand presence. At Oakland International Airport, for instance, they just bought a ton of new plasma screens. They are all run on Microsoft software. But you never see our brand. You'll never know that they chose Microsoft software unless you are a geek and know the guy who built those systems.
Now head over to the Hertz Rental Car counter. They just got brand new terminals for all their agents. All running on Windows. But you'll never see our brand. Hertz never will tell you "we're running on Windows."
Later, when you go out to eat, check out the terminals that are running the Cheesecake Factory. They too are running on Windows. Yet you'll never see our brand on it.
Now you understand why it's hard to make our stuff seem "cool." No one usually knows that we're running. That's quite different from, say, Nike. When Michael Jordan took to the court, you always knew who's shoes he was wearing.
That all said, I'm here for the long haul. I'm just having fun, talking about the industry I love, and linking to cool people out there on the Internet. I think you'll find that I'm not alone in that. Just visit the other Microsoft bloggers and check out what they are passionate about. Everything from Xbox's to SmartPhones to Visual Studio to CRM to Sharepoint to, well, nearly everything we make at Microsoft.
Whew, I'm so far behind. I just got caught up with my linkblog and my feed reading. Darn there's a lot of interesting stuff to read.
Next up, catching up with email. I have some email that I haven't answered for weeks, so if you've written me and haven't heard back yet, sorry. I gotta get back on the David Allen program. 130 emails to go.