Well, The TiVo Blog Sucks a Lot Less Than it Did Yesterday

Well, the TiVo Blog sucks a lot less today than it did yesterday — for me at least. After my rant (and it definitely was a rant) E.Stephan Mack, Director of Service Operations for TiVo has responded in detail to my complaints about their corporate blog on his own personal blog.

First off I have to say two things. One, Stephen, thank you. And two, I’m sorry for the excessiveness and mean spirited tone to my post yesterday. I’m sure it probably felt like a bad episode of “When Blogs Attack.” I guess that I was frustrated that it felt like criticism of the official TiVo blog was falling on deaf ears and I know now that that is not the case. I got a lot of barbs from TiVo fans over the post yesterday but your post is the first to seriously address the actual criticisms themselves and I think you do a admirable job at it. Thanks also for taking the time to write a reply post on your time off.

It’s also great to finally meet a TiVo blogger. Perhaps there are more of you out there than I’m aware of but you are the first I’ve ever known of. You’re like a rare and endangered bird. Hopefully I’ll meet some more in the future. Congratulations on the recent birth by the way. Kids are great, I’ve got four.

I’ll try to respond, to your response, in order.

First off, about the TiVo Blog being down. Yes. The TiVo blog was down for 36 hours. An unfortunate thing for any blogger but not the end of the world. You are correct that it is back up now and all of the links and images seem to finally be working again. Thanks for taking a look at this and for offering to take steps to monitor the blog better in the future. I think what happened here was that TypePad just made a change and the necessary modifications to the blog hadn’t taken place. These things happen. Although I haven’t been down for 36 hours before, my blog has definitely been down before as well. Once I decided to send 99 high res images of Disneyland all on a single page to Boing Boing because I thought they might like the photo essay. They liked it of course but within a few hours my bandwidth allocation was sucked dry and I was offline for the rest of the day. That was a learning experience for me and I think this TypePad incident is a learning experience for you guys. These things do happen though.

You agree with me that there have been some long gaps between posts and mention a new post yesterday about a pre Valentine’s Day Singles Event in the Bay Area. Great to see that. Sounds like a fun party. Davis Freeberg, who writes for this blog, is going to go and cover the event for us. He’s definitely single. Although it’s usually impossible to get him out of his apartment and way from his TV, when he heard TiVo was involved he got excited. Once he went out on a date with a girl who spent the whole time talking about how much TV sucked. She of course was not invited back to his apartment where his giant wall sized TV dominates the entire south end of his living room, nor of course was there a second date. Perhaps he’ll do better with other TiVo lovers. Either way, looking forward to seeing the photos.

I’m glad to hear that Nova will be doing more posts in the future and would encourage you guys to especially cover the news that your fans are interested in the most and not just fluff stuff. You guys have announced your stand alone CableCARD unit. This is good stuff. This is hot news. Obviously you guys have to be careful about how you decide to market your news but keep the blog in the loop. Make sure that when you do release big news that it gets a mention on the blog. Even if it’s only a few lines of commentary with a link to an official press release. Of course, an exclusive blog only interview with one of the engineers about the box coinciding with your other press efforts would be even better. Think creative. Look how Flickr (another brand like yours that has spread virally) uses their blog. Some of it is kind of fluffy (like photos from members, etc.), but when they make a major improvement or announcement it always gets covered there.

Obviously you guys don’t have the marketing budget that someone like Microsoft does but look at the stuff Robert Scoble does with Channel 9. His videotaped interviews are great. It might take a few hours but I think getting various behind the scene interviews of TiVo employees showing what they are up to would be super.

You might might also want to think about opening the blog up to more than just one TiVo author if Nova is stretched thin. Again, this is what Flickr does. Heather can post, Stewart can post, Caterina can post, etc. Adding more voices to the TiVo Blog and making sure all your relevant news gets covered would be a huge improvement.

True, your blog doesn’t link or feature others outside of TiVo. And you mention that neither does Google. Fair enough. I can see your point there and where you’d want to stay in control of the conversation about your company on your own blog. You write, “the job of an official TiVo company blog is to put a bit of a human spin on our press releases and public happenings, be part of the feed, and let folks comment.” I can accept that. But do keep in mind that your comments are excessively moderated.

You write, “Thomas has taken us to task for editing the comments that are submitted. I’m not personally involved in the production of the TiVo blog, and I haven’t seen the content of the comments that are rejected. But I can’t disagree with a strategy of removing negative or distracting comments.”

I sent in a comment from day one saying that your RSS feeds were broken. That comment was moderated away and as of yesterday they still were not fixed (they are fixed today though). The correct thing would have been to post the comment and then reply, hey, thanks for pointing that out. We’ve corrected it now. That is not a negative or distracting comment.

Similarly others have left comments that are not in any way critical or derogatory towards TiVo that never get posted. My own opinion is that if you guys are going to have comments that you should be very careful about what you moderate away. If you only post fluff type “I love TiVo” comments then you will lose the legitimacy of a real conversation. Certainly some things need to be moderated away, spam, juvenille attacks, foul language, even some negative posts — but in general these should be the exceptions not the rule. If you allow people to post respectful, but at times critical, thoughts about your product you can then respond articulately and address these issues and you will have a lot more control of the conversation having it on your blog than someplace else.

You bring up the TiVo Community forum. This is in fact a decent place and I am aware of the fact that TiVo employees do make appearances there. Unfortunately I was driven out of the place. The owner of the site David Bott objected to the fact that when covering TiVo news I would occasionally link to stories I had written about TiVo. “You could be just trying to gain exposure so you may be able to write for a publication some day,” he wrote. “We would have no way of knowing everyones actual intent and thus the rules we have set into place. Hope this helps you see our side of things.” Blogging is different. People link back and forth all the time. It’s part of the process.

I do cover TiVo. My news on your earnings calls have appeared on Engadget and other sites and what I write is relevant. If I am going to go through the work of sitting on your conference call and then take the time to write up a thoughtful post on it that would be of interest to TiVo Community forum readers then I don’t really see the issue of linking to the story I wrote on my blog. Obviously the owner of the Forum has a problem with it, (even though I also was linking back to the Forum in many cases). The blogosphere is a more open place than a locked up TiVo Forum. While I appreciate the fact that you guys post there, I couldn’t, for instance, link back to this response post I’m writing you now.

Finally, you write, “Our blog is new, and it could be improved in some ways, but the extreme language that Thomas uses is not justified. Earlier I drew an analogy between the official Google blog and the official TiVo blog. While our blog could have a better uptime record and it could have more posts, I think those are the only fair criticisms. We offer trackbacks and comments. I think Nova (who’s a relatively new employee) has a good writing style, and her content is good.”

Again, my apologies for the extreme language. And I hope that you know it was more borne out of frustration than anything. Your blog is new — and while there has been relevant news that has been skipped by your blog in the past, I’m optimistic that we will see better coverage in the future. I am also truly pleased if nothing else to have your blog and email address where I might be able to address concerns or offer suggestions in a less dramatic way in the future.

Thanks for taking the time (and especially away from your family while on paternity leave) and as for lunch on Monday, that would be great. I’m open and would love to hear more about what you guys are up to in person.

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  1. Thanks Thomas! Great response, and you bring up a lot of valid points. I’ve also sent you an e-mail privately to set up our lunch meeting.