I’m in the Call For Help TV studio right now… I just did a segment on Tech TV about FreshBooks and I am about to do a segment on marketing software online.
In preparation for the show I did some research on the host, Leo Laporte, and came across this interview on Mad Penguin. Leo talks a lot about open source platforms vs. Windows platforms and the IBM platform era that came before. He does a nice job of explaining how the sheer POWER of having people working at something they love for all the right reasons (READ: open source developers) creates a better product than people who are working for someone else while someone else benefits big time (READ: Microsoft employees). Okay… nothing new.
What got me going was how he equated the platforms to government (i.e. Democracy vs. totalitarian rule). In this scenario he describes how countries like China are going to extraordinary expense to restrict their peoples’ access to the internet, and thereby not allowing them access to masses of information. Allow me to reiterate: they are going to EXTRAORDINARY EXPENSE. AND he points out that that carrying on like this is unsustainable: the model will break. I agree.
So… let’s switch gears and think about corporate communications for a moment. Traditionally corporations have been totalitarian states. Remember when the only source of news was a newspaper? Remember when the radio came around? Then TV? Gradual change. Each of these are broadcast media where companies can control their message and basically their message was the God’s truth because…well…there was no other message…and they had TOTAL CONTROL over that solitary message.
Then the internet happened.
What is the significance? The corporate message is now being shaped by users/consumers/fans/participants much like open source software. Why is it like open source software? Because people not companies are using tools like blogs and podcasts and web sites and email to create the message and shape the message…and there is no stopping them from doing it. In fact you shouldn’t want to…you should be thrilled they are taking their time to even bother with you. You should support them as much as you can, engage them when it’s natural and LISTEN to them – that is the big thing.
I was on a call with one of our customers the other day (we set up calls to talk to them because we value their input and take it to heart every day). This caller referred to our users as our “virtual board of directors”. Perfect, and absolutely right. They are that valuable (i.e. like advisors). They have that kind of influence (i.e. like a board). The feedback they give us and the blog posts they write shape our direction and help us sculpt the communications we do. So…like the open source movement, which relies on remote software developers to craft the software, our remote users sculpt our communications in a very natural and organic way.
Open source communications is the way from here on in. That’s a good thing.