Microsoft’s Channel 9 and cultural rules

Channel 9, the social networking blog and wiki for Microsoft’s developer community and the outside world run by ‘5 guys from Redmond’, celebrated its first birthday last Wednesday.

One of those 5 guys, Robert Scoble, deserves much credit in driving Channel 9 to its current prominent success level as a one-of-a-kind place that video showcases some of the latest things going on at Microsoft that never would otherwise be reachable by such a broad audience, and enabling anyone to voice an opinion.

Over at the E-mediators blog, Jon Froda has details of an interview he’s done with Lenn Pryor, the originator of Channel 9, about it and a few other things:

Corporate v-logging, webcasting, video-promos, Video conversation, "open source marketing" ? Channel9 is hard to describe in one word, so we decided to get the story from the source – Lenn Pryor. Lenn Pryor is director of platform evangelism at Microsoft and the guy behind Channel9, and therefore often referred to as the boss of Robert Scoble.

Amongst the detailed content outlined above, the interview and Jon’s transcript highlight some very interesting points about video communication and new channels like blogs from different cultural points of view. These differences are valid for any organization with employees of different nationalities and from different cultures.

For example, on ‘exporting’  the Channel 9 concept and getting employees and others involved in different countries, Lenn said this:

[…] Then we ended up in India (….) and we made the first set of Indian videos, Indians speak good English and we had great conversations, so we put them up (on the website), and nothing happened, everyone listens no-one writes back. We thought hmm and we waited a few more days and put another video up, no-one writes a thing, we looked at the stats, and there was a couple of thousand people watching, then we talked to the Indian people and we asked why aren’t they commenting don’t they like the videos, and they said well you don’t know anything about Indian people, they said that it is not polite to stand up and posting stuff and criticising, saying “I think this and I think that”, it is impolite.

So we learned something big, just because North Americans likes to come on our site and yell about things, you know 40 % of our traffic comes from outside the US, Germans, Swedes, Japanese, people from Israel, Saudi Arabia and so on, but they are all the “internet generation”, they are all the generation Y, and they are all so familiar with communicating and play this game. There are new cultural rules on the internet and they exist outside their own country.

There is a new culture building on the internet, where it is ok to be as loud as an American, to criticize openly and freely and not to worry about the repercussion, because the internet is without [governance]. So we made the assumption that we could connect the real world in India with the new internet rules, and that people would just jump on, and they didn’t. Because their face was on there, so now the face thing worked the opposite way: now your face is on and you don’t want to be seen as impolite, this is great learning, anonymity makes all the difference.’

The 40+ minutes interview is well worth the listening time. You can download the MP3 (5Mb) to listen, and/or read the interview transcript.

For insight into Robert Scoble and his evangelism role at Channel 9 and in blogging, you can listen to the interview Shel and I did last month for an edition of our podcast show (download and transcript).