Archives for April 2011

Why I wish Amazon Web Services the best

A couple years ago, ServInt – a “competitor” to my employer wrote this blog post:

Why ServInt Stands Beside Rackspace and You Should Too

I sent the author of that post an email and soon found myself developing a great relationship with the author – Reed Caldwell, the CEO of ServInt. Yes, some could say we compete – we are in the same business – but there is a LOT of business in this space, and there are many ways to differentiate yourself so you serve different segments.  ServInt and Rackspace have some overlap. Not a lot. Not enough that I feel either of us sees the other as “the enemy”. In fact, we’ve become online friends. Eventually we will meet in person, and I believe we will become better friends.

Today I tip my hat to Amazon Web Services – much as Reed tipped his hat to us years ago. We don’t “win more” when our competitors struggle. We “win more” when the entire industry wins more.

I have a great deal of respect for AWS. I have met Werner Vogels several times and think he is an amazingly humble, kind, and brilliant man. The type of man I cannot hope fails and that is working for a company I still do a lot of business with (just not in Cloud computing!).

Amazon will recover from this, and they will do so quickly. And customers everywhere will learn more about geographic redundancy – at least enough to investigate it and discover the cost/complexity and make an informed decision on what is right for their business.

And the Cloud will get stronger. Every failure teaches us more. Every failure makes us stronger and our customers better informed. As an industry.

To my friends at AWS – hang in there.  This too shall pass and tomorrow will be a brighter day – for all of us, and for all of our customers.




“I know when to give away a few daisies to sell a dozen roses.”

This was the title of a Twitter update I posted earlier this morning. And I included the fact that there was a story behind this tweet.

And here is the rest of the story…

I sent an email to our Chairman tonight – Graham Weston, who I respect a great deal.

Here is part of what I told him:

What I just really, honestly love about this company – I
feel completely comfortable putting my personal “brand” on the line.
I am completely comfortable telling companies that if we screw up, I
will make it right for them. I do NOT promise what Rackspace will do.
I promise them what *I* will do – and I know Rackspace will have my

I am not sure many companies get how empowering that is – that I trust
my employer enough to give my customers my personal guarantee –
because I know my company has my back.

I’ve spent two + years talking to some of the best customer support
companies on the planet – some of the largest high profile social
media adopters – and none of my peers feel that absolute sense of “my
back is covered”. It is extremely empowering and adds a level of
authenticity to what we do that we could not have planned for – or built a
program around. It is what I know of us as a company (much because I was a customer for so long) – the trust I have earned, and my knowledge of the business. I am not going to give away the farm. I am running a for-profit business. But I know when to give away a few daisies to sell a dozen roses.

This is NOT normal with the other companies I am dealing with. I think we are doing something pretty unique here – and I really appreciate it. Mostly I appreciate not having to get permission to do what is right. I am trusted to do what is right.

And empowered.

And that is very unusual. More unusual than we think, I think.

So I want to dig deeper into that, and find out how what we are doing works, and how we can extend it, and how we can even teach it to others – because we are fundamentally based on giving knowledge back. Be that OpenStack, or what we are learning in Social Media.

Knowledge is more fun when it is shared.

We love startups

With all of the frenzy of #SXSW I didn’t ever share this video with you. Love what we are doing with and for startups.  Love that Rackspace trusts me with stuff like this – because it is really important stuff.

Having Dave McClure on the same video is just golden – anyone that knows us both knows we share a lot of the same fucking quirks.  Like using bad language inappropriately 🙂

An oddly interesting conversation

My cell phone rang a while ago, and an older man asked, “Is this Robbie?”.  Hardly anyone calls me Robbie.  My mother did, and my dad sometimes does – but nobody else.  So I assumed, correctly, that this was a wrong number.

I tried to explain this to the gentleman when he told me I needed to shut up, so he could make amends and leave this world in peace.

It is really hard to just hang up when you hear something like that.

So, I told him I was Robbie.

Then he started to tell me his story – and explain to me how he wronged me 17 years before I was born.

It seems he, who he said was named Guy, was a bit of a swindler. A bit of a big-time swindler.  He confessed that he had stolen $6500 from me in a bridge building scheme in Colorado, back in 1944.  He says he claimed to be working for the government who needed a new bridge to supply a new top-secret base in New Mexico.

He rambled a great deal, and I could tell he suffered memory loss, because he repeated parts of the story several times.

This was a 45 minute phone call.  Why would I spend 45 minutes listening to him?  Well, it actually just beat anything on television.

At the end, he was sobbing, and asked my forgiveness, which I gave.

At the end, I was compelled to send a Tweet:

I have the most unusual conversations. With the most interesting people. That nobody has ever heard of. #thingsthatmakemesmile

Why? Well, why the hell not? #custserv

Most Tuesday evenings, at 8PM Central, I am tied to Twitter, engulfed in a chat that most would really not want to join.  Nobody sane, anyway!  Why?  It is a Customer Service chat – you can find it on the hash tag #custserv.

Every week there is a new “topic” – put in quotes because the topic is always the same – “How do those of us that love customers get the voice to speak for them, the credibility to do what is right for them, and the respect to represent them to our respective companies?”

In other words, we often bitch when we don’t feel the love and respect we think our customers deserve from our employers. Note – I did NOT say the love and respect WE expect we deserve.  Completely different things.  Which is what makes us people who truly love customers – we put them before us. We actually can’t help it.  It is just who we are.

And we are a widely disperse group – some of us (me, luckily) have a great deal of voice and leverage for my customers.  Others feel very little empowerment.  We come together to try to change it for everyone.  To try to learn enough, and teach enough – to try to just move the bar a little bit.  Every week.  Move the bar.  Just a little.

Over time, I hope the bar moves a lot.

But I don’t expect a lot today.  I do enjoy the company of like-minded people who care about more than a paycheck and to whom a customer is not a 16 digit number.

I love the fucking humanity of it.