Wednesday Mar 29, 2006

Sun: The Web 1.0 Company?

Kathy Sierra talks about applying "Web 2.0" principles to managers. Here's a snip:

One dramatic difference between mature tech companies and the Web 2.0 startups is the way employees are managed. Or rather, the fact that they are not "managed." Most Web 1.0 companies (like, say, my former employer Sun... they put the dot in dotcom, remember?) are not only too big, but their management practices are just too old school (and not in a retro hip way) to foster a company culture that matches the culture of the new community/user-centric Web 2.0.

Interesting perspective on many levels.

First, if Kathy is implying that Sun is "mature" I have some news for her. We're not. That's what makes it fun to work here (even though I wish we would mature a little, actually). Second, why is the marketing term "Web 2.0" only used to characterize startups? Much of Sun (and probably other large companies) is very Web 2.0 and has been for decades. Third, why are the so-called Web 1.0 companies seen so pejoratively? Is absolutely everything "old school" bad? Fourth, Sun's "the-dot-in-dot-com" advertising is only about billion years old now. The distinction between that Sun and today's Sun is rather gigantic. Fifth, if Sun's management is so old school why are they spending millions and millions and millions of dollars to open up pretty much everything we have around here specifically to build communities? I mean, really, we are talking about thousands and thousands and thousands of hardware and software engineers leading, contributing to, building, and participating in open communities of one sort of another all over the world. All of those engineers have managers, and those mangers are directly responsible for investing resources in all this community building we are doing. At the development level, Sun's company culture is very much based on the values of community. And more and more of the mangers -- and executives -- are blogging quite openly along with the other two thousand or so Sun bloggers. That doesn't sound old school to me.

Now, do we have more to do? Yep. Sure do. There are still many Sun people not yet participating openly in any of these several dozen communities, but more and more are every day. Do we have some managers who are a bit on the conservative side? Sure. It's a big place. That's normal for any large organization. But I don't see them controlling the direction of the company anymore, and that's critical. A few months ago, Jonathan spoke about the changes -- and opportunities -- that managers at Sun are experiencing. But, to be honest, I'm happy that some elements of the company are more conservative. Sometimes it's necessary to integrate the best of your stable core into your more dynamic edge. Or maybe that's the other way around. Regardless. When running a company of this size and complexity that engages sophisticated and demanding customers, I think it's responsible to encourage a healthy mix of all types of people.

I'm sorry, Kathy, I just don't experience the Sun you see. Every day, I pretty much live in the right side of your chart -- the Manager 2.0 section. I really like your chart, by the way. I think I'll use it to start some conversations with my colleagues. Except I don't know what the "Hollywood model" is, and I'm not sure how that is juxtaposed with the "Hierarchical structure." Perhaps I'm too old school. :)

tags:

Thursday Mar 09, 2006

PR, Press, Bloggers

Well, this one is worth a read: Wal-Mart Enlists Bloggers in P.R. Campaign. I don't get it. Why would a top PR agency like this put itself in such an unbelievably compromising position between bloggers and the press?

Robert Scoble is right:

... for companies thinking of getting in this space: why don’t you just blog? That’s the best way to get your point of view out there. Hidden agendas will be found out eventually (and there are plenty of them, particularly in comment sections -- how do you know that anonymous commenter wasn't paid by a competitor of mine? You don’t.)

Another way to look at it? Join, don’t use. Ask yourself: are you communicating or trying to manipulate others into communicating?

Isn't that obvious? Especially that last point?

PR agencies have started pitching me to write stuff about their clients -- which is wild, I must say. Why me? I always respond to their queries asking why they pitched me, but they never respond back. Unlike many bloggers, I don't think that blogging marks the end of the PR business. Sure, the traditionalists may get disrupted, but blogging is redefining PR, not killing it. It's distributing it, actually. And blogging offers innovative PR people an opportunity to contribute to conversations, rather than just shouting messages at conversations hoping some will stick. And by getting involved, I don't mean pitching bloggers. I mean actually getting involved and blogging right along with everyone else and earning the right to participate.

Monday Nov 28, 2005

PR Call to Action

Check out Steve Rubel's call to action for the PR industry "to start using social media technologies." I like it. He focuses on action, not talk. PR is part of a company's marketing operations, though, so I'd include marketing in this call to action, too. And community relations, as well, because many times community managers live in marketing but they are just as likely to live in engineering. Either way, we need to be doing our community management (relations, marketing, evangelism, advocacy, facilitation, or whatever) from within the community, not from the outside. Anyway, I'll be following TheNewPR/Wiki closely as the PR community wrestles with this trend. The pressure is clearly on traditional marketing and public relations to adapt. Heck, even US News is writing about all this in Spreading the Word: Corporate evangelists recruit customers who love to create buzz about a product. (Sun's Simon Phipps is quoted in the piece, too).

Tuesday Oct 04, 2005

One Sentence

Check this out -- First Google Earth, Now Google Sun? Here's the deck:

"Sun Microsystems made a one-sentence announcement today that has already produced giant vibrations on Wall Street and will likely produce fault-line like tremors throughout the tech world. The announcement: they're teaming up with Google for something to be announced tomorrow-one sentence that no doubt shook building foundations in Redmond."

Wow. That must have been quite a sentence, eh? I'm serious, actually. It's amazing what just a few words can do. People (and companies) of substance usually say very little at the most important times. This should be interesting ...

Monday Aug 15, 2005

Microsoft's Linux Lab

This is a really interesting piece to me -- Inside Microsoft's Linux lab. I'm most interested in articles like this because I'm fascinated by The Innovator's Dilemma -- how people on the edge create innovations that disrupt those in the center and how the disrupted respond.

So, Microsoft's Bill Hilf is running systems from all over the place up there looking for ways to compete and interoperate with
Linux and other types of open source software. Ok. Nothing wrong with that. It's nice to see Solaris is included in the list, but I don't see OpenSolaris listed. Yet, anyway. From the article:

[Hilf] started with the ambitious goal of creating a server room with dozens of flavors of Linux, along with commercial Unix software from Sun Microsystems, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Apple Computer. The goal, he said, was to have something "more mixed then any real, sane customer would have."

"No customer runs 40 different versions of Linux on 200 servers," he said. "It's silly."

200 servers? Wow. Now that's resources, eh? And I admire Hilf's honesty with the quote that ends the article here:

As a lifetime Unix guy, Hilf believes he is helping Microsoft to help make Windows a better option for companies than either Windows or Linux are today.

"At the end of the day, we're in it for business reasons," he said. "I exist for business reasons. I do not exist as a PR stunt or as sort of an olive branch."

Couldn't agree more, actually.

But earlier in the article I found this little gem as Hilf was working in his lab on all of this stuff:

More than once, Hilf was thwarted by bugs -- glitches in Microsoft software, glitches in open-source products and even in third-party software designed to help the two technologies talk to each other.

One example, Hilf said, was on the instant-messaging side. There was an IM client called Gaim that allowed connectivity to MSN instant messaging, but the program was not able to use the HTTP protocol, the only technology means available to Hilf. So he set his team of open-source software experts to write the needed patch. He submitted it to the open-source group that oversees Gaim's development and the changes were accepted.

"Now we can use it, and so can everyone else who uses Gaim," Hilf said.

How very community-like of you, Bill. I wonder if there are any Microsoft customers and developers out there who'd like to see the Windows source, fix something, and submit the code back to the Windows community so everyone else can use it. Now, I'm not equating Gaim with Windows on size and complexity, of course, but that open process just seemed to work well in this instance, didn't it? Ok, a bit if a cheap shot on my part because our house is far from wide open, but we're making substantial progress on multiple projects. And we sure as heck know how complex it is to open already large code bases for co-development. Our developers want this opportunity, and we are providing it. Albeit slowly, but we're getting there. :)

Sunday Aug 07, 2005

Same Source, Opposite Conclusion

In his blog criticizing Sun, Dave Rosenberg points to an article by Dave Rosenberg as an example of something he says Sun is not doing -- which is using innovative to help build relationships with developer communities. Well, I read the article and I liked it. Some good tips in there. So, I'd like to point to the same article to demonstrate the opposite conclusion -- that as a corporation, Sun is actually doing some fine open source marketing and it's largely based on the open communications of our engineers. And since we are in the process of open sourcing new stuff all the time, we'll continually be building relationships with our developer communities just like we are doing now. Are we perfect? Hardly. But we are doing more than some people think, and there's more to come, too. What's happening at Sun is that marketing is starting to join the community and do its marketing from within the community. Many engineering groups have been there all along, but now our marketing colleagues are showing up, too, which is very encouraging.

Anyway, back to the article -- The voodoo of marketing an open source project. Here's the last paragraph:

In the end, it's the dialog that you have with your current and future user base that will drive the success of your project or product. The open source community thrives on the reciprocity between product developers and those who support the efforts. Having consistent, honest communication with your constituents is the first step to launching a marketing effort that will help catapult you to success.

Those "dialog" and "honest communications" references are most important, I believe. But -- and that's a very big but -- the communication has to be unfiltered and distributed, which is the opposite of traditional marketing. In other words ... engineers talking to engineers.

In our marketing, we already do much of what the article talks about (conferences, t-shirts, newsgroups, blogs, etc), but what's interesting is that our engineers have been doing these things for years -- directly engaging with the communities in which they participate. It's not traditional marketing, of course, it's simply the process of having a consistent, honest conversation with a peer across the firewall. So, we get this part totally and always have.

Last week just the OpenSolaris contingent of Sun's participation at OSCON topped more than 15 people -- including the entire OpenSolaris CAB -- to participate in several sessions. Heck, we even sent the prez. Other Sun software groups were there, too, so I have no clue what the total was, but it was a lot from just one company. And although I was at home with a three month old, I heard things went pretty well in Portland. It's important to note that the vast majority of presenters from the OpenSolaris project at OSCON were engineers. Again, it's the engineers that are driving these conversations, not marketeers and executives.

This dynamic has been going on long before . Many of Sun's core kernel developers have been participating on Solaris community public mail lists (alt.solaris.x86, comp.unix.solaris, solarisx86) for years, as well as contributing to various open source communities. And the Solaris engineers have been blogging on blogs.sun.com for more than a year now, well before OpenSolaris went live. When we launched OpenSolaris, we launched with 150 engineers leading the way in their blogs -- talking about the code directly with the OpenSolaris community. Totally unfiltered. We skipped the press release and just, well, opened the site. PR did brief some reporters under NDA (I was strongly against this), but much of the traditional marketing and PR tactics were simply not used in favor of directly engaging the community. OpenSolaris is a developer program, and we wanted our marketing to reflect that. As launches go, I'd say it was a pretty innovative move. These open communications with the community will only increase as the project grows. Currently, we have 24 communities that are chatting away on 46 discussion lists, and when we implement a comprehensive governance and co-development model with projects the interaction will increase further still. All of this is the foundation of good open source marketing. All of it. We have a long way to go, true, but we are already ahead of many of our critics who don't realize how much Sun has changed.

I'm sure the guys at NetBeans, Java, java.net, Jini, OpenOffice.org, Jxta, GlassFish, Grid, Looking Glass, and the other developer communities in which we participate would agree with me. They are, after all, doing pretty much the same thing at their conferences and in their blogs and discussion lists -- collaborating on code and talking directly and honestly with their peers within their communities. Pretty much what's outlined in Dave's article, don't you think?

Sunday Jul 17, 2005

Three Points of View

I was reading some stories last night about Dell closing a community support message board. I'm not especially interested in Dell's action, but the reaction out there fascinates me.

First the PR point of view from Dell without a 'Care' in the world --

Dell spokeswoman Jennifer Davis said the closure was necessary because many of the issues that cropped up on the boards were of the type that should be addressed only by authorized Dell representatives and not other customers. Many of the answers, she said, required access to customers' personal information.

The No. 1 computer maker said how-to questions, preventative maintenance issues and other nontechnical concerns are better handled through other Dell Community Forum boards that cover the company's home and home office systems, consumer electronics and financial services.

"What this was all about was determining that we had channels that were better suited to handle these order-support type inquiries, and then we could move the presales and Dell financials services that used to be housed under Customer Care over to general boards," Davis said, noting that the company has spent nearly the last two years revamping its online customer service.

Next the negative point of view from Dell falls off the Cluetrain --

Dell chose to shut down the forum rather than engage with its customers. I suppose you can shrug it off as an isolated example of bad judgment. <snip>  Sometimes, companies get a clue, and sometimes, they remain clueless. -- Charles Cooper, executive editor, Cnet.

And finally the positive point of view from Dell Draws Ire Over Canceled Customer Care Boards --

"I don't think this will hurt Dell because the company has significant credibility in the market and with customers. Community boards are not necessarily frequented by small businesses. Enterprise customers also visit them," [said Sarang Ghatpande, vice president and senior analyst at Ideas International.] "But Dell is trying to engage more on a personal basis with their customers rather than having users help each other out. It's a more proactive approach."

PR, negative, positive. Three points of view. What's the truth? What's your point of view? Do you see this story (or the world, for that matter) from within one of these three paradigms?

Friday Jul 15, 2005

Astronomical PR

Congrats, Barb. Space shuttle duty, eh? Now, that's a launch! Sorry it was scrubbed, but I'm dying to hear the stories from your week.

Sunday Jun 05, 2005

Microsoft's "Relationship" Marketing

(via Scoble) It seems our friendly competitors to the north are doing some marketing homework up there. Pretty interesting article in CMO Magazine talking about all this -- The Ultimate Bug Fix. At one point in the piece, Steve Ballmer talks about the engineering-marketing-PR-launch sequence:

During Microsoft's climb to the top of the software industry, rapid-fire product cycles often
happened without much front-end input from the folks in marketing. Engineers would develop
new software, pack it with bells and whistles, decide on an acceptable number of bugs and
toss it over to marketing for a press release and a launch event.

"The old Microsoft marketing style was that you did an event, and then you waited for the next
product release, and then you did another event," Ballmer said to the marketing recruits. Facetious,
perhaps, but the message was clear. Microsoft was not using its marketing function strategically.

Sound familiar? It does to me. Anyway, the article talks about how Microsoft's marketing and engineering teams are now working more closely together and how the company is improving its customer research tools and focusing on something called "relationship marketing." Ok, I get that collaboration part. But I'm not sure what relationship marketing is, and the two links in the story don't offer much more than traditional marketing buzzwords. However, in a Q&A Mich Mathews, Microsoft's SVP corporate marketing, is very specific:

The area that we are investing in like crazy is around relationship marketing: the systems,
tools and processes that allow us to have an ongoing conversation with our customers.

Ah, ok. The conversation word, again. I get it. But it seemed buried in the article. And no mention of all those Microsoft engineers talking to all those developers via all those blogs? I bet that's where the real action is. On the edge. With the developers. That's the way it seems here, anyway.

Next Mathews, like Ballmer, takes a poke at launches (good):

Marketing was largely a marcom function. Marketing was always out launching something
or doing an event when it should have been back under the hood with the engineers figuring
out the next version [of a product] that's not going to be on the market for another two years.

This bit about marketing and engineering collaboration is a very good point. Our marketing and engineering teams could stand a little more collaborating, too. But because of how much of our software is open source, we have the opportunity to go much further than Microsoft. As our marketing and engineering teams collaborate more closely internally, we need to also consider crossing the firewall and including community developers externally more frequently as if they were in the office right next door. I don't see any hint of that in this article, which is good, but I do see it emerging on OpenSolaris -- engineering is leading and getting closer to the community and marketing is beginning to directly engage in the community conversation as well. When OpenSolaris goes live, marketing at Sun will never be the same.

Monday May 23, 2005

Sun PR on Blogging

My buddy Noel talks PR and blogs -- Survival of the Publicists -- in Naked Conversations, a book by Shel Israel and Robert Scoble:

Noel Hartzell, at Sun Microsystems says cultures will determine which PR teams will evolve and which will not. “Our PR team is thinking about how to use technology and culture as a corporate weapon and blogging does both.” He said the Sun communications team sees itself as information gatherers, analyzers and counselors directed their energies toward a series of communities. “A bad way to do PR for them is to blast press releases every Thursday. We help feed the right information into the right channels. What could be better for a PR organization than blogs,” he said

Friday Mar 25, 2005

CHEN PR

Barb Heffner has some wonderful thoughts here in Happy Trails. It's about the beginning and ending of a long business relationship between Sun and CHEN PR. Barb's last few sentences summarize the very core of the CHEN PR personality:

We’re grateful for our many friends and fans at Sun. Thank you for your enduring support. Our friendships transcend the agency/client relationship.

I'm one of those "friends and fans at Sun" and this is exactly why people love CHEN -- they put people first.

I worked closely with the people at CHEN for a few years. We did a lot of highly competitive PR and marketing for the Java, tools, web services, and open source organizations at Sun. Everyone at the agency is outstanding. They understand teams. They are fast and flexible and credible. They get developers. They produce results. And they have two qualities rare in PR -- humility and class. I was in PR for nine years at four companies in three industries and collaborated with a dozen PR agencies around the world. CHEN PR is simply the best agency by far.

Best of luck, guys. You taught me a great deal, and you will be missed.

Sunday Mar 20, 2005

PR and Blogs

Lots of Sun and Schwartz in this Washington Post piece on corporate blogs -- More PR Than No-Holds-Barred On Bosses' Corporate Blogs. Not the PR bit, though. Sun got that part right. The article pounces on some others, though.

Thursday Feb 10, 2005

Micro Marketing and PR

Congrats to Steve Rubel at CooperKatz for developing the Micropersuasion service. From the CooperKatz release:

Micro Persuasion capabilities will not only help companies address corporate issues and concerns but also capitalize on the vast opportunities that blogs and other new channels afford to engage key audiences in a transparent dialogue.

Vast opportunities. Transparent dialogue. Wonderful. A PR agency that seems to want to participate, not control.

Monday Feb 07, 2005

Controlling Marketing Messages

Two really good bits from Steve Rubel talking marketing & PR.

(1) In the first Steve is quoted in the Christian Science Monitor in a piece about how marketing is dealing with the rise of amateur ads.

This rise in unofficial marketing has companies and ad professionals puzzling over whether to quash or harness the home-based pretenders. Even if the primary aim of amateur admakers is to tout themselves, what's at stake is who plays the lead role in shaping culture.

"The marketing community for many years has built its business model on control," says Steve Rubel, a vice president at New York public-relations firm CooperKatz who also writes a blog called micropersuasion.com. "[But] it's very hard to control the message these days."

I agree with that. But others are having a hard time of it and still want to control that "message." I love this response:

"It's a real problem," says Jack Trout, a veteran marketing consultant at Trout & Partners, in Greenwich, Conn. "And the problem gets bigger the more people see this stuff. It begins to muddy the message." He concludes: "The ad industry should rise up against" amateur ads.

Steve's way out ahead, though. He sees opportunity in change. He's not afraid. He's not defensive one bit.

"They should embrace it," adds Mr. Rubel of CooperKatz. "If they can find these evangelists and reach out to them, there's a tremendous opportunity there.... Give them the keys, and some incentive for bringing in customers. It's really the greatest opportunity [they've] had in years."

(2) The second article Steve points to focuses on transparency in PR in the Wisconsin Technology Network. The best bit is this:

[T]he blogosphere moves way too quickly and is far too critical to wait for a PR maven to release a story to the news media. Word gets out and it spreads among interested bloggers faster than a PR person can say "Not for Publication." Ironically, the harder the PR team tries to control the story, the more it often spins out of PR's control.

That last sentence says it all.

Friday Feb 04, 2005

Comments on Marketing Transparency

Some really interesting thoughts here from David Berlind on his personal blog -- Mixed reactions from the PR community on pure transparency. This guy is publishing raw email threads he's having with with PR people? Gezz ... where have I been? My goodness. The marketing world turned upside down. This is just too much fun.

I wonder, though. With all these reporters, engineers, and community types blogging, where does that leave marketing? I've been blogging for about a year and having a ball, and I'm always trying to get more marketing and PR people to blog. My track record on this, however, is really, really bad. Why? I realize that the more progressive PR people are blogging -- Steve's got a pretty big list going and one of Sun's PR agencies, CHEN PR, is blogging -- but is that really changing how marketing does business in high tech? In other words, a more transparent, community-oriented marketing is certainly taking place, but are marketers actually the ones implementing it? Or is it simply happening right under their noses?

I'd love to hear from reporters, analysts, and PR people on this. I've been out of PR for almost two years now, so I'm utterly clueless about how all this works in the world of blogging. Do you guys still use embargoes on stories before launches? If so, why? What about launches, anyway. Why have them? In a world of pervasive communications with company sources blogging, community members blogging, competitors blogging, and press blogging, what's the value of holding your news for one single day -- the day of this strangely-named thing called a "launch." And what about that one little leak that spoils the party? Yuk. I never got it when I did it (and I did a lot of it), and I don't get it now. Especially now! Perhaps we should open source the launch process. Can you imagine a transparent launch? Wow. Now that would be ugly. Probably easier to just do away with the entire exercise altogether.

What do you think? How are we doing with all this here at Sun? Be honest, now. :)

Tuesday Feb 01, 2005

Steve Rubel's Rise of Business Blogging

PR maverick Steve Rubel has a nice piece here -- The Rise of Business Blogging. Good primer for getting started, too. I wish we had Steve doing PR here at Sun.

In his article, Steve talks a lot about how Microsoft is using blogs to turn around their image. Microsoft is a competitor of ours, so I can quibble with some of the points in the piece, but I largely agree that they've come a long way. Sun was also mentioned in the article, but only for Jonathan Schwartz as part of the growing list of CEO bloggers (Steve, Jonathan is President and COO. Scott's the CEO. I get your point, though.)

But Sun's blogger community is much more than just Jonathan -- and I believe that Jonathan would agree with that. There are about 1,000 Sun employee and community blogs at Blogs.Sun.Com & Planet Sun & Planet Solaris & java.net. At multiple levels throughout the company and out there among our developer communities, we're all talking away.

Tuesday Dec 28, 2004

NYT: Determined Detractors

Really interesting story here in the New York Times -- Marketing's Flip Side: The Determined Detractor, a term I've never heard before. The Times defines determined detractors as "persistent critics of a company or product that mount their own public relations offensive, often online."

What fascinates me about the article is not that these determined detractors exist and that they use technology to pick off the big guys. That's old news. Instead, what fascinates me is that the big guys are still reacting to these determined detractors, rather than responsibly responding to a need and directly engaging in the conversation. Technology enables determined detractors to quickly coalesce into powerful and well-connected communities, usually because they are not being listened to. The answer is not to do better intelligence gathering so you can react faster. Instead, it's probably more beneficial to simply recognize the reality that you are now part of a community,  so just join the conversation.

Fortune: No Escaping Blogs

Robert Scoble points to Fortune's article on corporate blogging -- "Why There's No Escaping the Blog." It's a pretty long piece and pretty well done, too.

Some nice info on how Scoble's honesty is helping to improve Microsoft's reputation:

When it came to the criticism emanating from Boing Boing, Scoble simply ... agreed. "MSN Spaces isn't the blogging service for me," he wrote. Nobody at Microsoft asked Scoble to comment; he just did it on his own, adding that he would make sure that the team working on Spaces was aware of the complaints. And he kept revisiting the issue on his blog. As the anti-Microsoft crowd cried censorship, the nearly 4,000 blogs linking to Scoble were able to see his running commentary on how Microsoft was reacting. "I get comments on my blog saying, 'I didn't like Microsoft before, but at least they're listening to us,'" says Scoble. "The blog is the best relationship generator you've ever seen."

That last sentence in Scoble's quote is the kicker. I think Sun has come a long way to implementing that very thought with the blogs on BSC and the other Sun blogs not hosted on BSC but aggregated on Planet Sun. I talk to developers and system administrators for the OpenSolaris project, and they all say they are reading the Solaris engineering blogs. And more are commenting now, too. The conversation is, indeed, well under way. And I can easily point to the benefits in my own little job.

Here are a couple of Sun bits from the article:

The biggest chunk of the 5,000 or so corporate bloggers comes from Microsoft, but others work at Monster.com, Intuit, and Sun Microsystems -- where even the company's acerbic No. 2, Jonathan Schwartz, gets in on the action. (A recent Schwartz post openly criticizes competitor Hewlett-Packard: "Yet another series of disappointing announcements.")

...

Even blogging boosters Microsoft and Sun have hit bumps. Microsoft fired a temp who posted photos of Apple computers sitting on a company loading dock. Sun CEO Scott McNealy was urged not to blog after he showed trial posts to company lawyers and colleagues. "I've got too many constituents that I have to pretend to be nice to," he says.

I still want to see Scott blog, don't you? :) My goodness ... can you imagine it? I asked him about it once when I saw him walking around MPK (Menlo Park campus). He just laughed. Loudly. :) Oh, well. So much for my influence, eh?

Blogs are bumping into all forms of communication:

Blogs are challenging the media and changing how people in advertising, marketing, and public relations do their jobs.

...

Blogs are just the latest tool that makes it harder for corporations and other institutions to control and dictate their message. An amateur media is springing up, and the smart are adapting. Says Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman Public Relations: "Now you've got to pitch the bloggers too. You can't just pitch to conventional media."

I can understand this position. I spent nine painful years pitching messages in PR. But I'm out now, and I have a different perspective. Why must everything be a pitch to deliver a message no one believes? And why pitch bloggers? Why perpetuate the bad PR that the PR industry so richly deserves? Why not simply read blogs to understand the issues and the communities trying to interact with a company. And why not simply blog right along with those communities and join the conversation? In other words, skip the pitch. Your message is now delivered through the medium of the conversation -- which tends to only support credible content. This article is just filled with stories of companies who joined the conversation and benefited and companies who didn't and got burned. There are some good stories about Kryptonite, Dan Rather, Mazda, and Six Apart. All worth reading. These stories, though, have to be especially terrifying for companies that are still missing this little phenomenon. Oh, well.

Thursday Dec 16, 2004

Power PR on CNBC

Think a really good blog can't make you famous? Think it's a waste of time?

Check this out. Power PR blogger Steve Rubel of Micro Persuasion was invited on CNBC yesterday. Nice job, Steve. And congrats! Your blog has done you (and your employer) well. I didn't see the piece (sorry ... I don't have cable), but I hope it went well. :)

Now if I were running a high tech company (read: never), I'd surely check out Steve to do my PR. I sure as hell wouldn't want to do it, so I'd have to find a really innovative agency that understands emerging methods of communication. Steve is already there. My favorite agency, though, is Chen PR in Boston. I know them well. Barb Heffner at Chen is blogging now, too.

Tuesday Nov 23, 2004

Sun vs Linux: The Microsoft PR Factor

Tom Adelstein comes in today with a really fascinating story about Sun and Linux and Microsoft. Aptly titled considering the current media climate -- Sun versus Linux: The Real Story -- the article articulates an actual reason why some in the market see Sun as anti Linux. Whether you agree with Tom or not, at least he has a substantive argument ... unlike some of the articles we've seen recently carelessly positioning Sun as hating Linux with absolutely zero substantiation.

There's a lot of stuff in this piece. It's long. But it reads well. You won't be bored, I assure you. And seeds of Tom's take away message are contained right up top in the article's subtitle:

Does getting rid of UNIX favor Linux? Or Does it play right into Microsoft's hands?

There's that company again. Microsoft. And there's that notion of replacing Unix again. Tom goes into detail about a nifty power play he believes Microsoft played on Sun regarding Linux. Here's a small part of that bit:

Microsoft used a clever psychological trick to transfer the hatred of technologists from themselves to others. In the eyes of the media and others, Microsoft and Sun became sudden partners against Linux.

But how did this happen? Where was Sun during this time? Well, Tom places much of the blame on Sun PR and his critique is devastating:

I don't wish to disparage Sun, but their press relations need as much of an overhaul as their product line. Known internally as fascists, they could have served as campaign advisers to any flip-flopping politician one might choose. Here's Sun management opening themselves to the community with a blogsphere and yet no one inside the company can talk to the press, write an article or issue a press release without the guiding hand of the Sun media relations. What's the difference between that and saying I don't own a SUV but my family does? Or, saying I voted for the Bill before I voted against it?

Sun began work on its Linux Desktop in September 2002. It opened sourced its Cobalt software, provides the major support for Gnome, purchased StarOffice and gave the code to the community, supports Mozilla and pays a ridiculous sum for open-source projects at Collab.net. Now, people see them as the enemy. Let's just say that Sun's media relations team has done a wonderful job of confusing the public, making the company seem like an enemy of open-source, stressing proprietary software and embarrassing management. Way to go.

Ouch.

My only problem with this is laying the blame only on PR. Sure, we screwed up. No question. But as an entire company, not simply as one department. The criticism is simply too narrow. True, we contribute massively to open source yet the press, analysts, and many open source leaders trash us at will. That sucks. But to properly respond to this given our current situation, we need to respond as a company at every level. PR is not enough, even if you could fix PR. Where was marketing during this time? Where was engineering? Where were the senior execs and who were the senior execs at the time? There's more than enough blame to go around. However, I believe we are getting our house in order with the current executive line up, and the product line up is looking stronger and stronger every day.

So, if Microsoft was, indeed, successful in pulling this play ... in pitting the Linux community and Sun against each other in the hopes of weakening Sun, where does that leave Linux? Not necessarily stronger. Tom doesn't see a decline of Unix as helping Linux:

Left with the choice between only Microsoft and Linux, I cannot get comfortable. Microsoft looks like they may have gross revenues of $36 billion. Novell projects around $1 billion and Red Hat around $125 million. With Sun in the mix, you have an $11 billion player.

I don't see much complaining from the open-source community about IBM selling a mix of operating systems including OS400, which you need to run Linux on their iSeries (AS400) platform. They continue to sell AIX and no one complains.

HP and SGI, other major Linux OEM's, sell UNIX and Microsoft and you don't see any flames against them. Contrary to Jonathan's claims, HP denies they have discontinued their version of UNIX. Given the chance to sell HP-UX or IRIX, neither company will say no.

Another argument that favors keeping UNIX involves the installed base. UNIX has a massive base of users in health care, government, the military, education, manufacturing, telecommunications, and financial services. Linux cannot replace UNIX entirely.

Those are some of the interesting bits for me. Argues for a little cooperation, eh?

Wednesday Nov 10, 2004

Reality Distortion Zone

110904_theage Now here's a really, really wild article out today at The Age. You're going to love this:

Once upon a time it was all so simple: Linux would take on and destroy the Microsoft "evil empire" and liberate us all from crippling software taxes.

However, the operating system's success has earned a new class of corporate enemies - some of which once were friends to the open source upstart. Sun Microsystems is undoubtedly more threatened by open-source systems than perhaps any other major vendor and has made clear its intention to give no quarter to leading enterprise open source player Red Hat.

So, let me get this straight .... "Sun is undoubtedly more threatened by open-source systems than perhaps any other major vendor?"

Fascinating.

Let's see ... just off the top of my head here: We ship two Linux distros. We do Jxta. We do Grid. We do java.net. We do NetBeans. We do OpenOffice. We contribute to and ship GNOME and run it internally on our systems (including my SunRay). We contribute to many other open source projects, not to mention a bunch of global open standards bodies. I've heard that SPARC is based on an open spec, too. And although Sun's Java technology is not under an open source license, it sure as heck looks like an open community they are running over there at the Java Community Process. And didn't we do something with NFS a while back? Not sure. Oh, and how could I forget ... doesn't the Sun Java Desktop System (JDS) have some open source code in it? And I'm dying to see Project Looking Glass, which is under the GPL, run as part of JDS in the future. Also, JDS runs on Linux, which is open source, of course, and it runs on the Solaris platform now, too. Which brings me to the biggest one of them all: OpenSolaris ... which is coming soon and will represent probably the largest contribution of code to the community. Ever.

Yep. Sure seems to me like Sun is "more threatened by open-source systems than perhaps any other major vendor." Scott may argue about that, though. Just a hunch.

Tuesday Nov 09, 2004

PR

Love this piece on PR by Terry Heaton because it directly links PR and journalism. From the article's second paragraph:

There would be no professional news without professional public relations, and there would be no professional public relations without professional news. They are two sides of the same coin. In fact, when most television news people consider careers beyond TV, the most common first choice is PR. Why does that make so much sense? Because the industries are so intertwined as to be one and the same.

Couldn't agree more. Yet very few people see this link. Or perhaps they choose not to see the connection. The article has some important history references, too, particularly the bits on Josef Goebbels and Woodrow Wilson. Both chilling.

 Thanks to Steve and Robert for pointing us to this article.

9 Years of Microsoft Software

Here's a really nice analysis by John Lettice in The Register about Microsoft's gigantic deal to lock in the UK's National Health Service (NHS) to nine years of Windows and Office. Nine years? My goodness. I can't get Windows to run for more than a year without having to re-install the thing a couple of times. I have no clue on Office. I haven't used Office since 1997.

I love the title of The Register's article, though: One standard, one Microsoft - how the NHS sold its choice. It took Gates and Ballmer to personally close the deal as Microsoft called in the big guns and offered deep discounts. The NHS had been running a trial of Sun's Java Desktop System (JDS), but my impression from Lettice's piece is that it wasn't taken very seriously. Who knows. But I wonder, will Microsoft characterize this as a win over Linux (since it was the Linux version of JDS) or a win over Sun?

Sunday Nov 07, 2004

Aaron Cohen

A special blogger welcome to Aaron Cohen in Sun's corporate communications group. I think Aaron is the very first Sun PR blogger on BSC. Excellent.

Saturday Oct 30, 2004

PR Pro Takes it on the Chin

Why do PR people do this? Amazing. Talk about missing the boat. My goodness.

Monday Oct 25, 2004

Microsoft's Global Anti-Linux Team

Sounds like Microsoft has a pretty comprehensive -- and worldwide -- anti-Linux team going full steam ahead. This Q&A is from Martin Taylor, Microsoft's global general manager of platform strategy, talking to LinuxInsider:

Q: What does the platform strategy group do?

A: We spend time trying to educate customers in the marketplace when we think we've got a pretty good story to tell.

Then I've got a technical team. I've hired quite a few people from the Linux open source world to run a research and development centre.

Then we bring consultants from the Linux open source space to help us build solutions. We've got every Linux distro running; about 120 servers all with varying degrees of open source stacks on them. What we do there is help our product groups have line-of-sight when they need to know things about Linux.

Our developers have been heads down on Microsoft for years and they don't know some things that might be attractive or appealing in the Linux space. So we try to give our developers line-of-sight to help our product road maps.

We also add credibility to our externally-facing activities. For instance, when I say our file serving can outperform Samba, [it] is not a gut reaction but because I've had Linux and open source guys build the software environment [and] my Windows guys build the Windows environment.

We've realized that we need more direct interaction with customers and in our individual markets. Because, just as total cost of ownership is very unique based on customer scenarios, there are cultural and climate differences in EMEA versus other areas.

So we have a small team of people around the world charged with the same initiatives I have, but in a more localized way.

Tuesday Oct 19, 2004

Open Source Marketing

You gotta love these Mozilla guys, don't you? They never gave up, and now look at 'em. They're placing ads in ... the New York Times? My goodness. Congratulations, Mozilla Foundation. Can't wait to see the ad. This is from eWeek:

"We're billing this as the world's first national print ad for the open-source community," said Rob Davis, a Firefox advocate and executive director of PlayPolitics.org Inc. who is leading the campaign. "To date, the majority of our marketing initiatives have been done online. This will be one of the first large, physical, tangible things people can hand to mom or that someone new to Firefox can read about."

I wonder how many marketeers realize that the future of their very profession will be based on open source community principles.

Sunday Oct 17, 2004

Scott in SJMN

Scott's out there talking again. Love it. Pretty interesting Q&A here in the San Jose Mercury News. It's a quick read. Give it a look. I clipped some of the more entertaining exchanges below. I sometimes wonder, though. Don't reporters get tied of asking the same old questions? Especially to McNealy. Oh, well. The press is coming around. I think the most important bit from this Q&A is Scott's reference to Sun's getting leading with Opteron.

On bring proprietary ...

Q: There is a perception that Sun is trying to lock in customers with proprietary technology.

A: For 22 years, I've said name a technical specification at Sun that is not open, published or adopted by some or all of the computer industry. You can't. To call Sun proprietary is as big a lie as you could put in your newspaper. If I were to say IBM is bankrupt and you were to publish that, that would be the same as saying Sun is proprietary.

On killing SPARC ...

Q: What if your advisers or investors say drop Sparc and adopt Intel?

A: Who said that? You're asking overly general questions.

Q: Why don't you drop Sparc?

A It's one of the most successful microprocessor architectures in the history of the world. It has an incredible installed base. We grew volumes 46 percent in the June quarter. Blew everybody else away. It is the No. 1 64-bit architecture. It scales from one processor task to hundreds simultaneously. It is quite embedded in the telecommunications services market place. It is open and multi-vendor and quite profitable for us. Other than that I can't think of a reason. Why as a car company wouldn't we want to do our own engines? People say you're doing too much. Why are you doing engines?

On lagging Linux server sales ...

Q: Sun's Linux server sales still seem small. If anyone can build and sell a computer server with the open-source operating system, why isn't your share of Linux bigger?

A: Because we got in at the end of the train. We tried to get others to adopt Solaris and we did 360's in the mud. Until we did our Intel Xeon strategy a couple of years ago, we were late on the Xeon parade. We are first on the AMD Opteron parade.

Saturday Oct 16, 2004

Scoble's Airplane Customer

Really nice post here from Robert Scoble about a conversation he had on a plane with a guy who said that Microsoft's products suck. He said it right to Robert's face! How charming. Read how Robert turned the guy around. (He couldn't turn me, though. I'm a painfully unhappy Windows user at home right now.)

We've all had these situations, though, haven't we? People telling us our stuff sucks, I mean. On a plane. At a party. Eveyone's an expert out there in this business, everyone's a critic. We should do this. We should do that. Or do whatever. The best bits of advice, though, come from the geniuses who lecture me on what Scott should do or say in a given situation. Now those are fascinating suggestions, aren't they? I always wonder how many of these guys would last 10 seconds trying to defend their so-called business strategies to McNealy. Could be quite entertaining, though, don't you think?

Friday Oct 15, 2004

"Firm Ethical Footing"

Some nice comments here from eWeek's Eric Lundquist about changing agendas and strategies and the value of long term thinking:

Sun's long-term strategy has changed remarkably little over the years, but the agenda detailing how to accomplish that strategy has shown great change.

...

But throughout the ups and downs, the big vision— to provide the equivalent of ring-tone service to the computing infrastructure— has remained, and he has given Sun a firm ethical footing.
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