Brett lives in the USA and works as a system engineer. He talks about working in an “old school high-tech industry”, where not many people know “what the weblog actually is, what people use blogs for”.
He started blogging on KM topics in 2002 when working in KM and studying it for his Masters. Later he started two other weblogs, on autism and trampoline and tumbling, to share information on those topics with other parents. [After the interview Brett joined his KM and autism blogs into one – Theoria cum Praxi.]
Brett says that blogging extended his views on KM: “the biggest thing was the realisation that there are different solutions for different aspects of KM problems”. “When I first started I was a beginner and reading different blogs gave me different approaches.”
Prior to blogging he knew several KM people, but mainly locally. As a result of blogging, he says, “I know more people in different areas of KM when I knew before.” Blogging helped him to reach people he wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise (he gives an example of Dave Snowden, with whom he engaged in multiple exchanges via weblogs).
He compares blogging to conversations at a water cooler, saying that it’s a way to “meet people to see if it’s someone you want to get to know better”. “[Blogging] does help to get to know them a little bit, their background, and some people obviously write more personally than others do.” He tells that relations established are similar to those with the acquaintances; it is “mostly a professional relationship that doesn’t go beyond exchanging of ideas on knowledge management.”
For Brett contacting other bloggers is easy “even we don’t really know each other: “Even if I don’t know someone just the fact that I saw something on their blog, posted a comment, asked a question and they see that I have one. It establishes almost an instant credibility: that this person is worth the time to respond, to read, as to say.”
“If I see something that’s interesting I don’t hesitate to comment. […] It’s an interesting way to have conversations that you don’t otherwise have. But I don’t consider that a sort of connection if I leave a comment on someone’s blog once and never have another conversation with that person.”
“I’ve had people I’ve left comments on their blog and by doing that they discover mine and they initiated contact with me. […] they commented on the weblog and followed it more closely […] I guess [they were] more involved, did more steps for a relation than I did. I just commented once and they came to my site and commented frequently. To some extend it makes you feel an obligation almost to go back to theirs to read it more, to comment more. It’s an interesting dynamics, I haven’t thought about it. I feel that I should look at their stuff more closely to see if I want to reciprocate.”
He does not read everything in weblogs he subscribes to: “A couple of years ago someone wrote ‘don’t be mad at me if I don’t read everything that you write in your weblog’. I read what I can, but I don’t feel bad if I don’t read everything.” However, he often comes back to his own posts “to see what I wrote 5 years ago”.
He reads weblogs “to keep up with what people are saying”, but does not maintain contacts through the weblog. “If I contact people it’s through email, Facebook or instant messaging. […] If they say something on their weblog and I think it’s interesting I’ll respond there not in a separate email, but if it’s something new and especially if it’s one-to-one thing I’ll email”.
Brett estimates connecting with 100-150 people as a result blogging, noting that they are those with whom he had “a relatively extended interaction, not exchanging just a couple of comments”. “I think that I probably contacted with more people through the autism blog (than KM people) mainly because it’s a smaller area or when I started it were not many people blogging on that. […] [I am] more passionate about those other topics, KM for me is a kind of personal development thing it’s only mainly affects me. The other things that I write really affect more people than just me, I write it as much for other people as for myself.”
For Brett meeting people through blogging is “more of a side effect”: “I started to get information out there that I though was useful to me and someone else may be interested, so it’s kind of side effect that I met people I wouldn’t meet otherwise.”
“I don’t really use blogs as a networking tool, but it has been useful to me that way. I didn’t set out to do that, but those things happen with this medium”. We also discuss his experience with starting a weblog on trampoline and tumbling to share information and to connect with other parents. He realises that it might be his experience with KM blogging: “I’m not in KM anymore, I use those things in practice […] but I have taken those lessons [from KM weblog] and applied to those other two blogs”.