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Are You Blogging Yet?

Blogging is taking the Internet by storm -- will it affect your business?
But when the same tools are put to productive use, weblogs can trigger a rich chain reaction of ideas and possibilities, which is why they hold such great potential for the workplace. Give individual employees within a company their own weblogs, encourage them to document their best ideas and personal experiences, link them, add search capabilities, and it's easy to imagine that at least some innovation will arise from the ordinary. "Blogging is a train-of-thought technology," says Scott Dinsdale, executive VP of digital strategy at the Motion Picture Association and a blog reader. "In corporate environments that are creatively oriented, there's probably some use for it." A potential application, he says, would be for newly hired employees to come quickly up to speed by reading the blogs of colleagues.


Andy Chen

Andy Chen
For companies that go down this path, the trick is to capitalize on the mental energy that's unleashed by blogging. In the business world, after all, the destination counts more than the personal journey. "Unless people take the effort to get something else going, all you have is interesting discussion. It doesn't move much beyond that," says Andy Chen, a blogger (kumquat.weblogs.com) and chief technology officer at Quovix LLC (http://www.quovix.com), a company that develops software and processes for building electronic communities. Chen has given a lot of thought to the life cycle of ideas, which he describes in three stages: water, slush, and ice. In the water stage, ideas are tossed around freely, but they tend to be intellectual exercises. The goal, Chen says, is to push ideas to the ice stage, where dedicated resources and action plans can lead to business opportunities.

Corporate cultures will need to change if blogging is to fulfill its promise as a tool for collaborative business. There's a "reluctance to open the floodgates of letting opinions fly around and not be able to control that," Chen says. Good point. There's little reason to invest in this democratizing application if strict authority remains the status quo. On the other hand, companies that blog need to be prepared for the bad ideas, disagreements, and general dissonance that might also be generated by the system. "If there's anything blogs aren't, it's succinct and direct," says Dinsdale. The flip side of blogging for business innovation would be this: hours wasted recording, reading, and responding to low-value meanderings. There's a risk of getting bogged down in blogs.

LET'S THROW A PARTY!

So what do big media groups stand to gain from adopting a format that delights in promoting competitors' content and relies on relinquishing editorial control? Such a question, say bloggers, misunderstands the force of weblogs. "Traditional publishing is about putting on a show; building a network of weblogs is like hosting a party," says Simon Waldman, head of digital publishing at the Guardian.

J.D. Lasica,
new media nomad
jd.manilasites.com

If they really want to be taken seriously, bloggers might think about using a different term to describe what they do. The phrase "I was blogging last night" is just as likely to trigger thoughts of impropriety as it is to impress a listener with one's philosophical side. Still, it's easy to have fun with the term. Writer's block: slogging through the blogging. Knowledge management: bloggin' with your noggin. High society: hobnoblogging. Lumberjack author: logger blogger. Or you can improvise to popular old melodies, like this: When the web, web logging goes blog, blog, blogging along.

We can see how weblogging has expanded the influence of the individual and envision the transformational effect it can have on the employees of a company and the company itself. Put those three dynamics together--the empowered consumer, the connected professional, and the collaborative business--and it's easy to see why there's so much buzz about weblogging. What professional wouldn't benefit from being part of a loose-knit virtual community that helps people share ideas and experiences? Already, the software-development community provides a model.

Now, it's journalism's turn. Newspapers, magazines, and other media increasingly use blogging techniques to provide information in new ways and not only extend their reach to broader audiences, but also bring new and different voices into their circle. InformationWeek and our sister publication, Optimize, will introduce blogs in the weeks ahead on our respective Web sites, informationweek.com and optimizemag.com.

RELEASE VALVE NEW WAY OF THINKING


The 24-7 opinion sites offer free speech at its straightest, truest, wildest, most uncensored, most thoughtful, most strange. Thousands of independent information entrepreneurs are informing, arguing, adding information. ... Blogs may one hard day become clearinghouses for civil support and information when other lines, under new pressure, break down.

Peggy Noonan,
Wall Street Journal Online
http://www.wsj.com
(subscription only)
© 2002 Dow Jones & Co. Inc.
Is the Internet creating vacuous, uncommitted information grazers or, with guidance, will it create post-Net thinkers able to combine traditional, contemplative thought with broad knowledge and pattern-matching skills? Net thinkers are said to generate work quickly and make connections easily. But they also value information-gathering over deliberation and breadth over depth...

Rebecca Blood
rebeccablood.net
© 1999-2002 Rebecca Blood

For nonjournalists, the playing field becomes more level. Rather than griping about the left-leaning, biased media over morning coffee and the paper, they can use blogs to provide commentary, counterpoints, and connections to alternative sources. It doesn't mean you and I--or even my mother and I--will always agree, but at least we'll hear each other and have a new way to explore our differences.

Want to give collaborative journalism a try? Let me know what you think about the blogging phenomenon and its potential to change your business.

Write to John Foley at [email protected], or discuss this story online at informationweek.com/LP/columnists/johnfoley.html

Editor's Choice
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Richard Pallardy, Freelance Writer
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Carlo Massimo, Contributing Writer
Salvatore Salamone, Managing Editor, Network Computing