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Blogs & Blogging

What this is all about, naturally

May 24, 2005
Tuesday
Responsible Engagement in Innovation and Dialogue
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • Company blogs • Bloglaw 
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The following is the first section of IBM blogging policy and guidelines:

Whether or not an IBMer chooses to create or participate in a blog or a wiki or other form of online publishing or discussion is his or her own decision. However, it is very much in IBM’s interest—and, we believe, in each IBMer’s own—to be aware of this sphere of information, interaction and idea exchange:

To learn: As an innovation-based company, we believe in the importance of open exchange and learning—between IBM and its clients, and among the many constituents of our emerging business and societal ecosystem. The rapidly growing phenomenon of blogging and online dialogue are emerging important arenas for that kind of engagement and learning.

To contribute: IBM—as a business, as an innovator and as a corporate citizen—makes important contributions to the world, to the future of business and technology, and to public dialogue on a broad range of societal issues. As our business activities increasingly focus on the provision of transformational insight and high-value innovation—whether to business clients or those in the public, educational or health sectors—it becomes increasingly important for IBM and IBMers to share with the world the exciting things we’re doing learning and doing, and to learn from others.

In 1997, IBM recommended that its employees get out onto the Net—at a time when many companies were seeking to restrict their employees’ Internet access. We continue to advocate IBMers’ responsible involvement today in this new, rapidly growing space of relationship, learning and collaboration.

Amen to that. Openness does lead to innovation and if you take care to foresee the risk and minimise it, the reward is well worth it.

May 23, 2005
Monday
Bloc notes
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • Blogs in the media • Sui Generis 
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Loic tells the blogosphere that the French have decided what to call ‘weblog’.  Journal Officiel has given an official translation to the word weblog:

“Weblog" should be in French “Bloc Notes”

Literally, “Bloc Notes” in english translates back to “Note Pad”.

The “Journal Officiel” even thought about a short version, equivalent to “blog”, it should be “bloc” which should translate back to “pad”.

Blogs are what we call them, not what we are told to call them. If the French official organs can’t get that, then they do not understand the nature of what they are trying to define and prescribe.

UK’s first 3G mobile blogging service
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • News • Trends 
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3, the UK’s first video mobile network, announced the first mobile blogging service.

3’s My Gallery is set to transform blogging from a ‘geeky’ hobby to a mainstream communication method. The immediacy of this type of web publishing means that people can comment instantly as it happens, on the move.

That’s marvellous. But what do I read here:

Both public and private My Gallery sites are fully interactive allowing visitors to ‘blog’ their own comments.

Interesting, I thought that one blogs one’s thoughts, ideas, stories and other comment on the blog. Blogging is generally associated with the owner of the blog, not the visitors. But let’s not be pedantic… it has the magic word ‘interactive’.

To set up a My Gallery site, customers simply send a picture or video message to “3333”, charged at a standard rate, they then receive a password via SMS to manage their blog site.

Ah, so 3 is charging a lot of money as picture and video messaging cost a bit - one of the main reasons I imagine why people do not use it so much. This is in direct opposition to Lifeblog, a Nokia moblogging application that allows you to blog directly from your mobile (via email, not picture messaging) and your PC (via a desktop application) using Typepad as the publishing tool.  Works great and comes as a blogging application first rather than an expensive attempt at ‘interactive’ - and expensive - mobile data services…

Condescending to the ‘pioneers’
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • Blogs in the media • Journalism 
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David Weinberger has a reply to the Boston Globe editorial that breaks out in the MSM condescension in the last paragraph.

It must be a little daunting to the bloggers — something like what happens when a funky neighborhood with a sleeper reputation becomes gentrified by a parade of new arrivals. The hope is that fresh voices will survive — that the outraged theory-busters and hole-pokers will keep changing the ways that society talks about itself. Like voting, protesting, and debating, blogging can be a key ingredient of democracy. The trick is for the blogging pioneers to take seriously their responsibilities to the town square and resist trashing it with self-indulgent graffiti. That would improve the neighborhood for everyone.

Joho the blog does not mince words:

Once again, the mainstream media feels it must lecture us “blogging pioneers” (when there are more than 10,000,000 of us, do we still count as pioneers?) about “taking seriously” our “responsibilities.” We are told that we have to resist our urge to trash the town square, to spray it with graffiti, to be self-indulgent. We “pioneers” should be more like the newbies who are gentrifying our little village…

Note to Globe: You, Huffington, Walter Cronkite, the NY Times and the Mayor of Reading are all welcome in our blogosphere. But your concern that your high-toned bigness might just drown out our wee voices is misplaced. The blogosphere isn’t a town the professionals can buy up; it’s an infinite landscape that will have towns of every sort. We little, irresponsible bloggers are going to continue to find one another and delight in one another. And now and then we’re also going to drop in on the upscale respectable towns — well, not the gated ones, of course — and, yes, sometimes we’ll be carrying cans of spray paint. But we damn well will not be daunted.

May 14, 2005
Saturday
Battling the tabloids via blog
Jackie Danicki • Blogs & Blogging • Journalism 
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When MTV producer Shane Nickerson was ambushed by tabloid reporters with (what seems to be) a non-story, who showed up at his home on Mother’s Day, he didn’t let a simple “No comment” reported by the tabloids stand as the last word. Instead, he told his side of the story on his blog. And Jessica Stover, the mere acquaintance of Nickerson’s whose family was harassed by the National Enquirer on Mother’s Day? She also published her take on these events on her own blog, including Enquirer reporter Rita Skeeter repeatedly urging her to phone tips into the tabloid for “good money” or revenge.

I’m sure the tabloids would be a lot happier if relatively unknown people like Shane Nickerson and Jessica Stover didn’t have access to their own press machine via blog - another sign, as if one were needed, that things are changing for the better.

May 09, 2005
Monday
Blogs are a revolutionary tool but who cares about adverting?
Perry de Havilland • Blogs & Blogging • Blogs in the media • Trends 
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Yes, blogs are the tool used to enable what is nothing less than an bottom up ‘emergent revolution’ that will shake the very core of the advertising and PR industries (not to mention politics).  That does not mean that bloggers are revolutionaries, just that that a consequence of what blogs enable (an explosion of information and, more importantly, insights on-line), the way people perceive businesses, amongst other things, is going to change compared to a just a short years ago when mass media was the only way the vast majority of people received the information upon which they based their decisions.

Of course many (perhaps even most) bloggers are not motivated by a wish to revolutionise anything and many are just using blogs as a way to follow old advertising supported publishing models, clueless about the broader impact of the tools they are using.  In fact, some professional bloggers are pouring scorn on the whole notion of blogs being revolutionary, perhaps intending to generate traffic driving attention to their blogs, knowing that their message of ‘blogs-are-no-big-deal’ will be joyously received by the many journalists who are starting to get an inkling that their entire professions is in danger of being dis-intermediated out of existence over the next ten years or so.

Yet the irony is that regardless of the fact a few pro-bloggers are using their blogs in decidedly non-trail blazing ways and babbling about the usual site traffic metrics (well they would do as that is the basis upon which they flog their ability to show advertisements), they are, perhaps even unwillingly, helping to propagate awareness that the internet really does change everything.  The real interesting stuff is not mere advertising but the fact blogs, or more accurately ‘internet version 2.0’, is going to give top down marketing, PR and many notions of branding a kick up the arse comparable to what followed Johannes Gutenberg in 1455.  The people who cannot look beyond the direct monetization of blogs (i.e. advertisements) are welcome to keep saying “what’s the big deal?” because in truth advertising supported blogging really is no big deal… frankly the knowledgeable commentators talking up the revolutionary potential of blogging were never talking about those guys to begin with.  The un-making of old style marketing and branding is just starting and so it is hardly surprising that many former journalists and marketers are unable to join the dots and see where this is all headed, even if some of them are helping the process along themselves.  Like the Cluetrain said, the internet really does meant the end of business as usual, it will just take a while for people to figure that out.

May 04, 2005
Wednesday
Blogging Wall Street
Perry de Havilland • Blogs & Blogging • Bloglaw 
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American Attorney Bill Singer has set up a blog called Broke and Broker on which he writes in very ebullient bloggish style about issues of self regulation of financial markets in the USA.  Mr. Singer’s get the tone just right and lays into people with what sure sounds like an ‘authentic voice’ to me… no mistaking this for part of some anodyne press release that has been carefully vetted to make it opinion-free:

Remember the old Westerns? The bad guys ride into town. Guns blazing. But the Sheriff doesn’t hear them and no one tells him. They blow up the bank’s vault. No one hears anything and the Sheriff doesn’t leave his office. They ride out of town with all the loot. About two years later, a few townsfolk mosey on down to the Sheriff’s office. They tell him about the robbery. The Sheriff quickly arms himself and puts together a posse. The posse goes to the saloon for several rounds of drink and a few cappuccinos (and some espressos --- a few folks order decaf)

Mr. Singer clearly needs no advice regarding his ‘blog voice’.  His blog design on the other hand needs not just a beauty makeover but some significant surgery.  That the articles are not easily permalink-able is a really major failing.  In order to get the link to the article containing the rather splendid passage I quoted, I had to go to the archive page of this young blog and get the link from there.  This is a mistake and if Bill Singer attracts the attention his interesting articles deserve, then it would be a great shame if his articles did not get linked to and thereby disseminated across the blogosphere as they deserve to be just because his blog’s design leaves much to be desired.

Often companies, institutions and would-be commentators approach setting up a blog as just an IT issue and once their splendidly designed blogs are created; they then haven’t a clue what to actually do with them.  However methinks Bill Singer knows exactly what he wants to do, but oh do I just wish he would redesign his blog a bit so that more people would actually get to read what he has to say.  There is a great deal more to engaging the blogosphere and the broader internet that putting out a press release on PRWeb.  We often write about what makes a blog a blog and why that matters.  The permalink lies at the very heart of what makes blogging so effective so please, make it easy to find!

Children’s deodorant, blogs and iPods
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • Blogs in the media • Marketing & PR 
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That’s it. The blogs have arrived now as a legitimate weapon for P&G against Unilever’s Axe, the fastest-growing deodorant brand in the US. The Axe brand was built around funny ads showing young men they can use body spray to attract women. Now, rival Procter & Gamble Co. is betting on body spray to attract girls to its Secret brand.

P&G is using Secret Sparkle Body Spray and its range of teeny-bopper-oriented scents to lure entry-level consumers for the segment-leading women’s deodorant. To do so, it’s using an unusual campaign that includes sampling and iPod giveaways via fast-growing tween fashion mecca Limited Too as well as animated TV ads and the brand’s first blog marketing.

The brand’s first blog marketing! Be still my beating heart! How on earth are they doing it? By getting hold of the hapless teenagers and spraying them into submission. Wait, I lie, they ‘target’ them during their ‘formative years’:

“Girls have started using deodorant younger and younger,” said Dave Knox, assistant brand manager at P&G overseeing the body-spray launch. “It used to be 12 or 13 was kind of the entry point, and that’s slowly ratcheted down each year. ... If you don’t target the consumer in her formative years, you’re not going to be relevant through the rest of her life.”

I mean, a brand’s gotta do, what a brand’s gotta do. Be relevant or die. But they are certainly novel and innovative using ‘non-traditional’ media:

P&G isn’t using the blatant sexual innuendos found in ads for Unilever’s Axe… Instead, it’s using tamer animated ads from Secret’s shop, Publicis Groupe’s Leo Burnett, Chicago (planning and buying by sibling Starcom Mediavest Group, New York), which broke earlier this month on cable and network programs targeted toward older teens, such as WB Network and MTV.

[/sarcasm]. Oh wait, but where are the blogs? This must be it:

The body sprays are also integrated into a popular tween online hangout, Neopets.com, as a reward for which girls can redeem the “Neopoints” they earn. P&G last week launched Secret’s first blog-marketing program at SparkleBody-Spray.com.

So, I tried SparkleBody-Spray.com but no luck. Searching in Google I get to here. Still I see no blogs…

Did I mention blogs are revolutionary?
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • Blogs in the media • Marketing & PR 
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The PR & marketing blogosphere picked up the article by Pete Blackshaw, Irrational Blogguberance?.

It is a good article, well worth reading and hard to disagree with. I especially agree with the following points:

  • Blogs won’t help brands regain control. Companies can influence the relationship but consumer will remain in control.
  • Despite the allure, many companies simply aren’t blog-ready. Successful blogging speaks with passion, authority and sincerity, which most companies and brands just aren’t there yet.
  • Blogs will challenge and erode agency margins. Consumer-generated media revolution puts the means of ad production in the hands of consumers.

Such articles do not cover the most important benefit of blogging - the need for engagement, the ability to join conversations that are happening about companies whether they like it or not, the end of ‘mass media’ and rise of (to me) a viable alternative. Anyone can tell their story and bypass the traditional media - not everyone succeeds but the level playing field is there. To me, that is revolutionary… and I have been observing what it’s doing to journalism, marketing and PR as they are the most affected industries. But such articles are usually written as a backlash against what they perceive as hyped phenomenon that may or may not be affecting their job. In this case, Peter Blackshaw responds to a recent very positive article on blogging in the MSM:

After reading the recent Business Week cover story, ”Blogs Will Change Your Business,” my internal cognitive dissonance radar began to detect a few blips on the screen.

The most important point, however, is what it brings to an individual and, by extension, to a group of individuals i.e. an organisation, a company etc. It gives them the unprecedented ability to communicate with the outside world, not just because blogs are an easy format to update by non-techies but because there is a network that they can join and use to diffuse their information. But you already know that, dear reader. To see it in action, look at Les Blogs conference in Paris where most bloggers knew each other… not because some media deign to write about them, but because of their blogs and other blogs linking to them. I consider that revolutionary as I can’t see how that would have been possible on such a scale before the blogosphere without some top-down umbrella organisation connecting all those people and getting them together…

Yes, blogs are certainly not the answer to every marketing question but my position is that marketing is often asking the wrong questions and it’s not blogs’ job to answer them and be judged by whether they answer it or not.

April 28, 2005
Thursday
Blogs are great - reason number 1,837
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • Blogs in the media • Journalism 
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These two articles have been blogged extensively but the positive things they say about blogs simply must be recorded on this blog. The Economist goes for blogging in a big way, following from Murdoch’s speech last week:

Blogs, moreover, are but one item on a growing list of new media tools that the internet makes available. Wikis are collaborative web pages that allow readers to edit and contribute. This, to digital immigrants, may sound like a recipe for anarchic chaos, until they visit, for instance, wikipedia.org, an online encyclopaedia that is growing dramatically richer by the day through exactly this spontaneous (and surprisingly orderly) collaboration among strangers. Photoblogs are becoming common; videoblogs are just starting. Podcasting (a conjunction of iPod, Apple’s iconic audio player, and broadcasting) lets both professionals and amateurs produce audio files that people can download and listen to.

The tone in these new media is radically different. For today’s digital natives, says Mr Gillmor, it is anathema to be lectured at. Instead, they expect to be informed as part of an online dialogue. They are at once less likely to write a traditional letter to the editor, and more likely to post a response on the web—and then to carry on the discussion. A letters page pre-selected by an editor makes no sense to them; spotting the best responses using the spontaneous voting systems of the internet does.

And the BusinessWeek has a front cover and a headline made in heaven - Blogs Will Change Your Business. You see, we told you…

Go ahead and bellyache about blogs. But you cannot afford to close your eyes to them, because they’re simply the most explosive outbreak in the information world since the Internet itself. And they’re going to shake up just about every business - including yours. It doesn’t matter whether you’re shipping paper clips, pork bellies, or videos of Britney in a bikini, blogs are a phenomenon that you cannot ignore, postpone, or delegate. Given the changes barreling down upon us, blogs are not a business elective. They’re a prerequisite.

If you can have tinbasher blogging and yoghurt blogging, it is hard to think of the kind of business that cannot blog.

The authors of the article also get the full implication of blogs and related technologies, again something that does not come as a surprise to the readers of this blog:

image

Sure, most blogs are painfully primitive. That’s not the point. They represent power. Look at it this way: In the age of mass media, publications like ours print the news. Sources try to get quoted, but the decision is ours. Ditto with letters to the editor. Now instead of just speaking through us, they can blog. And if they master the ins and outs of this new art—like how to get other bloggers to link to them—they reach a huge audience.

This is just the beginning. Many of the same folks who developed blogs are busy adding features so that bloggers can start up music and video channels and team up on editorial projects. The divide between the publishers and the public is collapsing. This turns mass media upside down. It creates media of the masses.

....

Picture the blog world as the biggest coffeehouse on Earth. The racket is deafening. But there’s loads of valuable information floating around this cafe. Technorati, PubSub, and others provide the tools to listen. While the traditional Web catalogs what we have learned, the blogs track what’s on our minds.

Why does this matter? Think of the implications for businesses of getting an up-to-the-minute read on what the world is thinking. Already, studios are using blogs to see which movies are generating buzz. Advertisers are tracking responses to their campaigns. “I’m amazed people don’t get it yet,” says Jeff Weiner, Yahoo’s senior vice-president who heads up search. “Never in the history of market research has there been a tool like this.”

Exactly. And yet there are those who say that there is too much information and how that causes distress to the marketing industry…

April 27, 2005
Wednesday
Beyond clueless about blogging
Perry de Havilland • Blogs & Blogging • Blogs in the media 
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It is better to be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt
- attributed to various folks

The Sun, a British tabloid newspaper more famous for what happens on page three than its news reporting, has an article on their website called Blogging for your votes written by Corinne Abrams.  There are three pictures of young people representing the main parties and under each there is a link to view their ‘blogs’. 

Click on one of the links and you get taken to a pop-up window rather like a non-interactive comment pop-up with a single scraggly bit of undated and unlinkable polemical text about their party and views… perhaps I am missing something (if so please set me right!) but that actually appears to be their “blog”! smiley_holy_crapola.gif smiley_laugh.gif

Is that really what The Sun thinks a blog is?  Given the amount written about blogs in the media these days and the number of journalists who have their own blogs, to drop such a clanger seems extraordinary. If ever there was an example of a company in desperate need of our services in order to show them how not to make complete pilchards of themselves…

April 20, 2005
Wednesday
Smitting the spammers with blacklists
Perry de Havilland • Blogs & Blogging • Administrative 
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This blog ‘only’ gets a few trackback spams per week but we are well aware that some folks have been getting hammered pretty hard by those parasitic vermin.  The site Samizdata.net, of which I am chief editor, is a high volume site and thus attracts the spammers rather more regularly (as in about 2,600 trackback spams in the last 48 hours alone).  Let me pass on a trick that makes using the various forms of Blacklist designed to keep the spammers at bay work more effectively.

If you get a couple trackbacks with ‘payload’ URLs of (say) ‘goatsex.poxyspammer.com’ and ‘texasholdem.bandwidththief.com’, you can of course enter those URLs into your blacklist and all future incidences of trackbacks with those URLs in them will be blocked.  Alas, the vile spammers are rather too smart to make that effective, because next time their spambots are sent out to dump their garbage on your blog, the URL may look like: ‘goat-sex.poxyspammer.com’ and ‘texas-holdem.bandwidththief.com’ and next time ‘goatsex.peabrainspammer.ru’ and ‘texasholden.commoncriminal.pl’.  So…

When adding to your blacklist, rather than adding the entire offending URL, add the data thusly (using the examples above):

goatsex
goat-sex
poxyspammer
texasholdem
texas-holdem
bandwidththief
peabrainspammer
commoncriminal

That way just partial matches will trip over the blacklist and minor alterations to the payload URL will not let it avoid detection.

Spam is intolerable, so do not just delete it, fight back and defend your private property (i.e. your blog)!  If you do not have anti-spam defences in place, you really must install them… the tools are available but you need to spend the time to learn how to use them effectively.

April 19, 2005
Tuesday
Dr Quack
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • Company blogs • Marketing & PR 
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I am pleased to see the debate about fake blogs aka as ‘character’ blogs evolving to a more practical level. I give you Dr Quack:

image

Are you a fake blog character, brand or logo that has been pilloried for the part you’ve played in turning the business blogosphere into a joke?

Do you wile away the days behind closed curtains terrified that someone may shout obscenities at you in the street?

Depressed? Lonely? Scared?

Dr. Quack understands your pain and will remove your shame because you aren’t the one to blame.

Blogs at the corporate Gates
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • Blogs in the media • Marketing & PR 
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Tony Perkins of AlwaysOn, the blogazine of innovation writes in the hard copy (not available online) about Bill Gates’ comments on blogging during a private dinner at Gates home on Lake Washington:

Blogging makes it very easy to communicate. It gets away from drawbacks of email and the drawbacks of a website. Eventually, most businesses will use blogs to communicate with customers, suppliers and employees, because it’s two-way and more satisfying.

That’s a simple statement, true and coming from a ‘businessman’ such as Bill Gates ought to appeal to the more traditional suits.

Perkins adds his own thought:

Gates knows that the referral power of the blogosphere is also exploding and marketing and PR executives must embrace this reality or risk losing control of their messages.

Lose control of their messages? Marketing and PR executives, Step. Away. From. The Message. You cannot control it anymore, the best you can do is to shape it, while respecting your audience and the medium you use to engage them.

via The Red Couch

April 18, 2005
Monday
The blogger - employer divide
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • Company blogs • Marketing & PR • Trends 
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Another article in the New York Times on the topic of bloggers and employees. This time the action is a bit closer to the ‘blog’ home, a Technorati employee, Niall Kennedy gets into trouble, almost.

One evening last month, he channeled one of those off-duty opinions into a satiric bit of artwork - an appropriation of a “loose lips sink ships” World War II-era propaganda poster altered to provide a harsh comment on the growing fears among corporations over the blogging activities of their employees. He then posted it on his personal Web log.

But in a paradoxical turn, Mr. Kennedy’s employer, having received some complaints about the artwork, stepped in and asked him to reconsider the posting and Mr. Kennedy complied, taking the image down.

Apparently, bloggers like Mr. Kennedy are starting to realise that corporations:

… are under no particular obligation to tolerate threats, real or perceived, from the activities of people who become identified with those brands, even if it is on their personal Web sites.

Interesting, I am not sure what it means to ‘tolerate threats, real or perceived, from the activities of people who become identified with those brands’. Obviously, there is confidential information and privacy issues but as far as the ‘brand’ is concerned, if an employee is making fun of it, well, it should be a useful signal to the ‘brand’ creators that something is not right.

Strange that years after the Cluetrain, the blogging world can put up with an argument based around the assumption that brands belong to the corporations, which spend millions of dollars protecting their brands.

… this isn’t about us and them. It’s about us. Them don’t exist. Not really. Corporations are legal fictions, willing suspensions of disbelief. Pry the roof off any company and what do you find inside? The Cracker Jack prize is ourselves, just ordinary people. We come in all flavors: funny, cantankerous, neurotic, compassionate, avaricious, generous, scheming, lackadaisical, brilliant, and a million other things. It’s true that the higher up the food chain you go, the more likely you are to encounter the arrogant and self-deluded, but even top management types are mostly harmless when you get to know them. Given lots of love, some even make good pets.

I am starting to think that Chris Locke was a bit too optimistic about the management types after all.

The point is not to condone doing something stupid as an employee, just because he or she has done it via a blog and blogs are groovy, doncha know, so that must be OK… It is about the idea that there must be just one approved voice coming from the mothership. Such ‘voice’ has always been a fantasy perpetuated by ‘brand strategists’ and blogs have made it clearer that while such a voice has never been credible, it can no longer be imposed.

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