The Apple Post-Mortem series

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Off Wing Opinion: The Raffi Torres Hit On Jason Williams

When I left Apple, I started a series of articles as kind of a post-mortem and view on things that I really shouldn’t have gotten into when I was an employee. As those things go, I ran out of interest in writing it before I ran out of things to write.

Left unsaid are three more topics:

Part 6: Should Apple blog?

Part 7: The Marketshare “problem”, (aka, damn you, Mike spindler, or why Apple’s Marketshare only matters to analysts you shouldn’t listen to anyway)

Part 8: Where Apple fits into the big picture.

And at this point, I’m frankly more interested in looking forward instead of looking backward, so I felt it made sense to just close the loop and mark this series done (but not complete) and move on. If you disagree — well, let me know and convince me to carry on. Me, I’m looking into 2007 for the launch (finally) of the Outsider’s Guide, and spending more time on my hockey writing and my photography, and Apple is probably happier if I just stop digging up skeletons, no matter how minor and trivial.

And while we had a big mosh pit over my comments on Apple’s blogging policy (and lack of one), it just reinforced to me that so much of the blogosphere is a self-reinforcing echo chamber, with people not really interested in hearing or learning, but merely making sure everything that gets said gets interpreted to reinforce what they already feel like thinking, or gets ridiculed and ignored. In that way, Blogging has turned very much into USENET of old, only with CSS formatting and moving pictures; the technology changes, the human interactions don’t. Sometimes, it seems blogging isn’t so much the conversation pro-blogging advocates want to promote it as as it is a bunch of people lecturing, all in the same lecture room with microphones. Everyone talking, nobody listening.

Of course, that’s unfair. There’s also a strong group of folks who ARE actually interested in discussing and thinking — but sometimes, it’s hard to hear them through the noise of the “loudest blogger wins” group. If people care about those topics, I can be convinced.

The executive summary of part 6, though, is worth a couple of paragraphs:

Should Apple have a blogging policy? In my mind, definitely, even though I could never convince the folks who needed to agree of that. One reason is simple: a standardized blogging policy would put all employees on the same footing, and it’d be understood what was acceptable and what wasn’t. As it stands, this decision often is made by a direct manager, or perhaps one or two levels up, and different parts of the company create restrictions (some of them very strict) well beyond the intent of the existing policies, and in some areas, in ways that significantly poach into Apple employee’s personal lives and personal time, which I feel is inappropriate (many areas of Apple retail, the brick and mortar part, simply outlaw employee blogs in any way — not just talking company stuff, but talking about anything, including Aunt Jenny’s wedding. That, I think, is excessive, and the reason I felt a blogging policy was needed in the first place. At the same time, however, I think that blogging policy, while making personal blogs acceptable, should clearly put “shop talk” out of bounds, unless blogging about Apple is part of your formal job description. This would (more or less) keep Apple’s blogging reality to the status quo, while making it explicit that non-work blogging is okay — and that’s the balance I think is needed and appropriate at Apple. As it is, Apple employees that want to blog personally simply hide their affiliation, which I think is silly, but in the current environment, necessary.

And should Apple blog? Absolutely, but not in a way that Scoble would promote or consider acceptable. I certainly wouldn’t create blogs.apple.com and open it to all employees the way Sun has — the situations are different — but I’d want to have a blogging system that execs and product managers and people who ARE allowed to be company spokesbeasts in a formal way could use as a communication channel. this is the path I think Dave Hyatt was trying to blaze with his safari stuff, but I don’t think the Apple culture was really capable of embracing it, and Apple management just doesn’t seem to understand how this can be used to advantage — or if they do, didn’t make it any priority to get done.

ohwell. At this point, it’s probably opportunity lost for Apple. I’d still argue “better late than never”, but Apple is definitely missing out on some significant and substantial changes in how people communicate and how companies interact with their customers; here’s hoping they don’t guess wrong and open a market opportunity to a competitor by not doing this.

I will also, just to close this all out, talk about one time when I brought all this up — waiting for a meeting on some subject I don’t recall with some apple managers from various parts of the company, and a couple of Apple’s finest legal beagles, we were basically shooting the breeze waiting for a couple of others who live in the Apple “chronically late” time distortion field (the one in which, despite best of intentions and hard work, all meetings start at 10 after the hour, because everyone is so chronically over-scheduled that they simply can’t get from meeting to meeting in time, because every meeting ends up running the full hour and so many people are booked back to back to back) — and blogging came up as a discussion point.

And I suggested that we have Steve blog. Silence in the room, followed by a few muffled giggles.

But think about it. Is there one person in the universe, who, if they blogged, every person on the internet would read? Imagine the ability of Steve to create a buzz, push a product, set up a marketing program, create an agenda. He could, merely by saying “hello”, give half the internet the vapors, and the other half heartburn.

you’ve seen Steve with the keynote bully pulpit he uses a few times a year. Imagine Steve with the bully pulpit of “Steve’s blog”, available any time he felt like talking about something — Apple or no.

The folks I tossed it at agreed it was a powerful idea, but couldn’t decide if it was one of powerful genius or merely an insane one. The one thing everyone was unanimous about was that they’d die before suggesting it to him.

And they’re probably right — but man, I always felt that would have been such a fun hack. Steve unplugged. Or maybe Steve unfiltered. Is the world ready for it? (is Steve?)

but I guess we’ll never know. As the folks in that meeting who worked directly with Steve all agreed: “Never happen”. But they said so with that look on their faces that indicated they saw the possibilities too — and the risks.

This entry was posted in Computers and Technology.