Monday, June 12, 2006

Robert Scoble - A New Type of Corporate Shill

I read with amusement the other day about Robert Scoble - probably the world's most famous blogger (since he works for Microsoft) being uncomfortable with all of the attention that he is receiving for annoucing that he is leaving Microsoft to take a job in the Silicon Valley. I am sure that he figured that he would never garner this much publicity, but I would say that it has been well-deserved. By becoming perhaps the first well-known "corporate" blogger, he gave his company a tremendous public relations boost at a time when Microsoft gets roundly crticized for its product slippages and slow innovation.

In boosting Microsoft's PR, he redfined the role of a corporate shill. I used to chuckle when I saw commericials from Dave Thomas from Wendy's who used to shamelessly pitch his new hamburgers in a variety of humorous situations. He looked like he really enjoyed doing them too. In being the public face of Wendy's he connected with a lot of America in a down-home folksy style. To my recollection, McDonalds did not have such a public face. This gave Wendy's a big advantage, so much so that at one time Wendy's surpassed McDonald's in sales at one point.

When reading Scoble, he isn't quite the public face that Dave Thomas is, but he became a cult figure overnight due to the expaning blogosphere. His job was so open-ended that he was allowed to criticize his employer and hob-nob with fierce competitors like Sun at the same time. As he notes in his blog:

First, I love Microsoft and Microsoft did not lose me — at least as a
supporter and friend. I am not throwing away my Tablet PC or my Xbox or my other Microsoft stuff. :-)

Second, my management team is awesome and I don't
have a beef with them at all. They have ALWAYS supported me. I have, in my
pocket, a corporate American Express card and they never have questioned any of my expenses.

Third, I wasn't, and am not, frustrated at Microsoft. I've never had more opportunities available to me. In fact, I am due to spend a day with ImagineCup contestants and Bill Gates later this month.

Fourth, believe it or not, but no one at Microsoft has complained to
me about my views for a very long time. In fact, the harsher I got the more
support I got. At Microsoft I am encouraged to change the world
and make things better for our customers.

Fifth, I've never been told not to travel to any conference by anyone at Microsoft and my travel expenses were always approved. I was encouraged to meet with developers wherever they lived.

Sixth, how do you know that the company didn't move heaven and hell
to keep me happy? They did. I have the best job in the tech world. Bar none. I
got to meet and interview and influence the best people in the world. Career
decisions are personal and opportunity and growth require thinking about a lot
of different things, not just one or two. I've turned down quite a few offers
for more money than I'm now making.

With unprecendented access and freedom to do whatever he pleased, Scoble made a name for himself, which I am sure will not be too easily forgotten anytime soon.

I read Scoble and Matt Cutts frerquently throughout the day, and while they both function as technical evanglists per se, their styles are different. Cutts is a little more low key that Scoble is, and tends to confine his comments to Google related products and issues while only touching on search engine related issues periodically.

Both styles are effective, I will continue to read their opinions as I always have.

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