Did we break a mirror or something? For the last ten days this blog has been under attack by spammers trying to load junk comments with links to questionable websites. Thanks to some clever in-house security people we have successfully fended off these no good people.
A newsagent has selected our software because of the difference demonstrated through this blog and my newsagency blog compared to the blog operated by a competitor. What is interesting is that a friend did the research for them and emailed through links to several blog posts from each software company to graphically illustrate why they recommended going with us.
What we publish here provides a view deep into our business, our values our mission. While we slip a marketing hat on from time to time, we try keep spin to a minimum. This blog and the newsagency blog certainly make us accountable.
We have a robust debate going on within Tower Systems at the moment about whether we should respond to a competitor who publishes untrue statements about us and our software.
My view is that we need to correct the record when this happens and provide commentary about why they might be doing this.
Some of our sales team, Tim, Nathan and Luke, want us to ignore the comments. Their view is that small business owners don’t like to see competitors at each other’s throats in public.
Our Marketing Manager, Andrew, says we should ignore them based on their market share.
While I think they are right, my concern is that silence gives these claims credence.
We are trying to find common ground inside Tower Systems on this. Even though I own the business, I see everyone on the team as a stakeholder and therefore holding an opinion which needs to be considered.
This is why we have not responded as we might have to the attacks over recent days.
While we are not done with this debate yet, the lack of tit for tat blog posts from us shows that the team is likely to win.
I’d be interested in what others think. Should a company respond to untruthful comments published about them? Or, should we, as they say in cricket, let these comments go through to the keeper. In this analogy, the keeper is our customers and others who stop by this and other blogs.
Regulars here will notice that we are no longer blogging real time about developments of our software. This has been a difficult decision to make. While I would prefer to be open about what is coming down the line, too often over the last year others have used this place to gain a heads up on announcements they ought to make about their business.
As we have significantly expanded our development team this year, we have contracted our blog posts on their activity. The fruits of their labour will be announcements here about what has been developed as opposed to what we are working on.
My blog post yesterday about iPhones and the geeks on our team who want one was not a good idea. Now thee are more who want to swap their company phone over to the much hyped iPhone. Ugh.
Howard Owens has an excellent blog post on information ethics in the context of blogging (among other things). His words are an excellent reminder to all bloggers and those who comment on blog posts. Here is part of what Howard wrote:
The information ethic begins with each person who both understands the power of information and the scourge of misinformation.
This is a role not solely for journalists, but journalists as the paid purveyors of information must not slip in adherence to high ethical standard (the ethical burden on journalists has never been greater); this is not a role not solely for bloggers, but bloggers as the vanguard of a new information river, must take on the burden of protecting and cherishing information; mostly, this is a role for all participants in the conversation, both the creators and the followers.
Not all participants will rise to the occasion, increasing the burden on those of use who recognize the responsibility.
The information ethic requires that we strive always for honesty, transparency, accuracy and fairness.
Howard is right about the role of bloggers and our obligation to protect and cherish information. While in this place I’m occasionally engaged in competitive positioning, I don’t lower the standard of honesty, transparency, accuracy and fairness.
For those who read my newsagency blog, I have posted this in both places as it’s as the points made are important in both forums.
Blogging opens up new conversations with customers, would-be customers and suppliers. Sometimes the new conversations are an intended (or pursed) consequence of a post. However, most of the time, conversations arising from a blog post are a surprise.
Yesterday I received a call from a newsagent supplier reading a blog post here which I had written mid way through last year. He was keen to engage in something we were working on. While we’d made direct contact through appropriate channels with his business we’d got nowhere and had proceeded with other suppliers in the same space. A Google search on other matters uncovered the old blog post and this is what triggered his contact. We’re now talking about a project which, without this blog, may not have happened.
Most doors which open as a result of blogging are beneficial from my experience, especially when it is a door which you’d knocked on and found nobody to answer.
The final tweaks have been made and our re-design of this blog is complete – well, as complete as these things are since one always like to find improvement opportunities.
The re-design reflects on our company as we see this blog, like any corporate blog, as a window on our offer to our customers and our prospects.
The easy navigation and clean design lines say plenty about our software. The open comments and other feedback mechanisms say something about our engagement. The blog itself says something about our transparency.
So, while this blog is a publishing platform about Tower Systems, it is also a living means of assessing whether we are the right partner for a small business. Through the blog archives one can read our views on all manner of things as well as announcements of innovation.
For me, blogging is another channel through we can have a conversation with our customers, prospects and others. The feedback as a result of blogging has helped us refine our software offer considerably. Indeed, it has connected us with businesses with which we wold not have had contact were it not for this place.
The new design of this blog, the fourth since we started three years ago, reflects on our commitment to evolve both to remain relevant and to challenge ourselves.
In today’s marketplace, comparing blogs is an important step in comparing software companies.
I was interviewed late yesterday by a Masters student as part of her research for a thesis on small business management. The discussion centered on the loneliness of the small business owner. Heavy stuff when you think about it – I mean, really sit and think about it … as Masters students tend to make you.
Beyond the obvious of navigating the employee / friendship challenge, most of the discussion revolved around how tough decisions, the decisions which affect people, are made and whether they, of themselves, necessitate a loneliness, solitude some might call it, in order to focus on what is right for the business.
I fought the notion of what is right for the business. In privately owned small business, without a register of shareholders to satisfy, you have the luxury of making decisions with a broader view. It is not always about profit. Indeed, it is often not about profit.
But back to the topic of the interview, loneliness. It took me a while to get there with my answer during the interview with the Masters student today. I won’t take you on that journey and bare my soul here. In short, no, I don’t feel lonely, certainly no more so that others with decisions they have to make alone. I could talk myself into it and feel sad but why? I enjoy solitude and so do not feel the aloneness of business decisions as others might.
That said, I enjoyed talking about this today. It unlocked some observations and thoughts which otherwise would have remained locked up. Maybe I crave more contact around these matters than I thought…
Blogging is good therapy.
How about this for a bumper sticker:
If I am presented with several candidates with equally impressive resumes for a position and one is a blogger, I’d say the blogger has inside running. At the very least you can find out much more about them, how they communicate, how they assemble ideas. You might find a reason to not hire them. Equally, you might find the reason to separate them from other candidates.
I was thinking about this last night while researching candidates for a vacancy we have and while I did not find any blogs by the candidates in question, I stumbled across a couple of blogs by people I’d consider poaching. Hmm, is that wrong? Now for the enquiry email…
Anonymous comments in response to blog posts, especially those making a personal attack or claim, are worthless. Hiding in this way suggests a lack of commitment to the view put. People should never be afraid of debate to support and advance their view. Anonymous postings do nothing to advance a view.
Something I blogged in another place has resulted in a public ‘discussion’ with various people claiming to represent a competitor. In two of the comments posted he references my blog entry, When people move on…, which I posted here a few days ago. The correspondent has, very publicly, taken my blog entry completely out of context. It makes me wonder what other things they say about us out of context or referencing only a small portion of a larger statement.
Blogging exposes the blogger and their business and in doing this puts both at risk of abuse by competitors looking for a cheap shot. My piece, When people move on… was hard to write as it goes to the core of a loneliness many small business owners must feel.
Rather than use this and my other blog as a place for corporate spin, what I write is warts and all. I do this in the belief that doing this demonstrates a humanity many companies have lost. It’s also good therapy. We are all frail and pretending we are not would make us delusional. I’ve called this piece naked blogging because when you’re naked there is nowhere to hide – as should be the case with a good corporate blog.
To my the people registering comments – whether they are a competitor or not – I say stop reading this and start blogging yourself. Oh, and stop taking a few words out of a long blog piece and twisting them to serve your petty jibes.
I hate it when a blog entry is grabbed by a person or some clever software turned into content solely to lure punters through a search engine to an advertising site. In the search engine listing there is no reference to the source. How I found it was through a search and I saw these words which sounded very familiar. This has been happening a bit to me lately and there does not seem to be any way of stopping this. Take this post. Here it is at a crap advertising site. Take a look here as well.
I’m not happy that companies are using blogging in a corporate way – many using third parties to blog about their business on their behalf. A whole new business category has started and many agencies have introduces specialist blogging operations into their businesses. This is hijacking a medium for pure commercial use. Blogging is more pure than that. A blogger can be vulnerable in a way corporations are not. A blogger can share a personal view regardless of consequences in a a way a corporate blogger will not. A blogger gives on him/herself whereas a corporate blogger is as detached as corporations can be.
I hope that corporate sanitised adverblogs will be seen for what they are. The problem is that many consumers of blogs will not see that. Already blogs and commenters on blogs have hijacked the medium to make one really question what one reads.
If companies want to blog then they need to stay true to the medium. Make blogs personal. Give of yourself. Take a risk with openness. Don’t spin. Don’t pay someone else to blog for you.