Regarding negativity

[I could write a long and involved introduction to this post, but you will all have read the posts on Planetlotus anyway, so I’ll skip that.  This started out as a comment on Bruce’s blog but I think it sits better here, it’s my soapbox after all!]

Regarding negativity in the ‘Yellow Bubble’…

I try to see both sides of the story – undoubtedly constructive criticism gets the best results in terms of reaction from IBM/Lotus and that being positive in public does help the cause overall (mostly).  I can see that.  However as Bill and others have pointed out, there’s only so much pointing and nudging that one can do, and in many cases individuals have just hit breaking point after so many years of doing so and getting no results whatsoever (software downloads, LSX toolkit etc).

My concern is that IBM (and I’m talking as a whole rather than any particular individual) wants it all from us business partners (who in the main are also the bloggers pulled up for negativity).  They want us to be:

  • blogging positively
  • publicising their news and messages
  • participating in wikis and forums
  • testing/improving the products in beta/DP/early adopter programs
  • speaking at IBM events
  • writing RedBooks/RedWikis
  • contributing to open source efforts like OpenNTF

Plus all the usual BP/ISV type actvities…

  • “taking the products to market” in our local geographies (often with little iBM assistance or “air cover”)
  • building solutions on the products
  • handling customer complaints and issues… I could go on.  

All of which we do at considerable time/cost to our businesses, and at no cost to IBM!!

Clearly there are benefits to being a partner of IBM else we wouldn’t do it, but in many cases they simply don’t stack up to the commitment we put in – perhaps only for a time, in some cases over the lifetime of the relationship.  That’s the way of business partnerships, I guess.  However (and sorry for taking so long to get to the point), IBM cannot have its cake and eat it!

Some in the community are all too willing to take us to task for negative posts, yet whoever says thank you for the positive posts, forum activity etc? It certainly doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should, and very very rarely ever in public.  Yet as soon as someone criticises Lotus or one of its products on a blog, they get labelled as a trouble-maker or as not being committed to the cause.  This cannot be right…

On a personal note, for every negative entry or comment I’ve ever posted, there have been 10x, 20x even 50x positive ones on the Quickr/Connections/Lotusphere blogs – that’s the whole purpose of those blogs after all – to evangelise about the products/events and to act as an independent information resource.  Yet it sometimes feels that the minute I post anything remotely critical (typically on this blog) the eyes of the assembled “Yellow Bubble Police Force(tm)” are focused in my direction.  Whether that has any negative impact on my relationships or business, it is difficult to tell – so much of the conversation goes on behind closed doors…

So, to bring this to a close…  Yes, constructive criticism is best, as is keeping the negative stuff to private conversations where possible.  But, IBM, you really do have to realise how very very lucky you are to have this BP/blogger community, how in so many ways it continues to thrive and grow despite the way it is treated (apart from by a few very notable individuals), and how (at a macro level) we are a hugely positive force for the common good of the Lotus brand.  There will be negative posts, comments and even whole blogs, but you cannot and should not try to control them, it will only bite you in the end.  

Instead, please try to see them in context of the list of activities above – often the posts that get you riled will just be the tip of the iceberg, the straw that broke the camel’s back etc.  Deal with the problem, not the messenger…

Stuart McIntyre is a Senior Strategist at Fostering Community Limited. He curates a number of product-focused news sites, is a lapsed podcaster, founded the Social Connections user group and regularly speaks at conferences and events. This blog represents his own slightly-eccentric and usually-controversial opinions!