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What Value is Blogging redux (or: Dear Anonymous Grade 11 Manager)

The comment that the anonymous Grade 11 Concerned Corporate manager made in my post about my take on Intel’s restructuring, and my subsequent post on “what value does my blogging bring to Intel” have generated quite a lot of attention. Chris Pirillo of Lockergnome talked about it (“Intel Hates Bloggers?“). Robert Scoble of Microsoft talked about it. It was picked up by the EETimes (which generated a huge spike in traffic). At this point, I’d say the number of people who have at least read about this numbers in the millions. No way to tell for sure. A great example of how blogs can amplify a conversation, though.

I’ve also gotten dozens of comments from others, some at Intel, and some not. For the most part, they’ve been supportive of employee blogging at big companies in general, and my blogging activities in particular. Some have disagreed with me, and sided with Grade 11. I thank all of you who have taken the time to weigh in with your opinions, and join the conversation.

Besides his first comment (which I had to edit to remove some Intel Confidential information), I’ve received two more comments from Anonymous Grade 11 Intel Manager. I decided not to publish his second comment, because it was very rude, juvenile, abusive, and frankly embarassing to have an Intel employee say the things he said. It violated my “living room rule”. That comment led me to believe that maybe this was some disgruntled ex-employee, or someone else impersonating an Intel manager, because I didn’t want to believe that a senior Intel manager would behave that way in “public”. I’ve thought about posting the comment anyway, to spark more discussion, but it would reflect very poorly on Intel as a company, and on this manager in particular.

I got the third comment from Anonymous Grade 11 Manager this morning, and its tone was more civil, so I approved it. You can read it here. I’m pretty sure now that they’re all from the same person, because they all come from an IP address block owned by the same ISP. And this third comment makes me believe this really is an Intel manager, and not an imposter.

I’d like to respond to the questions and issues that are raised, but since this person insists on being anonymous, I don’t have any other way to do it than to post here. If it were up to me, I’d choose to discuss this “offline”, either in email, on the phone, or even better, in person. But since Grade 11 refuses to identify himself/herself, I choose to talk about it here, rather than not talk about it at all. Grade 11, I’m asking you to contact me and let me know who you are, so we can have a more meaningful discussion. I won’t reveal your identity if you don’t want me to. I’m very reachable – you can email me internally, at jabancroft@gmail.com, and my cell phone number is posted over in the sidebar of my blog (503-810-5365).

I want this to be an open, honest, civil discussion, so please keep that in mind if you choose to respond in the comments. I go by the “Living Room” principle here – commenting on my blog is like being invited into my living room. Misbehave, and I’ll kick you out of my house, and not let you back in. :-) Personal attacks will be deleted or held in moderation, just like G11’s second comment that I chose not to publish.

Without further ado, here’s Grade 11’s latest comment, and my responses. He/she asks for “real, concrete, intellectually honest answers”, so that’s what I’m aiming for.

You have to realize, Josh, that Intel is in some serious times, which require serious concentration and serious nose-to-the-grindstone execution to turn things around. We’re in a totally different business/competitive/industry cycle than we’ve experienced in the past, and this calls for extraordinary measures, concentration, and focus to nail the strategy and then execute on it.

I agree that Intel is in serious times. I disagree that “serious nose-to-the-grindstone” work is what’s needed to “turn things around”. If all we need to do is work harder, without changing anything about the company, why is Paul Otellini restructuring the company? Why change anything? Why didn’t Paul tell us “we’ve just got to try harder”? Isn’t “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result” a definition of insanity?

This is the context in which my comments about the value of your blogging were made.

And that was the context of my response. It’s clear that your answer to Intel situation is to crack the whip and just “work harder”. That’s your opinion, and you’re entitled to it. I disagree with it.

That said, I’m not so much opposed to blogging itself. Lord knows, many of us have our own executive and personal blogs inside the firewall. But when blogging becomes an end in itself, rather than the means to an end (and my perception has been, in regard to your blogging activities, the former much more than the latter).

Blogging is not “an end unto itself” any more than email is an end unto itself. Or IM. Or phone conversations. Or meetings. Your perception that blogging is “an end unto itself” for me is wrong. My blogging is the most visible part of what I do, but it’s a mistake to assume that it’s all that I do, or even that it takes up a significant percentage of my time. Don’t you think that my manager (who sits directly across the aisle from me, and can hear every meeting or conversation that I have) would take some kind of action if that were the case? Don’t you think my other responsibilities and projects would suffer if that were the case? Don’t you think I’d get poor performance reviews if that were the case?

Furthermore, I’m not convinced as you seem to be that blogging, wikis and podcasting are the medicine for all of Intel’s current ills. There is nothing like good, old-fashioned WORK (you know the term: output) to make things happen. To me the product of “work” means something that contributes directly to the benefit of the shareholders and to support the generation of revenue and/or profits. Particularly incremental revenue and profits.

Of course blogging, podcasting, and wikis aren’t going to cure “all of Intel’s current ills.” They’re forms of communication, just like email, IM, phone, meetings, etc. My charter (as given to me by my management) is to find and develop ways for design engineers (the people that design our chips) to work together more efficiently. Find answers to questions more easily. Find subject matter experts to get answers to their questions. Work together to share tips and tricks they’ve found or developed. Spend less time fighting with tools, processes, and bureaucracy, and more time designing the products that Intel needs to be successful. I hope you agree with me that this “contributes directly to the benefit of the shareholders and […] supports the generation of revenue and/or profits”. You mention “output”. As a manager, what is your “output”? You don’t make any chips with your own hands. Neither do I. But you do help other Intel employees do their jobs, so that, working together, we can produce “output” as a company. That’s my “output”, too.

I’m not sure how blogging for hours on end, during company time, contributes to generating quantifiable, incremental profits for the company. Can you explain this to me in concrete terms? Specifically how you and you rmanager measure the benefits of this so-called “better communication” that blogging represents? An example of how your blogging activity has broken a silo between, say, EPG and CSG (or name any other business entity)?

First of all, I do not blog for “hours on end during company time”. We’ve been over this. Unless you’ve set up a spy cam in my cube or a keylogger on my laptop, you have no idea how I spend my time at work, or spend time on work-related things at home, off of “company time”. Intel doesn’t own my time. But I love my job, and I want Intel to be successful, so I am happy to contribute anything I can. Like writing this post early on a Saturday morning. I’m not a clockpuncher, and if I can help Intel in any way “on the clock” or not, I will.

Second, I’d be happy to share lots of examples of how the collaboration technology that I’ve been teaching people has generated concrete results. But it would be inappropriate to do so here, on my public blog. That information is Intel Confidential. If you really want an answer to this question, contact me at work, and I’ll show you as many examples as you want. Or you can ask my manager for examples. I’d be happy to set up a 1:1 with you and/or my manager.

How does your attending a podcasting expo, where you are constantly posting during the day, setting up hacked/shared wireless connections, contributing to Intel’s bottom line? I expect you’re going to tell me it’s about Intel “getting with the trends” or “becoming more hip” or “having a stronger and more informal dialog with our customers” or such.

I attended and presented at the InnoTech conference by invitation, and with my manager’s approval. The access point I set up was not “hacked”, but a demonstration of how technology can be useful. I was there as a presenter on the topic of how podcasting can be used inside a company to share information, deliver training, and otherwise be of benefit. Again, if you’d like specifics on how Intel is starting to use podcasting internally, I’d be happy to share examples, but it’s not appropriate to share them here, for confidentiality reasons.

There was an Intel sales booth at this trade show/expo. How does renting a space on the floor of the expo, buying booth materials, and paying for Intel employees to man the booth and hand out glossy marketing material contribute to the bottom line?

Bottom line: I am just not seeing it here. You’ve attacked me, tried to turn my comments in my face, turned your sympathetic self-justifying community of bloggers against my comments, but I have yet to see any real, concrete, intellectually honest answers or justification for the time you are spending doing what you do.

Good luck.

I don’t see how I’ve attacked you. My tone has been professional and civil (unlike your own). I had no choice but to respond to your comments on my blog, because you’re hiding behind anonymity, and I had no way to contact you to talk about this in private. You’re the one who posted your thoughts on a publicly accessible blog. I had to either ignore them and forego any further conversation on the topic (denying you the answers you seek), or post about it on my blog. I chose the latter.

Do you really believe that I have such influence and control over the comments that people posted, that I “turned my sympathetic community of bloggers against you”? The comments that people posted were their own. How could I control what people would say? There were comments that were sympathetic to you. How come I didnt delete those? If I were trying to control or manipulate the conversation, I would have. I would hope that as a senior manager, you’d be willing to be open, and accept that perhaps your perceptions and assumptions are not 100% correct. That you would not be so dead set in your opinion that you’re blinded to something new that could be a great benefit to our company. Intel needs to change, but how are we going to know how and what to change, if we don’t listen to people?

I just want to repeat my request that you contact me personally. If you don’t want to do it publicly on this blog, call me or email me at work. I’d really like to continue this conversation, because I’m open to changing my views and mindset. But we can’t do it effectively if you continue to hide behind the veil of anonymity.

To everyone else, please feel free to share your comments, but remember the “living room” rule. No personal attacks. I want this to be a constructive conversation on the topic of “what benefit does blogging bring to the bottom line of a company like Intel”. I’m open to whatever opinion you have, regardless if it agrees with mine, but let’s keep it on an adult, professional level, please.

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5 thoughts on “What Value is Blogging redux (or: Dear Anonymous Grade 11 Manager)

  1. The facts are that some people just dont get it. Change doesnt agree with them. You can still work hard and also use the newer communication tools (blogs, wikis, etc) to make your team more productive. I wish there were more bloggers like yourself from companies, it gives added value as it actually puts a face on the company. It shows they arent afraid to communicate with their actual users. It shows a different way of thinking…instead of just thinking about the “bottom line”, and that is all, you also think about customers and sharing and the end users and how you can get in their heads, etc, etc. You still need to think about the bottom line, but in the eyes of the customers, that shouldnt be the number one priority. They (the customers) should be the number one priority to the company, and with your blog, you show that you are striving for that. Most managers dont see that I think, because they are looking out for themselves first, then the company, then the company’s partners, then the end users – and that doesnt always sit well with end users.

    Keep up the good work

  2. Dave says:

    If it were up to me, I’d have the two of you share an office for six months. If nothing else, it would go far in furthering Mr. Grade 11 Manager’s education so that he could be even more effective in his job. This assumes, of course, that he is already somewhat effective, although I haven’t seen any evidence of it so far.

  3. Hi Josh, just some words of support and an example for both you and the Grade 11 Concerned Corporate Manager.

    I spent some time last year setting up and populating a wiki inside the nonprofit where I work. Yes, it took some of my work hours, but I knew that the potential benefit far outweighed the time it cost me.

    Even though it was up and running in a day (mediawiki is a breeze to install), there were questions and resistance. Why did we need this? What was the cost? Who took the time to set it up? Who would maintain it?

    To be fair, these are valid concerns, but I trusted my experience and judgement that this was a valuable tool. I also trusted that I work with smart people, and that the community (in this case, my fellow employees) would find uses for the wiki itself, most likely above and beyond what I could imagine for it.

    Fast forward to a year and a half later: The people who voiced concerns about the wiki didn’t have to think about it much. It was just there in the background. In the meantime, some of the less senior employees quietly started filling things in. When they realized they could easily share and publish info, documents, and work collaboratively, all without asking for my permission or help, it began to spread. The wiki is arguably the most important tool we have for sharing internal processes and info now, and early detractors have come completely 180.

    In a bit of a repeat, we’re currently launching a podcast for internal communications. I’m interviewing heads of various departments and spreading news about what others are doing.

    The same voices who spoke out against the wiki are again asking questions. Why am I spending my time doing a radio show rather than working? What’s the benefit?

    Again, these are valid concerns, but in the end, I smile and work through it, because I trust my experience and judgement. We need to communicate more internally, and this is one way to do it. We can’t all talk to each other and know what’s going on in all departments at all times, but you can easily tune in to a 5-10 podcast during lunch and get yourself informed about what’s going on in our org.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, Josh. I can tell you that in my eyes, you’ve done more for Intel’s pub than their marketing department has in the past 2 years. Hell, you completely reversed my opinion of Viiv with a single, honest sentence.

    You’ve changed my opinion about the company, and based on the fact that they’ve got smart, clued in people like you working there, I have a hunch that intel is up to something big. (Anyone else smell a suprise early Core Quattro release coming?)

    This is a good sign, Josh. You can be sure that Scoble felt the same heat from above. Trust yourself and your instincts, and you just might change intel from inside. In fact, I think you already have.

  4. Thanks, Eric, and all the others, for your responses. I’m glad to hear that overall, I’m making a positive difference to your relationship with Intel – that’s the whole reason I’m doing this. :-)

    I’m having a great time blogging, and working on other cool collaboration tools inside the company (wikis, podcasting, etc.). I’m seeing great success and encouragement, and I really think that all of it (not just me) is starting to make a difference.

    Scoble once told me that you know that you’re starting to make a difference in the company when people start calling to have you fired. I guess in that sense, I have arrived. 😉

    Josh

  5. Cylonbuster says:

    G11 manager, you should be practising proper Intel Values and their subset points. Ranitng on a public blog is hardly the way to demonstrate the the company is GPTW, especially if you are verbally slaying your own. Practise constructive confrontation just like a person of your grade should encourage.

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