Don’t be afraid of bloggers: They’re Communication Start-ups

Last weekend I had the opportunity to hear Jay Elliot, a former Sr. VP at Apple, speak about the book he wrote: “The Steve Jobs Way: iLeadership for a new generation.”

Besides appearing to be one of the only people at the event who read the book blurb and a little background on Jay (and knew he hasn’t worked at Apple or with Steve Jobs in 25 years), I was keenly interested in his insights about Steve Jobs’ leadership methods back in the 1980s, when Apple was just getting started. This is the meat of his book and something I looked forward to speaking about him with, rather than asking his opinion about the iPad 2 and products he had very little influence or insight on.

I asked three questions during the event, and I’ll share the answers to two of them below:

1. Given that you believe much of Apple’s success is because Steve Jobs acted as the “Product Czar,” meaning he had complete control and influence on the product from all levels and to the finest details, do you think a similar level of excellence could be achieved in open source? (I had introduced myself as working at WordPress.com)

Obviously, I knew the answer was no, but I guess I had to hear it from his lips. We’ll prove you wrong :)

2. The second question I asked was about finding and recognizing talent – Jay was offered a job by Steve Jobs after a chance meeting in a coffee shop. A short conversation ensued, and a few weeks later he was offered a job. How do you recognize talent when you see it? What are you looking for, in just a short conversation?

He mentioned that the most important thing is how the person talks about the future of your product / company – is there a future? Do they have ideas? Are they thinking into the future or can they only speak about what’s happened already?

I think Jay has a lot of insights to share, and I look forward to reading more of the book (I read a few chapters already, and had watched a talk he gave earlier this week so I knew a little more about him), but one of his comments really floored me that I feel it has to be addressed.

At a certain point, he asked, so you’re bloggers? What does that mean to be a blogger? (The event was a meeting with journalists & bloggers) He then shared a story with us about a blogger who had written a review of his book (critically, I can only assume) and Jay was surprised by the fact that the post was published at 3:30am. He ended the story with, “Wow, get a life” (to the blogger).

Whoa.

This really shocked me, especially coming from someone who works in Silicon Valley and in technology (and who should know better by now). Of course as the spontaneous spokesperson for an entire 18 million bloggers on WordPress, I felt I had to speak up.

Blogging, I said, is a freedom of expression, and can be very professional (& many journalists blog, too), and I wanted to add: there’s nothing to be afraid of, really.

But what I should have done was framed bloggers in the context of something he’d understand since he’s a serial entrepreneur who’s worked in Silicon Valley his whole life.

Bloggers are communication start-ups.

The “product” that these start-ups sell is content – ideas, thoughts, opinions, and yes, journalistic or investigative reporting at times.  The product is fragile at the beginning, and probably only as strong as their already-known reputation, but the more they write, bounce their ideas off others in a sort of “elevator pitch”, the more solid their blog’s voice and product becomes. They gain readers “consumers”, who believe in their words & content, and these consumers provide feedback about the product, or better yet they vote with their feet and never come back.

Some blogs serve a niche market, some are more widespread. They often will not reach the “IPO” state of success and sell to the AOLs of the world like The Huffington Post & TechCrunch (yep, both blogs!), but can remain content with their small, rather captivated market. Their most valuable raw material is time, rather than money. Intellectual property is the most important asset of these start-ups.

Can there be misreporting, lack of professionalism, and incorrect, biased or ignorant content on a blog? Sure. The power and beauty of the Internet is you can also decide where to direct your attention and how you will or won’t engage with these sources. You can dislike, disagree or discredit a blogger just like you can any other news source. Of course, some others may also agree with them.

In the same conversation, Jay also expressed some concern about his young children being on the Internet and exposed to all kinds of information online and how trustworthy they could be.

And to that I say, teach them the meaning of critical thinking, evaluating what they read, weighing facts, and comparing and forming their own opinions just like in anything else, and you’ll see that they’ll be discerning individuals no matter the news source, and maybe one day, they too will come out…as bloggers.

Check out Beast of Traal.com’s opinion on what the difference between journalists and bloggers are.

PS: It’s interesting to note that Jay’s site runs on WordPress. Welcome to the family!

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Categories: Tech Talk, Website & Blog

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2 replies »

  1. Really surprised by his comments about bloggers, and I agree with you completely. It’s such a broad statement to make, especially with that audience.

    That being said, if you put yourself out there to be critiqued, you need to have a tough skin and know that some people will be more creditable than others.

  2. I’m shocked myself that he responded “Wow, get a life” with regards to someone blogging at 3:30am.

    One of the first external indicators of Apple’s turnaround after the “dark days” was seeing more and more cars (including Steve Jobs’ infamous license plate-challenged Mercedes S-class) in the Cupertino parking lot well after hours, sometimes overnight. Apple’s then-surprising success seemed to grow proportionately with the number of cars staying later and later in the parking lot.

    Doing *anything* at 3:30am is an indicator of passion. Or perhaps someone in Europe who hasn’t changed their server’s timezone to CET. Or an amphetamine problem. What if Elliot had told all the dedicated people at Apple who were putting in unpaid extra hours at Infinite Loop, “Wow, get a life?”

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