When word emerged that Rackspace Hosting (RAX) had hired blogger Robert Scoble to form a new community called Building 43, much of the early coverage focused on the new undertaking as the next career move for Scoble, always one of the most-watched figures in the blogosphere. Scoble earned a reputation for independence during his time blogging for Microsoft, and made it clear that he’ll expect similar freedom in his new role as an employee of Rackspace.
“In Building 43 you won’t just find information about Rackspace,” he told TechCrunch. “We’re going to help the entire cloud computing industry get more adoption, users, customers. We’ll cover technologies from Rackspace’s competitors like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, GoGrid, IBM, and others. Our philosophy on Building 43 is a rising tide lifts all boats.”
So what’s in it for Rackspace? “It’s an unusual move for us,” acknowledged Lew Moorman, who runs the Mosso cloud computing division for Rackspace. “We think the marketing world is changing as well. We need to be more directly in dialogue about the future of technology.”
Rackspace, which went public last year, has built a profitable managed hosting business, but has been developing a suite of cloud computing services. Building 43 will expose the Rackspace brand to a community of small businesses interested in cloud computing.
“We’re a service provider, so there’s good synergy,” said Moorman. “It gives us a way to interact. But the agenda of this is not ‘we’ve got a cloud, we’ve got to get people on it.’ From a brand standpoint, it’s a sign of our commitment to future technology and our investment in the future. It reinforces our commitment and our association with the cloud. This is not about getting X number of leads per month.”
The new community’s mission it to “build a place for people fanatical about the Internet,” Moorman says. “It will be a place where thought leaders can talk about what is working and what is not, what is next and what is hype.” Towards that end, Scoble and producer Rocky Barbanica have been visiting companies including SmugMug, Google and Facebook to prepare for the launch of Building 43 next month.
Moorman understands that the arms-length relationship, with Rackspace as “sponsor and supporter,” may lead to tensions at times. “Robert and Rocky will push us,” Moorman wrote in announcing Building 43. “Like Robert pushed Microsoft, he will make us uncomfortable. He will praise our competitors and point out our missteps. But, he will force us to get better. He will force us to embrace the future and the commitment required to getting there.”