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The corporate blogs

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It’s easy to see why blogging is attractive to corporations - it’s social media! We can get our CEO right in front of our customers and show how smart and human he is! We can bypass the media and get our message straight to the marketplace! It’s free!

Of course, as with any endeavor, the blogs meet with mixed success, and most of them kind of suck. I’m reminded of this today as I finally remove the Object Video blog from my Google home page because I just can’t stand seeing the word “Eyjafjallajökull” any longer. It’s in the title of their last post. From April 26. Which means I’ve been forced to pronounce that word in my head just about every day for the last 95 days.

Maybe the OV execs just haven’t had anything to say. Maybe they’re just too busy doing their real jobs. Maybe they realized the blog was more trouble than it was worth.

If self-aggrandizing to say it, but blogging isn’t easy. Writing is a skill like many others that takes practice to become good at. To make it free and easy and maybe even a little entertaining, as a good blog should be, is harder still. No one wants to read a five-paragraph essay in the form taught in ninth grade (my daughter is learning this already in first grade, actually - every essay begins with “I like xxx for many reasons”).

I’ve just been reading Craig Chambers’ blog over at the Cernium site, after his PR guy drew my attention to it. (The industry is slow as hell right now - seriously people, start making some acquisitions or something.) It’s called “Pixel Rules,” and it’s not bad. Five posts in the three months, though? Kind of hard to get to attached to it.

His first post is a defense of the false alarm rate of video analytics (it’s just like a smoke detector!), then a short treatise on battery-powered video surveillance (it’s only for niche applications - no shit), and then guest blogger Nik Gagvani chimes in on video surveillance in the cloud (it’s going to democratize video surveillance).

Self-serving? Well, yeah. Read like they were taken from the “how to blog” manual? Yep. Nik finishes his blog entry with a question (you know, to incite comments): “Do you agree, or is my vision clouded?” Ho, ho!

But the July posts are a little more interesting. The bit on using your PC as a DVR has some interesting links and discussion of hard-drive lifecycle, thought it’s sort of getting around to highlighting the Archerfish device in a roundabout way. Plus, it gives us the term “whipping the mouse,” which I hadn’t heard before. And the post on the recent MVaaS conference in Denver is yet another perspective that the event, put on by Envysion, was probably a fairly important milestone in the growth of the security industry (our write up of it is here).

Frankly, I thought it was going to be a bust - another event to go to, in the middle of July? I had just about zero interest in going. Carlos, Envysion’s marketing guy, is a Red Sox fan like me, but even if he had Jim Rice signing autographs I don’t think I was getting on that plane. But, apparently, the right 50 people went and people seem pretty pleased.

Brivo’s Steve Van Till wrote about it in his blog, too. His is one of the better corporate blogs, sharing it with sales guy John Szczygiel (the ugliest name in security), and posting roughly once a week.

Steve almost always brings up good points, like this one on the MVaaS conference:

Perhaps the most interesting comments of the two-day summit came from investors in this space—who see it is just that, a new space unto itself, not a derivative of security, with its own markets, channels, and emerging players who may or may not have a legacy within the traditional surveillance industry.

The money guys often drive the market more than the technology guys, so this bears watching. Will “security guys” be left behind to battle over an increasingly irrelevant marketplace?

Doug Marman’s Spot On Security blog can also be terrific, with some very strident cases made and lots of great, real-world data, but he’s only posted nine times in 2010 so it’s hard to remember to check it and it’s not quite worth an RSS feed onto the Google home page (at least not one that’s high enough up to notice when there’s a new post).

However, his isn’t just observational stuff. It’s nitty-gritty and he takes people on and kicks them in the face, so it’s worth it when you do get around to reading a post.

I like this rebuttal of the cloud-computing for security guys:

Some companies offering a hosted video service are trying to stream video back to a central server. They are trying to make it sound as if cloud computing is going to save the end user money. In fact, their solution is more expensive, but if they don’t put in a DVR they can save up front costs for the customer. Unfortunately, they seriously cut back the video resolution and frame rate: You aren’t going to get anything close to high quality video this way. They won’t even be able to offer standard resolution, never mind megapixel video to their customers. It is more expensive, on an ongoing basis, but it does eliminate the cost of the DVR.

And his posts have staying power, too, so it’s okay if you don’t read it until a few weeks after it went up.

(I’m a little troubled by Doug’s allowing of comments by phony posters who are actually just pimping teeth-whitening and easy loans and crap, but I’ll let that slide. Doug, hit the spam button, dude.)

ADT also has a newish blog that has a lot of potential. They started out slow, but have come out swinging lately, with a cadre of industry experts posting six times this month alone.

Ryan Loughin’s coverage of the CFATS bill, in particular, has been excellent.

Does anyone actually read the ADT blog? It’s hard to say. I haven’t seen any comments, but the security industry isn’t really big on comments, barring a few stalwarts. They have pretty good SEO, but I’m not sure how many people are searching the terms likely to get you there. Security directors, in our experience, aren’t spending a ton of time just surfing the web.

Regardless, it’s a good effort, and a fairly good resource, should anyone choose to take advantage of it.

But that’s the rub, obviously. Having been blogging just about daily for the past three years, I can tell you that the more informative the blog is, the fewer reads it gets (this one will probably fall pretty flat as people bail once they realize I’m not just ripping these blog posts apart for being corporate schill-speak, which would be fun, but ultimately pointless), unless it’s very in-depth and particularly useful information, but that’s the sort of thing I generally put on the main body of our site with the rest of the properly reported stuff, or in our Premium section. But if I’m being mean and ripping on someone, kapow, reads go through the roof (you people love it when I make fun of the mainstream media). Or if it’s bad news - layoffs, big losses, someone screwed up - then people read like it’s their job.

I can assure you that Schadenfreude is alive and thriving in the security industry. So are these corporate guys just wasting their time? If they’re trying to attract customers, probably. But if they’re looking to raise their profiles and actually engage in general discussion that’s being had online in security, it’s probably worth their while, assuming they’re not laboring over their posts. The more people putting their thoughts out there into the public sphere the better, I say.

I certainly makes my job easier.

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