This is my response to a long thread over on Eric Peterson’s blog on Europe and the WAA.

Hey Eric –

Thanks for highlighting on your blog an important issue that the WAA Board has been chewing on for quite some time.

The reason that ** nobody ** from the Board has responded is because the WAA is an organization. We represent others and need to evaluate how they feel. We must speak for many and that takes time.

Thanks also for giving me a clear understanding of how corporate-speak is born.

You all know corporate-speak when you see it. Platitudes and fuzzy mumblings full of mild statements and moderate views that does its best to offend no one. I tried to write this on the plane last night and deleted three versions that were just awful.

So I am go on record here as Jim Sterne and NOT as the Chairman of the WAA. The Chairman speaks for the organization and I do not know what the organization is thinking yet – I’ll have to get back to you on that. So this is just me – on my blog instead of on the WAA blog.

This issue was brought into high relief recently at a very enjoyable evening with Wandering David Rhee and René Dechamps Otamendi at the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit in Munich and I told them most of this ( although I had to take off my WAA lapel pin before saying this stuff!).

First and foremost – YES – the WAA needs to be more valuable to ALL of members and that means localization. Local events, translated content on the website, addressing local issues – all of that is critical.

What’s personally frustrating is that people love to complain to me that the WAA Board has some sort of cabalistic control over the world and is deciding this and not doing that and that the WAA is this and isn’t that – but without the recognition that the WAA is a member-driven organization (thank you Stephane). Do WE want pages in German and Spanish? Great! Start writing! Do WE want an EU-focused research study on privacy and advocacy? Great! Join those committees and volunteer to get it organized!

But when WE want something to happen, understand that the Board is made up of volunteers who are all highly engaged in their own businesses and are not full time employees. This stuff takes time.

Here’s the main disconnect between the WAA and the community of its members – the most vocal people are entrepreneurs. They are passionate. They are agile. They are used to simply making things happen in this Web 2.0 world. The WAA as an organization is an organization. It sucks that I can’t just bend everybody to my will. It sucks that I can’t be Jean-Luc Picard say “Make it so!” and “Engage!” Instead, we are an collection of volunteers who must work on a basis of consensus. The Board is financially and legal responsible for not screwing up. So we have to move slowly and carefully. Arrrrgh!

So YES – the WAA needs to be more valuable to ALL of members and that means localization. YES, events, marketing, and web content translation and more should all be local and standards and education might be more global. But how?

Europe is very different from North America. Germany is very different from France and Italy and Belgium and Switzerland. Localization is critical. But how?

Separate but equal?
Sister Organizations?
Simply expand the organization we currently have in place?

And who decides how much to charge Indian members and how do you determine if they really are from India?

I want the Board to take the time to do some research on how others have solved this problem so they (WE!) don’t screw it up.

It’ll take time.
That sucks.
That’s life.

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