Marc, sorry about not answering your email. Yeah, I'm overloaded on email. RSS is so much better.
Information Week: Microsoft releases another community preview of SQL Server 2005.
I visited Microsoft's TechFest today. So did a lot of other people, including Kim from the Seattle Times (she wrote a report here), and lots of other VIPs. I ran into Steven Sinofsky, guy who runs the Office team, and Kevin Schofield, guy who is in charge of moving technology out of research and into our products, among many other people.
This is my second TechFest. It's one of the treats for being a "Blue Badge." You get to see all sorts of cool stuff. This year was much better than last year's show.
I chatted with Gary Starkweather (he's the guy who invented the laser printer while at Xerox Parc) and was he having fun or what? Unfortunately I can't really tell you what he was showing off. Unfortunately a couple people from PR (and Kevin) spied me coming in the door with my Channel 9 camcorder and made me swear not to reveal the coolest stuff. I'm sure it'll come out over the next year or two.
Oh, heck. One hint? You know that screen in the movie Minority Report? Well...
I was just IM'ing with Lutz Roeder. He's the guy who did Reflector (a class browser for .NET). He pointed me to Don Box's blog. Don posted there that Shawn Burke wanted to put Lutz out of a job. Reading the comments there is fun.
Since I've been talking smack about Google lately, gotta brag about a cool feature on Google Maps.
Here, go there.
Good looking women in Seattle
Ahh, who knew maps could be social guides?
There's a bunch of new Sun Microsystems gear over at Microsoft. Cool.
Volker Will disagrees with me about whether SmartTags or Hailstorm are evil and gives some guesses as to what Lucovsky is really working on.
I love the BluggCaster. Flash-based podcaster.
At least I love it after playing with it for 90 seconds. Will it survive Jeff Sandquist's seven day test?
Wanna listen to classic radio shows? MSN Music just announced today that they are putting up old radio shows.
I made a mistake. My religious fervor about RSS blinded me to something bigger that I should have commented on. That's the downside of being an evangelist. It can make you look at only one thing: adoption of what you're evangelizing and can blind you to what's really important. I screwed up. Can we reboot this conversation?
What am I talking about? Viral marketing campaigns.
I am hearing that there'll be a bunch of viral campaigns coming, both inside and outside of Microsoft. Why? Because of the success of ILoveBees and Burger King's Subservient Chicken sites.
ILoveBees was a game that was aimed at getting people interested in a game (Halo 2). Subservient Chicken is a site that was aimed at getting buzz going around a new sandwich at Burger King.
These things are designed to "light up" word-of-mouth networks.
Translation: they work if they get you to talk to your friends about these things.
Subservient Chicken, for instance, was hugely successful. I saw it discussed on tons of blogs. Hundreds, in fact. And Burger King's CEO, on CNN, said it increased sales more than he expected it to.
I heard the Halo 2 marketing team talk recently about their successes and they list their ILoveBees site as something they did right to get their core customers to talk more about the coming launch of the game.
Recently MSN tried a different viral campaign. I haven't seen that one be successful. In fact, many people have derided it. Why didn't that work when the same company did the popular ILoveBees site?
I think it's because the viral campaign didn't match what people thought the end product should stand for. With ILoveBees, it was pushing a game. A game about a game. That makes sense. But with MSN we want a search engine that's reliable. Trustworthy. Valuable. The MSN Found Campaign didn't match those beliefs. MSN Found used fake actors and inserted itself into the search engine itself.
You've gotta go back and understand where blogging came from. We were disgusted with how corporations were behaving. Blogging started really taking off after the dotcom boom and bust. It started taking off after WorldCom and other corporate scandals.
It started taking off because corporations seemed to only care about themselves and didn't seem to be listening anymore to anyone around them including the government or even other corporations.
It started taking off because we are always being marketed to, but rarely listened to. There are so many commercial messages raining down on our heads that we wanted to have our own way to talk back to the world. A way to push back on the marketing and the lies and the hype. Look at last night's comments on this very blog. People don't like it when I hype something up. They want to be in control and hate it when those of us in big companies try to manipulate them.
Why do you think so many people have been cheering on the blogging movement at Microsoft? At least now there's a start of a conversation between the people who work at companies and the rest of the world.
So, viral campaigns need to show they are sensitive to those values. Here's some ways to judge a viral campaign. Do you have any others?
1) Make sure the "brand" you're building in people's heads matches what you actually want people to think about.
2) To have something go viral, you actually need to do something that will make people talk. Games that are fun are generally good, but won't work for all products. With Honda their "cog ad" for the Accord went viral and that was only a video.
3) Be sensitive to the leading "connectors" -- they'll be the ones who'll really kick off your viral campaign. Convince them to link and you're really on your way. Know who the connectors are in the communities you want to reach. Want a political community to talk to you? Glenn Reynolds. Gadget freaks? Engadget or Gizmodo. Tech Geeks? Dave Winer, Boing Boing, MetaFilter, or Slashdot. Etc.
4) Test the campaign with 40 leading connectors before embarrassing yourselves. Listen to the feedback you get.
5) Make sure that the viral thing matches the image you're trying to build. A VW ad (not commissioned by VW) went viral, but because it used a terrorist blowing himself up it didn't match the image that VW was trying to build for itself.
6) A good test is whether employees like it or not. These things can be used to increase morale. "Look at my cool company, they even have cool viral campaigns." But, they can decimate morale too. "What a lame campaign." Be careful here. Ask coworkers if they would be proud of sending this to mom.
7) A good viral campaign lets those who talk about it manipulate the campaign. If it is designed to manipulate those who are talking about it, be wary. We hate being manipulated, but we love to manipulate. Translation: can I add something to the campaign? Even a comment of my own? If it's a game, does it listen to me, like the Subservient Chicken does?
8) Be wary of doing fake blogs. That gets bloggers fur to curl up. You might get away with it (ILoveBees, for instance, did) but if done poorly you'll just get derided for your fake campaign. Be especially wary when what you're advertising is actually real-life stuff. Search engines and blogs, for instance, need campaigns that accentuate the image of "reliable, trustworthy, always up, relevant to real life, etc."
Any others? Let's build a list and help out marketers who are trying to get into this new world.
Also, what viral campaigns (er, word-of-mouth marketing) did you like? Did you even realize they were marketing campaigns?
My favorites: Subservient Chicken.
Hailstorm was the code-name for a project that would let you store all sorts of corporate data up on Microsoft's servers and use Web services to get access to that data. Here's the press release on the announcement from March, 2001. This never shipped for a whole raft of reasons.
Mark Lucovsky is at Google now. Hmmm, I'm noticing a trend. The folks who did "evil" stuff at Microsoft (Hailstorm and Smarttags) are now at Google. Remember Hailstorm? It never shipped. Why not? Because we (customers, this was back before I was a Microsoft employee) didn't want to let Microsoft own all of our data.
Speaking of shipping, I ran into Mike Torres of MSN Spaces last night. I could have sworn that this company that "can't ship software" shipped updates in just the first few weeks of being up. Oh, yes, they did! And they are planning some more.
Here's a question. If we're playing in the Superbowl and you're a coach do you tell everyone what the weaknesses are in the other team? No. Why not? Cause you motivate the other team.
Thanks, Mark, for the motivation! Hope you can ship Hailstorm at Google.