It’s a great place, the blogosphere. Anyone with an opinion about anything can articulate it. And anyone does precisely that, including me.
Thinking about the Windows Vista code rewrite discussion soap opera during these past few days, I’ve been reflecting on the passionate opinions expressed left, right and center in blogs everywhere (including in mine).
Over the past 24 hours, I’ve had a few emails from friends and professional acquaintances offering their views on the matter that, from my specific interest point of view, I believe is the significant one, namely: employee bloggers may have credibility but do they have authority? Shel and I spent a good 25 minutes in yesterday’s edition of our biweekly podcast talking about this point.
The six emails I’ve had so far are divided 33/66 on the issue, ie, two think employee bloggers are the authoritative voice if they are credible; four think credibility does not equal authority, no matter whether they’re official spokespeople or not. (As an aside, it’s interesting that no one has felt inclined to leave their thoughts as a comment to any blog post. And I’m not posting the private comments nor identifying the commenters unless they give me permission.)
I’m glad to have received these opinions, which illustrate the positive aspect of blogs and blogging where you can articulate a different point of view and be part of ongoing and healthy debate and discussion on topical issues.
And then I received this pretty direct opinion this lunchtime from someone who emailed me via the contact page on this blog with a patently-fake email address (heh! “jim at startrek”):
Who the f**k do you think you are? You’re just like those shit journalists Scobles been talking about. You are clueless and you comments in your stupid site don’t impress anyone. So go back to your prick relations job and stop wastin g everyones time.
This comment is verbatim, syntax errors and all, except for my discreet substitution of a couple of asterisks.
Well, Mr 126.96.36.199 (the IP address is the only identifier for jim at startrek), thanks for reading my blog and thanks for your opinion.
I have a pretty thick skin (and wear a bulletproof vest at times) and it’s probably wholly naive to wonder about civility in the blogosphere, although I do my best to practice it.
So as the title of this post says, anything goes in the blogosphere.
I missed your post on credibility and authority and bloggers.
Robert Scoble can be both authoritative and credible, and so can his employer Microsoft.
Robert is authoritative when he speaks about what he personally knows. He is credible when he acts in a trustworthy manner, which usually means he needs to act against his inherent perceived bias to favor Microsoft.
In other words, we believe him most when he says negative things or allows others to say them about Microsoft and himself because he has a disincentive to allow that criticism. When people act against their perceived self-interest, we tend to interpret this as evidence of their true beliefs and we trust them.
The same applies to Microsoft at the corporate level. The company by definition has a lot of authoritativeness. It is well known and has a track record. Its authority might be dented recently by its lack of expertise to get Vista out the door on time, but that only makes it slightly less authoritative.
Where the company is hurting is on believability. It has not been open about what is going on with Vista. Today, we learn more about what might be behind the Vista delay, and we have an official spokesperson saying something that is hard to believe.
So Scoble may be more believable on the topic than his employer, but he’s not as authoritative as the designated spokesperson, who is not believable.
They both have credibility, just different levels of it made up of different amounts of authoritativeness and trustworthiness.
What’s relevant is the issue, and whether it calls for authority or trustworthiness to deliver a credible message.
Sorry for rambling, its early, early here.
That’s a sound perspective, Dominic. What I’m trying to do, though, is separate this out from Scoble/Vista and look at the credibility vs. authority issue from its broader perspective as a valid point in any organization.
So more to say later.
Yikes, did I ramble that much. I think it applies to any organization. Bloggers can be credible authorities on topics within their realm of expertise and responsibility.
However, I don’t think they can be spokespeople for their organizations as a whole, unless that is their role. That’s where you still need official spokespeople who speak on behalf of their organizations as a distinct collective or legal entities.
Where it gets fuzzy is on the question of who is more credible. Authority is only one part of the credibility puzzle. Other things are required — such as believability — which bloggers may have more of than the organization itself.
Perhaps we can look at bloggers as providing legitimacy to the company’s official position. Maybe if they agree with the official position it has more credibility than if they say nothing or if they reject it.
Or perhaps a company that permits a healthy debate in public over its official position will benefit from its argument being seen as being based on careful thought and due consideration for all sides.
I don’t have the answers, but I love thinking about them.
Buit it wasn’t a bad ramble!
It’s a good point, Dominic, re role. Yet we’re seeing signficant change going on partly driven by the technology (social media) and partly by people themselves. In this context, that translates into: everyone’s a spokesperson official or not.
A real dilemma for companies who have in place a well-oiled traditional communication machine.
And ditto, by the way, re your last line above.
Didn’t really know where to put it, decided it best fits here. Have a manual trackback to/from Corporate Bloggers – Authority vs Credibility, my thoughts on the topic.
Good post, Armin, thanks for linking.