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11/20/2006
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Stowe Boyd
Stowe Boyd
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Blogs: A Collaborative Context?

It's clear that the benefits of blogs can transfer from the open media realm into the more closed, behind-the-firewall setting within the enterprise. As blogs become more and more elaborate, with an increasing range of widgetry being embedded in them, they are beginning to feel more like a low-cost, lightweight and distributed competitor of portals, especially in the enterprise setting.

For example, imagine a large enterprise (10,000 or so employees), where all white collar employees are given blogs, and they are asked to post a stream of their thoughts and observations as they are involved in various activities and projects. Imagine again that the enterprise has invested in developing various widgets that are embedded in the employees blogs, such as a projected timeline for travel and meetings, like the 30 Boxes plug-in on my blog, a plug-in that shows the current status of projects that the blogger is involved in, or a Twitter-like current status indicator ("out to dentist; back at 2pm ET").

These sort of simple and bottom-up tools could increase social awareness, decrease wasted communications, and of course provide a continuous stream of information about what's going on in the business.

A far-sighted enterprise might invest in memetracker-style technologies, like those of Technorati and Techmeme. This would allow people to monitor various themes, keywords, or tags, and to monitor those posts that touch on subjects critical to any individual's responsibilities, across all the blogs within the company. As a product line manager for the XJ-11 product I could glean information across the company about the product, and serve it back up to others as a widget on my blog, perhaps with commentary. And all would benefit from linking to news and commentary outside the firewall, filtered by the employees most interested in it. For example, news about a competitor's impending acquisition might be more understandable after being explained by the CFO and head of sales.

But the truly interesting aspect of this is its distributed nature.
There is no single portal involved, and no review cycle for its monthly or daily update. It would be, instead, an echo of the chaotic but ordered world of the greater blogosphere: 10,000 individuals each deciding what to write, what's important, and what to read. The interconnections between blogs, and the emergent behavior of the whole, swarming around the issues and news stories of the day, represents a really large departure from a company portal. And one that would be more productive, and more dynamic than any centrally managed portal would be.

I expect that we will begin to see this sort of transition over the next few years, leading to a real impact on the web 1.0 generation of content management systems and the gradual displacement of that era of technology with enterprise blogging solutions now perhaps just on the drawing boards of companies like Six Apart, Microsoft, and Google.

The big bang from  social media -- especially when souped up with a collection of enterprise-oriented widgets -- has not yet really hit large enterprises, but I anticipate the final impacts will be as large as email and instant messaging have caused.

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