An open letter to Anssi Vanjoki

Dear Anssi,

First let me say that you have always had my utmost respect and admiration.  When I was a Nokia employee I made sure to attend broadcasts of your speeches as they happened because I knew you would say something important that resonated.  And so it was a real thrill when you took time at one point to not only read one of my internal blog articles about computers but took the time to respond with a very lengthy, thoughtful email.  I was very impressed and encouraged by that.

As an employee I always challenged Nokia, especially in the areas of quality and customer service, but never quite worked up the courage to be very blunt.  Now that I have been out of the corporation a while, and have more of a Nokia community hat on (especially as a two-term maemo.org community council representative) there’s a little less self-restraint.  Surely you can see that when I point out some missteps by the Maemo team or write the company a bittersweet love letter.

In the comments following your recent call to arms at Nokia Conversations, you made a point of recognizing one of the canaries in the Nokia blogging sphere coal mine: Symbian Guru.  This was interesting to me on a personal level because Ricky Cadden is a good friend of mine… but also on another level because you seem to recognize the importance of the loss.

Regardless of how one may feel about Ricky’s motives, it must be said that his decision to close the site did not come quickly or easily.  I know: it’s part of a subject that he and I have discussed several times over the past year or so.  That is, the uncertainty and anxiety Nokia has been generating as a result of mysterious moves… or sometimes lack of them.

When we hear Nokia bet the company on Ovi, and see that the potentially-great service languishes for years, we can only assume the project isn’t really that important after all and is perhaps severely under-resourced.

When we in the US hear that our market is still relevant, but Nokia gives up presence to the point of letting Verizon take over sponsorship of a Nokia Theater while US market share and stock fall, we wonder if Nokia gets the concept of mindshare.

When Android can come out of nowhere and attain the growth and popularity it has, using concepts that Nokia actually pioneered and failed to capitalize, we wonder if Nokia is even serious about the smartphone-slash-mobile-computer space.

I could go on and on, but criticism is easy.  With this blog I have focused far more on suggestions and solutions.  That makes it easier for me to carry a torch others have dropped.  I don’t review devices; I analyze processes and practices.  But even that has its limits.  Just like the device reviewers, I have to focus my time on items with more than just mere potential– they must have promise.

I am taking your article as a promise.  As a former employee, current stockholder and Nokia community supporter I have a vested interest in you keeping it.  A big part of that will be following up with the defecting bloggers.  I even suggest you invite some to Espoo for some valuable face-to-face time.  Listening to the community will pay off more than any ad campaign.

I’m in Tampere this week representing MeeGo for KDE’s Akademy 2010, so I’m getting to hang out with several Finnish friends.  One suggested that rugged Finnish individuality may be, ironically, at the root of Nokia’s recent decline in some areas.  This admirable trait might just be keeping Nokia executives from listening to external viewpoints.  Or it may be something else entirely.  The problem is we’re tired of guessing, of watching, of waiting.  Of talk that doesn’t match the walk.

You’re seeing the first wave of defections, but it’s an important wave to catch and correct, because it’s the hard core devotees who are feeling burned.  When a company loses its free advocates, it’s in deep trouble.

So listen to the canaries sing.  The song isn’t pretty, but it’s one you need to hear.

Best regards,

Randall Arnold

12 responses to “An open letter to Anssi Vanjoki

  1. Hear hear! Great post my friend.

  2. Let’s hope they’d start fixing everything beginning from firmware in N97.

    Most bugs and issues can be addressed through proper firmware.

  3. Greta post as usual, @Texrat !!

  4. Great post as usual, @Texrat !!

  5. @cryptikware

    Great post. The Nokia market in the US needs help. Our US based development community (Symbian/Nokia) is small and needs more support from Nokia if we are to survive.

  6. Pingback: Whither Nokia | SysNet consulting

  7. anssi vanjoki

    Randall! I am listening to canaries and hope to understand and convert that singing to plain language, which results to action.

  8. I really like what Nokia and Intel are doing with Meego (besides its name) and the fact that Nokia dumped proprietary chargers on their phones show they are starting to get it too.

    I hope they bring Meego to the Nokia Booklet and implement the universal charger when it comes out: http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/1720821/laptop-manufacturers-universal-power-adapter

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