It’s just technology

I was on a panel presentation about blogging and RSS at the Boulder Software Club recently along with Walker Fenton from NewsGator and Howard Kaushansky from Umbria. Very fun time (hey – what VC doesn’t enjoy an opportunity to share their opinion); plus I got two beers out of Brad for managing to say “fuck” twice – both completely in context I might add. What struck me most during the presentation is how much more power the technology which is RSS has when you explain it in terms of what it does rather than what it is. RSS is pretty meaningless beyond a relative small group of techies and frankly no one really cares about the underlying technology – they all care about what they can do with it. Those of us who spend a lot of time talking about RSS/Blogging/Feeds/Aggregators/etc do a shitty job of separating out useless  concepts to most audiences (“RSS” or “XML”) with useful ones (“this stuff helps you do xyz”). Speaking in jargon solicited blank stares; giving examples of what people were doing with RSS to further their business solicited engagement and follow up. As a community of technologists, we should be better at this.

  • So we were both linking to each other at the same time.
    This is totally off-topic, but I think your colleague (http://www.ryanmcintyre.com/2004/12/grammar_crime_t.html) Ryan – a fellow grammar nerd – would shudder at the title of this post. “It’s” vs. “Its”.

  • Shit, I tried to include the “grin” emoticon in my comment, to make the connection to my post, but alas, no HTML in comments.

  • joseph

    I enjoyed your commentary at the event. But your Microphone was being very temperamental.
    We were talking about this very subject at a brainstorming session about the strategy of our Web 2.0 idea (to be launched in the next few months). Lately the WSJ, FT, and NYTimes have come out with lengthy feature articles of Blogs. So, the timing of your bloglog is spot on (I am not British, I just like saying ‘spot on’). Our Brand Manager made us understand that for people ‘in the know’ RSS/XML/Blogs are very sexy words, and it stops there. These techy words are for early adopters and not even remotely sexy and chic to common folk who only understand HBO, CNN, FOX, and other lingusitic signs that have burned crucial areas of their hypothalamus. We are competing with that position in the brain, So, we must train our audience — like Pavlovian dogs (or Skinner rats)
    If the techies can make all of this stuff easier for that 64% of the crowd who ‘don’t know’ yet and exciting for the 34% who ‘do know’ then I believe things will look up for this new technology to get more uptake from the ‘common folk.’
    On another note, I read that high-speed penetration among consumers is starting to show signs of slowing down — you think this will have impact on the uptake of these new technologies. By the way, I am not a techie. I am really cool, honest.

  • Andy

    I think this is a wider issue. I believe that most, if not all, early stage high tech companies suffer from the “what it is” versus “what it does” disease when selling their products. Only the early adopter prospect who “gets it” will respond to this sales approach. Many prospects that should be great targets may get excited about the hot technology but won’t understand how it benefits them or solves any problem they care about. They will relegate the offering to “nice to have” and won’t buy – often after pulling the salesperson through a several months-long sales cycle. I think this failure to move from product-centric to customer-business-problem-centric underlies the problem getting sales traction that a lot of new companies have – even though they are selling great technology. So, it’s a survival issue not only for new technologies but for the companies that develop them.

  • On another note, I read that high-speed penetration among consumers is starting to show signs of slowing down — you think this will have impact on the uptake of these new technologies. By the way, I am not a techie. I am really cool, honest.