An employee at Friendster, one of the pioneers in online social networking, was fired because she spoke in the credible voice (via BoingBoing). She was not fired for blogging per se - but because the messaging was not a carefully crafted, sanctioned one.
I think if a company is that concerned in crafting their message the responsibility is on their shoulders to explain to employees the cohesive messages and objectives of the company, provide media training as well as to establish policies.
But things are a-changing. It's no longer a mass market, mass media world.
When June Cleaver wore pearls while serving dinner to Beaver and the family, "positioning" could work. Consumers had limited access to information and companies could generally control how offerings were portrayed within limited media..."Positioning" ignores a basic principle of communications theory. Communication does not occur just because the speaker (or company) speaks. It occurs only when the message is heard, and ideally, accepted....["P]ositioning is out of step with the requirements of the customer and demand economies. The interlinked imperatives of these eras are relationships, execution and the ability to do business on customer terms. It definitely is not, in Ries and Trout's words, "what you do to the mind of the prospect." A more powerful perspective is to enable prospects - and customers - to shape your thinking. - FusionBranding: How to Forge Your Brand For the Future by Nick Wreden
The post that probably got management riled (and caught the attention of Slashdot and Jon Udell of InfoWorld) doesn't reveal any deep dark company secrets. The original founder, Jonathan Abrams, had described the architecture previously; it was built more-or-less in a garage and no bootstrapped start-up creates Google's infrastructure from day one and ever gets a product out the door (this speaking from experience). Rearchitecting or refactoring in the future was a given and that takes time and effort. That the Friendster service was slow is hardly a secret to its users. It's certainly not the only web based application that is slow nor will it be the last. (Disclaimer: I also work for Pivia whose product accelerates dynamic Web applications.)
Here's CEO of Technorati David Sifry's reactions in Jason Calcanis' post titled "Technorati down (again)?" Note that no one ends up being fired.
I'm really sorry that the service hasn't been up to expectations. We're working day and night to deal with the deluge we've been seeing, both in the number of weblogs out ther e( growing by over 15,000 per day), in the number of posts per day (over 275,000 per day), and in the number of searches per day. It is quite a technical challenge.
But that's not the point. The point is that we're not providing a service that is matching your expectations. And for that, there's no excuse.
We've got a team of folks who are working 100% of the time to (a) keep the service up all the time, and (b) make every search result return quickly and accurately.
Thanks for all the feedback and comments. I take your thoughts and comments really seriously, and I'll be passing these comments to the entire team.
Notice that speaking with a credible non-defensive voice has users speaking up on Technorati's behalf:
I think most people fail to appreciate what Technorati is actually doing, and how difficult it is.
They have to manage and maintain ~140 servers. Not an easy task for a small company.
They are adding a ton of data every day to their database, which requires more hardware as time passes (see the first point).
Google doesn't even come close to indexing as fast as Technorati does. The median time to index a new blog entry at Technorati is seven mintues!
Google's infrastructure is impressive, but it would be a challenge even for them to duplicate what Technorati is doing.
Anyone wonder if Google had trouble with their service when they were running on skeleton machines in the basement of Stanford? I bet they did.
There is a long history with Friendster however with control. I thought perhaps things might change with new management.
About one to two years ago they missed an incredible opportunity to learn from their users because they had a fixed mental map of what their product was. "A more powerful perspective is to enable prospects - and customers - to shape your thinking." The original founder was incensed (not an exaggeration) that early adopters (many of whom were influencers and bloggers) were using the Friendster service in an "unintended" manner. Rather than dig deeper, be curious, and inquire why there was a large group of users that preferred to use Friendster as a game with alter-egos and fake personas and engage them in a conversation to find out the appeal and perhaps leverage that knowledge into something valuable - it was out-and-out banned. Thus a battle was waged between the company and its most influential users. Let's just say the word-of-mouth I heard in the Valley about Friendster was not exactly Lovemark-quality. Friendster is very much in the zero-sum game, I versus you box in my magic quadrant (I'll be fleshing it out in more detail).
Unfortunately, I see this rift between the old marketing and the new marketing widening for the short-term (emphasis on short-term). The good news is the companies that actually embrace rather than resist the customer's (and other constituencies') role in conversational, participatory marketing in this meantime will be sweeping it up.