For the Birds

The cloudy weather broke for a few hours yesterday morning, but it was still cold. I took my telephoto to the park to take photos of birds. Not flowers, or derelict buildings, cute children, or dogs in costume — birds.

There’s a pileated woodpecker that frequents one of the parks. I’ve heard him and others have seen him, but in four years, all I’ve heard is his loud tap, and all I’ve seen is the very last of his feathers as he flies away. To odd further to the injury, he would usually laugh as he flew.

“Ah Ha HA”, he would go, just like Woody the Woodpecker. “Ha ha HA!”

However, Woody the illusory woodpecker aside, there are other pretty, flashy birds about. Now is the time to take cardinal photos as the males find a branch on high somewhere and sing out their courting song. At the park, I followed the song from tree to bush, to tree, but the only bird I managed to take a photo of was this robin.

Finally I came upon one bright red male, strutting his stuff high in the air. I quickly took as many photos as I could before he flew off.

As I started to turn away, a bit of bright red directly to the side caught my eye. Not only was there a cardinal close by, it didn’t seem to be frightened of me, and actually eyed me as it preened and fussed with its feathers in the morning breeze. The day was my day for bird, after all.

Seeing the cardinals reminded me of a miserably failed example of ‘viral’ marketing that happened in St. Louis in the last month. Seems a radio company staged fake thefts of cardinals from billboards related to the radio stations coverage of the Cardinals baseball team–a much beloved entity here in St. Lou.

As part of the effort, the company also created a fake weblog, posted comments in other weblogs related to the Cardinals, and on fan forums — all of which blew up nastily in the faces of the ad company and radio station. Fans called the acts for what they were: a scam, and a fraud. The company and radio station both had to apologize, and it’s unlikely either organization’s credibility will be very high for a long time to come.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Today article on the episode included a quote from Steve Rubel:

Successful marketing and public relations “really means engaging with the public directly and meeting them where they’re at and providing them with an interactive experience,” said Steve Rubel, a blogger hired by Edelman public relations in Chicago. “More often now, it’s not in traditional media.”

And more often than not, such efforts are for the birds.

Take the recent brouhaha about Windows Vista code and major re-writes thereof. Though I appreciate that the song and dance brought Don Park out of his quietness, the situation is that Microsoft did not meet rumor of impending code rewrite with official statement, which would have quieted the concerns and clarified the situation. Instead, Robert Scoble and his friends rode into town, slamming people right and left, sneering, threatening, demanding, and basically leaving the issue more clouded rather than less. Even weblog posts that stick, more or less, to the facts, don’t necessarily discount the issue where there might be major problems in existing code: not writing new code is not the same as not having to fix major problems in existing code.

If there are concerns about certain aspects of the architecture of a complex application it’s not unheard of, especially with operating systems, that 60% of the code could be impacted–a faulty security implementation, a buggy Vista version of COM+ would be all that’s needed. It is this that could cause major concerns about the reliability of Vista as a product; delaying its rollout to personal and corporate machines for years. Now is the time for Microsoft to move, swiftly and surely, with corporate press releases providing an official response to the rumors, as well as reassurance to the PC manufacturers and consumers. But no, the company relies on ‘viral marketing’. Biggest Stuff up ever, indeed, and I’m not talking about the code.

This response is an excellent example of Rubel’s “engaging with the public directly”. As a way to increase buzz for certain bloggers, it’s quite effective. As an effective solution to counter any rumors and reassure impacted vendors and customers alike, though, it’s for the squirrels.

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8 Responses to For the Birds

  1. Charles says:

    There’s an old programmer’s axiom, it comes from Don Knuth I think, that if you have to fix a program and it requires rewriting more than 10% of the code, you would be better off to toss the whole thing and rewrite it from scratch. You’d be finished faster and you’d have better code.
    Conversely, I would say that it doesn’t matter whether 10% or 60% of your code needs a rewrite, in that state you are 100% from shipping a working program.
    There is no way for PR to salvage the Vista fiasco. This is Microsoft’s biggest disaster ever. Other companies have bitten the bullet, tossed out years of work and whole operating systems (think: Copeland) and learned from it, becoming stronger than ever. How a person or a corporation handles failure is a better measure than how they handle success.

  2. loren says:

    Ooooh, red birds, pretty red birds.

    You have something the Pacific Northwest doesn’t have, though it was awful beautiful on the Sound yesterday in the bright, warm sunshine.

  3. Seth Russell says:

    Your “bright red male” flew on to my desktop … go see

  4. Shelley says:

    Saw that Seth — having some fun with DHTML?

    Loren, I envy you that pileated woodpecker photo. I bet it was pretty there yesterday–heading into best time of year to be in the northwest.

    Charles, I think that allowing the rumors to run rampant isn’t the smartest thing MS had indulged in lately. Depending on webloggers to emulate pit bulls in attack mode as the company’s sole line of defense is even less intelligent.

  5. Elaine says:

    I love that squirrel; it looks so mocking.

  6. Seth Russell says:

    Saw that Seth — having some fun with DHTML?

    Yes indeedeee, i summarized the technology for you here. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  7. Danny says:

    Wonderful photos. We’ve got a couple of woodpeckers nearby which sound like the spring-loaded toy ones.

    Hmm, reticulated woodpeckers…does that mean they’ve got wireless..?

  8. Shelley says:

    Elaine, it was a mighty assertive squirrel. Wouldn’t let me sit.

    Danny, thanks for pointing out my munged word. I do that at times, and am glad to get a nudge.

    BTW, I have something later on RDF and OPML…just for you.