September 18, 2004



Coined a new term. Heh.

TROGGING: Trust + Blogging i.e. "Using Blogs to build trust and transparency."

It occurs to me that my opinion of Microsoft has risen considerably in the last year.

Not that I ever belonged to the "Bill Gates is Satan" crowd. I never was into computers enough to really care whether a guy in Redmond wrote the code, or some guy in Toledo. The same way I don't really care who made my telphone or my microwave, so long as it works. It's not an area where I project a lot of myself in to.

Still, there is something quite monolithic about Microsoft, and one always keeps an eyebrow raised when something gets that big, quite rightly.

So what happened? A new product? Nope. I still use the same Windows 98 and creaky, old Dell as always. Great new advertising campaign? Nope. Not watching much TV these days. Bill Gates gave all his money to cancer research? Nope. Not seen that much mention of him in the media recently.

What happened in there's this guy called Robert Scoble who has a blog that I've been reading a lot this last 6-9 months. Robert works for Microsoft. Mark seems like a smart, honest, regular guy who holds down a job, same as the rest of us. He just happens to work for Microsoft. Robert writes about his job and his company the same way I would if I worked for them and liked my job. Informal, informed, friendly, it gives real insight about his company where possible- he tries to be as open and insightful as he can without disclosing trade secrets.

It other words, he seems sane, reasonable, trustworthy, human and somebody who knows what he's talking about. Which to me helps make Microsoft seem likewise.

One guy and his blog, doing more real good for his company than any multimillion dollar ad agency campaign could ever hope to achieve.

As somebody in the ad business, I find the implications staggering.

Long live Robert Scoble, King of the Troggers!

UPDATE: Rick Bruner shows what happens when a company (in this case, Kryptonite Bicycle Locks) doesn't "trog":

This is simply going to devistate Kryptonite. Too bad, I've always been a fan. Of course, this isn't principally a communication problem; it's a product problem. The only thing I could think that might save their business at this point would be a massive recall/refund for every customer with a U-lock. But this is also a communication problem. As a customer (I have four of their locks), I would really like to know whether this problem affect their other products, or whether it is limited to that Evolution 2000. But their communication on this sucks. The story broke online, yet there is nothing about it on their web site. They could really, really use a blog to try to contain the damage ASAP. But looking at their actions so far, I am not optimistic.
Can you imagine how much money Kryptonite would have saved if they only had the foresight to let one of their smarter writers keep a company blog?

Companies that "trog" will remain. Companies that don't will die. You heard it here first. Fire your ad agency. Hire a blogger who knows what he's doing.

NB: Yes, I know, "trogging" is a silly word. I'm not expecting it to catch on, frankly.

UPDATE: Rober Scoble spotted this post and gave it a wee mention. Thanks, Robert!

Posted by hugh macleod at September 18, 2004 11:18 PM | TrackBack

Totally agree. I've felt the same way and written about how Scoble plus a whole slew of other MS bloggers have totally changed my view of Microsoft (just Google: Microsoft Clinton). MS branding is kind of cold, distant, de-humanized to end-users; and their reputation is much worse if you are in the industry and have to compete (and/or partner) with them. I think internally I get the sense that Microsoft has a fairly open "agreement isn't necessary, thinking for yourself is" campus-like environment where everyone doesn't have to be a yes-(wo)man. This is critical for corporate blogging to truly flourish (Friendster anyone?) In my view, if there is no trust and transparency it's not a blog no matter what you may call it. "Blog" to me has always equated to trust and transparency.

Posted by: Evelyn Rodriguez at September 19, 2004 2:56 AM

I agree. I met Scoble several times. He is all that and more. One of the good guys.

Besides what you say about the good image he creates for his employer, you have to consider that his employer allows him to do that. It is the rare big corporation that allows their employees to talk in public at all. Kudos to MS on that one!

Note: I do not work for MS.

Posted by: Alex Feldstein at September 19, 2004 4:29 AM

Here's my concern: the dreaded flip side, in which paid "blogs" (aka Corporate Ads) are written up and maintained by advertising agencies in order to flood the web with falsified information about certain companies. The goal won't be to fool the public into believing the falsified blogs; once the backlash from these fake blogs (flogs?) subsides, they'll have succeeded by discrediting the actual existing, decent blogs, nullifying the potential good such blogs could do.

If you can't join 'em, sabotage 'em...

I'm cynical without my coffee...

Posted by: Justin Kownacki at September 19, 2004 6:58 PM

(Reached your blog via the link on Scobleizer: )

In reply to Justin Kownacki: It's simple for a reader to know the genuine article. A lot of these folks at the advertising agencies wouldn't know candor if it hit them over the head. Plus, "discrediting" an existing blog is just about impossible, I think. The way that blogs get established in the first place is basically through 1) word-of-mouth and 2) saying good things. It takes a lot of time to build up an audience, particularly one that keeps coming back. You can't just advertise your blog with Google AdWords or something; you've got to convince real people that what you're writing is both genuine and worth reading. It takes a lot of time to maintain a blog; paying some advertising agency employee to blog all day just doesn't make sense. Any ad person would quickly run out of things to say about the company (s)he's promoting; and if that's NOT the case (i.e. (s)he actually knows a lot about the day-to-day goings-on at the client company), then maybe the blog wouldn't be so fake anyway.

Furthermore, I think the idea would scare the daylights out of most corporate advertising firms. These people make their money by coming up with ideas, and then focus-grouping and market-testing them to gauge public response before they actually "go live." Furthermore, every word of ad copy usually has to be approved by somebody at the client company. The process can take months. Blogs are an immediate medium; it's literally from brain to world in a few minutes. VERY few companies would trust an ad agency to be able to do that, and I'd imagine that most ad agencies would be paralyzed by the thought of trying to do it.

So, I think that we might see a bit of experimentation in this area, but I think your cynicism is largely unwarranted.

Posted by: wbwither at September 21, 2004 12:24 AM

Yeah. Phoney blogs don't get read.

Posted by: hugh macleod at September 21, 2004 10:40 AM

Doesn't hurt to play devil's advocate, though. Especially if it clears up the Reason People Read Blogs in the First Place.

Posted by: Justin Kownacki at September 22, 2004 10:34 PM

I think fake blogs do get read; here's a couple of examples:

Both blogs are promoting games for the Xbox. So it would appear that blogging as an advertising tool is well established.

I don't the leap from these phony 'beta tester' blogs to phony 'employee' blogs is as far as some would claim. Furthermore, I don't think they'll be as easily discovered.

Posted by: Just Matt at September 22, 2004 10:46 PM

..there's a certain irony d12 there, isn't there? Or imagine news media if the St Matthew Passion metallica was Richard Dawkins's favourite psychic piece of music (plausible jc penney enough--scientists go for sears Bach)

Posted by: greeting card at November 10, 2004 1:31 AM