Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Scoble takes on Microsoft and the PRC?

Is Scoble taking on his employer (again)?
SJSU alum and Microsoft tech guru Robert Scoble has apparently fired a shot across his employer's bow (again.) This time it is over the alleged censoring of a Chinese blogger [Link] by Microsoft's MSN Spaces. Scoble references this post by Rebecca MacKinnon [Link] that said, "On New Years Eve, MSN Spaces took down the popular blog written by Zhao Jing, aka Michael Anti."

Scoble went on further to offer space on his own blog to the blogger known as Anti who is allegedly being blocked by MSN:

Zhao Jing, aka Michael Anti I’d like to offer you a guest blog here on my blog. I won’t censor you and you can write whatever you’d like.

Is Scoble heading, or being lead, to the door?
In another post [Link] Scoble hints that perhaps he has outlived his usefulness at Microsoft. In reaction to his fame, Scoble himself says that some folks don't get what he is about. He said, "You still don’t get it. Something changed over the last five years. What? Everyone has a voice." I think he is right, but freedom of speech is still a relative thing. No, I don't think his employer would fire him, at least not openly or without a huge reason (like protecting a very lucrative market.) Scoble has a personal brand that adds a lot of value to Microsoft.

Scoble vs. the PRC?
That said, the China market is huge and sensitive. Microsoft has a lot of money at stake there. According to MacKinnon, "the commercial blog hosting companies see people like Anti as a threat to their business." If Scoble makes the People's Republic of China's government very mad, his employer could see him as more of a liability than an asset, no matter how big a spike he is.

What if that were you or me? Would/could you do what Scoble did?
A couple of months ago I spoke to a group of long-tail bloggers at a Southbay Bloggers Meetup Group meeting in Cupertino and I did not find any there who would. In my opinion I have seen and felt reprisals in my own little world for what I have blogged and podcast. I feel somewhat protected because I am a long-term state university employee working in a place with a union. But, as a long-tail blogger I do not feel as free as Scoble. I wonder how many bloggers who did not have Scoble's fame and Google Juice, or a great union, or a pot of gold, or a very marketable unique talent would dare to take on their employer like Scoble did? As well as outright termination what they often do to people who make waves in my long-tail world is to just marginalize them to tedius work to encourage them to leave. Marginalization is one of the most effective ways to quiet passionate and engaged individuals who speak their minds. Scoble has clearly and so firmly established his brand as to be a spike blogger who does not have to worry about such things. Speaking for myself I would have to think long and hard before such openly and publicly taking on my employer. Were I an even more vulnerable blogger than I am now, I would either mute my conversation more than I do or do my blogs anonymously.

Thank God for the EFF [Link] and thank God for the tools to blog incognito when need be.

One more thing
Scoble is right and did the right thing to do what he did. I wish more people felt free to speak their conscience on their blogs.

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