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AMD - The Feisty Chip Manufacturer’s Developer Blog

Jerry_sandersFounded in 1969 and based in Sunnyvale, California, AMD designs and produces innovative microprocessor and graphics and media solutions for the computer, communications, and consumer electronics industries. Tracing the history of Advanced Micro Devices is like tracing the history of silicon chips, and in that industry, you don't go far without seeing a connection with Fairchild Semiconductors, one of the original chip manufacturers. The company was founded with ex-Fairchild staff.

AMD's personality cannot be separated from its first CEO, Jerry Sanders III, known as colorful and brash, he also understood like Carnegie the importance of rewarding employees for hard work. Sander's successor, Hector Ruiz, has taken AMD into some major gambles in the last few years. Those risks gambles have resulted in several turns of fortune for the company. The AMD and Fujitsu flash memory joint venture, Spansion, was spun off in 2005. AMD purchased ATI technologies in 2006. AMD's sales had risen dramatically in the last few years, but in 2007 the company saw a 23% drop in sales because of competition from Intel and problems with the ATI Technologies acquisition. Reading the history of AMD the company appears to be quite plucky, which will help AMD rise above its current troubles, and I hope social media might be able to help in that process.

AMD's Business Blog

The AMD Developer blog appears to be several blogs formed by a number of different teams within the developer division within AMD, which includes:

Developer Performance Team at AMD
AMD Dev Central team
AMD Java Labs team
AMD Operating System Research Center Blog

Objective of the blog: One of the objectives cited on the blog is

"We will mostly concentrate on software optimization and performance topics. Certainly other areas related to software development and AMD products in general may be touched on. We may also dive in to hardware performance especially as it relates to I/O and how to extract the best performance from it from a software perspective."

The blog was started in June of 2007, and this quote is from the original post. Overall the blog is intended to be a technical blog supporting AMD products.

Corporate Blog Review

I am going to use Business and Blogging’s approach for reviewing corporate blogs for this review of the AMD Developer blog for the Fortune 500 Business Blogging Wiki.

On a scale of 1-10:

Ease of finding: 5 - It took me three clicks to find the blogs on the AMD Developer Central section of the AMD website. The blogs were found under the developer community section. Actually this does not seem unreasonable to me as the blog's content is focused on the developer community, rather than other AMD or industry related issues. I would have thought that a blog link might have appeared higher in the hierarchy within the community site.

Frequency: 3 - 43 posts, that's the number of posts made on the AMD Developer Blogs since the blog launched in June of 2007. The bloggers running the blog have typically made between 2-5 posts a month, except in September of 2007, when the blog bumped up to 20 posts for the whole month, and almost 50% of the blog's entire content.

Engaging Writing: 6 - I thought the blogger, Bao, had written several engaging posts, very engaging, and on the general topic of code development. He also wrote a few promotional posts about events, but that's not unreasonable, unless such posts dominant. Many of the posts only reference the author as AMD Developer Blogs Moderator, that makes it a little difficult to engage people in dialogue when you don't know who is writing a post on the team.

I saw several posts describing the developer’s experiences with current projects, and also several posts giving insight into how to program more effectively for AMD processors. Several of technical posts appeared to come straight from a programmer's manual. What worked best were the posts where the blogger team revealed information you'd only expect a member of the AMD developer team would have knowledge of from their inside role in the company. This post "Barcelona" Processor Feature: SSE Misaligned Access," is a good example. http://forums.amd.com/devblog/index.cfm?month=9&year=2007

Another blogger to highlight is Rahul Chaturvedi, who did a heroic job during September, lots of good posts, very engaging.

After a conference I noticed a recap blog post, rather than just a recap, when attending a conference it is important to blog about the event before the event quite actively, and really engage with other bloggers who are also planning on attending. If you have a booth, such behavior will attract more attendees who read those other blogs to your booth. This post of the conference recap was good, but too much of an afterthought.

Relevant: 8 - I found much of the content hard to digest, but then I am not the audience, the content was very relevant to the developer audience. What was there was relevant; it was just there are not enough posts.

Focused: 8 - the content was focused on AMD, its products and development, but I did not see very many posts about AMD customers, or much engagement with bloggers.

Honest: 5 - I saw few posts that linked to other blogs, linking to other articles and blogs is a great way to attribute references and also get people to visit your blog because when you linked to another blog post people click through and bloggers who read their traffic stats see the traffic coming from your blog. There was a lack of transparency when several blog posts did not identify the name of the writer.

Social Interaction Design (Interactive): 3 - In order to comment on the blog, you have to register with the AMD developer community. Making it easy to post comments would increase the likelihood of someone posting a comment. If you need someone to register many of the major blogging systems have registration methods, Blogger, WordPress and TypePad and MovableType. You might also use OpenID. My preference would be for an open comment policy with moderation on the backend. Require people to give their name, email address and link to a website or blog. As the blog appeared to be using forum technology, I did not see any trackbacks allowed. That's a real shame as trackbacks are used by other bloggers to notify the blogger and the other readers on a post that there has been another blog post written which references the original blog post. Not allowing trackbacks stifles good social interaction.

Responsive: 2 - I found very few comments on the blog 3-5 at the most, and of those probably only one to three comments were generated by people who did not work for AMD. I suspect the reason for the lack of comments is because of the lack of content, and outreach to other bloggers, and also the effort required to register. When a reader did comment and asked a question I was shocked by the response:

"Please note that your question has already been answered in our forums.


The developer team replied that the question had been answered in one of their forums. The blogger might have reproduced the answer on the blog, or given the forum url of the response in the answer.

Rating & Final Thoughts

Hector_ruizI give the AMD Developer blog a rating of 40 out of a possible 80 points, which rates the blog average. This is my second review of a Fortune 500 company corporate blog, and I came up with the same result but for different reasons. I thought the AMD blogs lacked good social interaction design, in that the blog made it difficult for readers to engage the bloggers at AMD. However, I did think the content highly relevant, and focused on their industry, and a number of posts were highly engaging, one or two of the bloggers wrote several splendid pieces. It would be great to see more posts from the AMD Developer blogs I suspect that would help to increase the number of comments.

I interviewed Beth Lambert, Online Community Manager, GIM at AMD and she was kind enough to answer a few questions about the process of social media engagement using the blog. Apparently AMD has only just been given the green light to start commenting on other blogs, and participating in other communities. However, the company has not yet developed the protocol for engagement but will do so shortly. Blogs are not seen as good tools for customer feedback, rather they are best used for discussion generation within a community; forums are better for question and answers from customers. I also spoke with Bao Phan, with AMD Developer outreach, he concurred with Beth, though he did think AMD used "blogs to engage with our audience and to facilitate an active conversation about specific topics, many of which center around our products and customer needs." I also asked if the company used any monitoring tools and Nielson Online monitoring tools had been used in the past.

The blog has not yet made the next step towards engagement with customers as AMD has only just given the go ahead to reach out to other bloggers. AMD is treading a familiar path trodden by many other companies with their blogs, first content is written on the blog, and then outreach spreads as a company becomes familiar how to work within a community’s blogging culture. As the interviews with Beth and Bao reveal AMD is intending to conduct more engagement in the future. It does seem that customer feedback for product development is not seen as a major objective of the blog, though I am sure the bloggers would take such feedback if provided. I believe additional content, and more engagement is needed to help propel the AMD Developer blogs to the next level in corporate blogging. After reading the history of the company, I am looking forward to seeing what this feisty chip manufacturer will do next to confuse its competitors and mollify investors through social media.