The Wonderful Truth of Corporate Blogging

It’s sad. It’s depressing really, that some prophecies have the ability to be self fulfilling if people don’t maintain a balanced perspective. I’ve been forwarded several negative articles on corporate blogging. Most are filled with 50% of the story populated by harsh realities of the risks that are inherent in opening any form of real dialog with customers.

It downright sucks that these articles only serve to prevent further dialog from happening. I fear that they even scare many more people away from discovering this great new way to communicate with your customers and opening a dialog that is invaluable for the customers and for the company.

I’m at Tech-Ed this week. I’m here to engage customers in conversations about what Microsoft has done right and wrong in the community space. I blog, but I’m always shocked to hear about the impact our blogs have had and the doors to customer connections they’ve opened by allowing us to write to and read what our customers are saying.

The job of my team is ultimately to change the external perceptions of a company through by effecting a change on the internal culture. Every developer, tester, pm, man, women, and intern at Microsoft can and should be regularly conversing with the customers they build their products or services for. Blogs are the best tool on the market today that can make this vision a reality. We don’t even have to write our own blogs to accomplish this. We can find customer blogs on any of our products then aggregate, read, and respond to their comments through their blogs and by building better products easier than we ever could before. And it’s only getting better.

Against a wide list of options available to the people I’ve spoken with at Tech-Ed; blogging is reported as the #1 thing we’ve done in the last couple of years to drive a positive change in customer perception of Microsoft. Let me share with you the customer quotes I’ve hurriedly scribbled down while here. Bear with me… this is a long list.

“The employee blogs are the most innovative thing out of Microsoft in years.”

“I’ve seen the very positive impact blogs have had on the Visual Studio product”

“Blogs led to changes that ranged from small UI fixes to VB refactoring and C# edit and continue support”

“Sure, blogs have dispelled some of the awe and mysticism that surrounded the uber-developers and Microsoft personal, but ultimately they will still make the products and services better”

“If someone hadn’t blogged it (5 person Team Foundation license) it probably wouldn’t have happened. ”

“If we didn’t know about upcoming product changes (like in the past) we wouldn’t know what suggestions to offer Microsoft”

“How can you tie blogging and trackbacks into the Product Feedback Center?”

“Blogs have made me realize that there are a smart bunch of individuals making decisions rather than some borg entity that is out to get me”

“Even the non-tech stuff is interesting!”

“I love how you are using blogs to explain your decisions even if I don’t agree with them”

“They (blogs) made me realize I could have a say in the product I’ll buy rather than having it simply show up on my door and hoping it magically has what I want”

“Blogs are an important source of information because of the searchability and the social links created between them.”

“Blogs are better than any static biography and contact us form”

“I’ve connected with several people at Microsoft through their blogs and it has made a real difference in the work that I do”

“Blogs tell me the truths I can’t get from press releases”

“I’m thrilled that some of your smartest people are blogging despite having unpopular things to say about patents. I can’t believe the number of trolls they have to deal with.”

“I’m hoping more executives at Microsoft start blogging so that I can convince my company to let us blog”

This is just what I’ve been able to write down at the show. I’ve got more. I’ve got plenty of personal stories where I’ve been able to make a difference for some of our best customers through blogging. If you have your own stories I encourage you to help spread the word. How has reading or writing blogs helped you?

I hope that anyone who writes about the negative possibilities of real customer dialog (where the risks are not limited to blogging, but extend to forums, listserves, e-mails, chats, etc) takes a moment to reflect on the enormous upside of opportunities being realized by the minute here on that are there for anyone who asks. I’ve only given you a sampling. Uncover your own wonderful truths about corporate blogging they are too numerous to list here.

At this point, I’m reminded of listening to Paul Harvey saying “and now you’ve heard… the rest of the story”. Or at least 99% of it.

Comments (20)

  1. Jeff Parker says:

    I totally agree I think the blogging world has been fantastic for Microsoft and for all the consumers/customers of Microsoft products. I think one of the things that really makes blogs a success is the directness of the really people.

    Now don’t get me wrong msdn and dev centers are good things, but you can tell the articles are refined, proof read and well just plain dry. You can tell there is marketing and political correctness in each and every article. That seems to be loosening up now with places like coding for fun. However out on the blogs it is just real people talking what they think, why they think it, what they feel, and why they feel it. Us developers wade though marketing crap all day long we deal with political correctness. We do what our bosses want us to do, I seriously can imagine being a developer and having my boss tell me to create annoying pop ups and pop unders and so on. Knowing I hate them with such a passion yet the bosses pay the bills. The blogs just seem loose and friendly almost like a refuge for us developers to go learn and talk to other developers.

    One way I could maybe explain it, imagine going to find some wise man sitting in a cave on top of a mountain in a far off mystical land, your searching for the meaning of life. Well to us fellow geeks that used to be one of those quest to imagine traveling to Redmond and being able to ask the meaning of binary from the mystical wise men there. Well now they are not so mystical but we are able to find the meaning to many of those nagging questions that just do not exist in the holy grail of computer documents known as msdn.

  2. MSDN Archive says:

    Thanks Jeff!

  3. Pazu says:

    There is one more aspect of blogging – it enables even people (like me) who live on opposite side of Globe to watch the trends and get much better sense of what happens in IT/SW sector. Because of "standard format" of blogs which brings just destilated ideas, I also feel strong antiracistic, democratic momentum.

  4. Pazu: Right on. Agreed.

  5. tonyso says:

    <soapbox mode on>

    Amen and all that. On the other hand, one of the biggest benefits to Microsoft and the corporate bottom line is the effect blogging is having on US, not customers.

    Making the commitment to dialogue with customers through blogs is not:





    But, it does offer you growth opportunities that you can’t get anywhere else inside Microsoft corporate culture right now.

    One of the best ways to learn something is to commit to teaching it. Sharing what we are thinking, working on, producing makes us better, more effective employees even if we NEVER hear from a customer about it.

    <soapbox mode off>

    Not to mention that all the cool kids are doin it.

    Thanks Josh for leading here, keep up the good work.

  6. tonyso says:

    Go read Josh’s The Wonderful Truth of Corporate Blogging post (short read).

    To which I say…


  7. MSDN Archive says:

    Tony: You’ve hit on my initial and one of the main reasons I continue to blog. It really is a partly selfish need to clarify my own thinking by writing it down, making it searchable, and giving others a chance to tell me if I’m way off base. These reasons are different for everyone, but I love the conversations I’ve had a chance to start here as well.

  8. I’ve been thinking a lot about courage lately while I was at TechEd.

    The DJ at the party I was at last…

  9. Mike Gale says:

    For years I ignored the available information sources. Carefully prepared, with a PR orientation and lots of spin. (Heck I especially avoided newspapers that seem aimed at morons, in the parts of the world I’ve lived!)

    Now we have real information and we can see the real people behind it. It’s drinking from the firehose. The firehose thing is a danger, how to screen and throttle the stream to keep a maximum of working time.

    (I’m pleased you’ve given us this problem!!)

  10. MSDN Archive says:

    Thanks mike. We’ll keep blogging… at least Gretchen and I will. 🙂

  11. Anon says:

    I’m very new to blogging – I only really discovered their true potential about a week ago whilst looking for some other MS stuff (sure I knew they existed and use RSS for other stuff but never really explored them).

    As a "boy" developer (~1 yrs experience), I feel like I’ve dived right into the deep end of the information pool. Suddenly I’m being immersed in my peers talking to each to other about bleeding-edge, downright-cool stuff, as if they were face to face in the pub. It’s totally exhilerating and it’s really sparked me up again with regards to how I view technology, and has got me wanting to get out and learn more stuff. (I’m stuck doing pretty boring stuff in a archaic language, but for a company I love working for!). For these reasons alone, I think it has to be a really good idea. Don’t ever stop – you’re fuelling me to find out about the new, cool stuff and i’m really enjoying myself! Who knows – perhaps I’ll know enough one day to blog myself!

  12. MSDN Archive says:

    Thanks. I’m sure people will be keeping the information pool full for years to come. 🙂

  13. Ryan Greenwood says:


    Great article. I have the same point of view towards corporate blogging. Just wondering if you had good and bad examples of corporate blogging. I am trying to propose the idea of weblogging to my mentors and need some more info. Any information provided will be helpful. ( Thank you.

    Ryan Greenwood

  14. You never know what is going to take off.&amp;nbsp; My post last week about the positive benefits and quotes…

  15. MSDN Archive says:

    Ryan: I don’t have good/bad examples ready to list really, but I did just post the constructive feedback that goes along with this post. You could extrapolate some of that as generally applicable to other companies or organizations.

  16. I attended Tech-Ed for the first time this year. My mission was to talk to as many people as possible…