The Scoble Era is dead. Long live the Scoble Era.
I woke up this morning to a wave of news about Scoble's departure. At first I saw the rumor on an internal distribution list here at Microsoft. Since I caught one of the mails in the middle of the thread on my phone, my first reaction was "misunderstanding". Two minutes later I was sitting on my couch with my laptop soaking it all in, reading the "news flash" on blogs and thinking about what it means. And as I organize my thoughts and put them down to share with others, I want to make one thing very clear- Scoble was a really big deal and he will be greatly missed at Microsoft.
Selfishly, I'm going to miss Scoble as his friend since I won't see him as much as I used to.
I was first introduced to Robert via his blog like so many, and then we met at an event, and then another, and then became friends. I remember meeting with Robert when I was attending Microsoft's CIO Summit as a customer- I was an IT exec at a small-ish company in Missouri at the time. Robert and I went out to dinner and chatted for a while and I just remember how bright and energetic he was and how it was nice to have a great conversation with a person who was friendly, passionate about technology, and wanted to change the world. That meeting made an impression on me to be sure- Robert was over the top in his assessment of me but it was one of those meetings that changes your outlook on many things. I get out to Redmond every 2 months or so and I always try to look Robert up while I'm out there- not only do I enjoy his company but I learn a lot from him. I have a ton of respect for him and always enjoy hearing his opinions and insights about what is going on in the industry. Although I know I'm in a very long line of people, I definitely count Robert as a friend.
As a co-worker, I'm going to miss Robert's influence on Microsoft.
Scoble has made a huge impact on the company. When I look back at Microsoft's public face a few years ago, which was limited to the conferences such as PDC and Tech Ed and some scattered newsgroups, I'm startled now by the thousands of blogs, Channel 9 videos of every major product team, and executives that acknowledge blogs and social software as key to the success of Microsoft. I know that Robert made a huge impact there. There will be doubters (many within Microsoft) that say "how could one person really make a huge difference in a company of 60,000?". I'm here to tell you that they can and I've witnessed it first hand- Scoble was a "game changing" hire for Microsoft and was a huge lever for getting blogging adopted within the company.
Scoble also had a huge impact on my desire to join Microsoft, even though I took a field job and have never been very close to the center of the action. I know that Scoble had a major impact on people joining the company and was a major recruiting benefit- he cast Microsoft in a very positive light. As Dave states in his post, Robert leaving Microsoft is like a huge weight lifted. I have no doubt that this is the case, even though Scoble isn't bitter and will still be in the Microsoft camp on many things. The burden that Robert carried as one of the primary public personas of a 60,000 person software company led by the richest man in the world had to be a significant one. But it is a burden that Robert faced and conquered with great dignity in spite of some public gaffes and tons of scrutiny. Robert originally came here to help us ship Vista and he won't be here when that happens but I know that his mark will be on that product as well.
For the industry, I regret that they'll misunderstand the meaning of Scoble's departure.
I haven't spoken to Robert about this yet, but I'm positive that his leaving is much more about his quality of life and desire to make a huge change in the world than it is about Microsoft. And yet I'm concerned that so many people will interpret this as Robert leaving because we can't ship Vista, or because he didn't get paid enough, or that there is some dark secret about our impending demise that Robert learned while hanging out at BillG's house. All of those may be true (heh), but I believe that Robert is leaving to do the best thing for him, his family, and for his quality of life. In this new endeavor with podtech.net we should wish him well, but we should also recognize that Robert is just one person and that while his loss is real and significant, Microsoft can still continue to do many of the things that Robert helped them do. Microsoft can get along without Scoble. The meaning of Scoble's departure should be about personal achievement and a man who is striving for meaning, purpose, and success in his own life. This can't be about Microsoft and no one should cheapen this event by claiming that it is about a company. If I'm wrong on this point, I'm sure Robert will call me out and I'll come back here and correct my statement.
The Scoble Era is dead. His transparency, passion and energy will leave with him. For those of us that are left, we can either celebrate Scoble and what he brought to all of us while trying to continue it or we can try to tear him down and pretend that he wasn't significant and didn't change all of us. To me, Robert is the permalink personified- we'll always be able to point back to his impact on the technology community, on Microsoft, and on all of us. Good luck Robert.