Studying weblogs at Microsoft: connecting the dots
"Connecting the dots" is the biggest fun I have doing my study of weblogs at Microsoft... As an outsider I have the excuse of asking stupid questions and the value of insights coming from getting enculturated into local practices. As an insider (signed NDAs :) I have certain degree of trust and access to the information I wouldn't be able to reach otherwise. As a blogger I pay attention to the details. As a researcher I have time to go around and ask questions and I have an inclination to look how details fit into a bigger picture.
With fun comes the responsibility.
Sometimes I realise that having access to all bits and pieces, blog initiatives through the company and experiences of different people as well as time to study those I may discover things that nobody knows yet (at the end, this is what research is about :). I see how things happening in the different parts of the company are connected. I see people who may be much better knowing about each other. I hear about the events from the different sides. All that knowledge can be useful if it turns into action.
And this is where the hard choices came into play again. Before coming to Microsoft I thought that my usual researcher vs. blogger problem wouldn't appear in this case. Since I'm not studying my own community I thought I could stay distant as an observer. It doesn't work.
The first reason is that as an intern I'm part of the company, at least for the time being. So, I feel responsible for doing some good while I'm here.
I'm also a blogger. It makes talking to other bloggers easier, but often it pushes me out of the "just observing" end because I have my own how do I blog over here? burning questions next to the pure research interests.
Finally it's personality. I can't walk away silently knowing that I know something that could help people trying to solve a particular problem. Even if it means being a better researcher.
So, I'm not a true observer - I contribute and often my contributions are results from having advantage of "connecting the dots" as a researcher. Once in a while I introduce people, suggest solutions or provide information that wouldn't be there without me. I also leak things that I probably shouldn't...
All these make me more of a participant than observer and probably change things I'm studying. Bad on methodology side.
But the same things open new doors, turn into trusted relations or give life to unexpected developments that help understanding blogging at Microsoft much better.
You win some, you lose some...