Om Malik summarizes the episode as follows:
"Werner Vogels, the CTO of Amazon, has written a nakedly honest post asking Shel and Scoble - why Amazon should institutionalize blogging.
I wanted them abandon their fuzzy group hug approach, and counter me with hard arguments why they were right and I was wrong. Instead they appeared shell-shocked that anyone actually had the guts to challenge the golden wonder boys of blogging and not accept their religion instantly..."
"There is a whole bunch of people saying Vogels apologized. Here is what he said: “Most people seem to agree that my line of questioning was somewhat unforgiving when I felt they didn’t come up with the right answers. I promise to be nicer to our next guests.” Does that sound like an apology to you, or something got lost in translation."
The whole thing seems to be a mis-communication of expectations.
Amazon didn't give the two authors a heads-up that their CTO would be asking for "hard evidence" on why Amazon should institutionalize blogging, and as a result, the two seemed to have shown up with their standard "blogging is going to be REALLY cool for companies" presentation, laced with neat anecdotes about how companies big and small were using blogs and blogging.
This was not what Werner was expecting, as he explains it:
"...if you come to Amazon to tell us our business is going to really suffer if we do not blog, you better be prepared to defend your ideas with very strong arguments and hard evidence. We expect that from anyone, externally or internally, who wants to promote an idea within Amazon."
I can empathize with Scoble and Israel's predicament at this meeting.
As one of the first Wall Street analysts evangelizing the commercial opportunities of the internet starting in 1994, I can remember a number of meetings with institutional investors and corporations where the senior people demanded more than just "hand waving" about how the internet's going to be so great.
They wanted solid, quantitative data. And they were right to expect it. In those meetings, I was lucky enough to have been given the heads-up by those setting up the meeting, and went in with a lot more customized thought and work that tried to provide the numbers specific to the needs of the organization I was presenting to.
The problem is of course that in the case of early technology trends, it's hard to provide "hard evidence". And the onus of course is on the organization in question, to do the work to figure out why the trend may be important to it's business.
In this case, it doesn't seem like it was Scoble and Israel's responsibility to provide a customized "blogging case" for Amazon. They certainly weren't asked for one, and as a result, they didn't have one.
Hopefully, next time, the expectations are better coordinated.
Oh, by the way, if you want my hypothetical case for why Amazon should embrace blogging in a more mainstream way than they have, take a look at this post titled "On Amazon.com starting a Blogging service, a hypothetical case", published back last July.
There are even some hard numbers specific to Amazon in it.