Nowhere to hide

Jeff Jarvis calls out a comment left on his site that demonstrates the challenges of working in a Web 2.0 world. Jeff has been documenting the troubles he’s had with Dell’s customer support. And then he receives a comment on his blog that includes the following snippet:

“I’ve been working with Dell the past three weeks researching trashy blogs that worms like you leave all over that frigen blogosphere”

Hmmm, perhaps not the most tactful thing to say when you are representing a brand name seeking to improve its reputation. It’s worth reading Jeff’s full post and the comments there for a great insight into the challenges we face as business become real-time. I’ve referred to the internal challenges in Dashboard Dangers. Here we have an external example. It turns out that the person who left the comment was a summer intern at the ad agency representing Dell. I hope to goodness that his management allow him (and themselves) to learn from this experience rather than just throw him out. Was it a stupid thing to do? Absolutely. But we all make stupid mistakes from time to time. Thanks to the Internet, it’s no longer so easy to hide them. The Blog of Athos made a telling comment, when referring to a company that has attempted to profit by copying open source software:

“The problem is that in Web 2.0 everybody can be found out.”

There are many benefits to be gained from this transparency but it does have its challenges – mistakes are usually the best way to learn and if managers overreact, people will become risk-averse and prone to ask permission before doing anything. And then we lose the conversational element that makes Web 2.0 what it is.

What’s really interesting to me is that this transparency of failing in public is new to business but old hat to another industry – sports. If you want to succeed in sport, you have to compete. And the reality is that you are likely going to lose more often than you win – in competition, your mistakes are there for everybody to see. I wrote about this in Be a loser – you have to learn to cope with the public humiliation of losing but never enjoy it (something Michael Johnson highlighted in his talk: Failure is not OK). Making mistakes (losing) is an essential part of learning (fixing the weak spots) that leads to future success (winning gold medals).

Businesss needs to apply lessons from sport. Mistakes in public are always painful. You can either use them as opportunities to learn and improve, or find excuses and either give-up or remain an also-ran.

[Update: 13 July] I was going to include an example from sport – Zinedine Zidane would be an obvious candidate right now. I remember the hideous furore that David Beckham faced after being sent off during the 1998 World Cup. What he did was stupid but he learned from it, dealt with the consequences and got on with playing football… The business equivalent would have probably led to him being sacked.

Web 2.0 update

Since the image from my Web 2.0 post was used over on Francis Pisani’s blog, the French traffic to this blog has increased.

Since Francis writes his blog in French, I have attempted to translate the post into French. Now, despite having French lessons at school, my French is sadly dismal so I have relied on Alta Vista’s Babel Fish to do the translation. If anyone reading this is fluent in French, please look through the translation (it’s posted as a comment on the post) and let me know if any corrections need to be made.

(Oh how I wish I could just convert the page into a wiki…)

Related posts:

Blog power

Guy Kawasaki has posted some interesting statistics that should be of interest to any organisation considering the effect blogs could have on their business. For any marketing and PR people who haven’t yet studied the power of blogs and networks involving ‘influentials’, it’s about time they started…

After just 30 days of blogging, Guy noted that:

  • Amazon sales rank for his book has gone from position #1,500 – 2,000 up to between #500 – 750
  • Web site page views per day have increased from 400 to between 800 – 1,200
  • After linking to somebody else’s site, their page views per week jumped from 321 to 38,946

This ties in nicely with Richard Edelman’s recent essay The Me2 Revolution describing how, in the world of communications:

“…the pyramid-of-influence model has been gradually supplanted by a peer-to-peer, horizontal discussion…”

And whilst I’m in quote-happy mode, I recently read Orson Scott Card’s ‘Enders Game‘, on a friend’s recommendation (that would be the good ol’ peer network in action) and the following quote seemed, well, fascinating:

“There are times when the world is rearranging itself and, at times like that, the right words can change the world… The world is always a democracy in times of flux, and the man with the best voice will win”

…from a book originally written in 1977, a conversation between two children deciding to use ‘the nets’ to publish articles that will get people talking and challenging political decisions:

“Peter, you’re twelve.” “Not on the nets I’m not.”

There was me thinking The Cluetrain Manifesto was ahead of its time.

And from the power of words to the weakness of words. Whilst writing this, a documentary has just started on the TV: Challenger: Countdown to disaster. Having just read Edward Tufte’s excellent ‘Visual Explanations‘, I’m not expecting too many surprises. (The book uses The Challenger shuttle disaster as a case study in what can happen if you don’t present your data clearly and someone does not want to hear what you are trying to tell them.)

One long tail

In case you haven’t already heard or read about it, in 2004 Chrs Anderson (editor of Wired magazine) wrote an article describing a concept he called ‘The Long Tail’. The idea hit a nerve and now has a blog of its own and a book is in the works (due out in May).

Here’s a quick summary describing what the long tail is all about:

It started with a question: “What percentage of the top 10,000 titles in any online media store will rent or sell at least once a month?” Most people answer 20%, applying the 80:20 rule (20% of products will generate 80% of the sales). The correct answer is 99%. Online stores are challenging traditional market theories – they have unlimited shelf-space so are able to offer the full range of products and hyperlinks enable buyers to connect seemingly unrelated items together through purchase recommendations made by other buyers – the hit and the miss are put on equal footing.

Chris Anderson disovered that, for example, the average Barnes & Noble book store stocks approximately 130,000 titles. More than 50% of Amazon’s book sales come from outside its top 130,000 titles. In other words, the market for books not even sold in the average book store is larger than the market for those books that are. I’d recommend reading the article (if you haven’t already) and blog for a more detailed description.

Today The Times published the top 50 best selling books of 2005 and I could not resist creating a chart from the numbers to see what sort of curve was produced.

Begin drum roll…

Introducing one long tail:

🙂 And that’s just from the top 50 books. Imagine what it would look like if you stretched it across the entire range of books sold in 2005.


Post filed under: growth lines

What does Web 2.0 mean…

Web 2.0 is creating lots of buzz at the moment, both positive and negative, and the inevitable ‘dotcom’ bubble comparisons have begun as the main players go into acquisition mode. I think it is too soon to be defining what is, and what isn’t, Web 2.0. But I do think it’s important to consider what it means and why it matters.  Read More

CEOs and the blog world

It’s funny how 2 events unexpectedly connect…

I was updating my ‘web links’ page, putting in the home page links for blogs I’ve listed there, and was just thinking how most of them were TypePad accounts (I nearly started this blog on TypePad)…

…And then I flicked over to SharpReader, to have a quick last scan of blogs before shutting down for the night… and Loic LeMeur (Mr TypePad) has a blog entry about meeting Steve Ballmer during his Munich visit. It seems that Steve had never heard of him and didn’t realise how successful TypePad has become. Maybe he should have asked Robert Scoble about who’s who in the European blogosphere? 😉

CEOs may be wise not to blog themselves, but that doesn’t mean they can ignore them completely. Robert Scoble (who works for Microsoft) is up there on the blogging A-list. Seems common sense that Microsoft’s execs ought to check in with him from time to time, especially if they’re attending a meeting remotely related to social software and blogs – would save their researchers a lot of leg work. I think this will become increasingly applicable to CxOs, but especially those heading up the most visible organisations, globally and at local levels too…