I joined the Seattle blogger community to celebrate the launch of Robert Scoble and Shel Israel's Naked Conversations, which has already become a bible of corporate blogging as it was being written online (people argue a lot about what the Bible means, and they've argued a lot about this book, too, which is a great accomplishment for the writers).
Hosted in a beautiful home on Lake Washington, the crowd included many of my favorite bloggers, including Buzz Bruggeman (who knows and connects everyone), Julie Leung (she should write a book!), Alex Barnett (always interesting to meet someone whom you read but have never seen—he recognized me from my blog photo), Chris Pirillo (who understands nakedness), and Anita Rowland (whom I am sorry that somehow we managed to miss meeting), among others.
I read an advance copy of the book and it is a very good chronicle of where we've been and where blogging as a business competence is going. Well written, entertaining and thoughtful, Naked Conversations is a tour of the odyssey Robert has been on within and on the edge of Microsoft as the company's most prominent lightning rod while it reaches out and ties together many of the threads that make the rich fabric of blogging so important to understand.
The essence of the book is advice that companies have heard, that they should be sharing information internally with everyone, for many years, though with a completely new reason for it. Where it used to be the case that any employee might meet a customer with a question, in the radically expanded mediaspace that includes bloggers, every employee is talking with the market constantly. Employee bloggers, though, are actually intensely engaged with the market in a new way that requires they be as informed and involved in—as conduits of intelligence—business strategy as senior management in order to talk intelligently with everyone, customers and would-be customers alike.
[Warning: Blatant plug about my work follows] Since I spend a lot of my time looking at this new market as chief scientist of BuzzLogic (what Persuadio has become part of, for those of you following the story), Robert and Shel are singing the song I believe is getting louder and more important all the time. The challenge for companies is how to take advantage of the opportunity to talk directly with customers. The practice Naked Conversations outlines will eventually become a required competency, which is why I've spent the last 18 months working on tools for tracking and measuring the conversation, so that what bloggers do becomes an identifiable part of the balance sheet and the conversation something not quite so frightening to managers.
Robert and Shel do an excellent job of evangelizing the conversational market and provide many examples of why it is good for companies to participate. They don't shy away from the complexities of doing so, talking about controversies that have arisen over blogger-employee actions. I don't always agree with the way they suggest dealing with this, which amounts to a form of self-censorship that occasionally lapses into the territory of employees just being silenced, albeit with consequences to the company.
Naked Conversations is a great book for anyone wrestling with what blogging will do for (or against) their business. I recommend it unreservedly. You'll also enjoy the fact that the authors refer to themselves, particularly Scoble, in the third person. It's kind of like reading Bob Dole's speeches. But, I can attest to the fact that Robert doesn't do that in person.