"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Famous Last Words

The chipperest, cheerfullest last words you'll ever hear are here on SciBlogs:
Hi everyone. I’m Daniel Pellegrom from PepsiCo, and I’m the editor of this blog. I’ll be moderating the comments that come through here on a daily basis and wanted to let everyone know that PepsiCo is happy to be joining the conversation about the food industry’s role in addressing global health changes. We want to hear from you, even those of you who might disagree with our positions. The only comments I’ll reject are ones that are defamatory or profane. Everything else will be fair game, so keep it clean and I look forward to spirited discussions here on this site.
Hi! Buh-bye! It's been great!

By the way, I spent some effort whinging an invite to SciBlogs. I'm pretty sure I shouldn't have ignored it when it came. I'd have liked to be on that back channel, and the contract was generous, but I just couldn't tolerate the color scheme and the design, which I still thoroughly detest. Every SciBlog I know of is just plain ugly. Eyegougingly hideous, really. It wasn't worth it to me. I like to look at my blog, and I want you to like to look at it too.

Still, I follow several of their blogs and wish them well.

I think SciBlogs will survive this fiasco, but I really really doubt that Pepsico(R) HappyFoodFunScienceBlog will. Speaking with a human voice is great corporate advice, but it kind of, um, requires you to have a corporation with something human to say.

Otherwise, the human thing to say is nothing.

Update: As anticipated above, there is not going to be a Pepsi blog on SciBlogs. Pepsi underestimated the hostility that biological scientists feel for them, which nobody anticipated would be fiercer than the antipathy that earth scientists feel for Shell. I think it's an interesting reveal on the difference between the left-leaning political mentality and the left-leaning scientific; scientists understand that oil companies are necessary evils but Pepsico is not necessary at any level.

SciBlogs and Pepsi are pretending this retreat was SciBlogs' idea but of course Pepsi has no desire to become the internet's punching bag.

As I predicted, the words quoted above are the last words to emerge from Pepsi on SciBlogs and they have vanished along with the rest of HappyFoodFunScienceBlog. The 200 comments have been taken down, though a new conversation has started at the same link.

Image: Wikipedia


William M. Connolley said...

"Every SciBlog I know of is just plain ugly. Eyegougingly hideous, really. It wasn't worth it to me. I like to look at my blog, and I want you to like to look at it too."

I read most blogs through google reader, which strips out the formatting anyway, yours included. Only if I want to comment etc do I see the actual blog.

I think the words matter more than the presentation.

Michael Tobis said...

True enough, and RSS complicates things.

But commenters end up on the actual blog site, and I try to make it "sticky". (Maybe I should put PepsiCo products all over it.) I mean visually attractive.

Anyway I used to be stuffy about this too. After a few months in the web business I came around on this point. Words matter more only if the words are seen. Presentation matters.

Nonscientist bloggers would be less likely to put up with the SciBlogs layout. Also, I think traffic would have built up much better over the years with even a little attention to design.

Tim Lambert said...

A great, you mentioned that backchannel. Now we'll be getting FOI requests.

Michael Tobis said...

The Twitter keyword is #pepsigate (!)

King of the Road said...

Well Michael, I guess you and I aren't on the same side on this one. I posted the following on that blog:

Brother, what a bunch of silly self-righteous resentment. I suppose that when Hong Kong puts an advertising supplement in Scientific American, everyone cancels their subscriptions? If you aren't interested in what Pespsico says, well, you could always (get ready now) not read the blog. I read a selected few of the blogs at Science Blogs, I wouldn't have even known about this one without the shrill outcries from the holier than thou (though in a Godless way of course) masses.

Someone up thread mentioned that (paraphrasing) "we accept the advertising in the side columns, we mostly don't even see it." Duh. I suppose that means not much clicking through is happening. I suppose you'd all prefer that Science Blogs be behind a pay wall?

Thought so.

Posted by: Rob | July 7, 2010 3:52 PM

Michael Tobis said...

Everybody's totally within their rights.

SciBlogs has the right to sell content-shaped ads, despite the American tradition against doing so in newspapers. The bloggers have the right (under the generous terms of their contract - I was offered one so I've seen it, basically you cede no substantial rights and they might even pay you a few hundred bucks a year) to pack up and go and be dissatisfied, and Pepsi has the right to try to clean up their image by buying off the editors.

My only point was how lame Pepsi's effort is going to be as literature. The mismatch to the existing SciBlogger culture may be too severe and that's interesting, but what I'm remarking is how dull the Pepsi blog product is likely to be, and how the first posting is so stunningly corporate-speak and not human-speak that nobody would be especially interested in reading it.

Why the reaction to the Pepsi sciblog is so much more severe than that to the Shell sciblog is an interesting reveal on the culture of lefty scientists as compared to ordinary lefties. So that's worthy of note too.

Anyway, I have no horse in this race. It's just amusing from where I'm sitting; it says a lot about mindless corporate capitalism as an organizing principle, and a lot about the ineffective opposition to it.

KoTR, it's unfortunate that small business folk like yourself see yourselves as allied to the corporate system. I think that isn't exactly right. I see small business as a very different and more culturally creative part of society. There are exceptions among corporations where there is a powerful leader (Jobs is the boomer archetype, or Andy Grove for a slightly older group). For good or ill such companies can maintain a personality and an ethic.

Normally you get absolute mechanical amorality though from publicly traded companies and their totally fungible executives, like the guy who moved from Pepsi to Apple and nearly killed the golden goose. This is a problem because these are our dominant institutions. It sets the whole society on autopilot.

King of the Road said...

Michael, to a large extent I agree with the destructive nature of the the way we've constructed our system of publicly owned companies. My company will never go there for that reason. And I've so stated in my under-utilized blog on many occasions.

There are ironies though. Cutting edge startups typically have, as a goal, to go through the venture capital - mezzanine financing - ipo cycle. Some survive it with their culture intact, others - not so much. VCs want an awful lot of control and public shareholders, for the few ventures that are successful enough to have such, are quick to sue should share prices be even slightly hampered by adherence to culture. I'll be interested to follow Tesla's development in this regard.

As to Sculley, a case can be made that Apple would not have survived the '80s without him. Certainly, though, Apple's incredible current resurgence is attributable in large part to Steve Job's cultural adjustments. Still, though I'm typing this on an iPad, I detest the "you can install any software you want as long as we approve it and you buy it from us" model. Marginally justifiable for a phone, not for a device that hints at being a computer.

My gripe at Science Blogs was the silly moral outrage and the goofy conflation of hosting a blog by Pepsico and the destruction of the world through diabetes.

King of the Road said...

Oh, and I MUST add that I definitely agree with you with respect to the formulaic feel of the first post by the Pepsico dude. But if I picked one thing of which it specifically reminded me, it would be the message Hilary Clinton put out (recorded in her own voice) to encourage people to visit her web site to post their ideas when she entered the 2008 Presidential race. I'm going to see if I can find it somewhere in YouTube to verify whether my recollection is correct.

Hank Roberts said...

> I try to make it "sticky"

Easiest way is to add more high-fructose corn syrup.