A Blog by Scott Isaacs

Scoble vs. Tinkler

So, Robert Scoble recently posted on why he is such an extremist (my own words) when it comes to being pro-RSS.  He claims that it builds relationships.  Brian Tinkler commented on his blog that, while RSS is a great and important technology, it could never replace the human element when it comes to relationships.  In Scoble’s follow-up post he says that he is “getting beaten up” by Brian’s comments.

Here is what I posted as a comment on Scoble’s blog:

I don’t think Brian Tinkler was discrediting the use and importance of blogs or RSS. He was just stating a truth that technology can never replace the human factor when it comes to building relationships. I subscribe to [Scoble’s blog] via RSS, but have no relationship with Scoble, and I doubt that my subscription would ever cause him to do any type of business with me.

However, if I got to know him, and had conversations with him — then I would be building a relationship. I used to work at a newspaper, and I had no more relationship with the authors of the articles that I read than I do with Scoble, or any other blogger, or any other company with an RSS feed.

Reading the articles, blogs or RSS items may help me learn more about the provider (author, company, etc.), but doesn’t go very far in creating a relationship.

On the other hand, if I already had a relationship with Scoble, then me subscribing to him and him subscribing to me very well could help strengthen our relationship.

But until we create artifical intelligence, technology will never “create” relationships — merely transfer information and possibly discover possible relationships.

[Edited and styled for use in this post.]

Like Brian, I, too, am a fan of Scoble overall, and I still plan to read him everyday because I see a lot of things there that I might otherwise miss. However, in my own opinion, Scoble is using the phrase “building relationships” in place of “gathering information”.  I can read internal blogs, personal blogs, press releases, newsletters, newspapers, journals, magazines or any other written information 24 hours a day, but have absolutely no relationship with the provider.

A relationship is a two-way connection or association.  I have a relationship with my wife, Kelly.  I have a relationship with my boss.  I have a relationship with my bank.  I have a relationship with my mortgage company.

I don’t have a relationship with Scoble, or any other supplier of some RSS that I comsume.  Likewise, just because you are reading my blog, doesn’t imply that you have a relationship with me.

Maybe it’s just semantics, but as ardent as Scoble has been on the topic lately, I’m tending to think that he is under the impression that he is actually building relationships by consuming RSS.  I have no doubt of the importance of RSS, and that it can play a critical role in supplying information in a timely, standardized manner, but let’s not lose scope of things.  It’s just XML — angle brackets, letters, numbers and a few equals signs and quotation marks. I’m a software developer and have written a number of CRM systems, and even those, with the word “Relationship” (Customer/Contact Relationship Management) in their name, don’t really build relationships — they are just a tool to track them.

The relationship comes from communication.  Anyone agree or disagree?  Leave a comment or e-mail me and let’s begin building our own relationships.


(P.S.  Just to be clear, I personally know Brian Tinkler through my involvement in the WI .NET Users Group.)


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  1. You do have a relationship with the RSS, it’s a connection with the content, the theme, the stories…it’s not one on one per se, but definitely a relationship.

  2. Maybe we just differ on semantics, but I don’t see the “connection” to the content as a “relationship”. What does the content know about me? At best, it only knows that there is someone that is consuming the feed with an aggregator. At worst, it doesn’t even know that.

    My own opinion is that you can’t even really have a “relationship” with something inanimate like “content”. (Of course, that statement could lead off onto a whole different discussion about content being inanimate versus being “alive”…. some other day.)

    Aside from that, even if we agree on our interpretaion of the words and come to the conclusion that you can in fact have a relationship with content (if that means that I can become familiar with the writer’s style and thoughts), is the content really what you want to have a relationship with? Wouldn’t you want to have a relationship with the content provider instead?

    I don’t read your blog, Dennis, because of the content itself. I read it because we already have a relationship. Now there are other blogs I do read solely for content, but I don’t feel that I have any sort of relationship there. It’s information, just like a magazine article.


    Scoble used the word relationship in the context of a personal association with his readers. “I want to know the people who work on the products I buy.” As an extreme view at the comment, you might imagine he wants to PHYSICALLY associate with his readers, maybe take us out to lunch or something. This perspective is very easy to argue with, as the post’s comments have proved.

    COMMUNITIES are discovered and realized through weblog syndication and aggregation. If you participate in that community, actively (by posting & discussing), or passively (just reading), you have a relationship with the community.

    Like it or not, you have a relationship with everyone that crosses paths with your blog. They’re your audience. Whether you know them or not, they may provide value to the information in your posts. If they post as JOHN Q, with no url, they still just used their relation with you, through your weblog, to provide value feedback to your post.

    I CONSIDER EVERY ONE OF US AS HAVING A RELATIONSHIP WITH SCOBLE, since we read his blog, and discuss his topics. It doesn’t mean he’s wining & dining us, or vice-versa, it means that we’re collectively providing value to a community that we are all part of.

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