Scobleizer Weblog

Daily link Saturday, February 19, 2005

I am so pissed.

Yesterday I ripped the head off of a coworker. He works in marketing on a major Microsoft product. I'm not going to identify it or him.

He called me yesterday and said:

"Hey, Scoble, we've done a fun site but no one is linking to it."

My first question?

"Do you have an RSS feed?"

"No, this site is for non geeks."

At that point I just lost it. I think I swore a bit. I am so mad 20 hours later that I can't even remember what I said.

That demonstrates an utter cluelessness about how hype gets generated. If you don't have RSS, how will anyone who is a connector build a relationship with your site?

"Why don't you get your non-geek friends to link to it then?"

I think he had heard that lots of press was reading blogs and wanted to get Walt Mossberg or Steven Levy to talk about this marketing site and figured he'd use me to drive traffic.

Sorry, if you do a marketing site and you don't have an RSS feed today you should be fired.

I'll say it again. You should be fired if you do a marketing site without an RSS feed.

Saying that RSS is only for geeks today is like saying in 1998 that the Web was only for geeks.

It got worse.

This site, which probably cost $100,000 (ahh, that's where our towel money went) has great graphic design. Lots of streaming video.

But it's fake. All of it is actors. No real people. No real point.


Oh, but it gets even worse. "Can I download the videos?"

"No, the whole point of the site is to get people to visit and stick around."

So, let me get this straight. You don't have RSS feeds. That means I won't be able to build a relationship with this site. You have a fake site so even if I tell my readers to visit it they'll get there and feel dirty (and they can't interact or do anything there either). You won't let me download the videos to pass them around virally. Or remix them in fun ways.

Oh, and there's no permalinks so even if I wanted to link you directly to a piece of content there I couldn't.

This team is very lucky that I'm not in charge of marketing. Seeing sites like this makes me think that Mini-Microsoft is right. Maybe it's time for Donald Trump to visit the team in question.

On the other hand? Some teams at Microsoft do get it. Microsoft Presspass, for instance, just added a couple of RSS feeds.

7:52:23 AM    comment 

I'm still on blogging vacation, but I'm speaking this morning to the Northern Voice conference in Vancouver. I love Vancouver. If you've never visited, you should put it on your list.

Anyway, my talk this morning is about "how I read 1000 blogs a day."

Showing the mechanics of that will take maybe five minutes. Then, the rest of the hour I'll talk about why I'm reading that many. What I'm seeing when I read that many.

It should be fun. I haven't looked much at the feeds since I went on blog vacation three days ago (and I'll be on blog vacation for probably another week).

A few things before I jump back off into blog vacation. First, Steve Rubel started a stir when he said that Google is doing something similar to Microsoft SmartTags.

I see Dave Winer has talked several times about this issue in the past few days.

So, what do I think?

I hate SmartTags or things that change your content (or mine) by default in the Web browser. Adding links to my content without my control is not something that I can support. It is anti-Web, in my opinion. I know there are those of you who don't agree with me. But I'm in Dave Winer's corner on this one.

I love SmartTags when they are used in tools to help me create content. I just used them in Excel, for instance. They are awesome there. I wish I had them here in my blog editor. Why? Because they'd make me a better writer. But once I've written and produced content for the Web I hate other things that change that content. In ANY WAY.

1) The company I work for MUST be judged differently than Google is. Why? Because of our market position. Yes, we have a monopoly. Even though Firefox has 25,000,000 downloads IE is still used on nine out of 10 computers out there. That makes it very important that Microsoft behave differently than any other company. Even Google. Translation: Google can do a lot of things that Microsoft can't.

2) SmartTags in IE were evil because they were loaded in a browser (they only were in a beta of IE and were never shipped) by default and they changed everyone's Web experience.

3) SmartTags and things that add links to content are seen by users as helpful, content producers as evil, and tools makers as strategic. This is one time where the users are not right. Content producers' rights must be protected (yes, I know I am hypocritical there because of my stance on RSS, but we need to look at prior usage of HTML vs. RSS. That's real important to do. RSS has ALWAYS been repurposed. It's a syndication format. HTML, on the other hand, has never had links added to it by big companies. When big companies change the usage model of HTML they are playing on dangerous ground).

So, how should you judge new Web linking technologies?

1) Do they use Web links to build new markets and lock out competitors? Again, companies with monopoly power MUST be judged differently. But, notice that Google's Toolbar doesn't have an option to add links to Microsoft Mappoint. That's locking out a competitor (and, even if that choice were there, the links to Google's own maps are on by default and most users won't change that default).

2) Do these new products add new linking behavior that the content producer can't control? And even if content producers could turn these things off, or change their behavior to suit the content producer's view, Microsoft got hammered because most web content producers don't understand how to use metatags anyway.

3) Do these new products attempt to use your content to drive traffic to content on your reader's machine that you didn't explicitly link to? For instance, I just went to a Microsoft Web site to look up an address for an office. With my new Google Toolbar that address took me to a Google property. That certainly isn't a behavior that I'm very happy with. Google just took over the Web and changed its behavior.

I can't speak for any of our competitors (obviously) but if Microsoft ever does any of the above three, I'll be the first to speak out about it in public. Do some research on just how stringent I was against SmartTags. I am NOT going to back down on this issue, even if Bill Gates comes and slaps me upside the head.

Major disclaimer. These are my views. Your views may differ. My employer's views may differ too (and probably do). But one thing, big companies care a lot about their public image. If you care about this issue, write a weblog post. You can stop big companies from doing anti-Web things. I know. Just ask the team who did the SmartTags feature for IE.

6:45:36 AM    comment 

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© Copyright 2005
Robert Scoble
My cell phone: 425-205-1921
Are you with the press?
Last updated:
5/11/2005; 1:03:23 AM.

Robert Scoble works at Microsoft (title: technical evangelist). 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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