Updated: 6/25/2005; 9:37:20 PM.


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  Sunday, October 05, 2003

  Weblogs in business: following the culture or changing it?

Compare and contrast :)

Guardian Unlimited: Why blogs could be bad for business by Neil McIntosh

While blogging's earliest advocates operate on the "information wants to be free" principle, many businesses would shudder at the very thought.

"Information is power" is a more likely mantra in many organisations. Whenever you hear those three words, you're hearing the signal of the kind of closed information culture where there's also a heads-down, bunker mentality utterly unsuited to the openness required for a convincing weblog, be it an external PR effort, or knowledge-sharing internal one.

There are plenty of areas of business where people are judged on their knowledge, and the competitive edge - and thus the safety of everyone's jobs - is the thickness of a single good idea. Share it all on a weblog, with competitors or (worse) an office rival? You must be kidding.

Robert Scoble, very passonately, about "why do you weblog instead of doing something to get rich?"

So, why do this if not for money? Well, I started doing this mostly for myself. I am a news junkie. A community junkie. A computer junkie. I wanted a way to keep track of the sites I visited that I found interesting. I wanted a way to keep track of people I find interesting. I wanted a way for me to talk to the world about my point of view. I wanted a way to change the way corporations talk with their customers.

[..."weblogs and Miscrosoft vision" and more...]

But, no, there's lots of people out there who think there just is no value in having a conversation with customers. Don't worry. There were people in the 1970s who thought the idea of a personal computer was wacky. I know that people asked Steve Wozniak "why don't you do something with your time that has a chance of making you rich?"

I think we all know the answer. I'd rather change the world, thank you very much.

I agree with Neil McIntosh that weblog use in companies depends on their culture or, I would put it more specific, on having a critical mass of individuals that can change it. He is right that bloggers tend to be "knowledge-sharing is power" people (e.g. personal characteristics that support blogging). But the question is: if people believing in the cluetrain manifesto are anomaly or early signs of changing balance between businesses and their customers?

And it also comes to more fundamental question: do you believe you can change the world?

  Perseus weblog study

The Blogging Iceberg - Of 4.12 Million Hosted Weblogs,Most Little Seen, Quickly Abandoned by Jeffrey Henning [via Andrew Orlowski]. An interesting study about weblogs:

Perseus Development Corp. randomly surveyed 3,634 blogs on eight leading blog-hosting services to develop a model of blog populations. Based on this research, Perseus estimates that 4.12 million blogs have been created on these services: Blog-City, BlogSpot, Diaryland, LiveJournal, Pitas, TypePad, Weblogger and Xanga.

Interesting findings:

...The most dramatic finding was that 66.0% of surveyed blogs had not been updated in two months, representing 2.72 million blogs that have been either permanently or temporarily abandoned. Apparently the blog-hosting services have made it so easy to create a blog that many tire-kickers feel no commitment to continuing the blog they initiate...

...Blogs are famed for their linkages, and while 80.8% of active blogs linked to at least one external site from a post on their home page, these links were rarely to traditional news sources. Only 9.9% of active blogs had a current post that linked to one of 2,875 traditional news sites. So blogging in practice is not just about linking to news articles...

...Blogs are currently the province of the young, with 92.4% of blogs created by people under the age of 30.

And from the conclusion:

When you say 'blog' most people think of the most popular weblogs, which are often updated multiple times a day and which by definition have tens of thousands of daily readers. These make up the tip of a very deep iceberg: prominently visible, but not characteristic of the iceberg as a whole.

What is below the water line are the literally millions of blogs that are rarely pointed to by others, since they are only of interest to the family, friends, fellow students and co-workers of their teenage and 20-something bloggers. Think of them as blogs for nanoaudiences.

I guess this study correlates well with an average view on weblogs: weblogs are "me and my cat" diaries by teens :)

I found the most interesting part at the end, in "caveats" describing research method:

  • only hosted blog services were considered (because your-own-hosting-blogs "require more work to set up and will be characteristically different than those blogs created using hosting services")
  • most demographic data are taken from LiveJournal and Xanga

So, they didn't take into account Movable Type blogs (and MT blogs have larger share than some of hosted services they looked for) and hosted Radio blogs.

I think that selecting a sample for such research should be considered more carefully: focusing on some platforms/hosted services and not the others can impact results a lot. I don't have hard data here, but I believe that demographics, blogging goals and styles differ a lot between blogging communities (e.g. comment about word of the mouth and differences between Radio and LiveJournal blogs), so you are likely to get biased sample selecting only some of them.

I would also look at the correlation between technology "community and communication" features and links/number of readers of a weblog. For example, weblogs with RSS feeds or embedded comments or community features like "friends" in LiveJournal have higher potential for survival (because even those who write for themselves write more when they have readers). See Marysia on interpersonal communication on blogs

Another caveat gives hope for more careful follow-up studies:

This is the first in a series of studies we will be conducting on the blogging community, each designed to help strengthen our understanding of the community as well as to refine our blogging research methodology.

  Random BloggerCon quotes

During last few days I was browsing many BloggerCon-related weblogs (If you are interested, you can check BloggerCon webcast, aggregated blogroll (RSS) and Feedster BloggerCon buzz)... 

Betsy Devine notes on educational panel 

Dave Weinberger, JOHO: Is it the opinion of the panel that weblogging is a life skill, and everyone should learn it? Or is it like singing, that not everybody should do it in public? [...]

Kevin Marks, Epeus Epigone: Blogging is not selective by race, it's selective by electricity. Also, you can't really blog if you haven't mastered the basic skills of reading and writing.

...and on Cluetran 2003 panel 

Adam Curry: When you talk about what people are doing with the web now, think about the way the telephone was used when it was new--to call ahead and tell you that a telegram is on the way. [...]

Ted Henderson: People have compared weblogs to the telephone. I don't know many people, except maybe teenagers, who pick up the telephone and dial random numbers to get their message out. [...]

Kevin Marks: The net is too big for us to see all of it. It's like Caliban's mirror, because you see what you're loooking for. If you look for dark things you'll see dark things.

Lis Riba 

Blogging is just a technology. It doesn't make us better people, doesn't by itself improve our lots or say much about ourselves.

Lis again 

I raised my hand to ask a question, and by the time I finally got to speak, began with a statement that garnered applause and I've now seen quoted on several other blogs: 'We're a roomful of people used to writing monologues trying to have a dialogue.' As somebody else pointed out, the key question is often who can speak when; with weblogs, it can happen in parallel.

Lance Knobel 

I have never been to a conference where there was such easy intercourse between panel and audience: everyone was truly a participant, in the best sense of the word.

Part of the explanation was the generally high standard of topics and panels. But I think there is something more fundamental. Since everyone (or just about everyone -- I found one exception) at the conference was a blogger themselves, everyone is comfortable with voicing their views, and is generally pretty cogent in the way they do it. It makes for a very potent mix.

  Revealing part of yourself without knowing it

Hairdressers can do magic. They look at you, they find out something that you don't even know about yourself and they work to make it visible. It may be something you always wanted to be or something that you tried to hide from yourself, but after being in good hands for your haircut you always come to know something new about yourself.

This seems to do nothing with knowledge management, learning or weblogs, but I kept on thinking about it yesterday reading Small pieces loosely joint (thanks, Ton) at my hairdresser and thinking about the quote by Susan Mernit [via Just a Gwai Lo]:

The topic of privacy and what you do and don't write on your blog--both your personal blog and a workplace blog--interests me as a question of privacy, but also of voice, of how bloggers present themselves. After all, blogs are personas. We emphasize particular aspects of ourselves, allow things we want to share to be revealed, and try to obscure those we consider private, want to hide, or are not aware of.

We can try writing to show part of what we really are, but I have a feeling that weblogs disclose more of us then we are aware of. A good reader can tell me something that I don't know about myself as my hairdresser makes visible the part of my personality that was hidden from me. It can be scary, but for me learning is always worth the risk.

More on: bloggers 

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© Copyright 2002-2005 Lilia Efimova.

This weblog is my learning diary. Sometimes I write about things related to my work, but the views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

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