"What a tangled web we weave - when we practice to deceive" - Walter Scott
How do you turn a bug in a limited-circulation beta used by just a few thousand people into a full-blown PR crisis that entertains millions?
Simple. You just hand a keyboard to Robert Scoble.
The news that some users noticed their Google and Yahoo! toolbars vanish in IE7 soon reached the "celebrity blogger" in Microsoft's marketing department yesterday - and he flew into action. He began to paint a picture that grew more confusing and contradictory as the day turned to night.
At first Scoble confirmed there were problems with "older versions of Yahoo". "Yahoo's version 5.6 had an issue but the current version (6.1.1) is working fine," he wrote on his weblog.
But he soon contradicted that in comments later in the evening.
"We have not seen any problems yet. But we're only a few testers working afterhours here," he wrote at 10:24PM yesterday in between repeated attacks on the integrity of the media.
He was on a roll.
This morning he was even more emphatic.
"We have not seen any issues with the latest Google or Yahoo toolbar on IE 7 beta 1. Can I say that clearly enough?" he wrote [7/29/05; 1:24:07 PM] in the comments section of his blog.
And on his weblog frontpage, Scoble wrote:
"I never saw the problem that Andrew said I had. I don't have any problems with either Yahoo or Google's toolbars on my machines. Your mileage may vary. I have no idea what Andrew's talking about."
Perhaps we can jog his memory.
A reader has stepped forward to volunteer this email. We've removed his name. It was sent yesterday evening Pacific Time, and this morning our source gave us permission to use it.
Subject: RE: IE7 nukes Google, Yahoo! search
Date: Thu, 28 Jul 2005 17:31:42 -0700
From: "Robert Scoble" <email@example.com>
Yup, trying to find out what's up on that one. It did it for me too. Wiped them out.
Much has been made of blogger ethics, with conferences set up to discuss the legal implications of corporate blogging, charters and codes of conduct drawn up, and even honor tags suggested. But one ethic should hardly need to be spelled out.
You try and tell the truth.
Is this the end of the road for Scoble's Redmond adventure? Will professionals handle these situations from now on? The fellow seems to have no shortage of enemies on the campus, ranging from PR staff to technical liaisons, and this gives them plenty more ammunition. It's not the first time Scoble's indiscretions have got his colleagues into trouble. Or even the second. Bullying small web publications, while maintaining an elaborate fiction, is a new step for the blogger however, and in our experience Microsoft's PR professionals have never resorted to bullying.
Perhaps the humane solution to the gaffe-prone Scoble - one involving reels and reels of duct tape - will suffice. ®
Robert Scoble emailed us on October 25. Scoble said “Andy Orlowski…printed an email that he claims came from my hand, but didn't”. Scoble also said he was not contacted about this story: “Andy never checked with me to see if I, indeed, did write that email.” We are happy to print his comments.