Brian Bailey Preface to the Revised Edition

5 Things I've Learned from Scoble

Continuing my shameful effort to include Robert Scoble's name in all of my posts, I wanted to share a few of the many things I've learned from him, both from his blog as well as his recent visit. The fact that his recent essay featured ten lessons and mine only lists five is due entirely to the fact that he's a much better writer than me.

1. Take a Chance

Imagine you're in Dallas for a wedding and short vacation. A complete stranger invites you to visit a local church to discuss technology. Even though your flight is later that same day, you decide to go by and check it out.

Given the same set of circumstances, most of us, particularly myself, would not jump at that chance. Yet that simple act has already impacted our organization, started some interesting conversations, and provoked new thoughts and insights. The next time I find myself faced with a similar opportunity, I want to be sure I take that same chance.

2. Keep an Open Mind

All of us bring baggage with us when we approach a subject, whether it is religion, politics, parenthood, or operating systems. Our past experiences, knowledge, and relationships greatly affect our assumptions and opinions. I'm confident that Scoble had hundreds of these preconceived notions when he pulled into our parking lot. And I have no doubt that many were confirmed just as others were contradicted. But what is important is that the baggage is not allowed to be a barrier. Every encounter presents an opportunity to learn, even if it's how not to do something.

3. Respect Others

Simply put, disagreements about ideas do not have to be personal. Present a positive, passionate case for your position while still treating those who disagree with you respectfully. Many of my friends and family have views far from my own, but I can only expect to be treated as well as I treat them. O.K. that one's not entirely Scoble's!

4. Trust Your Audience

Scoble has made this point time and time again, but I think it is one of the most difficult to tackle. If you're writing on the web and hope to build a relationship of trust or authority with your readers, you must be open and honest about yourself, your organization, and your competition. No one wants to read a series of press releases about your company or your church. People want to be part of the ongoing story and they will listen to you if they know they are getting something other than the scrubbed version. Scoble challenges Microsoft publicly more than many of its critics. He links to those same critics as well as Microsoft competitors. And he stays focused on one message: Customers should choose Microsoft products because they are better than anything else out there. If they're not the best, please tell us why so we can make them better, and then, by all means, go with what works for you.

5. Open the Doors

In order to have a conversation, with your audience or customers or members, you have to be willing to listen. On a weblog, the main way to do this is through allowing comments on your site. I have heard many sides to this, and agreed with all of them at one point or another, but I am willing to take a leap of faith this one. Let's start a conversation!