Who's the pot & who's the kettle?

I just read Tony Asaro’s blog entry entitled “EMC Anti-Social Media Gang.”  He says that the EMC trio of Chuck Hollis, Barry Burke, and Mark Twomey has targeted him with personal attacks using terms like “industry streetwalker” and “pimping his services.”  I read also with interest Chuck Hollis’ reply to the post, and Tony’s response to, well, you know how that works. I have some thoughts on this subject.  Click Read More to see them.

The word of the day is: “silly” (A virtual tip of the hat to Stephen Colbert.)

On one side of this debate we have W-2’d employees of vendors who are not officially paid to blog.  They all have a “day job” that involves anything from marketing to being an SE in the field.  Then they have a blog where they unofficially talk about their company and its products. The opinions are not those of their employer, etc.

On the other side of this debate we have folks like Tony Asaro and Jerome Wendt who are paid by companies to blog for them.  Their “day job” is to create and promote these blogs.

Since we’re talking about transparency, I will say that I technically fall into the first category since I do now work for Tech Target.  Although I don’t really blog about Tech Target.  I blog about backups and such.  But I do have a day job and I’m not being paid by Tech Target to blog.

Here’s what I think: both sides are hired guns and to say anything else is silly.

I agree with Tony that vendor bloggers can’t claim the moral high ground because they are doing this “on their own time.”  I say this for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the timing of their blog posts and comments.  Since they’re posting to their blog literally all hours of the day and night, they must have a pretty flexible schedule — and I’ll bet they do.  I say this also because I’m not really sure what “on your own time” means in this industry.  All of these employees are “exempt” employees, meaning that they are salaried, not hourly people.  Most people in such positions work all kinds of crazy hours and that’s what’s expected of you — especially when it’s crunch time.  It’s really hard to wrap your head around the concepts of “on the clock” and “off the clock” when you’re a “knowledge worker,” which is what we all are.  There has actually been scores of books written on this.  So I don’t agree with Chuck’s assertion that thissomehow makes their posts any more holier than Tony’s.

What I do know is that as long as they continue to post good things about their employer, they will have a competitive advantage over a fellow employee that doesn’t blog.  Their employer will have more of a reason to keep them employeed than they do the next guy.  Another purpose of their blog is also to further the aims of the company so that the company continues to be in business so they continue to get paid.  What would happen if they start blogging things that aren’t in keeping with their company’s positions?  At a minimum they’d be going against the purposes of the blog.  They’d also be biting the hand that feeds them and I think they’d be fired in a heart-beat.  So while they may not be getting paid to blog, I’d say that they’re continuing to get paid because they blog.

Can Tony and Jerome claim the moral high ground either? I don’t think so.  In the end, they would also lose their job if their blog posts went against the aims of the companies that were paying them to blog.  I see them as both the same, which I think was Tony’s point.  His posts are no more “sold out” to the cause of HDS/Data Domain than the Chuck’s are to EMC.

Just how sold out are these blogs, then?  As Stephen Foskett said in his blog (which I would put in the first category of vendor blogs), “judge me by what I say, not by who signs my paycheck.”

Alright, so let’s do that with any of the blogs referenced above.  Take any one of these blogs and peruse all their posts.  Do you read anything that isn’t in support of the company that the blog supports?  Look for posts like this:

  • A post on Val’s (NetApp) blog that supports the idea that it’s bad that NetApp is the only major target dedupe vendor to not offer RAID6.
  • A post on any of Tony’s blogs that suggest that it would be a bad thing to buy a Diligent (IBM) VTL from HDS right now, while they figure out what they’re going to do for a long-term product in that space.
  • A post on Scott Waterhouse’s blog that talks about how horrible it is that NetWorker STILL doesn’t support automated cloning of their backups without requiring the user to write a shell script.
  • A post on Brian Bile’s blog talking about the importance of global deduplication (until they ship it, that is.)
  • A post on Jay Livens’ (SEPATON) blog that talks about how it stinks that they don’t support NetWorker with their content-aware dedupe engine.

Of course you don’t see posts like those!  You’re probably looking at me funny suggesting that there ever would be such posts.  What am I?  Being silly?

But are you telling me that Chuck agrees with every single thing that EMC is doing and thinks that every single product that they have is without flaw?  Are you telling me that Tony has no gripes about HDS?  Are you saying that Val has no suggestions about how to make their products better?  Then why don’t we see any of those thoughts in their blogs?

Because that would be … what’s the word?  Silly

To Chuck/Barry/Mark: I don’t care whether or not you’re paid to blog for EMC.  It’s obvious from your posts that the purpose of your blog is to further the aims of EMC, and to say anything else is just silly.  And if you or of your buddies used words like “pimp” and “streetwalker” to refer to Tony, that kind of terminology is totally unprofessional and you should apologize. (I say IF because I actually couldn’t find the phrases to which Tony refers anywhere in your or his blog.)

To Tony: You ARE taking money to blog for vendors.  That makes you a hired gun.  And anyone who says they can take money from a vendor and still write whatever comes to their mind is just being silly.

So I’m back to my original point: both sides are hired guns and to say anything else is silly.  And that’s the word of the day.

----- Signature and Disclaimer -----

Written by W. Curtis Preston (@wcpreston). For those of you unfamiliar with my work, I've specialized in backup & recovery since 1993. I've written the O'Reilly books on backup and have worked with a number of native and commercial tools. I am now Chief Technical Architect at Druva, the leading provider of cloud-based data protection and data management tools for endpoints, infrastructure, and cloud applications. These posts reflect my own opinion and are not necessarily the opinion of my employer.

9 thoughts on “Who's the pot & who's the kettle?

  1. Storagezilla says:

    Let me put that in context. I never said he was pimping anything out but I did call him an IT Industry streetwalker on Twitter one night when he and I got into it.

    It was just one of those things. He then said he was "going to kick my ass", both of those put together should highlight how infantile the argument was. But you move on. The internet is a tough place, wear a helmet.

    His run ins with Barry over on his HDS blog and Chuck who knows where are between him and them. I’ve had my own run ins with a rogues gallery of industry figures, there’s probably only one of them I dislike as a *person* having met them but I don’t wish any of the rest of them ill.

    As to your analysis we do find ourselves in agreement on a number of points, this has been proven to have happened before it has now happened again. I don’t get a penny for any time or effort I put into my blogging, but I do now have a skill and a level of recognition (Not all positive mind you) that other employees do not have.

    I started this off my own back and have kept it up, I’ve had kudos from and run ins with people inside the company who I’d never have cause to speak to before. When things go badly it does erase a lot of the upside from when things go well. While I will and do push it much further than most, if not anyone else, the moment you start to think of yourself as anything more than a hired hand is the split second before they fire you.

  2. cpjlboss says:

    Ah, I didn’t realize it was on Twitter. That explains why I didn’t see it in the blog.

    Even if it was “just one of those things,” I do think you crossed a line there and an apology is called for. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. Just because “the Internet is a tough place” doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be civil on it.

    I was also contacted privately by somebody who said, “So you’re saying there’s no difference between a wife and a hooker?” (He didn’t want to put his name on this publicly. Go figure.)

    Let’s just speak plainly, shall we? A hooker/prostitute/streetwalker (whatever word you want to use) commits an illegal act (in most locales) and during said act she pretends to like somebody she doesn’t. My opinion is that as long as Tony (or anyone else) is doing nothing illegal and aren’t pretending to like a product that they actually don’t like, then there is no call to use such terms to describe what they do.

    It may be funny. It may make you feel better, but it’s unprofessional.

    I’m back to attack the content, not the person.

  3. Tony Asaro says:

    Curtis,

    An interesting discussion. Your message specifically to me confuses me – I made it very clear what my role was- twice in the blog and once in the comments – my role as a consultant is to help drive the mission of my clients. I have no illusions about this and I made that crystal clear.

    Additionally, I can write whatever I want but the right thing to do is write within the context of my responsibilities as a consultant – driving the mission of my clients forward. If I deviate from that once or twice it might raise an eyebrow – if I do it consistently then I am sure it would lead to a conversation. If I continue to do it – then I am failing in my role and the relationship would probably end.

    The term hired gun implies that there is no deeper commitment beyond getting paid – as does the more base "hooker" comparison. Perhaps there are consultants that are hired guns and hookers – perhaps there are employees that are as well. The level of commitment varies from individual to individual and is not based on your role.

    Does being an employee automatically make you "married" to your company? I don’t believe that being an employee inherently provides you with a deeper commitment or higher moral standing just because you work for a company full-time. Most employees I know keep their options open if something better comes along. That doesn’t sound like a marriage to me. Mmmm. Let me think of a recent example – oh yes – Dave Donatelli.

    Did Donatelli just leave EMC after many years of marriage to get married to HP? No, he worked for EMC and for probably a number of reasons unbeknownst to us decided to make a move. To use your word "silly" – making a comparison to employment as a marriage and consulting as prostitution is beyond silly – it is ridiculous and in very bad taste. And it reflects on the character of the person who said it more than anything.

    I believe my blog on this subject is important and not silly – even though it deviates from technology – it does talk about character, culture, behavior and communication. All of these things are relevant – because when we make purchasing decisions for products we need to also consider the culture and character of that vendor.

    I didn’t post my blog because I felt hurt by what they were saying. I posted it because I wanted to bring to light what was occurring and to put a stake in the ground.

  4. Storagezilla says:

    I don’t see any form of apology forthcoming Curtis. Tony and I have differing opinions I think we both accept that and I am not and would not seek an apology for any slights of his which I may have found offensive regardless of if they were preemptive, self defense or what not.

    You’ve read his side, I didn’t and don’t feel the need to post my thoughts on the matter.

    It’s clear neither of us are capable of backing down when we get into it and I think we both understand that.

    And that’s pretty much that.

    You’re like Dr. Phil without the Oprah money. πŸ˜‰

  5. Storagezilla says:

    These things either burn on or burn out Curtis, there’s nothing but third degree burns in the middle. I will say one thing, I drop off the internet right this minute and I still get every euro I’m due at the end of the week.

    And on this matter I believe we have reached it’s logical conclusion.

  6. cpjlboss says:

    I managed to tick off both groups (based on some private messages I got)

    @Mark: Nice Dr. Phil reference. I still think you should clean up your side of the street, but you obviously have a different opinion.

    @Tony: First, I didn’t mean to suggest that you didn’t say you were being paid to write. And apparently the "hired gun" analogy had as negative of a connotation to you as the "hooker" analogy. I didn’t mean it negatively. Being a hired gun just means you were hired due to your gunslinging skills (or in your case, wordslinging. There can be a long term relationship and you can absolutely believe in the "cause."

    Think Virgil Cole (Vigo Mortenson) in Apaloosa, not Ring Shelton (Lance Henriksen). (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0800308/) Virgil believed in what he was doing (that is, putting the evil Randall Bragg – Jeremy Irons – in his place). But he was still a hired gun, and as such he would only keep his job if he continued fighting for the townfolk. Virgil’s role was really no different than Marshall Jack Bell (Robert Jauregui) who was the "employee" in the story. (Of course he was killed a few minutes into the movie…) Both were different than Ring Shelton, who was just hired to do dastardly things on behalf of Randall Bragg.

    I just meant that you are being paid to write, and therefore, you will need to write things that are in support of the company’s mission. It follows, therefore, that what you write for these companies will not contain the full breadth of your thoughts on these companies, any more than what Mark writes represents everything he thinks about EMC. You said as much in your comment. If you continue to support them, they will continue to support you with money. If you slam them in their own blog, you won’t be employed very long.

    @Mark,Chuck,Val, etc.: The same is true of you. You may not be officially be getting paid to blog, but if your blog starts saying negative things about EMC, you’ll be out of a job really quick-like.

    I agree that in today’s world that the fact that you’re employed by EMC makes you no more or less "sold out" than Tony.

    @All of ya’: I’m NOT saying that this makes what you’re saying untrue or that what you’re doing is immoral, etc. I’m just saying that I when I read something written by an employee or consultant of a company, I automatically assume that I’m getting only one side of the story.

    So I still think you’re both hired guns (again, in a Vigo, not Lance, sort of way). So I’m surprised that Tony is shocked by your attacks to him, and I’m surprised that you see him as any different than you.

  7. Tony Asaro says:

    @Mark – the way you write EMC should give you a raise to drop off the Internet πŸ˜‰

    Btw – I could stop blogging tomorrow and still get paid – so your argument doesn’t hold up.

    Additionally, other vendors including your pals at VMware have paid-for-bloggers. One of them even reached out to me and said that he agreed with my side of the argument and told me that he is paid to blog for VMware. In fact, just about everyone is supporting me – you guys stand very alone on this issue. Given that the EMCers are on one side of the argument and I am on the other – the third-parties have all sided with me. But of course I am sure you have a rationalization for that as well, Mark.

    @Curtis. Actually read my comment again – the bigger issue is whether money buys your loyalty and my argument is that is subjective whether you are an employee or a consultant. Additionally employment is not a marriage and consultancy is not prostitution.

    I am glad you weighed in. This is a legitimate discussion on a number of levels.

    – Tony

  8. Storagezilla says:

    Tony, you have this amazing ability to make everything about you.

    I was replying to Curtis not to you. You’ll know when I’m addressing you as I’ll use your name. Until then, don’t assuming or guess or think that I’m talking about or to you.

    I’m not.

    Persecution complexes? BORING!

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