In a recent posting, Curtis Preston wrote some pretty insightful words. I was waiting for the appropriate moment to reference them, and this seems as good as any. Since Val Bercovici referenced them recently, it seems doubly appropriate. Curtis wrote:
I treat vendor blogs as a printed version of a sales rep talking to me. I expect the sales rep to tell me all the best things about their product and none of the bad. I expect them to try to bash the competition at some point (although I don't like it when they do), but I also believe that the best source about their competition isn't them; it's their competition. So when they tell me that the other vendor's blood is green, I don't believe them. I grab the nearest sales rep and prick them with a needle and look very closely.
My thoughts on this? This is all true, with one important exception: where a product has a specific and significant shortcoming. To (unfairly?) perpetuate a stereotype of sales reps, we wouldn't expect that rep to immediately admit, or even admit under anything less than extreme duress, a critical failing of a product, would we? So, after thinking a lot about this, I think there is a valuable role for the competitive blog post: to expose a critical short coming. Hopefully this can be accomplished without any unnecessary histrionics, vaudevillian showmanship, or needless hyperbole. I regard this as similar to the role of the press in a democracy, or the role of the opposition in government: to provide checks and balances, and a contrary opinion. To keep everybody honest.
In the blogosphere, we have the added luxury that this can be a dialogue. If a competitor disagrees, there is every opportunity to engage in conversation, and point out the failings of the post. Does the reasoning hold up or does it not? Is it sound and relevant, or is it much ado about nothing? And ultimately I hope the readers bring their critical reading skills to the table so they can judge each position on its own merit.
So, when I posted that the NearStore VTL was practically guaranteed to lose data, I hoped that the analysis would: a) stand up to scrutiny by NetApp, b) that they would engage in dialogue if, in their opinion, I was wrong, and that, c) it was relevent. Well, like Meatloaf said, 2 out of 3 ain't bad.