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Apple Blogs

Steve Rubel wonders why there aren't more Apple bloggers. It's a fairly deep question, and one with which I am uniquely familiar having been almost fired for penning this post at 8:04am when the official announcement didn't come until 11am or so. Never mind that the store had been announced in Billboard, the LA Times, Wired, and other magazines and newspapers a week in advance.

For example, as several commenters have pointed out, it's a curious thing that David Hyatt can not only blog, but he can blog about unreleased, unannounced products, features, bug fixes, etc. He didn't blog about Safari's RSS capabilities, but he's talked quite openly about things he's fixed in Safari or WebCore/Kit. He's blogged about the underpinnings in unreleased (but announced) software (Dashboard), and he's done it all without unnecessarily endangering Apple's ability to innovate.

David is an exception to many rules, though. First, he possesses the acumen to know what he can talk about and what he cannot. I don't know that this is a common trait. Second, he comes from and continues to work in a very "open" environment - one in which changes are committed back to a repository for all to see, and so forth. Blogging may have been in his contract for all we know. And so on…

I respect Apple's right to insist on a rather mum blogging scene. I may not agree with it, as I did not agree that I'd really blown anything in my linked-to entry above, but I respect it. Not everyone knows what's "blog-safe" and what is not. Comparing Microsoft to Apple is a moot point, as Microsoft is well-known for pre-announcing things they've yet to even begin working on simply to scare off competitors (a part of their masterful FUDabilities), while Apple tends to go for the "kazaam, check this cool stuff out, it's shipping in a month" approach (even though the products don't usually ship until three months later). Blogging is an extension of that - MS employees can talk about something they're doing in Longhorn (2 or 3 years away?), but Apple probably won't talk about Tiger beyond what was said in the keynote at WWDC.

Apple doesn't discourage blogs. After all, employees have outside interests as well, be they photography, design, music, art, etc. I've got 20 Apple employee blogs in my subscription list of 130. Do they talk about work? Not too much. But will they talk about work if I ask them? Not too much, actually. Loose lips sink ships, and I respect that.

Calls for Apple to "open up to bloggers" are somewhat silly in many regards. I'd rather Ali Ozer spend his time fixing bugs, improving AppKit, and helping people on the cocoa-dev mailing list than writing about how good the food was in the Caffé Macs (why that place has two "f"s in it I may never know). Wouldn't you?

4 Responses to "Apple Blogs"

  1. I blogged a bit about this a while ago here:


    My main issue is that many Apple employees feel like they can't even say they work for Apple on their blogs, let alone talk about work. Apple is deathly afraid of things their employees say, because fanatical customers will throw it back in their faces.

    Steve has always been a wiz-bang kinda guy, and cherishes his secrets, but I think in some ways it hurts the company. The good will that MS has built by displaying this kind of transparency is hard to measure, but ultimately equates to free advertising. The more people hear about Apple, the greater its mind share. That's a good thing.

    While Apple doesn't want an angry employee blogging about how he hates his boss, there are already rules for dealing with complaints and feedback in these situations. Just as I cannot call the newspaper and tell them that my employer is doing things I think are stupid and expect to keep my job, in the same way I cant do that on my blog either. But if I can tell people how excited I am by the great products I have been working on, without spilling the beans, that's a good thing for Apple.

    Also, some customers, especially schools and enterprise customers want more visibility for making purchasing decisions. If Apple is planning on integrating Novell authentication into the next version of the OS, and I'm about to spend 10k on a tool that will let me do that, I'll reserve that 10k for the next version of the operating system instead of getting that tool. But because I have no idea that's coming, then I've blown my budget and will hold off on buying the upgraded OS until next year.

    I'm sure that Dave Hyatt and Bill Bumgarner are probably doing most of their blogging off-hours. The kind of blogging we're talking about here is really meant to replace duplicated communication to multiple parties that would normally happen over different mediums, be it phone, e-mail or whatever. These are the conversations they would be having anyway with the people in their communities in their spare time. No one is suggesting that blogging become part of their job responsibilities, only that Apple not be so quick to descend on every public dissemination of knowledge not explicitly washed by the Apple marketing monkeys.

    While it's true that Apple doesn't discourage blogs, because really they can't, they do certainly make it known that you can and will be fired for even extremely minor "leaks" of information, even when it's just rumination about what the public is talking about. What constitutes a leak is never really discussed, and you just have to guess and play it really really safe.

  2. Actually we're not talking about Longhorn all that much either. There's certainly a ton of things we're not talking about.

  3. The Microsoft blogs I've read (by no means an exhaustive sample) crept a little too far towards sounding like infomercials at times.

    Posts on Sun blogs can get that way too. Frankly, if several company bloggers write similar posts, touting the same thing, at about the same time, and link to each other, it starts to look a little like astroturf.

    "Gosh! Over on his blog, Bob says he loves his SunRay (tm). I really love my SunRay (tm) too. I can do seven impossible things before breakfast with my SunRay (tm), and it keeps my teeth clean, too! Look what Jeff does with his SunRay (tm)! He wrote about it on his blog today. Check it out!"

    (Hm. Could it be that SunRays aren't selling very well, and this is an attempt to generate interest in them?)

    I suspect that commercialization of blogs, and the use of blogs as (real or supected) marketing vehicles, may actually end up throwing a wet blanket on the blog party.

    Dave Hyatt talks about Apple stuff, but it's largely technical content. He's not really selling anything, except when he has to "sell" a proposed HTML modification. bbum doesn't get much into touting Apple products, either.

    I suppose there's a difference between an "Apple blog" and "a blogger who works for Apple" (insert other companies as desired). It's a bit like the difference between "Christian music" and "music made by Christians".

    Johnny Cash was Christian, and he performed gospel music, but he also performed songs like "Delia's Gone" that dealt with shooting a woman dead, and Trent Reznor's "Hurt". Not to mention shooting a man in Reno, just to watch him die.

    By contrast, you have the "Christian music" genre, which largely seems to consist of songs stroking a very insecure God's ego and talking about how great he is.

  4. You nearly glossed over how Dave Hyatt and Bill Bumgarner are unique in the company: they're both working on projects for which source is publicly available. Nothing he talks about is under NDA, and you can go check it out for yourself (Apple - Public Source - WebCore).

    Microsoft has bet the farm on Longhorn, and so it's important to talk about it because they're working on developer features. The huge majority of what Apple keeps quiet is information about user features, a category in which it excels. While having to pay to go to WWDC isn't great, it's really not any worse than what any other company does with their developer conference (and, hey, this year there was free admission to JavaOne, too).

    Quickly, on blogging rules: there are none. Everyone at Apple is under NDA, the violation of which can result in all sorts of unpleasantries. We can't say anything less online than we can to our friends in person (or anyone else).