Well, that “oops” took slightly longer then I would have expected, but everybody is busy getting ready for Reboot and other conferences that are now going to have a chunk of time spent trashing O’Reilly on one level or another.
First, you can read the corporate-speak from O’Reilly, here. Wow, so much start up training in one blog post, the mind boggles.
Let’s dive in.
First, if you own it, step up, take the direct hit, and stay put to deal with the fallout. “Brady” on the O’Reilly web site does the standard our pr people released the following statement nonsense and off we go into corporate-speak dribble. Sara Winge didn’t personally get on the blog and say, I made this call. A VP of Corporate Communications should know better, should have anticipated the fallout and, even with Tim on vacation, should have known how to deal with this.
But Sara? Nope. As the VP of Corporate Communications, she doesn’t have an account/authoring rights on the O’Reilly blog, naah, let’s just give it to somebody else to post. How corporate. And she uses the corporate-speak terms like “the law requires”, “in retrospect”, “we stand by”, etc, etc, or as Shel puts it, blah blah blah. Amazingly stupid. You should have published your book via O’Reilly, Shel. Maybe Sara might have read it.
Second, use plan english and try “I’m sorry” as the first words out of your mouth (or computer) when you screw up. This one is not really that hard. Sara uses a small mountain of digital ink to ramble on in corporate-speak before getting to the “we apologize” part. Lame. Personally, I hate the “we” part in this. It smacks of no accountability. Somebody make the call to do this. Somebody at an executive level signed off and that person should be saying “I’m sorry.” It’s fine after the “I’m sorry” to explain anything and everything, however, “I’m sorry” should be first.
Whomever is in charge of O’Reilly Conferences owns this problem and owns the responsibility for this issue. To send out Sara “don’t shoot the flack” Winge is unfair to her (she didn’t do it) and makes O’Reilly look like just another big company with all the same tired nonsense. Either Tim himself personally authorized this or some manager personally authorized this. Somebody needs to step up and say, it was me, I own it.
Sara, if you need an example, simply look at the comments in my last posting, paying particular attention to Liam. “I was wrong” are his first words in his latest comment. Class act, civil guy and, well, there you go. In fact, his post contains an update with “…I’m dead wrong.” as the first sentence. Well done (again), Liam.
Third, always leave room for conspiracy theorists. In this case, Sara gets some points. As the VP of Corporate Communications, what better way to give the company even more room to wiggle around, then to have the big guy himself on a “rare”, off the grid, vacation. Brand currently burning like a Turkish Airport? Simple. Be off the grid, let the corporate PR person take a few bullets, then simply glide back in all rested, ready to show (in no particular order) horror, remorse, and a determination to ensure these types of things don’t happen again.
Tim on vacation? Hah, I say! Okay, I’m kidding. Poor guy probably is on vacation.
Finally, an exercise for the reader. For some fun and homework, grab the list of O’Reilly conference speakers and friends of O’Reilly campers found around the internet. Cross reference those people’s blogs via Ice Rocket, to see how many of them step up and smack O’Reilly over this rather aggressive IP protection move. You won’t find many. You won’t find tons of people boycotting O’Reilly books or conferences. The reason? Brand. Tim has personally been the true good guy face of his company and you can be sure that he is no dummy. Barring a massive overdose of stupid pills, Tim will step up own it and give an apology/explanation that will calm people down. In my view, a bunch of overeager corporate types will get a WTF, wet noodle beating and the rest of us will see a smart business owner take responsibility for this, oopsie. I would expect nothing less.
Hope the vacation was relaxing, Tim.