There’s a great crosstown conversation going on between Penny Arcade’s Jerry “Tycho” Holkins, who ranted yesterday about Microsoft having bad marketing and lame blogs, and David Weller, community manager of Microsoft’s game technology group.
From Holkins’ blog post:
As for their blogger phalanx which encircles the web, their position as explicit partisans dilutes their message automatically. Unless you are searching for quantifiable facts like release dates or raw platform orthodoxy, their editorial content is understood to emanate from that circle of cursed megaliths in Redmond.
Weller fired back with a definitive treatise on the mindset of Microsoft bloggers. It probably applies to a lot bloggers who appreciate candor but value their day jobs more than scoring bonus points in the blogosphere.
Weller’s piece could be used by companies developing guidelines for employee blogs. He ought to turn it into a book on how to blog in a big company.
Samples from Weller’s response:
Plain and simple: I’m in an “at will” relationship with my employer. At any time, Microsoft can simply say, “Your services are no longer needed” and walk me out the door. They don’t even have to say, “We’re offended you used the word ‘poop’ in a recent blog post.” Frankly, that’s not something a middle-aged guy like me relishes, so my first thought about my blogging is, “Will this significantly increase my odds of getting fired?” If so, then it’s best I probably don’t blog about it. Sure, you can say that makes me some kind of corporate whipping boy, but unlike the popular perception about Microsoft employees, the truth is that I’m an underpaid employee with a mortgage and family responsibilities. That tempers what I say no matter where I work. Many times, I envy your ability to hurl f-bombs with biting humor, and get paid in the process of doing it (well, I’m assuming you get paid :-). I know for a fact my career would be short-lived if I blogged like you do here at Microsoft. But it’d be equally short-lived if I was at Nintendo or Sony too. I’m in a glass house, so I think I’ve wisely replaced all the rocks with nerf balls. I think you would honestly do the same.
Weller also offers tips about how to give Microsoft constructive criticism:
It’s difficult for me to figure out how I can take action on, “Man, your Xbox 360 sucks!” versus, “I really enjoy X experience on the PS3, I wish your Xbox would do this.”
Describing his cautious blogging approach, he sounds like a lot of Microsoft employees I’ve talked to online and off:
Don’t ask us to give away confidential information. It doesn’t work. I love my job more than I love giving you the “inside scoop.” But when I _can_ talk about something that excites me, you can bet I’ll blab about it as soon as I can!
Weller also defended Microsoft blogging in general:
Keep in mind that we’re a LOT more open than our competitors. Microsoft literally has thousands of bloggers showing their passion in their own voice every day. Yeah, there’s a few blogs that are what you could call “benign marketing blogs,” but it’s an incredibly small number. Compare us to Nintendo, Sony, Apple, or Google. We win in transparency, hands down, but we seem to be held to a higher standard. Still, I’m more than willing to meet that standard.
Now that’s a penny for your thoughts.