Sources-May/June 2006

Book Review
“Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the way businesses talk with customers,” by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel

Is Blog a four-letter Word?

For many C-level executives facing employees asking permission to create internal or open Web sites to chat about their work (or doing it without a formal OK), the latest communications craze is just plain crazy.

Sure, Sun Microsystems president Jonathan Schwartz and General Motors vice-president Bob Lutz each have one, but blogs are perceived by some corporations as a potential minefield for company criticism, staff backstabbing and the loss of corporate secrets.

Not so, argue Microsoft’s Robert Scoble, a company blogger, and Israel, a California-based media consultant.

“We are now convinced that blogging is a tool of a very significant revolution,” they write. (Ah, the r-word. It wouldn’t be worth publishing without it.)

In fact, they say this revolution is “one that has become virtually unstoppable, something that shifts the balance of relationships between companies and the communities in which they operate.”

There’s little doubt blogs can be influential, at least judging by the evidence the authors present. It is alleged that by putting friendly faces in cyberspace, Microsoft bloggers have helped improve the company’s battered image and that Schwartz used his platform to push IBM around. Blogging allows the kind of viral word-of-mouth (that is, free) marketing that has pushed Firefox to become a popular browser.

But is it for you? The authors devote a chapter confronting concerns such as employee misbehaviour, loss of message control and fears of being flooded by negative comments. Companies rightly worry about bloggers disclosing confidential information, but the authors quote an intellectual property lawyer saying e-mail can be a greater risk for leaks because it is sent more casually – a somewhat specious and unprovable argument, I think.

The book also has good solid tips. A blog started and abandoned can do more harm that good, advice that makes good sense. Heed the caution that execs who can’t resist making overly rosy predictions may find their blog has a thorny backlash.

Which brings us to the authors’ advice on who shouldn’t blog: those who hate their jobs or their managers, who can’t stand criticism, and dull people. Be warned.
-Howard Solomon

This gadget is good to go
IT has always been the dream of the road warrior to carry with them one device only whether it be cell phone, laptop or handheld computer.

That day may yet be a long way off but IT guy Mark Mara of Shelley Automation thinks that with the Treo 600s and 650s, we may be a step closer.

Shelley Automation recently installed 15 Treo 600s/650s with a Bell / GoodLink e-mail solution for its sales reps in the field. With the device, sales reps stay connected via e-mail or phone. It’s one of the first Treo/Goodlink installs in Canada.

The verdict? “No way now will we ever be able to take it away from them,.” says Mara, adding, when it really shines is if you are “a heavy phone-user. ”

Aside from feaures that appeal to sales-types, managing the device is not a problem, he adds. If things go dead, no worries, with the Treo, then just “reset to default,” and you are back in business, says Mara.

“We’ve had two downtimes of about a half-hour each over the last two years,” reports Mara.

It’s also very easy to send around Excel or Word attachments In sales, that may be good enough to handle a quote or to send out a PDF of a brochure.

Mara says the devices are user-friendly but it also helps that the typical Shelley sales rep is techno-savvy.

Though ostensibly not a toy, it does not prevent the sales rep from indulging using the 600 as a camera or an MP3 player.
-Martin Slofstra

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