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Employee blogging: Making most from what is already there

A bit of a follow-up on the microactions aggregate point from my post on ‘Beyond blogging’ lessons learnt, where I wrote:

Blogging is about microcontent – publishing small pieces of thought and commentary, anchored with permalinks and carried away by feeds. However, the real value is not at the post level – ecosystems between blog posts are more interesting and more important. Think of the fuzzy feeling of knowing someone from reading a weblog over time, implicit understanding of a new issue that emerges while following a conversation between bloggers or sense of belonging to a network of others – in all cases posts and links are only a tip of the iceberg.

Developing “fuzzy feeling”, “implicit understanding” and “sense of belonging” takes time and effort. For those writing and reading weblogs in a real time that’s an integral part of the process, but what about others – newcomers, who need to navigate implicitly constructed knowledge and relations, or those of a periphery of the particular topical community, who don’t have lots of time to invest, but still want to know, or those searching for an answer to a specific question?

In this respect I would distinguish between the first degree and second degree of blogging effects:

  • First degree effects – those that “happen” as part of the natural processes in a blogging ecosystem – conversations, networking, reputation building.
  • Second degree effects – those possible since weblogs provide rich traces to learn from for non-participants.

Nails in a grassFor a non-participant the microcontent nature of blogging creates two problems (actually, those are also problems for the participants, but to a much lesser degree):

  • There are a lot of weblog posts, that are difficult to navigate if you are not part of the ecosystem
  • Posts are fragmented, so often to gain real insight on the issue or to judge the expertise of a blogger one have to follow multiple posts

Now think of a company where many employees blog about their work internally or externally. Next to creating conditions for blogging (and the first degree effects of it), ideally it would be also also interested in maximising the second degree effects – making most from what is already there.

So, what are the ways to make most from the weblog traces that are already there?

One thing to do is improving discoverability of interesting blog posts, blogs and bloggers with smart search, aggregation and providing pointers to good content (exteded discussion and specific “to do” ideas). However, those things do not help much with improving access to expertise fragmented in a number of posts that not only take time to read, but also require some “integration” effort. Similar problem exists, for example, with forum-based Q&A discussions, where one often have to read through the whole thread to get an idea of proposed solution(s).

Weblogs are a bit better than forums in respect to summaries (since bloggers could not rely on having previous messages visible in a thread they tend to summarise some of it, see paper on weblog conversations for more), but they are still far from providing densely packed information in a way a good article would do.

Weblogs are good for drafting and discussing ideas in progress, but it also makes a lot of sense to find ways to do more with those drafts. Some ideas:

  • Making a list of “best of my posts” is a good practice anyway, but as a company you can provide an additional incentive by asking bloggers who work for you to make those lists. For example, to be promoted in a newsletter on a topic of their blog or as an input for their evaluation if they want to bring their work-related blogging as an extra point.
  • Checking if weblog content could be reused as an input for web-pages, white papers, help files, training courses, books, etc. and asking bloggers to work on those. I guess many would be happy with an opportunity to rework bits and pieces of ideas into something more coherent and potentially more visible (and I think that asking “more professional” writers to rework someone else’s weblog content only makes sense if bloggers themselves don’t feel like doing it).
  • Automatic summaries and visualisations. Those do not replace human summarisation, but could be useful to get an idea of interesting trends and to locate specific weblog posts and conversations.

Archived version of this entry is available at http://blog.mathemagenic.com/2007/11/30.html#a1960; comments are here.

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