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Charting vendor blogging contribution

Posted by Preston on 2009-10-06

Most vendors these days have one or more official or unofficial bloggers. In the storage industry, this is no different. There’s a bunch of bloggers who work for EMC, another bunch who work for NetApp, yet more who work for IBM, etc. The list goes on. (Obviously I’ve left off some companies – I’m not picking on them, 3 companies is enough for the sake of an example.)

What we have to ask ourselves however is: what level of contribution do the vendor bloggers make to the combined knowledge of the storage industry?

Luckily, I have a graph that helps explain this – though I doubt many will find the graph all that surprising:

Correlation between topics discussed and vendor contribution to a field of knowledge

Correlation between topics discussed and vendor contribution to a field of knowledge

We get the most value out of vendor bloggers however whenever they’re either discussing the capabilities of their own products or future direction. Some may insist that discussing capabilities of their own products is little more than an alternate form of marketing, and that may be correct – however, as we all know, marketing documentation at the best of times is average in its useful content to technical people. Thus, if a vendor blogger actually goes more in depth into a product and helps increase understanding of how that product works and how it might be used, that can’t be bad. Equally enlightening (though not always as interesting) is when vendors talk about directions that their companies are taking. It helps everyone – partners, customers and other contributors to the industry peer into perceived futures and see what might be coming around the corner.

Not as reliably useful is when vendor bloggers start talking about paradigm shifts. Usually it’s interesting in some way or another, but it can sometimes smack too much of trying to push the industry in a direction that may not necessarily be appropriate for everyone. I.e., the tail shouldn’t wag the dog, and it can sometimes create the impression that vendors are spending too much time navel gazing rather than actually talking to their customers and finding out what they need. That being said, it provides direction, so can’t be dismissed entirely.

Bottoming out in the usefulness stakes is discussions surrounding TNB – The Next Buzzword. When hyped without content, this grows tiresome pretty quickly.

Subtracting from the sum of human knowledge in a field however is when the vendor bloggers get into FUD spewing point scoring smackdown discussions with one another. At best it’s tiresome, and at worst it actually turns customers off. When I talk to my customers who read vendor blogs, they usually rave about them except when it comes to the latest point scoring competition. That gets far less favourable comments. I’d go so far as to say that it actually has a detrimental effect on customer satisfaction. (And since vendors live and die by customer satisfaction, it must be a stupid path to take.)

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