Sunday, March 02, 2008

Motorcycle Bloggers International.

There aren't any photos for this post. I just need to get something off my chest. I really try not to post anything that could cause offense to too many people. It's a carryover from being a motorcycle safety professional, I guess. While I personally feel that it's possible to be too politically correct, as instructors we have to keep our personal opinions to ourselves. If something we say or do makes a student shut down towards us, we've robbed them of the the chance to get what they need. In other words, the critical training has to take precedence whether I agree with a person's views or not.

That's been the case with this blog. I try to share riding wisdom and tips as well as share stories of commuting. Despite being a fairly opinionated person, I've really tried to keep that out of this blog. Some people make a great living at being controversial. That's not the goal for me here. Which is why most of us don't try to use our blogs for commercial gain. We're all more alike than not. It's so much more fun to celebrate what we have in common than to fight over differences, don't you think?
Nonetheless, I'm going to cross my self-imposed line here. Rather than write something under the influence of a provocation, I've let it sit on the back burner for a few days. I find that I'm still compelled to write this. It has to do with the leadership of the MBI. This will not be complementary. It is not, by extension, an indictment of the good bloggers who belong to this organization. It's aimed squarely at Mike Werner.

When MBI started, I joined, as did a lot of other bloggers. My impression was that it would be a forum for fellow motorcycle related bloggers to interact. Turns out that the expressed purpose was to present annual awards in the motorcycle industry. I'm ok with that even though it's not what I expected. One of our own, Steve Williams received an award last year for best scooter related blog. Something like that. Sorry Steve! His most excellent blog, Scooter in the Sticks, was certainly deserving. In my mind, that's a very positive thing that came out of the awards.

What's not so positive is the communications to those of us who are slow to "participate".

I've been in leadership roles for most of my life. I've also had extensive training in this capacity. Every once in a while I've needed to sit someone down and ask them this question.

"Do you realize that you are perceived as ( fill in the blank )?"

So I'm presenting the following in this light. Yes, I'm also sending a personal communication to Mike, as well. The reason I'm making this as public as my blog allows it to be is that I'd encourage others to express their feelings to Mike.

Here's a couple of recent e-mails I've received. I'm just one of a long list of receipients.

Number 1.

Dear fellow blogger,
It may have escaped your notice, but we're in the middle of our annual award voting process at MBI. Since you yourself asked to join this group, and we've clearly stated that the main reason for MBI was to hold an annual awards program, we ask your help and cooperation.
So, please do make me send reminders after reminders.....So far, only 30 of 152 of you have voted, and 26 have written about the awards. That's really bad !!!!

Number 2

This is become very boring. Out of 157 members, only 63 have voted at the MBI members area. After a lot of work by some MBI members, plus upcoming costs for the PR releases on the awards (they don't come cheap), it would seem that most of you can't find the time to spend a minute to vote as MBI member.

Are you not interested in MBI, if so, let me know, and we'll remove you from the membership. That way you'll not receive these messages from me.

MBI was created initially for the awards, and with the awards, we hope to gain strength and credibility with the industry. If you think the MBI is a waste of your time, that's fine, but than let us know. If you're traveling, that's understandable (I know some of you are on world tours).

These e-mails didn't make me feel motivated to participate. I'd be more likely to follow the course set out in the second sentence of the second e-mail. In other words, I'm pretty much shut down to the message.

Mr. Werner, you're more perceived as punitive here, not as a leader trying to share a vision. I'm sure many who received these and other e-mails feel similarly. On the positive side, here's a little feedback.

63 out of 157 comes out to around 40 percent. If only that small a percentage are buying in, then perhaps there's a failure to communicate your vision. Up until this most recent e-mail, I personally had no clue that awards were the express purpose here. Maybe I'm not the only one. Better communications presented in a more positive manner might be in order. Here's a formula I use constantly with people who report to me.

Performance = Capacity - Interference

I have to assume good intent on the part of these folks. If performance isn't happening then I have to look at what might be getting in the way. It might not be the person at all. It might be something the company's not doing correctly. Could the same be true for MBI?

That's as far as I'm going here. It's feedback, not derision. If others of you feel the same way then express yourselves. MBI could be a really good thing. Member participation entails more than just following directions, though. Leadership needs input from the troops to help determine how things are going. Done with the right motivation, this input can be a positive thing.

Miles and smiles,



Bryce said...

The great god Werner has spoken!
Too bad nobody is listening!
Maybe its time young Dan told Herr
Werner to go jump in the lake.

Dan...your blog is your business. If you were intent on writing a book,
to make money, that would be a different scenario.

Bottom line, ignore Werner and continue as before.

Your blog is a learning tool about
motorcycles, and people.

And the happenings of an Intrepid Commuter who spends some of his time instructing those who wish to know how to pilot two wheels, one of which is motorized.

John Davis said...

Dan, I love your blog and read every post. As a fellow northwest blogger and member of MBI, I feel compelled to speak up on this post.

Since joining MBI on October 24, 2006, you have spent a total of 26 minutes on the MBI forums and posted exactly once, on October 25, 2006. So much for interacting with your fellow bloggers.

MBI is a community. The awards are the primary reason for the community and this is made explicitly clear to all invited members. Without the participation of the members the awards fail and the primary purpose of the community is lost.

Like any community, membership in MBI brings with it an obligation to participate. If you are not interested in participating, so be it. I, and your other readers, will still read your blog. No harm, no foul.

As for leadership, I too have significant training and experience in the subject. I have never found it productive to offer negative or adjusting feedback in a public forum.

You have very appropriately offered your feedback to Mike privately. Of course, the MBI forums are also available to you to discuss your concerns with the other members of the community. I see nothing to be gained by your public airing of this issue.


Bill Sommers said...

Okay, check this out. I too am a member of MBI, and did my voting off the link from Steve's blog. It was quick and easy, and I assumed done. I was wrong.

I received an email from MBI telling me that they had recognized that I had voted, but I hadn't done so from the members side. I was encouraged to log on with my password etc. and vote again. I don't know about you, but I didn't feel right about voting twice. So I left it as it is. My vote is in, and even though I may have screwed up by taking the easy way, oh well.

I too made the assumption that MBI was more of an "open forum" for us in blogtown, and not just for the awards, but I call myself guilty for missing the fine print that stated that the true focus of MBI was about the awards only.

Was there "fine print?"

Have fun,

Conchscooter said...

I enjoy writing my blog. So, apparently do you. I enjoy reading your blog.Positive enough? 'Nuff said.

PhilBiker said...

Firt time commenter.... Long time fellow M/C Commuter.... I enjoy your Musings blog quite a bit.

Frankly, those emails are amateruish at best. If I were blogging in this group I'd be insulted and quit after reading the first one. There are plenty of blog hosts.

Do what you want.

irondad said...

Thank you for yor loyalty and support. Although I would feel badly if this became a forum to bash Mike and MBI. That was not my intent.

I must have missed the fine print, too. Oh well.

Works for me.

Thank you for taking the next step and commenting. Appreciate the support and the fact that you're reading!

Take care,


irondad said...

I cruise on over to NW Cycle News now and then. Didn't realize you were involved.

This comment is separate from the others since it will be a little longer.

First off, I greatly respect the fact that integrity and civility seem to be firmly in place with you. I know there were probably some things you wanted to say more forcefully but held back.

I can receive feedback as well as offer it. I appreciate your comment.

Isn't it amazing how we are all tracked? You're quite right in that I have seldom been on the MBI forums. In my experience these forums are usually dominated by a few outspoken and prolific commenters. For the most part, nothing of real value comes from them. This may not be the case with MBI. I've found that forums are forums wherever one goes.

You may be right that I am not the kind of person that MBI wants. I intereact with fellow bloggers by actually visiting their blogs, reading what they write, and offering my own interchange of encouragement, etc. Other than that, I'm pretty much a solitary creature. Maybe that's why I was so drawn to my style of riding!

Whether we participate or not on a daily basis, I would seem to think that if MBI wants credibility with manufacturers it would help to show a large number of members, silent or not. Manufacturers don't track activity, just totals.

The issue I brought up, though, had nothing to do with my activity level. It was the tone of the e-mails.

Does the fact that I and others like me participate very seldom make it okay to send us e-mails that are perceived to be demeaning and disrespectful?

As one of the other commenters pointed out, if one feels like he's being put down, he can just quit and go somewhere else. It would have been easy for me to do what Mike suggested. Namely, resign from MBI and quit getting these e-mails. That seemed a little like just slinking away. Not a positive approach in my book.

At this point I am still a member ( although that status will probably change, and maybe not by my choice! ) and as such I was trying to offer feedback. That seemed more positive than just leaving in a huff. I posted it on the blog to maybe embolden others who feel the same way to offer their feedback on what could make them more willing to participate. You know how it is. People will follow someone else but won't start the ball rolling.

Management needs feedback. We just did an instructor update yesterday and asked for the very same kind of honest feedback.

Sometimes feathers get ruffled. Nonetheless, we need to hear what the troops are really feeling.

Take care,


Krysta in Milwaukee said...

Dan, you're doing fine. Vote if you want, don't if you don't. Just don't stop teaching us!

What benefit do you get from the award-granting organization? Is it worth it to spend a few minutes on an activity which seems worthless to you in order to get that benefit?

To the MBI folks...:

1) In most any vote, 40% turnout is pretty good. (That's sad in the case of real politics.)

2) Berating people isn't the answer.
Find out why they haven't voted. If you can change something so that they will vote, do it. (Are there multiple candidates for each award? No reason to vote. Does it really matter? No reason to vote.)

3) If voting for award recipients was a requirement of membership when people signed up, then disenroll them for not voting. Otherwise, leave them alone. Each person participates at the level they want.

4) As others have pointed out, people don't have to be actively posting on a specific forum, or even reading it, to be supporting motorcycle-related blogs. And tracking usage is just creepy. What's the point of it???

I'm the Public Affairs officer for our area of the Coast Guard Auxiliary [SE WI]. Part of my job is getting volunteers to staff various events we've been asked to participate in.

Getting upset and snippy at them only gets their stubborn up. Dealing with volunteers requires you to motivate them with carrots, 'cause you don't have sticks.

Becky said...

I felt a little perturbed when I got the email from Mike. I also had voted, but not in the member's section. It took me a week of trying to log-in to vote, and finally did so last week, again. The email made me feel like I was being scolded, and threatened. It didn't make me want to go into the forum and start participating in discussions. I don't care about awards that much, so if that is MBI's only intent it's too bad.


Chuck said...

I had the exact same reaction when I got those emails from Werner, with the added aggravation on the second one that I HAD voted, but had apparently voted in the "wrong" section. The voting instructions were so unclear that I didn't even know there was a separate vote for members (and don't get me started on THAT). So I agree that this is completely the wrong tack to take.

Also, I too had no idea that giving out awards was the reason behind MBI. I thought it was about creating a community of rider/writers -- that's why I joined. Why the hell would I join an organization to give out such idiotic awards as "Wish we'd thought of that"?

I'm thisclose to dropping out of MBI, and these emails from Werner are helping me decide.

Heinz & Frenchie said...

Sounds like MBI could use a tune up. We have seen the posts on different blogs asking people to vote. Personally we found that we did not feel qualified to vote on all the different catagories. So we left. An organization that exists solely to give out awards seems to be beneficial to the manufacturers of the products more than the membership. Just our lowly opinion.

Road Captain said...

The world needs an organization called "Motorcycle Bloggers International" to unite the voice of our two wheel community! A place to call home. Too bad Mike chose this name for his "Motorcycle Industry Rewards Organization". I am gravely disappointed in this revelation. I was looking forward to joining the esteemed MBI. I don't care about these awards, I don't care about the "industry" and I will not vote! Mike, please take note that less than half of your members are interested in these awards. Please change your vision for the good of the motorcycle community and continue to be the hub of two wheel blogs around the globe.