The blogging world is being a little hard on itself over its Bill Gates confab. And that's a good thing.
Microsoft invites a bunch of influential bloggers to meet Bill Gates and the coverage ranged from "it was great to meet Bill" to "why weren't there any hard questions asked?"
Here's a news flash: Bill Gates never has and never will say anything meaningful. As Robert Scoble notes Gates is a professional question answerer. Do you take the Gates interview? Sure. Access counts. Will your audience get anything out of the interview? Maybe not.
That's why I wasn't terribly broken up that Mary Jo Foley wasn't invited. Gates wasn't going to say anything anyway. As an aside I did wonder whether Foley was too much of a pain to be invited. Perhaps she's viewed more as a "journalist" instead of a "blogger." Luckily Ryan Stewart got in for ZDNet.
Overall, this meeting with Gates represents the wonderful merging world of blogging and journalism. As bloggers get more access to bigwigs they'll find out most journalists know--once you get over the starpower with these honchos there's no there there. These execs have great insights but they're surrounded by PR people, handlers and bogged down by years of spin. The coup would be to have a few pints with Gates at a pub. Never happen, but it might yield more results.
And it's not just Bill Gates. Michael Dell gives you no insight. Go down the roster of tech luminaries and you'll get nada out of them. It's all very sterile. Kind of a bummer eh?
In fact, the only top tech dog that may give you good fodder is Oracle's Larry Ellison. He can be Larry Ellispin at times, but he gives his PR people fits--which is great for the interviewer.
The solution is to find the execs in the trenches and perhaps the developer or project manager no one has heard of. What the blogging world will find is that access to Gates is nice, but not all that important. My bet: The bloggers that were awed by Gates this year will be asking for Ray Ozzie, a guy that actually controls Microsoft's fate, next year.