If you want an object lesson into the power of blogging and real-time customer feedback, you need look no further than Apple headquarters in Cupertino.
First off, full disclosure: I don't work for Apple, and never have. I did watch a biopic about Steve Jobs starring that guy from "E.R." once, and I recently bought a picture book that tells the story of Apple's history and which has some really cool pictures of now ancient Apple products.
However, I do own an iMac (for the record, the one which contains the IBM POWER chip), I think Apple's TV commercials are really cool, and I recently purchased one of their nifty new iPod nanos.
So, at minimum, I am qualified to comment on the situation as an interested consumer who recently bought one of their newest and sexiest products only to witness, before the product had even been delivered, all ---- break loose in a raging Apple PR blogostorm over the past several days.
Before we get to the nanostorm, let me just hit rewind and play back for you how it was that I came to want to buy a nano. Because it was certainly not a deliberate and considered purchase for a product to which I had no real practical need and whose primary function was already being served by another product I bought two years ago.
See, I already have an MP3 player...a 40GB Creative Labs Nomad that's about the size of a large pack of cigarettes and which holds most of the music library of the Western Hemisphere (and probably some of the Eastern's as well). So Turbo, you ask, why in the world do you want or need another MP3 player?
Well, first, having already admitted a weakness for Apple advertising, I saw the TV commercial. Don't underestimate the power of moving images and music coming through a large HD television set, particularly in a really cool and simple TV ad by a really hot ad agency.
Second, I watched the Webcast in which Steve Jobs introduced his new baby, and if Steve Jobs does nothing else, he does great launches.
Third, everyone but me jogs around Town Lake here in Austin with an iPod or iPod mini, and I decided it was time to up the ante and take the whole iPod jogging social Darwinism thing to a new level.
And, yes, I even read the nano reviews, particularly Mossberg's, and being the consumer electronics and gadget junkie that I am, I simply couldn't resist. Okay?!
I went to the Apple Web site, made my purchase, and began to wait patiently for the FedEx truck to arrive, constantly checking my order status and wondering when my custom laser-engraved nano was going to leave the dock and hit my doorstep.
So, sheer and utter panic set in this past Monday when I turned on my ThinkPad and visited techmemeorandum to see what was going on in the tech blogosphere and realized that a full-fledged "nanogate" had broken out, and this before I even took delivery of the product!
The clamor was apparently about the susceptibility the nano's small screen had to break and be easily scratched.
Let me get this straight, I thought: The blogosphere is already screaming about product returns and recalls for a product I just ordered and haven't yet received?! I haven't even had a chance to touch or hold my nano, much less scratch it or admire the cool custom laser inscription on the back, and I might already have to send it back when it hasn't even arrived yet?
I felt violated.
But here was the best part: The nanostorm was created by some guy named Matthew Peterson who had put up a Web site -- a blog, really -- hosted...get this...on the Apple .Mac hosting service.
Let me replay that for you: Some guy, who was ticked off about his broken iPod screen, used a Web site hosted by the company that made the product to send out his fire alarm to the marketplace -- and to Apple -- that he wasn't happy his iPod screen broke.
There's something poetically justified about all this, and yet, if you're a marketing or public relations professional, it must want to send you running for the exits.
But here's the best part: Matthew won.
Apple responded, and appropriately so in my humble, yet biased, "I-just-bought-a-nano-and-haven't-gotten-it-yet-delivered" opinion, by indicating that they had had "a vendor problem with a small number of units" and would gladly replace those susceptible to breaking through the company's AppleCare service. As to those concerned about the potential for scratching screens, a spokesperson suggested they consider buying one of the nano's nifty cases to keep it from getting scratched.
So here I am, one eye staring out the window, keeping watch for the FedEx truck, another on the Apple Web store, back on the digital hunt to spend good money to buy one product to protect a screen for another product that I have seen only in a TV commercial, and all because of some guy writing on a blog hosted on a service by the company that made the product that he was complaining about in the first place.
But that's okay: I just want my nano.