Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Double-Edged Sword

A problem with anything you write saying “I’m not offended, but…”

There is simply no way to make such a statement without projecting the opposite impression. Perhaps even strongly projecting it, as in: Look-out! He’s so pissed-off he’s gone into that “I’m not offended” phase. The next phase is picking up an axe and heading off to kill someone!
So let me try to restate the same point with a little less personal experience injected.

In Hugh Hewitt's book, Blog, as well as on his radio show and website, he makes a persuasive case for the positive side of recruiting blogger attention to promote… anything really. Call it “X.” He’s not wrong. In fact he gave me several brand new insights about how this might work, despite the fact that I’m already familiar with the medium. But he doesn’t really consider an unintended consequence, and I didn’t do the best job stating it last night.

Behind each “X” is a person (or people) with only so much time, and so much capacity to interact. When that person behind the “X” attempts to leverage the blogosphere, they can potentially (and in the case of really popular and/or well marketed examples of “X” will certainly) overwhelm their personal capacity to handle the attention. As a result, they are going to have to pick and choose which blogs to pay attention to, and which to ignore. This is similar to a speaker taking questions from a large audience. Some hands get acknowledged, but time simply doesn’t allow all of them to have a share of the floor.

Problem with the blogosphere in that analogy though – all those ignored hands already do have the floor within their own circle of influence. And some of the ignored ones might have a pretty large share of the overall floor; if not today, perhaps next week. And, bloggers being rather vain about traffic and attention as Hugh aptly states in his book, some percentage of those ignored bloggers will inevitably take offense. So for all the positive attention you can gain by throwing “X” out to the blogosphere’s attention, you have the potential to damage the image of “X” simply because you didn’t have the capacity to handle the volume of attention you drew. And this problem grows larger the more attention you manage to receive.

Guys like Hugh already have some experience, and can roll with this stuff pretty effectively. But what about all those brand new people Hugh is enticing to leap into the blogosphere? Do any of them understand that built into each call for attention is likely to be a certain and inevitable negative buzz that has nothing to do with “X” itself? That poor handling of incoming blog attention can cripple their attempt to leverage blogs for positive purposes?

Seems like an important point to me.


Blogger Army of Mom said...

Doug - totally unrelated comment, but I couldn't find an email addy for you ... there is a reporter from Minneapolis from KARE-11 looking for Minnesotan bloggers. She found me on the newspapers list of bloggers (I registered there) and I sent her to your blog. If you'll email me, I can email her your email address ...

12:43 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:53 PM  
Blogger The Puddle Pirate said...

Interesting thoughts. I'll have to noodle this awhile before I say anything worthwhile, but one possible way around the negative buzz problem comes to mind: have a blog for "X."

If I'm pimping "X" and it generates some serious buzz that I can't handle through e-mail and phone calls, the "X" blog can pick up the slack. As long as I accept comments and trackbacks, there's some minimal interaction there even while I'm busy doing other things. The blogs in the long tail get to have their say on the "X" blog, and it's all in the format they're most comfortable with.

Few of the long tail bloggers will resent the lack of instant attention from me, because if I'm smart enough to use the Ecosystem they'll see I'm swamped with traffic. I doubt any serious blogger gets bent out of shape when Glenn Reynolds doesn't respond to an e-mail, so I suspect the effect would be the same if my "X" blog came out of nowhere and got stampeded.

Plus, by jumping into blogging I'd not only generate buzz for "X", I'd also earn goodwill and respect as a peer. That'd come in handy when the time comes to pimp "Y."

11:33 PM  
Blogger ricardo said...

FYI - I've sent about 50 e-mails to Hugh, and he's only responded to 2. I don't take offense. But for some reason, I think I'm obligated to respond to my 3-5 e-mails per day.

Doug, I need to think through your post more, the "X" stuff tripped me up. Not sure who was the subject and the object, but I'll read it some more.

I think I have a potential answer to your questions...working on that now...hope to reveal to public soon...

2:43 PM  
Blogger brianjb said...

Good post, and I agree with you. But, I'm not sure I see your ultimate point. What are you suggesting? Newbies shouldn't hop into the blogosphere?

I don't really see where this is different than any other case where one finds themself being the new person. At work I am listened to and respected more now than during my first couple of months on the job. Back on my sub in the Navy, it was made very clear to any new person that they were sludge until they got "some time on the pond."

That's life. In most things you have to pay your dues. And you won't always be the center of attention. If a person can't handle these basics, they've got a lot more to worry about than blogging.

btw ... ever considered so non-Blogger members can comment.

6:12 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Hi guys. Sorry about the delay. Busy day. Let me try to take them in order.

Puddle Pirate, I think you're onto something, but it's really more of a mitigation strategy than a prevention. But since I don't believe prevention is possible, it's exactly the right way to think about this.

Rick, You're a tease.

Brian, The point is that I agree with Hugh that the blogosphere is on the verge of an explosion, a lot of it tied to dollars. It's not a matter of NOT diving in, as much as diving in eyes wide open. Puddle Pirate's response above is the sort of thing organizations new to tapping into the blogosphere need to think about and experiment with, otherwise they have great potential to get burned.

7:19 PM  

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