Blogging: To Monitor, or Not?

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As blogging moves into the enterprise, one of the biggest questions managers face is whether to monitor the sites, and if so, how much. They can look to the consumer world for cues. Personal blogs (one person sharing his thoughts on his life, or perhaps a more specific topic) are monitored by the blogger directly; since the blogger isnt representing anyone else, let alone an organization, he isnt answerable to anyone but himself and can choose to allow or disallow comments as he see fit. The issue gets more interesting when we look at media sitesnewspapers, magazines and the likethat allow readers to post comments to articles and posts. Some such sites aggressively monitor reader comments and decide what to post based on a slew of criteria; others look only to eliminate comments that contain offensive language (the late George Carlins seven words are a good start) or personal attacks. The New York Times leans in the first direction: its editorial staff reads every comment, then posts those that meet a list of standards. Comments cannot be offensive, but they also must be clear, concise and not repetitive (a single commentator cannot hammer home the same ideas several times, for instance). On the other side of the fence is my local city paper, the Steamboat Today, which allows pretty much anyone to say anything as long as it meets basic community standards and does not threaten other commentators.The Times approach leads to a remarkably civil and often instructive blogosphere. Reader comments are often funny and lively, but they are also (generally) thoughtful and thought-provoking. I am often amazed by the fact that the Times community is so level-headed, and it makes for interesting and informative reading. On the other hand, the comments on response to articles in my local paper often get personal, and the threads on hot-button issues quickly become unbearable as a few single-minded readers post the same comments over and over again. Their arguments often devolve into he said/she said dichotomies that no one can win and which only serve to bore (or annoy) the rest of us.In a small community like mine, there is some value in unmonitored blogs, as they do offer a clear glimpse into where community members lie when it comes to local issues. But the approach would be untenable for an organization as global and large as the Times.Enterprises should take their cues from this experience, and monitor all corporate-sanctioned blogs for content and comments. This is as true for internal sites as it is for public-facing ones. Censorship of ideas is not required. But making sure that all posts are clear, to the point (and on point), not repetitive or aggressive, and of some intellectual value will keep blogs active and entertainingand ultimately bolster their use and usefulness.

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