Scoble biting the hand that feeds?

There’s an interesting debate happening on Robert Scoble’s blog. The debate is interesting, not because of the subject matter itself, per se, but rather because it seems to indicate that a seed change is happening in the blogosphere.

Last Thursday (21st) Robert posted a small piece mentioning the allegations that Microsoft was abandoning gays. Robert is personally pro gay rights and so said he was “I’m gonna take this up with the leadership of the company”. All well and good.

But then, on Saturday, Robert reported that Steve Ballmer had written to all Microsoft employees concerning this issue. Steve Ballmer is Microsoft’s CEO and this wasn’t a public communication so Robert said “If someone over in PR could give me permission, I’ll be happy to post the entire letter”.

Later that same day, Robert wrote that “I got permission from PR to post Steve’s email“. He published a link to a copy of Steve Ballmer’s mail and then went on to take Steve Ballmer to task questioning his leadership abilities for taking this stance inviting his readers to comment on this too (which they did, in their hundreds).

Robert then reported that his bosses boss (Vic Gundotra) had responded to Robert’s post about Steve Ballmer. Vic said “Should a CEO pick sides on an issue that is so divisive? Does being “inclusive” and “diverse” suddenly stop when it involves views that are different than the ones we hold?”

In Robert’s reply, he said ” believe that a CEO SHOULD take a position on controversial and divisive issues. That’s leadership”.

Then yesterday, Robert posted several responses from other sites reporting this story (including one podcast).

So why do I think this heralds a seed change in the blogosphere? Well, yesterday I mentioned the BusinessWeek article on blogging and although I liked the article I did think it a little prone to hyperbole. One thing they said “Companies over the past few centuries have gotten used to shaping their message. Now they’re losing control of it” has been proven very true in the last couple of days with this story and it is only going to happen more and more.

Anyone with an Internet connection and a PC (or even access to a webcafe) can blog. Companies are going to have to come to terms with blogs quickly and develop strategies for how to deal with them. It will be interesting to watch how Microsoft deal with Robert Scoble’s very public criticism of Steve Ballmer’s leadership abilities.

UPDATE: – I see Damien has picked up on this story as well.

5 thoughts on “Scoble biting the hand that feeds?”

  1. Yeah been following this for a while. You’re piece is better than mine. 🙂 Scoble is becoming more high-profile by the week and it could be a very positive thing for Microsoft if they handle it well. Since he started in Microsoft their image and attitude has already started to change. I’m not sure if he is the one that has made it all happen but he seems to be the trigger for it. The guy who decided to bring Scoble into MS should win employee of the year.

  2. “The guy who decided to bring Scoble into MS should win employee of the year.”

    Or booted out on his ass along with Scoble, but since that guy left for Skype recently it’s a moot point. Not one of the MS products Scoble has been evangelising has made an impact, no matter how much time he spends waxing lyrical on something like the Tablet PC it’s still a failure.

    What I’m starting to find disturbing about this brave new world is that it’s pretty much the same as the old one, the hollow “stars” of the conference circuit making the rounds and quoting the same old people. In the 90’s the were jorno’s who travelled from junket to junket, now we’ve just replaced paid hacks with unpaid geeks who aspire to be paid hacks.

  3. “Not one of the MS products Scoble has been evangelising has made an impact”

    That may well be so Mark but it is not really the point, as I see it. The fact that Microsoft have hired Robert Scoble and appear to allow him pretty free rein to criticise them (as well as evangelising from time to time) is what is so original here.

    How this current story pans out will be fascinating, I think. If Microsoft fire Robert, it will be major news and will add further fuel to the flames that Microsoft are anti-gay. Whereas, if they keep him on, it sends a message that bloggers should be given free rein!

    That’s a message that would stick in the throat of most executives, right now!

  4. I disagree that the technologies I’m evangelizing hasn’t made a difference either. .NET adoption is WAY up. Tablet PCs are making a bigger and bigger impact even though you can’t find them on retail store shelves nearly anywhere. And Longhorn is getting good reviews from people who’ve actually seen it. And I see more and more SmartPhones. Oh, and Media Centers are selling like hotcakes.

    And wait til you see Xbox 2.

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