This Saturday night, Dec. 3, my wife Paula and I will be meeting up with Robert and Maryam Scoble in Paris. We will probably drink champagne. We are there as joint leadoff keynoters for Les Blogs. But we have more reason to celebrate than that, and I'm not certain that Scoble realizes it yet.
I recently posted, about going up to pitch Robert on Nov. 26, 2004. He had said yes to the idea of co-authoring a book on business blogging, but I was not yet convinced he was engaged. Then the evening of Dec. 3, he called from a cell phone. We had an awful connection, but it was clear that he was excited. He was suggesting that we blog the book, doing the entire process transparently. He had some really crazy ideas, like auctioning publishing rights on eBay. When we disagreed, he wanted us to podcast it. We would do all our discussions on the blog, with no collaboration between us--no meetings, email or phone time.
I didn't know what this guy was inhaling, but I was concerned that he was driving while doing it. He said he wanted to blog these ideas. I wanted to slow this down and told him to float a trial balloon in a blog.
I went to sleep that night more than a little concerned. How on Earth could you blog a book and still have something to sell. Publishers do their dealing privately and confidentially. But I slept soundly. One way or another, Scoble now seemed engaged in the project.
I woke up the next morning, took my first sip of coffee and nearly choked as I read this blog by Scoble. Not only had he posted all his suggestions on Scobleizer, he affectionately characterized me as an old fart, from the old school, with lots of old stories. He also made it clear that he didn't expect us to make much money off of this project.
I had been outed. The guy wanted to do the book sort of like a reality TV show. He had positioned the two of us as sort of like Felix and Oscar in the Odd Couple. I responded with this posting, which was pretty poorly received by the steady flow of traffic coming to my usually sparsely visited blog site.
I spent the next day just thinking about what happened. Some of his now-published ideas were just goofy. Co-authors need to collaborate. Business deals should be allowed the sanctity of privacy. Publishers, in their right minds, would not competitively bid on eBay.
On the other hand, there was brilliance nested into what Robert had proposed. Why not blog it? If we could not be totally transparent, could we not be more transparent than any book had ever been? Bloggers were great critics and they were also amazing sources of insight, information and even fact checking, we would learn.
There were other factors. We were writing a book telling businesses to trust the blogosphere. We needed to become a case study. For better or worse, this book blog, this book blog, would be a marketing blog as well. For better or worse, it would generate word of mouth. If fellow bloggers thought our work sucked, we would be dead in the box. If they liked it, then they could become a collective word-of-mouth engine for the book. The blog could demonstrate or disprove the "new marketing" that both Robert and I believed in.
We would answer a variation on the old marketing question of "Will the dogs eat the dog food?" We would find out if the bloggers would read the blog book." Will they encourage others to read it?
Scoble and I had lots of bumps over the next few months. It would take us a while how we as such an "odd couple" could collaborate and find the right voice for the book. But Robert's insistence that we do this book transparently on a blog was the single stroke of brilliance that made this project look as successful as it does today. Five weeks from now, we will begin to know the answer to: "Will the bloggers read the blog book.
Happy anniversary, Robert. We will always have Paris.